Apostles’ Creed 4. And in Jesus Christ his only son….

There is every evidence in Scripture for the Greek Ho Christos (The anointed one) as a standard accompaniment of Jesus’ name as early as Paul’s letters, in which it might also be translated, The Messiah, referring to the ruler expected from God to restore Israel. In spite of Jesus’ rejection by Jewish leaders, most early Christians wanted to maintain the link with Jewish history, expectation and scripture.

For the bulk of Christian believers today however, Christ is only Jesus’ second name, so that translating the Greek as THE Christ might be helpful in guiding people towards a fuller understanding of it. That still leaves the question of whether I think of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Certainly I think of him as Jewish, and want some reference to his Jewishness in the Creed. Does it make any sense to call him Messiah when so many Jews in his time and now, reject him as such? This takes me into Jewish politics of both times, reminding me that Jesus was executed as a messianic claimant by the Romans, even while he was rejected as such by the leaders of his own people. To think if him, as Paul did, as “a crucified messiah” assists my understanding of faith and politics, as his story furnishes a critique of both empire and nationalism, of oppressive government and violent revolution.

I am happy to affirm Jesus as the Christ, less so to call him God’s “only son.” The Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew’s version calls God, “our father” as does Paul, who is explicit in the claim that believers are children of God. How then can Jesus be the only son? Of course theologians may argue that we are only God’s children IN the only son Jesus. That simply pushes the issue on to another stage: OK in Jesus are we or are we not genuine sons and daughters of God? If yes, then we have to find a better term to use of Jesus. I think it would be better to use the biblical term “beloved”, marking the specific relationship between Jesus and God, into which believers are subsequently called.

Does this change not reduce Jesus to simply one of us? Of course I want to insist that he was one of us, but also that his greatness was in what he did and suffered as a human being. His being “God” is not some additional quality or nature in Jesus, but in his being the one who commands the “devotion of my heart” (Luther) along with the father and the spirit, as the one God. The naming is done by me and all believers.

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