In this article we answer the question “Does Jesus have a last name?” and explain that Christ is not a last name. But first things first.
Jesus does not have a last name. It was not common for people to have last names during Jesus’ lifetime. Those who wanted to distinguish the corresponding persons add further information to the name to clarify which person exactly is meant.
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Why does Jesus have no last name?
The invention of the surname is a relatively modern thing. German surnames were officially introduced only in 1875, before that the bearing of a surname was not obligatory, but part of the status. This can be seen, for example, in the name “Otto von Bismarck”. The “surname” “von Bismarck” was more a title than a name. Even in some American states it is still possible to walk around without a surname.
That Jesus had no surname is – historically seen – rather the normal case, than the exception. The reason why Jesus did not have a surname (and we come to the fact that something like “Christ” is not a surname) is simple: In Jerusalem 2000 years ago it was not common to have surnames.
Besides, Jesus was a Jew. They did not have surnames until the 19th century. Before that, only a few Jews had surnames at all. These were often carried on as a kind of “distinguishing mark”. This was especially the case with well-known rabbis. For Jesus none was handed down.
Jesus had therefore no original surname!
Why the surname Christ is not the surname of Jesus
The name “Christ” is not the last name of Jesus. The word “Christ” is the Greek version of “Messiahs” and means “Anointed One.” Why is this important?
The term Messiah is a type of title from the Old Testament. This “title” is borne only by the person who possesses the described characteristics of the Messiah (as described in the Old Testament). No other person was to be so called.
When Christianity spread after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the language Greek was used to spread the good news. Thus, the title of the Messiah was translated into “Christ.
Then why is it called “Jesus Christ” if he had no last name?
The reason why Jesus Christ is called Jesus Christ lies in people’s habits of speech. If you want to be very precise, you should always call it Jesus, the Christ.
Why exactly the middle part (the “the”) has been dropped over time is hard to say. Some think it is simply easier to say “Jesus Christ” than “Jesus the Christ”. Others say that it has its origin in the Greek and in the Latin version. There it is possible to put the title after the name and not, as in German, before it.
If one had to compare it with the English language, then from “President Obama” or “Chancellor Merkel” in each case “Obama President” or “Merkel Chancellor” would become. In English this is not grammatically correct, but in other languages this is possible. Especially the ancient Greek was common.
In addition, a little “sloppiness” with the name and slight ignorance and already we from the title “Christ” a surname in common usage (not only in the English-speaking world).
Is “of Nazareth” the last name of Jesus?
Also the designation “of Nazareth” is also no name, but a description. As described further above, the people had to find further “aids” to be able to define which Jesus is actually meant. In this case a Jesus of Nazareth is meant.
In the English language area indicate from something a (former) noble origin. This is not the case with Jesus. Here “of Nazareth” was used, to be able to say more exactly which Jesus. Thereby Nazareth was obviously so small that there must have been only one Jesus. (That Jesus was noble is not implied).
However, it could also be meant as a kind of insult. As is known today, nobody thought that anything meaningful could ever come from Nazareth.
Further examples from the Bible
There are other names in the Bible that have another description in the name without there being a last name.
- Judas, who betrayed Jesus
- John, the Baptist
- Mary, the mother of Jesus
- Mary, the sister of Martha
- Paul of Tarsus
The list is obviously not exhaustive, but obviously conveys the point that Jesus is not the only one without a last name.
What was Jesus original last name? (or: Did Mary and Joseph have a last name?)
At this point, one thing should be clear: The name inheritance via the parents, as we know it today, did not exist then as it does today. That is, even if Jesus’ parents – Mary and Joseph – had a surname, it would not necessarily be Jesus’ surname.
Mary and Joseph probably did not have a last name that could have been passed on to Jesus.
If Mary and Joseph had surnames, they have not been handed down. However, it is likely that they did not have any, since they were not mentioned in the Bible. Mary, for example, is often referred to as the “mother of Jesus.” This is obviously not a name.