Okay, so it’s come to my attention over the last year or so that there are a lot of terms in the Bible that I take for granted. Saying “yeah, I know what that means,” when I only really understand it in the context of the culture that I live in.
The book Jesus for President (sort of about Jesus’ revolutionary leadership style) (which my wonderfully forgiving roommate has let me borrow) makes the point that the average Roman citizen would already be using these terms in relationship to the Roman Empire.
I went to the International Presbyterian Church on Bull and Oglethorpe this morning and was handed a sheet of paper comparing and contrasting the Jewish context vs. the broader Greco- Roman contextual meanings of terms found in the New Testament. How convenient!
So, here are a few of my favorites (s0me (most) of this comes from the book):
Gospel (evangelion): An imperial pronouncement that an heir to the empire’s throne had been born or a distant battle had been won
Jesus’ good news that the kingdom of God is at hand.
Christ (messiah): “Known by the Romans as the name Jews used for their ruler, anointed by God and the people. The King of the Jews job title had already been granted to Herod, hence the problem when Jesus was also considered to be King of the Jews. Only one person at a time can fit on a throne. Expression of being commissioned or appointed, especially by divine authority–precisely how folks thought of the Roman emperors (literally means “dripped on by the Gods” as in anointed with oil).”
“Divinely anointed ruler over Israel who would fulfill the scriptural promises of saving the Isrealites from oppression (and from themselves). While a primary title for Jesus, this is also the name used for David and other rulers. Messiah does not mean, as it is commonly mistaken to mean, that God beamed down to earth and squeezed into human flesh but a ‘divinely mandated royal man’. (We might understand Jesus as the incarnate diety, but Messiah had a very different political connotation and historical role.)”
—These two are just the tip of the iceberg, folks, and it is worthy of further study!