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What was Jesus's last name?

posted Apr 15, 2009, 12:47 PM by Sister Mary Ann Ambrose   [ updated Apr 15, 2009, 12:53 PM ]
Dear Sister,

My 4 year old daughter asked me what Jesus's last name was. I was going to say "Christ" but that doesn't sound right.

- M

Dear M,

Family names, like we know them, were not used in Biblical times. However, just like people take their surnames today from occupations (baker, smith etc) and also from their parents (e.g. John's son = Johnson) or from where they, or an ancestor came from (like Hillary Clinton = Clint's Town) Jesus would have been known as Jesus of Nazareth, as, although Jesus was quite a common name, Nazareth in those times was a small place and so he may well have been the only 'Jesus' around in Nazareth at that time. He may also have been called Jesus bar Joseph where 'bar' means 'son of' (like 'mac' in the Scottish name MacDonald), as most people then regarded him as Joseph's son.

What IS certain, however, is that his 'surname' was not 'Christ'. This was his title - given to him by his followers. The word 'Christ' means 'messiah', 'deliverer' or 'savior' and for centuries, the jews had been promised by God a savior for them all. Calling jesus 'Christ' meant that the title of 'messiah' was placed upon him. So much in the way we say today Queen Elizabeth, or President Bush, we can also say Christ Jesus - Jesus the savior, Jesus the deliverer, Jesus the Messiah.

- Sister