“His Name Should Be Christ”

Bryan Richards

Some have criticized the Book of Mormon because Book of Mormon prophets use the term “Christ” before the birth of the Savior. The word “Christ” is the Greek form of the Hebrew word for Messiah and means literally “the anointed one.” As the critics point out, this word was not used in the Old Testament. Some of the Old Testament terms for Christ are Shiloh (Gen 49:10), Prophet (Deut 18:15), Holy One of Israel (Ps 16:10), King (Ps 24:10, Zech 9:9), Immanuel (Isa 7:14), Redeemer (Isa 59:20), Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6), righteous Branch (Jer 23:5, Zech 3:8), and Messiah (Dan 9:26).

Jacob helps us understand this apparent “anachronism.” He explains that the angel of the Lord told him what his name should be. The Book of Mormon prophets often speak plainly about the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ. Their writings and prophecies were inspired by direct revelation and the Spirit of God. The Book of Mormon prophets will continue to use the term Christ or Christians long before the terms are found in the Bible.

Edward J. Brandt, in the Book of Mormon Symposium Series, explains the use of these names in the Book of Mormon in a lecture entitled, “The Name Jesus Christ Revealed to the Nephites:”

"The use of the sacred name of Christ in a record of Hebrew origin (see 1 Nephi 1:2; Mosiah 1:4; and Mormon 9:32-34) is of some unusual significance since the name, Jesus Christ, is of Greek derivation. The English form Jesus is a transliteration via Latin and Greek of the Aramaic name Yeshua given him at birth1 The older Hebrew form, Joshua in English, originally meant ‘Savior’ (Talmage 35). The title Christ is an English transliteration via Latin of the Greek translation of the ancient Hebrew title ‘the Anointed One’ (Grundmann 493-509; Durham 16). The direct English transliteration of that Hebrew term is Messiah (Durham 15; Talmage 35-36).
"Did the prophet Joseph Smith, as translator, substitute these later and more familiar names and titles, or were they terms precisely known and used by the Book of Mormon prophets? If they knew, how did they come to know them? Those names were supposed to be of much later usage. The record itself reveals the remarkable way the ancient prophets learned these terms. All the scriptures contain many names and titles for the Messiah. The Book of Mormon alone provides over 100 names and titles for Christ (Easton 60-61) However, the name ‘Christ’ does not appear until Jacob’s sermon to the Nephites in 2 Nephi 10:3.
"….Jacob had seen the Savior as a youth and on a later occasion reaffirmed his experience of receiving the ministering of angels (2 Nephi 2:3-4; Jacob 7:5; compare Moroni 7:22). The language of this manifestation uses the future designation of the term Christ for covenant Israel.
"The name Jesus first appears in the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 25:19. As Nephi was teaching the people concerning the Jews and their eventual acceptance of the Messiah, he declared:
"…For according to the words of the prophets, the Messiah cometh in six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem; and according to the words of the prophets, and also the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God (2 Nephi 25:16, 18-19; emphasis added).
"Here Nephi acknowledges that through the ministry of an angel it was revealed to him that in the future ’his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God.‘ Verse 19 contains both the English transliteration of the Hebrew term for ’the anointed one’-Messiah-and also the transliteration of the Greek term extended to the English for ‘the anointed one’- Christ.
"The continued use of the name Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon, in view of all the other names and titles used in the scriptures, shows it had an important influence on the Nephites throughout their history. Centuries later the prophet leader Benjamin taught what the future name of the Lord would be:
"And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary (Mosiah 3:8, emphasis added; see also Mosiah 4:3).
"…Other Book of Mormon prophets also bore testimony that the Savior would be known by these names in future records. Abinadi testified before the wicked priests of Noah concerning the resurrection of Christ, ‘for so shall he be called’ (Mosiah 15:21). The prophet Alma (formerly one of Noah’s priests) organized those who entered the gospel covenant of baptism, and they were called ’the church of God, or the church of Christ, from that time forward’ (Mosiah 18:17; see also Mosiah 26:18, 24). In teaching the people, he often reminded them of the future atonement and mission of this Christ (see Alma 5:48; Alma 6:8; Alma 7:11-13; Alma 45:4 [his son Alma]).
"The effect of calling the members of the church after this future title-Christ-led to calling them as ’Christians.’
“And those who did belong to the church were faithful; yea, all those who were true believers in Christ took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ, or Christians as they were called, because of their belief in Christ who should come (Alma 46:15; emphasis added.)” (Edward J. Brandt, Book of Mormon Symposium Series, edited by PR Cheesman, MS Nyman, and CD Tate, Jr., 1988, p. 201-4)