The Anointed One, Or The Ointment?

15 Dec
The Greek word Χριστος (Christos) is how “anointed one” is rendered in the LXX and the NT. But is it an actual translation of the Hebrew “messiah” (מְשִׁיח :: anointed)?

The verb “to anoint” is χρίω (chrio) in Greek. I made an earlier post that listed all of the times that Josephus uses that word. It is about 10 times. Many times, Josephus uses “anointed” but he never uses the word χριστος to describe this. Some varieties he uses are χρισαμενος (part sg aor mid masc nom), χρίει (verb 3rd sg pres ind act), χρισατες (part sg aor act masc nom attic epic ionic). Granted, these are all varieties of verb forms of the word. So what would “one who is anointed” be like in Greek? Would it be χριστος?

Euripides, “Hippolytus” 486:
πότερα δὲ χριστὸν ἢ ποτὸν τὸ φάρμακον;

This drug, is it an ointment or a potion?

Aeschylus, “Prometheus Bound” 479-480:
…οὔτε βρώσιμον, οὐ χριστόν, οὐδὲ πιστόν, ἀλλὰ φαρμάκων χρεία…
…no healing food, no ointment, nor any drink—but for lack of medicine…

Here, χριστος doesn’t mean “anointed”, it means the substance that does the anointing! Or something that is rubbed on. In other words, χριστος means something like “ointment”, not “anointed one”.

So why would the translators of the LXX confuse “one who is anointed” with “that which is used to anoint”? This had to have been done multiple times, since χριστος is written all throughout the LXX. This adds more confusion to the two mentions of “christ” in Josephus. Why would Josephus mention – to his Greek and Roman audience – that some guy was called “the ointment” without explanation?

This, also, is why people laughed at the nonsensical name “Christian”. This would probably be translated as “those who are like ointment”.

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