Names and Symbols Commonly Used for Jesus
Parents typically put a lot of thought into naming us, but the names they give us do not always reflect who we are. So they may give us nicknames, which tell a lot more about us. In the Jewish tradition, and especially in Jesus’ day, parents named their children with the full knowledge of its meaning.
Jesus is anglicized version of the name Yeshua or Yesua, which is shortened from the Hebrew Yehoshua or Joshua. It is also the transliteration from the Greek Iesous or Yesous. Before the 14th century, the letter ‘J’ did not exist in the English language/ alphabet. This information comes from the article “Jesus or Yeshua?” from the website http://yeshua.org. Jesus, Yeshua, or Iesous means “Salvation,” “God is salvation,” “God saves,” or “He saves.” Christianity tells us that God so loved mankind, He sent His son Jesus to save mankind from sin and death.
Jesus is called by 66 different names in the Bible, according to the answer to the question “How many names was Jesus called in the Bible?” posted by http://www.chacha.com. Others list 100 or more. Whether it is 66, 100, somewhere in between, or more, Jesus is addressed by some names more than others. A number of symbols, which many term names, are used to identify Jesus as well. Some symbols are more recognizable to us than others. This article lists the names and symbols commonly used to identify Jesus, along with Biblical references taken from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), and an explanation of the meanings behind them.
Commonly Used Names for Jesus
1. “Almighty” (Revelation 1:8): “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Jesus is all powerful; He is the highest or has unlimited power.
2. “Alpha and Omega” (Revelation 1:8): See number 1. Or, (Revelation 21:6): “Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.” Or, (Revelation 22:13): “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Alpha and Omega is the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. The English version of the Bible was translated from the Greek language. Jesus is the beginning and the end. Jesus is forever.
3. “Christ” or “The Christ” (1 John 2:22): “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ?”
The word Christ comes from the Greek Kristos, which means anointed. So when Christ is used, it is addressing Jesus as the Anointed One or the Messiah.
4. “Deliverer” (Romans 11:26): “And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, “Out of Zion will come the Deliverer…”
It is another way of saying Savior or Redeemer. Remember, Christianity tells us that Jesus came to deliver or save mankind from sin and death.
5. “Good Shepherd” (John 10:11): “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Or, (John 10:14): “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.”
Jesus is goodness and righteousness. He will care for, guide, and protect His defenseless believers with His own life just as the caring and compassionate shepherd does for his vulnerable sheep. Sheep were an important part of agricultural life in Jesus’ day.
6. “Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14): “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” Or, (Matthew 1:23): “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Immanuel.”
In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah is warning Ahaz, king of Judah, about the coming of Jesus (Mary’s pregnancy). In the New Testament Gospel of Matthew, Jesus’ birth is accounted for. Immanuel means “God with us.”
7. “King” (Zechariah 9:9): “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you…” Or, “King of kings” (1Timothy 6:15): “which he will bring about at the right time-he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.” Or, (Revelation 19:16): “On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, “King of kings and Lord of lords.”
Jesus is thought by believers to be the king of Jerusalem/ Zion, Israel, and the world. King of all kings, Jesus is the Almighty.
8. “Life” or “The Life” (John 14: 6): “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus in conversation with His apostle Thomas explains that the only way mankind can get into heaven is through Him i.e. by believing and trusting in Him. There is no real life without Jesus.
9. “Lord” (2 Peter 2:20): “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” Or, (Luke 2:11): “to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” In the first verse, Peter respectfully refers to Jesus as ruler or master. In the second verse, Jesus is again titled ruler or master.
10. “Messiah” (Matthew 1:16): “and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.” Or, (Matthew 1:17): “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.” Or, (Matthew 27:22): “Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Or, (Luke 2:11): “to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
The word Messiah comes from the Hebrew word Mashiach. It means “Anointed One,” which Jesus was considered. In ancient times in the region of Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Israel, anointing with holy oil was a rite performed on kings and high priests. Jesus was the long awaited “King of the Jews.”
11. “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6): “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Jesus is all powerful. God gave Him total dominion over the universe.
12. “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6): See number 11.
Jesus has the power to create eternal peace within each believer, on earth, and throughout the universe.
13. “Redeemer” (Job 19:25): “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth.”
Jesus is the deliverer of His believers. The price paid was Jesus’ life. His sacrificial death on the cross has saved them from sin and their own death.
14. “Savior” (Luke 2:11): “to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” Or, (Ephesians 5:23): “…just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior.” Or, (Titus 1:4): “…Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.” Or, (Titus 3:6): “This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Or, (2 Peter 2:20): See number 9.
As before, the Biblical writers are saying that Jesus came to save all believers from sin and death, giving His life as penalty.
15. “Word” or “Word of God” (John 1:1): “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Or, (Revelation 19:13): “He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called The Word of God.”
Jesus is given authority by God, His father, to speak on God’s behalf.
Commonly Used Symbols for Jesus
1. “Branch” (Isaiah 4:2): “On that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel.” Or, (John 15:2-6) “He [God] removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.”
Basically-speaking, Jesus is the vine on which believers are branched. The branches of a tree or vine cannot survive without nourishment from the tree or vine itself.
2. “Bread of Life” or “Bread” (John 6: 32-35, 48): “Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven…” Or, (John 6:48): “I am the bread of life.”
In Jesus’ time, Bread referred to all food. So Jesus uses the word bread or manna in the proverbial sense to say, do not work for food that nourishes only your physical body and could spoil. Partake in the food of eternal life, which He is.
3. “Cross” (Luke 23:26): “As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus.” Or, (John 19: 17-19): “and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha…” Or, (John 19:25): “…Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” Or, (John 19:31): “Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity.”
According to the article “Symbols for Jesus” from the website http://loyolapress.com, the cross became a symbol of Jesus in the 14th century. It represents Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross: His life for His believers.
4. “Gate/ Door” (John 10:7): “So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.” Or, (John 10:9): “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.”
The meaning is that mankind cannot enter heaven, reach or communicate with God or have eternal life unless through Jesus. He is the gate or door through which mankind must pass.
5. “Fish” (Matthew 4:18-19): “As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea-for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”
Many of Jesus’ apostles were fishermen. There is also the story of Him multiplying fish. So, it made sense that Early Christians use the symbol of the fish as a secret pass code to identify each other and places of worship, while avoiding persecution (which included imprisonment and death) from the Jews and Romans.
According to the article “The History of the Christian Fish Symbol” from the website http://www.religioustolerance.org, the word for fish in Greek is Ichthys or Ichthus. Defining each letter and its Christian meaning: Iotu: Iesous refers to Jesus; Chi: Christos refers to Christ; Theta: Theos or Theou refers to God; Upsilon: Uios refers to Son; Sigma: Soter refers to Savior.
Christians would draw half the fish image or arc in the dirt with their feet and if the person they were communicating with was another Christian, he would draw the opposing arc of the fish image, intersecting at the tail. The fish symbol was drawn also on walls or the word fish would be used in conservation.
6. “Lamb” (Revelation 13:8): “and all the inhabitants of earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slaughtered.” Or “Lamb of God” (John 1:29): “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Or, (John 1:36): “and as he watched Jesus walked by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”
Back in the day, offering sacrifices, especially of lambs, was an important part of Judaism. It would usually occur at events such as Passover. So considering His crucifixion on the cross, Jesus saw Himself and was thought of as the commonly-used sacrificial animal. He was sacrificed to free believers from their sins, so they could enter God’s kingdom of heaven. John the Baptist upon seeing an approaching Jesus denoted Him the name.
7. “Light” or “The Light” (John 8:12): “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Or, (2 Corinthians 4:6): “For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Or, (Ephesians 5:8): “For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of the light-.”
Jesus also came to impart knowledge of the truth of God, heaven, and life to the world. He is an enlightened being; spiritual holiness; a bright star.
8. “True Vine” or “The Vine” (John 15:1-): “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.”
These words are spoken by Jesus to His apostles at the Last Supper. He tells them that believers are nourished by Him. Jesus as the vine provide the fruits that is life-giving of spiritual energy, love, hope, peace, joy, and connection to God, the Father. Without Him, believers cannot have eternal life. The symbol of the vine is used because grapes (and wine) were part of the staple food of the time.
Please note that the name and symbols for Jesus may appear in other passages of the NRSV or in passages of other versions of the Bible.