Documents discovered in the Judean Wilderness near the Dead Sea provide some insight into the use of Hebrew in the land of Israel not long after the time of Jesus.
Athough the concept of Messiah is importance both in Judaism and Christianity, the Hebrew word מָשִׁיחַ (maSHIaḥ, messiah) was not often used in Jesus’ day. Jesus and his contemporaries rarely spoke of the Messiah by that name, but preferred to use other more oblique terms. In the New Testament, maSHIaḥ almost always appears in its Greek translation: χριστός (christos, anointed with oil; Christ). The Greek transliteration μεσσίας (messias) appears only twice, in John 1:41 and 4:25.
The word “messiah” arouses great emotion in the hearts of Jews and Christians alike. In Hebrew Nuggets, Lesson 23, we examine the background of this Hebrew word. There is only one new letter for us to learn in the word מָשִׁיחַ (ma·SHI·aḥ, messiah). This is the letter ח (ḥet), the last letter of the word. ח (ḥet) is the eighth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. As already mentioned, Hebrew letters also serve as numbers. Being the eighth letter of the alphabet, the numerical value of ḥet is 8.
Not only is “son of man” one of the most important phrases in the Bible, it is one of the most misunderstood and disputed. Rooms could be filled with all the books and articles written on this subject. Translators are not immune to fascination with this phrase, and the meaning of “son of man” is a perennial topic of debate. We are keen to understand it because it is the phrase that Jesus used for himself more than any other. A full understanding of “son of man” reveals what Jesus knew about himself and increases our appreciation of how he communicated his message.
Jesus spoke of himself using many messianic titles from Scripture. Names such as “Son of Man,” “Green Tree” and “King” all have their origins in messianic passages from the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus also was referred to by such messianic titles as “Lord” (Luke 5:8), “Son of God” (Luke 1:35) and “Son of David” (Luke 18:38). One title applied to Jesus is not so clearly messianic: “Prophet.” There can be little doubt that Jesus viewed himself as a prophet, and that many of his contemporaries concurred. Jesus claimed to be a prophet when he quoted the popular saying, “No one is a prophet in his own village,” going on to compare himself to Elijah and Elisha (Luke 4:24-27). He made the same claim when he said, “It cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33). But what did the people of Nain have in mind when they exclaimed, “A great prophet has been raised in our midst!” (Luke 7:16)?