Odd Gospel Greek: “Messiah” with a Greek accent
“Had Jesus been a messiah with a name in Isaiah, the King James Version, according to its Anglicization of Hebrew words, would have named him Joshua the Messiah.” – Willis Barnstone, The Restored New Testament
The writer of the gospel John seems to have invented an odd, Greekification of a Hebrew word. It’s the word, spelled Μεσίας, or alternatively Μεσσίας. John only used this word twice, and it’s not a Greek word used anywhere else before his gospel. It’s not in any of the other Greek gospels, not in the book of Acts or in the Apocalypse, not in any of Paul’s writings, and not any of the other epistles written by other writers. Thus, it’s not in the New Testament other than in these two instances in John’s gospel. And it is not in all of the Septuagint. We’ll come back to how John uses his made-up word, Μεσ[σ]ίας. Then we’ll discuss a bit the problems it causes for translators of the Greek New Testament and of the Hebrew Bible into a single third language.
First note how, in the epigraph above, Barnstone is making the point that the KJV Anglicizes the Hebrew Bible names and the Greek New Testament names differently. In fact, the KJV translators did use the now-English word “Messiah” for a Hebrew word, but they did so only twice. Elsewhere, for that same Hebrew word, they use “annointed.” Let’s look at the King James Version for this, with the Hebrew inserted and with the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew inserted as well. Let’s look at Daniel 9:26-27 and at Isaiah
Know therefore and understand, [that] from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the [משיח] Messiah [χρῖσμα] the Prince [shall be] seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall [משיח] Messiah [χριστοῦ] be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof [shall be] with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
Thus saith the LORD to his [משיח] anointed [χριστῷ], to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;
So let’s just stress this again. The KJV translators use “anointed” as the default translation for the Hebrew word משיח in all instances except the two verses in Daniel above.
And the Septuagint translators always use χριστ* (meaning “annointed”) for the same Hebrew word משיח . When we read the Greek New Testament, likewise, we always find χριστ* (meaning “annointed”) for this concept that we all understand as Messiah, as the KJV translates the Hebrew word משיח rather exceptionally in Daniel 9:26-27.
When we come to the odd gospel Greek, then here’s what the KJV has done. It changes the Greek χριστ* (meaning “annointed”) from “annointed” to an Anglicized word, Christ. And it makes the odd gospel Greek Μεσ[σ]ίας into an Anglicized word, Messias.
Here then are John 1:41 and John 4:25 … 29. [The Greek words are inserted.]
He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias [μεσ.σ.ίας], which is, being interpreted, the Christ [χριστός].
The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias [μεσ.σ.ίας] cometh, which is called Christ [χριστός]: when he is come, he will tell us all things… Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ [χριστός]?
What you might see has happened is that the writer of the odd Greek gospel of John has two of his characters pronouncing the Hebrew word משיח in two different instances as μεσ.σ.ίας. It’s a very odd and strange pronunciation, but there it is. Nonetheless in each instance the same writer explains. He means these characters to mean χριστ* (meaning “annointed”), which is how all of the Septuagint translators and all of the other not-as-odd Greek writers of the New Testament made it.
The KJV translators seem to sense that these two spoken Greeky words are odd, and so they Anglicize them “Messias” and not, as they did for the Hebrew word משיח in Daniel, as “Messiah.” They also, then, switch the not so odd Greek word χριστ* (meaning “annointed”) to “Christ,” as we’ve already said. We’ve repeated ourselves because there’s this mess of Messias and Messiah and anointed and Christ that gets made.
Which makes us wonder, if the odd gospel Greek μεσ.σ.ίας had never been invented, then might we have something more consistent like Joshua the Anointed or even just Joshua the Messiah (and not Jesus the Messias)?