Christmas and the Identification of the Messiah-Lord as Savior (PNTC)

 While studying Luke 2:10 this week I ran across the following helpful comments by James Edwards.  But first, the words of Luke:  Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord (CSB). [ὅτι ἐτέχθη ὑμῖν σήμερον σωτὴρ ὅς ἐστιν Χριστὸς κύριος ἐν πόλει Δαυίδ.].  Here are Edwards’ comments:

The angel identifies the newborn Jesus as Messiah, Lord, and Savior. The first two titles appear in tandem, “Messiah-Lord” in Greek, a construction found nowhere else in the NT. “Messiah” (Gk. Christos, “Christ”) means God’s anointed Davidic-king. “Lord” (Gk. kyrios) is the standard LXX translation of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, YHWH. One would expect the construction to read “Messiah of the Lord,” as is prevalent throughout the LXX.41 Significantly, in this first occurrence of “Messiah” in Luke, it appears with “Lord.” The apposition of “Messiah-Lord” is similar to the apposition of “Christ-King” in 23:2; both convey that Jesus is not simply the Messiah of the Lord, but the Messiah who is the Lord. The attribution to the newborn Jesus of a title reserved exclusively for God in the OT corroborates the high Christology of the annunciation, where Jesus is called Son of God (1:35). Although “Savior” is less exalted than either “Son of God” or “Lord,” it is more remarkable in this context. It would have been sufficient for Luke to say, “The Messiah, the Lord, was born today in the city of David.”

The identification of the Messiah-Lord as “savior” counteracts the claims and cult of Caesar Augustus in v. 1, who repeatedly promoted himself as “savior of the common folk” and “savior of the world.” In an official litany of accomplishments known as Res Gestae, Caesar Augustus postured as a “savior” who inaugurated a new and propitious age of peace, order, and prosperity, fulfilling the longings of humanity.46 The NT, and particularly the Gospels, are sparing in attributing sōtēr, “savior,” to Jesus, perhaps to avoid its rampant association with the emperor cult. We noted in the discussion of the Halicarnassus and Priene inscriptions (see discussion at v. 1) that the titles ascribed to Caesar Augustus—Son of God, savior, bringer of peace, hope, and good news—are all attributed by Luke to the newborn Jesus, as a divine alternative to the Roman imperial political-theology.

The attribution of sōtēr to Jesus in v. 11 is a direct challenge to that political-theology. Contrary to imperial propaganda, the true Son of God and Savior of the world—and thus the ultimate good news for the world—are not contained in a decree of Caesar but in the divine proclamation from heaven. The Savior is not mighty Augustus in Rome, but an infant lying in a feed trough in the city of David.

 James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Luke, ed. D. A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Apollos, 2015), 76–77.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

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