The Last Name of Christ

A look at the historic family name of Jesus, Panthera, and the modern debate that surrounds it.

The modern exploration of the historical Jesus has had its moments. The results are mixed: the tortured image in the movie The Passion of Christ, the sexually angst Messiah in the controversial Last Temptation of Christ, the married Jesus portrayed in the ABC television special, Jesus, Mary and Davinci, and the illegitimate son of a foreign soldier in the film Jesus of Montreal.

The last name of Jesus is an important factor in many of these conclusions. These results place the name into the realm of uncertainty that requires clarification.

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The Genealogy of Christ and Other Problems

Two Manuscripts attributed to Epiphanius on the family of Christ compared.

The fourth century Church father, Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis, wrote an account on the family of Christ that has important information. It contains backgrounds of His mother, Father, family last name, siblings, intermarriage and more. Although it is brief, containing only a few paragraphs, it is an important source of history. However, it is controversial, especially in light of the fact that the text that Epiphanius is quoted from, Adversus Hæreses, which has many later editorial insertions. Another text, Quæstiones first written around the seventh century, contains portions of Epiphanius account, and follows closer to the original edition.

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Ambrosiaster on the workers of miracles

The Ambrosiaster text gives a fourth century or later Latin perspective on the workers of miracles as described by St. Paul.

Paul wrote about this function in his First letter to the Corinthians (12:28).

Here is the actual Biblical citation:

“And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.” (NIV)

The key-text here is the “workers of miracles” which in the Greek text is δυνάμεις and in Ambrosiaster’s text, virtutes.

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