On the meaning of the words antichristos and pseudochristos in the Greek text of the New Testament.
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There are many kinds of dogmas regarding “antichrists”. Some of them talk about an “Antichrist” as a single person or entity which is said to come forth in what we today view as “end time”. However, the Bible does not contain any such description. The word “antichrist”, Greek antichristos, is found only in the apostle John’s letters, and the antichristoi (plural) whom he mentioned had already come forth when he wrote and sent those letters.
This article takes a closer look at the relevant passages in the New Testament, the four verses in John’s letters where the Greek text contains the word antichristos, and also the two passages in Matthew and Mark where it contains the word pseudochristos. Further, it will be considered why and in what meaning John used the expression “last time” or “last hour”, 1 John 2:18.
A note: The words pseudochristos and antichristos could be used as synonyms. Clarification: In old Greek, the prefix anti had a partially different and wider use than what it has in English. This will be explained in more detail, later in this article.
Before considering the meaning of the word antichristos, it can be good to know what the word christos means and refers to.
The word “Christ” comes from the Greek adjective christos which means “anointed” and is a translation of the Hebrew mashiyach (whence “Messiah”) which likewise means “anointed”. “Jesus Christ”, in NT Greek Iêsous ho Christos or similar, is the same as “Jesus the Messiah”, that is, “the Anointed Jesus”. In other words:
Hebrew ha-Mashiyach (whence “Messiah”) = Greek ho Christos = English “the Anointed”.
The four New Testament passages where the Greek text contains the word antichristos, are 1 John 2:18 and 22 and 4:3 and 2 John 7. Here, they are cited as the NET has them. The first of those verses:
1 John 2:18 Children, it is the last hour, and just as you heard that the antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. We know from this that it is the last hour. (NET)
(“The antichrist” and “many antichrists” – the Murdoch version has “a false Messiah” and “many false Messiahs”.)
As the above-quoted 1 John 2:18 shows, the antichrists, plural, had already come forth when John sent that letter. In the first century. Later in this article, it will be considered why he wrote that it was “the last hour”.
Here is the second New Testament passage where the Greek text contains the word antichristos:
1 John 2:22 Who is the liar but the person who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This one is the antichrist: the person who denies the Father and the Son. (NET)
(“The antichrist” – Murdoch has “a false Messiah”.)
“Who denies that Jesus is the Christ” – that is, “who does not acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah”. A note: Some such deniers probably claimed that they themselves were the Messiah.
The third passage:
1 John 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses Jesus as the Christ who has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God, and this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming, and now is already in the world. (NET)
Verse 2, “confesses Jesus as the Christ” – that is, acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah.
The fourth and last New Testament passage where the Greek text contains the word antichristos:
2 John 7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, people who do not confess Jesus as Christ coming in the flesh. This person is the deceiver and the antichrist! (NET)
“Who do not confess Jesus as Christ” – that is, who do not acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah.
Please keep in mind that when the apostle John wrote those letters to certain saints, the antichristoi whom he referred to, had already come forth, and that there were several of them. He was talking about persons and things of his own day and age. In the first century.
Still regarding the words “who do not acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah”, 2 John 7 – again, some of those deceivers probably claimed that they themselves were the Messiah. Consider this passage:
Mark 13:4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that all these things are about to take place?” 5 Jesus began to say to them, “Watch out that no one misleads you. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and they will mislead many. (NET)
Verse 6: The words “saying, ‘I am he’” mean that there would come forth deceivers who claimed that they were the Messiah. That is, there were to come forth false Messiahs. In the Greek text of Matthew 24:24 and Mark 13:22, they are called pseudochristoi. The apostle John used in his letters the word antichristos.
The English word “antichrist” comes from the noun antichristos (ἀντίχριστος) in the Greek text of the four earlier quoted passages in John’s epistles. Unfortunately, most English bible-translators have left that word untranslated, merely transcribing it as “antichrist”.
It is combined of the prefix anti and the adjective christos which in this case was used in a noun-like way. In old Greek, the prefix anti had a wider spectrum of use than what it has in English. Details:
The old Greek prefix anti could be used in the meaning “opposite to”, “before” and so on, but on the other hand, it was also used in such meanings as “in place of”, “instead”, “like”, et cetera. Here are some examples of the latter type of use of anti in old Greek, in different word-combinations:
In other words: The word antichristoi which is found in the apostle John’s letters, can be interpreted as “false christs”, “false messiahs”, “false anointed ones”, the same as pseudochristoi in Matthew 24:24 and Mark 13:22.
Here, it is good to keep in mind that the antichristoi (plural) whom the apostle John wrote about, were not an “end time” thing, from our point of view. The apostle wrote to people of his own day, regarding wicked persons (deceivers) back in those days. – Consider this translation:
1 John 2:18 My children, it is the latter time; and as ye have heard that a false Messiah was to arise, so there are now many false Messiahs; and from this we know that it is the latter time. (MUR)
False messiahs = false christs = false anointed ones.
Please note that the above-quoted 1 John 2:18 records something the apostle John wrote to some saints, in the first century.
The deceivers whom Mark 13:4 (and Luke 21:8) refer to, were men who claimed and pretended that they were the Mashiyach, the Christos. It appears that it was the same with the deceivers of 1 John 2:18.
In that letter, the apostle John wrote to certain saints, “from this we know that it is the last hour”. That was regarding the antichristoi – deceivers who denied that Jesus was the Messiah and probably also claimed themselves to be the Messiah. They had already come forth when John sent that letter. For the saints, that was a sign which showed that it was the “last time” or “last hour”. From that sign, they could know that certain other things were imminent.
1 John 2:18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. (NKJV)
How did the saints know that there were to come forth antichristoi, false messiahs? Well, Jesus had warned his disciples that before he returned (to fetch his own), there would come forth false messiahs, pseudochristoi. This is recorded for instance in Matthew 24:24 and Mark 13:22.
(Again, the words pseudochristos and antichristos could be used as synonyms.)
The disciples had asked Jesus how they could know when his return was getting close – “what shall be the sign of your coming”, see Matthew 24:3–5, cf. Mark 13:4–6. The below-quoted words were a part of what Jesus said to them, in regard to signs:
Matthew 24:24 For false messiahs [a] and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. (NET, note sign added)
a “False messiahs” – Greek pseudochristoi, “false anointed [ones]” – deceivers who claimed that they were the Anointed, the Messiah.
So, regarding 1 John 2:18: When the apostle John’s noted that the saints had on beforehand known that there would come forth messiahs, he probably referred to what Jesus had said, as is recorded in Matthew 24:3–5 and 24 and Mark 13:4–6 and 22.
Here, some might say, “Matthew 24 is not about the events of the first century. It is about events that have not taken place yet.” But, that is not so. Those who carefully and open-mindedly study all of Matthew 24, will see that on that occasion, Jesus was talking to his disciples, telling them what they were to do when the things which he had told them about, began to happen in Judea – in their day and age, in the first century. Read on:
The disciples had asked Jesus, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3.) He told them that people would deliver them up to be afflicted, and that some of them would be killed. He told them about “the abomination of the desolation” (armies surrounding Jerusalem, which then led to the sacking of that town and the destruction of the temple and much more), and he told them that if they were in Judea at that time, they were to flee to the mountains. Also, he told them that many false messiahs would come. This was in reply to the disciples’ question “What will be the sign of your coming?”
Jesus made it clear that those events were to take place during the lifetime of those who were listening to him. We read:
Matthew 24:34 I tell you the truth, this generation [b] will not pass away until all these things take place. (NET, note sign added)
b “This generation” – indeed, Jesus spoke to and regarding the generation of those who were listening to him, there and then. Some of those people were to be still alive when the things which he had just mentioned, began to happen.
Then, consider 1 John 2:18, how the apostle John wrote to certain saints, “from this we know that it is the last hour”. (“We” = the saints, including John.) When he wrote that letter, the things which Jesus had told them about, were taking place. The false messiahs whose coming Jesus had foretold, had already come. From this, those saints could know that the time when Jesus according to his promise would come for them, was imminent. That is why it was for them “the last hour” or “the last time”, as John expressed it.
As you may have noticed, the biblical record of the saints and their doings ends abruptly, some time after the middle of the first century, as if they suddenly vanished from the scene. The article nga040.htm has some notes on what happened to them.
That is, will there come forth false messiahs, false christs, false anointed ones, in what we today consider as “end time”?
Now, it is true that today, there are many false “anointed ones” and the like. Also, there are many who do not admit that Jesus was and is the Messiah. But, when it comes to the New Testament passages which were discussed above (1 John 2:18, 2:22 and 4:3 and 2 John 7 and Matthew 24:5 and 23–24 and Mark 13:6 and 21–22), it is clear that they refer to things and persons in the first century.
Again, the antichristoi whom the apostle John mentioned, had already come forth when John wrote his letters. And also: The pseudochristoi whom Jesus warned about, were to appear while some of those whom he on that occasion spoke to, were still alive. See Matthew 24:24 with its context, including verse 34.
The article nga040.htm considers what happened to the saints when they suddenly vanished from the scene, some time after the middle of the first century.
See also the “recommended reading” section, below.
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Recommended reading here at the Bible Pages, on related as well as other matters
An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → nsa090.htm
Jesus warned about false prophets, deceivers and deception. He said that many would be deceived. → noa090.htm
The meaning of the words Christ and Messiah and the name Jesus. Also, some notes on the word “Christian” in the New Testament. → nga070.htm
What happened to the saints? Why is there no record of their doings, after the middle of the first century? → nga040.htm
Are parousia and rapture biblical concepts? → nga050.htm
What does the Bible say about the “great tribulation”? On Matthew 24:21 and Revelation 7:14. → nta040.htm
Who are the 144000 and the great multitude of Revelation 7? And, who are the first-fruits or virgins of Revelation 14:1–4? → nta030.htm
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