The Peculiar Tale Behind Jesus’ Supposed Middle Name
Did Jesus Christ have a middle name?
Of course not. He also didn’t have a last name. “Christ” means “Messiah” or “Anointed One” and is a title. Our Lord’s only name was “Jesus,” though he was sometimes referred to as “Jesus, son of Joseph” (e.g. John 6.42) or “Jesus of Nazareth” (e.g. Matthew 26.71) to differentiate him from anyone else who may have had his first name.
But in a devotional culture that likes to fill in supposed gaps and often takes honest mistakes and runs with them, there is fairly modern tradition about what Jesus’ middle name was.
Are you ready for it?
Yep, the old English-German-Danish name.
In this folk tradition, “Christ” would also be taken (wrongly!) to be his last name, making his full name Jesus Harold Christ, often abbreviated to Jesus H. Christ. This misnomer dates back at least to the 19th century, and is sometimes unfortunately used as a swear word.
But where did this come from?
Scholars aren’t sure exactly, though the most popular theory says it comes from a misreading of a common shorthand for Jesus called the divine monogram. The Greek word for Jesus used in the New testament is Ἰησοῦς. The first three letters in capital form is IHS, also sometimes written as IHC, JHS, or even JHC.
This last form, the theory goes, may have been misunderstood to be Jesus’ initials, making his middle initial “H.”
Ok, so that gets us the first letter of his supposed middle name, but why would the “H” represent “Harold”?
Again, scholars aren’t entirely sure, but one theory is that it comes from a childish misunderstanding of the traditional rendering of the Lord’s prayer in English.
At the beginning of the prayer, you say “hallowed be thy name.” The phrase means something like “may thy name be hallowed,” but could be easily misunderstood as specifying God’s name as being the word “hallowed.” But of course, “hallowed” isn’t really a name. However, “hallowed,” especially when pronounced by small children who can’t distinguish between L’s and R’s, sounds like the real name “Harold.”
Put that together with the mistaken idea that Jesus’ middle name begins with “H” and you’ve got yourself his supposed middle name.
Funny how these things go, huh?