The Deity of the Messiah (Hebrew Moshiach)
The Deity of the Messiah (Hebrew Moshiach)
Within the Jewish Writings (Non Christian)
Most of the Jewish writings (noncanonical) from which these Messianic expositions come are found in the following broad categories:
- Medieval Rabbinic
- Modern Rabbinic
The word Messiah in Hebrew means the Anointed One. In the Jewish writings the Messiah was described as a person of the line of King David (a “ben yishai” – son of Jesse, father of David) who will return the Jews from exile, rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and initiate a period of prosperity and peace. In that sense, belief in Messiah was simply belief in restoration of Israel and an end to present troubles. The Messianic idea became prevalent and gained adherents in times of extreme desperation, such as the conquest of Judea by the Babylonians, the Roman conquest, the rule of Hadrian after the Bar Kochba revolt and various periods in the Middle Ages such as the Spanish Inquisition.
So then according to the Jewish definition of the term, the Messiah will make changes in the real world, changes that one can see and perceive and be able to prove because these changes take place in the real world. It is for this task that the real messiah has been anointed in the first place, hence the term, messiah — one who is anointed. He will bring about these changes as a result of his special anointing by God. They do not say he is God. Therefore the subject of his deity is obscured at best in the Jewish writings.
Modern Jewish scholars suggest that the messianic concept was introduced later in the history of Judaism, during the age of the prophets. They note that the messianic concept is not mentioned anywhere in the Torah. The moshiach will be a great political leader descended from King David (Jeremiah 23:5). The moshiach is often referred to as “moshiach ben David” (moshiach, son of David). He will be well versed in Jewish law, and observant of its commandments (Isaiah 11:2-5). He will be a charismatic leader, inspiring others to follow his example. He will be a great military leader, who will win battles for Israel. He will be a great judge, who makes righteous decisions (Jeremiah 33:15). But above all, he will be a human being, not a god, demi-god or other supernatural being. We will touch on his other characteristics as we move through this paper but suffice it to state for now that the Jews by and large do not promulgate the notion that moshiach is God.
The Jewish literature has said that in every generation, a person is born with the potential to be the moshiach. If the time is right for the messianic age within that person’s lifetime, then that person will be the moshiach. But if that person dies before he completes the mission of the moshiach, then that person is not the moshiach. So they wait.
Within The Bible
It is interesting to note that many Jewish authors attempting to discredit Jesus as the Messiah, do not take the entire Scripture as a whole and read it with proper hermeneutics, misstate verses or use denominational teaching to supplant the plain truth of Scripture to make their point. Most do not understand the Olivet Discourse or the book of Revelation to realize that the Second Coming will fulfill all the rest of the prophecies that are yet unfulfilled in the Old Testament. Therefore they discredit Jesus as the Messiah. The entire second Psalm speaks to this issue.
1 Why do the nations rage, And the peoples meditate a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against Jehovah, and against his anointed, saying,
3 Let us break their bonds asunder, And cast away their cords from us.
4 He that sitteth in the heavens will laugh: The Lord will have them in derision.
5 Then will he speak unto them in his wrath, And vex them in his sore displeasure:
6 Yet I have set my king Upon my holy hill of Zion.
7 I will tell of the decree: Jehovah said unto me, Thou art my son; This day have I begotten thee.
8 Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance, And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
10 Now therefore be wise, O ye kings: Be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
11 Serve Jehovah with fear, And rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the son, lest he be angry, and ye perish in the way, For his wrath will soon be kindled. Blessed are all they that take refuge in him.
A few of the prophecies in Scripture that attest to messiah in the Old Testament related to His first advent and their fulfillment in the New Testament in the person of Jesus of Nazareth are as follows:
- Born in Bethlehem: Micah 5:2 Fulfilled in Matthew 2:1-5
- The Son of God: Psalm 2:7 Fulfilled John 3:16-17
- Of the tribe of Judah: Genesis 49:10 Fulfilled Hebrews 7:14
- Of a virgin: Isaiah 7:14 Fulfilled Matthew 1:18-22
- A prophet like Moses: Deuteronomy 18:15 Fulfilled John 7:15-17
- The King of Israel: Zechariah 9:9 Fulfilled John 12:12-15
- Rejected: Isaiah 53:3 Fulfilled John 1:11
- Beaten: Micah 5:1 Fulfilled Mark 15:19
- Silent: Isaiah 53:7 Fulfilled Matt 27:12-14
- Betrayed: Psalm 41:9 Fulfilled Mark 14:17-20’
- Tried and condemned: Isaiah 53:8 Fulfilled Matthew 27:1-2
- Crucified: Psalm 22:16 Fulfilled John 19:17-18
- His garments divided: Psalm 22:18 Fulfilled John 19:23-24
- Given vinegar and gall: Psalm 69:21 Fulfilled John 19:31-36
- His bones not broken: Exodus 12:46 Fulfilled John 19:31-36
- He is our sacrifice: Isaiah 53:5-6 Fulfilled 1 Peter 2:24-25
- And raised from death: Psalm 16:10 Fulfilled Luke 24:1-7, 47
A plain reading of the Bible by an unbiased observer can see from these few prophecies and fulfillments that Jesus is Messiah. Here are some examples of how the blinded Jews miss key passages in the Old Testament as being fulfilled in the New Testament relative to the Messiahship of Jesus. They correctly identify the correct criteria for Messiah’s characteristics though obscured in their literature, but through lack of knowledge about the Second Coming or mis-reading the Old Testament they disbelieve.
They correctly read Isaiah 11:12 to state that Messiah will gather the Jewish people from exile and return them to Israel. They miss the essence of this passage in its yet future fulfillment when they are back in “belief” at the end of the Tribulation.
Another passage which states Messiah’s rule, is Isaiah 66:23, which speaks of the Millennium, also know as the Messianic Kingdom. It states, “He will rule at a time when all people will come to acknowledge and serve God.” Their writings look at the earth today with all its problems and unrest and simply fail to attribute the Second Coming to accomplish this. Failure to see this and to strictly limit the first Advent of Christ as the only advent will keep them blind as to the person who is the true Messiah.
A third misunderstanding is from Micah 4:3. The essence of this verse is that He will rule at a time of world-wide peace – “…they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” They observe, “anybody can see” that since Jesus came there has been no world peace. This again is a lack of realization that there are two advents. The second will usher in the time of worldwide peace.
For the true believer, the Messiahship of Jesus is clear. For the Jew who has been blinded because of their sin and unbelief, it is difficult if not almost impossible for them to come to faith in Jesus. As He said, the way is narrow and few there be that find it, including His people who rejected Him at His first advent.
Daniel E. Woodhead Ph.D.