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Jewish / Judaism : Jewish Messianic Concepts, part 1 of 5
Contrary to popular belief, and contrary to what anti-missionary Jewish organizations claim, there are and have been many different Jewish messianic concepts. The difficulty in clearly defining a messianic concept is that in the Old Testament-the Tanakh-God does not necessarily state "I will now tell you about the coming Messiah" instead the prophecies must often be gleaned from various texts. One major problem that the ancient sages came across was that the prophecies state that the Messiah would be a humble servant who would suffer and die and that the Messiah would be a triumphant conquering king who would wipe out Israel's enemies and bring world peace.
The problem was: how could the Messiah be both a humble servant and conquering king? How could he be both killed and triumphant? We ought to empathize with what a difficult problem it was.
What happened is that various messianic concepts came about, some thought that the Messiah would be a human being, some a divine being. Some that he would bring about change through politics others the he would work through miracles. Some thought that there would be two messiahs one called the Mashiach ben Yosef who would be the suffering servant and another to come afterwards called the Mashiach ben David the conquering king who would raise the Mashiach ben Yosef from the dead.
This parsed essay consists of the following:
Part 1: Intro and Various Jewish Scholars Part 2: Various Jewish Scholars (continued) Part 3: Various Rabbis Part 4: The Talmud and Midrash Pesikta Rabbati Part 5: Jewish Encyclopedias and The Temple Institute
Various Jewish Scholars: Jacob Neusner,
The messianic theme is of varying importance in diverse Judaic writings.1
Abraham Cohen; editor of the Soncino Books of the Bible and who participated in the Soncino translation of the Talmud and Midrash,
There was considerable variety of opinion about the identity of the future redeemer.2
A variety of messianic ideas, all in some way having grown partially from the Egyptian experience of Moses as prophet-redeemer and partially from the prophetic vision of the 'day of the Lord,' circulated in the first century CE. Sometimes the idea included a Davidic dynast, sometimes an undesignated human political liberator, at times God Himself as the redeemer and liberating figure, occasionally the suffering and dying 'servant of the Lord,' and at times two messiahs_
In a series of conferences, American Reform established itself and articulated its positions_.
At the 1869 conference the Messiah was no longer identified as a person, but as a time of universal human unity-as a messianic era-which would not include a restoration of the Jewish nation or of the sacrificial cult_
There are significant differences in both Scriptural and postscriptural sources as to whether the messiah-redeemer figure will be a political liberator who is a scion of the dynasty of David or even God (as in Isa. 63:1-6). The sources are also ambivalent as to whether the redeemer will be a victorious sovereign or the servant of Yhwh who will suffer, and even die, in order that the people attain atonement.3
Nicholas De Lange,
the concept is not developed with clarity, and many conflicting opinions are recorded_
During the middle ages there was unanimity concerning the belief in a personal Messiah, but there was disagreement about whether the Messianic Age would be a natural or a supernatural event_
Isaac Luria gave a new direction to Messianism by claiming that it is up to each individual either to impede or hasten the messianic redemption by performing good or evil deeds_the doctrine has remained vague in the extreme_
Isaac Kook (1865-1935)_maintained that despite its secular impetus, the Zionist movement represented 'the beginings of the messianic age', quoting a Talmudic dictum that 'in the footsteps of the Messiah insolence will increase.'4
Although God promised Moses that he would raise up for the Jewish people a prophet of his stature and that he would put his word in this prophet's mouth, and that the prophet would tell the Jewish people everything that God commanded him (see Deuteronomy 18:18), the mystics came to believe that they, not God, would be responsible for the Messiah's coming.5
Tzvi M. Rabinowicz,
The hasidim never accepted the notion of a messianic age apart from a personal Messiah. Similarly, the resurrection of the dead that will take place after the coming of the Messiah is conceived of in Hasidism in the most literal of terms. The supernatural elements in traditional messianism are given prominence in the thought of all the hasidic masters. In the messianic age, the third Temple will drop down from heaven, the priesthood will be reestablished, and the sacrificial system reintroduced.6
Michael Asheri; trained as a scholar dedicated to finding out as much as he could about what being Jewish is all about,
someday a Jew will appear who will announce the end of the world as we know it and the establishment of the kingdom of God, in which finally the lion will lay down with the lamb. This Jew, and he will be a person, not an incarnation of God, as if such a thing were possible, is called Mashiach, or Messiah. When he arrives there will be a resurrection of the dead, called in Hebrew, T'chiat Ha-metim, and all the resurrected of the Jews will gather in Israel, there to live forever. Mashiach will be a descendant of the house of David and will be announced by Elijah the Prophet.7
Alfred J. Kolatch; graduate of the Teacher's Institute of Yeshiva University ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America served as Rabbi in three states,
The word 'Messiah' is used by some to refer to an actual person and by others to refer to a future time when a perfect world will be established. The exact nature of the Messiah is not clarified in the Bible, the Talmud, or later rabbinic writings. In fact, these sources contain many vague and contradictory statements_Maimonides speaks of the Messiah as both an age and a person.8
Arthur Hertzberg; received his rabbinic degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America,
There are two countertendencies in the Jewish vision of the Messiah. The ecstatic poetry of the prophets tended to suggest that the Messiah would come as the result of cataclysms and cosmic miracles. There are, however, more sober views in the Bible, which identify the Messiah with real political events, like the restoration of the Jews from Babylonian captivity by their deliverer, the Persian King Cyrus. Each of these notions has continued throughout the history of Jewish faith.
Rabbi Akiva in the second century hailed Bar Kochba, the leader of the revolt against Rome in 132-5, as the Messiah; other rabbis held to the ecstatic view_.it has been transmitted by the traditions of the prophets that God would cause misfortunes and disasters to befall us that would compel us to resolve upon repentance so that we would be deserving of redemption. That is the sense of the remark of our forbears: 'If Israel will repent, they will be redeemed. If not, the Holy One will raise up a king whose decrees will be even more severe that those of Haman, whereupon they will repent and thus be redeemed.(1)
Our forbears also tell us that the cause of this visitation will be the appearance in Upper Galilee of a man from among the descendants of Joseph, around whom there will gather individuals from among the Jewish nation. This man will go to Jerusalem after its seizure by the Romans and stay in it for a certain length of time. Then they will be surprised by a man named Armilus, who will wage war against them and conquer the city and subject its inhabitants to massacre, captivity and disgrace. Included among those that will be slain will be that man from among the descendants of Joseph.(2)9
1.Jacob Neusner, ed. in chief and William Scott Green, ed., Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period 450 BCE to 600 CE (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, inc., 1996), p.426
2. Abraham Cohen, (1887-1957) Editor of the Soncino Books of the Bible and participated in the Soncino translation of the Talmud and Midrash, Every Man's Talmud, The Major Teachings of the Rabbinic Sages (New York: Schocken Books, 1949) p. 347
3. Phillip Sigal, Judaism the Evolution of a Faith (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998), pp. 67, 216 & 234-235
4. Nicholas De Lange, An Introduction to Judaism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp.202-205
5. Lev Leigh, "Kabbalah, Fact or Fiction?," Issues, A Messianic Jewish Perspective, Vol. 12-2 (P.O. Box 424885, San Francisco, CA., 1998)
6. Tzvi M. Rabinowicz, The Encyclopedia of Hasidism (Northdale, New Jersey: Jasona Ronson, Inc., 1996), p. 312
7. Michael Asheri; trained as a scholar dedicated to finding out as much as he could about what being Jewish is all about, Living Jewish-The Lore and Law of the Practicing Jew (New York: Everest House Publishers, 1978), p. 196
8. Alfred J. Kolatch; graduate of the Teacher's Institute of Yeshiva University ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America served as Rabbi in three states, The Second Jewish Book of Why (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, Inc., 1985), pp. 210-211 quoting Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Teshuva 9:2
9. Arthur Hertzberg, ed.; received his rabbinic degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Judaism from the Great Religions of Modern Man - series (New York: Washington Square Press, 1963), pp. 214-215 & 217
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