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In Hebrews, the word messiah refers to ‘anointed one’ or someone sent on divine mission with reference Jewish perspective. Particularly, biblical presentation of Messiah revolves around someone ‘holy and righteous’, sent to redeem human nature from sin.
In this regard, Christians believe on the Old Testament prophesy about the birth of ‘a Messiah’, who turned out as Jesus Christ. More precisely, the Old Testament prophesy about Messiah is fulfilled in the new testament when Jesus is born, who subsequently started His Messianic mission.
According to the teachings of the New Testament, Jesus fits the Old Testament. On the other hand, Jewish believe on Jesus seems different from Christians since, Jewish religion does not accord Jesus as Messiah.
As it has been revealed, Jews perceive Jesus as lacking the capacity to meet the descriptions of ‘Messiah’ as the Hebrews Bible describes it. On this basis, this paper will focus on the main reasons why the Jewish perception of Messiah differs from that of Christians, despite the two religions having common divine scripture book.
Comparison of Messianic Prophesies Between Christians and Jews
According to Isaiah (9: 6, NIV), “A child will be born and his name would be wonderful counselor…” With reference to Christians’ perception of this verse, the child being prophesized by Isaiah was Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, Jews interpret this verse to refer to King Hezekiah, the great reformer who eradicated idolatry in Judah. Further, the phrase ‘wonder of a counselor, Mighty God’ is considered by Jews as referring to God, who did miraculous things during King Hezekiah’s reign including his victory over the Assyrians who had attacked Judah.
Perhaps, according to the Jews, Isaiah’s prophesy referred to the extraordinary events that God would accomplish during Hezekiah’s reign. According to McDowell (1997, p. 147), ‘The Old Testament… contains several hundred references to the Messiah……in which they were all fulfilled in Christ and they establish a solid confirmation of his credentials as the Messiah.”
This argument proclaims on the confirmation of Jesus Christ as the long waited Messiah as prophesized by prophet Isaiah. It is also important to note that, the prophesized Messiah in the book of Isaiah is described as having a kingdom, where he will be able to judge all the people.
In the words of Paine (1995, p. 206) “I have examined all the passages in the New Testament quoted from the Old, … and I find no such thing as a prophecy of any such person described as Jesus Christ as the Messiah..”
In this regard, Chazan (2004) considers Hezekiah as the ultimate individual to fit in this category of ‘Messiah’, since he was a wonderful religious leader and also had a kingdom.
On the other hand, the perception of Christians considering Jesus as the ultimate promised Messiah seems baseless, since Jesus had no kingdom. Precisely, God used King Hezekiah to show His mightiness while Jesus came on earth to reconcile human kind with God.
According to Laooard (2004), the prophesy of Messiah as revealed in the book of Daniel does not conform to the Christian view of Jesus as the anticipated Messiah.
According to Paine (1995),the book of Daniel talks of a king coming to restore Jerusalem within a period of seven weeks or 483 years, which seems too early for the birth of Jesus Christ.
In this regard, the equation relating the calculation of this period prophesized by Daniel on the coming of a Messiah disregards Jesus as the expected Messiah on the basis of His time of birth.
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On the other hand, the Jewish perception of Hezekiah as the ultimate Messiah seems coherent with these prophesies of Daniel, since his time of reign in the kingdom of Judah falls within the 483 years talked about by Daniel. On this basis, the birth prophesies of Messiah with regard to the Christians’ interpretation of the bible seems unreliable and baseless.
However, Christians believe that, the words spoken by Jesus in John (12:32, NIV) echo Isaiah’s prophesy about the role of the Messiah to unite the whole world. Notably, prophet Isaiah had prophesied on the role of the anticipated Messiah of gathering together all nations from the four corners of the earth.
According to Chazan (2004), Jesus acknowledged his mission of bringing peace and unity to the earth, and that all the people should worship God alone who had sent Him. Similarly, the book of Romans (15: 12, NIV) reveals the quotes of Isaiah’s prophesies about the worship of Christ by the Gentiles (Robinson, 2008).
This is a true implication that, Jesus is the ultimate Messiah awaited to reconcile the whole world and facilitate unity across the world. The New Testament further explains how the prophesy came to pass with the death of Jesus seeing that Jesus body was the temple which after destruction rose on the third day.
Unlike Christians, Jews base their identity and expectations on Tanakh, Talmud and Rabbinic writings. One of the most common believes in these writings is that, all of them talk about two messiahs, where one is being referred to as Messiah ben Joseph or son of Joseph while the other is called Messiah ben David or son of David.
As revealed by Netfirms (2000), Messiah ben Joseph will help Israel to defeat its nations and the people will kill him later. On the other hand, messiah ben David on the other hand will overthrow enemies of Israel and also raise Messiah Joseph from the dead.
Christians on the other hand believe in one Messiah and He will come to the world twice. Based on the Bible and Tanakh teachings, they believe that the Messiah Joseph has already appeared and paid for the sins of the world through His death in Calvary.
His penalty was to be crucified on the cross in order to save all those people who would believe in Him. On the other hand, he will return as a ruling king, overthrow His enemies and establish a righteous kingdom on earth.
In Isaiah 53 for example, Christians depict a picture of a Messiah who would die on the cross in order to save the nation of Israel while Jews believe that Isaiah was prophesying about the sufferings of the Jews at the hand of Gentile nations.
The difference in interpretations is explained in terms of diverse prophesies is that the prophesies are applicable to both the Messiah and the Israel nation (Robinson, 2008).
Though Christians relate the words of Mathew (1:22-23, NIV), to the prophesies of Isaiah about a young woman conceiving and subsequently giving birth to the ‘Messiah’, there still exists controversy in these two readings.
Despite that Jesus was born by Virgin Mary, Isaiah’s prophesies talked of a young woman, but did not specify on the virginity condition. Particularly, the word virgin was not in the Tanakh, the real Hebrew text, and hence Christians should not use the verse to support their claim on the possibility of Jesus being the Messiah (Chazan, 2004).
Nevertheless, Christians and Jews still agree on the accomplishment of Messianic age at the end of history. In this case, Christians consider Jesus’ ministry as being due to be accomplished when He comes the second time. On the other hand, Rabbinic prophesy regards Jesus as an imposter and that, the real Messiah will arrive in the future.
Generally, it is evident that Jews and Christians believe in the promise of a messiah. However, some conflict on the particular individual regarded as the Messiah seems to exist in the Christianity and Jewish perception of the Messiah.
While Christians claim that Jesus is the fulfillment of an ancient prophesy, the writings in the New Testament make them believe fully on Jesus Christ as the fore-told Messiah. On the other hand, Jews believe that, King Hezekiah was the ultimate Messiah, as his time of reign conforms to the prophesies of Daniel on an heir of David to restore Jerusalem.
It is evident that, Jews rely on the Tanakh to bolster their argument despite the fact that it contains less than two prophesies written by Moses. In this case, Christians use the fulfillment of the Messianic prophesies as a central pillar in their argument regarding the accuracy and truth of the Bible.
However, many scholars seem not to believe that Jesus is not the real Messiah, whilst the Christians seem to advocates twisted the scripture, to facilitate the perception of Jesus as the Messiah. Basically, Jesus did not fulfill the messianic prophesies seeing that the Messiah was supposed to rebuild the Israel nation and make it a world superpower.
Chazan, R. (2004). Fashioning Jewish identity in medieval western Christendom. London: Cambridge University Press.
Laooard, J. (2004). The Fabulous Prophesies of the Messiah. [Available online]. Retrieved from: https://infidels.org/library/modern/jim_lippard/fabulous-prophecies.html
McDowell, J. (1997). Evidence That Demands a Verdict. San Bernardino, Calif.: Here’s Life Publishers.
Netfirms. (2000). Jesus is the Rod out ofJesse?…Fulfilled or Unfulfilled? Journal of International Religious Matters, 37(2): 46 – 89.
Paine, T. (1995). “Examination of the Prophecies.” In William, M. (ed.). The Life and Works of Thomas Paine. New Rochelle, N.Y.: Thomas Paine National Historical Association.
Robinson, T. (2008). The Scroll of the Gospel of David. Orlando: Xulon Press.