The Jewish Concept of Messiah and the Jewish Response to Christian Claims

What is the Jewish concept of the Messiah, is there such a concept in place? If so, what would be the Jewish response to Christian claims regarding the Messiah? Let us find out in this post.

Here are some points:

  1. The word “Messiah” is an English rendering of the Hebrew word “Mashiach”, whose translation is “Anointed”.  It usually refers to a person initiated into G-d’s service by being anointed with oil. (Having oil poured on his head.  Cf. Exodus 29:7, I Kings 1:39, II Kings 9:3).
  2. There are many Messiahs in the Bible.  Since every King and High Priest was anointed with oil, each may be referred to as “an anointed one” (a Mashiach or a Messiah).  For example: “G-d forbid that I [David] should stretch out my hand against the L-rd’s Messiah [Saul]...I Samuel 26:11. Cf. II Samuel 23:1, Isaiah 45:1, Psalms 20:6.
  3. The Hebrew word “HaMashiach” (lit. the Messiah) describing a future anointed person to come does not appear anywhere in the Bible.  Since the Bible makes no explicit reference to the Messiah, it is unlikely that it could be considered the most important concept in the Bible. Indeed, in Jewish thought, the Messianic idea is not the most crucial.  However, in Christian thought, the Messiah is paramount- a difficulty in light of its conspicuous absence from scripture.
  4. Where does the Jewish concept of Messiah come from?  One of the central themes of Biblical prophecy is the promise of a future age of perfection characterized by universal peace and recognition of G-d. Isaiah 2:1-4; Zephaniah 3:9; Hosea 2:20-22; Amos 9:13-15; Isaiah 32:15-18, 60:15-18; Micah 4:1-4; Zechariah 8:23, 14:9; Jeremiah 31:33-34.
  5.  Many of these prophetic passages speak of a descendant of King David who will rule Israel during the age of perfection.  Isaiah 11:1-9; Jeremiah 23:5-6, 30:7-10, 33:14-16; Ezekiel 34:11-31, 37:21-28; Hosea 3:4-5.
  6. Since every King is a Messiah, by convention, we refer to this future anointed one as The Messiah.  The above is the only description in the Bible of a Davidic descendant who is to come in the future.  We will recognize the Messiah by seeing who the King of Israel is at the time of complete universal perfection.
  7. The Bible never speaks about believing in the Messiah.  Because his reign will be an historically verifiable reality, self-evident to any person, it won’t require belief or faith.
  8. Because no person has ever fulfilled the picture painted in the Bible of this future King, Jewish people still await the coming of the Messiah.  All past Messianic claimants, including Jesus of Nazareth, Bar Cochba and Shabbtai Tzvi have been rejected.
  9. The claim that Jesus will fulfill the Messianic prophesies when he returns does not give him any credibility for his “first” coming.  The Bible never speaks about the Messiah returning after an initial appearance.  The “second coming” theory is a desperate attempt to explain away Jesus’ failure. The Biblical passages which Christians are forced to regard as second coming (#5 above) don’t speak of someone returning, they have a “first coming” perspective.
  10. According to Biblical tradition, Elijah the prophet will reappear before the coming of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6).  In the Greek Testament, Jesus claims that John the Baptist was Elijah (Matthew 11:13-14, 17:10-13).  However, when John the Baptist was asked if he was Elijah, he denied it (John 1:21).  The Gospel of Luke 1:17 tries to get around this problem by claiming that John the Baptist came in the spirit of Elijah.  However:

a) Malachi predicted that Elijah himself would return, and not just someone coming in his spirit.

b) When asked about his identity, John the Baptist didn’t  claim to have come in the spirit of Elijah - he claimed no association with Elijah at all.

c) The prophesy about the return of Elijah says that he would restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.  There is no evidence that John the Baptist accomplished this.

11. According to the Jewish Bible, the Messiah must be a descendent of King David.  (Jeremiah 23:5, 33:17; Ezekiel 34:23-24)  Although the Greek Testament traces the genealogy of Joseph (husband of Mary) back to David, it then claims that Jesus resulted from a virgin birth, and, that Joseph was not his  father.  (Mat. 1:18-23)  In response, it is claimed that Joseph adopted Jesus, and passed on his genealogy via adoption.

There are two problems with this claim:

  1.  There is no Biblical basis for the idea of a father passing on his tribal line by adoption.  A priest who adopts a son from another tribe cannot make him a priest by adoption;
  2.  Joseph could never pass on by adoption that which he doesn’t have.  Because Joseph descended from Jeconiah (Mat. 1:11) he fell under the curse of that king that none of his descendants could ever sit as king upon the throne of David.  (Jeremiah 22:30; 36:30).
  3. To answer this difficult problem, apologists claim that Jesus traces himself back to King David through his mother Mary, who allegedly descends from David, as shown in the third chapter of Luke.  There are four basic problems with this claim:
  1. There is no evidence that Mary descends from David.  The third chapter of Luke traces Joseph’s genealogy, not Mary’s.
  2. Even if Mary can trace herself back to David, that doesn’t help Jesus, since tribal affiliation goes only through the father, not mother.  Cf. Num. 1:18; Ezra 2:59.
  3. Even if family line could go through the mother, Mary was not from a legitimate Messianic family.  According to the Bible, the Messiah must be a descendent of David through his son Solomon (II Sam. 7:14; I Chron. 17:11-14, 22:9-10, 28:4-6)  The third chapter of Luke is useless because it goes through David’s son Nathan, not Solomon.  (Luke 3:31)
  4. Luke 3:27 lists Shealtiel and Zerubbabel in his genealogy.  These two also appear in Matthew 1:12 as descendants of the cursed Jeconiah.  If Mary descends from them, it would also disqualify her from being a Messianic progenitor.

If you have questions about what Judaism has said about the promised Messiah for the last three millenia or want to know how to answer the Christian claims, please check out our website: www.jewsforjudaism.org, drop us a line or give us a call.

The concept of Messiah is Jewish. To find out about it go to the source.