Messiah

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Samuel anoints David, Dura Europos, Syria, Date: 3rd century CE.

A messiah is a saviour or liberator of a group of people, most commonly in the Abrahamic religions.

In the Hebrew Bible, a messiah (or mashiach) is a king or High Priest traditionally anointed with holy anointing oil.[1] However, messiahs were not exclusively Jewish, as the Hebrew Bible refers to Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, as a messiah[2] for his decree to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple. The Jewish messiah is a leader anointed by God, physically descended from the Davidic line, who will rule the united tribes of Israel[3] and herald the Messianic Age[4] of global peace also known as the World to Come.

The translation of the Hebrew word Mašíaḥ as Χριστός (Khristós) in the Greek Septuagint[5] became the accepted Christian designation and title of Jesus of Nazareth. Christians believe that prophecies in the Hebrew Bible (especially Isaiah) refer to a spiritual savior and believe Jesus to be that Messiah (Christ).

Islamic tradition holds that Jesus, the son of Mary, was the promised Prophet and Masih (Messiah) sent to the Israelites, and that he will again return to Earth at the end of times, along with the Mahdi, and they will defeat Masih ad-Dajjal, the "false Messiah" or Antichrist.[6]

Etymology[edit]

Messiah (Hebrew: מָשִׁיחַ, Modern Mashiaẖ Tiberian Māšîăḥ; in modern Jewish texts in English spelled Mashiach; Aramaic: משיחא, Greek: Μεσσίας, Syriac: ܡܫܺܝܚܳܐ, Məšîḥā, Arabic: المسيح‎, al-Masīḥ, Latin: Messias) literally means "anointed [one]". In Hebrew, the Messiah is often referred to as מלך המשיח (Meleḵ ha-Mašīaḥ in the Tiberian vocalization, pronounced [ˈmeleχ hamaˈʃiaħ], literally meaning "the Anointed King."

The Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament renders all thirty-nine instances of the Hebrew word for "anointed" (Mašíaḥ) as Χριστός (Khristós).[5] The New Testament records the Greek transliteration Μεσσίας, Messias twice in John.[Jn. 1:41][4:25]

Masīḥ (pronounced [mæˈsiːħ]) is the Arabic word for messiah. In modern Arabic, it is used as one of the many titles of Jesus. Masīḥ is used by Arab Christians as well as Muslims, and is written as Yasūʿ al-Masih (يسوع المسيح ) by Christian Arabs or ʿĪsā al-Masīḥ (عيسى المسيح) by Muslims. The word Masīḥ literally means "anointed one"[citation needed] and in Islam, ʿĪsā al-Masīḥ is believed to have been anointed from birth by Allah with the specific task of being a prophet and a king.[citation needed] The Israelites, to whom Isa was sent, had a traditional practice of anointing their kings with oil. An Imam Bukhari hadith describes Jesus as having wet hair that looked as if water was dripping from it, possibly meaning he was naturally anointed.[7] Muslims believe that this is just one of the many signs that proves that Jesus is the Messiah.

Judaism[edit]

The literal translation of the Hebrew word moshiach (messiah) is “anointed,” which refers to a ritual of consecrating someone or something by putting holy oil upon it.[1 Sam. 10:1-2] It is used throughout the Hebrew Bible in reference to a wide variety of individuals and objects; for example, a Jewish king,[1 Kings 1:39] Jewish priests,[Lev. 4:3] and prophets,[Isa. 61:1] the Jewish Temple and its utensils,[Ex. 40:9-11] unleavened bread,[Num. 6:15] and a non-Jewish king (Cyrus king of Persia).[Isa. 45:1]

In Jewish eschatology, the term came to refer to a future Jewish king from the Davidic line, who will be "anointed" with holy anointing oil, to be king of God's kingdom, and rule the Jewish people during the Messianic Age. In Judaism, the Messiah is not considered to be God or a divine Son of God. Belief in the eventual coming of a future messiah is a fundamental part of Judaism, and is one of Maimonides' 13 Principles of Faith.[8]

Maimonides describes the identity of the Messiah in the following terms:

And if a king shall arise from among the House of David, studying Torah and occupied with commandments like his father David, according to the written and oral Torah, and he will impel all of Israel to follow it and to strengthen breaches in its observance, and will fight Hashem's [God's] wars, this one is to be treated as if he were the anointed one. If he succeeded and built the Holy Temple in its proper place and gathered the dispersed ones of Israel together, this is indeed the anointed one for certain, and he will mend the entire world to worship the Lord together, as it is stated: "For then I shall turn for the nations a clear tongue, so that they will all proclaim the Name of the Lord, and to worship Him with a united resolve (Zephaniah 3:9)."[9]

A common modern rabbinic interpretation is that there is a potential messiah in every generation. The Talmud, which often uses stories to make a moral point (aggadah), tells of a highly respected rabbi who found the Messiah at the gates of Rome and asked him, "When will you finally come?" He was quite surprised when he was told, "Today." Overjoyed and full of anticipation, the man waited all day. The next day he returned, disappointed and puzzled, and asked, "You said messiah would come 'today' but he didn't come! What happened?" The Messiah replied, "Scripture says, 'Today, 'if you will but hearken to His voice.'"[Ps. 95:7]

A Kabbalistic tradition within Judaism is that the commonly discussed messiah who will usher in a period of freedom and peace (Messiah ben David) will be preceded by Messiah ben Joseph, who will die sacrificing himself while uniting all of Israel in preparing the world for the arrival of Messiah ben David.[10]

Christianity[edit]

The Last Judgment, by Jean Cousin the Younger (c. late 16th century)

The Greek translation of Messiah is khristos (χριστος), anglicized as Christ, and Christians commonly refer to Jesus as either the "Christ" or the "Messiah." Christians believe the Messianic prophecies were fulfilled in the mission, death, and resurrection of Jesus, as Saviour and Redeemer, and that Jesus will return to fulfill the rest of Messianic prophecy, as Lord and King.

The majority of historical and mainline Christian theologies consider Jesus to be the Son of God, or God the Son, a concept of the Messiah as "the Word made Flesh" fundamentally different from the Jewish and Islamic concepts.

In the Complete Jewish Bible (a Messianic translation) Isaiah 9:5-7 is paraphrased, "For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; dominion will rest on his shoulders, and he will be given the name Pele-Yo‘etz El Gibbor Avi-‘Ad Sar-Shalom [Wonder of a Counselor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace], in order to extend the dominion and perpetuate the peace of the throne and kingdom of David, to secure it and sustain it through justice and righteousness henceforth and forever. The zeal of Adonai-Tzva’ot will accomplish this."

Islam[edit]

The Qur'an states that Isa, the Son of Mariam (Arabic: Isa ibn Maryam), is the Messiah and Prophet sent to the Children of Israel.[Quran 3:45] Muslims believe Isa is alive in Heaven and will return to Earth to defeat the Masih ad-Dajjal (false Messiah),[6] a figure similar to the Antichrist in Christianity, who will emerge shortly before him before Yawm al-Qiyāmah ("the Day of Resurrection"). After he has destroyed al-Dajjal, his final task will be to become leader of the Muslims. Isa will unify the Muslim Ummah (the followers of Islam) under the common purpose of worshipping Allah alone in pure Islam, thereby ending divisions and deviations by adherents. Mainstream Muslims believe that at that time Isa will dispel Christian and Jewish claims about him.

A hadith in Abu Dawud (37:4310) says:

Narrated Abu Hurayrah: The Prophet said: There is no prophet between me and him, that is, Isa. He will descend (to the earth). When you see him, recognise him: a man of medium height & reddish dusky complexion, wearing two light yellow garments, looking as if drops of water were falling down from his head though it will not be wet. He will fight for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill the swine, and put an end to war (in another Tradition, there is the word Jizyah instead of Harb (war), meaning that he will abolish jizyah); God will perish all religions except Islam. He [Isa] will destroy the Antichrist who will live on the earth for forty days and then he will die. The Muslims will pray behind him.

Both Sunni and Shia Muslims agree[citation needed] alMahdi will arrive first, and after him, Isa. Isa will proclaim that the true leader is alMahdi. A war will be fought—the Dajjal against alMahdi and Isa. This war will mark the approach of the coming of the Last Day. After Isa slays alDajjāl at the Gate of Lud, he will bear witness and reveal that Islam is indeed the true and last word from God to humanity as Yusuf Ali's translation reads: "And there is none of the People of the Book but must believe in him before his death; and on the Day of Judgment He will be a witness against them."[Quran 4:159] He will live for several years, marry, have children and will be buried in Madina.[citation needed]

A hadith in Sahih Bukhari Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:55:658 says:

Allah's Apostle said "How will you be when the son of Mariam descends amongst you and your Imam is from amongst you."

Some scholars outside of mainstream Islam[citation needed] reject all the quotes (Hadith) attributed to Prophet Muhammad that mention the second return of Jesus, the Dajjal and Imam Mahdi, believing that they have no Qur'anic basis. However, Quran emphatically rejects the implication of termination of Jesus’ life when he was allegedly crucified. Yusuf Ali’s translation reads "That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah";― but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not.― (157) Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise. (158) Verses [Quran 4:157] imply that Jesus was not killed physically but it was made to appear so. Verse [Quran 19:33] "So Peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)"! implies that Jesus will die someday. The unified opinion of Islam maintains that the bodily death of Jesus will happen after his second coming.[citation needed]

Many classical commentators[citation needed] such as Ibn Kathir, At-Tabari, al-Qurtubi, Suyuti, al-Undlusi (Bahr al-Muhit), Abu al-Fadl al-Alusi (Ruh al-Maani) clearly mention that verse [Quran 43:61] of the Qur'an refers to the descent of Jesus before the Day of Resurrection, indicating that Jesus would be the Sign that the Hour is close.

And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgment): therefore have no doubt about the (Hour)... [Quran 43:61]

Ahmadiyya[edit]

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, founder of the Ahmadiyya movement, considered by Ahmadis to be the Promised Messiah of the latter days

In Ahmadiyya, the terms "Messiah" and "Mahdi" are synonymous terms for one and the same person.[11] The term "Mahdi" means guided by God, thus implying a direct ordainment by God of a divinely chosen individual.[citation needed] According to Ahmadiyya thought, Messiahship is a phenomenon through which a special emphasis is given on the transformation of a people by way of offering suffering for the sake of God instead of giving suffering (i.e. refraining from revenge).[citation needed] Ahmadis believe that this special emphasis was given through the person of Jesus and Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835–1908).[12] among others.

Ahmadis hold that the prophesied eschatological figures of Christianity and Islam, the Messiah and Mahdi, were in fact to be fulfilled in one person who was to represent all previous prophets.[13] The prophecies concerning the Mahdi or the Second Coming of Jesus are seen by Ahmadis as metaphorical and subject to interpretation. It is argued that one was to be born and rise within the dispensation of Muhammad, who by virtue of his similarity and affinity with Jesus, and the similarity in nature, temperament and disposition of the people of Jesus' time and the people of the time of the promised one (the Mahdi) is called by the same name.[citation needed]

Numerous hadith are presented by the Ahmadis in support of their view, such as one from Sunan Ibn Majah which says, There is No Mahdi but Jesus son of Mary.[14]

Ahmadis believe that the prophecies concerning the Mahdi and the second coming of Jesus have been fulfilled in Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835–1908), the founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement. Contrary to mainstream Islam, the Ahmadis do not believe that Jesus is alive in heaven, but that he survived the crucifixion and migrated towards the east where he died a natural death and that Ghulam Ahmad was only the promised spiritual second coming and likeness of Jesus, the promised Messiah and Mahdi.[citation needed]

Other traditions[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Exodus 30:22-25
  2. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia: Cyrus: Cyrus and the Jews: "This prophet, Cyrus, through whom were to be redeemed His chosen people, whom He would glorify before all the world, was the promised Messiah, "the Shepherd of Yhwh" (xliv. 28, xlv. 1)."
  3. ^ Megillah 17b-18a, Taanit 8b
  4. ^ Sotah 9a
  5. ^ a b Etymology Online
  6. ^ a b "Muttaqun OnLine - Dajjal (The Anti-Christ): According to Quran and Sunnah". Muttaqun.com. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  7. ^ http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/hadith/bukhari/055.sbt.html#004.055.650
  8. ^ "Judaism 101: Mashiach: The Messiah". Jewfaq.org. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  9. ^ Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 11:4
  10. ^ Kahn, Rabbi Ari. "The Beauty of Joseph" a lesson within M'oray Ha'Aish http://www.aish.com/tp/i/moha/48909612.html "There will be two messiahs one day -- Messiah Son of Joseph, who prepares the way for the Messiah Son of David, himself a descendent of Judah. According to tradition, the Messiah Son of Joseph will unite all Israel in preparation for the arrival of the Messiah Son of David, but will die in the process [Sukka 52a] in an act of self-sacrifice for his people. Just like his ancestor Rachel, whose self-sacrifice allowed the building of the Second Temple, his self-sacrifice will allow the building of the Third Temple. The spiritual model is Joseph, who chose not to contact his father even though it would have made for a "nicer" life."
  11. ^ Messiah and Mahdi - Review of Religions
  12. ^ Ask Islam: What is the different between a messiah and a prophet?
  13. ^ "The Holy Quran". Alislam.org. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  14. ^ Ibn Majah, Bab, Shahadatu-Zaman
  15. ^ Momen, Moojan (2004). "Baha'i Faith and Holy People". In Jestice, Phyllis G. Holy People of the World: A Cross-cultural Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1-57607-355-6. 
  16. ^ "Rastafarian beliefs". BBC. 9 October 2009. Retrieved 12 September 2010. 

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