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Messianic Judaism

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    Posted: 05 August 2007 at 9:30am

The following are some Judaic thoughts concerning Messianic Judaism and why contemporary Jews do believe Jesus as the Messiah.

*Warning there are pictures following some of these commentaries


 The Jewish Messiah

The Jews. unlike the Christians, do not believe that the Messiah is Jesus. The Jewish Messiah must be a descendant of the original Messianic figure, King David of the Jews, who is shown depicted in an illuminated manuscript at left. It is interesting to note that the Messiah is expected to be a mortal person who, through his charisma, background and power, proves himself to be the actual redeemer.

The Jewish Messiah is often split into two, and sometimes even three parts corresponding to the requirements stated in the Messianic Idea. Messiah needed to be spiritual and political at the same time in order to be able to achieve the Messianic hope. The Messiah ben Joseph comes first as the political and military leader. He fights Gog and Magog and falls to them in battle at which time the Messiah ben David comes to defeat the enemies of Israel, bring the Jewish people back to their land, reconcile them with God, and bring about a period of political, spiritual, and physical bliss.

 The art and imagery produced during the history of Judaism is often a very helpful factor in understanding the ideas talked about in this web-site.The image on the right is a drawing of one of the wall paintings at Dura-Europos, which became a Jewish community after the exile from Jerusalem. The imagery contained can only be understood in terms of the expectation of the Messiah. The vine, representing the "vine of the Lord" and the vine of the Temple- Israel is the vineyard of the Lord- has no fruit because prophecies by Isaiah and Zechariah say that the vine "would only be rich with fruit at the time of the coming of the Messiah.



This is the second phase of the same wall painting. It shows the figure of the Messiah-King seated upon a throne surrounded by two men who are supposedly prophets. The bare vine remains but one can see King David on the left playing the harp, reinforcing the messianic allusions, as he is author/singer of the psalms. The lion of Judah lies underneath the Messiah-King representing the tribe from which the Messiah will come.

The original model for the Messiah was actually Moses, who led his people, the Israelites, out of Egypt and away from the tyrannical and unjust rule of Pharaoh. He was both a spiritual and political leader and had the qualities expected of the future Messiah. Many connections are made in literature and scripture between the life and actions of Moses and those of the expected Messiah, such as the gathering of the Jewish people and the return to their homeland. Although there are many similarities between Moses and Messiah, David is the true ancestor and prototype. During David's reign, it was thought that his family would continue to rule through until the end of time or God's intervention. After the collapse of his empire, a new idea emerged that a descendant of his would come to bring the Jewish people together and usher in a reign of peace. One of the aspects stressed most about the Messiah's reign is justice, stemming from the fact the Jews have suffered so much injustice in their past. The prophet Isaiah proclaimed regarding the characteristics of the Messiah: "The foundation of his throne will be justice; he will be distinguished by his zeal for justice, and finally, he will be charismatically endowed for sensing the rights and wrongs of a case and for executing justice (Encyclopedia Judaica)." For more information about the Messiah, see Historical Messiah.

 To the right is a stained glass window by Marc Chagall, one of twelve which were placed in the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center synagogue in Jerusalem. It is the Judah window, and Judah is the tribe out of which the Messiah will come and of which David was the king. The lion of Judah is seated at the bottom and divine or priestly hands hold up the crown of King David and the coming Messiah. The lion symbolizes the Messiah himself.  


The Messianic Idea

The Messianic Idea, or the hope for a Messiah, which was created by the Jews, developed out of the intense suffering endured by the people during their early history. Because of their lack of a "glorious past," they look to a "glorious future." The idea states that at a time designated by God, a Messiah, or savior, a descendant of the House of David, will gather the Jewish people to Jerusalem and initiate an earthly reign of peace and harmony, devoid of the oppression that the Jews have experienced in the past.

There is a distinction to be made between a Messianic hope and the hope of a Messiah. The Messianic hope is more general and calls for the "political freedom, moral perfection, and earthly bliss" of both the Jews and the entire human race. The more specific hope of a Messiah calls for a person, or redeemer, who embodies these three characteristics and is able to bring them about during their reign. Different parts of this idea have been emphasized in the past depending on what aspect of Jewish life was being threatened. For example, during the time of the Roman occupation of Jerusalem, the political freedom aspect of the idea came forward as the most important. (see Historical Messiah)

The Kingdom of the Messiah that will be created is an earthly one, not the heavenly world expected in Christianity. This is because the Jews do not separate faith from social life as can be seen in the three main points of the Messianic Idea stated above.

One of the most integral ideas relating to Judaic messianism is that "Development and completion...were laid in the foundation of Judaism by means of the Messianic Idea."(Klausner) In other words, Judaism as a philosophy and a religion is not complete and will not be complete until the Messiah comes and fulfills this central prophecy. When the Messiah does come, it will be announced by the prophet Elijah, who will blow his shofar, or ram's horn. The next sequence of events is as follows: the gathering of the Jewish people to Jerusalem; the battle of Gog and Magog; Judgment Day; the resurrection of the dead and the subsequent peaceful afterworld where the new Temple will be built. Above is a tapestry by Marc Chagall, a famous modern Jewish artist, who has only recently died. The tapestry is entitled "Isaiah's Prophecy." It shows King David on the right-hand side in red with a procession of animals and children before him. One soon sees that the animals, lions, kids, wolves, and bears, refer back to Isaiah's prophecy; "And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid..." (Isaiah 11:6-9) Elijah with his shofar is shown in the center and the child leading the animals is the coming Messiah. A modern interpretation by artist Boruch Nachson is below.

 Stated simply by Aviezar Ravitzer in his book Messianism, Zionism, and Jewish Religious Radicalism, there are some basic questions concerning the messianic idea that come up repeatedly and lie at the center of discussion. 1. What is the role of human action in preparation for the messianic era? 2. Will redemption occur gradually or all at once? 3. Will the time of redemption depend solely upon the repentance of the Jews or also by divine decree? 4. Will redemption revolve around the human figure of a personal messiah? and 5. Will the messianic age usher change in the Torah and other sacred texts? These are questions that cannot be answered by us in this web-site because everybody seems to have a different idea on the subject and no one really knows who is right.


It is believed that there will be signs of the Messiah before he actually come. These are often called "birth pangs of Messiah," because they are mostly negative. As ideas, they were probably strenghtened during the Hadrianic Period, a time in which Jews were sent out of their homeland under the reign of the Roman Hadrian. The major "birth pangs" were the forgetting of the law and the loss of followers. This time was also characterized by children disobeying their parents and people not observing the sabbath. It was believed that upon the Messiah's coming, he would reestablish the law, but in a slightly altered form. One who wishes to escape the travails leading up to the coming of the Messiah is encouraged to follow the law, do good works and especially keep the sabbath.

Although the Messianic Idea still remains in modern times, there have been some alterations to the idea. People have moved more towards finding redemption and peace within themselves, more of a personal Messiah, rather than the belief in a messianic age. Some orthodox groups, though, still do believe the original ideas about the Messiah.

Why wasn't Jesus the Jewish Messiah?








The answer to the above question is one of the fundamental differences between Judaism and Christianity. Two thousand years ago, a large faction occurred among the Jewish people: there were those who saw Jesus as divine and those who saw him as human. The first devotees of Jesus Christ were in fact devout Jews. Some of those believers in Jesus remained faithful to Judaism and considered themselves part of the Jewish community, though they viewed Jesus as the Messiah. Another group of followers broke off completely from the Jewish community; this group eventually became known as Christians.

The fundamental difference between Judaism and Christianity is that Chritians believe the Messiah, Christ, came two thousand years ago, while Jews are still awaiting their Messiah. So the question is then this: Why didn't the ancestors of today's Jews believe that Jesus was the Messiah?

According to Judaic thinking, Jesus did not uphold the two primary elements of the Messiah and the messianic age: justice and peace. (For more information on Biblical references to the Messiah, see Biblical Messiah) The book of Isaiah is where most of these messages are found.

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks:nation shall not life up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (King James Verion, Isaiah 2:4)

The Messiah is supposed to usher in a time of justice; he will judge all nations. And yet, injustice and corruption were still rampant after Jesus was crucified. He failed to bring about the major prophecy of justice that the true Messiah would have completed.

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. (KJV, Isaiah 11:6)

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (KJV, Isaiah 11:9)

Jesus also failed to fulfill the prophecy of world peace. Jews expected a time when they could get along with their enemies, the wolves, and war would no longer exist. On the contrary, Christians used war more and more to gain power and control. Jews couldn't imagine that the messianic age was upon them when believers in Jesus were causing so much bloodshed.

Current Jews' views towards Jesus

The current Jew still does not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. As starters, they believe that He was one of many first and second century Jews who claimed to be the Messiah, but in truth were imposters (see Failed Messiahs). Jews certainly don't think that Jesus meant to start a religion based on His ideas, let alone one to start a religion that would snowball into one of the most popular religions in the world. Jews actually believe that Christ didn't found Christianity, they think that Paul (Saul) founded it by communicating Jesus' word to followers.

FFailed Messiahs

Throughout Jewish history, many charismatic leaders have come forth to claim that they are the true Messiah; the Son of God. During the first century CE, messianic hopes were high among Jews. They were feeling oppressed by the Romans and awaited the long-hoped for redemption in the form of the Messiah. While Jews were in a vulnerable state, many false messiahs attempted to convince the community that they were the real thing. None of these ever panned out to be anything more than a hoax.

Again during the time period when Islam was on the rise, messianic hopes were heightened among Jews. Believers in Judaism awaited their prophet and messiah, as Muslims had found in their prophet Muhammed. The prophet Muhammed gave a new twist to the idea of the Messiah since Jews started to realize that the leadership could come from anyone, even the poorest and least-educated. During this time, several men appeared from across the lands who claimed to be the Jewish Messiah.

Earlier important events triggered an even higher anticipation for the "End Time." Old Persia fell, the Roman empire in Asia was expelled, and the time was ripe for the Redeemer.

Over and over again false messiahs have come forth to claim the seat next to God. Some have acquired decent sized followings before their failure, some of these messiahs still have a following today, and others have simply failed. Choose from the list of failed messiahs below to find out more information and details.


 Sabbetai Zevi

 Lubavitcher Rebbe


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