I may or may not have mentioned this before, but there was one main reason why I decided to pursue this topic. One thing that blew my mind in class was the fact that within Judaism, the Messiah is NOT supposed to be Divine. Obviously, this blew my mind. Growing up in a Christian mindset, I just kind of assumed that the Messiah was always supposed to be a divine being, like Jesus is for many Christians. Well, I was wrong.
This is where Rabbi Lyle and I decided to begin. He came prepared for me with some references that I would be able to look at in more detail. For that, I am grateful. It’s a good refresher (especially since it’s been a couple of weeks).
Basically, the concept of the Messiah developed over time. Scholars believe that the concept of the Messiah was introduced during the age of the prophets. Scholars believe this because the Messiah is not mentioned anywhere in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). However, traditional Judaism holds this tradition to be true. The 13 Principles of Faith, which is essentially the most widely accepted list of Jewish beliefs, holds the Messiah to be a fundamental part of Judaism.
However, unlike Christian belief, the Messiah is not to be a Savior. He is not supposed to be a superhuman, or a divine being, but rather a human. This is where my class started to intersect with the conversation. In the resources that Rabbi Lyle gave me there is a good quote that I think sums up this notion:
The word “mashiach” does not mean “savior.” The notion of an innocent, divine or semi-divine being who will sacrifice himself to save us from the consequences of our own sins is a purely Christian concept that has no basis in Jewish thought. Unfortunately, this Christian concept has become so deeply ingrained in the English word “messiah” that this English word can no longer be used to refer to the Jewish concept. (jewfaq.org/mashiach.htm)
Another point that we spoke about was the lineage of King David. Basically, in Jewish thought, the mashiach will be a descendant of King David, and will be a great leader like King David. Rabbi Lyle also told me that there have been many “anointed” people throughout Jewish history. Many Kings were “anointed.” So, in a sense, there have been many mashiach(s) (I don’t know how to make something plural in hebrew). In the resources that I was given, there is a section about who the mashiach could be. Here is what it says:
It has been said that in every generation, a person is born with the potential to be the mashiach. If the time is right for the messianic age within that person’s lifetime, then that person will be the mashiach. But if that person dies before he completes the mission of the mashiach, then that person is not the mashiach. (jewfaq.org/mashiach.htm)
Overall, our conversation went really well. There was one thing that I was trying to be conscious of, and that was the tense I used when asking questions. As a practicing Catholic, I believe that Jesus is the anointed one. When asking questions, I tried to be conscious to use the future tense rather than the past tense.
In my next couple of posts, we’ll look at some other parts from conversation, like:
– The Messianic Age and Reform Judaism
– Reform vs. Traditional views of the Mashiach
– The Jesus Question
– Jewish-Christian Relations
Talk to you again soon!