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the Messiah

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MESSIAH, THE. The term Messiah is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek Christos, and means " the one anointed." The Jews in course of time, particularly in the days when great calamities began to threaten the existence of the nation, developed the belief which has come to be known as the Messianic hope—the belief that God would send a hero chosen or anointed to be the Saviour of his people. The first prophet of the Messianic hope was Isaiah. Iu the Syro-Ephraimitish war of 735 B.C., when he was a young man, he looked for a king to come who should throw the great Assyrian king Tiglath pileser IV. into the shade (Isa. ix. 2-6). Later, in the days of Sennacherib's second invasion of Judah (691 or after), when the prophet was an old man, he prophesied the coming of a ruler who should inaugurate a rule of ideal happiness and peace (Isa. xi. 1-91. " The prophecy is doubly significant, for it presents the noblest ideal of a ruler found in Hebrew literature, and also combines closely with it those popular hopes of the golden era, which were probably drawn from the traditions of Paradise, inherited from the primitive Semitic past. In its portrayal of the fruits that follow, as a result of a just and righteous rule, it possesses a perennial value " (C. F. Kent, The Sermons, Epistles and Apocalypses of Israel's Prophets, 1910, p. 475). During the Exile a new type of Messianic hope emerged. " Jehovah would care for his people as the shepherd cared for his sheep, and the land to which they would return would be renewed (Ezek. xxxiv. 11-31), while the nations would support Israel and fear Jehovah (Isa. xlix. 22, 23). Jehovah would make an everlasting covenant with his people (Isa. Iv. 1-5), but the new nation would not be composed of all those who had been swept into exile and descendants. It would rather be a righteous community,. purified by suffering" (Hastings' D.B.). In the late canonical books the Messiah is not well defined, but the Book of Daniel, in its apocalyptic sections, contains the expectation of a political State founded by Jehovah in Palestine, if not of a distinct personal Messiah. For the Messianic expectations in the second century B.C. (Apocalyptic Literature) Dr. Charles gives as the chief authorities outside the Canon, the older sections of I. Enoch, the Book of Jubilees, the Testaments of the xii. Patriarchs, and I. and II. Maccabees. Here, no doubt on account of the part played by the family of Levi in the history of the times, the Davidic Messiah gives place to a Messianic King descended from Levi. In the first century, however, no doubt on account of the degeneracy of the great Maccabean family (descended from Levi), we find the hope of a Messiah sprung from Levi aban doned. In Enoch xxxvii.-1xxi. the Messiah appears as the supernatural " Son of Man " (xlvi. 3, xlviii. 2, lxix. 27). He is " the Christ " (xlviii. 101, " the Righteous One " (xxxviii. 2), " the Elect One " (xl. 5). In the Psalms of Solomon (or Psalms of the Pharisees). on the other hand, " the Messiah is conceived as embracing in his own person all the patriotic aspirations of the nation. The Messiah is, it is true, the righteous ruler of Israel, but he Is no less assuredly the avenger of they wrongs on all the heathen nations. He is to be a militant Messiah of the house and lineage of David " (Charles; cp. W. Fairweather. The Background of the Gospels). Turning to the New Testament—in what sense, if in any, did Jesus regard himself as the Messiah? There can be little doubt that gradually he did come to regard him self as such, but only gradually. The conviction can hardly have been inborn. "To affirm this would be to quit the domain of what is humanly conceivable. Also his quiet growth and his baptism are insufficient to account for the origin of such an idea. It can only have sprung up in the light of great publicity. On the other hand, also, it must be said, the disciples can hardly have been the first to suggest the idea. For, since at Ciesarea Philippi he invites their opinion, he must him self already have been considering what his true character was. At all points he made them sharers in his world of thoughts. Indeed, until now, he had not given them the slightest occasion for spontaneously associating their Jewish ideal of the Messiah with his own person. On all the suggested assumptions, there fore, the psychological mobives, on which everything depends, would be missing. Unless we would abandon all attempts to explain the matter, as most recent critics do, we must look for the rise of this sublime self-con sciousness at a period between the baptism and Peter's confession. The prominence previously given to the

purely religious and moral preaching in the life of Jesus then receives an excellent explanation. We can then, and then alone, realise how it was that Jesus could believe in the practical coming of the kingdom of God ' as the result of obedience to religious and moral com mands' (Arno Neumann, Jesus). In any case, when Jesus took up the Messianic ideal of his people, there can be no doubt that he transformed it in his own way. To him the Messiah would seem to have been beyond and above the king of the Davidic ideal. Moreover, he seems to have discarded the warlike features of the Messiah ship. And " naturally, when the sword and spear were laid aside, prominence was given inevitably to the idea of a religious and moral revival of the people." At the same time JeRas was forced by circumstances to cling to the hope of a second coming from heaven. The Jews of course did not recognise Jesus as the Messiah, and con tinued to look for a saviour or salvation. During the Talmudic age, " the Messianic hope in its national char acter includes always the reunion of all Israel under a victorious ruler of the house of David, who shall destroy all hostile powers and bring an era of supreme prosperity and happiness as well as of peace and good-will among men. The Haggadists indulged also in dreams of the marvellous fertility of the soil of Palestine in the Mes sianic time, and of the resurrection of the dead in the holy land " (K. Kohler). In the Middle Ages, Maimonides in his commentary on the Mishnah and in his Code formulated a new kind of Messianic belief. His twelfth article of faith declares that " the Jew, unless he wishes to forfeit his claim to eternal life, must, in acceptance of the teachings of Moses and the prophets down to Malachi, believe that the Messiah will issue forth from the house of David in the person of a descendant of Solomon, the only legitimate king; and he shall far excel all rulers in history by his reign, glorious in justice and peace. Neither impatience nor deceptive calculation of the time of the advent of the Messiah should shatter this belief. Still, notwithstanding the majesty and wisdom of the Messiah, he must he regarded as a mortal being like any other and only as the restorer of the Davidic dynasty. He will die and leave a son as his successor, who will in his turn die and leave the throne to his heir. Nor will there be any material change in the order of things in the whole system of nature and human life; accordingly Isaiah's picture of the living together of lamb and wolf cannot be taken literally, nor any of the Haggadic sayings with reference to the Mes sianic time. We are only to believe in the coming of Elijah as a messenger of peace and the forerunner of the Messiah, and also in the great decisive battle with the hosts of heathendom embodied in Gog and Magog, through whose defeat the dominion of the Messiah will be permanently established " (quoted by Kohler). As far as Reform Judaism is concerned, the nineteenth cen tury has seen another change of attitude. " Thus the leaders of Reform Judaism in the middle of the nine teenth century declared themselves unanimously opposed to retaining the belief in a personal Messiah and the political restoration of Israel, either in doctrine or in their liturgy. They accentuated all the more strongly Israel's hope for a Messianic age, a time of universal knowledge of God and love of man, so intimately inter woven with the religious mission of the Jewish, people. Harking back to the suffering Servant of the Lord in Deutero-Isaiah, they transferred the title of Messiah to the Jewish nation. Reform Judaism has thus accepted the belief that Israel, the suffering Messiah of the cen turies, shall at the end of days become the triumphant Messiah of the nations " (Kohler). It should be added that the idea of a Messiah is not confined to Judaism. Cheyne cites a Babylonian parallel (Encycl. Bibl.). The Egyptian " Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage " seems to refer to an ideal king, a kind of Messiah. In Buddhism we find the ideal king as the personification of Power and Justice, and also the ideal perfectly Wise Man (T. W. Rhys Davids, Hibbert Lectures, 1881). Zoroas trianism, again, " looked forward to the ultimate triumph of Ahura Mazdah, just as the Jews looked forward to the ultimate triumph of Yahweh and his Messiah " (G. A. Barton, R.11'.). (.). I. Husik.