Messiah (mâšîah, "the anointed one"): Jewish religious concept, a future savior who will, in some sense, come to restore Israel. The nature of both the Messiah and the restoration was a matter of debate, and there were several claimants.
The Hebrew word mâšîah means "anointed one" and can indicate Jewish priests, prophets, and kings. During the sixth century BCE, the exiled Jews in Babylonia started to hope for a special Anointed One who was to bring them home and, in this sense, restore Israel; several of these prophecies were fulfilled when the Persian king Cyrus the Great did in fact allow their return (539).
In the early first century BCE, the Jews were again suffering from repression, and the old prophecies became relevant again. Some people were looking forward to a military leader who would defeat the Seleucid or Roman enemies and establish an independent Jewish kingdom. Others stated that the Messiah was a charismatic teacher who would give the correct interpretation of Mosaic law. A third theory identified the Messiah with the Son of Man who would judge mankind. Jesus of Nazareth was considered a Messiah; a century later, Simon bar Kochba. The idea of an eschatological king has been present in Judaism ever since.
Messianism is related with, but should be distinguished from, eschatology, i.e., the idea that history is approaching a turning point and that the universe will return to its Paradisiacal origin. Both eschatology and messianism can be expressed in apocalypses, texts in which some kind of supernatural truth is revealed.
Overview of articles on "Messiah"
Roots of the concept
- Roots of the concept: Anointment
- Roots of the concept: The Messianic Psalms
- Roots of the concept: The Prophets
- Roots of the concept: Josiah and Cyrus
- Roots of the concept: Zerubbabel
From "Anointed One" to "Restorer of Israel"
- Reinventing messianism: The Hasmonaeans
- Type #1: The Messiah as military leader
- Type #2: The Messiah as sage
- Type #3: The Messiah as high-priest
- Type #4: The "prophet like Moses"
- Literary motifs: Balaam's prophecy
- Literary motifs: The "son of"-titles
- Literary motifs: Other titles
- Combination: The two Messiahs of Qumran
- Combination: Messianic expectations
- Dating the Messiah
- Catastrophic messianism?
- The eschatological king
- From Messiah to Christ
- Judas, son of Hezekiah (4 BCE)
- Simon of Peraea (4 BCE)
- Athronges, the shepherd (4 BCE)
- Judas, the Galilean (6 CE)
- John the Baptist (c.28 CE)
- Jesus of Nazareth (c.30 CE)
- The Samaritan prophet (36 CE)
- King Herod Agrippa (44 CE)
- Theudas (45 CE)
- The Egyptian prophet (52-58 CE)
- An anonymous prophet (59 CE)
- Menahem, the son of Judas the Galilean (66 CE)
- John of Gischala (67-70 CE)
- Vespasian (67 CE)
- Simon bar Giora (69-70 CE)
- Jonathan, the weaver (73 CE)
- Lukuas (115 CE)
- Simon ben Kosiba (132-135)
- Moses of Crete (448)
- Muhammad (570-c.632)
- Abu Isa' al-Isfahani (c.700)