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Messiah (overview)

Coin of Bar Kochba, showing the Temple with a star on the roof and the Ark of the Covenant. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Jona Lendering.
 Coin of Simon ben Kosiba ,showing the Temple with the Messianic star on the roof and the Ark of the Covenant inside (British Museum)
The Hebrew word mâšîah means 'anointed one' and may 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; several written prophecies were fulfilled when the Persian king Cyrus the Great did in fact allow their return (539). In the second 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, like the author of the Psalms of Solomon, stated that the Messiah was a charismatic teacher who gave the correct interpretation of Mosaic law, was to restore Israel and 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.
The Messianic Psalms
Micah and Isaiah
From Josiah to Cyrus
The Maccabaean revolt
The Messiah as military leader
The Messiah as sage
The Messiah as high-priest
The 'prophet like Moses'
Balaam's prophecy
The 'son of'-titles
Other titles
The two Messiahs of Qumran
Messianic expectations
Catastrophic messianism
The eschatological king
From Messiah to Christ

Overview of articles on 'Messiah'

Roots of the concept

  1. Roots of the concept: Anointment
  2. Roots of the concept: The Messianic Psalms
  3. Roots of the concept: Micah and Isaiah
  4. Roots of the concept: From Josiah to Cyrus
  5. Roots of the concept: Zerubbabel

From 'anointed one' to 'eschatological king'

  6. Reinventing messianism: The Maccabaean revolt
  7. Type #1: The Messiah as military leader
  8. Type #2: The Messiah as sage
  9. Type #3: The Messiah as high-priest
10. Type #4: The 'prophet like Moses'
11. Literary motifs: Balaam's prophecy
12. Literary motifs: The 'son of'-titles
         12a. Son of man: Daniel 7
         12b. Son of man: 1 Enoch 46 and 48
13. Literary motifs: Other titles
14. Combination: The two Messiahs of Qumran
15. Combination: Messianic expectations
        15a. Dating the coming of the Messiah
        15b. The seventy-seven generations
16. Development: Catastrophic messianism?
        16a. The song of the suffering servant
17. Development: The eschatological king
18. Development: From Messiah to Christ

Ancient claimants

1. Judas, son of Hezekiah (4 BCE)
2. Simon of Peraea (4 BCE)
3. Athronges, the shepherd (4 BCE)
4. Judas, the Galilean (6 CE)
5. John the Baptist (c.28 CE)
6. Jesus of Nazareth (c.30 CE)
7. The Samaritan prophet (36 CE)
8. King Herod Agrippa (44 CE)
9. Theudas (45 CE)
10. The Egyptian prophet (52-58 CE)
11. An anonymous prophet (59 CE)
12. Menahem, the son of Judas the Galilean (66 CE)
13. John of Gischala (67-70 CE)
14. Vespasian (67 CE)
15. Simon bar Giora (69-70 CE)
16. Jonathan, the weaver (73 CE)
17. Lukuas (115 CE)
18. Simon ben Kosiba (132-135)
19. Moses of Crete (448)

Medieval claimants

1. Muhammad (570-c.632)
2. Abu Isa' al-Isfahani (c.700)
3. Moses al-Dar'i (c.1127)
4. David Alroy (c.1147)
5. A Yemenite Messiah (c.1172)
6. Abraham ben Samuel Abu'lafia (1230-1291)

Later claimants

1. Asher Lämmlin (c.1500)
2. Isaac Luria (1534-1573)
3. Hayyim Vital (after 1542)
4. Sabbathai Zwi (1626-1676)
5. Jacob Frank (1726-1786)
6. Moses Guibbory (1899-1985)
7. Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994)



The translations of the Dead Sea-scrolls in these articles are taken from a book by Craig Evans, Jesus and his contemporaries. Comparative studies (1995 Leyden). The translated sections from the pseudepigraphical texts were copied from James Charlesworth (ed.), The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (1983 New York, two volumes). Translations from Bible texts are either the revised King James translation or the New International Version.
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