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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 them to return. 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'
The 'son of'-titles
The two Messiahs of Qumran
The eschatological king
From Messiah to Christ
The Messiah as high priestModern scholars discern four kinds of messianology in the years between 170 BCE and 140 CE.
Take, for example, the following fragment, in which a fight is described between the archetypal priest Melchizedek and the evil forces, commanded by Belial.
And Melchizedek will avenge with the vengeance of the judgment of God [...] from the hand of Belial and from the hand of all the spirits of his lot. And to his help are all the heavenly ones on high. He [...] all sons of might and [...] this.In other words, the priestly Messiah, Melchizedek, defeats the enemies of Israel and brings good news.
Other text that deserve attention are Psalms 2 and 20. In these songs, an idealized king, a 'son of God', is presented, who will defend truth, humility and righteousness by defeating the enemies of Judah. Psalm 110 adds that this anointed one will be 'a priest for ever' and will judge the nations. Comparable texts assume that the priestly Messiah will restore the true Temple cult, which had been defiled when the high-priesthood had fallen into Hasmonaean hands. (They were no Zadokites, which created tensions. Go here for more information.)
The most important text containing a priestly messianology is the Letter to the Hebrews, which was written -probably before 70 CE- to an audience of Jewish Christians. Jesus of Nazareth is seen as someone who wanted to help mankind, has sacrificed himself and is now sitting at the right hand of God Himself, as an eternal high-priest.
Seeing then that we have a great high-priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high-priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.Menahem ben Jehuda, who defeated a Roman army in 66 and was killed when he wanted to enter the Temple of Jerusalem, probably thought of himself as a priestly Messiah. It is tempting to see in Jesus' 'cleansing of the Temple' a similar attempt to behave according to the ideas about the priestly Messiah.
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