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Messiah (10)

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 mšah 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'
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


The 'prophet like Moses'

Modern scholars discern four kinds of messianology in the years between 170 BCE and 140 CE.
  1. The Messiah as military leader
  2. The Messiah as sage
  3. The Messiah as high-priest
  4. The 'prophet like Moses'
In this part of this article, we will concentrate on the last kind of messianology, which is based on Deuteronomy 18.15-19. As we have already seen above, this text was written in the seventh century BCE.
Moses said: 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. For that is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: "Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see His great fire any more, or we will die."
The Lord said to me: "What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put My words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command them. If anyone does not listen to My words that the prophet speaks in My name, I Myself will call him to account."'
This prophet may or may not be identified with king Josiah or one of the people who were involved in his religious reforms, but the answer to this question is unimportant for our purposes. What is important, is that these lines were interpreted as a prophecy regarding the Messiah.

There were many learned speculations. For example, both the Messiah and Moses were thought to have come into existence before God created the universe (e.g., First book of Enoch 48.3). Therefore, the Messiah can be called 'son of God' and 'first-begotten' (Hebrews 1.6). How this idea can be harmonized with the usual title that the Messiah is a descendant of David, is one of the mysteries of ancient messianism.

Moses and the Messiah are often mentioned together. The Aramaic adaptation of the story of the Exodus is an example. The original version is that God protected the Hebrews; it is rendered as protection by Moses and the Messiah, who will be the Hebrews' heavenly guide.

Moses will go forth from the midst of the wilderness and the king Messiah from on high: this one will lead at the head of the flock, and that one will lead at the head of the cloud; and the word of the Lord will be between the both of them; and they will proceed together. This is the Passover night before the Lord.
[Fragment Targum Exodus 12.42]
The word 'cloud' is interesting, because in later times the Messiah was called Bar Naphle, 'son of the clouds'. It is also said that the Messiah will one day come 'on the clouds of heaven' (a reference to Daniel 7.13, found in the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a).

Another interesting aspect of the words quoted above is the link between Passover and the Messiah. This suggests that the Christian interpretation of their Messiah as the passover lamb was not considered too strange.

Several persons were inspired by the idea that the Messiah was someone like Moses. One may think of John the Baptist, the Samaritan prophet, an Egyptian prophet (52-58 CE), an anonymous prophet about 59 and Moses of Crete in 448. 

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