Where the expressions “the Lord’s anointed,” “my anointed,” “your anointed,” etc., occur in the OT, the reference is not used as a technical designation of the Messiah, but refers to the king of the line of David, ruling in Jerusalem, and anointed by the Lord through the priest. Isaiah uses the term only once, and then of the Persian Cyrus (
Closely related to the eschatological character of the Messiah is his political significance. He will destroy the world powers in an act of judgment, deliver Israel from her enemies, and restore her as a nation. The Messiah is the king of this future kingdom to whose political and religious domination the other nations will yield. His mission is the redemption of Israel and his dominion is universal. This is the clear picture of the Messiah in practically all of the OT passages that refer to him. The Messiah will put an end to war, for he is the Prince of Peace, and he will rule righteously over his people. He himself is righteous and is called the righteous Messiah or the Messiah of righteousness (
Perhaps the most profound spiritual work of the Messiah is seen in his position as the intermediary between God and the people by interceding for them. This is the Targum’s interpretation of
The progress of prophetic revelation in history leads up to the idea of the innocent Suffering Servant of God, who in the redemptive purpose of his death reconciles men to God. In the Messiah’s sacrifice of himself as an expiation for sin his priestly office is revealed and combined with his work as prophet and king. The redemptive work of the Messiah includes the restoration of the paradise that existed in the beginning but was lost through the fall of Adam. Through the Messiah the kingdom of the end time will be established, the kingdom of God on earth, the restoration of Israel. As the Messiah was present from the first in the creation so he is also present as the central figure of the last events. He is declared to be the firstborn of creation and also the end and goal of creation (
The NT conception of the Messiah is developed directly from the teaching of the OT. The essential features of the OT picture of the Messiah are in the person of Jesus. The suffering, dying, and glorified Servant of the Lord of the OT is that same NTwho will return on the clouds of heaven. The Messiah, as the Son of Man, will suffer, die, and rise again on the third day, “according to the Scriptures.” But even though Jesus was victorious over death in his resurrection and ascension, he did not yet reign in his full messiahship in his righteous kingdom. His ultimate victory is revealed to be in the future, and consequently he must come again in power to establish his messianic throne and kingdom. Jesus often used the phrase “the Son of Man” to express his interpretation of his nature and his part in the coming of God’s kingdom. It seems that Jesus preferred this title in referring to himself. He did not use it primarily to express his humanity; on the contrary, it was a proclamation of the paradox that he, who appeared as an ordinary man, was at the same time the One in whom there are supernatural powers of the kingdom of God. He who took on himself the form of a man will some day be revealed as “the Son of Man” with power and glory. The title, then, is an expression for the triumphant Messiah who comes on the clouds in the majesty of his exaltation.
Bibliography: W. Manson, Jesus the Messiah, 1943; H. Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods, 1948; H. H. Rowley, The Servant of the Lord, 1952; T. W. Manson, The Servant Messiah, 1953; H. L. Ellison, The Centrality of the Messianic Idea for the, 1953; H. Ringgren, The Messiah in the Old Testament, 1956; F. F. Bruce, This Is That, 1968; G. E. Ladd, A Theology of the , 1974; R. T. France, “Messiah,” IDB, pp. 763-72.——ACS
From the Hebrew word meaning “anointed” (cf. Gr. christos). Because kings, priests, and perhaps prophets (1 Kings 19:16) were anointed, the term came to be used of God's representatives (e.g., Ps. 89:38; Isa. 45:1). A fundamental tenet of Israel's religion was that God would set up His perfect rule on earth, through an act of decisive divine intervention, the , a term first found in Amos 5:18 (if a late date is attributed to Joel), but clearly much older. Though in the majority of passages concerned with the setting up and continuance of the rule of God human agency is not mentioned, it is clearly presupposed, for the Mosaic-prophetic tradition throughout sees God working through human representatives, hence the divine attributes given to kings (Isa. 9:6; Ps. 45:6). Hence too, the frequently met distinction between prophetic pictures of the messianic age and of the Messiah has little practical validity.
It is questionable also whether anything is to be gained by the modern tendency to confine Messiah to the royal office. At Qumran two Messiahs were awaited, “the anointed ones of Aaron and Israel,” i.e., a priest and king, the former taking precedence. In 4Q Testimonia the promise of a prophet like Moses is linked with the hope of a king and priest. Thus it seems clear that at Qumran at least, and almost certainly in wider circles, the Jewish messianic expectation included all three offices, as in Christian interpretation, though normally the delivering king predominated.
The messianic hope is essentially eschatological, i.e., it emerges from despair at conditions as they are. So far as the king was concerned, it must have become a reality with the failure of Zerubbabel to reestablish the Davidic dynasty after the Exile, but prophetically it emerges with Isaiah's prophecy of the cutting down of the royal tree (11:1) and the implicit rejection of Ahaz and his descendants in the Immanuel prophecies, which become explicit in Jeremiah 22:30. The concept of a coming prophet will hardly have occupied the popular mind until the gift disappeared about the time of Ezra, and it may be seen in 1 Maccabees 4:46; 14:41. There was felt to be a lack in the priestly office as early as the return from exile (Ezra 2:63), but the question did not become acute until the ousting of the Zadokite high priests in the time of b.c. (1 Macc. 14:41)-this was one of the basic causes of the Qumran movement. The messianic hope became a burning necessity with the Roman conquest and its imposition of either the Herodian dynasty or direct rule. The rise of the Zealots* with their doctrine that all authority belonged to God made the end of the second Jewish commonwealth inevitable.Epiphanes, and brought to a head by the recognition of Simon the Hasmonean as high priest in 142
The church's recognition of Jesus as Messiah (Christ) has always been central to its theology. It implies that He is the fulfiller of every promise and hope of the OT revelation and the basis of its interpretation. Indeed, without it, the Gentile Christians might well not have retained the OT as a sacred book.
A. Neubauer and S.R. Driver, The Fifty-Third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters, (1876/7); J. Drummond, The Jewish Messiah (1877); F. Delitzsch, Messianic Prophecies (1880); V.H. Stanton, The Jewish and Christian Messiah (1886); C.A. Briggs, Messianic Prophecy (1886); J.H. Greenstone, The Messiah Idea in Jewish History (1906); A.L. Williams, The Hebrew-Christian Messiah (1916); E. Koenig, Die messianischen Weissagungen des Alten Testaments (1923); A.G. Hebert, The Throne of David (1941); C.H. Dodd, According to the Scriptures (1952); H.L. Ellison, The Centrality of the Messianic Idea for the(1953); A. Bentzen, King and Messiah (1955); J. Klausner, The Messianic Idea in Israel (1956); S. Mowinckel, He That Cometh (1956); H. Ringgren, The Messiah in the Old Testament (1956); F.F. Bruce, This is That (1968); H.L. Ellison, The Corner Stone (1973).
MESSIAH. The verb מָשַׁח, H5417, means to smear, to anoint. When Jacob poured oil upon the stone at Bethel (
The practice of anointing outside Israel.
Oil played an important part in the ancient world. It was used for lighting, cooking, washing (as a substitute for soap), for cosmetic purposes; also as a medicine and in religious rites. Sacred anointing was practiced on people as well as on objects: “To oil a cult object is one of the commonest acts of worship” (Oxford Classical Dict.). The anointing of the statues of the gods was a common practice in Egypt, Babylon, Rome and elsewhere. Such cultic acts served the purpose of cleansing, consecration and veneration at the same time.
From the Amarna tablets it would appear that Pharaoh’s viceroys received anointing on taking office (cf. tablet 51). Whether this applied to the pharaohs themselves cannot be established with any degree of certainty. That the pharaohs were anointed at certain solemn occasions is suggested by tablet 34: “I have sent...good oil, to pour upon thy (head) whilst thou sittest upon the throne of thy kingdom.” There is some indication that kings received anointing in their capacity as priests. Frazer has shown that priests used to be anointed at an installation ceremony (Taboo II, 14f.).
The ancient Heb. custom of the use of oil for purposes of consecration is a practice which has many analogies outside Israel.
The practice of anointing in Israel.
The act of consecration required the anointing of every object appertaining to worship: the tent of meeting, the ark of testimony, the table, the lampstand, the altars, and every utensil connected with these objects. All these items acquired a special sanctity by reason of anointing, so that “whatever touches them will become holy” (
What applied to objects applied also to persons: Aaron and his sons were to be consecrated to the priesthood by means of anointing (
The anointing of priests.
The anointing to the priesthood extended to all descendants of the house of Aaron (
The anointing of kings.
For the rite of anointing of kings there is ample OT evidence. Saul, David, Solomon, Joash, and others were consecrated to the kingship by anointing with oil. For this reason “the anointed of the Lord” (cf.
Anointing conveyed sanctity to the person who now stood under the special protection of the God of Israel (cf.
There appears to have been a rival claim to the prerogative of performing the rite between prophet and priest. In the case of Saul and David it was Samuel the prophet who performed the act of anointing (
According to the rabbis only kings descended from the house of David received anointing. Even this was limited to an heir who was not in the direct line. “A king whose father had been a king was not anointed, for the kingdom was always his as an heir” (Maimonides, op. cit. I, 11). According to the same authority, anointing took place when there was a dispute concerning the legitimate heir in order to end the quarrel. It is always difficult to assess the historic value of rabbinic tradition but it frequently transmits data otherwise unknown.
The rabbis have also preserved the tradition concerning the manner of anointing: kings were anointed by pouring oil upon the head in a circle to form a crown. By contrast, the high priest was anointed by pouring oil upon his head and rubbing it upon his forehead crosswise like the Gr. letter X (Maimonides, ibid. I, 9). Originally this sign would have been a cross (
Some scholars work on the principle of direct correspondence between ancient Israel and the adjacent cultures. Canaanite culture esp. is regarded as the formative principle in the social and religious make-up of the Hebrews. There is no denying that the invading tribes assimilated some pagan features peculiar to the indigenous population. To assume complete similarity is to deny the peculiar genius of the Heb. people. For example, it is more than doubtful whether the position of kings in the ancient E was at any time acceptable among Israelites.
In Egypt kings were regarded as divine incarnations and were worshiped as gods. In Babylon kings were men divinized and thus constituted the link between the gods and ordinary mortals. In Canaan there was a close connection between the kings and the fertility cults. There is no evidence for anything like it in Israel.
The ideal king.
Ideally speaking, Israel’s kings were meant to be true shepherds of their people and to act in God’s stead (cf.
The Messianic hope was born from the recognition that no human king is able to fulfill the high ideal. The ideal king must be more than an ordinary mortal. Together with the eschatological hope there was the historic association with the covenantal promises made to David (cf.
That the OT contains Messianic passages is accepted by most scholars. They differ, however, according to their age and significance. Mowinckel would allow only two texts as pre-exilic (
Some allowance has already been made for the influence of pagan customs upon the religious life of ancient Israel. The OT provides all the evidence for this fact; Ahaz, king of Judah, burned his son as an offering (
At least some of the Messianic texts come from pre-exilic times and point to the fact that the Messianic hope is older than the fall of the Davidic dynasty. This is an important point which must be given full weight.
OT Messianism is the logical result of the claim that YHWH is Lord of heaven and earth. Political and social distress were contributing factors, but the main reason for the Messianic hope derives from faith in YHWH as the covenant-keeping God. The tension between historic experience and faith in the omnipotence of the benevolent God of the patriarchs can find no solution except in Messianic fulfillment. There is certainly an unevenness in the Messianic vision; sometimes the Messiah is seen as the Prince of Peace (
There are occasions when the ideal King of the house of David recedes in the background and his place is taken by a supernatural being entering history from another realm (cf.
The Messianic interpretation of most texts the Church has inherited from Heb. tradition. A case in point is the passage in
The twelve tribes of Israel are described as gathering around the golden bed of the dying patriarch Jacob who, with his last breath, prophesied the Messianic end. This is how the Targum renders the text: “Kings shall not cease, nor rulers from the house of Judah...till the time that the King, the Meshiḥa, shall come, the youngest of his sons; and on account of him shall the nations flow together. How beautiful is the King, the Meshiḥa, who will arise from the house of Judah!”
The Messianic exegesis of this text and endowment of the Messiah with the name of Shiloh as his nomen proprium (cf. SBK I, 65) must be much older than the Church, for the rabbis were not likely to play into the hands of the Christians.
The two testaments are interdependent and the one cannot be understood without the other. At the same time one must not seek a detailed blueprint in the OT which would pre-empt the Messianic event. The relation is rather between expectancy and fulfillment.
The extra-canonical literature.
The Apoc. and Pseudep. fill the gap of the Intertestamental period. The contribution of this lit. to the Messianic expectation may be variously assessed. Some scholars stress the apocalyptic features in the NT and see a close relationship between it and the Pseudep.; others hold that both depend upon OT material. Frequently the choice lies between theand the , esp. with regard to the Son of man concept. The difference, however, is not of great importance as Dan. belongs to the division of the canonical lit. indicated by the Heb. Bible among the Hagiographa and not among the prophets.
The Apoc. do not seem to show the same intense interest in the Messianic hope as do the Pseudep. It is widely held that certain turns of phrase in the NT reveal familiarity with some of the apoc. books (such as Tobit, Ecclus and Wisd of Sol).
The case with the Pseudep. is different. Messianic concepts are highly developed and play a vital part in the message these books try to convey. Especially 1 Enoch is infused with a great Messianic hope. It spells out judgment over Israel’s enemies; it foretells the founding of the; it envisions the conversion of the Gentiles; it tells of the resurrection of the righteous, climaxing its vision with the advent of the Messiah. R. H. Charles regards this work as the most important in the history of theological development.
Functions assigned to the Messiah are even more striking than the titles. The Messiah is described as the Judge of the world, as the Revealer of all things, and as the Champion and Ruler of the righteous. Part of the Messiah’s task is to raise the righteous from the dead (cf. 51:1; 61:5). For the first time in Jewish lit. the Son of man is spoken of with the demonstrative “this” which Charles regards as significant for the Messianic title. Scholars regard the book of a composite nature and J. Klausner has shown how the material and spiritual understanding of the Messianic age are here placed side by side without any effort at reconciliation. The same observation applies to the person of the Messiah; sometimes He is presented as an equal among equals; at other times He is placed in a position of preeminence. Klausner’s assessment of Enoch matches that by Charles: “the messianic book par excellence of Judaism in the period of the Second Temple” (p. 301).
Other books of the Pseudep. are equally important. The Test XII Pat show remarkable universalist tendencies; 2 Baruch points to the Messianic kingdom and stresses the resurrection of the body; 4 Ezra envisions Messiah’s triumph over His enemies. That there is a connection between this lit. and the NT cannot be denied, but the connection seems to be more ideological than literary. The question of whether there was direct borrowing has been widely discussed. In spite of certain philological affinities the connection seems to be mainly of a theological nature peculiar to certain circles in Jewry. From the testimony of Suetonius about Jewish Messianic hopes (The Life of Vespasian, § 4) and Josephus’ veiled reference to the defenders of Jerusalem (War VI. 5. 2) one can gauge the deep-rooted Messianic expectations which inspired the nation. This finds corroboration in the Qumran documents, though the Messianic doctrine of the desert sect is not quite clear. We do not know the relationship of the two Messiahs of Aaron and Israel to each other (cf. IQS IX:11), nor do we know the Messianic significance of the Teacher of Righteousness. There are other Messianic allusions in the texts: it is surmised that the Man in IV:18 is identical with the Prophet in IX:11. Vermès identifies the Man with two passages in the Test XII Pat and
Christ in the NT.
First Enoch concludes with the promise of God: “For I and my son will unite with them for ever in the paths of righteousness in their lives; and ye shall have peace: rejoice ye children of uprightness. Amen” (105:2).
This sounds remarkably like NT theology, yet it is not. Enoch’s message is salvation for the righteous whereas Jesus addressed Himself to sinners (cf.
One may conclude that the NT owes to the intertestamental lit. some of the Messianic imagery and phraseology, but not the central christological features. These were formed upon reflection on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth in conjunction with His teaching.
The Son of man.
Scholars tend to regard the frequent references to the Son of man in the gospels as an honorific title which the Early Church gave to the Messiah. For the origin they go to the Pseudep. or to the Book of Daniel (
It is much more natural to accept the Son of man title as the peculiar self-description on the part of Jesus as presented by the gospels (cf.
Some scholars hold that the Son of man passages resulted from a misunderstanding of the Aram. idiom which uses the expression בַּר נָשׁ (נָשָׁא) for “man” pure and simple. Only later when bar nash(a) had to be rendered in Gr. it was tr. lit. ὁ υἱὸς του̂ ἀνθρώπου instead of simply: ἄνθρωπος, G476. In this way Son of man became a Messianic title. Another suggestion which amounts to the same conclusion is that Jesus used “ ” as a substitute for “I,” therefore that it carried no special significance. This would exclude any identification with the apocalyptic “Son of man” idea one meets in the Pseudep. and in the Book of Daniel. The corollary would seem to be that Jesus made no claim to Messiahship at all. This is corroborated from Jewish sources which blame Jesus for all sorts of crimes but never for claiming to be the Messiah (W. Kramer). The contention rests upon a misunderstanding; claim to Messiahship was never regarded a crime. That this is the case can be seen from the rabbinic attitude to Simeon surnamed Bar Kochba (“Son of a Star”) but after the failure of his revolt against Rome, he was nicknamed Bar Koziba, “the Son of Lies” (a title which sounded like his own patronymic, Bar Koseba, recently discovered in the Qumran documents). He became a “false Messiah” only after he had failed.
Jesus’ conflict with the Pharisees was not because of the Messianic overtones in His message but because of His attitude to the law: a Messiah who treated the law lightly could be only a false Messiah. Tödt’s question concerning the reason for Jesus’ concealment behind a pseudonym raises no real difficulty. Messiahship was too explosive a concept to be bandied about freely. M. de Jonge’s contention that the term “anointed” had yet no fixed meaning and simply denoted divine appointment is contradicted by the documents already cited.
The question regarding the Messiah’s pedigree was obviously a matter of theological discussion; according to
In the Johannine lit. the title Son of God is widely used. In the First Epistle it recurs with frequent regularity and dominates the Christological perspective; to be a Christian means to have fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ (
Some have argued that this liturgical phrase does not necessarily prove Palestinian origin, but this position cannot be taken seriously. There is early proof for a Christological meaning of the title κύριος, G3261. Furthermore, there are good grounds for believing that
The confession that Jesus is Lord, Cullmann regards as the most ancient Christian statement of faith. That God has made Jesus both “Lord and Christ” (
The Messiah’s lordship is not a matter of impersonal and autocratic rule to which the believer submits under duress. Jesus did not impose His lordship; He came not to rule but to serve and to give His life for others (
The etymological meaning of the name Jesus is noted in
A. T. Hanson allows that both Stephen and Hebrews appear to identify Jesus with the theophanies of the OT (cf. Jesus Christ in the OT , p. 164). The same would apply to John and Paul who see the eternal Logos operative in OT history. There can be no doubt that the pre-existence of the Messiah is an established NT doctrine (cf. John’s Prologue;
Some of the ἐγώ εἰμι passages, particularly
One is led to conclude that a high Christology is deeply embedded in the NT tradition and that titles like Son of man, Son of God, κύριος σωτήρ, etc. are intended to emphasize Messiah’s unique and representative position both with regard to mankind and to God. In the last resort, this is the Messianic secret; that Jesus is the Christ (
G. Dalman, The Words of Jesus (1902); R. H. Charles, Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha I-II (1913); H. Frankfort, Kingship and the Gods (1948), 337ff.; S. Mowinckel, He That Cometh (1956), ch. III; J. Klausner, The Messianic Idea in Israel (1956), 283ff.; O. Cullmann, The Christology of the NT (1959), pt. III, 193ff.; W. L. Dulière, Le Nom Jesus dan l’histoire Juive écrite en Grec, Nov Test III (1959), 180ff.; K. H. Rengstorf, “and traces of a formula of Judaean Royal Ritual,” Nov Test, V (1962), 229ff.; A. T. Hanson, Jesus Christ in the OT (1965); E. G. Jay, Son of Man—Son of God (1965); W. Kramer, Christ, Lord, Son of God (1966).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(mashiach; Aramaic meshicha’; Septuagint Christos, "anointed";"Christ"):
1. Meaning and Use of the Term
2. The Messianic Hope
I. THE MESSIAH IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
1. The Messianic King
(2) Jeremiah and Ezekiel
(3) Later Prophets
2. Prophetic and Priestly Relations
4. Transformation of the Prophetic Hope into the Apocalyptic
II. THE MESSIAH IN THE PRE-CHRISTIAN AGE
1. Post-prophetic Age
2. Maccabean Times
III. THE MESSIAH IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
1. The Jewish Conception
(1) The Messiah as King
(2) His Prophetic Character
(3) The Title ""
2. Attitude of Jesus to the Messiahship
3. The Christian Transformation
4. New Elements Added
(1) Future Manifestation
(2) Divine Personality
(3) Heavenly Priesthood
5. Fulfillment in Jesus
1. Meaning and Use of the Term:
It is to be noted that "Messiah" as a special title is never applied in the Old Testament to the unique king of the future, unless perhaps in
2. The Messianic Hope:
The Messiah is the instrument by whom God’s kingdom is to be established in Israel and in the world. The hope of a personal deliverer is thus inseparable from the wider hope that runs through the Old Testament. The Jews were a nation who lived in the future. In this respect they stand alone among the peoples of antiquity. No nation ever cherished such strong expectations of a good time coming, or clung more tenaciously amid defeat and disaster to the certainty of final triumph over all enemies and of entrance upon a state of perfect peace and happiness. The basis of this larger hope is Yahweh’s covenant with Israel. "I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God" (
The term "Messianic" is used in a double sense to describe the larger hope of a glorious future for the nation, as well as the narrower one of a personal Messiah who is to be the prominent figure in the perfected kingdom. It may be remarked that many writers, both prophetic and apocalyptic, who picture the final consummation, make no allusion whatever to a coming deliverer.
This article will treat of the personal Messianic hope as it is found in the Old Testament, in the pre-Christian age, and in the New Testament.
I. The Messiah in the Old Testament.
1. The Messianic King:
The chief element in the conception of the Messiah in the Old Testament is that of the king. Through him as head of the nation Yahweh could most readily work out His saving purposes. But the kingdom of Israel was a theocracy. In earlier times Moses, Joshua, and the judges, who were raised up by Yahweh to guide His people at different crises in their history, did not claim to exercise authority apart from their Divine commission. Nor was the relation of Yahweh to the nation as its real ruler in any way modified by the institution of the monarchy. It was by His Spirit that the king was qualified for the righteous government of the people, and by His power that he would become victorious over all enemies. The passage on which the idea of the Messianic king who would rule in righteousness and attain universal dominion was founded is Nathan’s oracle to David in
Isaiah is the first of the prophets to refer to an extraordinary king of the future. Amos (9:11) foretold the time when the shattered fortunes of Judah would be restored, while Hosea (3:5) looked forward to the reunion of the two kingdoms under David’s line. But it is not till we reach the Assyrian age, when the personality of the king is brought into prominence against the great world-power, that we meet with any mention of a unique personal ruler who would bring special glory to David’s house.
The kings of Syria and Israel having entered into a league to dethrone Ahaz and supplant him by an obscure adventurer, Isaiah 7:10-17 announces to the king of Judah that while, by the help of Assyria, he would survive the attack of the confederate kings, Yahweh would, for his disobedience, bring devastation upon his own land through the instrumentality of his ally. But the prophet’s lofty vision, though limited as in the case of other seers to the horizon of his own time, reaches beyond Judah’s distress to Judah’s deliverance. To the spiritual mind of Isaiah the revelation is made of a true king, Immanuel, "God-with-us," who would arise out of the house of David, now so unworthily represented by the profligate Ahaz. While the passage is one of the hardest to interpret in all the Old Testament, perhaps too much has been made by some scholars of the difficulty connected with the word `almah, "virgin." It is the mysterious personality of the child to which prominence is given in the prophecy. The significance of the name and the pledge of victory it implies, the reference to Immanuel as ruler of the land in 8:8 (if the present rendering be correct), as well as the parallelism of the line of thought in the prophecy with that of
A similar description of the Messianic king is given by Isaiah’s younger contemporary Micah (5:2 ff), who emphasizes the humble origin of the extraordinary ruler of the future, who shall spring from the Davidic house, while his reference to her who is to bear him confirms the interpretation which regards the virgin in Isaiah as the mother of the Messiah.
(2) Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
After the time of Isaiah and Micah the throne of David lost much of its power and influence, and the figure of the ideal king is never again portrayed with the same definiteness and color. Zephaniah, Nahum, and Habakkuk make no reference to him at all. By the great prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, however, the hope of a Davidic ruler is kept before the people. While there are passages in both of these writers which refer to a succession of pious rulers, this fact should not dominate our interpretation of other utterances of theirs which seem to point to a particular individual. By Jeremiah the Messiah is called the "righteous Branch" who is to be raised unto David and be called "Yahweh (is) our righteousness," that is, Yahweh as the one making righteous dwells in him (
(3) Later Prophets.
After Ezekiel’s time, during the remaining years of the exile, the hope of a preeminent king of David’s house naturally disappears. But it is resuscitated at the restoration when Zerubbabel, a prince of the house of David and the civil head of the restored community, is made by Yahweh of hosts His signet-ring, inseparable from Himself and the symbol of His authority (
2. Prophetic and Priestly Relations:
The Messianic king is the central figure in the consummation of the kingdom. It is a royal son of David, not a prophet like unto Moses, or a priest of Aaron’s line, whose personal features are portrayed in the picture of the future. The promise in
It is more difficult to define the relationship of the priesthood to the kingship in the final era. They are brought into connection by Jeremiah (30:9,21) who represents the new "David" as possessing the priestly right of immediate access to Yahweh, while the Levitical priesthood, equally with the Davidic kingship, is assured of perpetuity on the ground of the covenant (
3. Servant of Yahweh:
The bitter experiences of the nation during the exile originated a new conception, Messianic in the deepest sense, the Servant of Yahweh (Isa 40--66; chiefly 41:8; 42:1-7,19 f; 43:8,10; 44:1 f,21; 49:3-6; 50:4-9; 52:13--53). As to whom the prophet refers in his splendid delineation of this mysterious being, scholars are hopelessly divided. The personification theory--that the Servant represents the ideal Israel, Israel as God meant it to be, as fulfilling its true vocation in the salvation of the world--is held by those who plead for a consistent use of the phrase throughout the prophecy. They regard it as inconceivable that the same title should be applied by the same prophet to two distinct subjects. Others admit that the chief difficulty in the way of this theory is to conceive it, but they maintain that it best explains the use of the title in the chief passages where it occurs. The other theory is that there is an expansion and contraction of the idea in the mind of the prophet. In some passages the title is used to denote the whole nation; in others it is limited to the pious kernel; and at last the conception culminates in an individual, the ideal yet real Israelite of the future, who shall fulfill the mission in which the nation failed.
What really divides expositors is the interpretation of
May not the unity argument be pressed too hard? If the Messiah came to be conceived of as a specific king while the original promise spoke of a dynasty, is it so inconceivable that the title "Servant of Yahweh" should be used in an individual as well as in a collective sense? It is worthy of note, too, that not only in some parts of this prophecy, but all through it, the individuality of the sufferer is made prominent; the collective idea entirely disappears. The contrast is not between a faithful portion and the general body of the people, but between the "Servant" and every single member of the nation. Moreover, whatever objections may be urged against the individual interpretation, this view best explains the doctrine of substitution that runs through the whole passage. Israel was Yahweh’s elect people, His messenger of salvation to the Gentiles, and its faithful remnant suffered for the sins of the mass; even "Immanuel" shared in the sorrows of His people. But here the "Servant" makes atonement for the sins of individual Israelites; by his death they are justified and by his stripes they are healed. To this great spiritual conception only the prophet of the exile attains.
It may be added that in the Suffering Servant, who offers the sacrifice of himself as an expiation for the sins of the people, prophetic activity and kingly honor are associated with the priestly function. After he has been raised from the dead he becomes the great spiritual teacher of the world--by his knowledge of God and salvation which he communicates to others he makes many righteous (
See Servant of Jehovah.
4. Transformation of the Prophetic Hope into the Apocalyptic:
Scholars are by no means agreed in their interpretation of the prophecy. In support of the view that the "one like unto a son of man" is a symbol for the ideal Israel, appeal is made to the interpretation given of the vision in
But strong reasons may be urged, on the other hand, for the personal Messianic interpretation of the passage. A distinction seems to be made between "one like unto a son of man" and the saints of the Most High in
It may be noted that a new idea is suggested by this passage, the pre-existence of the Messiah before His manifestation.
II. The Messiah in the Pre-Christian Age.
1. Post-prophetic Age:
After prophetic inspiration ceased, there was little in the teaching of the scribes, or in the reconstitution of the kingdom under the rule of the high priests, to quicken the ancient hope of the nation. It would appear from the Apocrypha that while the elements of the general expectation were still cherished, the specific hope of a preeminent king of David’s line had grown very dim in the consciousness of the people. In Ecclesiasticus (47:11) mention is made of a "covenant of kings and a throne of glory in Israel which the Lord gave unto David"; yet even this allusion to the everlasting duration of the Davidic dynasty is more of the nature of a historical statement than the expression of a confident hope.
2. Maccabean Times:
In the earlier stages of the Maccabean uprising, when the struggle was for religious freedom, the people looked for help to God alone, and would probably have been content to acknowledge the political supremacy of Syria after liberty had been granted them in 162 BC to worship God according to their own law and ceremonial. But the successful effort of the Maccabean leaders in achieving political independence, while it satisfied the aspirations of the people generally "until there should arise a faithful prophet" (1 Macc 14:41; compare 2:57), brought religious and national ideals into conflict. The "Pious" (chacidhim), under the new name of Pharisees, now became more than ever devoted to the Law, and repudiated the claim of a Maccabean to be high priest and his subsequent assumption of the royal title, while the Maccabees with their political ambitions took the side of the aristocracy and alienated the people. The national spirit, however, had been stirred into fresh life. Nor did the hope thus quickened lose any of its vitality when, amid the strife of factions and the quarrels of the ruling family, Pompey captured Jerusalem in 63 BC. The fall of the Hasmonean house, even more than its ascendancy, led the nation to set its hope more firmly on God and to look for a deliverer from the house of David.
3. Apocalyptic Literature:
The national sentiment evoked by the Maccabees finds expression in the Apocalyptic literature of the century and a half before Christ.
In the oldest parts of the(3:652-56) there occurs a brief prediction of a king whom God shall send from the sun, who shall "cause the whole earth to cease from wicked war, killing some and exacting faithful oaths from others. And this he will do, not according to his own counsel, but in obedience to the beneficent decrees of God." And in a later part of the same book (3:49) there is an allusion to "a pure king who will wield the scepter over the whole earth forever." It may be the Messiah also who is represented in the earlier part of the (90:37 f) as a glorified man under the symbol of a white bull with great horns, which is feared and worshipped by all the other animals (the rest of the religious community) and into whose likeness they are transformed.
But it is in the, which were composed in the Pompeian period and reveal their Pharisaic origin by representing the Hasmoneans as a race of usurpers, that we have depicted in clear outline and glowing colors the portrait of the Davidic king (Ps 17:18). The author looks for a personal Messiah who, as son of David and king of Israel, will purge Jerusalem of sinners, and gather together a holy people who will all be the "sons of their God." He shall not conquer with earthly weapons, for the Lord Himself is his King; he shall smite the earth with the breath of his mouth; and the heathen of their own accord shall come to see his glory, bringing the wearied children of Israel as gifts. His throne shall be established in wisdom and justice, while he himself shall be pure from sin and made strong in the .
It is evident that in these descriptions of the coming one we have something more than a mere revival of the ancient hope of a preeminent king of David’s house. The repeated disasters that overtook the Jews led to the transference of the national hope to a future world, and consequently to the transformation of the Messiah from a mere earthly king into a being with supernatural attributes. That this supernatural apocalyptic hope, which was at least coming to be cherished, exercised an influence on the national hope is seen in the Psalter of Solomon, where emphasis is laid on the striking individuality of this Davidic king, the moral grandeur of his person, and the Divine character of his rule.
We meet with the apocalyptic conception of the Messiah in the Similitudes of Enoch (chapters 37--71) and the later apocalypses. Reference may be made at this point to the Similitudes on account of their unique expression of Messianic doctrine, although their pre-Christian date, which Charles puts not later than 64 BC, is much disputed. The Messiah who is called "the Anointed," "the Elect one" "the Righteous one" is represented, though in some sense man, as belonging to the heavenly world. His pre-existence is affirmed. He is the supernatural, who will come forth from His concealment to sit as Judge of all on the throne of His glory, and dwell on a transformed earth with the righteous forever.
See Apocalyptic Literature (JEWISH); ESCHATOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.
III. The Messiah in the New Testament.
To the prevalence of the Messianic hope among the Jews in the time of Christ the Gospel records bear ample testimony. We see from the question of the Baptist that "the coming one" was expected (
1. The Jewish Conception:
(1) The Messiah as King.
In the popular conception the Messiah was chiefly the royal son of David who would bring victory and prosperity to the Jewish nation and set up His throne in Jerusalem. In this capacity the multitude hailed Jesus on His entry into the capital (
But there were spiritual minds who interpreted the nation’s hope, not in any conventional sense, but according to their own devout aspirations. Looking for "the consolation of Israel," "the redemption of Jerusalem," they seized upon the spiritual features of the Messianic king and recognized in Jesus the promised Saviour who would deliver the nation from its sin (
(2) His Prophetic Character.
From the statements in the Gospels regarding the expectation of a prophet it is difficult to determine whether the prophetic function was regarded as belonging to the Messiah. We learn not only that one of the old prophets was expected to reappear (
(3) The Title "Son of God."
It cannot be doubted that the "Son of God" was used as a Messianic title by the Jews in the time of our Lord. The high priest in presence of the Sanhedrin recognized it as such (
2. Attitude of Jesus to the Messiahship:
(1) His Claim.
The claim of Jesus to be the Messiah is written on the face of the evangelic history. But while He accepted the title, He stripped it of its political and national significance and filled it with an ethical and universal content. The Jewish expectation of a great king who would restore the throne of David and free the nation from a foreign yoke was interpreted by Jesus as of one who would deliver God’s people from spiritual foes and found a universal kingdom of love and peace.
(2) His Delay in Making It.
To prepare the Jewish mind for His transformation of the national hope Jesus delayed putting forth His claim before the multitude till His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which, be it noted, He made in such a way as to justify His interpretation of the Messiah of the prophets, while He delayed emphasizing it to His disciples till the memorable scene atwhen He drew forth Peter’s confession.
But he sought chiefly to secure the acceptance of Himself in all His lowliness as the true Messianic king by His later use of His self-designation as the "Son of Man." While "Son of Man" in Aramaic, bar nasha’, may mean simply "man," an examination of the chief passages in which the title occurs shows that Jesus applied it to Himself in a unique sense. That He had the passage in Daniel in His mind is evident from the phrases He employs in describing His future coming (
It may be added that our Lord’s use of the phrase implies what the Gospels suggest (
See Son of Man.
3. The Christian Transformation:
4. New Elements Added:
(1) Future manifestation.
New features were now added to the Messiah in accordance with Jesus’ own teaching. He had ascended to His Father and become the heavenly king. But all things were not yet put under Him. It was therefore seen that the full manifestation of His Messiahship was reserved for the future, that He would return in glory to fulfill His Messianic office and complete His Messianic reign.
(2) Divine Personality.
Higher views of His personality were now entertained. He is declared to be the Son of God, not in any official, but in a unique sense, as coequal with the Father (
(3) Heavenly Priesthood.
The Christian conception of the Messianic king who had entered into His glory through suffering and death carried with it the doctrine of the Messianic priesthood. But it took some time for early Christian thought to advance from the new discovery of the combination of humiliation and glory in the Messiah to concentrate upon His heavenly life. While the preaching of the first Christians was directed to show from the Scriptures that "Jesus is the Christ" and necessarily involved the ascription to Him of many functions characteristic of the true priest, it was reserved for the author of the
5. Fulfillment in Jesus:
Thus the ideal of the Hebrew prophets and poets is amply fulfilled in the person, teaching and work of Jesus of Nazareth. Apologists may often err in supporting the argument from prophecy by an extravagant symbolism and a false exegesis; but they are right in the contention that the essential elements in the Old Testament conception--the Messianic king who stands in a unique relation to Yahweh as His "Son," and who will exercise universal dominion; the supreme prophet who will never be superseded; the priest forever--are gathered up and transformed by Jesus in a way the ancient seers never dreamed of. As the last and greatest prophet, the suffering Son of Man, and the sinless Saviour of the world, He meets humanity’s deepest longings for Divine knowledge, human sympathy, and spiritual deliverance; and as the unique Son of God, who came to reveal the Father, He rules over the hearts of men by the might of eternal love. No wonder that the New Testament writers, like Jesus Himself, saw references to the Messiah in Old Testament passages which would not be conceded by a historical interpretation. While recognizing the place of the old covenant in the history of salvation, they sought to discover in the light of the fulfillment in Jesus the meaning of the Old Testament which the Spirit of God intended to convey, the Divine, saving thoughts which constitute its essence. And to us, as to the early Christians, "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (
Drummond, The Jewish Messiah; Stanton, The Jewish and the Christian Messiah; Riehm, Messianic Prophecy; Delitzsch, Messianic Prophecies; von Orelli, Old Testament Prophecy; A. B. Davidson, Old Testament Prophecy; Schultz, Old Testament Theology; Schurer, HJP, div II, volume II, section 29, "The Messianic Hope"; Westcott, Introduction to the Study of the Gospels, chapter ii, "The Jewish Doctrine of Messiah"; Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, book II, chapter v, "What Messiah Did the Jews Expect?"; E. F. Scott, The Kingdom and the Messiah; Fairweather, The Background of the Gospels; articles in DB, HDB, EB, DCG. For further list see Riehm and Schurer.
See also APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE.