What really is the difference between Judaism and Christianity’s view of “moshiach” or “messiah”? A whole book could be written about the subject, but this is a blog not a book. The book “Leaving Jesus” will highlight a lot more differences. For this blog post, I’m just going to compare clear and important statements from the central holy books of each group, from the Hebrew Scriptures/Jewish Bible of Judaism and the New Testament of Christianity. I’m not saying these christian groups don’t include the Jewish Bible in their worldview, but simply that they interpret everything, including the Jewish Bible, based on Jesus first, whereas the central stance of Jews in general, whether Pharisee, Sadducee, Rabbinic or Karaite has always been the Torah of Moses and the prophets in the Jewish Bible. The difference in stance is comparable to one group starting with a definite question and working towards whatever the answer is, and another group accepting as true what they believe to be an answer and trying to work backwards to the question in light of what they the answer is.
The New Testament Christ.
(12) Now if of Christ it is preached that he has been raised from the dead, how are some among you saying that there is no resurrection of the dead? (13) But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ hasn’t been raised either. (14) And if Christ has not been raised, then empty/pointless is our proclaimed message, and empty/pointless is your faith. (15) And we are also found to be false witnesses of God; because we have testified about God that he raised up Christ: whom he didn’t raise, if then the dead don’t rise. (16) For if the dead don’t rise, then Christ hasn’t been raised either: (17) And if Christ wasn’t raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. (18) Then they also which have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. (19) If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitiful by every one. (1 Corinthians 15:12-17)
(46) And [Jesus] said to them, In this manner it has been written and in this way it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to be raised from the dead on the third day. (Luke 24:46)
A cursory view of the New Testament of Christianity shows that the emphasis of their messiah is his suffering, death, and resurrection. Now these are clear themes in the New Testament. Some would say its leaning is definitely to the morbid side where the most crucial aspect of the role of their messiah is suffering, pain and death. Of course, a christian would like to say that this all had meaning and it was leading towards his resurrection which is what Paul goes on about. But it is these things – the suffering, pain, death, and resurrection of this man – that are the crucial elements of the role of the New Testament “Christ”.
This is not to say that the New Testament depiction of Jesus doesn’t have him doing other apparently miraculous things. But, as Luke’s version of Jesus states, as well as Paul, it was necessary for Jesus to suffer, die, and be resurrected! If you only have a miraculous birth but no miracle surrounding the death, even if he lived a perfect life, the Christian Christ would not have fulfilled this apparently central role.
God’s Moshiach (Messiah)
But, unlike the methodology of most Christians, the New Testament is supposed to based on something else, namely the Jewish Bible. What do you think we would see if we do the same to the Jewish Bible, i.e., look for a clear and explicit passage about the “messiah.” Now we would have a slight difficulty here, in that the Hebrew word “moshiach”, which is where our english distortion “messiah” comes from, is never used in reference to the messiah.
Yeah, apart from a highly debatable passage in Daniel 9, which can’t be used as a clear piece of evidence for THE messiah (because it is debatable), there is no place in scripture where the Hebrew word “moshiach” refers to the messiah.
The question then comes, what do I mean by “messiah”? How would people at the end of the period of the writing of the Jewish Bible understand the word “moshiach” before the Christians and their preferred candidate appeared on the scene? The word “moshaich” comes from a Hebrew verb meaning “to smear” or “to anoint.” The actual word “moshiach” is only used for the Aaronic high priest (e.g. Leviticus 4:3) and a ruling king (one that actually has political and judicial power over a country, generally over Israel, e.g. 1 Samuel 24).
So again, how would people of the Jewish Bible understand any promise concerning a coming moshiach? Without going into the relevant verses, God made a special promise to righteous King David that the throne would always belong to his descendants. There are also promises in the books of the prophets that a future king descended from David would come and be a significant part of a coming age of world revolution where the whole world would worship God and God alone and many other great things would happen, such as world peace and the calming down of animalistic tendencies and the regathering of Israel. So a clear messianic scripture in the Jewish Bible would refer to this king descended from David. Since the Jewish Bible doesn’t use the word “king” in a spiritual sense, and David wasn’t a king in some spiritual sense but a literal one, I also use the term “king” as the Jewish Bible does in a worldly and literal fashion.
What clear passages do we have about this king? Ezekiel 37 is regarded most widely as such a passage, specifically verses 19-28.
(19) Then speak unto them, The Lord Eternal speaks in this manner: Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph — which is in the hand of Ephraim — and the tribes of Israel his companions, and will lay them upon him, even the stick of Judah, and make them into one stick, and they shall be one in my hand. (20) And the sticks on which you shall have written shall be in your hand before their eyes. (21) And speak unto them, The Lord Eternal speaks in this manner: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, where they are gone, and I will gather them from every side, and bring them into their own land; (22) And I will make them into one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be to them all for king; and they shall not be any more two nations, nor shall they at any time be divided into two kingdoms any more: (23) Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, and with their detestable things, and with all their transgressions; but I will save them out of all their dwelling-places, in which they have sinned, and I will cleanse them, and they shall be to me a people, and I will be to them a God. (24) And my servant David shall be king over them; and one shepherd shall be for them all: and in my ordinances shall they walk, and my statutes shall they observe, and do them. (25) And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto my servant, unto Jacob, in which your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and David my servant shall be prince unto them for ever. (26) And I will make with them a covenant of peace, an everlasting covenant shall it be with them: and I will multiply them, and I will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. (27) My dwelling also shall be with them, and I will be to them a God; and they shall be to me a people. (28) And the nations shall know that I am the Lord who makes Israel holy, when my sanctuary will be in the midst of them for evermore. (Ezekiel 37:19-28)
Now there are some really obvious things to notice here. Firstly, it should be easy to notice what is NOT in this passage: suffering, pain, death, and a person being resurrected, all the things that are supposed to be crucial for the New Testament Christ. In fact, if you read the entire Hebrew Bible, it is terribly difficult, if not totally impossible, to find a CLEAR prophecy about this Davidic king that mentions his suffering, pain, death, and resurrection. There is no place, not even the blessed Isaiah 53, where a Davidic king is distinctly mentioned as the subject of the prophecy or promise and it involves the subject suffering, being in pain, or dying or even being resurrected.
So immediately, in this, one of the clearest messianic prophecies in the Jewish Bible, we see no sign of the central aspects of the new testament “christ”. But that’s not the only issue.
Look at the simple meaning of the words of this prophecy and ask yourself: did new testament “christ” do any of this? Even some of it? I’ll refer you to my video below for a bit more in-depth answer, but the very simple answer is “no!” Jesus did not fulfil one bit of the plain sense of this prophecy.
So let’s compare notes about these two identities, the anointed one of the Jewish Bible and the “christ” of the new testament.
The important and crucial roles of each person is totally different and do not overlap.
- The new testament “christ” had to suffer, die and be resurrected. This description is nowhere mentioned in the Jewish Bible in the plain and obvious sense.
- The moshiach of the Jewish Bible had to live in a time when Israel and Judah were regathered in the land of Israel; he had to reign as a secular, worldly, political king over them as did David; Israel had to be cleanse from all of their transgression in his days, i.e. be living righteously; they had to live and remain safely in their land forever; and the temple of the Lord had to be built, stand and remain forever in his days. These crucial aspects of the moshiach of the Jewish Bible are nowhere mentioned has happening in Jesus’ day or as an important role for moshiach.
- Jesus fulfilled none of the clear criteria for the promised Davidic king, the moshiach, of the Jewish Bible.
Now since the Jewish Bible absolutely must be the foundation of the new testament, of belief in Jesus as the promised anointed, and since it is clearly seen that Jesus did not fulfill the criteria for the Jewish Bible moshiach, and the new testament criteria does not match that of the Jewish Bible, I believe it must be concluded that Jesus was not the Jewish Bible moshiach and therefore he is not the promised Davidic king. The role of the new testament “christ” was and is an invented thing that relies on unclear passages that do not overtly refer to the promised Davidic king to come.
So essentially, and based on the texts of the Jewish Bible and the new testament, the true anointed one, the moshiach, must live, reign and be successful in the obvious, readily observable sense, and the “christ” had to die and you have to believe that he arose.
Or in other words, the true moshiach must win, and the new testament christ must lose.