Yosef Meystel acknowledges that different religions have different thoughts on the coming of a heroic figure who will bring peace, joy, and fairness to the world. Like Krishna came to this world for Hinduism, or Maitreya gave life to Buddhism, Jews believe in the future coming of the messiah as the Anointed One chosen by God mentioned in the Hebrew sacred book.
For Christians (who share some of the books of the Jewish bible), the messiah already came to this world to rescue the sinful and bring God’s message. This character is Jesus of Nazareth. Despite being a Jew, Jews don’t believe Jesus was the messiah and this is a fundamental difference between Christianism and Judaism.
There are some Jews who are skeptical about the arriving of the messiah, especially those who belong to Reform Judaism in the modern world. These individuals have denied for many years the future coming of the messiah and how it will carry out the task of perfecting the world and bringing peace to it. Instead, reform Jews believe that the future is going to be shaped by human efforts, and not by a divinely sent messenger.
Related: Jewish beliefs about the messiah
References to the Messiah in the Jewish Books
The concept of messiah appears to be revealed later in Judaism. Some point out early mentions of the Messiah in the Genesis. However, the Torah does not contain any sharp reference of the messiah even though it speaks about the “End of days” which is the time when the messiah is supposed to come.
Regardless what the Torah may say, the Jewish tradition has been able to identify in other sacred books relevant information about who is the messiah for Jews:
- It will be descendent of King David: this affirmation can be found in the Tanakh o Mikra, which is the canonical collection of Jewish texts known for Christians as the old testament. In 2 Samuel 7:12-13 it is claimed that a descendant from King David’s family will come to this world and will establish his kingdom forever.
- It will follow the Jewish law: In Isaiah 11:2-5 a detailed description of who the messiah will be is given as a man who will have wisdom and understanding thanks to the spirit of God which rests on him. Also, he will fairly judge and treat the needy.
- It will be righteous at its judgments: this can be found in Jeremiah 33:15 when it is said that the messiah will execute judgment and righteousness so it can grow up unto David.
- It will bring peace: In the Mikra it can also be found in Isaiah 2, 11, 42; 59:20 a text that indicates that the mesial will bring peace to nations so they will no longer know how to make war. This idea is one of the reasons why Jews don’t believe Jesus was the messiah because he didn’t bring peace to the world.
Characteristics of the Messiah
Jews don’t believe that the messiah will be divine. They are convinced that God is unique and essentially different from any living creature on earth. This is one of the biggest differences between Christians and Jews in terms of defining the main characteristics of the messiah. Also, scholars haven’t been able to find any written word on Jewish texts claiming that the messiah is a divine spirit.
Jews do define the messiah with five different concepts that are common to most Jews:
- The messiah is descendent of King David.
- It will gain control over the land of Israel.
- It will gather the Jews there from the four corners of the earth.
- It will restore all Jews to full observance of Torah law.
- It will bring peace to the whole world.
Orthodox Jews are one of the Jewish ethnic groups who has added increasing emphasis on the proximity of the messiah’s arrival to this world to perfect it. Nevertheless, one of the characteristics of the messiah’s arrival is that hasn’t been clearly announced in the Tanakh and this has led to speculation among scholar Jews of all times. Any attempt of predicting when the messiah will arrive is discouraged. This is why Jews are not quite feverous about millennial change.
The truth is that many things are have been said about the Jewish messiah and there are little references in the holy book to his appearance and time of arrival. There are those who believe it has already arrived and was threatened and had to convert to Islam, and there are others who believe it hasn’t come and it is waiting for the world to be at its best or worst to arrive. No matter when it comes, at the moment of its arrival Jews believe a Messianic Age will start and everyone will accept the Jewish God religion as the only ones; there will be no sin or evil, and peace and prosperity will rule.
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