One of the basic premises upon which Christianity rests is that Jesus was the Messiah predicted in the Jewish Bible.
By Benjamin Leon
Judaism has always rejected this belief. Since the goal of “Hebrew Christian” missionaries is to convince Jews that Jesus did in fact fulfill the requirements of the promised Messiah, it is necessary to examine the Jewish understanding of the Messiah to understand why such claims are simply not true.
The Hebrew roots of the word Messiah
The Hebrew word for “Messiah” is “Moshiach – jhan.” The literal and proper translation of this word is “anointed,” which refers to a ritual of anointing and consecrating someone or something with oil. (1 Samuel 10:1-2) It is used throughout the Jewish Bible in reference to a wide variety of individuals and objects; for example, a Jewish king (1 Kings 1:39), Jewish priests (Leviticus 4:3), prophets (Isaiah 61:1), the Jewish temple and its utensils (Exodus 40:9-11), unleavened bread (Numbers 6:15), and a non-Jewish king Cyrus king of Persia (Isaiah 45:1).
The criteria to be fulfilled by the Jewish Messiah
In an accurate translation of the Jewish scriptures, the word “Moshiach” is never translated as “Messiah,” but as “anointed.”
Some form of the Hebrew word Moshiach – jhan is used over 150 times in the Jewish Bible.
Christians consistently translate this word as anointed, except in the ninth chapter of Daniel. In this chapter missionaries deviate from this and other correct translations in an attempt to prove that the Messiah came before the destruction of the Second Temple.
Rather than speaking about “the Messiah,” when read in context and with a correct translation, this chapter clearly speaks about two different “anointed” subjects hundreds of years apart: a) The first is the anointed King Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1) who granted permission to the Jews to return and build the Second Temple 52 years “7 weeks of years” after the destruction of the First Temple; b) The second is the anointed priesthood (Leviticus 4:3) that was terminated 434 years “62 weeks of years” later.
Judaism has always maintained a fundamental belief in a Messianic figure. Since the concept of a Messiah is one that was given by God to the Jews, Jewish tradition is best qualified to describe and recognise the expected Messiah. This tradition has its foundation in numerous biblical references, many of which are cited below.
Judaism understands the Messiah to be a human being (with no connotation of deity or divinity) who will bring about certain changes in the world and who must fulfil certain specific criteria before being acknowledged as the Messiah.
These specific criteria are as follows:
*He must be Jewish. (Deuteronomy 17:15, Numbers 24:17)
*He must be a member of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10) and a direct male descendent of both King David (1 Chronicles 17:11, Psalm 89:29-38, Jeremiah 33:17, II Samuel 7:12-16) and King Solomon. (1 Chronicles 22:10, II Chronicles 7:18)
*He must gather the Jewish people from exile and return them to Israel. (Isaiah 27:12-13, Isaiah 11:12)
*He must rebuild the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. (Micah 4:1)
*He must bring world peace. (Isaiah 2:4, Isaiah 11:6, Micah 4:3)
*He must influence the entire world to acknowledge and serve one God. (Isaiah 11:9, Isaiah 40:5, Zephaniah 3:9)
All of these criteria for the Messiah are best stated in the book of Ezekiel 37:24-28:
“And My servant David will be a king over them, and they will all have one shepherd, and they will walk in My ordinances, and keep My statutes, and observe them, and they shall live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant…and I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant and I will set my sanctuary in their midst forever and My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God and they will be My people. And the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.”
If an individual fails to fulfil even one of these conditions, he cannot be the Messiah.
Why Jesus could not have been the Messiah
A careful analysis of these criteria shows us that, although Jesus was Jewish, he did not fulfil any of the other criteria. An examination of the contradictory accounts of Jesus’ genealogy demonstrates a number of difficulties with the fulfilment of the second criterion.
Specifically, the New Testament claims that Jesus did not have a physical father. The Jewish scriptures, however, clearly state that a person’s genealogy and tribal membership is transmitted exclusively through one’s physical father (Numbers 1:18, Jeremiah 33:17).
Therefore, Jesus cannot possibly be a descendent of the tribe of Judah nor of King David and King Solomon.
There are even further problems with any attempts to use the Jewish scriptures to prove Jesus’ genealogy through Joseph, the husband of Mary (Jesus’ mother). For the New Testament claims that Joseph was a descendent of King Jeconiah, who in the Hebrew Bible was cursed to never have a descendent “sitting on the throne of David and ruling any more in Judah” (Jeremiah 22:30). Joseph’s genealogy, even if it were transmittable to Jesus, would only serve to further disqualify Jesus as the Messiah.
There has never been a moment’s peace since Jesus came on earth. One only has to look at the crusades, the Spanish inquisition and the pogroms of Europe all carried out by the followers of Jesus.
Finally, there is the problem of the contradictory accounts of Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew: 1 and Luke: 3. The common Christian explanation of this contradiction claims that Luke’s genealogy is that of Jesus’ mother, Mary. However, this is unfounded, even according to the Greek original. In addition, it has already been established that genealogy is transferred solely through the father, making this attempted explanation completely irrelevant. Even if one could trace one’s genealogy through one’s mother, there would be the additional problem that Luke 3:31 lists Mary as a descendent of David through Nathan, Solomon’s brother, and not through Solomon himself as required according to the prophesy in 1 Chronicles 22:10 of the Jewish Bible.
The third, fourth, fifth and sixth criteria have obviously not been fulfilled — neither during Jesus’ time nor since. Any Christian claims that these final criteria will be fulfilled in a “second coming” are irrelevant because the concept of the Messiah coming twice has no scriptural basis.
The Jewish response to missionaries
To summarise, we cannot know that someone is the Messiah until he fulfils all of the above criteria.
The Christian understanding of the Messiah and Jesus differs greatly from the Jewish biblical view. These differences developed as a result of the church’s influence during the time of the Emperor Constantine and the Council of Nicaea that issued the Nicene Creed in 325 CE.
The Messiah was never meant to be an object of worship. His primary mission and accomplishment is to bring world peace and to fill the world with the knowledge and awareness of one God.
Benjamin Leon is a member of the Jewish Community in Zimbabwe.
Feedback: vleon@ mango.zw