A messiah (Hebrew: מָשִׁיחַ, Modern Mashiaẖ Tiberian Māšîăḥ Arabic language مسيح Masih “anointed”) is a redeemer figure expected or foretold in one form or another by a religion. Slightly more widely, a messiah is any redeemer figure. Messianic beliefs or theories generally relate to eschatological improvement of the state of humanity or the world, in other words the World to Come.
Messiahs appear in many religions including Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In the Hebrew Bible messiahs are priests and kings, who were traditionally anointed with holy anointing oil as described in Exodus 30:22-25. In later Jewish messianic tradition and eschatology, messiah refers to a leader anointed by God, and in some cases, a future King of Israel, physically descended from the Davidic line, who will rule the united tribes of Israel and herald the Messianic Age of global peace. In Judaism, the Messiah is not considered to be God or a Son of God.
The translation of the Hebrew word Mašíaḥ as Χριστός (Khristós) in the Greek Septuagint became the accepted Christian designation and title of Jesus of Nazareth, indicative of the principal character and function of his ministry. Christians believe that prophecies in the Hebrew Bible (especially Isaiah) refer to a spiritual savior and believe Jesus to be that Messiah (Christ).
Islamic tradition holds the view that Jesus (Isa), son of Mary, was indeed the promised prophet and Messiah (Masih), sent to the Semitic Jewish tribes living in Israel. He will again return to Earth in the end times and descend from heaven to defeat the "great deceiver", the Dajjal (false messiah/antichrist).
The (Greek) Septuagint version of the Old Testament renders all thirty-nine instances of the Hebrew word for "anointed" (Mašíaḥ) as Χριστός (Khristós). The New Testament records the Greek transliteration Μεσσίας, Messias twice in John.
Messiah (Hebrew: מָשִׁיחַ, Modern Mashiaẖ Tiberian Māšîăḥ; in modern Jewish texts in English sometimes spelled Moshiach; Aramaic: משיחא, Greek: Μεσσίας, Syriac: ܡܫܺܝܚܳܐ, Məšîḥā, Arabic: المسيح, al-Masīḥ, Latin: Messias) literally means "anointed (one)". In standard Hebrew, The Messiah is often referred to as מלך המשיח, Méleḫ ha-Mašíaḥ (in the Tiberian vocalization pronounced Méleḵ haMMāšîªḥ), literally meaning "the Anointed King."
In Hinduism, an Avatar, Sanskrit for "descent" [viz., from heaven to earth]) is a deliberate descent of a deity from heaven to earth, or a descent of the Supreme Being and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation", but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation". The title Avatar describes a fully freed soul incarnating directly from God on this physical planet or elsewhere. An Avatar fulfills a highly spiritual task in the name of God and returns to God after accomplishing his task. His Love for God and his creation is beyond description and imagination, his faith in God absolute as there is no difference between an Avatar and God.
Belief in the eventual coming of a future messiah is a fundamental part of Judaism, and is one of Maimonides' 13 Principles of Faith. The term Messiah is derived from the Hebrew "Mashiach", which means "the anointed one," and refers to the ancient practice of anointing future kings with oil. The Messiah is the one who will be anointed as king in the End of Days.
The Torah describes the advent of the Messiah in the portion of Balak, couched in poetic prophetic prose: "I see him, but not now. I perceive him, but he is not near. There shall step forth a star out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel... From Jacob shall issue out and destroy the remnant of the city", which Jewish Biblical scholars expound refers to the Messiah's victory over Israel's enemies.
The Talmud is replete with references and anecdotes about the Messiah and the Messianic era, and also provides exegesis of scriptural verses which illustrate the events that will occur at that time. For example, resurrection of the dead, which is exegetically supported by a verse in Exodus 15: "Az Yashir Moshe..." - "Then [Moses] will sing...", from which is derived that "then" (in the Messianic Era) Moses will arise and once again sing as he did at the time of the Exodus.
The Messianic Age is described as follows by Maimonides:
- "And at that time there will be no hunger or war, no jealousy or rivalry. For the good will be plentiful, and all delicacies available as dust.
- The entire occupation of the world will be only to know God... the people Israel will be of great wisdom; they will perceive the esoteric truths and comprehend their Creator's wisdom as is the capacity of man. As it is written (Isaiah 11:9): "For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of God, as the waters cover the sea." "
Maimonides describes the identity of the Messiah in the following terms:
- "And if a king shall arise from among the House of David, studying Torah and occupied with commandments like his father David, according to the written and oral Torah, and he will impel all of Israel to follow it and to strengthen breaches in its observance, and will fight Hashem's [God's] wars, this one is to be treated as if he were the anointed one.
- If he succeeded and built the Holy Temple in its proper place and gathered the dispersed ones of Israel together, this is indeed the anointed one for certain, and he will mend the entire world to worship the Lord together, as it is stated: "For then I shall turn for the nations a clear tongue, so that they will all procalim the Name of the Lord, and to worship Him with a united resolve (Zephaniah 3:9)."
The concept of the coming of The Messiah was held in the highest regard by pre-Christian Judaism. The Talmud records: "All the prophets prophesied [all the good things] only in respect of the Messianic era." In another folio, the Talmud says, "The Jews are destined to eat [their fill] in the days of the Messiah," and "The world was created only...for the sake of the Messiah."
A prominent Judaism Web site claims:
Belief in the eventual coming of the Moshiach...is part of the minimum requirements of Jewish belief. In the Shemoneh Esrei prayer, recited three times daily, we pray for all of the elements of the coming of the Moshiach: gathering of the exiles; restoration of the religious courts of justice; an end of wickedness, sin, and heresy; reward to the righteous; rebuilding of Jerusalem; restoration of the line of King David; and restoration of Temple service.
The literal translation of the word, messiah (moshiach), is “anointed,” which refers to a ritual of consecrating someone or something by putting holy oil upon it.
A common modern rabbinic interpretation is that there is a potential messiah in every generation. The Talmud, which often uses stories to make a moral point (aggadah), tells of a highly respected rabbi who found the Messiah at the gates of Rome and asked him, "When will you finally come?" He was quite surprised when he was told, "Today." Overjoyed and full of anticipation, the man waited all day. The next day he returned, disappointed and puzzled, and asked, "You said messiah would come 'today' but he didn't come! What happened?" The Messiah replied, "Scripture says, 'Today, 'if you will but hearken to His voice.'"
Modern, rabbinical Judaism asserts that a unique future physical messiah will usher in the messianic age of peace to the world.
In Judaism today, as always, the fervent—in the words of Rambam—"believe in the coming of the Messiah and await it daily although it may be delayed." As religious Jews were herded into the gas chambers by the Nazis, a song arose as if to proclaim that no force can wreck their trust in the Messianic future, to the words of the Rambam.
Particularly the Chabad movement—the largest and most influential Jewish outreach movement today [promoting Judaism and morality to Jews and gentiles] has a fervent hope that the Messianic age is manifesting through the radical positive changes occurring, for example the miraculous turnaround in Russian policy to free her Jews. Whereas such cataclysmic regime changes necessitated bloodshed [of epic proportions] in the past, miraculously Michael Gorbachav of his own accord freed the Jews whom were subject to the harshest of torment, exile, and imprisonment for over seventy years. Furthermore as if to underscore the Messianic notion in play, hundreds of thousands of these Jews emigrated to Israel—fulfilling the Biblical Prophecy "even if you will be in the farthest places of earth I will return you (to Israel)."
To the Jew, the Messiah has a most important mission, namely to bring the world back to G-d, and make it a place of peace, justice and harmony. When Jesus failed to accomplish this, the early Christians had to radically alter the very concept of the Messiah. This, in turn, transformed Christianity from another Jewish Messianic sect into a religion that is quite alien to many basic Jewish teachings.
However, it must be emphasized that for the most part the world will not change. Maimonides says, "The world will remain as it is," and that the various verses in the Bible such as those in Isaiah 11:6-7 'The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb...' are a metaphor". Furthermore, the Messiah does not have to perform any miracles such as resurrection for him to be believed.
In Hinduism, Kalki is the tenth and final Maha Avatar(Messiah or Incarnation) of Lord Vishnu who will come to end the present age of darkness and destruction known as Kali Yuga. The name Kalki is often a metaphor for eternity or time. The origins of the name probably lie in the Sanskrit word "Kalka" which refers to mud, dirt, filth, or foulness and hence denotes the "destroyer of foulness," "destroyer of confusion," "destroyer of darkness," or "annihilator of ignorance." Other similar and divergent interpretations based on varying etymological derivations from Sanskrit - including one simply meaning "White Horse" - have been made.
Hindu traditions permit numerous interpretations of what avatars are and to what purpose they act. Avatara means "descent" and indicates a descent of the divine awareness into manifestations of the mundane form. The Garuda Purana lists ten avatars, with Kalki being the tenth. The Bhagavata_Purana initially lists twenty-two avatars, but mentions an additional three for a total of twenty-five avatars. He is presented as the twenty-second avatar in this list. Popular images depict him riding a white horse with wings known as Devadatta (God-given.) In these images, Kalki is brandishing a sword in his left hand and is intent on eradicating the corrupt destitution and debauchery of Kali Yuga.
The Agni Purana explains that when the evil men who pose as kings begin to feed on human beings and try to destroy the righteous, Kalki, as the son of Vishnuyasha, and Yajnavalkya as his priest and teacher, will destroy these evil men with His weapons. He will establish moral law in the form of the fourfold varnas, or the suitable organization of society in four classes. After that people will return to the path of righteousness. (16.7-9) The Agni Purana also relates that Hari, after giving up the form of Kalki, will go to heaven. Then the Krita or Satya Yuga will return as before. (16.10)
The Vishnu Purana also explains that, "When the practices taught in the Vedas and institutes of law have nearly ceased, and the close of the Kali age shall be nigh, a portion of that divine being who exists of His own spiritual nature, and who is the beginning and end, and who comprehends all things, shall descend upon earth. He will be born in the family of Vishnuyasha, an eminent Brahmana of Shambhala village, as Kalki, endowed with eight superhuman faculties. By his irresistible might he will destroy all the mlecchas (Barbarians) and thieves, and all whose minds are devoted to iniquity. He will re-establish righteousness upon earth, and the minds of those who live at the end of the Kali age shall be awakened, and shall be as clear as crystal. The men who are thus changed by virtue of that peculiar time shall be as the seeds of human beings, and shall give birth to a race who will follow the laws of the Krita age or Satya Yuga, the age of purity. As it is said, 'When the sun and moon, and the lunar asterism Tishya, and the planet Jupiter, are in one mansion, the Krita age shall return.'" (Book Four, Chapter 24)
The Padma Purana relates that Lord Kalki will end the age of Kali and will kill all the wicked mlecchas and, thus, destroy the bad condition of the world. He will gather all of the distinguished brahmanas and will propound the highest truth. He will know all the ways of life that have perished and will remove the prolonged hunger of the genuine brahmanas and the pious. He will be the only ruler of the world that cannot be controlled, and will be the banner of victory and adorable to the world. (6.71.279-282)
The Bhagavata Purana states, "At the end of Kali Yuga, when there exist no topics on the subject of God, even at the residences of so-called saints and respectable gentlemen , and when the power of government is transferred to the hands of ministers elected from the evil men, and when nothing is known of the techniques of sacrifice, even by word, at that time the Lord will appear as the supreme chastiser. (2.7.38) It further describes Lord Kalki's activities as follows: "Lord Kalki, the Lord of the universe, will mount His swift white horse Devadatta and, sword in hand, travel over the earth exhibiting His eight mystic opulences and eight special qualities of Godhead. Displaying His unequaled effulgence and riding with great speed, He will kill by the millions those thieves who have dared dress as kings." (12.2.19-20)
The Kalki Purana combines all of the elements from the puranas above. He is one who has power to change the course of time stream in the favour of the good. He will be one to whom the power to change the destiny of the world will be given.It states the evil family of the demon Kali will spring from the back of Bramha. They will descend to earth and cause mankind to turn towards depravity. When man stops offering yagna to the gods, Vishnu himself will descend to earth to rid the world of evil. He will be reborn as Kalki to noted Brahmin family in the city of Shambhala. As a young man, He will be mentored in the arts of war by Parashurama, the sixth incarnation of Vishnu. He will then set out across the world battling evil kings and false prophets. He finally defeats Kali and brings about the Satya Yuga. Having completed His mission, He will assume his four-armed form and return to heaven as Vishnu.
Christianity emerged early in the first century AD as a movement among Jews and their Gentile converts who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. The name "Christian" was first coined by the Jews in Antioch. The Greek word for 'Messiah' is khristos (χριστος). Christians commonly refer to Jesus as either the "Christ" or the "Messiah." In Christian theology the two words are synonymous.
Christians believe Jesus to be the Messiah that Jews were expecting:
The Christian concept of the Christ/Messiah as "the Word made Flesh" (see also Logos) is fundamentally different from the Jewish and Islamic. The majority of historical and mainline Christian theologies, as seen within the Nicene Creed, consider Jesus to be God or God the Son.
"I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed."
- He suffers and dies to make reconciliation with God.
- He was raised from the dead on the third day after He was crucified to prove that He has defeated death and the power of Satan, thus enabling those that receive Him as their Savior to live under God's grace.
- He ascended to heaven
- He serves as the pioneer and embodiment of the culture and living presence of the kingdom of God
- When he returns he will judge the world
- He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and he came to earth as a human. : In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. 14a And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. : Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.
Because Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah and that he claimed to be the Son of Man referred to by Daniel, Christianity interprets as a statement of the Messiah's authority and that the Messiah will have an everlasting kingdom. Jesus' use of this title is seen as a direct claim to be the Messiah.
Some identified Jesus as the Messiah,
Christianity interprets a wide range of biblical passages in the Old Testament (Hebrew scripture) as predicting the coming of the Messiah (see Christianity and Biblical prophecy for examples), and believes that they are fulfilled in Jesus' own explicit life and teaching:
- Will be born in Bethlehem
- The root of Jesse ...to whom the Gentiles will seek.
- He said to them..."Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself."
- "Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."
- The Gospel of Matthew repeatedly says, "This was to fulfill the prophecy…."
- Psalm 22 describes the actions of the crucifixion in John 19
Christians believe the Messianic prophecies were fulfilled in the mission, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and seeks to spread throughout the world its interpretation that the Messiah (Jesus) is the only God, and that Jesus will return to fulfill the rest of Messianic prophecy.
The Qur'an states Jesus the Son of Mary (Arabic: Isa ibn Maryum) was the Messiah or "Prophet" sent to the Jews,[Quran 3:45] and Muslims believe Jesus is alive in Heaven and will return to Earth to defeat the Antichrist (Arabic: Dajjal).
Narrated Abu Hurayrah: The Prophet said: There is no prophet between me and him, that is, Jesus. He will descend (to the earth). When you see him, recognise him: a man of medium height, reddish hair, wearing two light yellow garments, looking as if drops were falling down from his head though it will not be wet. He will fight for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill the swine, and put an end to war (in another Tradition, there is the word Jizyah instead of Harb (war), meaning that he will abolish jizyah); God will perish all religions except Islam. He [Jesus] will destroy the Antichrist whom will live on the earth for forty days and then he will die. The Muslims will pray behind him.
Both Sunni and Shia Muslims agree al-Mahdi will arrive first, and after him, Jesus. Jesus will proclaim that the true leader is al-Mahdi. A war, literally Jihad (Jihade Asghar) will be fought—the Dajjal (evil) against al-Mahdi and Jesus (good). This war will mark the approach of the coming of the Last Day. After Jesus slays al-Dajjāl at the Gate of Lud, he will bear witness and reveal that Islam is indeed the true and last word from God to humanity as Yusuf Ali's translation reads: "And there is none of the People of the Book but must believe in him before his death; and on the Day of Judgment He will be a witness against them.[Quran 4:159]" He will live for several years, marry, have children and will be buried in Medina.
- Allah's Apostle said "How will you be when the son of Mary descends amongst you and your Imam is from amongst you."
Very few scholars outside of mainstream Islam reject all the quotes (Hadith) attributed to Prophet Muhammad that mention the second return of Jesus, the Dajjal and Imam Mahdi, believing that they have no Qur'anic basis. However, Quran emphatically rejects the implication of termination of Jesus’ life when he was allegedly crucified. Yusuf Ali’s translation reads "That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah";― but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not.― (157) Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise. (158) Verses [Quran 4:157] imply that Jesus was not killed physically but it was it made to appear. Verse [Quran 19:33] "So Peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)"! implies that Jesus will die someday. The unified opinion of Islam maintains that the bodily death of Jesus will happen after his second coming.
Many classical commentators such as Ibn Kathir, At-Tabari, al-Qurtubi, Suyuti, al-Undlusi (Bahr al-Muhit), Abu al-Fadl al-Alusi (Ruh al-Maani) clearly mention that verse [Quran 43:61] of the Qur'an refers to the descent of Jesus before the Day of Resurrection, indicating that Jesus would be the Sign that the Hour is close.
- And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgment): therefore have no doubt about the (Hour)... [Quran 43:61]
Those that reject the second coming of Jesus argue that the knowledge of the Hour is only with God, and that the Hour will come suddenly. They maintain that if the second coming of Jesus were true, whenever it happens, billions of people would then be certain the Hour is about to come. The response given to this is that signs that the Last Hour is near have been foretold and given, including that of the second coming of Jesus, as signs indicating the Last Hour is near. They will not clarify when it is to come in any specific sense, and hence do not reveal it.
Allama Iqbal while commenting on the second coming of Jesus said, "It is the basic idea of Magian religion, for it contains implicitly the conception of the world-historical struggle between Good and Evil, with the power of Evil prevailing in the middle period, and the Good finally triumphant on the Day of Judgement. If this view of the prophetic teaching is meant to apply to Islam it is obviously a misrepresentation. The point to note is that the Magian admitted the existence of false gods; only they did not turn to worship them. Islam denies the very existence of false gods."
In Ahmadiyya Islam, the terms "Messiah" and "Mahdi" are synonymous terms for one and the same person. The term "Mahdi" means guided by God, thus implying a direct ordainment by God of a divinely chosen individual. According to Ahmadiyya thought, Messiahship is a phenomenon through which a special emphasis is given on the transformation of a people by way of offering suffering for the sake of God instead of giving suffering (i.e. refraining from revenge). Ahmadis believe that this special emphasis was given through the person of Jesus and Mirza Ghulam Ahmad among others.
Ahmadis hold that the prophesied eschatological figures of Christianity and Islam, the Messiah and Mahdi, were in fact to be fulfilled in one person who was to represent all previous prophets. The prophecies concerning the Mahdi or the Second Coming of Jesus are seen by Ahmadis as metaphorical and subject to interpretation. It is argued that one was to be born and rise within the dispensation of Muhammad, who by virtue of his similarity and affinity with Jesus, and the similarity in nature, temperament and disposition of the people of Jesus' time and the people of the time of the promised one (the Mahdi) is called by the same name.
Numerous hadith are presented by the Ahmadis in support of their view, such as one from Sunan Ibn Majah which says, There is No Mahdi but Jesus son of Mary.
Ahmadis believe that the prophecies concerning the Mahdi and the second coming of Jesus have been fulfilled in Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(1835–1908), the founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement. Contrary to mainstream Islam, the Ahmadis do not believe that Jesus is alive in heaven, but that he survived the crucifixion and migrated towards the east where he died a natural death and that Ghulam Ahmad was only the promised spiritual second coming and likeness of Jesus, the promised Messiah and Mahdi.
- Bahá'u'lláh, founder of the Bahá'í Faith, claimed to be the figure prophesied in the scriptures of the world's religions.
- Li Hong, a messianic figure in Taoist eschatology prophesied to appear at the end of the world cycle
- Maitreya, a bodhisattva in Buddhist eschatology prophesied to appear at a time when the Dharma will have been forgotten.
- Maitreya (Theosophy), a being that Theosophists believe will physically manifest sometime in the 21st century and who will be the Messiah all rolled into one expected by various religions.
- Saoshyant, a figure in Zoroastrian eschatology who it is said will initiate the final renovation of the world
- False messiah
- Jewish Messiah claimants
- List of messiah claimants
- People claiming to be the Mahdi
- Year 6000
- ^ "messiah." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 11 May. 2010 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/377146/messiah>
- ^ Megillah 17b-18a, Taanit 8b
- ^ Sotah 9a
- ^ a b Etymology Online
- ^ a b http://muttaqun.com/dajjal.html
- ^ http://www.jewfaq.org/mashiach.htm
- ^ http://www.jewfaq.org/moshiach.htm>
- ^ Numbers 17 - 19
- ^ Rashi to Numbers 17 - 19
- ^ Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 91a
- ^ Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 12:5
- ^ Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 11:4
- ^ Babylonian Talmud: Sanhedrin 99
- ^ Babylonian Talmud: Sanhedrin 98
- ^ "Moshiach: The Messiah." The Messianic Idea in Judaism. Judaism 101. Sept. 10, 2009. <http://www.jewfaq.org/moshiach.htm>
- ^ Kaplan, Rabbi Aryeh (1976, 1985). The Real Messiah: A Jewish Response to Missionaries (Jews for Judaism Edition). National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), Orthodox Union (OU) and NCSY in cooperation with Jews for Judaism. pp. 14. online here
- ^ Rambam, Shoftim, 12th section, laws Regarding Kings and Battles, chs. 11-12.
- ^ Ankerberg & Weldon, pp. 218-223
- ^ Grudem, Wayne A. (1994). "The Atonement" (Google Books). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan. p. 569. ISBN 9780310286707. OCLC 29952151. http://books.google.com/books?id=DA8xl4eagDcC&pg=PA569#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved September 13, 2010. "Jesus understood that God's plan of redemption…made it necessary for the Messiah to die for the sins of his people."
- ^ See for examples, and which Christianity interprets as referring to Jesus.
- ^ "The Deity of Christ". http://www.truevictories.com/2001/01/recorded-lectures-person-work-of-christ.html.
- ^ Messiah and Mahdi - Review of Religions
- ^ Ask Islam: What is the different between a messiah and a prophet?
- ^ http://www.alislam.org/quran/tafseer/?page=2739®ion=E1&CR=
- ^ Ibn Majah, Bab, Shahadatu-Zaman
- ^ Momen, Moojan (2004). "Baha'i Faith and Holy People". In Jestice, Phyllis G.. Holy People of the World: A Cross-cultural Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1576073556.
- Kaplan, Aryeh. From Messiah to Christ, 2004. New York: Orthodox Union.
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