Was Jesus the Jewish Messiah?

In numerous of my previous posts, I have explained why Jesus is not God and have argued against the Trinity. However, in this post, I want to focus on the Christian claim of the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth. Of course, religious Jews deny this. In this post, I do not wish to promote Judaism, although I will certainly side with Judaism concerning whether Jesus was indeed the Messiah. 

What Is the Jewish Messiah?

The word messiah comes from the Hebrew word mashiach and simply means “anointed one.” This is a reference to the Hebrew practice of anointing the king’s head with oil as a part of the ceremony in officializing his kingship. However, the Messiah is called ha-mashiach (“the anointed one”). In Judaism, the Messiah is said to be a future restorer of the Davidic line of kings and thus will be a political ruler (see Jer. 23:5; 33:15). Jesus, of course, was not a political leader and, therefore, did not even meet the minimum requirement of being the Jewish Messiah. 

Regarding the Claim That Jesus Will Come a Second Time

To fill this obvious lack of fulfilment in Jesus being the Jewish Messiah, an idea has developed within Christianity that Jesus will return a second time, during which he will rule as a political king in Jerusalem. However, because this claim obviously cannot be proved until the future, this really does nothing in actually supporting the claim that Jesus was the Messiah for those in the past or the present. Whether Jesus will return or not does not change the fact that Jesus did not fulfil a basic requirement for being the Messiah (or even a messiah) during his “first coming.”

Prophecies That Jesus Allegedly Fulfilled

It is believed by Christians there are many clear prophecies concerning the Messiah in the Jewish prophets and that the Old Testament should be read messianically. However, the Tanakh (Protestant Old Testament) does not contain quite as many allusions to the Messiah as Christians typically claim. There are numerous prophecies which Jesus allegedly fulfilled. A few of these will be addressed specifically here. The others will only be addressed generally.

One of the most popular prophecies which Jesus is said to have fulfilled is that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. The virgin birth was mentioned in both Matthew and Luke, but only Matthew’s passage will be discussed here since this gospel cites the prophet Isaiah in support of the virgin birth. Here is Matthew’s quotation of Isaiah:

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”

Matthew 1:23 ESV

The English translation of Isaiah 7:14, which Matthew is quoting, is similar. However, Matthew’s quotation of Isaiah is still a mistranslation in the Greek. Isaiah was originally written in Hebrew; and the Hebrew word translated virgin in many English translations and the Greek word parthenos (which means “virgin” in Matthew) is almah. However, almah does not actually mean “virgin” in Hebrew, something which many Jewish scholars will point out, but “young woman.” The Hebrew word for virgin is bethulah. 

Another messianic prophecy which Jesus allegedly fulfilled was that the Messiah would be a Nazarene. Here is the text in Matthew:

“And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene”

Matthew 2:23 ESV

According to Matthew, Joseph, the human step-father of Jesus if one takes the account as accurate, was told by an angel to go to Egypt because Herod was seeking to kill all of the male children who were around the age that his wisemen supposed Jesus might be at that time. Then, after Herod had passed away, an angel told Joseph to return to Israel. Joseph did as the angel had told him and settled in the town of Nazareth. It is also interesting to note that Matthew claimed that Jesus’ going down to Egypt and coming out of it was a fulfillment of a messianic prophecy as well: “This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son” (Matt. 2:15 ESV). However, when one reads the prophecy in its context, it becomes clear that this is not even a prophecy, much less a reference to the Messiah: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (Hos. 11:1 ESV).

Now, as for the prophecy concerning the Messiah being called a Nazarene, there is actually no prophecy among the Jewish prophets that predicts that the Messiah would be called a Nazarene. The organization Jews for Jesus claims that this was a fulfillment of the general concept that many would have a low view of the person who would be the Messiah [1]. However, this is not actually true. One of the primary prophecies used to support this view is found in Isaiah:

“[H]e had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men . . .”

Isaiah 53:2b-3a ESV

However, this passage is referring to Israel, not to the Messiah. If one reads the surrounding chapters (Isaiah 52 and 54), this becomes more clear. God punished the children of Israel for their disobedience but later restored them to their promised land.

There are other alleged events in Jesus’ life that were allegedly fulfillments of prophecy. However, many of them were not even prophecies concerning the Messiah and some were simply insufficient to make one the Messiah on their own (for example, that the Messiah would be a descendent of David).

Conclusion

It is apparent that Jesus was not the Messiah of Jewish prophecy. If he indeed made the claim that he was, then he either outright lied or was simply a fraud. This, for me, has marked the definitive end of my journey through the Christian religion. 

NOTES

  1. “The Messiah would be called a Nazarene,” Jews for Jesus, Jews for Jesus,  https://jewsforjesus.org/jewish-resources/messianic-prophecy/the-messiah-would-be-called-a-nazarene/

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