Jesus the Messiah

Oscar Cullmann has said, “One might consider it really ironical that the title Jesus the ‘Messiah’ should have been deliberately, permanently connected with the name Jesus.”

Jesus the Messiah

Jesus the Messiah

We are dealing with the title which had its origin above all in the Jewish hope for the future. It is first and foremost an eschatological concept.

The Hebrew Messiah = mashiach means ‘anointed one’ this seem it designates in particular the King of Israel.

a) Messiah in Judaism

Jew’s accepted a Savior with certain nationalistic and Jewish characteristic. The main Parts of the Jewish conception of the Messiah are-

  1. The messiah fulfills his task in purely earthly settings.
  2. According to one view, while we find in Psalms of Solomon, he introduces the end time, according to an earlier conception, he introduces an interim period
  3. Wealth is of peaceful or war-like character, the worth of the Jewish Messiah is that of a political king of Israel. He the national king of Jews
  4. The Jewish Messiah is of royal lineage. A descendent of David. For this reason, he also bears the title son of David.

b) Messiah in the Gospel

The Gospel that Jesus showed extreme reserved and hesitation toward the tithe Messiah.              

 1)   It is always about who speak of him as the Christ.

 2)  He actually unidered the specific ideas connected with the title as satanic temptations    (Mtt.16:23)

3)     In decisive passages he substituted “son of man” for Messiah and even set the one in opposition to the death (Lk. 22: 67)

4)     He deliberately set the ideas relative to the ebed Yahweh over against the Jews political conceptions of the Messiah.

Jewish conception of Messiah

However there is one aspect of the Jewish conception of Messiah that Jews could probably reconcile with this consciousness of his calling.

The title Messiah in Jewish thinking represents the fulfillment of the role of mediation which the whole of God’s chosen people should have realized. It is clear that Jesus now humanly as caring about this role of Israel which it had neglected.

Churches understanding of the Messiah

Churches understanding of the Messiah

The original Palestinian Church did not share Jesus’ hesitation toward the title Messiah. On the contrary, it elevated the expression ‘Jesus is the Messiah (Christ) is a contention. This was probably because the disciples able to made their faith in Jesus understandable to the Jews of their time only by using this title.

Also, the early Church felt justified in proclaiming Jesus as the Christ. Thus the early Christians emphasized that Jesus appeared on earth as the Son of David that the exclusive Kingship over his Church and that he will appear as Messiah at the end.

Literally, the word derived from Greek and Hebrew means ‘one who has been anointed.’ Various people might be anointed in ancient Israel – the king, the priests, and some of the prophets.

Eschatological understanding of Messiah

The idea of coming Messiah, as part of the eschatological expectation of Israel. Coming Messiah associated chiefly with kingship. They believed that God had promised to David that his descendants would continue to occupy the throne of Israel.

And even when prophets had lost respect for contemporary rulers of the house of David; they looked for a future ruler who would restore the Davidic kingdom.


The question of this messianic expectation is enormously complicated. Von Rad believes that as time went on, the link with the house of David was weakened and that the messiah might make an entirely new beginning.

Richard suggests that in spite of the nationalistic language, what was to be restored as God’s own kingship over Israel. There is no denying, however, the strongly nationalist and political associations of the messianic hope.

Jesus the messiah

The messianic idea could not easily can applied to Jesus; though it is also seen to a possibility that it can so modified or so combined with other ideas that it can made to fit. In Bultmann’s view, the belief that Jesus is the messiah arises with the resurrection.

And since it was traditionally Peter who rallied the disciples after the crucifixion, it is natural to see him as the first to confess Jesus as the Christ. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus does not answer Peter’s confession. He neither accepts nor denies the description of himself as the Christ.

When he asked directly by the high priest ‘Are the Christ?’, then according to Mark he replies “I am” (Mk 14:62). But Matthew and Luke have altered this reply to the ambiguous, ‘You say so”. So Jesus shows a certain reluctance to accept the title of Christ.

This explained by saying that he did not want people to misunderstand him as a political leader. Bultmann and Wrede were right in their view that Jesus did not think of himself as a messiah at all.

Jesus the Messiah as victor

Another difficulty is the fact that the messiah was visualized as a victor, not a sufferer. When the disciples did come to the point where they recognized Jesus as the Christ. They had to find justification in the tradition for a suffering messiah.

They did this by pushing the political connotations of messiah hood into the background. And introducing into the control of the idea characteristics originally associated with other images; such as the ‘suffering servant’ of deutero-Isaiah.

But as Cullmann points out, this was going against the ‘mainstream of contemporary messianism’ in which ‘one can at best find faint traces of a suffering messiah.’

Jesus the Messiah as human and God

It is probable that Jesus did not think of himself as the messiah or accept the title in his lifetime. But it came to be used by his followers after the resurrection. Then took on new meanings and discarded some of the old meanings.

However, the traditional concept of messiah does not take us very far. In our search for an answer to the question, ‘Who was/is Jesus of Nazareth, called the Christ?

Although the messiah, as God’s anointed would certainly be a highly exalted being. He was also understood as fully human. And the original use of the title did not imply the king of the relation of Jesus to the Father which developed in later belief.

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