Jesus- potential Messiah who didn't make it?

In the “Christianity…LOGIC thread”, Diogenes here says

I’ve read some Jewish & Noachide scholars who hold that Jesus was a potential Messiah, who even had a special mission as a “Light to the Goyim” and may well be a spiritual savior to Gentiles, but is not the Jewish King-Messiah. Anyone wanna comment on this?
Btw- Jewish scholars include Pinchas Lapide and Rabbi Harvey Falk, Noachide scholar is Dr. James Tabor, who was with the Worldwide Church of God but now seems not to believe in Jesus as The Messiah but as a potential who may still become Messiah.

In short, anyone of the Davidic line is a potential messiah. He simply has to fulfill the tasks that the messiah is required to. If Jesus was truly of the Davidic line then he certainly would have been eligible. Of course, the claim of the virgin birth throws the Davidic claim right out the window; as does the claim that Jesus is, in some way, God Himself…

Zev Steinhardt

Well, insofar as (IMHO of course) the world is not as it should be — I would not describe the global situation as largely characterized by open sharing, forgiveness, mutual caring, and not passing judgment on others — I’d say the endeavor has not yet been met with success. This ain’t a saved world.

re: at least one potential Messiah in each generation — I believe each of us is a potential Messiah; I believe God takes volunteers rather than “sending someone down” or “calling someone”; I believe the combo of human conditions/circumstances and the voice of God within us leads some people to make a more profound communication with God and to reach an understanding of what we’re doing wrong and what ough to change. Each such person is more of a potential Messiah than those who don’t.

But only some such people will have the combo of people-skills and emotional resourcefulness to also communicate effectively with the rest of the species. In fact, it seems to me that many of the individual characteristics that make it more likely for a given person to focus and commune with God make that individual an unlikely leader of people, and vice versa, especially if we forego formal systems of rank-and-authority leadership and confine ourselves to people who can charismatically appeal to folks and sway crowds as a speaker and etc. (I, for one, certainly do not shine in that area).

And not all of those will be successful. There are questions of strategy, the extent to which the would-be Messiah has a gut-level understanding of how the history of collective human thought and interpretation of events is likely to play out, and the skills to set up and precipitate outcomes in human social and ethical philosophy as a consequence of the Messianic deeds and teachings and the (deliberately chosen) conflicts and events and how things transpire.

It is in the latter area that I tend in particular to look upon Jesus of Nazareth with a lot of awe. (Disclaimer: I may be wrong about how things went down 2000+ years ago and may be guilty of selecting historical interpretations that I find appealing. OTOH, who doesn’t?) But I’m under the impression that J of N rather deliberately set up situation after situation so as to juxtapose and contrast the pedantic letter-of-the-law rule-following definition of right-versus-wrong with the felt-and-realized spirit-of-the-law sense of what was genuinely the right thing to do, and positioned himself as a violator of the former as a direct consequence of embodying the latter, and did it in such a way as to precipitate strong criticism of his (mis)deeds so he could explicate them in terms of the latter and make his point.

(Certainly as many non-Christians like to point out, his teachings are wonderful and admirable but not unique and he was not the first to say such things)

And as you know from prior threads, I split company with Christians in general in my belief that the crucifixion was yet another such educational juxtaposition, one gone awry; that it was his intention to put himself in a position where by the letter of the law he should be punished (it may even have been his intent to get himself charged with a capital crime for which he would be sentenced to death if found guilty), but by the spirit of that which is good, and apparent to all involved that it was good, it would be a horrid thing to put a man to death for what he had done. I think he expected them to get this and back down and turn him loose and it would be another case, perhaps the culminating capstone event, in fact, in which he got people to see that even the best of laws are frail attempts to put into words what is moral and right and that always the living spirit of what is good reigns superior to the letter of the law and overrules it.

(The centrality of this is underlined by reminding ourselves that they had no separation of church and state: the spiritual rulebook of right-v-wrong was also the civil rulebook of legal-v-illegal)

It may have been his deliberate intention to pull in the Romans and get them to examine their own beliefs about right-v-wrong and the role of law, or the involvement of the Romans may have been a factor he wasn’t counting on (& up until then, at any rate, although he often spoke in ways that indicated that what he said was applicable to everyone, his attention was on his fellow Jews and the relationship between Jews, God, and the Torah). The involvement of the Romans may have been what caused things to go awry. To speak to the Roman officials and make his points he would have to appeal to concepts of what is good and what a person’s duty w/regards to the good and to God in terms foreign to Judaic theology and ethical politics.

I’ve been wanting to ask this for a long time- so, assuming Jesus said and purported to do what the Gospels report of him, what do you think Jesus was
all about- a miraculously gifted rabbi, a deceiver, a light to the goyim or whatever?

And I might as well go for broke, for Gentiles who want to be Noachides acceptable to God, is Christianity a valid faith?

I have to admit, up front, that I’ve never read the Gospels “cover-to-cover,” so if I say anything here that is inaccurate, please feel free to correct me.

Assuming the Gospels accurately record what Jesus said and did, I’d have to say that he was a sincere, well-meaning young man who taught that people should behave properly toward one another, obey the spirit as well as the letter of the law, and try to learn what it is that God wants from us. But, even so, he was someone who was lacking in knowledge of Jewish law and theology.

For example:

Jesus allowed his disciples to pick grain on the Sabbath because they were hungry. (Matthew 12). When asked about why this seemingly forbidden activity should be permitted, Jesus justifies it by using David’s actions in eating the Showbread as a precedent. However, the two cases are not similar at all:

  1. David committed his act when he was in fear for his life. He was on the run from Saul, who was seeking to kill him. Jesus’ life (nor his disciples) were in danger; they were simply hungry.

  2. David’s action, even if done willfully, was not a capital crime. Violating the Sabbath, OTOH, is a capital crime.

Thus, Jesus could not use David as a precedent for his actions.

Likewise, he states that the priests “desecrate” the Sabbath in the Temple. He doesn’t seem to understand that this is not a desecration, it’s an obvious exception. If God commanded not to create a fire on the Sabbath and then later on commanded that sacrifices be brought on the Sabbath (Numbers 28), it should be obvious that the sacrifices brought on the Sabbath are an exception to the rule, not a desecration of it. In fact, because of the rules against slaughter and lighting fires on the Sabbath, NO personal sacrifices were ever brought on the Sabbath, only those that were commanded.

Jesus’ statement in John 14:6 is severly at odds with Jewish theology. Judaism teaches (very firmly) that no intermediary is necessary between God and Man. Man can, at any time, turn toward God and pray; and it is wrong to pray to any other person, being or construct except for God. Jesus’ implication (unless I’m reading it wrong) is that he is a necessary intermediary between Man and God.


It’s a matter of rabinnic dispute. The dispute centers around whether the prohibition on idolatry for a Gentile also covers a “partnership” (i.e. they believe in God in addition to their local deity). Those authorities who maintain that a partnership is prohibited would hold that Christianity is prohibited for Gentiles as well. Those authorities who maintain that a partnership is acceptable would say that it is permitted.

Zev Steinhardt

Zev- thanks, I’ve been wanting to get a Jewish perspective on this for a while but have worried that it might sound like I was itching for a fight.

Two Qs tho-

If there is no need for a mediator between God & humanity, then why a chosen people from out of humanity, a chosen tribe out of that chosen people, a chosen family out of that chosen tribe, and a chosen man out of that chosen family- the whole Priestly-Sacrificial system?

RE the “partnership”- what do you think? Is God cool with me being a Christian?

And if you just don’t want to go there, I withdraw the question.

I think you’re confusing two separate concepts here:

WRT a chosen people from all of humanity - that has nothing to do with the discussion at hand. Gentiles are just as free to turn and pray to God as Jews are. No one is required to bring a sacrifice to pray - Jew or Gentile. The concept of the Jews as a “Chosen Nation” has nothing to do with the rest of humanity or as acting as “representatives for the nations” to God.

WRT a single family within the nation, that’s a different issue. God chose the family of Aaron to perform certain functions within the Jewish society. Those functions certainly have to do with the sacrificial system, but also have wider and broader applications. They also officiate at other Jewish functions as well - not as mediators between man and God, but as functionaries, performing a role. But, as I stated earlier, one does not need to sacrifice to pray or become close to God. However, that seemed (to me, anyway) to be what Jesus was saying - that in order to approach God, you have to go through him.

The dispute has never been formally decided, so I don’t have a definite answer for you there.

Zev Steinhardt

Fair enough, thanks, Zev!

I’m asking for clarification here:
(1) By “anyone of the Davidic line,” does this have to be through the father or can it be through the mother?
(2) Is “the Davidic line” a strictly biological criterion, or could Jesus be considered “of the Davidic line” through Joseph even if Joseph weren’t his biological father?

The following is IMHO, and may or may not reflect what Zev will say.

I think you already know the answer. While Judaism is inherited through the mother, to be called part of a lineage named after a man, you must be able to count him as the great-great Granddad.

No, lineage is strictly a biological thing.

  1. It has to be the father.
  2. Adoption doesn’t count. It has to be the actual “seed” of David.

I shouldn’t go bottle feed a baby with the reply window open and then post without previewing.

… but I’ll try to give a fuller explaination.

Tribal and familial lineage is counted through the father. That was the whole crux of the argument of the leaders of Menashe in the last chapter of Numbers. If one’s lineage could be determine materlineally, then they would have had no problem.

Strictly biological. Adoption is not formally recognized in Jewish law (although taking in orphans is certainly commendable). For example, if a Kohen adopts a child, then the child does not gain the status of a Kohen - he remains as he was. Likewise, if a child who is a Kohen is adopted by non-Kohen parents, he does not lose his status as a Kohen.

The same stands for just about all laws involving parents. The laws against striking one’s parents, cursing one’s parents, inheriting from one’s parents, giving certain honors to one’s parents all only apply to biological parents.

Zev Steinhardt

The Xtian answer is that while Jesus clearly hasn’t fulfilled the tasks required of the Messiah (if world peace had broke out, surely it would make the news), that Jesus will in the Second Coming. The Jewish response to that is “when Jesus comes back and pulls off world peace, give me a phone call about that.”

That virgin birth thing is definitely a problem. There is nothing in Jewish scripture that the Messiah would be the son of G-d. In fact, if Jesus was the son of G-d, that would mean he wasn’t a descendent of David and could not possibly be the Messiah. From the Jewish perspective, Jesus can’t possibly be the Messiah, while in theory I could be. It is logically possible I am a male line descendant of David.

In that case, why does Matthew (i.e. whoever wrote the gospel by that name) call Jesus “son of David” and take such pains to trace the lineage from David through Joseph?

Because Matthew wanted to have it both ways. It seems like he was trying to imply an adoptive lineage through Joseph but such a relationship would not be valid under Jewish laws of succession, especially royal laws of succession. Either matthew didn’t know that or he was hoping his audience didn’t know it.

I’m not refering to anything I know here, but recalling a past post of zev_steinhardt’s. But I think Jewish perspective is that the Messiah is a role, not a birthright or a destiny kind of a thing. That is to say, their take is that if you do the things the Messiah is said to do, ta-da, you’re the Messiah. Nobody is ‘born to be the Messiah,’ if that makes sense. You do those things or you don’t, so I’m not sure if anybody can be a “potential Messiah” in the way I think you’re asking, which seems to be “he potentially could have been the Messiah.” If I’m misremembering your comments, zev, please do correct me.

Not to sound combative, but to regard the J-man being miraculously conceived & born to a Davidic virgin mother with God as Father as a disqualifier from being a Messianic son of David is precisely the legalistic nitpicking he griped about.

It’s not a legalistic objection, it’s a definitional one. The Jewish Messiah- by definition, is the heir to the throne of David. He is whatever eventual patrilinear descendant of David fulfills the requirements. Descendancy from David is not a legalistic requirement, it’s part of the definition. Whoever is not a male-line descendant of David cannot by definition be the heir to David’s throne.

To put it simply, In Jewish tradition. a “Messianic son of David” is just a way to say “a direct patrilineal descendant of David.” The phrases are synonomous.

There is also he point that by definition the Jewish Messiah is not God and can’t be God. They are two different entities.

By what authority must Messiah be a patrilinear descendant of David? What Biblical passage mandates that Messiah can not be descended from David via his mother, if she is the only human parent?

There is no such Biblical passage. I’m wouldn’t be surprised if there were Talmudic passages, however.