Jewish Dopers: The Mosiach

I’ve seen in wikipedia what the Mosiach is prophesied to be…but what to resident Jewish Dopers proclaim “The Messiah” is supposed to be and do?

May a non-Jew pipe up, maybe a little later in the thread?

Nitpick: מָשִׁיחַ‎; mashiah, moshiah, mashiach, or moshiach. Not “mosiach.”

The classic view is that he will be a descendant of King David, who will gather up the Jews throughout the diaspora, lead them back to the Holy Land, and there re-establish the Davidic Kingdom (and I think that’s supposed to include rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem).

In various Biblical eras, this was re-interpreted by the then-current prophets according to the then-current events. In Roman times, the Jews dreamed of a Messiah who would overthrow the Romans and their puppets. The Hanukkah story tells of such a revolt by the Maccabees, but when all the dust settled and Jesus came around, the Romans were still there.

Jesus (according to the story as told in the New Testament) gave a different interpretation, telling his followers to “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s”, and to look forward to an after-life in a New Jerusalem in Heaven (sort of). That wasn’t exactly what the Jews of Judea of the day wanted to hear.

Thus it was, that Jesus was accepted as a Messiah by some (mostly by non-Jews who received the word through the apostles), but was mainly not accepted as Messiah by the Jews. For all his claimed miracles, Jesus didn’t to what the Jews of the day were looking for a Messiah to do.

This also has an interesting contrast with the modern-day Zionist movement.

Orthodox Jews to this day maintain the belief that a Messiah is coming. One of these days. Any day now. Hold on, just a while now. How they will recognize the descendant of King David, I’m not sure. I guess there are supposed to be unmistakable “signs” or something. And he will lead Jews back to Jerusalem to re-establish the Jewish homeland.

But the modern-day Zionists, who built the modern State of Israel, weren’t that. They were a basically secular group of Jews in America and Britain, starting in the mid-1900’s or so, who promoted the return of Jews to Israel and the creation of a modern Jewish state. The Orthodox Jews, so I’ve understood, were vehemently opposed to this. It had to be a theological movement, led by an “Appointed” and recognizable son of David. The secular Zionist movement wasn’t that, and Orthodox Jews saw them as usurpers.

Nitpick: I’m not sure where you’re getting “Jews of America and Britain” from. Other than Golda Meir and a handful of others, I can’t think of any major American or British Jewish Zionist leaders - Herzl was Austrian, Weizmann and Jabotinsky were Russian, and Ben-Gurion was Polish, to mention a few. Most of the Zionist leadership in the early 20th Century was Central or Eastern European, as were the vast majority of immigrants. American and British Jews provided monetary and political support, but other than that, didn’t play a huge part in the Zionist movement.

(Bold added): Okay, that’s probably what I what thinking, or should have been thinking. I was under the impression that American and British Zionist leaders were also the most personally involved, but I wasn’t all that certain of the history. Was it like this in the last half of the 19th century too, in the earlier days of the budding Zionist movement?

Biblical prophets speak of a future time of global peace (when the lion will lie down with the lamb, swords will become plows, etc.) This was teamed up with the notion of a Messiah who will restore the kingdom of David.

Today, Orthodox Jews (and many others) take this literally. Others believe that there will indeed be a future era of peace, when warfare will be unknown, etc. but believe that it will happen by human actions, human beings working towards the goals of the universal brotherhood of mankind, rather than some magical Messiah.

CK Dexter Haven:

We don’t necessarily believe the Messiah will be magical. We do believe he will be a specific individual, but miracles are not a necessary component of the Messiah’s repertoire.

Very minor nitpick: the Maccabean revolt was against the Seleucid Greeks, governing Syria, who had extended control south into Judea. The revolt weakened them enough to make them pushovers for the Romans, who then marched into Judea themselves.

One of the more interesting historical interpretations of the Bible is that “The abomination that causes desolation” was the statue of Zeus the Seleucids put up in the Jewish Temple.

(And…I’m now expecting Tomndebb to come in and correct my own errors here!)

Heh, the Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great was referred to as the messiah by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 45:1)

Cyrus gets the “anointed one” treatment (even though he’s not a Jew and obviuously not a descendant of David) because he reversed the Babylonian captivity - in effect, he provided for the Jews to return to Israel.

That’s a bit of a stretch, malthus. True, "annointed " and “messiah” can be synonymous as “chosen one” but there is a difference between being annointed and being “The Annointed”. There are examples throughout the Bible of people being annointed, both figuratively (of God) and literally (with oil), but it sets forth only one Messiah.

It isn’t a “stretch” original to me. Google “Cyrus” and “messiah”.

For example:

The reality is that the concept of a “messiah” evolved over time. Originally, it meant a redeemer who was chosen by God to redeem Israel. Cyrus the Great filled that role well - even though he’s not a Jew, and certainly not a descendant of David.

Later, in Jewish thought, the term came to have a more universal meaning: not only was this messiah to redeem Israel, he would usher in a golden age of peace. That clearly has not happened yet, so religious Jews are still awaiting him.

In Christian thought, meanwhile, the “messiah” idea was taken a step in a different direction and was held to redeem, not Israel, but all of humanity, and of course identified with Jesus.

So it is perfectly correct to refer to Cyrus as the “messiah”, because he was (according to the prophet) filling the messianic role as it was thought of at the time the passage was written, namely God-appointed redeemer of Israel - even if that role is no longer identical to the role assigned to the “messiah” by modern Jews or Christians (who, of course, disagree with each other on this point as well).

Just mentioning that the Hasidim have their own concepts of a Messiah, though I know little about it. My impression was that they maintained the traditional concept at a time when many other Jews were becoming very secular.

This tends to agree with my remark, above, that the idea of a Messiah has been re-interpreted at various times through Jewish history, by the writers/leaders/movers/propagandists of the time, to refer to whatever the current “problem” was; the Messiah would be the one to save them from that.

I got this idea from a few sources, in particular:
– Reading some bits and pieces of the background material in the Anchor Bible.
– Isaac Asimov’s Guide To The Bible (who, in turns, cites the Anchor Bible a lot).

Also, not “the.” Orthodox Jews of my acquaintance say “Moshiach,” not “the Moshiach.”

Generally, also, both historically and in the present day, moshiach will be sent from HaShem as a reward for righteousness and keeping all the commandments. There is even a saying that if one Jew could manage to keep all the mitzvot (commandments) for one day, then moshiach will come.

This is why cults from the Zealots of biblical times, to the Chabadniks are very literal in their interpretation, and very strict in observation, often taking observation a step beyond what is required in order to “build a fence around the mitzvah,” and are also focused on the idea of moshiach coming soon.

It’s also why the Christian idea of Jesus coming to save people from sin is completely antithetical to the Jewish purpose of moshiach. Christians will never convince Jews that Jesus can save them if they accept him as “the” messiah, because that is not the purpose of “the” messiah.

Not Hebrew-speaking Orthodox, that’s for sure. It’s bad grammar.

I worked for George Scithers for a brief period. He was a member of Trapdoor Spiders and one Asimov’s close friends. He told me “His guide to the Bible was highly regarded by Shakespearean scholars. His guide to Shakespeare was highly regarded by Biblical scholars.”

Back To The OP

For me, moshiach must gather all of us Jews to Israel, bring all of the Promised Land under Jewish control, establish an enduring peace and tell us what the fox says.

To be fair, Weizmann might count as British. He was a naturalized British subject and lived in Britain longer than he lived anywhere else. Other than him, there was Abba Eban, who moved to England and Northern Ireland as a kid.

Not disagreeing with the premise that Jewish expectations of the Messiah are difficult to nail down (though not any any more so than the Christian expectations of heaven), and it’s true that “messiah” has a meaning of “chosen one” or “annointed”. All I’m saying is that many people in the Bible (OT and NT) are called “annointed”. All but one was chosen at a specific time for a specific purpose (as was the case with Cyrus, David, Moses, Ruth, to name a few). None of those were assumed by the Jews of the time to be The Messiah, though each saved/redeemed Isreal (or the Jewish people).

If you are arguing that Isaiah may have considered Cyrus to be The Messiah, I don’t think so - but that’s a whole 'nuther discussion.