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What "messiah" means, and is Jesus the Messiah?

I had the pleasure of conversing with an acquaintance, Chris Kaiser, on my favorite software development website,, recently, regarding who Jesus was, and whether he was Messiah. Chris is persuaded that Jesus was a good teacher who emphasized the "son of Man" title over the "Messiah" title in an effort to divert worship away from himself and to God. Chris does not believe Jesus is Messiah, and believes certain parts of the New Testament are fabricated and edited. Chris believes that Paul, a writer of many of the books of the New Testament, and the first big Christian missionary, was an agent of Rome who wanted to build his own kingdom by currying favor with Rome.

Interestingly, the conversation started on the political movement of socialism, moved on to helping poor people, then moved to the role of Paul, then the authenticity of the Christian gospel books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), and finally moved onto the Messiahship of Jesus. We sure covered a wide range of topics! You can read the original conversation here

I want to post some of the coversation here, I hope you all find it interesting.

But first, some background of the term "messiah": what is this title, "messiah"? Messiah is the anglicized version of the Hebrew term "moshiach", a term meaning "anointed one". Jesus was both Ben Adam (Son of Man) and Moshiach, which is why he and his followers call Jesus both in New Testament. ("Christ", by the way, comes from the Greek "Kristos", which is simply a translation from the Hebrew moshiach.) The name "Jesus" is a middle English translation of the Greek Ieosus, which derives from the Hebrew "yeshua", literally meaning "salvation" or "Yahweh saves". Thus, the phrase "Jesus Christ" literally means "Yahweh Saves, [the] Messiah". Interesting, eh?

The big question on everyone's mind is, is Jesus the Messiah; that is, is Jesus the annointed One, the one who was prophesied in the Tenakh/Old Testament to do big big big things? (I'll discuss some of the prophecies below.)

Isaiah speaks of the Messiah in the Old Testament, saying, God will put the sin of many people on his shoulders, and through him, God's plan will deeply prosper. Hosea prophesies this person will open God up to the whole world -- instead of being closed to a chosen few, the God of Israel makes himself freely available to the whole world through this person, making an "Israel" of the nations. Taking even those dirty non-Jews and washing them clean, grafting them into the tree of promises given to Abraham and passed dow to Israel. Isaiah says the Messiah will atone for the sins of many -- that's a huge deal in Judaism. If we don't have a Messiah to shed blood for the atonement of sins, then we're still obligated to live up to the old contract of manually shedding blood to cover sin. As I mention to Chris, this shedding of blood is not something God desires, but rather, is something God set in place to make us utterly certain that doing evil has a terrible cost: death. The Messiah, then, is supposed to fulfill this contract himself: have his own innocent blood shed, his life taken, so that the sin of the world could be covered. That's huge.

Question is, is Jesus this person? I discuss this below with Chris.

Chris S Kaiser wrote:
[Early Judeo-Christian sects, such as the Essenes, were] closer [than modern Christianity] to the truths that Jesus taught. Remember that the apostles received teachings that the public was not privy to.

Closer to the truths that Jesus taught, perhaps. (In some ways, at least, in other ways, not so much. Some Essene sects actually rejected the Law wholly, which is something Jesus clearly did not do [see Matt 5].)

Chris S Kaiser wrote:
Jesus said to "worship him who sent me".

Didn't Jesus also say, "I and the Father are one", and again, "No one comes to the Father but through me"? Or didn't he say, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him."? And again, "If you knew me, you would know my Father also." Or even, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father." Chris, I could give you another 25 similar Scriptures if I had to. Yet you inferred we're supposed to worship God, not Jesus, and that the "son of Man" title was meant to divert worship away from Jesus, to God. Given that God and Jesus are a unity, are one together, it is incorrect theology to imply that Jesus was not Messiah, not God.

Now, one could easily say, "those are fabricated", sure. But what reason am I to believe your citations of Scripture as authentic, while still assume the above quotations are fabricated? It's silly to quote Scripture then say other pieces are fabricated; doing so is selectively choosing only what agrees with your particular brand of theology, so as not to uncover that theology as flawed.

What's more, you forget that the title of Messiah is not solely given by the New Testament. Have you read Josephus? Josephus was a Jewish historian; certainly not a Roman-ized Paul-follower or Roman shill by any means. Yet Josephus, in his historical writing, says this:

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Messiah. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.

Chris S Kaiser wrote:
After Pentacost Peter was fixated on the resurrection.

[Here, Chris is trying to persuade me that Jesus did not raise from the dead, as the New Testament claims, nor did he show himself alive and well to the disciples and others after his death, as the NT also claims.]

Give me some evidence to support that claim and I would gladly consider it. Look, according to the gospels (which, by the way, means Good News) is that Jesus appeared to all the disciples. See above, even Josephus the Jewish historian mentions this! Given that Peter and other disciples talked about this amongst themselves and in the presence of others and to others, this leads one to believe this was not an invention of Peter.

If one was to suppose that the salvation work of Messiah-atoning-for-sins is a fabrication, what of all the prophecies in Tenakh/Old Testament? Take, for example, Isaiah 52[^]:

Who believes what we've heard and seen? Who would have thought God's saving power would look like this?

The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We're all like sheep who've wandered off and gotten lost.
We've all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we've done wrong,
on him, on him.

He was beaten, he was tortured,
but he didn't say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
and like a sheep being sheared,
he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he'd never hurt a soul
or said one word that wasn't true.

Still, it's what God had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
so that he'd see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
And God's plan will deeply prosper through him.

Out of that terrible travail of soul,
he'll see that it's worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
will make many "righteous ones,"
as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I'll reward him extravagantly—
the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn't flinch,
because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
he took up the cause of all the black sheep.

Who, if not Jesus, is this person God is speaking of through Isaiah? Chris, the prophets in the Old Testament, the stories in the Torah/first 5 books of the Bible, the prophecies in the psalsm, heck, even the Law itself point to Messiah, someone that would make the final sin atonement so that sins are forgiven if we've faith in God and a humble heart that is repentant of the wrongs and evil things all of us do, myself absolutely included. That is the Good News.

If that wasn't the good news, then we should all still be following the Law, and offering blood sacrifices for sin. After all, that was the agreement humanity reached with God during Moses' time. It's not that God desires blood sacrifice -- even the psalmist says this! -- no, it's for our sake, so that we realize the seriousness of doing wrong. Do wrong, and death comes, blood is shed. That's the contract that was set in place and that we agreed to.

That is the reason Jesus came: to complete this contract. He shed his blood for the sin of others, completing the contract and justifying billions of people in the process. Because of this, the good news you speak of is right: all we need is faith in God, knowing that our sin is atoned for, no manual shedding of blood required by the contract; it was already done for us.

If the good news was solely, "hey, have faith in God, we're all his children", God just as well could've sent a prophet, instead of Jesus. But God, having planned all along this amazing work of saving billions of people, sent his Son. Son of Man (born of humanity), Son of God (He's one with God). Doing this, he fulfilled all the Law, the prophets, the psalms; God used this to put the finishing touches on what he started so long ago. As Isaiah put it, "God's plan will deeply prosper through him" -- what an understatement! Billions upon billions of the unwashed masses, whether Jew or non-Jew, put their faith and trust in God through this guy, this Messiah, God making those people righteous followers of God in the process. God's plan is deeply prospering, indeed. :-)


  1. I think of sin like the way someone at the CDC thinks of a disease. The best way to cure a disease is for someone to become infected, create antibodies, and then develop a vaccine. Christ was that someone. That's precisely why I believe no one else could have taken his place. God had to witness the entirety of sin Himself. The only way possible, by the boundaries He designed mind you, was to put on an Earth Suit(be born).

    Every time I think about this definition I'm awestruck. To think God developed this entire system of boundaries to make sure we had a chance to taste life without Him, yet He designed a way to completely combat all of it in one smooth motion. People may think it'd have been better without the wages of sin, Hell, and all of that but God somehow knew we wouldn't have been satisfied without a taste of this existence. True love is when you choose of your own free will and without that choice, we may have never love Him completely, as He loves us.

    I believe the combination of all of humanity, past present and future, is roughly equal to God by what I call the tower of Babel incident (roughly being the very keyword, I don't believe God can create something of greater value than Himself but the term value is open to interpretation). If that's true I also believe just like we made a choice to unite as one then, we somehow made a choice as one to engage everything we see now. Of course there is no scriptural evidence to backup this pre-existence claim but I don't believe we didn't have a say in what happened and it's all Adam's fault. Bah I try to leave the realm of speculation alone but sometimes it seems relevant to it bring up.

  2. Jeremy, you have some interesting insight. I like the analogy of sin and disease. I'd say it's even worse, since there are none without it, myself absolutely included. It's like a disease that never goes away, yet affects the whole world

    Thanks for stopping by and posting. Take care, brother.


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