To our Jewish friends - some questions about the coming Messiah

I’m very interested to know the official Jewish belief(s) on the coming of the Messiah. Not in contrast to Christianity but rather exactly what is expected when such a Messiah comes.

Also, is it a core tenant of all sects of Judaism that some type of Messiah will certainly come? Does one have to believe this in order to be Jewish? What Scripture’s do Jews point to when looking for their Messiah?

Thanks in advance, those are the only questions I could think of but I may have more on the topic.

You may find the following helpful on the subject of Messiah:

Judaism 101;

Jewish Virtual Library;

My Jewish Learning;

Chabad.

I’m interested, too!

A short summary instead of all these links would be nice.

I am especially confused because it appears that some Jews are waiting for two Messiahs - Mashiach ben David and Mashiach ben Yosef . Who are these two and is there any chance that Jesus is one of them? Thanks

I know you’re not really looking for more links, but I was curious about your question so I did a quick search and found this article.

It addresses your specific question about the differences between Mashiach ben David and Mashiach ben Yosef, and it’s not terribly long. Here’s an excerpt:

Jewish tradition sometimes refers to two redeemers, each being called “Messiah” (i.e., Mashiach: מָשִׁיחַ). Both of these redeemers are involved in delivering the Jewish people from galut (exile) and ushering in the long-awaited Messianic era. These two Messiahs are called Mashiach ben David (מָשִׁיחַ בֶּן־דָוִד), “the Messiah the descendant of David,” and Mashiach ben Yosef (מָשִׁיחַ בֶּן־יוֹסֵף), “the Messiah the descendant of Joseph,” respectively.

When Jews typically think of “the” Messiah (i.e., ha-mashiach: הַמָּשִׁיחַ), however, they generally have in mind Mashiach ben David of the tribe of Judah who shall rule in the Messianic age. Mashiach ben Yosef is said to be of the tribe of Ephraim (son of Joseph), and is also sometimes called Mashiach ben Ephraim (Bavli Sukah 52b). Mashiach ben Yosef will come first, before the advent of Mashiach ben David, to prepare the world for the coming of the kingdom of the LORD. He will fight God’s wars (against “Edom,” collectively understood as the enemies of Israel) in a time preceding the fulfillment of the Messianic Kingdom (this is sometimes referred to as Ikvot Mashiach, the “footsteps of the Messiah”).

Though Roman Catholic, I am of Hebrew ethnicity. With family and friends who are members of Judaism (as well as a very close friend who is a rabbi) I hope I can help answer your question.

First, there is no “official” Jewish position on this matter. Unlike Catholicism and other Christian denominations, there is no central authority in Judaism. While some Jews still hold a belief in a coming personal Messiah, others do not. Some Jews who believe in the Messiah do not hold a belief in a personal one, (i.e., some may view the Messiah as an ideology more than a person). Therefore it is not a “core tenant” of Judaism as a whole.

Being Jewish is less about doctrine (and therefore not about whether one believes in the coming of a personal Messiah). It’s more about heritage to be exact. For example (and don’t hold your breath while I explain this because you will pass out):

Being Jewish is being part of what Jews call “the Tribe.” Most often it means being one who practices some form of Judaism. But there are secular Jews who do not practice Judaism, some of whom are agnostic and some who are even atheist. Then, like the apostles, there are Jews who believe that Jesus (Yeshua) of Nazareth is the promised Messiah (I am one of them). Others believe in a different person or version of the Messiah (some believe the current State of Israel is the “fulfillment” of the promises traditionally associated with the Messiah). Some are converts, most are members by DNA.

Some people don’t consider me a Jew, while others, like my rabbi friend, pronounced me a Halachic Jew before I even knew what that was (my parents are children of Jews, who are children of Jews, of Jews, etc.). Others consider only those who are Orthodox as Jews. And then there are the Sephardic (which includes the Mizrahi) and the Ashkenazi divisions which among them you will meet some who may or may not consider one or the other as truly Jewish.

As the old joke goes, if left to themselves, two Jews will build three synagogues for worship: one for the first to worship in, the second for the other, and the third will be the synagogue neither would be caught dead in.

As to Scriptures that the Messiah is to fulfill and what is expected of him, if you’re expecting an official list here too, you need to give that up. You also need to think outside the “Old Testament” as not all the teachings about the Messiah are found there.

But among the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures one will find the same texts the Christians use among Jews who expect a personal Messiah. The only difference is that this usually involves a fulfillment with his first (and only) coming (there are no two advents of the Messiah in Judaism). What a Christian expects to happen at the Second Coming is more or less what Jews expect(ed) when the Messiah appears (or appeared–and this is why many did not accept Yeshua as Messiah).

You also need to understand that some of the concepts of the Jewish beliefs about the Messiah are found in the Talmud. You can’t actually have a good understanding of what Jews believe or why they reject what they do about the Messiah concept without learning the Talmudic view.

I’ve tried to offer this before to other Christians and fellow Catholics who just got upset with it. Even when I tried to go point by point they got mad and often said the same thing: “Why are you confusing the point? I want to know according to my Christian understanding what they understand not what they understand from their point of view!” But it doesn’t work that way. When it comes to Judaism, you have to accept it on its own terms and not try to make it fit into some other ideology…not even a Christian one.

A very limited overview that might be helpful is provided on Wikipedia under Jewish Messianism.

Thanks! Very thorough and helpful. I recognize that there is a difference between being born Jewish and believing in the tenants of Judaism. I am mostly interested in those who accept the Jewish teachings of God and have a belief in such teachings.

Are the writers of the Talmud considered some type of Prophets? I wonder how the writings can be binding if not inspired and if they are inspired what makes them inspired? I feel like there was such a long gap between the last book of their Tanakh and the Talmud. Especially considering that they don’t accept the Deuterocanonical books.

Also, do you speak Hebrew? Just curious. :slight_smile:

Yes, I speak Hebrew and can read the type of Greek used to compose the LXX.

One of the concepts you will have to avoid in understanding Judaism on its terms is “inspiration” of holy texts. Jews believe their texts sacred, from God, and authoritative, but not due to inspiration like Christians believe.

One should also not confuse the contents of the Tanakh, which is basically the Protestant Old Testament, with the contents of the LXX. The Tanakh is collection of those sacred texts written in our sacred tongue, namely Hebrew. The Deuterocanonical books were either written in Greek to begin with or had their authoritative version accepted as being in Greek. Because they do not exist in the Tanakh does not mean they are not accepted by the Jews. If they were not accepted, the Jews would not have placed them in the LXX to begin with.

The Talmud is the collection of the Mishnah and the Gemara, basically the Oral Law in written form and its commentary. Jews believe that God explained to Moses what he was instructing him to write down, and this explanation of the Law, used by Moses and those who lead Israel afterwards, came to be known as the Oral Law. It is thus also considered to be of God.

While Jews hold the Law or Torah as binding (Oral and Written), it is not because of “inspiration” as understood by Christians. The terms and theology used for canonization of Scriptures by the Church were not applied by the Jews, nor are the concepts shared.

Of course since I am a practicing Judeo-Catholic, I must give credit to where it is due. My brothers and sisters who practice Judaism and more specifically a rabbi would be best to answer more pointed questions if you are interested in the intricacies of Judaism. I hold them as the primary authorities on the subject.

As a relative newcomer you probably have no idea of the number of times versions of this thread come up on CAF and there are few Jewish contributors, so, as you might now imagine, typing out the same thing and explaining the same thing time after time would get rather boring.

The search facility or using google to search (using our Usernames) will pick up threads where we’ve gone in for lengthy responses.

I think you need to step outside the Christian way of looking at things a bit in order to understand questions like this from a Jewish perspective.

The focus of Judaism isn’t Messiah, it’s how to live a good/ethical life here and now. The central source of our understanding of this is ‘Torah’, the ‘Law’.

It’s a bit like a country that starts off with a Constitution which is all well and good but needs to be understood in a myriad of circumstances. The first aid in doing so is ‘The Prophets’, then ‘The Writings’ - Law, Prophets and Writings constitute the Tanakh, which is what you call the Old Testament (except it’s differently organized).

Then, like any legal system, you get lots of books of jurisprudence and legal argument/case law/precedent - the Talmud is part of that.

Thanks for your replies! And as for your first paragraph, that is exactly what I’m trying to do. I’m only inquiring about things I’m unsure of.

You’re doing just great, actually. As I’ve mentioned before some people won’t attempt to try to see things from a different perspective and therefore give up trying to learn about something new altogether.

Correct me if I am wrong but most Evangelical subscribe to a theology that basically holds that “true” religion is based on what is written in the inspired Scriptures. The Bible is the authority, and what is believed is usually based and sometimes limited to what is inscribed therein. This is like a “cart before the horse” scenario that can cause one to ask questions that don’t actually apply.

To illustrate: Judaism, like Catholicism, was already a functioning system of worship with faithful members and a liturgy before and during the production of their Scripture texts and their collection or canonizations. Abraham did not have a Bible to base his religion on. He had an ongoing theophany, one which the entire nation of Israel ended up having through Moses at the foot of Mount Sinai. Their religion came first, and faithful followers of that religion composed their Scriptures.

Orthodox Christians and Catholics hold a similar view of Christianity. Their religion, while including a strong faith in the Hebrew Scriptures, was based on what they believed was an epiphany. The texts that later became the New Testament are a reflection of Christianity, not its basis, which was a Jesus of Nazareth. By the time the epistles and gospels were composed the movement already was on its way, and a functioning liturgy and creeds existed for a century before the question of canonization of these texts even arose.

While not arguing the validity of the Evangelical or Fundamentalist stand, at least for Jews and Catholics the Scriptures are a product of the religious systems that produced them, indivisible from the practices and traditions that formed them.

That being case, one doesn’t ask what authority holy writ has on a given subject in Judaism. Jews accept holy writ because it comes from the religion revealed to them from Heaven. The religion itself is “inspired,” to use the Christian term, therefore its message, which includes holy writ, is generally accepted as inviolate.

Were one to require that the texts of Judaism be subjected to the demands of some sola scriptura-believing Christians would also demand that Judaism be incapable of existing in any true form until all its Scriptural texts were composed. This would not be possible for without the Jews to write them there would be no Scriptures to begin with.

True religion cannot be based on the Scriptures alone for the Scriptures would not have been composed without the truth being practiced to begin with.

What an incredibly wise post.

Is the expectation that the Messiah would build a physical temple based on the dimensions in the book of Ezekiel one of the reasons that Jesus would be ruled out as being the Messiah?

Belief in the building of what is called the “Third Temple” based on Ezekiel’s vision, has been held in coming with the coming of a personal messiah, especially since the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE by the Romans, and especially by Orthodox Jews. However Reform and Reconstructionist Jews do not hold such as belief.

This is one of the most eloquent expressions of this truth that I have ever read. Thank you.

I could be wrong about this but wasn’t Ezekiel written before the construction of the 2nd temple? If so, why is it thought to apply to a 3rd temple?

I didn’t want to comment on this because I know for a fact this will be the new “OP” of the thread, haha.

I’ll keep it short. If we do not accept Scripture alone, other traditions sneak in. Jesus shot down the traditions that the highest educated Jews; let’s not kid ourselves, Pharisees were extremely intelligent and yet their traditions were criticized.

Now we have the Talmud, as you stated is based on some oral traditions that are found nowhere in Orthodox Catholic beliefs. I don’t want to debate this here though.

This is such a great answer to many questions. Thank you! :thumbsup:

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