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Messiah (Hebrew: מָשִׁיחַ, Modern Mašíaḥ Tiberian Māšîªḥ; in modern Jewish texts in English sometimes spelled Moshiach; Aramaic: משיחא, Greek: Μεσσίας, Syriac: ܡܫܺܝܚܳܐ, Məšîḥā, Arabic: المسيح‎, al-Masīḥ, Latin: Messias) literally means "anointed (one)".

In Jewish messianic tradition and eschatology, messiah refers to a future King of Israel from the Davidic line, who will rule the people of united tribes of Israel[1] and herald the Messianic Age[2] of global peace. In Standard Hebrew, The Messiah is often referred to as מלך המשיח, Méleḫ ha-Mašíaḥ (in the Tiberian vocalization pronounced Méleḵ haMMāšîªḥ), literally meaning "the Anointed King."

Christians believe that prophecies in the Hebrew Bible refer to a spiritual savior, partly evidenced in passages from the Book of Isaiah: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel,"[Isa. 7:14] and "He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed,"[Isa. 53:5] and believe Jesus to be that Messiah (Christ). The (Greek) Septuagint version of the Old Testament renders all thirty-nine instances of the Hebrew word for anointed (Mašíaḥ) as Khristós (Χριστός).[3] The New Testament records the Greek transliteration Μεσσίας, Messias twice in John.[Jn. 1:41][4:25]

In Islam, Isa (Jesus) is also called the Messiah (Masih),[4] but like in Judaism he is not considered to be the literal physical Son of God or God the Son.


Belief in the eventual coming of the messiah (moshiach) is said to be a basic and fundamental part of traditional Judaism, though not all in the religion agree.[5] Modern scholars point out that the idea of a messiah is not mentioned anywhere in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). They suggest that the messianic concept was introduced during the age of the prophets which was later in the history of Judaism. Traditional Judaism disagrees with these scholars, maintaining instead that messiah has always been a part of Judaism.

The concept of the coming of the messiah was held in the highest regard by pre-Christian Judaism. The Talmud records: "All the prophets prophesied [all the good things] only in respect of the Messianic era."[6] In another folio the Talmud says, "The Jews are destined to eat [their fill] in the days of the Messiah," and "The world was created only...for the sake of the Messiah."[7]

The term moshiach is used in the Hebrew Bible to describe Israelite priests, prophets, and kings who were anointed with oil in consecration to their respective offices. For example, Cyrus the Great, the king of Persia, is referred to as "God's anointed" (Messiah) in the Bible.

A prominent Judaism Web site claims:

Belief in the eventual coming of the part of the minimum requirements of Jewish belief. In the Shemoneh Esrei prayer, recited three times daily, we pray for all of the elements of the coming of the moshiach: ingathering of the exiles; restoration of the religious courts of justice; an end of wickedness, sin and heresy; reward to the righteous; rebuilding of Jerusalem; restoration of the line of King David; and restoration of Temple service.[5]

A literal of the word translated messiah (moshiach) is “anointed,” which refers to a ritual of anointing and consecrating someone or something with oil.[1 Sam. 10:1-2] It is used throughout the Jewish Bible in reference to a wide variety of individuals and objects; for example, a Jewish king,[1 Kings 1:39] Jewish priests,[Lev. 4:3] and prophets,[Isa. 61:1] the Jewish Temple and its utensils,[Ex. 40:9-11] unleavened bread,[Num. 6:15] and a non-Jewish king (Cyrus king of Persia).[Isa. 45:1]

Reform Jews believe there have been many messiahs—all the anointed kings and priests, including David, Solomon, Aaron, and Saul. Saul, the first king, is designated the "Anointed of the Lord".[8]

When speaking of the Messiah of the future, modern Jews speak of two potential messiahs: Moshiach ben Yossef (Messiah son of Joseph) and Moshiach ben David (Messiah son of David)[9] The Hebrew ben can mean either son or descendant. In this sense it can also mean "in the manner of," i.e., there will be a "suffering servant" messiah in the manner of Joseph, son of Israel/Jacob, and a different messiah in the manner of King David.

A common modern rabbinic interpretation is that there is a potential messiah in every generation. The Talmud, which often uses stories to make a moral point (aggadah), tells of a highly respected rabbi who found the Messiah at the gates of Rome and asked him, "When will you finally come?" He was quite surprised when he was told, "Today." Overjoyed and full of anticipation, the man waited all day. The next day he returned, disappointed and puzzled, and asked, "You said messiah would come 'today' but he didn't come! What happened?" The Messiah replied, "Scripture says, 'Today, 'if you will but hearken to His voice.'"[Ps. 95:7]

Orthodox Judaism and Conservative Judaism believe in a unique future physical messiah who will usher in the messianic age of war before peace to the world.

Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism teach both the belief in a messiah or messiahs, or that there will be a time of peace (Messianic Era), etc. They believe such time will be the result of human efforts at tikkun olam (repair of the world) through working on social justice, not from one man alone.

Choice is the underlying reason the Reform Movement gave up the need for and belief in a single messiah who would one day bring judgment, and perhaps salvation, to the world. The fact that God imbues us with free choice mitigates the need for a messianic figure.[10]

Messianic Judaism is a Christian religious movement that differs from mainstream Christianity and mainstream Judaism by combining elements of each into a single faith. As explained by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan:[11]

To the Jew, the Messiah has a most important mission, namely to bring the world back to G-d, and make it a place of peace, justice and harmony. When Jesus failed to accomplish this, the early Christians had to radically alter the very concept of the Messiah. This, in turn, transformed Christianity from another Jewish Messianic sect into a religion that is quite alien to many basic Jewish teachings.[12]


Christianity emerged in or around the year 30 AD as a movement among Jews and their Gentile converts who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. The name of "Christian" refers to the Greek word for 'Messiah': Khristos (χριστος). Christians commonly refer to Jesus as either the "Christ" or the "Messiah." In Christian theology the two words are synonymous.

Christians believe Jesus to be the Messiah that Jews were expecting:

The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.[Jn. 1:41-42]

The Christian concept of the Christ/Messiah as "the Word made Flesh" (see also Logos) is fundamentally different from the Jewish and Islamic in that the majority of historical and mainline Christian theologies, as seen within the Nicene Creed, consider Jesus to be God or God the Son.

Christians believe that Daniel (Hebrew: דָּנִיֵּאל, or Daniyyel) was a prophet and gave an indication of when the Messiah, the prince mashiyach nagiyd, would come.[Dan. 9:25-26] Daniel's prophecies refer to him as a descendant of King David, a Son of Man, who will rebuild the nation of Israel, destroy the wicked, and ultimately judge the whole world.

In Christian theology, the Christ/Messiah serves five main functions:[13]

  • He suffers and dies to make atonement before God for the sins of all humanity, because His justice requires that sins be punished, according to Penal substitution theology.[14]
  • He was raised from the dead on the third day after He was crucified to prove that He has defeated death and the power of Satan, thus enabling those that receive Him as their Savior to live under God's grace rather than the strict laws of Judaism [Galatians 2:16]
  • He serves as the pioneer, embodiment of the culture and living presence of the kingdom of God
  • He will establish peace and rule the world during the Millennial Kingdom, which will immediately follow the tribulation. See Nicene Creeds of 325 and 381 A.D.:

    "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."

(see Millennialism)[Rev. 20:4-6]

  • He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and he came to earth as a human. John 1:1-2,14a: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. 14a And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. John 8:58: Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.

In the New Testament, Jesus often referred to himself as 'Son of Man'[Mk. 14:61-62] [Lk. 22:66-70] which Christianity interprets as a reference to Daniel 7:13-14 (KJV):

"I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed."

Because Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah, and that he claimed to be the Son of Man referred to by Daniel, Christianity interprets Daniel 7:13-14 as a statement of the Messiah's authority and that the Messiah will have an everlasting kingdom. Jesus' use of this title is seen as a direct claim to be the Messiah.[15]

Some identified Jesus as the Messiah,[Mk. 8:29] his opponents accused him of such a claim,[Lk. 23:2] and he is recorded at least twice as asserting it himself directly.[Mk. 14:60-62] [Jn. 4:25-26]

Christianity interprets a wide range of biblical passages in the Old Testament (Hebrew scripture) as predicting the coming of the Messiah (see Christianity and Biblical prophecy for examples), and believes that they are following Jesus' own explicit teaching:

  • He said to them..."Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself."[Lk. 24:25-27]
  • "Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."[Lk. 24:45-47]
  • The book of Matthew repeatedly says, "This was to fulfill the prophecy…."

Christianity believes all of the Messianic prophecies concerning His first coming to earth were fulfilled in the mission, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and seeks to spread throughout the world its interpretation that the Messiah is the only Saviour, and that Jesus will return to fulfill the rest of Messianic prophecy in human form.


The Qur'an states Jesus is the Messiah,[Qur'an 3:45] and Muslims believe Jesus is alive in Heaven and will return to Earth to defeat the Dajjal, or Antichrist.[16]

A hadith in Abu Dawud (Abu Dawud 37:4310 ) says:

Narrated Abu Hurayrah: The Prophet said: There is no prophet between me and him, that is, Jesus. He will descend (to the earth). When you see him, recognise him: a man of medium height, reddish hair, wearing two light yellow garments, looking as if drops were falling down from his head though it will not be wet. He will fight for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill the swine, and put an end to war (in another Tradition, there is the word Jizyah instead of Harb (war), meaning that he will abolish jizyah); God will perish all religions except Islam. He will destroy the Antichrist and will live on the earth for forty and then he will die. The Muslims will pray behind him.

Shia Muslims believe al-Mahdi will arrive first, and after him, Jesus. Jesus will proclaim that the true leader is al-Mahdi. A war, literally Jihad (Jihade Asghar) will be fought - the Dajjal (evil) against al-Mahdi and Jesus (good). This war will mark the approach of the coming of the Last Day. After Jesus slays al-Dajjāl at the Gate of Lud, Muslims believe he will marry and have children. During his life, he will have revealed that Islam is the last word of God.

A hadith in Sahih Bukhari (4:55:658) says:

Allah's Apostle said "How will you be when the son of Mary descends amongst you and your Imam is from amongst you."

Very few scholars outside of Orthodox Islam reject all the quotes (Hadith) attributed to Muhammad that mention the second return of Jesus, the Dajjal and Imam Mahdi, believing that they have no Qur'anic basis. However, the vast majority of Muslim scholars disagree with the implication of termination of Jesus’ life when he was allegedly crucified (for example Yusuf Ali's translation reads: “O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself”). Verses [Qur'an 4:157] imply that Jesus was not killed physically but it appeared as such in some other sense; Verse [Qur'an 19:33] implies that Jesus will die someday. The vast majority of Muslims, and the unified opinion of Islam maintain that the bodily death of Jesus will happen after his second coming.

Many classical commentators such as Ibn Kathir, At-Tabari, al-Qurtubi, Suyuti, al-Undlusi (Bahr al-Muhit), Abu al-Fadl al-Alusi (Ruh al-Maani) clearly mention that verse [Qur'an 43:61] of the Qur'an refers to the descent of Jesus before the Day of Resurrection, indicating that Jesus would be the Sign that the Hour is close.

And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgment): therefore have no doubt about the (Hour)... [Qur'an 43:61]

Those that reject the second coming of Jesus argue that the knowledge of the Hour is only with God, and that the Hour will come suddenly. They maintain that if the second coming of Jesus were true, whenever it happens, billions of people would then be certain the Hour is about to come. The response given to this is that signs that the Last Hour is near have been foretold and given, including that of the second coming of Jesus, as signs indicating the Last Hour is near. They will not clarify when it is to come in any specific sense, and hence do not reveal it. Christianity avoids this conflict because Jesus is part of the Trinity of God (Father, Son (Jesus), Holy Spirit), and the second coming of Jesus signifies the beginning of the period of Tribulation.

Allama Iqbal while commenting on the second coming of Jesus said, "It is the basic idea of Magian religion, for it contains implicitly the conception of the world-historical struggle between Good and Evil, with the power of Evil prevailing in the middle period, and the Good finally triumphant on the Day of Judgement. If this view of the prophetic teaching is meant to apply to Islam it is obviously a misrepresentation. The point to note is that the Magian admitted the existence of false gods; only they did not turn to worship them. Islam denies the very existence of false gods. In this connexion Spengler fails to appreciate the cultural value


(see also: Prophethood in Islam and Jesus in Islam)

In Ahmadiyya Islam, the terms "Messiah" and "Mahdi" (Messiah of Islam) are synonymous terms for one and the same person. Like the term Messiah which, among other meanings, in essence means being anointed by God or appointed by God the term "Mahdi" means guided by God, thus both imply a direct ordainment and a spiritual nurturing by God of a divinely chosen individual. According to Ahmadiyya thought, Messiahship is a phenomenon, through which a special emphasis is given on the transformation of a people by way of offering suffering for the sake of God instead of giving suffering (i.e. refraining from revenge). Ahmadis believe that this special emphasis was given through the person of Jesus and Mirza Ghulam Ahmad [17] among others.

Ahmadis hold that the prophesied eschatological figures of various religions, the coming of the Messiah and Mahdi in fact were to be fulfilled in one person who was to represent all previous prophets.[18] The prophecies concerning the Mahdi or the second coming of Jesus are seen by Ahmadis as metaphorical, in that one was to be born and rise within the dispensation of Muhammad, who by virtue of his similarity and affinity with Jesus of Nazareth, and the similarity in nature, temperament and disposition of the people of Jesus' time and the people of the time of the promised one (the Mahdi) is called by the same name.

Numerous Hadith are presented by the Ahmadis in support of their view such as one from Sunan Ibn Majah which says:

"There is No Mahdi but Jesus son of Mary" (Ibn Majah, Bab, Shahadatu-Zaman)

Ahmadis believe that the prophecies concerning the Mahdi and the second coming of Jesus have been fulfilled in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (1835–1908) the founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement. Contrary to mainstream Islam the Ahmadis do not believe that Jesus is alive in heaven, but that he survived the crucifixion and migrated towards the east where he died a natural death and that Ghulam Ahmad was only the promised spiritual second coming and likeness of Jesus, the promised Messiah and Mahdi.

Other traditions

  • Adherents to the Unification Movement consider Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon to be the Second Coming of Jesus Christ figuratively, not literally. They believe he has the mission of Christ (whom they believe isn't God).
  • The Shakers believed that Jesus was the male Messiah and Mother Ann Lee, the female Messiah.

See also

  • Claimed Messianic prophecies of Jesus
  • Jewish Messiah claimants
  • People claiming to be the Mahdi
  • List of messiah claimants


  1. Megillah 17b-18a, Taanit 8b
  2. Sotah 9a
  3. Etymology Online
  4. Arabic for Messiah
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Moshiach: The Messiah." The Messianic Idea in Judaism. Judaism 101. Sept. 10, 2009. <>
  6. Babylonian Talmud: Sanhedrin 99
  7. Babylonian Talmud: Sanhedrin 98
  8. Israel H. Levinthal, Judaism: An Analysis and an Interpretation
  9. Tutorial: Moshiach Ben Yossef (
  10. Schwartzman, 2004
  11. Kaplan, Rabbi Aryeh (2001). The Jewish Response to Missionaries (Fourth Edition, Revised). Jews for Judaism International Inc.. pp. 29.  online here
  12. Kaplan, Rabbi Aryeh (1976, 1985). The Real Messiah: A Jewish Response to Missionaries (Jews for Judaism Edition). National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), Orthodox Union (OU) and NCSY in cooperation with Jews for Judaism. pp. 14. online here
  13. Ankerberg & Weldon, pp. 218-223
  14. See for examples, Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and Psalm 22 which Christianity interprets as referring to Jesus.
  15. "The Deity of Christ". 
  17. Ask Islam: What is the different between a messiah and a prophet?
  19. Momen, Moojan (2004). "Baha'i Faith and Holy People". in Jestice, Phyllis G.. Holy People of the World: A Cross-cultural Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1576073556. 


Kaplan, Aryeh. From Messiah to Christ, 2004. New York: Orthodox Union.

External links

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