Is the Resurrection of Jesus a Qualification for Being the Jewish Messiah?

In many Jewish- Christian debates, I have been told by Orthodox Jews and anti-missionaries that a messianic figure being raised from the dead is not a requirement for being the Messiah.  Let me give some examples of this:

 “The state of the world must prove that the Messiah has come; not a tract. Don’t you think that when the Messiah arrives, it should not be necessary for his identity to be subject to debate – for the world should be so drastically changed for the better that it should be absolutely incontestable! Why should it be necessary to prove him at all? If the Messiah has come, why should anyone have any doubt?” (Rabbi Chaim Richman, available at http://www.ldolphin.org/messiah.html).

“The only way to define “the Messiah” is as the king who will rule during what we call the Messianic age. The central criterion for evaluating a Messiah must therefore be a single question: Has the Messianic age come? It is only in terms of this question that “the Messiah” means anything. What, then, does the Bible say about the Messianic age? Here is a brief description by  famous Christian scholar: “The recovery of independence and power, an era of peace and prosperity, of fidelity to God and his law and justice and fair- dealing and brotherly love among men and of personal rectitude and piety” (G.F. Moore, Judaism, II, P 324). If we think about this sentence for just a moment in the light of the history of the last two thousand years, we will begin to see what enormous obstacles must be overcome if we are to believe in the messianic mission of Jesus. If Jesus was the Messiah, why have suffering and evil continued and even increased in the many centuries since his death.”–David Berger and Michael Wyschogrod, Jews and Jewish Christianity” A Jewish Response to the Missionary Challenge (Toronto: Jews for Judaism, 2002), 20; cited in Oskar Skarsaune,  In The Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity (Downers Grove, ILL: Intervarsity Press, 2002), 302.

R. Beasley-Murray says the following about the messianic hope and the kingdom of God:

“When God comes to bring his kingdom, it is to this world that he comes and in this world that he establishes his reign. The hope of Israel is not for a home in heaven but for the revelation of the glory of God in this world. As God’s claim on man encompasses the totality of his life, so God’s salvation for man encompasses the totality of human existence, including our historical existence.”-G. R. Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God, 25

Also, as Richard N. Longenecker says:

“The literature of Judaism, both biblical and post-biblical, evidences a much greater interest in the Messianic Age itself and the activity of God during the age than in the person or persons whom God would use to bring about and to accomplish his purposes. One has only to scan the Old Testament passages which look towards the distant future to note that the greater emphasis is given to a description of the Age itself than to God’s anointed instrument who will usher in that Age. While sections and chapters are devoted to the former (e.g., Isaiah 26-29; 40ff; Ezekiel 40-48; Daniel 12; Joel 2:28-3:21), definite references to the latter are confined, in the main, to a few specific verses (e.g., Isaiah 9:6ff; Micah 5:2; Zechariah 9:9)”- Richard N. Longenecker, The Christology of Early Jewish Christianity, 63.

The Jewish people knew the God of Israel as the only one who could raise the dead (Job 19:26; Ps. 17:15; 49:15; 73:24; Is. 26:19; 53:10; Dn. 12:2;12:13). Belief in a resurrection of persons from the dead are seen in eight passages: (Job 19:26; Ps. 17:15; 49:15; 73:24; Is. 26:19; 53:10; Dn. 12:2;12:13). The resurrection terminology is seen in two places (Ezek. 37:1-14; Hos. 6:2) to show a national and spiritual restoration brought about by the return from the exile. So it is not as if resurrection is foreign to the Jewish mind. But sadly, a resurrected Messiah it is not even on the radar screen for many Jewish people.

As I have said before, the word “messiah” means “anointed one” and is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub something” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone.” The Jewish Scriptures  records the anointing with oil of priests ( Exod 29:1-9 ), kings (1 Sam 10:1;2 Sam 2:4;1 Kings 1:34), and sometimes prophets (1 Kings 19:16b) as a sign of their special function in the Jewish community. Also, when God anointed or authorized for leadership, in many cases he provided the empowering of the Holy Spirit to do complete the task (1 Sam. 16:13; Isa. 61:1).

However, just because someone was anointed in the Jewish Scriptures to perform a specific task doesn’t mean they are “the Messiah.” So we can conclude that “anointed one” was not used as a title with a capital “M” in the Jewish Scriptures. Are there any texts in the Jewish Scriptures that say the Messiah has to be resurrected? Apart from Psalm 16: 1-10 (used by Peter in Acts 2:22-32) and the end of Isa. 53, there aren’t an overwhelming amount of texts that support a resurrected Messiah. This is why when Paul says the Messiah “rose from the third day according to the Scriptures” (see 1 Cor. 15:4), he is probably not referring to a specific text or texts but more to the overall plan of God’s saving activity that has been laid out in the Jewish Scriptures. The “third day” motif that  Paul is following is found in Hosea 6:1-2 and other texts that speak of God doing something significant or restoring something on the third day.

So after looking at these issues, perhaps we may ask “what does the resurrection have to do with Jesus being qualified to be called the Messiah?”

Gavin Ortlund’s online article called Resurrected As Messiah: The Risen Christ As Prophet , Priest and King, offers some find tips here:

1.Ortland says, “In this article, I hope to further extend reflection on the soteriological significance of the resurrection by considering it in relation to Christ’s messianic office of prophet, priest, and king.

2. Christ’s risen and exalted life in heaven necessary for some of his priestly duties, but that it is portrayed in Heb 5:5–10 and 7:16 as the occasion for his appointment to a specific  priestly office, namely, the everlasting, intercessory priesthood typified by Melchizedek, in which office  he continually applies the saving benefits of his atoning sacrifice to his people.

3. Christ’s priestly office is referred to as the source of eternal salvation (Heb 5:9) and belonging to the “order to Melchizedek” (Heb 5:10), which, as chapter 7 will repeatedly declare, is a perpetual priesthood (Heb 7:17, 21, 24–25, 28; cf. Ps 110:4). Only an endless, heavenly life, achieved by resurrection and exaltation, can result in perpetual priestly ministry and thus “eternal salvation.”

4.Resurrection —-ascension: The focus of Hebrews is on the exalted life of Christ in heaven, not the resurrection event, which is referenced directly only in Heb. 13:20. Strictly speaking, Jesus’ exaltation to the right hand of God occurred at his ascension into heaven, forty days after his resurrection (Acts 1:3, 9–11). Nevertheless, whatever significance we may attach to the ascension, it is the resurrection that is presented in the NT as the crucial transformation from one kind of existence to another.

5. While it is not initially clear that the coming Davidic king is to be identified with the coming prophet and coming priest, in later passages of the OT the kingly and priestly expectations begin to merge (Psalm 110; Zech 6:13; 49 Jer 33:17–18; 30:21; Ezek 21:26–27; Dan 9:24–27). That prophetic responsibilities also belong to this office  is apparent from his role in spreading the  the NT (Acts 3:21–23). The  hope thus becomes a Davidic hope; the Davidic hope, a full-orbed messianic hope.

What picture  emerge from the OT about the Davidic King’s rule?

First, his rule is universal:

􀆞􀀁 Ps 72:8: “May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!”;

􀆞􀀁 Isa 9:7: “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end”;

􀆞􀀁 Zech 9:10: “His rule shall be from sea to sea4and from the River to the ends of the earth.”

Second, his rule is everlasting:

􀆞􀀁 2 Sam 7:16: “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever”;

􀆞􀀁 Ps 21:4: “He asked life of you; you gave it to him, length of days forever and ever”;

􀆞􀀁 Ps 72:17: “May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun!”;

􀆞􀀁 Ps 89:36–37: “His offspring shall endure forever, his throne as long as the sun before me. Like the moon it shall be established forever, a faithful witness in the skies”;

􀆞􀀁 Jer 33:17: “David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel.”

Ortland says, “At what point does Jesus enter into his Davidic kingship? When does he actually sit down on his throne and being his rule? It may be tempting to answer this question with the incarnation, and indeed, Jesus is perceived as a king both by others (Matt 2:2) and himself (John 18:36) during his earthly life. In the letters and preaching of the apostles, however, it is not the incarnation but the resurrection that marks the inauguration of Christ’s Davidic rule. Though always a king, Jesus enters into the full operation of his kingly office and authority at his resurrection and subsequent ascension into heaven. Easter morning is a sort of royal coronation service, at which point Christ sits down upon the throne; he takes up his scepter; he marshals his troops; the great conquest begins.”

Click above to read the entire article. I will add another point here:

The Resurrection is needed for Jesus to be the initiator of the New Covenant

Just like the giving of the Torah (with Moses), the New Covenant needs someone to inaugurate it. We just read about the day when God would place his Spirit permanently inside people so they can walk in holiness and love. We see in the New Covenant passages:

  1. God promises regeneration. (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:26) 2. God promises the forgiveness of sin. (Jeremiah 31:34; Ezekiel 36:25)
  2. God pledged the indwelling Holy Spirit. (Ezekiel 36:27)
  3. God promises the knowledge of God. (Jeremiah 31:34).
  4. God promises His people would obey Him. (Ezekiel 36:27; 37:23- 24; Jeremiah 32:39-40)
  5. The fulfilling of this covenant was tied to Israel’s future restoration to the land. (Jer. 32:36-41; Ezek. 36:24-25; 37:11-14)

As Jesus says: And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, so that He may be with you forever, the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive because it does not see Him nor know Him. But you know Him, for He dwells with you and shall be in you.” (John 14:16,17) So we can conclude with following syllogism:

  1. If Jesus rose from the dead, He can send the Spirit and inaugurate the New Covenant.
  2. Jesus rose from the dead
  3. Therefore, Jesus is the inaugurator of the New Covenant

Note: If needed, see our articles section called Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus

See our full article on the New Covenant here:

FInally, regarding the messianic expectations at the time of Jesus, let us heed these words:

Stanley Porter says:

“Intertestamental and New Testament literature suggests that the expectation was all over the map. Some Jewish people did not expect a Messiah. Others thought that the Messiah would be a priestly figure, still others a royal deliverer. Some scholars interpret the evidence to suggest that at least one group of Jewish thinkers believed there would be two messiahs, one priestly and one royal. From what we know we can be certain that the New Testament did not create the idea of the Messiah. But we can also be sure that there was nothing like a commonly agreed delineation of what the Messiah would be like. The latter point means that modern-day Christians who shake their heads about why the Jewish people did not universally recognize the Messiah, considering all the fulfilled prophecy, really do not understand Old Testament literature.”–Porter, The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments (Mcmaster New Testament Studies), 29.

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