Can We Reconcile The Messiah Ben David and The Messiah Ben Joseph Tradition in Judaism?

Should Christians try to share the message of the Jesus the Messiah with their Jewish neighbors? This has always been a thorny topic. Anyone who has studied Church history knows that our relationship with the Jewish people hasn’t always worked out for the best. One comment is helpful here:

But despite the past and present issues of anti-Semitism and bad theology, I am saddened to see many Christians being duped into what is called Dual Covenant Theology. I do think it is abundantly clear that if Christians decided that Jewish people don’t need Jesus, they would have to ignore many passages in the Bible itself.

Christians need to remember that the purpose of Israel was not to be a blessing to herself. Therefore, through her witness, the world will either be attracted or repelled towards the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The entire promise to Abraham in Gen 12:3 exhibit’s God’s plan to bless the nations. It should be no surprise that in Matthew’s opening chapter, he says, “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham “(Matt. 1:1). The Messiah is not only of Davidic descent, but will bring fulfillment to the Abrahamic Covenant. Also, Matthew emphasizes Jesus’ mission to help Israel fulfill it’s calling (Matt. 10:5-6;15:24), as well as Jesus’ command to bring the nations into God’s redemptive plan (Matt 28:19).

In relation to the work of  Jesus, while a remnant believed in Him, what is more significant is that Christianity is now the home of 1.4 billion adherents. Sure, large numbers don’t make a faith true. But another traditional view is that the Messiah will spread the knowledge of the God of Israel to the surrounding nations (Isa.11:9;40:5;52:8). Are there any other messianic candidates that have enabled the world to come to the knowledge of the one true God other than Jesus? As a Gentile Christian, I and others have benefited from the Abrahamic Covenant.

We see in the Book of Acts that the apostles preached that everyone needs to believe explicitly in Jesus, both Jews and Gentiles. Even Peter said to God-fearing Cornelius, that it is “through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (10:43). Paul also made an appeal to the Jewish audience at Pisidian Antioch to believe in Jesus because it is “through Jesus [that] the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified” (13:38–39, NIV).

Also, Christians need to follow Paul’s example in that he showed he had a tremendous burden for the Jewish people (Rom. 9:1-5;10:1), and calls upon the Church to provoke Israel to jealousy (Rom. 11:11). For Paul, the resurrection was God’s stamp of approval on Jesus as the promised Messiah of Israel (Rom. 1:3-4). Paul also understood that since the Gentiles have received the blessing of knowing the Messiah, they now have the responsibility to take the message of salvation back to Israel. Therefore, Christians of all denominational backgrounds should show interest in sharing the Good News of the Messiah with the Jewish people.

 

Don’t assume Jewish people believe in a personal Messiah. Many of them have never thought about it. Furthermore, if there is a Messiah, he is not divine. For the most part all Jewish people  know  that Jesus is not for them.

Remember, regarding the Messiah issue:

  • The Jewish Scriptures records the history of those who were anointed  for a specific purpose such as  priests (Exod. 28:41; 29:7, 29; 30:30; Lev 7:36; 8:12; 16:32;), kings (Jdg. 9:8; 9:15; 1 Sam 9:16; 10:1; 15:1, 17; 16:3, 12, 13; 2 Sam 2:4, 7; 3:39; 5:3; prophets (1 Kings 19:16; 1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalm 105:15).
  • Notice these figures were all in the present.
  • None of these texts speak of a future figure.  Of course, there are texts that speak of a future figure. For example, Daniel 9:25-26 where it speaks of an “anointed one” who will ‘finish transgression, put and end to sin, bring everlasting righteousness, seal up vision and prophecy, and anoint the Most Holy Place” (Dan. 9:24) .
  • There were names were used to describe the messianic person other than the “Messiah.” Some of the names include Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man, Prophet, Elect One, Servant, Prince, Branch, Root, Scepter, Star, Chosen One, and Coming One.
  • A Look at Daniel 7:13-14
  • God is bringing a figure with a status over angelic millions in a heavenly court scene.
  • The figure will be given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations, and men of every language will serve him.
  • He is given a kingdom by the Ancient of days, so he must be interpreted as an individual, namely a king.
  • Clouds-as well as riding on or with clouds- are a common attribute of biblical divine appearances, called theophanies (“God appearances”).
  • Rabbi Akiba (2nd century AD) proposed that one of the thrones in Dan 7:9 should be for God and another for David (a name for the Messiah).

The Suffering/Lowly and Rejected Messiah

After the time of Jesus, the rabbis tried to reconcile the passages about the suffering and rejected Messiah with the ruling, kingly Messiah. For example, we just looked at Daniel 7:13-14. But let’s look at the following:

Zechariah 9: 9

Exult greatly, O daughter Zion!  Shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! Behold: your king  is coming to you,  a just savior is he, Humble, and riding on a donkey,  on a colt, the foal of a donkey. He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim,  and the horse from Jerusalem; The warrior’s bow will be banished, and he will proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion will be from sea to sea, and from the River[ to the ends of the earth.

Here is a comment by a rabbi on this topic:

“The Bible hints that two different figures will play important roles in Israel’s redemption. During the Second Temple period, the prophet Zechariah offered an oracle about the people of Jerusalem “lamenting to [God] about those who are slain … showing bitter grief as over a firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10). The book of Daniel also contains a cryptic reference to “an anointed one [who] will disappear and vanish” (Daniel 9:26). These fallen would-be heroes came to be identified with the Messiah ben Joseph.” -Rabbi Elaine Rose Glickman, The Messiah and the Jews: Three Thousand Years of Tradition, Belief and Hope

Messiah Ben Joseph and Messiah Ben David

There is an established tenet in Talmudic times is that there is a splitting of the Messiah in two. This is why it says in the Talmud, “If they [the people of Israel] are worthy of [the Messiah] he will come ‘with the clouds of heaven’ [Dan 7:13] ;if they are not worthy, ‘lowly and riding upon a donkey’ [Zech. 9:9]” (b. Sanhedrin 98a).

 

“It is well according to him who explains that the cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph, since that well agrees with the Scriptural verse, And they shall look upon me because they have thrust him through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son; …[b. Sukkah 52a]

Who is  Messiah Ben Joseph?

  • He is descended from our patriarch and matriarch Jacob and Rachel’s son Joseph—makes early appearances in the Talmud and midrash literature.
  • He is a successor of Messiah Ben David who will rise up during the birth pangs of the Messiah (the last days).
  • He will command the hosts of Israel in combat, overseeing incredible victories, killing the king of Rome, restoring to Jewish hands the precious Temple vessels stolen by the Romans, before perishing in battle.
  • For forty days the Messiah ben Joseph’s body will lie in the streets of Jerusalem, untouched—until the Messiah ben David arrives, sees to his resurrection, and ushers in Israel’s triumphant redemption.Now keep in mind the Messiah Ben Joseph is legendary. There are not really two different messianic figures in the Bible who are two separate figures. Instead, in contrast to this rabbinic model, the New Testament applies both the suffering and ruling predictions to one person, Jesus of Nazareth.
  • Sources
  1. Rabbi Elaine Rose Glickman, The Messiah and the Jews: Three Thousand Years of Tradition, Belief and Hope, Jewish Lights Publishing.
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