MembersThe Rise of Messianism in Early Jewish Sources

Part 4 of our exploration of the development of the modern Jewish concept of Messiah, and where Christianity fits in

By Solomon Kirsch | | Topics: Jewish Messianism
Jewish Messianism - when did it first appear?
Photo: Miriam Alster/FLASH90

Messianism is rooted in the Hebrew Bible and is developed in the New Testament. But textual evidence of a well-developed messianism is scarce in early Rabbinic Judaism until centuries after Jesus.

In the sources citing traditional Jewish prayers originating in the first century, or even earlier, messianic elements are found but these are mostly reflective of a king from David’s line to be restored, not the iconic apocalyptic redeemer we have come to know. In the Mishna, the oral traditions that were eventually written down in the second century, there are a just few short references that are suggestive of a messianic son of David and king of an apocalyptic nature.

Judaism is today notably a religion characterized by ritual and textual traditions, but before these writings were compiled and codified it is difficult to decipher just what was known and believed. This problem continues even after the traditions were put in writing because on the one hand there were beliefs and ideas outside the texts, while on the other hand we struggle to know the history...

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