Was there an expectation among Judaism for a Messiah around the time of Jesus?

By COGwriter

Do the Jews expect a Messiah? Was there an expectation among Judaism for a Messiah around the time of Jesus?

This article will attempt to answer those questions.

Jews Have Long Expected a Messiah

Though some have questioned this, the reality is that the idea of a Messiah has long been part of Jewish belief.

Notice something from a Jewish source:

The Messianic Idea in Judaism

Belief in the eventual coming of the mashiach is a basic and fundamental part of traditional Judaism. It is part of Rambam's 13 Principles of Faith, 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 mashiach: 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.

Modern scholars suggest that the messianic concept was introduced later in the history of Judaism, during the age of the prophets. They note that the messianic concept is not explicitly mentioned anywhere in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible).

However, traditional Judaism maintains that the messianic idea has always been a part of Judaism. The mashiach is not mentioned explicitly in the Torah, because the Torah was written in terms that all people could understand, and the abstract concept of a distant, spiritual, future reward was beyond the comprehension of some people. However, the Torah contains several references to "the End of Days" (acharit ha-yamim), which is the time of the mashiach; thus, the concept of mashiach was known in the most ancient times.

The term "mashiach" literally means "the anointed one," and refers to the ancient practice of anointing kings with oil when they took the throne. The mashiach is the one who will be anointed as king in the End of Days. ...

The Mashiach

The mashiach will be a great political leader descended from King David (Jeremiah 23:5). The mashiach is often referred to as "mashiach ben David" (mashiach, son of David). He will be well-versed in Jewish law, and observant of its commandments (Isaiah 11:2-5). He will be a charismatic leader, inspiring others to follow his example. He will be a great military leader, who will win battles for Israel. He will be a great judge, who makes righteous decisions (Jeremiah 33:15). But above all, he will be a human being, not a god, demi-god or other supernatural being.

It has been said that in every generation, a person is born with the potential to be the mashiach. If the time is right for the messianic age within that person's lifetime, then that person will be the mashiach. But if that person dies before he completes the mission of the mashiach, then that person is not the mashiach.

When Will the Mashiach Come?

There are a wide variety of opinions on the subject of when the mashiach will come. Some of Judaism's greatest minds have cursed those who try to predict the time of the mashiach's coming, because errors in such predictions could cause people to lose faith in the messianic idea or in Judaism itself. ...

Biblical Passages Referring to the Mashiach

The following passages in the Jewish scriptures are the ones that Jews consider to be messianic in nature or relating to the end of days. These are the ones that we rely upon in developing our messianic concept:

(Mashiach: The Messiah Mashiach (in Hebrew) Judaism 101. http://www.jewfaq.org/mashiach.htm accessed 08/21/16)

So, Jews have long believed that the Messiah would come, but because of claims of various ones being the Messiah, they have basically decided that they are not sure when the Messiah will come (though there are Jews who have pointed to a time in the 21st century).

Jesus, as the Jews believe the Messiah would, did keep God's commandments. For more on Jesus, check out the article Jesus: The Son of God and Saviour.

Did Jews Believe that the Messiah Would Come in the First Century A.D.?

Did Jews believe that the Messiah could have come around the time of Jesus?

Well, there were different groups of Jews and some apparently did. This could also explain why the calculation of the Jewish year changed (see Does God Have a 6,000 Year Plan? What Year Does the 6,000 Years End?).

The Pharisees, Essenes, and Zealots, for sometimes differing and sometimes overlapping reasons, tended to believe the Messiah would arise around when Jesus did.

Notice something that the first century Jewish historian Josephus wrote:

But now, what did the most elevate them in undertaking this war, was an ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings, how,"about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth." The Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular, and many of the wise men were thereby deceived in their determination. Now this oracle certainly denoted the government of Vespasian, who was appointed emperor in Judea. However, it is not possible for men to avoid fate, although they see it beforehand. But these men interpreted some of these signals according to their own pleasure, and some of them they utterly despised, until their madness was demonstrated, both by the taking of their city and their own destruction. (Josephus. Wars of the Jews Book 6, Chapter 5, paragraph 4)

What the above shows is that Josephus was aware of various ones who claimed to be the Messiah by or near his time (Vespasian was Emperor from 69-70 A.D.).

Notice that some from the East apparently expected the Messiah:

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."

3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

5 So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:

6 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.'"

7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also."

9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way. (Matthew 2:1-12)

Those from the East were probably of what are commonly referred to as the 'lost tribes' of Israel, which Josephus said were in the East:

...[W]herefore there are but two tribes in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans, while the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers (Flavius Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews, 11:5:2)

Of course, the Bible says that God had told a Jewish leader that he would see the Messiah before he died:

25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, 28 he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:

29 "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation
31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel."

33 And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against 35 (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." (Luke 2:25-35)

But how well he communicated any of this is unknown and it does not seemed to have assisted in getting more to accept Jesus as the Messiah. Similarly, notice the following:

36 Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; 37 and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38)

A prophetess confirmed that Jesus was the Messiah, but again it is not shown if many or any othrs really believed her.

Now, the New Testament records that some Jews thought that the Messiah could possibly come at the time of John the Baptist:

25 And they asked him, saying, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?"

26 John answered them, saying, "I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. 27 It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose." (John 1:25-27)

But again, whether or not many Jews were looking towards that time for specific biblical reasons is not clear from this, though it could be implied since John did not claim to be the Christ/Messiah.

But there is a Jewish source, from a Jew who converted to Christianity, that says that the time of Roman occupation was one that some felt that the Messiah would come:

In the category of guesses we must also place such vague statements, as that the Messiah would come, when all were righteous, or all wicked; or else nine months after the empire of Rome had extended over the whole world; or when all the souls, predestined to inhabit bodies, had been on earth. But as, after years of unrelieved sufferings, the Synagogue had to acknowledge that, one by one, all the terms had passed, and as despair settled on the heart of Israel, it came to be generally thought, that the time of Messiah's Advent could not be known beforehand, and that speculation on the subject was dangerous, sinful, even damnable. The time of the end had, indeed, been revealed to two sons of Adam, Jacob and David; but neither of them had been allowed to make it known. In view of this, it can scarcely be regarded as more than a symbolical, though significant guess, when the future redemption of Israel is expected on the Paschal Day, the 15th of Nisan. (What Messiah did the Jews Expect? Chapter 5:5 of The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book II. http://biblehub.com/library/edersheim/the_life_and_times_of_jesus_the_messiah/chapter_v_what_messiah_did.htm accessed 08/20/16)

Notice that the above shows that some Jews believed that the Messiah would come during the time of the Roman occupation, which began in 40 B.C. Thus, this is consistent with Jesus' arrival.

Consider also the following testimony from a Jewish leader during the time of Jesus:

34 Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them: "Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. 38 And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39 but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it — lest you even be found to fight against God." (Acts 5:34-39)

Obviously, for followers of those two men, the time of Jesus was the time that the Messiah would rise up.

Now, lest people think that this is simply from a Christian source, that is not so. Notice what the Jewish Encyclopedia and Josephus reported:

Pseudo-Messiah, who appeared during the consulate of Cuspius Fadus and succeeded in winning a large number of adherents. In proof of his Messianic mission he is said to have promised to lead his followers across the Jordan after dividing its waters simply by his word. Regarding this as indicative of open rebellion against Rome, Cuspius sent a division of cavalry against Theudas and his followers, who were almost entirely annihilated (comp. Acts v. 36). Theudas was decapitated, and his head was carried to Jerusalem as a trophy of victory. Bibliography: Josephus, Ant. xx. 5, § 1; Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. II. ii.; Schmidt, in Herzog-Plitt, Real-Encyc. xv. 553-557; Klein, in Schenkel, Bibel-Lexikon, v. 510-513; Schürer, Gesch. i. 566, and note 6. (Bacher W, Ochser S. Theudas. Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906.)

1. NOW it came to pass, while Fadus was procurator of Judea, that a certain magician, whose name was Theudas, persuaded a great part of the people to take their effects with them, and follow him to the river Jordan; for he told them he was a prophet, and that he would, by his own command, divide the river, and afford them an easy passage over it; and many were deluded by his words. However, Fadus did not permit them to make any advantage of his wild attempt, but sent a troop of horsemen out against them; who, falling upon them unexpectedly, slew many of them, and took many of them alive. They also took Theudas alive, and cut off his head, and carried it to Jerusalem. This was what befell the Jews in the time of Cuspius Fadus's government. (Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews. Book XX, Chapter 5, Verse 1).

As far as Cuspius Fadus goes, he was the procurator of Iudaea Province in 44–46 AD. Hence that is very close to the time of Jesus and both Jesus and Theudas would have been alive at the same time.

Second Esdras and the Dead Sea Scrolls

But before going further, notice something from the Jewish Apocrypha (two different translations being shown):

For indeed the time will come, when the signs that I have foretold to you will come to pass, that the city that now is not seen shall appear, and the land that now is hidden shall be disclosed. Everyone who has been delivered from the evils that I have foretold shall see my wonders. For my son the Messiah shall be revealed with those who are with him, and those who remain shall rejoice four hundred years. After those years my son the Messiah shall die, and all who draw human breath. Then the world shall be turned back to primeval silence for seven days, as it was at the first beginnings, so that no one shall be left. (2 Esdras 7:26-30)

[26] Behold, the time shall come, that these tokens which I have told thee shall come to pass, and the bride shall appear, and she coming forth shall be seen, that now is withdrawn from the earth.
[27] And whosoever is delivered from the foresaid evils shall see my wonders.
[28] For my son Jesus shall be revealed with those that be with him, and they that remain shall rejoice within four hundred years.
[29] After these years shall my son Christ die, and all men that have life.
[30] And the world shall be turned into the old silence seven days, like as in the former judgments: so that no man shall remain. (2 Esdras 7:26-30 also known as 4 Esdras 7:26-30 in the source I used)

Jerome, a Catholic saint and doctor of their church, referred to the above as 4th Esdras.

While it is presumably claimed to have been from the fourth or fifth century B.C., hence pointed to the approximate time of Jesus (if that was when the 400 years were to start), most scholars (including Jewish ones) believe it was written in the late first or early second century A.D. So, the above is not really proof that the Messiah was expected when Jesus arrived on the scene--but if it was from the 4th/5th century, it would be. Some feel that the Essenes may have written this to bolster their claim that the coming of the Messiah was imminent.

Back in 1996, Glenn Miller put together the following related to the Dead Sea Scrolls:

Dead Sea Scrolls

(Miller Glenn. Messianic Expectations in 1st Century Judaism --Documentation From Non-Christian Sources. August 6, 1996. http://christianthinktank.com/messiah.html accessed 08/21/16)

The Dead Sea Scrolls from the Qumran Caves date from the last three centuries BCE and the first century A.D. Many believe that the Essenes made them, though others believe they were penned priests in Jerusalem, Zadokites or other unknown Jewish groups.

Changing the Calculations Related to Daniel 9?

Now it has been claimed that Jewish leaders originally knew, based upon Daniel 9, about when the Messiah would arrive. However,it is claimed that they altered their beliefs on the age of the world as they rejected Jesus:

Indeed, it is manifestly apparent that the real reasons for the deliberate altering of their own national chronology in the Seder Olam were: (1) to conceal the fact that the Da 9:25 prophecy clearly pointed to Jesus of Nazareth as its fulfillment and therefore the long awaited Messiah, and (2) to make that seventy week of years prophecy point instead to Simon Bar Kokhba! Rabbis in the century immediately following Christ Jesus had a tremendous problem with so direct a prophecy as Da 9:24-27. This chapter speaks of Messiah's appearing 69 "weeks" (i.e., 69 sevens) or 483 years after the going forth of a commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem. This 538 BC prophecy {Da 9:1} unmistakably points to the start of the ministry of Jesus Christ in 29 AD. Such must either be acknowledged and his person accepted or completely erased from Jewish consciousness. The latter could be accomplished if the 69 (or 70) weeks of years could some

how be made to apply to the century after the life of Christ. Then it would be possible for the rabbis to point to another messiah who, as circumstances would have it, was cut off in death some 100 years after the crucifixion of our Lord.

The 10th day of the month Ab (c. mid-August) is a great day of sorrow to Israel. On this day in 588 BC, the Babylonians destroyed Solomon's Temple. Further, the second temple was laid waste by the Romans under Titus on the same day in 70 AD. And on this very day in 135 AD, at the conclusion of a 3 1/2-year revolt, the Romans crushed the army of the "messianic" Simon Bar Kokhba (also spelled "Cocheba").

Bar Kokhba had been declared the long-awaited Messiah by the foremost Jewish scholar of that day, the highly venerated Rabbi Akiva (Akiba) ben Joseph. In 130 AD. Emperor Haddrian of Rome declared his intention to raise a shrine to Jupiter on the site of the temple, and in 131 he issued a decree forbidding circumcision as well as public instruction in the Jewish law. Having preached peace all his life, the 90-year-old Akiva gave his blessing to the revolution by proclaiming that Bar Kokhba was the "star out of Jacob" and the "sceptre out of Israel." {Nu 24:17}

In his 98th year, Akiva was eventually imprisoned and condemned to death by the Romans. Among the many accolades heaped upon Akiva, that which elevated him as a pre-eminent authority, was the acknowledging of him as "the father of the Mishnah." Such prominence gave great weight to the messianic expectancy Akiva placed upon Bar Kokhba.

Akiva's students became some of the most prominent sages of the following generation. Among these was Yose (Josi) ben Halafta. Akiva's influence on Halafta is apparent from a statement made concerning his education; it was merely said that Rabbi Akiva had been his teacher. As his mentor Akiva's regard for Bar Kokhba would have been thoroughly imbedded in Yose.

The preceding overview explains why the Seder Olam is held in such veneration and why the Jews still use it for their national dating. Yet the fact remains that it is a dishonest attempt to conceal the truth with regard to the Da 9:24-27 prophecy.

By removing the 164 (or 165) years from the duration of the Persian Empire, Rabbi Halafta was able to make the 483 year Da 9:24-27 prophecy fall reasonably close to the years prior to the 132 AD revolt during thich Bar Kokhba rose to prominence as Israel's military and economic leader. Then with Akiva proclaiming, "This is the King Messiah" followed by "all the contemporary sages regarding him as the King Messiah," the Jewish populace united around this false hope.(Jones F. Appendix G: The Seder Olam Rabbah -- Why Jewish Dating is Different.In: Pierce L, Pierce M, editors. The Annals of the World. Master Books. Copyright 2003. ISBN: 089051-360-0, pp. 932-933)

I looked for more sources by Jewish writers, not those that claim to accept Jesus, to verify more parts of the above. So here is something from Josephus:

6. When therefore the generals of Antiochus's armies had been beaten so often, Judas assembled the people together, and told them, that after these many victories which God had given them, they ought to go up to Jerusalem, and purify the temple, and offer the appointed sacrifices. But as soon as he, with the whole multitude, was come to Jerusalem, and found the temple deserted, and its gates burnt down, and plants growing in the temple of their own accord, on account of its desertion, he and those that were with him began to lament, and were quite confounded at the sight of the temple; so he chose out some of his soldiers, and gave them order to fight against those guards that were in the citadel, until he should have purified the temple. When therefore he had carefully purged it, and had brought in new vessels, the candlestick, the table [of shew-bread], and the altar [of incense], which were made of gold, he hung up the veils at the gates, and added doors to them. He also took down the altar [of burnt-offering], and built a new one of stones that he gathered together, and not of such as were hewn with iron tools. So on the five and twentieth day of the month Casleu, which the Macedonians call Apeliens, they lighted the lamps that were on the candlestick, and offered incense upon the altar [of incense], and laid the loaves upon the table [of shew-bread], and offered burnt-offerings upon the new altar [of burnt-offering]. Now it so fell out, that these things were done on the very same day on which their Divine worship had fallen off, and was reduced to a profane and common use, after three years' time; for so it was, that the temple was made desolate by Antiochus, and so continued for three years. This desolation happened to the temple in the hundred forty and fifth year, on the twenty-fifth day of the month Apeliens, and on the hundred fifty and third olympiad: but it was dedicated anew, on the same day, the twenty-fifth of the month Apeliens, on the hundred and forty-eighth year, and on the hundred and fifty-fourth olympiad. And this desolation came to pass according to the prophecy of Daniel, which was given four hundred and eight years before; for he declared that the Macedonians would dissolve that worship [for some time]. (Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews. Book XII, Chapter 7, Verse 6).

The reason this is relevant as it shows that in the first century, at least one Jewish scholar said a period of time of 408 years from a prophecy of Daniel (probably Daniel 9:1-2) and the time that Antiochus descrated the Temple, whereas the Seder Olam uses a shorter amount of years for this span. Even Jewish scholars recogize this. Notice one:

In Summary, Josephus ... is working from a different chronology then Seder Olam. (Shulman M. Daniel 9 – Its Chronology and Meaning. © Moshe Shulman 2010. p. 22. http://www.judaismsanswer.com/Daniel%209%20Chronology.pdf accessed 07/30/16)

According to the date assigned to the reign of Darius the Mede as beginning 374 B.C. (per the interpretation of Pierce L, Pierce M, editors. The Annals of the World. Master Books. Copyright 2003, p. 932), and since Antiochus is well known to have made that destruction in 167 B.C., there is over over a 200 year difference here. And although Josephus may himself have too much time (that is hard to determine as the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede is debated, though more often presumed to be in the 6th century B.C. instead of the 4th century B.C. as the Seder Olam seems to point to). Thus, this reduction if time seems intentional in the Seder Olam, and likely is related to the rise of Christianity as the Seder Olam, did not come out until a generation after Josephus.

.Notice something else from the Talmud:

It has been taught; R. Nathan said: This verse pierces and descends to the very abyss: For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though he tarry, wait for him; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Not as our Masters, who interpreted the verse, until a time and times and the dividing of time;  nor as R. Simlai who expounded, Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink a third time; nor as R. Akiba who expounded, Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth: but the first dynasty shall last seventy years, the second, fifty two, and the reign of Bar Koziba  two and a half years.

R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Jonathan: Blasted be the bones of those who calculate the end. For they would say, since the predetermined time has arrived, and yet he has not come, he will never come. But, wait for him, as it is written, Though he tarry, wait for him. (Sanhedrin 97b. Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin)

Consider that the Babylonian Talmud dates from the 3rd to 5th centuries. By that time, some in Judaism realized, apparently based upon their improper understanding of Habakkuk 2, Daniel 9, and other materials, that the Messiah should have already came. Of course, Jesus did come (see The KEY To The Crucifixion Date which goes into more depth about Daniel 9), but they would not accept Him.

(As far as the approximate year from the time Adam and Eve were put out of the Garden of Eden to present, check out the article Does God Have a 6,000 Year Plan? What Year Does the 6,000 Years End?)

The Messiah and the Jews

The Jews have most definitely expected a Messiah, based on many passages in the Old Testament. Some Jews and others expected a Messiah in the first century.

The New Testament states that some believed Jesus came when certain Jews (and others) expected to see the Messiah.

There is evidence in Jewish historical writings that back this up, and some feel that the Jews changed their views on some of this because they did not accept Jesus.

For more information on Jewish year calculations, Jesus, and the length of this age, check out the article Does God Have a 6,000 Year Plan? What Year Does the 6,000 Years End?

For more information on Jesus, check out the article Jesus: The Son of God and Saviour.

Bob Thiel. Was there an expectation among Judaism for a Messiah around the time of Jesus? COGwriter (c) 2016 http://www.cogwriter.com/jewish-messianic-expectations.htm 2016 1212

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