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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature

Messiah

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Messi´ah (anointed, which is also the signification of Christ). In order to have an accurate idea of the Scriptural application of the term, we must consider the custom of anointing which obtained among the Jews. That which was specifically set apart for God's service was anointed, whether persons or things [ANOINTING]. Thus we read that Jacob poured oil upon the pillar (; ). The tabernacle also and its utensils were anointed (), being thereby appropriated to God's service. But this ceremony had, moreover, relation to persons. Thus priests, as Aaron and his sons, were anointed, that they might minister unto God (; ). Kings were anointed. Hence it is that a king is designated the Lord's anointed. Saul and David were, according to the divine appointment, anointed by Samuel (; ; ; ). Zadok anointed Solomon, that there might be no dispute who should succeed David (). We cannot speak with confidence as to whether the prophets were actually anointed with the material oil. We have neither an express law nor practice to this effect on record. True it is that Elijah is commanded to anoint Elisha to be prophet in his room (); but no more may be meant by this expression than that he should constitute him his successor in the prophetic office; for all that he did, in executing his divine commission, was to cast his own garment upon Elisha (); upon which he arose and ministered unto him (). For kings and priests the precept and practice are unquestionable.

But the name Messiah is, par excellence, applied to the Redeemer of man in the Old Testament (; ). The words of Hannah, the mother of Samuel, at the close of her divine song, are very remarkable (): 'The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces; out of heaven shall He thunder upon them: the Lord shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his Messiah.' The Hebrews as yet had no king; hence the passage may be taken as a striking prophecy of the promised deliverer. In various parts of the New Testament is this epithet applied to Jesus. St. Peter (; ) informs Cornelius the centurion that God had anointed Jesus of Nazareth to be the Christ, and our Lord himself acknowledges to the woman of Samaria that he is the expected Messiah (). This term, however, as applied to Jesus, is less a name than the expression of his office.

Thus the Jews had in type, under the Mosaic dispensation, what we have in substance under the Christian system. The prophets, priests, and kings of the former economy were types of Him who sustains these offices as the head of his mystical body, the Church. As the priests and kings of old were set apart for their offices and dignities by a certain form prescribed in the law of Moses, so was the blessed Savior by a better anointing (of which the former was but a shadow), even by the Holy Ghost. Thus the apostle tells us that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost, and with power (). He was anointed:

First, at his conception: the angel tells Mary, 'The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God' ().

Second, at his baptism at the river Jordan (; ). St. Luke, moreover, records' (; ) that our Lord being at Nazareth, he had given unto Him the book of the prophet Isaiah; and on reading from , 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,' etc., He said to His hearers, 'This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.'

But as the Jews will not acknowledge the right of either Jesus or His apostles to apply the prophetic passages which point to the Messiah to Himself, it now remains for us to show—

First, That the promised Messiah has already come.

Second, That Jesus of Nazareth is unquestionably He.

To prove the first assertion, we shall confine our remarks to three prophecies. The first occurs in ; , where Jacob is giving his sons his parting benediction, etc. When he comes to Judah he says: 'The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.' It is evident that by Judah is here meant, not the person but the tribe; for Judah died in Egypt, without any pre-eminence. By scepter and lawgiver are obviously intended the legislative and ruling power, which did, in the course of time, commence in David, and which, for centuries afterwards, was continued in his descendants. Whatever variety the form of government—whether monarchical or aristocratical—might have assumed, the law and polity were still the same. This prediction all the ancient Jews referred to the Messiah. Now, that the scepter has departed from Judah, and, consequently, that the Messiah has come, we argue from the acknowledgments of some most learned Jews themselves. The precise time when all authority departed from Judah is disputed. Some date its departure from the time when Herod, an Idumean, set aside the Maccabees and Sanhedrim. Others think that it was when Vespasian and Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, that the Jews lost the last vestige of authority. If, therefore, the scepter has departed from Judah—and who can question it who looks at the broken-up, scattered, and lost state of that tribe for ages?—the conclusion is clearly irresistible, that the Messiah must have long since come!

The next proof that the Messiah has long since come, may be adduced from . It is evident that the true Messiah is here spoken of. He is twice designated by the very name. And if we consider what the work is which he is here said to accomplish, we shall have a full confirmation of this. Who but He could finish and take away transgression, make reconciliation for iniquity, bring in everlasting righteousness, seal up the vision and prophecy, confirm the covenants with many, and cause to cease the sacrifice and oblation? If then it be the true Messiah who is described in the above prophecy, it remains for us to see how the time predicted for His coming has long since transpired. This is expressly said to be seventy weeks from the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem. That by seventy weeks are to be understood seventy sevens of years, a day being put for a year, and a week for seven years, making up 490 years, is allowed by Kimchi, Jarchi, Rabbi Saadias, and other learned Jews, as well as by many Christian commentators. This period of time then must have long since elapsed, whether we date its commencement from the first decree of Cyrus (), the second of Darius Hystaspes (), or that of Artaxerxes ().

We can only barely allude to one remarkable prediction more, which fixes the time of the Messiah's advent, viz., : 'I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of Hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of Hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of Hosts.' The glory here spoken of must be in reference to the Messiah, or on some other account. It could not have been said that the second Temple exceeded in glory the former one; for in many particulars, according to the acknowledgment of the Jews themselves, it was far inferior both as a building (; ), and in respect of the symbols and tokens of God's special favor being wanting. The promised glory, therefore, must refer to the coming and presence of Him who was promised to the world before there was any nation of the Jews: and who is aptly called the 'Desire of all nations.' This view is amply confirmed by the prophet Malachi (). Since then the very Temple into which the Savior was to enter, has for ages been destroyed, He must, if the integrity of this prophecy be preserved, have come. That there was, at the time of our Lord's birth, a great expectation of the Messiah, both among Jews and Gentiles, may be seen from Tacitus, Suetonius, and Josephus, as well as from the sacred Scriptures. We may just add, that as there was a general expectation of the Messiah at this time, so there were many impostors who drew after them many followers (Josephus, Antiq. xx. 8, 6; Wars of the Jews, ii. 13, 3). Christ prophesies of such persons (; ).

The limits of this article will admit of our only touching upon the proofs that Jesus of Nazareth, and none other, is the very Messiah who was to come. What was predicted of the Messiah was fulfilled in Jesus. Was the Messiah to be of the seed of the woman (), and this woman a virgin? (). So we are told (; ; ) that Jesus was made of a woman, and born of a virgin. Was it predicted that He (Messiah) should be of the tribe of Judah, of the family of Jesse, and of the house of David? (; ; ; ). This was fulfilled in Jesus (; ; ) [GENEALOGY].

2. If the Messiah was to be a prophet like unto Moses, so was Jesus also (; ). If the Messiah was to appear in the second Temple, so did Jesus (; ; ).

3. Was Messiah to work miracles? (; comp. ).

4. If the Messiah was to suffer and die (Isaiah 53), we find that Jesus died in the same manner, at the very time, and under the identical circumstances, which were predicted of Him. The very man who betrayed Him, the price for which He was sold, the indignities He was to receive in His last moments, the parting of His garments, and His last words, etc., were all foretold of the Messiah, and accomplished in Jesus.

5. Was the Messiah to rise from the dead? So did Jesus. How stupendous and adorable is the Providence of God, who, through so many apparent contingencies, brought such things to pass!

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Messiah'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/kbe/m/messiah.html.

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