AskDefine | Define messiah

Dictionary Definition



1 any expected deliverer [syn: christ]
2 Jesus Christ; considered by Christians to be the promised deliverer
3 the awaited king of the Jews; the promised and expected deliverer of the Jewish people

User Contributed Dictionary

see Messiah



  • /məˈsaɪ.ə/
  • SAMPA: /m@"saI@/


From Hebrew משיח, mashiach


  1. (Judeo-Christian tradition) The one who is ordained by God to lead the people of Israel, believed by Christians to be Jesus Christ.
  2. An extremely powerful divine figure.


ordained to lead the people of Israel
an extremely powerful divine figure

Related terms

Translations to be checked

Extensive Definition

This article is about the concept of a Messiah in religion, notably in the Christian, Islamic and Jewish traditions. For other uses, see Messiah (disambiguation).
Messiah (; Aramaic: , Aramaic/Syriac: , ; , ) Literally, Messiah means "The Anointed (One)", typically someone anointed with holy anointing oil. Figuratively, anointing is done to signify being chosen for a task; so, Messiah means "The Chosen (One)", particularly someone divinely chosen.
In Jewish messianic tradition and eschatology, Messiah refers to a future King of Israel from the Davidic line, who will rule the people of united tribes of Israel and herald the Messianic Age. In Standard Hebrew, The Messiah is often referred to as מלך המשיח, (in the Tiberian vocalization pronounced ), literally meaning "the Anointed King."
Christians believe that prophecies in the Hebrew Bible refer to a spiritual savior, and believe Jesus to be that Messiah (Christ). In the (Greek) Septuagint version of the Old Testament, khristos was used to translate the Hebrew מָשִׁיַח (,) (messiah), meaning "anointed."
In Islam, Jesus (Isa) is also called the Messiah (Masih), but like in Judaism he is not considered to be the Son of God.
The Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek translates all thirty-nine instances of the word messiah as Christos. The New Testament records the Greek transliteration Μεσσίας, Messias, twice, in John and .

View in Judaism

In The Tanakh

The concept of the messiah is neither common nor unified in the Tanakh. The term is used in the Hebrew Bible to describe Israelite priests, prophets, and kings who were anointed with oil in consecration to their respective offices. For example, Cyrus the Great, the king of Persia, is referred to as "God's anointed" (Messiah) in the Bible.
The Tanakh contains a number (the number is debated) of prophecies concerning a future descendant of King David who will be anointed as the Jewish people's new leader (moshiach).
Christians believe that Daniel (Hebrew: דָּנִיֵּאל, or Daniyyel) was a prophet and gave an indication of when the Messiah, the prince “mashiyach nagiyd,” would come.() Daniel's prophecies refer to him as a descendant of King David who will rebuild the nation of Israel, destroy the wicked, and ultimately judge the whole world. Jews hold that the mashiach nagid mentioned in Daniel was Cyrus, king of Persia.
This subject is covered in more detail in the article on Jewish eschatology.
The Hebrew word for messiah translates to "anointed". Thus, to reformed Jews there have been many messiahs — all the anointed kings and priests including David, Solomon and Aaron. When speaking of the Messiah of the future, modern Jews speak of two potential messiahs. Moshiach ben Yossef (Messiah son of Joseph) and Moshiach ben David (Messiah son of David) The Hebrew ben can mean either son or descendant. In this sense it can also mean "in the manner of," i.e., there will be a "suffering servant" messiah in the manner of Joseph son of Israel/Jacob and a different messiah in the manner of King David.
A common modern rabbinic interpretation is that there is a potential messiah in every generation. The Talmud which often uses stories to make a moral point (aggadah) tells the tale of a highly respected rabbi who found the Messiah at the gates of Rome and asked him "When will you finally come?" He was quite surprised when he was told, "Today." Overjoyed and full of anticipation, the man waited all day. The next day he returned, disappointed and puzzled, and asked, "You said messiah would come 'today' but he didn't come! What happened?" The Messiah replied, "Scripture says, 'Today, if you will but hearken to His voice. " (Psalm )
Orthodox Judaism and Conservative Judaism believe in a unique future physical messiah who will usher in the messianic age of war before peace to the world.
Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism teach both the belief in a messiah or messiahs, or that there will be a time of peace, etc., but that it will be the result of tikkun olam ("repair of the world") through human efforts toward social justice, not the actions of one man.
"Choice is the underlying reason the Reform Movement gave up the need for and belief in a single messiah who would one day bring judgment, and perhaps salvation, to the world. The fact that God imbues us with free choice mitigates the need for a messianic figure."
Many Jews today feel that although the Messiah may still descend upon us, we will reject his declaration as the true Messiah. The standards that have been set and the Jewish inclination to question such a claim may be difficult for the Jewish population to overcome and, in turn, accept the Messiah.

Christian view

Christianity emerged in the 1st century AD as a movement among Jews and their Gentile converts who believed that Jesus is the Messiah; the very name of "Christian" refers to the Greek word for 'Messiah' (χριστος Khristos). Christians commonly refer to Jesus as either the "Christ" or the "Messiah;" in Christian theology the two words are synonymous.
Christians understand Jesus to be the Messiah that Jews were expecting (). The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus. However, the Christian concept of the Christ/Messiah as "the Word made Flesh" is fundamentally different from the Jewish and Islamic (Shafaat, 2003) concepts because a majority of Christians believe Jesus claimed to be God (cf. ; ; ; and the following):
  • (NIV) I and the Father are one.
  • (NIV) .", a mere man, claim to be God..."
  • (NIV) "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father."
Furthermore, the idea can also be looked at in such a manner: I am of/from my father, yet I am my own self. Just as Jesus was of/from God, yet He is His own self.
In Christian theology, the Christ/Messiah serves four main functions:
  • He suffers and dies to make atonement before God for the sins of all humanity, because God's justice requires that sins be punished, according to Penal substitution theology. See for examples and , which Christianity interprets as referring to Jesus.
  • He serves as a living example of how God expects people to act.
  • He will establish peace and rule the world for a long time. See Nicene Creeds of 325 and 381 A.D.; : "… They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 6 … they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years." (see Millennialism).
  • He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and he came to earth as a human. John 1:1-2,14a: 1. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. 2. He was with God in the beginning. 14a The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
In the New Testament, Jesus often referred to himself as 'Son of Man' (; ), which Christianity interprets as a reference to (NIV):
In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Because Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah, and that he claimed to be the Son of Man referred to by Daniel, Christianity interprets as a statement of the Messiah's authority and that the Messiah will have an everlasting kingdom. Jesus' use of this title is seen as a direct claim to be the Messiah.
Some identified Jesus as the Messiah () his opponents accused him of such a claim (), and he is recorded at least twice as asserting it himself directly (, .
Christianity interprets a wide range of biblical passages in the Old Testament (Hebrew scripture) as predicting the coming of the Messiah (see Christianity and Biblical prophecy for examples), and believes that they are following Jesus' own explicit teaching:
  • He said to them..."Did not the Christ/Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself." (Luke 24: 25-27, NIV)
  • Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:45-47, NIV).
  • The book of Matthew repeatedly says, "This was to fulfill the prophecy…."
Christianity believes many of the Messianic prophecies were fulfilled in the mission, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and seeks to spread throughout the world its interpretation that the Messiah is the only Saviour, and that Jesus will return to fulfill the rest of Messianic prophecy in human form.

Mormon view

Mormons' belief in the Atonement of the Messiah for the sins of the world parallels that of Christian religions. They believe that King David referred to this waiting period in the following quote from Psalms:
THE LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath. He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries. He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.
They believe that in the last days, all the nations of the world will gather against the Jews, and that the Messiah will return and stand on the Mount of Olives, causing it to split and allowing the residue of the Jews to flee out of Jerusalem:
Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.
It is there, after their flight from the city, that Christ will present himself to the Jews so that they may see the wounds of his crucifixion, and they will realize that he was their Messiah:
And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.

Islamic view

The Quran states that Jesus is the Messiah, and Muslims believe that Jesus is alive in Heaven and will return to Earth to defeat the Antichrist.
A hadith in Abu Dawud () says:
"Narrated Abu Hurayrah: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: There is no prophet between me and him, that is, Jesus (peace be upon him). He will descend (to the earth). When you see him, recognise him: a man of medium height, reddish hair, wearing two light yellow garments, looking as if drops were falling down from his head though it will not be wet. He will fight for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill swine, and abolish jizyah. God will perish all religions except Islam. He will destroy the Antichrist and will live on the earth for forty years and then he will die. The Muslims will pray behind him."
Muslims believe that al-Mahdi will arrive first, and after him, Jesus. Jesus will proclaim that the true leader is al-Mahdi. A war, literally Jihad (Jihade Asghar) will be fought - the Dajjal (evil) against al-Mahdi and Jesus (good). This war will mark the approach of the coming of the Last Day. After Jesus slays al-Masīh al-Dajjāl (literally "the Deceiving Messiah," loosely the Antichrist; often referred to simply as "Dajjāl") at the Gate of Lud, Muslims believe he will marry, die, and be buried in the Masjid al Nabawi. During his life, he will have revealed that Islam is the last word of God.
A hadith in Sahih Bukhari () says:
"How will you be when the son of Mary descends amongst you and your Imam is from amongst you."
A very few scholars outside of Orthodox Islam reject all the quotes attributed to Muhammad (Hadith) that mention the second return of Jesus, the Dajjal and Imam Mahdi, believing that they have no Qur'anic basis. These scholars believe that the verb mutawwafika in verse implies that God caused the bodily death of Jesus, thus (3:55) should read as "O Jesus, I terminate your life, raise you to Me." Others disagree with the implication of termination of Jesus’ life (for example Yusuf Ali’s translation reads: “O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself”). Verses imply that Jesus was not killed physically but it appeared as such in some other sense; Verse implies that Jesus will die someday. The vast majority of Muslims, and the unified opinion of Orthodox Islam since Islam's coming, maintain that the bodily death of Jesus will happen after his second coming.
Many classical commentators such as Ibn Kathir, At-Tabari, al-Qurtubi, Suyuti, al-Undlusi (Bahr al-Muhit), Abu al-Fadl al-Alusi (Ruh al-Maani) and many others clearly mention that verse of the Qur'an refers to the descent of Jesus before the Day of Resurrection, indicating that Jesus would be the Sign that the Hour is close.
"And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgment): therefore have no doubt about the (Hour)..." ( and )
Those that reject the second coming of Jesus argue that the knowledge of the Hour is only with God, and that the Hour will come suddenly. They maintain that if the second coming of Jesus were true, whenever it happens, billions of people would then be certain the Hour is about to come. The response given to this is that signs that the Last Hour is near have been foretold and given, including that of the second coming of Jesus, as signs indicating the Last Hour is near. They will not clarify when it is to come in any specific sense, and hence do not reveal it.
Another relevant verse from the Qur'an:
"And there is none of the People of the Book but must believe in him before his death" ()
As an example of a Qur'anic verse that is considered to refer to the end time events:
"Before this We wrote in the Psalms, after the Message (given to Moses): My servants the righteous, shall inherit the earth." ()

Ahmadiyya view

The Ahmadiyya Muslim faith, (considered deviated by mainstream Islam), believes that the terms "Messiah" and "Mahdi" (Messiah of Islam) are synonymous terms for one and the same person. like the term Messiah which, among other meanings, in essence means being anointed by God or appointed by God the term "Mahdi" means guided by God, thus both imply a direct ordainment and a spiritual nurturing by God of a divinely chosen individual. According to Ahmadiyya thought, Messiahship is a phenomenon, through which a special emphasis is given on the transformation of a people by way of offering suffering for the sake of God instead of giving suffering (i.e. refraining from revenge). Ahmadis believe that this special emphasis was given through the person of Jesus and Mirza Ghulam Ahmad among others.
Ahmadis hold that the prophesied eschatological figures of varios religions, the coming of the Messiah and Mahdi in fact were to be fulfilled in one person who was to represent all previous prophets. The prophecies concerning the Mahdi or the second coming of Jesus are seen by Ahmadis as metaphorical, in that one was to be born and rise within the dispensation of Muhammad, who by virtue of his similarity and affinity with Jesus of Nazareth, and the similarity in nature, temerament and disposition of the people of Jesus' time and the people of the time of the promised one (the Mahdi) is called by the same name.
Numerous Hadith are presented by the Ahmadis in support of their view such as one from Sunan Ibn Majah which says:
"There is No Mahdi but Isa son of Maryam" (Ibn Majah, Bab, Shahadatu-Zaman)
Ahmadis believe that the prophecies concerning the Mahdi have been fulfilled in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (1835-1908) the founder. Contrary to mainstream Islam the Ahmadiyya do not believe that Jesus is alive in heaven, but that he survived the crucifixion and migrated towards the east where he died a natural death and that Ghulam Ahmad was only the promised spiritual second coming and likeness of Jesus, the promised Messiah and Mahdi

Bahá'í Faith view

Bahá'ís believe in the essential unity of all the Prophets, as Manifestations of the same God. As such each Prophet is a return of the last prophet, the same spirit and message, and the only difference is in the non-essential teachings related to the exigencies of the day and age.
"Bahá'ís believe that in the past literal interpretations of the signs related to the Messiah, the Second Coming, or the Mahdi have blinded people's eyes towards the message of God: (Daniel 9:25-26)
Consider the past. How many, both high and low, have, at all times, yearningly awaited the advent of the Manifestations of God in the sanctified persons of His chosen Ones. How often have they expected His coming, how frequently have they prayed that the breeze of Divine mercy might blow, and the promised Beauty step forth from behind the veil of concealment, and be made manifest to all the world. And whensoever the portals of grace did open, and the clouds of divine bounty did rain upon mankind, and the light of the Unseen did shine above the horizon of celestial might, they all denied Him, and turned away from His face — the face of God Himself…." Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh

Other Messiahs

See Jewish Messiah claimants for an overview of such claimants and links to more detailed articles.
In Stregheria, Jesus is believed to have been a sort of "evil messiah" or false messiah, while Aradia de Toscano is seen as the true saviour.
Adherents to the Unification Movement consider Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon to be the Second Coming of Jesus Christ figuratively, not literally. They believe he has the mission of Christ (whom they believe isn't God).
The Shakers believed that Jesus was the male Messiah and Mother Ann Lee, the female Messiah.
The Messianic Laborers believe there is a prince messiah who has suffered civil death and that he is the one spoken of in Daniel 9:26.
Kevin Keegan the manager of English Premier League side Newcastle United has been known as the Messiah to the fans on Tyneside.

Messianic figure

A messianic figure is a person who is viewed as having a number of the characteristics of the Messiah in the eyes of a particular group. These usually include that the person is charismatic, influential, develops a power base, is appealing to a large group that views itself as oppressed in some way, and appears to offer a way to overthrow that oppression. Examples of messianic figures include St. Joan of Arc, said to have visions to deliver France from English domination near the end of the Hundred Years' War, Adolf Hitler, who claimed he would deliver Germany from economic oppression.

See also


External links

Non-specific religious


messiah in Arabic: مسيح
messiah in Official Aramaic (700-300 BCE): ܡܫܝܚܐ‏
messiah in Bengali: মসিহ
messiah in Bulgarian: Месия
messiah in Catalan: Messies
messiah in Czech: Mesiáš
messiah in Danish: Messias
messiah in German: Messias
messiah in Modern Greek (1453-): Μεσσίας
messiah in Spanish: Mesías
messiah in Esperanto: Mesio
messiah in Persian: مسیح
messiah in French: Messie
messiah in Korean: 메시아
messiah in Bishnupriya: মেসসইয়াস
messiah in Indonesian: Mesias
messiah in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Messia
messiah in Icelandic: Messías
messiah in Italian: Messia
messiah in Hebrew: משיח (דתות)
messiah in Haitian: Mesi
messiah in Lithuanian: Mesijas
messiah in Hungarian: Messiás
messiah in Macedonian: Месија
messiah in Malay (macrolanguage): Al-Masih
messiah in Dutch: Messias
messiah in Japanese: メシア
messiah in Norwegian: Messias
messiah in Occitan (post 1500): Messias
messiah in Polish: Pomazaniec
messiah in Portuguese: Messias
messiah in Russian: Мессия
messiah in Albanian: Mesia
messiah in Simple English: Messiah
messiah in Slovak: Mesiáš
messiah in Serbian: Месија
messiah in Finnish: Messias
messiah in Swedish: Messias
messiah in Thai: เมสไซยาห์
messiah in Turkish: Mesih
messiah in Wolof: Almasi bi
messiah in Yiddish: משיח
messiah in Chinese: 彌賽亞

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Christ, Christ Jesus, Emmanuel, God the Son, God-man, Immanuel, Jesu, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, King of Glory, King of Heaven, King of Kings, Lamb of God, Lord Jesus, Lord of Lords, Lord our Righteousness, Our Lord, Prince of Peace, Redeemer, Savior, Son of God, Son of Man, deliverer, emancipator, liberator, rescuer, savior, the Advocate, the Anointed, the Christ, the Christ Child, the Door, the Galilean, the Good Shepherd, the Infant Jesus, the Intercessor, the Judge, the Lamb, the Life, the Master, the Mediator, the Nazarene, the Only-Begotten, the Risen, the True Vine, the Truth, the Vine, the WayMahdi, bell cow, bell mare, bellwether, born leader, charismatic leader, choirmaster, choragus, conductor, coryphaeus, duce, file leader, forerunner, fugleman, inspired leader, leader, leader of men, pacemaker, pacesetter, precentor, ringleader, standard-bearer, symphonic conductor, torchbearer
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