2019 Study Summary 4: “We Have Found the Messiah”
What and Who is the Word?
Gospel writers had different approaches in describing Jesus’ life. John’s purpose is to explain WHAT He is and begins by describing Him as the WORD. To the Jews, the scriptures, the words of God, are so special they must never touch the ground. Many use a pointer to read the words rather than touch the scrolls with their fingers. The scroll cabinet, the “Ark,” is said to contain the “presence of God.”
Messiah Means Anointed:
The word Messiah literally means “the anointed one.” Anointing includes the practical and symbolic qualities of softening and healing. “Anointing with oil is a very ancient custom . . . done for both practical and symbolic reasons. The practical use was cosmetic, to soften and protect the skin, as well as medicinal, to heal various afflictions. Anointing also figured in the coronation of the king, in the ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests, and in the purification of a person . . . These anointings . . . symbolized the new rank and power given to the anointed person and they evoked God’s blessing on him.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)
As late as 11th century, there were still some Jewish scholars who saw, as basic to the Jewish religion, the following four principles:
- (1) belief in God;
- (2) belief in the prophets;
- (3) belief in the World to Come; and
- (4) belief in the coming of the Messiah.
The latter two items of a belief in a world to come and in the coming of the Messiah have greatly diminished in modern Jewish society.
Jewish Messianic Expectations:
A comparison might be helpful in identifying the true Messiah and what He would really do. “In traditional Judaism, the Messiah will be a human being — albeit it a perfect one — who will . . . bring harmony to the world. He will not have a divine aspect other than having been chosen by God for his task. The Hebrew word for Messiah, mashi’ah, means “anointed” and indicates that the Messiah has been chosen by God. The coming of the Messiah therefore has come to mean the redemption of the Jewish people and an end to its suffering and tribulations.”
“According to the Talmud, the Messiah will be a descendant of the House of David and will be preceded by a secondary Messiah, from the House of Joseph. Folklore has it that he will arrive riding a donkey, although some sources have him arriving triumphantly riding the clouds . . . “In modern Judaism, the idea of the Messiah has undergone great change. Reform Judaism has substituted a belief in a perfect world when mankind progresses sufficiently, and many Orthodox thinkers describe the establishment of the State of Israel as “the beginning of the redemption,” that is, the start of the messianic era.”
An early example of messianic expectation took place during the period of the Second Temple in Judah. The turbulence accompanying the rule of King Herod and, later, that of the Romans led to the emergence of messianic leaders, each of whom claimed to be the “king of Israel,” about to free the Jews from the hated foreign rulers. Many of these, like Jesus of Nazareth, were crucified for their efforts. (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)
The Herods preceding and during Jesus’ time had a significant role in establishing a political and economic era that provided an environment of enough religious freedom that the ancient law and priesthood could be restored. It was the precise time that events would result in the Savior’s great atonement for all mankind, a deliverance, largely unnoticed at the time, that had eternal implications for everyone.
“Herod I (73–4 B.C.E.), a cunning and ruthless tyrant and vassal of Rome, was king of Judea from 37 B.C.E. until his death.” [4 B.C.E. may be an error because of the murder of Bethlehem’s children in 2 C.E.] “In 41 B.C.E. Herod . . . he was granted the Judean throne by Mark Antony and Octavian. With Antony’s aid Herod took Jerusalem in 37 B.C.E.” “. . . Always fearful of opposition, he had murdered all members of the Hasmonean family who were potential threats to his power, including his wife Mariamne and her embittered sons Alexander and Aristobulus, Hyrcanus, and his own son and heir Antipater. When granting permission for Antipater’s death in 4 B.C.E., Augustus is reported to have commented: “It is better to be Herod’s pig than his son,” because Herod would not eat pork. Herod himself died five days later.” “One of the few productive aspects of his reign was the large number of cities, fortresses and palaces he had built . . . also employed 11,000 workmen to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and it was so beautiful that people said: “He who has not seen the Temple does not know what beauty is.” His last act was to have burned alive two Jewish scholars who had incited the people to remove the Roman eagle from the Temple facade. His death was celebrated throughout Judea.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)
“Wise Men” Visit Herod:
The New Testament reports that it was this Herod who ordered all babies in the nearby town of Bethlehem up to two-years old to be killed in response to the “wise men” who came looking for the “new king” about two years after He was born. There are three Book of Mormon prophets in this particular time frame who prophesied the Lord’s imminent coming. These three also seemed to “disappear,” or, “were not heard of again,” an Alma, Samuel the Lamanite, and a Nephi. Alma and Nephi had light skin and Samuel the Lamanite, likely, a darker skin. (Alma 45:18, Helaman 16:7-8, 3 Nephi 1:3, 3 Nephi 2:9) “Our Lord’s birth into mortality was accompanied by the appearance of a new star in the heavens. One of Samuel the Lamanite’s Messianic prophecies foretold this heavenly sign (Helaman. 14:5), and the Nephites knew of the promised birth because they saw the new star that arose according to Samuel’s word.” (3 Nephi 1:21.)” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p.765)
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“An early example of messianic expectation took place during the period of the Second Temple in Judah. The turbulence accompanying the rule of King Herod and, later, that of the Romans led to the emergence of messianic leaders, each of whom claimed to be the “king of Israel,” about to free the Jews from the hated foreign rulers. Many of these, like Jesus of Nazareth, were crucified for their efforts.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)
A Better Time for the Savior’s Coming:
It is important to note that Herodian and Roman rule was not always oppressive. Most of the difficulties that the Jews encountered were caused by a fairly-small segment of society, the Zealots, who made murderous raids against the Roman government. Immediately preceding Jesus’ life, another series of events paralleled the political and economic events of the time. A prophet, named John, son of a High Priest, Zacharias, was preparing the way for a deliverer. His effort was to teach the people to have faith in the true redeemer, repent, and make covenants so that they might receive the Holy Spirit which the redeemer would give them.
The First Principles:
In Judaism, Faith, Repentance, Baptism (immersion – Mikveh) and the Holy Spirit are viewed as follows.
“In the Bible there are no articles of faith or dogmas in which the Jew is commanded to believe. Belief in God’s existence and infinite ability is taken for granted and is the basis of the Bible.” . . . The biblical word emunah (and its other forms) which is often translated as “belief” really means “trust” or “confidence,” which is something quite different.
“A unique aspect of the Jewish faith is that although God rules the world with absolute justice, He is also merciful and forgives sins against Him”. . . . Although Judaism sees sin as a most serious matter, even the sinner is not without hope . . . firstly the sinner must reflect on his actions and realize that he has indeed done the wrong thing. He must then make up his mind never to do it again, and confess his sin.
Conversion – Immersion:
“A convert to Judaism is considered a new-born child, and, from the halakhic point of view, he has no father or mother. Thus, if a whole family converts, the children and the parents start their lives as Jews with no legal relationship . . . A husband and wife who convert must also have another wedding ceremony in order to be married under Jewish law.” “After thorough study . . . . ready for the rituals of conversion . . . for both males and females the bet din oversees their immersion in a ritual bath (mikveh).”
“Ruah ha-Kodesh (holy spirit) is often used as a synonym for prophecy. However, according to some rabbis, unlike prophecy, there are some types of ruah ha-kodesh which also can be attained by doing good deeds.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)
“Briefly the basic legal requirements are these:
- 1) A mikveh must (be filled) with water from a naturally flowing source; spring water or rainwater are the ideal sources, . . .
- 2) The water must be able to flow into the mikveh freely and unimpeded (any blockage renders the water “drawn water”) . . .
- 3) The minimum size of the mikveh is of a vessel which has a volume of . . . between 250 and 1,000 liters (quarts).
- 4) The mikveh must be watertight and must be constructed of natural materials on the spot . . .”
(Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)
John the Levite:
John, a Levite, was administering immersions in a classic Jewish environment. The water source came from springs (living water), it flowed freely (Jordan River), it exceeded the minimum amount of water needed, and it was a natural setting. Jewish tradition also includes a requirement that the Mikveh should be below ground level. The Jordan River, where John the Baptist was immersing people, is at the lowest place on the face of the earth, near the Dead Sea.
John prepared the way, was a forerunner of the Savior, Jesus of Nazareth. John taught that recognition of the Messiah came through Faith, Repentance, Baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sins and the Gift of the Holy Ghost.