Term Paper: Messiah in Old Testament

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Messiah in Old Testament

The Messianic prophesies and their fulfillment

The history and tradition of the predictions of a Messiah can be found in many passage of the Old Testament. The Messiah is in most instances closely related to the purpose that God has in the world. These prophesies and intimations about the Messiah start with the first book of the Bible and there are many references to the coming of a Messiah in the earlier books of the Old Testament, before the more extensive references to the Messiah in the book of Isaiah

For a long time before Isaiah was born, the Hebrews had believed Yahweh's purpose in the world would be realized through them and it involved their establishment in the land of Canaan as the leading nation of the world. The achievement of this goal would be brought about under the leadership of men who would act as Yahweh's agents or representatives among them.

Patterson 213)

It is also an important part of the discussion of this subject to be aware of the complexities and problematics of a direct and overly simplistic linkage between Old Testament prophetic statements about the Messiah and the image and message of Jesus Christ in the New Testament texts. As the above quotation indicates, the Old Testament Messianic vision is largely related to the future history of the Jewish people and has historic and political connotations. While these problematics are largely outside of the parameters of this study as such, yet it is also important to take note of the fact that important Old Testament prophets like Isaiah saw the Messiah in possibly a different light to the way that Jesus is portrayed in the New Testament. For example, a study of the prophecies of Isaiah by Patterson (1953) states the following.

The most important of Isaiah's messianic prophecies are found in Chapters 9:1-9, and 11:1-9, although there are many other passages in his writings which reflect the messianic idea. A careful study of these writings does not indicate that the prophet had in mind any particular individual who would appear at a later time. Because Jesus of Nazareth was regarded by later generations as the long-promised Messiah of the Jewish people, it is easy to see why so many persons have supposed that Isaiah was writing specifically concerning Him.

Patterson 213)

Patterson and other scholars state that the prophets of the Old Testament in referring to a Messiah were rather speaking in general terms and with reference to a certain social and political dispensation rather the to an individual. "Hence, they looked for a Messiah who would come at some future time." (Patterson 213) In this sense the Messiah was seen in the context of a Jewish King who would govern Israel in Jerusalem.

The following quotation summarizes this typical Old Testament view of the Messiah as one who will have political and social intentions.

The Messiah is he who shall restore Israel as a people, free her from her enemies, rule over her as king, and bring other nations under her political and religious sway. This conception of the future king as a this worldly political figure is clearly and explicitly present in most if not all of the passages in the Old Testament which refer to him.

Mowinckel 8)

There are also various contrary views to the above in the literature. In essence the point being made is that there are many problematic issues that surround the theological relationship between the teachings of Christ in the New Testament and the Old Testament Messianic vision. For example, as Mowinckel (1954) states, there many instances were the teachings of Jesus seem to be in contrast to the Messianic ideals of the Old Testament. "But the very fact that Jesus related His teaching both positively and negatively to the Messianic ideas prevalent in later Judaism shows that He did not adopt them just as they were. The Gospels depict Him as constantly in conflict with certain aspects of the Jewish Messianic ideal which was in the minds of His disciples." (Mowinckel 9)

This particular study goes on to raise many problematic areas of theological discourse that relate to questions about the correspondence between the Old Testaments Messianic visions and the New Testament. "What was the historical origin of these unusual, and possibly new, elements in Jesus' thought of the Messiah? Is it possible that, in His conflict with the Jewish Messianic ideal, Jesus adopted other biblical or late Jewish ideas which had, perhaps, originally no connection with the figure of the Messiah, and combined them with the Jewish Messianic ideal, that He might use it to express His own thought of His person and vocation?" (Mowinckel 9)

These complex issues are mentioned only as background to the present study, as the discussion of these aspect lies outside the aims and parameters of this paper.

What this study wishes to show is that notwithstanding the many theological debates and arguments, that there is a large body of evidence to show that the New Testament writings can be seen as the direct fulfillment of Old Testament Messianic prophesy.

There are hundreds of statements and prophecies in the Old Testament which have echoed and are directly fulfilled in the New Testament. This also refers to events and aspects that could not have been contrived and which are verifiable in the New Testament - such as the prophecies about the death of Christ.

As Mowinckel states:

Nevertheless it was above all to the Old Testament that the early Church turned for evidence in support of its belief that Jesus was the Messiah. In the thought and theology of the early Church (if it is legitimate to speak of a theology at that period) the Old Testament was the ground and source of the conception of the Messiah. A survey of Messianic conceptions in later Judaism, in the teaching of Jesus, and in the early Church must therefore of necessity begin with the Old Testament.

Mowinckel 3)

This paper will therefore attempt to review some of the most significant and important prophecies and statements about the Messiah in the Old Testament and discuss these in order to show how they were fulfilled in the writings of the New Testament.

2. Old Testament Messianic prophesies

In the Old Testament, also known as the Tanakah, there are more then 300 various prophecies relating to the Messiah and which can be linked to the New Testament scriptures. Obviously only a few of the most pertinent of these can be dealt with in this paper.

As mentioned above, it must be borne in mind that a general characteristic noted by commentators which affects our view of the Messianic prophecies is that in the Old Testament the coming of the Messiah often has an historical and political connotation. This is explained by the relationship of the term messiah to the terms 'anointed one' and Kingship.

The expression 'the Anointed One' does not occur in the Old Testament as a technical term for the Messiah. On the other hand, 'the Anointed One', or 'His', or 'My Anointed One' does occur as the ceremonial religious title of the reigning king in Israel, king 'by the grace of God'... It is, however, obvious that there must be a historical connection between the two titles... The word 'Messiah' is an abbreviation of the fuller expression, ' Yahweh's Anointed'. This shows that the eschatological Messiah derived his name from the sacral title of the ancient kings of Israel.

Mowinckel 7)

There is a tendency to see the Messiah in a political sense in the Old Testament. Although this point will be borne in mind it does not fall within the parameters of this study; yet it is an important aspect that should be understood in terms of the relationship between the Old and New testaments and in the perception of the figure of Christ and His teachings.

Genesis and early prophetic statement in the Old Testament

As stated, there are hundreds of references to the Messiah and correspondences to the New Testament and Jesus Christ. The following is an overview of the most significant and important of these prophetic views. These will be discussed in essay format in order to maintain the flow and continuity of various central thematic strands; which will be compared to the New Testament in the following section. A chronological order with regard to the books of the Old Testament will be maintained in this section. However, slight deviations from this chronological structure were found to be necessary at times to allow for the explanation of certain thematic trends

2.1.1. Lineage

Lineage and bloodlines and other statements and references to the heritage and hereditary nature of the coming Messiah in the Old Testament form an important part of the revelation of the Messiah. The first allusions to the Messiah can be found in Genesis. These also related to prophesies that are fulfilled in the New Testament. For example, the words that God addresses… [END OF PREVIEW]

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