If I told you Jesus was not the only Messiah in the bible, would you get upset with me? If I told you that I could prove it, would you put you hands over your ears and refuse to listen? If I could show you in the text that Jesus was not the only Messiah, would you be confused? Would you be hurt? Would you be angry? Would it be an excuse to throw away your faith?
You see, many Christians, myself included at one time, have assumptions based on what they are taught in church, and more importantly, what they are not taught in church. It is not my intention or my desire to cause anyone to stumble, in fact, it is just the opposite:
I want to encourage people to study – to do more than read the text with a cursory glance or wait for their pastor to do their exegesis for them.
Pointing out that Jesus was not the only Messiah in the bible will hopefully cause at least a few to engage the Word of God in a more deliberate and purposeful manner, both now and in the future. So back to our original question:
More than one Christ?
This is a question that many Christians bristle at. It was a question I bristled at when it was first pointed out to me. I further bristled when it was pointed out that there was “another” person called Messiah in the bible, and not only that, but that he was also a pagan. How can that be? Let’s answer that by asking a more poignant question:
Isn’t Jesus Christ the Messiah?
The framing of this question above points out a couple of things that need to be addressed before we can go any further.
1. Jesus Christ is not the name of our Savior. Christ is an adjective, not a last name.
2. The name of Jesus in the Hebrew was Yeshua ben Yosef (Jesus son of Joseph). There was no last name. Last names didn’t come into existence until much, much later.
3. Christ is the English rendering of the Greek word Christos.
4. Christos is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew word Mashiach (Messiah).
5. Mashiach in the Hebrew means “anointed one.”
In other words, the above question would read:
Isn’t Jesus Messiah the Messiah? Or Isn’t Jesus Christ the Christ?
The proper way to ask the above question would be”
Isn’t Yeshua ben Yosef the Messiah? Or Isn’t Jesus son of Joseph the Christ?
Okay, so what does this have to do with more than one Christ (Messiah)? A lot actually. To understand “Christ” is to understand a little about who Jesus was – to understand Mashiach (Messiah) is to understand a great deal more – it is to understand what “anointed” in the context of the Lord’s anointed means. Let’s go to the text:
Isaiah 45:1 (CJB)
1 Thus says Adonai to Koresh, his anointed,
whose right hand he has grasped,
so that he subdues nations before him
and strips kings of their robes,
so that doors open in front of him,
and no gates are barred:
In this verse in Isaiah, we are told and faced with a pagan king that is a polytheist being called God’s anointed. Judaism is a monotheistic religion, not polytheistic. You may remember the famous Sh’ma:
Deuteronomy 6:4 (CJB)
4 “Sh’ma, Yisra’el! Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad
[Hear, Isra’el! Adonai our God, Adonai is one];
Why does God call a pagan King that worships more than one god – that worships gods other than Him, His anointed?
A more difficult question would be, Why does God call Cyrus (Koresh) mashiach (messiah)?
WAIT-JUST-A-COTTON-PICKIN-MINUTE! Where does it say that?!?
Simple – In the first line of the first verse.
1 Thus says Adonai to Koresh, his anointed,
If we look up the word anointed in an interlinear, we find the word מָשִׁיחַ māshîach where anointed is and if we rewrite this verse we get:
1 Thus says Adonai to Koresh, his mashiach (messiah),
Cyrus (Koresh) is called the Lord’s mashiach in this verse. Let’s look at the English-Hebrew Dictionary to get a better understanding of what mashiach means:
5081. מָשִׁיחַ māshîach
Derived from māshach (HED #5066), “to anoint,” māshîach has cognates widely attested in Northwest and South Semitic. The noun most often refers to the reigning king of Israel as the Lord’s “anointed one” (1 Sam. 24:6, 10; 2 Sam. 1:14; Ps. 20:6; Lam. 4:20; Hab. 3:13), synonymous with “king.” Anointing rituals set the subject apart for special service before Yahweh. However, with reference to the Davidic dynasty, it clearly had a future messianic ideal that went beyond the national king (2 Sam. 22:51; 2 Chr. 6:42; Pss. 18:50; 132:10, 17).
The Lord’s “Anointed” in Ps. 2:2 can hardly be anything other than a direct reference to the future “Messiah,” since the same Psalm also instructs people to put faith in this Son (v. 12). Furthermore, “Messiah” is almost surely a reference to Jesus Christ in at least two other verses (Dan. 9:25f). While some scholars reject this assertion, they generally base their rejection of a future “Messiah” on a questionable interpretation of Dan. 9:26. They claim that “the Messiah [who] will be cut off” was a second century b.c. high priest (cf. TWOT). However, there is strong evidence on the basis of Dan. 9:24 that this “Messiah” is indeed Jesus Christ.
It is true, on the other hand, that this term is used as the title of the coming Son of David primarily in the NT. The patriarchs of the OT were regarded as “anointed” of Yahweh (1 Chr. 16:22; Ps. 105:15). Māshîach even referred to a pagan king, named Cyrus, as the Lord’s “anointed” (Isa. 45:1). Since this use obviously does not denote righteousness or godliness on the part of this idol worshiper, it almost certainly speaks of Cyrus as the Lord’s “chosen one” for the task of delivering Israel from the Babylonian captivity. Finally, māshîach can refer to the high priest of Israel (Lev. 4:3, 5, 16; 6:22).
Thoralf Gilbrant, ed., “5081,” in The Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – Kaph-Mem, (Springfield, IL: World Library Press, Inc., 1998), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “5081”.
You see, mashiach (messiah) as it is in the Hebrew, or christos (christ) as it is rendered from the Hebrew in the Greek, denotes someone that anointed by God to do His bidding. The text tells us that Cyrus (Koresh) the polytheistic king was anointed by God to do his bidding.
In 1990, a young man by the name of Vernon Wayne Howell was well aware of what this verse in Isaiah was saying. He legally changed his name to David Koresh. Koresh is the Hebrew name for Cyrus:
3686. כּוֹרֶשׁ kôresh
Cyrus II became the king of all Persia, beginning as the ruler of a small territory known as Anshan. He was born in 590 b.c. By 550 he had conquered the kingdom of Media, claiming most of western modern Iran. By 547 he had conquered most of Anatolia, and by 540 he controlled the rest of the Iranian Plain. Within a year, he conquered the Neo-Babylonian empire as well. Cyrus died in battle against a tribe in Iran in 530. The empire which he had established before his death was the largest that the ancient Near Eastern world had known.
Cyrus bears the label māshîach (HED #5081), “the anointed one” of Yahweh (Isa. 45:1). Yahweh, demonstrating his control over all peoples, raised him up to rule the world, so that the Judahites might be freed from their captivity in Babylon (v. 15). Indeed, Cyrus did issue a decree which did allow all peoples, including the Jews, to return to their homelands, and return to their native cultural environment as well. All property seized as booty by the Babylonians was to be returned. Further, the royal treasury was to provide the means by which these subjects were to reestablish their homelands.
Thoralf Gilbrant, ed., “3686,” in The Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – Kaph-Mem, (Springfield, IL: World Library Press, Inc., 1998), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “3686”.
Without a doubt, in changing his name to David Koresh, he was making allusions to being messiah – anointed of God. Crazy – undoubtedly. Did he know the biblical text? At least in this area he did.
This is why it is so important to know the biblical text. Yeshua (Jesus), when he was tested 3 times by the Adversary, used the text to rebuke Satan’s attempts to tempt Him. He used the Jewish bible to do it – the Tanakh. There was no New Testament at the time.
We would be wise to follow all of the examples that He gave us – they have reason and purpose in them. From washing feet, to the last supper to baptism, these were Jewish things that were done by our Jewish Savior. We would be wise to understand the Jewish roots of the Christian faith.
We would be wise to understand that Yeshua (Jesus) was also Mashiach (Messiah): anointed of God and what that actually means. We would be wise to understand that there have been many messiahs (anointed). David was messiah(anointed) too:
2 Samuel 12:7 (CJB)
7 Natan said to David, “You are the man.
“Here is what Adonai, the God of Isra’el says:
‘I anointed you king over Isra’el. I rescued you from the power of Sha’ul.
The word used here in the Hebrew is mashiach (messiah)as well. When you understand this, you understand what christos (christ) means in the Greek. It is not a last name. It does not mean son of God. It means anointed. To be God’s mashiach (messiah) might be as a priest, or as a pagan polytheistic king or as a prophesied suffering servant that was “wounded because of our crimes and crushed because of our sins” known as Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Christ) – anointed of God.
It is with this understanding that we can understand what is being said here:
Matthew 16:13-16 (CJB) 13 When Yeshua (Jesus) came into the territory around Caesarea Philippi,
he asked his talmidim(disciples),
“Who are people saying the Son of Man is?”
14 They said,
“Well, some say
Yochanan(John) the Immerser(Baptist),
still others Yirmeyahu(Jeremiah) or one of the prophets.”
15 “But you,” he said to them, “who do you say I am?”
16 Shim‘on Kefa(Simon Peter) answered,
“You are the Mashiach(Messiah – Christ), the Son of the living God.”