Jews believe that Jesus was not the messiah.
Christians believe Jesus was the Messiah; Jews do not. Some think this is the only difference between Christianity and Judaism. What you should understand is that there is an entire theology that one must accept in order to believe as Christians do. Jews see this theology as diametrically opposite to what the Bible states.
IN SHORT… Most Christians identify the messiah with Jesus, define him as Gd incarnate, and believe he died for the sins of humanity as a blood sacrifice. This requires that one accept the concept of vicarious atonement. However, as was illustrated and explained in the essay “One person cannot die for the sins of another,” this idea is the opposite from what is written in Deuteronomy 24:16, ‘Every man shall be put to death for his own sin’ — also expressed in Exodus 32:30-35 and Ezekiel 18. The mainstream Christian idea of the messiah also assumes that Gd wants and will accept a human sacrifice. After all, it was either Jesus-the-human or Jesus-the-divine who died on the cross. Jews, and presumably, Christians as well, believe that Gd cannot die, and so all that Christians are left with, in the death of Jesus on the cross, is a human sacrifice. However, in Deuteronomy 12:30-31, Gd calls human sacrifice an abomination, and something He hates: ‘for every abomination to the Etrnl, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.’ All human beings are sons or daughters, and any sacrifice to Gd of any human being would be something that Gd would hate. Therefore, the Christian conception of the messiah consists of ideas that are unbiblical.
A MORE COMPLETE EXPLANATION…
You must understand that although both Jews and Christians use the word “messiah,’ the meaning of the word is quite different in each faith. The Christian understanding is that their messiah, Jesus, died for the sins of the people. The messiah, according to this Christian definition, is supposed to be a human offering: a blood sacrifice necessary for the forgiveness of sin. But we are taught in our Bible that no one can die for the sins of another. In Deuteronomy 24:16 it says this unequivocally:
The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin. [Deuteronomy 24:16]
(Please see Essay #1, ‘Jews Believe That No One Can Die for the Sins of Another,’ and Essay #2, ‘Jews Believe That a Blood Sacrifice Is Not Required for Forgiveness of Sins’).
The Bible is clear, in verse after verse: no one can die for the sins of another. Regarding what the Bible says about human sacrifice, please see Essay #4, ‘Gd hates human sacrifices.’
Jews do not believe that after forbidding human sacrifice, Gd had a change of heart and decided to require it; and we certainly do not believe that it was the sacrifice of Gd’s own human ‘son’ that Gd wanted. After telling Israel to stay away from pagan practices and pagan beliefs, did Gd change Gd’s mind and say, ‘Okay, now go ahead and believe in a human sacrifice, just as these very pagans believe?’ No — as we saw in Malachi 3:6, Gd is constant and unchanging. (Please see Essay #1, ‘Jews Believe That No One Can Die for the Sins of Another’).
Gd tells us that any human sacrifice is an abomination, something Gd hates, and so horrible that it would never even come into Gd’s mind to demand it of us. Human sacrifice was practiced by the pagans — those who worshipped and made offerings to one or more imaginary deities — it was NOT to be practiced by believers in the One Gd.
It should be understood that the Christian definition of the term ‘messiah’ is pagan. How do Christians define the term messiah? They understand it exactly as the pagans understood their dying-saving man-gods and heroes. The ancient world is filled with examples. Mithra, Adonis, Dionysis, Attis, Ra, and many others were born in the Winter, died in the Spring, and came back to life. This should sound familiar to anyone conversant with Christian theology.
Alongside this, they believed that their followers would have immortal life, since the death of the hero-god acted as the sacrifice for their sins. This should also sound familiar. The pagan world was filled with gods who were the product of a human mother and a god for the father. Heracles had Zeus for a father, and a human mother named Alcmene. Dionysus’s human mother was Semele, and his father was Zeus; Dionysus was considered a savior god. The parallels to Christian theology are plain to see.
When the earliest Christians would come into the synagogues and missionize, they would get kicked out; they were not allowed to stay and preach. They were rejected because their message was pagan and was recognized as such by the Jews. Thus, they were removed and separated from the Jewish people. This shows the real reason why Judaism and Christianity parted ways, dating from the very beginnings of Christianity. It also shows that one cannot be a Jew and a Christian at the same time. (Please see Essay #9 ‘Jews’ for Jesus, Messianic ‘Jews’, and ‘Hebrew’ Christians are not Jews’).
So how have we Jews, who invented the term, always defined the term ‘messiah?’ Our definition is based on Scripture:
1. The Messiah is born of two human parents, as we said. But Jesus, according to Christian theology, was born of the union between a human woman and Gd (as were many other pagan deities, see above) rather than two human parents.
2. The Messiah can trace his lineage through his human biological father, back to King David (Isaiah 11:1,10; Jeremiah 23:5; Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:21-28; Jeremiah 30:7-10; 33:14-16; Hosea 3:4-5). According to Christian theology, Jesus’s father was Gd. Therefore, Jesus’ lineage does not go through his human ‘father’ — Joseph, the husband of Mary.
3. The Messiah traces his lineage only through King Solomon (II Samuel 7:12-17; I Chronicles 22:9-10). But according to Luke 3:31, Jesus was not a descendant of Solomon, but of Solomon’s half-brother Nathan. Therefore Jesus was not a descendant of King David through King Solomon, and fails this test as well.
4. The Messiah may not be a descendant of Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, or Shealtiel, because this royal line was cursed. (I Chronicles 3:15-17; Jeremiah 22:18,30). But according to Matthew 1:11-12 and Luke 3:27, Jesus was a descendant of Shealtiel.
5. The Messiah is preceded by Elijah the prophet who, together with the Messiah, unifies the family (Malachi 4:5-6). This is contradicted by Jesus himself (Matthew 10:34-37).
According to the traditional Jewish definition of the term, the Messiah will make changes in the real world, changes that one can see and perceive and be able to prove, precisely because they take place in the real world. It is for this task that the Messiah has been anointed in the first place, hence the term, messiah — one who is anointed. These perceptible changes include: 6. The Messiah reestablishes the Davidic dynasty through his own children (Daniel 7:13-14).
But Jesus had no children.
7. The Messiah brings an eternal peace between all nations, all peoples, and all people (Isaiah 2:2-4; Micah 4:1-4; Ezekiel 39:9). Obviously there is no peace. Furthermore, Jesus said that his purpose in coming was to bring a sword, and not peace (see Matthew 10:34, as referenced above).
8. The Messiah brings about the world-wide conversion of all peoples to Ethical Monotheism (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Zechariah 8:23; Isaiah 11:9; Zechariah 14:9,16).
But the world remains steeped in idolatry.
9. The Messiah brings about an end to all forms of idolatry (Zechariah 13:2).
But the world remains steeped in idolatry.
10. The Messiah brings about a universal recognition that the Jewish idea of Gd is Gd (Isaiah 11:9).
But the world remains steeped in idolatry.
11. The Messiah leads the world to become vegetarian (Isaiah 11:6-9).
12. The Messiah gathers to Israel all of the twelve tribes (Ezekiel 36:24).
13. The Messiah rebuilds the Temple (Isaiah 2:2; Ezekiel 37:26-28).
14. After the Messiah comes, there will be no more famine (Ezekiel 36:29-30).
15. After the Messiah comes, death will eventually cease (Isaiah 25:8).
16. Eventually the dead will be resurrected (Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2; Ezekiel 37:12-13; Isaiah 43:5-6).
17. The nations of the earth will help the Jews materially (Isaiah 60:5-6; 60:10-12).
18. The Jews will be sought out for spiritual guidance (Zechariah 8:23).
19. All weapons will be destroyed (Ezekiel 39:9,12).
20. The Nile will run dry (Isaiah 11:15).
21. Monthly, the trees of Israel will yield their fruit (Ezekiel 47:12).
22. Each tribe of Israel will receive and settle their inherited land (Ezekiel 47:13-13).
23. The nations of the earth will recognize that they have been in error, that the Jews had it right all along, and that the sins of the Gentile nations – their persecutions and the murders they committed – have been borne by the Jewish people (Isaiah 53).
These biblically-based changes in the world are very real, perceptible, noticeable, and knowable. The changes that Christianity claims were made by Jesus are not perceptible at all. They must be accepted on faith, and faith alone. How can one establish that Jesus died for one’s sins, except by faith? The changes made by the Messiah according to Judaism would be provable, but the changes made by the messiah according to Christianity can only be taken on faith.
Even Christians recognize that the changes the real Messiah will make, according to the Bible and Judaism, have not yet happened. This is why Christianity had to invent the idea of a Second Coming.
The real Messiah has no need to come a second time to do those things — he must do them the first time around in order to actually be the Messiah.
Questions? Email Rabbi Stuart Federow