50 Jewish Messiahs

Sometimes I need to read something a bit lighter than my normal intake of multi-volume works of theology. So I just finished reading 50 Jewish Messiahs by Jerry Rabow.

I know, I know - I really need to lighten up. :)

But this book was really enjoyable. Rabow did a great job connecting a Gentile like myself with the men and women that various populations of Jews over the last 2000 years have followed as Messiahs.

He covers 50 of them, to be exact. Each of the messianic hopefuls is given just a few pages to acquaint themselves with us.

Many of these stories are a bit sad - but Rabow does a good job injecting humor wherever he can. Let's look at just one of those Messiah candidates - Moses of Crete.

Moses made his claims of messiahship in A.D. 440 on the Greek island of Crete. As his popularity increased, he gained a large following. Ultimately Moses declared that he would lead the Jews on Crete back to Israel by parting the Mediterranean Sea.

"The Jews ignored their business affairs, gave their wealth (which wouldn't be needed in the messianic era, after all) to their Messiah, and assembled on a cliff overlooking the sea on the day he had fixed for the miracle." (p. 17)

But Moses of Crete did not part the waters as did the Biblical Moses.

"Instead, he ordered his followers to trust him and jump into the sea. He stayed behind on the cliff, with their money. The believers did jump, and many were drowned. Puzzled Cretan fisherman rescued the others. It is reported that most of the survivors converted to Christianity. Moses of Crete disappeared along with the wealth of his followers." (p. 18)

Rabow doesn't cover Jesus in this book, since "fine historical and theological scholarship about Jesus abounds" elsewhere. (p. 7) But this book is super-helpful for the Christian teacher for the rich perspective it gives us on what the word Messiah meant then, and means now, to the Jewish people.

I read and teach quite a bit on the subject of the "Messianic Expectations" of the Jews developed throughout Old Testament times. I do so because I believe it's the only way for modern westerners to truly understand the real historical Jesus that walked in Palestine in the first century.

And so I recommend this short, easy to read work for Christian teachers and anyone that wants to better understand the role that Jesus filled then, and fills now, for those of us that believe he was and is the Jewish Messiah.

Many thanks to Jerry Rabow for a great little book!

5 comments:

Anders Branderud said...

"Historical J....."!?!

The persons using that contra-historical oxymoron (demonstrated by the eminent late Oxford historian, James Parkes, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue) exposes dependancy upon 4th-century, gentile, Hellenist sources.

While scholars debate the provenance of the original accounts upon which the earliest extant (4th century, even fragments are post-135 C.E.), Roman gentile, Hellenist-redacted versions were based, there is not one fragment, not even one letter of the NT that derives DIRECTLY from the 1st-century Pharisee Jews who followed the Pharisee Ribi Yehoshua.
Historians like Parkes, et al., have demonstrated incontestably that 4th-century Roman Christianity was the 180° polar antithesis of 1st-century Judaism of ALL Pharisee Ribis. The earliest (post-135 C.E.) true Christians were viciously antinomian (ANTI-Torah), claiming to supersede and displace Torah, Judaism and ("spiritual) Israel and Jews. In soberest terms, ORIGINAL Christianity was anti-Torah from the start while DSS (viz., 4Q MMT) and ALL other Judaic documentation PROVE that ALL 1st-century Pharisees were PRO-Torah.

There is a mountain of historical Judaic information Christians have refused to deal with, at: www.netzarim.co.il (see, especially, their History Museum pages beginning with "30-99 C.E.").
Original Christianity = ANTI-Torah. Ribi Yehoshua and his Netzarim, like all other Pharisees, were PRO-Torah. Intractable contradiction.

Building a Roman image from Hellenist hearsay accounts, decades after the death of the 1st-century Pharisee Ribi, and after a forcible ouster, by Hellenist Roman gentiles, of his original Jewish followers (135 C.E., documented by Eusebius), based on writings of a Hellenist Jew excised as an apostate by the original Jewish followers (documented by Eusebius) is circular reasoning through gentile-Roman Hellenist lenses.

What the historical Pharisee Ribi taught is found not in the hearsay accounts of post-135 C.E. Hellenist Romans but, rather, in the Judaic descriptions of Pharisees and Pharisee Ribis of the period... in Dead Sea Scroll 4Q MMT (see Prof. Elisha Qimron), inter alia.

To all Christians: The question is, now that you've been informed, will you follow the authentic historical Pharisee Ribi? Or continue following the post-135 C.E. Roman-redacted antithesis—an idol?

Mike said...

Anders,

It's interesting that you've cut and pasted your above text all over the web in response to articles about Jesus. Way to recycle those bits!

I agree that much of Christianity has, and often still does, create anachronistic idols named Jesus.

That's why I read great theologian/historians like Ed Sanders and N.T. Wright.

They deal even-handedly with the Qumran writings you mention as well as the body of apocalyptic and pseudepigraphal writings of the 2nd temple period.

And they do so without doing violence to the overall message of the canon of Judeo-Christian scripture from Genesis to Revelation.

So while I'll not be agreeing with your notion of an "intractable contradiction" (because I cannot just write off Paul and the rest of Jesus's rabbis) - I do in general appreciate your apparent desire to connect the New Covenant with the previous covenants made to Israel.

I don't arrive at the same position as you do, but I do appreciate your position.

In fact, I have some very good friends that say they keep Torah. They honestly don't follow all that much of it - really they just follow the dietary laws and celebrate the feast days.

I love them - but I just don't agree with them.

Thanks for your comment!

Eliyahu said...

Mike,
I suppose you can read the Hebrew of which you probably say the Xtian writings came from. And you probably also considered the historical settings of 1st century Israel. In fact you probably started from the point of a Torah observant Jew in the 1st century when you came to your lifestyle choices in Xtianity. What do you in fact know of what it means to be a Torah observant person, a Jew? It was they after all that were given the Torah. It was propagated by Jews. Because you have friends that say they keep Torah you equate that with observance. But if they actually do attempt to keep kashrut or the chagim they are at least trying. What is your excuse? You are not confusing the historical Ribi Yehoshua with Jzeus. You prefer Jzeus because he is your out. You choose to "line up after your heart and your eyes after which you stray," Bemidbar 15:39 (sorry "Numbers" for all you Hebrew scholars.) Actually you didn't even deserve Anders cutting and pasting his comment here. But you could.

Mike said...

I believe I do understand in principle, as best as I can without actually converting to orthodox Judaism or to one of it's many subsequent offshoots, what it means to be Torah-observant.

I do recognize the necessary development of Jewish praxis during the 2nd temple period due to the harsh realities of the exile, and then the further modification of the belief system after the horrors of A.D. 70 up through the present time.

So yes, even a gentile Christian like myself can at least begin to understand modifications of 1st temple practices and concepts - such as how simply reading Torah is the same as being in the temple itself.

So I do understand the continued "spiritualization" of Torah observance through the ages.

And BTW, unlike many who profess Christianity, I'm not antinomian.

But what I find harder to understand is your disrespectful attitude here in my house (my website).

Why do you come here to disrespect Jesus's name and me?

Why do you feel it is in the best spirit of Torah to say that I have little or no worth? Is it because I have chosen a different worldview than you have?

But what I really want to know is - did you like Rabow's book? :)

Anonymous said...

LOL well put Mike.

What we do in our studies is connect the Old Testament to the New. If you look through both you find that both point to each other; Neither discredits the other.

The New Testament is just a fulfillment of the covenants made in the Old Testament. It doesn't veer off on a different whacked out purpose, but continues the same purpose that was put forth in the beginning. That was God wanting to have his Kingdom here on Earth. He goes about doing that by the covenants and the messianic expectations that are mentioned all the way through.

I think you guys should try taking a step back and take a second look at the big picture that is created within both Old and New Testaments. I think you will find that it doesn't discredit but point back to each other and reinforce each other. You can pretty much draw it out on a line.

I like your guy's Passion. Passion is great and I think that it can be a great thing about a person, but passion can also turn a person ugly if they let it get too out of control. With passion, I think it will press you to learn more and achieve more when harnessed.

The book sounds pretty interesting after hearing you talk so much about it. I might actually check it out and read it some time.