A Divine Messiah?

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A reader asks for information on the various Jewish sects' views of the deity of the Messiah.

Question received from David Garcia that was published in the “Readers’ Perspective” column of Jerusalem Perspective 56 (July-September 1999): 6.

Do you know of any exhaustive scholarly works that explain what various sects of Judaism thought about who the Messiah would be, and did any believe that he would be deity?

David Bivin responds:

As is often the case, the best place to begin is the Encyclopaedia Judaica‘s entry on the subject (in this case, “Messiah,” 11:1407-27). There is a bibliography, too, at the end of the entry.

Regarding the belief that the Messiah would be deity, Peter, apparently, believed that Jesus was of a divine nature. According to Robert L. Lindsey, that is a possible understanding of Peter’s confession, “The Messiah (of) God” (i.e., “The divine Messiah”) in Luke 9:20 (see Chapter 26, “What Did Peter Say?” (pp. 134-140) in Lindsey’s Jesus, Rabbi and Lord: A Lifetime’s Search for the Meaning of Jesus’ Words).

Of course, throughout the centuries of the Common Era, Christians have maintained that Jesus and God are one—God incarnate who dwelt among people—but to show this from the words of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels is a challenging task.

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