Christian History Project. This site contains the text of 12 volumes on the history of mankind over the last 2,000 years written from a 'collectively-denominational' Christian perspective.

4. About Jesus / Who is the Messiah? |
Madman or God?

This is a continuation of the second segment (Son of David) of Chapter One on Jesus of Nazareth entitled Madman or God?. It is from Volume One, The Veil is Torn, of the twelve-volume historical series: The Christians, Their First Two Thousand Years. This section of the chapter details the two main conflicting visions of the kind of Messiah the jews–both at the time of Jesus and still today–will save them.

Lion or lamb, Jews debate to this day how the Messiah will save them

Once, more than a thousand years ago, under King David and his son Solomon, they had become something of a superpower themselves, but this hegemony was brief, and throughout most of those centuries they had suffered recurrent invasion, siege, slaughter, captivity, deportation into slavery, cultural genocide, every conceivable mode of human misery. Once even the Temple itself had been destroyed and most of the people dragged away captive.3 But God had soon seen to it that their captors were themselves overthrown, the people returned to their homeland, and their Temple restored.

Though the Messiah was merely a vision, a promise, the scholarly unanimously perceived this as a promise of the scriptures. Every devout Jew believed implicitly in that promise. Messiah would come as the scriptures foretold. He would be a conquering avenger who would right all wrongs, establish justice, and destroy forever the oppressor, whoever Israel’’s oppressor might be at the time.

There was, it is true, another very different view of the Messiah, implicit in some of the prophets. Isaiah in particular had foreseen the Anointed One not as a conqueror but as a suffering servant “despised for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities” and “numbered with the transgressors.” Yet, said Isaiah, with every lash stroke upon him, “we are healed.… For the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” All this was linked to the words of the suffering figure portrayed in the Twenty-Second Psalm, who cries: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”—words this Jesus would repeat from the cross. However, this doleful view of the prospective Messiah was for obvious reasons not very popular, and it was discounted by the more optimistic as reflecting merely the continued suffering of the Jewish people as a whole.

The current oppressor was imperial Rome. Its general, Pompey, had conquered Jerusalem some ninety-four years before. He spared the Temple, but defiantly strode into its “Holy of Holies,” that sacred space that only the high priest could enter, then sneered that he had found in there nothing whatever. After that, Rome had lumped Judea, Galilee and a dozen other neighboring peoples in with Syria to the north, under a prefect appointed by the emperor. Sometimes the chosen method of government for Judea was a Roman proconsul or governor who usually reported to the prefect at Antioch. At other times, Rome would install a client king, preferably a Jew, to provide a veneer of Jewish independence.

To continue reading from The Christians, Their First Two Thousand Years, Volume One — The Veil is Torn, Chapter One on Jesus of Nazareth entitled Madman or God? and would like to proceed to the next section on King Herod.