Thursday, August 9, 2007

A Rogue's Gallery of the Messiahs

Mashiach or messiah, means 'anointed', as does christ. In the Jewish view a messiah s a leader who, through his wisdom, brings about an epoch of long-term future goodness.

Many of the kings of Israel including David and Solomon were anointed by priests. The kings of Israel were fertility kings. David danced naked before the Ark of the Covenant in the sight of the daughters of Israel and his wife Michal, Saul's daughter never associated with him again.

Solomon was a natural candidate for messiah. He built first temple and commanded a period of supposed bounteous prosperity, despite allowing his wives to worship their strange religions. Solomon was sad to have 300 wives and countless concubines and sired with the Pharoah's daughter and the Queen of Sheba as well as, or including the allegorical Shulamite in the Song of Songs. The Queen of Sheba was said to have paid him the honour because his fame as a possible messiah had spread and it is said he gave to her all that she desired, possibly including a child. Solomon's association with the splendour of the sun and with fertility is also complemented by a reputation of knowing the ways of plants and animals and the secret lore of magic.

Later Cyrus the Mede was metaphorically anointed by the Exilic prophets Ezra and Nehemiah for returning Jerusalem to the Jews from the Babylonian exile.

Jewish apocalypticism led to the idea of two form of messiah Davidic and Josephic. The Davidic messiah was a warrior king leading the Israelites to strength. The Josephic messiah was a person who was potentially wounded in atonement. Jesus carries some of the anticipated aspects of both, being Yeshua ben Joseph, figuratively, if not genetically the son of Joseph yet claimed to be born in Bethlehem, David's town of royal lineage. The Essenes described their two messiahs as the messiahs of Aaron and Israel, taking a higher priestly and wider kingly form, calling both 'sons of God', ruling in Heaven and Earth respectively. In
the name of the Teacher of Righteousness, the sect had already had a messianic figure who appears to have already lived out the Suffering Servant role, tortured and apparently killed by his enemy the Wicked Priest and expected to have returned in triumph when this enemy in turn met his just deserts.

Jesus extrapolated the apocalyptic messiah into the Dionysian dimension of miraculous dread, more characteristic of Dhushara of Nabatean Edom over the Jordan, while claiming to act for the lost sheep of Israel. Jesus was blasphemously anointed by a woman, who in some gospels was called a sinner, intimating at a sacred whore, who may or may not have been Magdalen, out of whom went seven devils, or galla of Inana, making her a Goddess priestess. He also performed the water into wine on the epiphany of Dionysus and classed himself as a wine-bibber and true vine, performing outrageous miracles from driving a herd of demented pigs into the Sea of Galilee to the enactment of bringing Lazarus back from the dead. This Dionysian turn of events cost Jesus his life, crucified for blasphemy. Jesus became a figure of the apocalyptic idea of messiah as a figure signifying the end of days confrontation between good and evil in the day of requital.

Jewish apocalypticism ultimately led to the siege of Jerusalem in which it is said a million people died and the diaspora scattering the Israelites across the face of the Earth. In its latter phases Rabbi Akiva, who brought the Song of Songs into the Torah, anointed the Zealot rebel Bar Cochba as messiah, upon which some of those present said "Grass will grow out of your jaw!" - meaning the decision would kill them. When the rebellion failed, the rabbis were rounded up and exterminated and Bar Cochba in fulfillment of a prophecy was died of a snake bite.

Later Jewish history has a tortured relationship with prospective messiahs, the most notable being Shabbati Zevi, who led a pilgrimage of Jews to the Holy Land only to apostasize to Islam, when he was imprisoned by the sultan in Istanbul. Even after his apostasy his messianic movement continued in a mystical tradition in which the elect were also required to apostasize a part of a liberation of tradition from the divisive paradigm of the tree of knowledge of good and evil towards the blessed messianic state in which the unity of the life force emanating from the tree of life would return to the world and the Torah would be abrogated. Cardozo expressed this crisis in a radical formulation: "The Torah as it now exists [or: as it is now observed] will not exist in the Messianic age." For him the reason is clear: at that time the world will be cleansed of every defect and be restored to its original state or tikkun.

Christianity has neutralized the very possibility of a natural messiah by inventing the pagan idea that Jesus will return in power in the clouds on the right hand of God, not as a human messiah but as a demi-God. Although Jesus did claim he would return in power, he said this would happen in the same generation as those who were standing before him. Although this never happened and the church is supposed to be only the steward until the messiah returns, this has now been made impossible by the unrelenting unfulfilled Hellenistic pagan anticipation of the second coming of Christ as the saviour lord of the universe, although this is the last thing the Church actually seeks, as it would abrogate their stewardship.

Islam too has a variety of forms of messiah. Although Muhammad decried the pagan deification of Jesus, he has been also cast in apocalyptic pagan form as the last and final prophet, however Shi'ites claim that a human messiah will return, in the form of the Mahdi a perfect and pure human being, reincarnating the seventh of twelfth Shi'ite Imams. They claim Jesus will also return in human form and that the Mahdi will take Jesus to the Ka'aba where he will teach him to pray and that Jesus will then convert the Christians to the Muslim faith. However Sunnis deny the existence of the Mahdi and some say the only Mahdi is Isa (Jesus).

The realities of a messiah in this age are long term sustainable future goodness. The messiah thus has to be a catalytic agent of reunion between woman and man and humanity and nature throughout our generations, opening the sustainable epoch of paradise. This involves fertility and reflowering our sustainable relationship with the Tree of Life, rather than being challenged by Satan to cast oneself down from the pinnacles in an ultimate confrontation in the paradigm of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, being crucified, invoking a mission leading to miraculous claims of bodily resurrection, or the unrealizable promise of a second coming in power as the Son of God in the Day of Judgment.

  1. Scholem, Gershom 1971 The Messianic Idea in Judaism Schoken Books, New York ISBN 0-8052-0362-1

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