Messianism in Jewish Literature Beyond the Bible

This article is in honor of Dr. Ellen Goldsmith z’’l, a dear friend, study partner and confidant. One of my special memories from the times Ellen and I spent together, is that of studying the Scripture to learn more about the character and ways of Hashem and Messiah Yeshua through the guidance of the Ruach Hakodesh, about Messianic Jewish theology and about our identity as Jewish Believers in Messiah Yeshua. Our discussions often ventured beyond the Bible to include Jewish tradition and Jewish literature beyond the Bible. This article on Messianism in Jewish Literature Beyond the Bible, is a fitting tribute to Ellen.

Any discussion of the problems relating to Messianism is a delicate matter, for it is here that the essential conflict between Judaism and Christianity has developed and continues to exist. Gershom Scholem1

Messianic Judaism stands at the crossroads of the “essential conflict” mentioned by Gershom Scholem in his influential essay on the messianic idea in Judaism, because Messianic Judaism shares a communal context with both Judaism and Christianity. Scholem touches on one of the core challenges when he explains, “a totally different view of redemption determines the attitude toward messianism in Judaism and Christianity.”2 To be sure, Scholem’s contrasts are overdrawn, but they do point out that Christianity and Judaism have different understandings and views of messianism, which have developed over time in different communal contexts. Messianic Judaism has the challenge of drawing from both communal contexts. In the past, Messianic Judaism has largely drawn from a Christian communal context in developing Messianic Jewish theology. It is hoped that more familiarity with Jewish texts outside the Bible will enable us to draw more deeply from the wells of a Jewish communal context in the development of Messianic Jewish theology.

In this article I survey Jewish texts beyond the Bible for their witness to messianism. The survey is limited to texts from 2nd Temple and early rabbinic literature2nd century BCE to 7th century CE. These Jewish documents witness to the faith and traditions of the Jewish people and provide important developments in Jewish theology and ideology that are essential for understanding the Jewish communal context from which Messianic Jewish theology germinates. One of the goals of this work is to move past seeing these texts as “off-limits” because they are not canonical, “valueless” or even “blasphemous,” to seeing them for the contribution they make toward a Messianic Jewish understanding of messianism and ultimately for all Messianic Jewish theology.

Before delving into the texts, a few methodological comments are necessary, the first of which is terminology. The terms “messiah” and “messianism” are often used interchangeably and defined in different ways.3 Sometimes messianism is used very broadly to describe any eschatological event that involves the salvation of Israel, whether it includes a “messiah” or not, and at others it is restricted to the expectation of “the messiah.”4 John Lust offers a useful definition, when he says:

Messianism is the expectation of an individual human and yet transcendent savior. He is to come in a final eschatological period and will establish God’s Kingdom on earth. In a more strict sense, messianism is the expectation of a royal Davidic savior at the end of time.5

Two caveats are in order here. The first is that this broad definition tends to make “messianism” an umbrella term for a divinely commissioned messianic figure who plays an eschatological role, yet, the ancient body of Jewish literature does not attest to one uniform “messiah” but to several eschatological protagonists whose messianic role continues to be debated by scholars.6 Second is that messianism does not always include the hope that the Davidic line will be restored but presents a variety of agents of salvation, including a priestly messiah.7

Additionally, we cannot simply assemble the various texts in chronological order and maintain that this constitutes the historical development of messianism. In fact, messianism did not develop in one straight chronological line; it developed in different ways among different Jewish groups. This means that neither chronology nor specific terminology can be the only determiners for our study. Therefore, an examination of specific texts for their conceptual framework and influential historical events, as well as for their vocabulary and chronological relationships to one another is in order. Tracing the texts in this manner enables us to distinguish certain patterns or trends of messianic thought and provide a more detailed and accurate picture.8

Second Temple Period Literature

Any idea of messianism in 2nd Temple period literature, and in rabbinic literature for that matter, begins with biblical exegetical tradition: the scepter of Judah (Gen 49:10); the Star out of Jacob (Num 24:17); and the seed of David that was to be established forever (2 Sam 7:12–16). This three-pronged theology is echoed again and again throughout the prophets,9 as well as in Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and Qumran literature. Two further dominating characteristics are the historical setting and the religious orientation of the community.

Gershom Scholem has pointed out two typologies of messianism in the Tanakh: Davidic Rule and the Day of the Lord. The Davidic messiah is the anointed one mentioned in 2 Samuel 22:50-51 (Ps 18:50-51) and whose rule is explained in Isaiah 11:1–9. The Day of the Lord is found in the prophets who speak of the punishment of the wicked, the establishment of justice, and a change in the destiny of the world. At that time God will act suddenly and decisively to destroy evil, and to establish justice and righteousness. The Day of the Lord has a motif of wailing and darkness, and an underlying sense of doom. Scholem classifies these two typologies as restorative and utopian.10 Restorative messianism reconstitutes the ancient glories of the Davidic dynasty,11 while utopian construes an even better futurea day when the wicked will be destroyed. Zechariah 6:9–16 combines the two views in two messianic figuresa high priest and a king.

These two typologies represent opposite ends of the spectrum that vie with one another in 2nd Temple period literature. However, not all messianic references fit neatly into one of these categories; both approaches share elements with the other. Some documents emphasize the kingly, Davidic messiah and others a priestly messiah, some include both messianic figures without any attempt to reconcile inconsistencies, and others do not clearly distinguish between the two. Apocalyptic ideas, such as those in the Qumran Scrolls, further muddy the waters. Nevertheless, restorative and utopian messianism are useful determiners that will be used throughout the rest of this article.

Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha

A brief survey of Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha shows that Ben Sira and Psalms of Solomon are essentially restorative, while the older strata of the Ethiopic Book of Enoch (I En 90:16–38) and the Assumption of Moses are almost exclusively utopian. No Davidic messiah is mentioned in either of these books, nor in Jubilees, 2nd Enoch or the Sibylline Oracles. However, they all “contain prophetic passages in which some messiah might reasonably have been expected to make an appearance.”12

Two pre-destruction books, Psalms of Solomon and the Similitudes of Enoch (1 En 37–71), specifically speak of a royal, Davidic messiah, similar to that in 4th Ezra and 2nd Baruch, two-post destruction books.13 The books of the Maccabees do not look forward to a Davidic restoration or a utopian messianism, but some eschatological motifs do appear.14

Wisdom of Ben Sira

The Wisdom of Ben Sira (Sirach), also called Ecclesiasticus, conveys the views of a pious scribe at the beginning of the 2nd century BCE. The document is a work of ethical teachings originally written in Hebrew in Jerusalem, and translated into Greek in Egypt by the author’s grandson, thus accounting for the two names Ben Sira (Hebrew) and Sirach (Greek). Ben Sira originated at a time of international political struggle before the Maccabean revolt, but was translated after the rebellion and its aftermath.

The book has little interest in eschatology, except to express hope for a better future (36:11–22) in which God will rescue and reassemble his people (51:12),15 and sees no need for any divine agent. The term messiah as an “anointed one” (Hebrew משיח or Greek ςότσιρχ) does appear in 46:19 where it refers to an unnamed king, probably Saul. The cognate verb “to anoint” appears three times in the book, where it is applied to Aaron the priest (45:15; cf. Lev 8:12), to kings Saul and David (46:13; cf. 1 Sam 10:1; 16:13) and to “prophet(s)” presumably Elisha (48:8; cf. 1 Kings 19:16).16 No messianic king is mentioned. Ben Sira does, however, foresee Elijah returning before the eschaton to fulfill some type of eschatological function (48:10-11).17

Ben Sira has an ambivalent attitude toward the Davidic monarchy, although the author does praise David at some length in 47:1–11. We must be careful however, not to construe Ben Sira’s statement that God has exalted his (David’s) horn forever (47:11) as theological support of a revived Davidic dynasty.18 Indeed, 49:4–6 notes that except for David, Hezekiah and Josiah, God gave the “horn”/“power” of all the Davidic kings to foreigners who burned Jerusalem. For Ben Sira, the glory of David belongs to the past. The composition is more interested in the legitimacy of priestly rule over Israel. This is seen in 45:6–25, which contrasts the Aaronic and Davidic covenants, stating that Aaron’s was an “eternal covenant,” a phrase not used in the biblical text. When Ben Sira mentions God’s covenant with David, he minimizes this covenant’s importance, and suggests that it is inferior in some respects. There is no doubt that Ben Sira viewed the High Priest Simon as a hero, the ideal cultic and political leader (50:1–21).

Psalms of Solomon

The Psalms of Solomon is a collection of 18 poems that incorporate an unknown Jewish group’s response to persecution and the capture of Jerusalem by the Romans in 63 BCE. Most of the Psalms of Solomon grapple with the same topics as those in the canonical psalter and in the Hodayot scroll from Qumran. The last two psalms in the document have an eschatological and messianic motif. Pss. Sol. 17 and 18 emphasize the kingship of God, the reign of a messianic king, and the permanent nature of the Davidic dynasty. The concept of an “anointed one” becomes concretized in Pss. Sol. 17 and 18 through the use of two messianic titles “son of David” and “Lord Messiah.” This is the first instance of the usage of “son of David” in Jewish literature, and the only usage of “Lord Messiah.”

Pss. Sol. 17 incorporates a wonderful mixture of language drawn from Psalm 2, Isaiah 11, and Ezekiel 34 to describe the future son of David who will oppose the unrighteous Roman rulers who have overrun the land. The Psalm appeals to God to defeat the unrighteous rule and Gentile domination of Jerusalem. This can only be done through a legitimate king who will lead Israel against the occupying forces and re-establish the Davidic kingdom. The anticipated Davidic king will crush Israel’s enemies and cleanse Jerusalem of the Gentiles (17:23–27). He will gather Israel and redistribute the land among the tribes (26, 28). Gentiles will serve the king and come up to Jerusalem to see the glory of the Lord (17:30-31). The king, the ‘‘anointed of the Lord” (17:32), will rule in righteousness, and all the people will be holy, because their king will be “Lord Messiah” (17:32 and 18:5, 7).

Pss. Sol. 17 and 18 clearly present the messiah as a Davidic king, a real king of Israel, who rules over the entire world,19 and thoroughly reflect Scholem’s restorative messianism. The Roman domination of Jerusalem in the author’s time may have fostered his longing for a Davidic king and for the reconstitution of his dynasty.

Assumption of Moses

The Assumption of Moses, written most probably around the turn of the era, is known from a single Latin manuscript, published by A. Ceriani in 1861, and now identified with the work known in antiquity as the Testament of Moses.20 The Assumption is largely a rewriting of Deuteronomy 31–34, that purports to contain Moses’s farewell discourse to his successor, Joshua; it does not, however, mention the assumption of Moses. The messianic section of the text can be classified as utopian because chapter 10 portrays God as the divine warrior, who destroys the wicked and wreaks vengeance on the nations, and establishes a heavenly afterlife. The text mentions a messianic figure (10:2), which it identifies as a messenger of God and his agent of vengeance. However, no human agent of redemption or restoration is mentioned. The idiom “filled the hands of” in 10:2, however, seems to indicate that the messenger is also a priest.21

I Enoch

1 Enoch 90:16–38

This section of 1 Enoch is located at the end of the Animal Apocalypse (1 En 85–90), which “recounts in allegorical form the history of the world from Adam to the end-time. Human beings are depicted as animals, the rebel watchers are fallen stars, and the seven archangels are human beings.”22 The Animal Apocalypse was written during the Maccabean revolt, between 165–160 BCE. The document supports the Maccabees, so much so that the only identifiable eschatological human figure is the Ram, which is understood to be Judas Maccabeus. Some have identified the great white eschatological bull (90:37–38) as the Davidic messiah.23 However, George Nickelsburg holds that the bull’s importance lies in whom he is and not in what he does, i.e. in his patriarchal status and not in messianic functions.24

I Enoch 90:16–38 paints a picture of utopian messianism. The Gentiles, in their final attack against the Jews, are defeated by God‘s miraculous intervention. Then God sits in judgment on his newly erected throne. He replaces old Jerusalem with a new one, where the pious Israelites will dwell and the Gentiles will pay homage. After these events the messiah will appear, and all the Gentiles will adopt the ways of the Lord. Notice that God heralds the eschaton and the messiah only enters in at the end of the process, which is contrary to the usual depiction of a Davidic messiah.25

The Similitudes

The Enochic Book of Parables (or Similitudes, 1 Enoch 37–71), was written in Hebrew toward the end of the first century BCE or early first century CE,26 and comprises three parables (1 En 38–44, 45–57, 58–69). The term “messiah” appears twice in the second parable in reference to a messiah of the “Lord of Spirits” (1 En 48:10, 52:4). No specific reference is made to the Davidic king, messiah or dynasty. Instead, the Similitudes designate the messianic figure by four names: the chosen one, the righteous one, the anointed one, and the son of man. These four epithets are conflated to embody the three parallel figures of Davidic king, Isaianic servant of the Lord, and Danielic one like a son of man, and significantly transform them from their original positions in Israelite religious tradition into an expected messianic figure.27 Thus, the author presents the messiah as a pre-existent, transcendent figure from heaven and not simply a human son of David.28 The conflated character of the savior figure in the Similitudes appears in other Jewish literature written after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, particularly 4th Ezra and 2nd Baruch, and provides a missing link in the chain of tradition that led from Daniel’s “one like a son of man” to the Gospels’ widespread use of the epithet.29

4th Ezra and 2nd Baruch

4th Ezra and 2nd Baruch were composed within a few decades after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.30 These two apocalypses represent the reactions of Jews to the shock of the destruction, and the impact it had on the Jewish faith. There are many parallels between the two books, some of which are concepts, e.g., messianism and the authors’ struggle to understand their religious world in the aftermath of the destruction, which include various arguments and phrases, literary forms, vision experiences, and dialogues between the seer and God.31 The authors of both books are deeply distressed by the destruction of Israel and eagerly await divine vindication. The messiah plays an important role in the process of vindication and in the development of the eschatological events. Both texts seem to imply the pre-existence of the messiah (2 Bar 30:1, 40:1; 4 Ezra 11:37–46).

The preexistence of messiah seems to imply Davidic descent as 4 Ezra 12:31–34 specifically states that messiah “will arise from the posterity of David.” Yet, 4 Ezra 13 depicts him as a man who ascends out of the sea,32 and 2 Baruch 29:1–33:3 as an earthly king who embodies all the dreams attributed to the kings of ancient Israel. Ancillary is the description in both texts of the messiah’s activities in legal termshis victory is gained through judgment rather than by military exploitsthereby downplaying the messiah’s role as warrior (2 Bar 72 and 4 Ezra 12:32); final judgment is in God’s realm. Furthermore, in the book of 4 Ezra the messiah will die preceding the eschaton (7:29). Consequently it seems clear that the restoration of the ideal Davidic monarchy did not play a major role in these authors’ messianic expectations.

The messianic kingdom is presented as finite in 2 Baruch 36–40, though it is also presented as eschatological and eternal in chapters 73 and 74. According to 2 Baruch 30, only the righteous will arise with the advent of the messiah. However, according to 4 Ezra 7:28–29 both the righteous and the unrighteous will be resurrected, but only after the messiah dies, and the interlude of primeval silence begins and ends. Despite these contradictory traditions, both texts record that the messiah is not the one who raises the dead; resurrection is in God’s realm.

Qumran Documents

The Qumran corpus exhibits the same three-pronged biblical theology based on Genesis 49:10 (the scepter of Judah), Numbers 24:17 (the Star out of Jacob), and 2 Samuel 7:12–16 (the seed of David), and the same variety of messianic motifs found in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha (e.g. restorative and utopian messianism, Davidic messiah, human and transcendent figures). However, the community’s apocalyptic worldview and their religious orientation profoundly impacted their messianic beliefs and views. The community’s existence for about three centuries, contributed to the complex theology and messianic motifs in Qumran literature; Qumran theology is not monolithic. The study of messianism in the Qumran corpus is complicated by the lack of firm dating of individual documents and the variety of messianic and apocalyptic ideas nestled in documents of diverse genre, as well as the vast amount of literature generated from studies of the literature. Volumes have been written on messianism and messiah(s) at Qumran.33 Consequently, I will extract from these documents only those minutiae that shed light on messianic expectations among the Jews who wrote these texts or at least used them in developing their ideological and theological conceptions.

Messianism in the Qumran corpus is novel and valuable because it combines a priestly messiah alongside a royal Davidic messiah. The Messiah of Aaronthe priestly messiahwas expected to govern religious matters, while the Messiah of Israelthe royal, Davidic Messiahwas to rule over temporal and political matters. The kingly messiah was subordinate to the priestly messiah. Nevertheless, both would preside over the eschatological messianic banquet that would usher in the new age (1Q28a 2.11–15). The Messiah of Israel corresponds to Scholem’s restorative approach and the Messiah of Aaron to the utopian.

Additional messianic protagonists can be discerned from these texts: a messianic prophet34 and other eschatological figures such as a teacher of righteousness, who will interpret Torah in the end days,35 and the Prince of the Congregation, who is a military leader. The Prince of the Congregation נשיא העדה, along with messiah (משיח) and branch of David (צמח דוד), usually designates the messianic figure from the royal house of David.36

Messianism is well represented among the Qumran documents, both in sectarian documents and in non-sectarian documents, but it is not elucidated.37 Conflicting ideas about these messianic figures are often presented without trying to reconcile them. Some texts refer to messiah (singular) of Aaron and Israel (CD 12:23–13:1, 14:18–19, 19:10–11, 19:35–20:1),38 and others to messiahs of Aaron and Israel (1QS, 4Q174; see below). For years, scholars debated whether this meant that there was one messiah with different functions, or two messiahs each with a different function. Scholarly consensus now favors a plural understanding of the expression.

4Q174 (4QFloriligium), a collection of passages with eschatological significance, in its interpretation of 2 Samuel 7:11–14 points to two eschatological figures that are elsewhere called messiahs: the Branch of David and the Interpreter of the Law. Lines 11–13 state,

This passage refers to the Shoot of David, who is to arise with the Interpreter of the Law, and who will [arise] in Zi[on in the La]st Days, as it is written, ‘And I shall raise up the booth of David that is fallen.’ This passage describes the fallen Branch of David, [w]hom He shall raise up to deliver Israel.”39

The idea of two messiahs also appears in Rule of the Community 9.10-11. Rule of the Community (1QS, Serekh HaYahad) is one of the first scrolls removed from Cave 1 in 1947. It is a lengthy scroll containing the strict rules of conduct that ordered the life of the “Yahad,” a celibate group of Jewish males who had withdrawn to Qumran in the Judean Desert. 1QS 9.10-11 states, “They shall govern themselves using the original precepts by which the men of the Yahad began to be instructed, doing so until there come the Prophet and the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel.”40 From this text we learn that three eschatological figures were expected to appear sometime in the future; it does not tell us anything about them or their functions. Not much is written about the anticipated eschatological prophet (cf. Deut 18:15); he could be Elijah or a divine guide sent to Israel in the final days. Nevertheless, 1QS expected the prophet together with the Messiahs of Aaron and of Israel (1QS 9.2).

One further eschatological protagonist that must be mentioned is Melchizedek (11QMelk). The Qumran sectarians viewed Melchizedek as a high-priestly, angelic deliverer. He was chief of the sons of heaven, and was to preside over the last judgment of Melchiresha or possibly Belial or Satan. This final judgment was the great liberation, which was to take place on Yom Kippur at the end of the 10th Jubilee cycle.

The pattern of priestly and non-priestly messiah continues throughout the messianic texts at Qumran. 4Q252 (a pesher on Genesis) frag. 1 5.1–5, commenting on the scepter of Judah (Gen 49:10), calls the Messiah of Israel “the Branch of David” (צמח דוד).
4Q285, The War of the Messiah, 5.3–6 also mentions the Branch of David and supplies the additional title “Prince of the Congregation” (
נשיא העדה). Although this fragment is full of lacunae and quite controversial, its military context is important as it implies a warrior messiah. These two texts, 4Q252 and 4Q285, associate the Messiah of Israel with the Branch of David and Prince of the Community, the kingly messiah.

The Damascus Document (CD) is a sectarian document clearly related to the Community Rule (1QS), yet decidedly different in that it consists of admonitions and explicit legal provisions for those who live in the camps “marrying and begetting children” (7.6–7), and “who live by these rules in the era of wickedness, until the appearance of the Messiah of Aaron and Israel” (12.23–13.1). Here the word messiah is singular, as it is in the other three instances of the expression in CD. However, CD 7.18–21, a section dealing with Balaam’s oracle concerning the star of Jacob (Num 24:15–19),41 mentions two individual messianic figures. “The ‘star’ is the interpreter of the Torah who came to Damascus, as it is written: ‘A star stepped forth out of Jacob, a staff arose out of Israel.’ ‘The staff’ is the prince of all the congregation, and when he arises, ‘he will destroy all the sons of Seth’… .” (7.18–21).42

The passage clearly understands the star of Jacob (Num 24:17) to be a priestly messiah who is also the Interpreter of the Torah, and the staff (Gen 49:10) as the Prince of the Congregation, a kingly Davidic messiah.43 This interpretation agrees with 4QFloriligium (4Q174), which distinguishes the Messiah of Israel and the Interpreter of the Torah as two separate individuals, demonstrating that the star of Jacob cannot refer to the Davidic, royal messiah, but only to a priestly messiah. Thus, the evidence attests to both a messianic “Prince of the Congregation” (royal, Davidic messiah) and a messianic priest (Interpreter of the Torah) in the Damascus Document.

The Messiah of Israel is the King Messiah, the classic concept of a Davidic Messiah. He is a royal, military figure who destroys the enemies and re-establishes the glory of days old, of the Davidic kingdom. The Messiah of Aaron, on the other hand, represents utopian messianism. This priestly messiah would not restore the temporal Davidic kingdom but would usher in an even better time. He would bring about the utter destruction of evil and wickedness, and establish everlasting joy for the elect. The priestly messiah had pride of place; he was first in order of precedence. The Messiah of Israel, that is the King Messiah, was to defer to the Messiah of Aaron, the priestly messiah, for general authority.

The scrolls indicate a great diversity of messianic expectations in the years around the turn of the century. The Qumran literature, like the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, describes restorative and utopian tendencies based on the biblical prophetic visions. Yet the Qumranians went much further. They combined messianic, apocalyptic and eschatological motifs apparent in other 2nd Temple period texts with their own religious orientation creating a unique messianismone that expected both a royal and kingly messiah and the imminent advent of the messianic age.

Early Rabbinic Literature

Early rabbinic literature, meaning Tannaitic and Amoraic literature, is not monolithic, and neither are its attitudes toward messianism and messianic motifs. This corpus reflects differing views of the sages in Israel and in Babylon ranging over 500 years, as well as different types of literature, e.g., halakha, aggadah, midrashim and targumim.44 Historical events and political circumstances also greatly influenced the material: for example, the Tannaitic period, 10 BCE-220 CE, experienced two revolts, both of which had messianic overtones, and political governance during the Amoraic period (200-500 CE) was split between Christian rule in Israel and Sasanian rule in Babylon. Furthermore, both Judaism and Christianity were developing and defining their self-identity, as well as their relationship to one another. Christianity was dealing with the influx of non-Jewish adherents and its self-definition apart from Judaism, and Judaism was busy determining how to live pure and holy lives on a daily basis in an unclean world without the Temple, the priesthood and the sacrifices. The various time periods, influences and events must be considered when studying messianism in rabbinic literature. Consequently, this article examines classical rabbinic literature by time periods and by classification. Despite these variables, classic rabbinic literature reflects the same characteristics of messianism apparent in Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha and in the Qumran corpus: the ideas of restorative and utopian messianism, as well as that of Davidic and priestly messiahs. However, these elements are not clearly delineated and their significance waxes and wanes throughout the corpus. One trend is that apocalyptic elements are non-existent in Tannaitic literature but prominent in Amoraic literature.

Tannaitic Literature


The Mishnah, codified around 220 CE, is a law code for the Jewish people in Israel. Its principal point is sanctification, not salvation.45 Written in the aftermath of the destruction of the Temple and the bar Kokhba debacle, when the rabbis were trying to define life without the Temple and blood atonement, the Mishnah looks forward to a time when God’s anointed, an heir of the Davidic dynasty, would restore the Temple and rule of Israel. The messiah (משיח) in the Mishnah indicates an anointed priest (m. Mak 2:2, 3, 7; 3:4, 5), an unidentified person who does not figure prominently into the situation or resolve any major religious issues of the day. The Mishnah does, however, differentiate between the messiah (anointed one) of this age and the one of the future, of “the days of the Messiah” (m. Ber 1:5). Though the figure of the messiah comes at the end of time, his role is inconsequential. This is clearly seen in m. Sotah 9.9–15, the most significant messianic passage in the Mishnah. M. Sotah 9:15 mentions “the footsteps of Messiah”the time of desolation, corruption, and religious decline that immediately precedes the coming of the messiahand Elijah as the harbinger of the end times (cf. m. Sheqal 2:5, m. B Met 1:8, 2:8, 3:4–5). They are both mentioned rather matter-of-factly as part of the inherited background material, neither to be emphasized nor ignored. Conspicuously absent are references about false messiahs or how to recognize false messiah.


The Tosefta is a companion volume to the Mishnah. It is a collection of halakhic and aggadic traditions stemming from the mishnaic period. It is organized according to the order of the Mishnah, shares its rhetorical patterns, and basically operates within the parameters established by the Mishnah. The Tosefta repeats the picture of the messiah depicted in the Mishnah; he is mentioned only incidentally and generally in the same contexts, and avoids any mention of false messiahs. Nonetheless, further clarifications about the time of the messiah are found in the Tosefta: t. Ta’an 3:1 alludes to what will happen to the nations in the time of the messiah and t. Arak 2:7 suggests that the “days of messiah” “form a differentiated interim period, between this age and the age to come.”46 But, as in the Mishnah, the Tosefta simply states these points as a matter of fact and does not elaborate on them.

The messiah plays no role as a redeemer or savior in the eschatological passages associated with the world to come. In fact, passages that explicitly refer to the rebuilding of the Temple and Jerusalem are void of any allusion to the messiah.47 It could be inferred that the redactors of the Tosefta did not know the traditions surrounding the messiah, the days of the messiah or the rule of the messiah. However, we read in t. Sanhedrin 4:9 that the rule of the house of David will be forever. The redactors simply choose not to associate messiah with the eschatological hope of a Davidic messiah.

Tannaitic Midrashim

Mekhilta de R. Ishmael, Sifra, Sifre Numbers, Sifre Deuteronomy

The Tannaitic Midrashim do little more than rehearse the messianic material already presented. The few statements on messiah in Mekhilta de R. Ishmaela halakhic midrash on the book of Exodus that stays very close to the biblical narrativeare discrete and routine (2:161; 2:120, Lauterbach, ed.).48 In Sifraa systematic exegesis of Leviticus that also remains close to the Scripture“the messiah” only refers to an anointed high priest as in Leviticus itself. Sifre to Numbers, like Sifra, refers only to the messiah as the anointed high priest. However, Sifre Numbers 40 does mention the messianic age that will be preceded by a time of trouble, but does not allude to the messiah. Sifre to Deuteronomy contains a number of references to the “age of the messiah” in contrast to “this age” (16, 104, 188, 351, 362, 363, 372, 398, 401), and has one passage on the anointing of David (17; cf. 1 Sam 16:6), which has no messianic orientation.49


The Targumim, Aramaic translations of Scripture, are a varied set of writings with no firm evidence as to their dates or who is responsible for the translation. Thus all we can say about messianism in them is that the translators drew on ideas and motifs that circulated before their time.50 The Targumim follow a similar policy to that of Sifra and the two Sifres, and do not introduce the theme of the messiah unless the text specifically demands or invites it. One example will suffice. Onqelos interprets the phrase “until Shiloh comes” in Genesis 49:10 as “until the messiah comes, to whom the Kingdom belongs, and whom nations obey,” and Numbers 24:17 (“a star shall step forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall arise out of Israel”) as “when a king shall arise out of Jacob and be anointed the Messiah out of Israel.”

Amoraic Literature

Jerusalem Talmud (Yerushalmi)

The Jerusalem Talmud is a systematic exegesis of the Mishnah redacted around 400 CE, but it is not symmetrical with that of the Mishnah. It makes no attempt to introduce messianic concepts into its interpretation of tannaitic material where they are not already present (e.g. y. Sheqal 3:3; cf. m. Sot 9:15–16). New concepts are only introduced in the independent discourse of the Amoraim, which evidence a widespread knowledge of messianism, and exhibit many of the same restorative and utopian ideas seen in 2nd Temple Literature. The Yerushalmi expects the return of the Davidic dynasty (y. Naz 7:1) with a Davidic messiah (y. Kidd 4:1), and the resurrection of the dead in the messianic era (y. Ket 12:3).

The Yerushalmi moves from allusions to suggestive stories. Y. Ber. 2:4 relates that the messiah-king, Menahem son of Hezekiah, was born in Bethlehem on the day the Temple was destroyed, and hidden away by the spirit, presumably until his expected later revelation. This story is important because it expects a “Davidic messiah” who is not specifically a descendant of David. Furthermore, its identification with a known historical figure rejects Akiva’s view that Bar Kokhba was the messiah as found in y. Ta’an. 4:5. This may be an indirect statement against false prophets. The Yerushalmi basically picks up ideas latent in tannaitic texts and brings them to the forefront. It is void of the utopian concept of messianism so prominent during the Second Temple, and focuses on restorative messianism with its central Davidic messiah.51

Babylonian Talmud

The Babylonian Talmud (Bavli) is the second and most important systematic exegesis of the Mishnah. It reached closure in the 6th century. Like the Yerushalmi, the Bavli consists of Mishnah and Gemara, which is commentary on the Mishnah. The Bavli presents us with the most developed form of messianism in rabbinic literature. From
b. Sanhedrin 96b–99a, the fullest statement on messianism in the Bavli, we learn that the coming of the messiah will be inaugurated by a time of trouble,52 that it is ill-advised to calculate messiah’s coming, but not forbidden,53 that the messianic era constitutes the third part of the history of the world,54 that the messiah will be sent by God to a generation that repents of its sins, and that the messiah will come from the House of David.55 In the midst of this discussion on messianism, the rabbis inquire as to the name of the messiah. Each school put forth a name that honored its teacher by using a play on words: the school of R. Shila said Shiloh (Gen 49:10), of R. Yannai, Yinnon (Ps 72:17), of R. Hananiah, Hananiah (Jer 16:13), and others said Menachem son of Hezekiah
(Lam 1:16). In the end they say, “His name is
חיוורא (Soncino: “leper scholar”) as it is written, ‘Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him a leper, smitten of God, and afflicted.’ ” (Isa 53:4; quote from b. San 98b). This title stems from an encounter recorded in b. San 98a, between Rabbi Joshua ben Levi and the prophet Elijah in response to a question about the timing of the messiah’s coming. Elijah sends R. Joshua to inquire of the messiah himself. R. Joshua finds the messiah in the city gate sitting among the poor and diseased, re-bandaging their leprous sores. Note that the emphasis in this passage is on the time of the coming of messiah. Messiah is not bandaging his own sores, but those of others. Instead of unwinding all the bandages at one time and then rewrapping them, the messiah is unwrapping one bandage at a time, and then re-bandaging it before moving on to the next sore. This way, he is prepared to go the moment Hashem bids him. At any rate, the rabbis connected the first passage with one of the names of messiah associating him with suffering. From these two passages we learn that Isaiah 53 was interpreted as applying to a messiah. The interpretation of Isaiah 53 and related passages (i.e., Isa 49:10, 11; Mic 5:2: Ps 18) shifted in the Middle Ages after Rashi (1040-1105) wrote his biblical commentary, where he interprets Isaiah 53 to refer collectively to Israel. As can be seen from this example, different names and functions were associated with the messiah in the Bavli. The Bavli assumes that the name messiah is pre-existent (b. Ned 39b; b. Pes 5a; 54b), that he would free the Jewish people from foreign rulers (b. San 97a), who, in turn, would submit to him (b. Ta’an 14b), and that he would usher in an era of peace (b. San 91b; b. Shabb 63a; 151b; b. Pes 68a).

The idea of multiple messiahs surfaces in the Bavli, but does not play a systematic role in the Talmud’s larger framework. Messiah ben Joseph is introduced in b. Suk. 52a alongside Messiah ben David. These two messiahs represent the two aspects of restorative and utopian (apocalyptic) messianism. Messiah ben Joseph is the messiah who dies during an eschatological battle. Though he fights and loses, he does not suffer; Isaiah’s suffering servant is not applied to him. “He [Messiah ben Joseph] is a redeemer, who redeems nothing.”56 After the death of Messiah ben Joseph, Messiah ben David comes to the forefront and all of the utopian bliss becomes concentrated in him. This very apocalyptic passage includes additional eschatological/messianic figures such as Elijah and Melchizedek.

Despite the strong apocalyptic perspective of many of the Amoraic teachers, there were also those who rejected the idea. Samuel, a Babylonian sage from the early 3rd century, exemplifies stringent anti-apocalypticism. In opposition to R. Hiyya b. Abba, Samuel states, “The only difference between this age and the Days of the Messiah is the subjection [of Israel] to the nations” (b. Ber 34b). Another strong rejection of apocalypticism in Amoraic texts appears in Song of Songs Rabbah 2(7).1, where God adjures Israel not to seek to hasten the end of days, and warns them not to repeat the messianic failures of the past. While many of these concepts occur elsewhere in rabbinic literature, in the Bavli they have been infused with apocalyptic and utopian understandings, e.g. the appearance of two messiahs, the messiah’s ability to judge, and the notion of four kingdoms based on Daniel. Still, the Bavli is devoid of certain apocalyptic motifs characteristic of 2nd Temple texts, such as a complete description of an eschatological war or the destruction of the wicked. The utopian has come back, but it has been “rabbinized” into a different form.57

Amoraic MidrashimMidrash Rabbah and Pesikta de-Rav Kahana

The Amoraic Midrashim, primarily compilations of traditions of the Palestinian Sages, exhibit the same tendencies as seen in the Babylonian Talmud. For example, Leviticus Rabbah 13.5 (cf. Lamentations Rabbah 1.42 and Esther Rabbah 1) reworks and expands the sequence of Daniel’s four kingdoms, and Song of Songs Rabbah 2(13).4 expects the messiah to come during a time deserving of punishment and misfortune. The most explicit passage with apocalyptic elements is Pesikta de-Rav Kahana section 5.9. The section exhibits a strong utopian trend: well-known eschatological figures such Elijah, the messiah, Melchizedek, and the War Priest; the expectation of a great pestilence that will destroy the wicked; the coming of messiah only to a sinful generation that will be destroyed; and a description of the full restoration of Zion which surpasses even the glory of the giving of Torah at Sinai.58

The above survey of messianism in rabbinic literature does not include every reference to messiah or to his functions. It does however, capture the concepts of messiah, his functions and messianic expectations found in classic rabbinic literature.


Our survey of Jewish literature beyond the Bible has revealed basic messianic motifs and trends that run throughout the literature from the return from Babylonian captivity through the rabbinic eras. One prominent feature is the two typologies drawn from biblical traditions, of restorative and utopian messianism. Restorative messianism speaks of the reconstitution of the ancient glories of the Davidic dynasty and the utopian of a future perfect society. These two aspects circulated separately until they came together in Qumran literature in the messiahs of Aaron, the priestly messiah, and of Israel, the royal, Davidic messiah. The Qumran community’s religious orientation and apocalyptic worldview also profoundly affected their adaptation of various messianic motifs common in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. Tannaitic literature continues these same trends and motifs, but moves away from apocalyptic influences and utopianism, whereas these 2nd Temple traditions re-emerge in Amoraic literature.

Although our survey stops just before the Medieval period, these messianic traditions do not. They continue to play a role in the ongoing development of Jewish messianic and apocalyptic speculation through the Middle Ages into modernity. The esoteric element and strong apocalyptic characteristic of Qumran literature spills into the Middle Ages, manifesting in mysticism and false messiahs. The tension between halakah and messianism in early rabbinic literature resurfaces in the conflict in the messianic movements of the twelfth century CE with the advent of antinomianism. Anti-apocalypticism was crystallized in Maimonides’ formulations of messianism. His views still dominate Judaism today.


The ideas stemming from the above survey profoundly impact Messianic Jewish concepts of messiah and messianism because they supply part of the essential Jewish communal context. The motifs, trends and concepts expounded in this article, along with the bibliographical references, provide a foundation for the continued development of Messianic Jewish theology. Their consideration and infusion will bring about insights and clarity.

There are many ways the study of these documents impact Messianic Judaism today. Seth Klayman, lists five reasons the study of messiah in Jewish texts outside the Bible is important for Messianic Jews today.59 His reasons relate to messianic prophecies, expectations, realizations and outreach. The above study expands these five to include theology, especially in developing a mature Messianic Jewish Christology. Firstly, studying 2nd Temple texts outside the Bible for Messianic Jewish theology provides a sound methodology. Messianism, messianic expectations, traditions, etc. have changed radically since the coming of Yeshua until today. The destruction of the Temple, the marriage of the Church and the Roman empire under Constantine, the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment and Jewish Haskalah, and the Holocaust are historical events that have greatly impacted Christian and Jewish views of messiah and messianism. The documents presented in this study provide a glimpse into the ideas and concepts before, or contemporary with, their historical events, allowing us to trace the development of theological ideas of messiah/messianism, and understand how they were influenced by the various historical events. This in turn affords the ability to understand various theological points and to discern which to build upon and which to discard. Secondly, the study of these texts provides a Jewish communal context that is more or less contemporary with the time and events recorded in the Apostolic writings and the development of early Christianity. As such it provides insights into the concepts, thoughts, worldview and questions people were asking at the that time. These in turn afford a wider background so that the doctrine and theology of the Apostolic Writings can be understood more deeply and clearly. Lastly, the texts presented in this article demonstrate how the Jewish community in the 2nd Temple period and shortly thereafter exegeted the Tanakh in regard to messiah and messianism. This study reveals that they interpreted the biblical prophecies messianically, just as Messianic Jews do today, and that they had diverse interpretations of these prophecies. An adept grasp of their exegesis of these prophecies will provide us with more hermeneutical tools to “rightly divide the Word of Truth.”


Abegg, Martin G. Jr., Craig A. Evans, and Gerben S. Oegema. “Bibliography of Messianism and the Dead Sea Scrolls.” In Qumran Messianism. Edited by James H. Charlesworth, Hermann Lichtenberger, and Gerbern S. Oegema. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 1998, 204–214.

Angel, Joseph L. “Damascus Document.” In Outside the Bible: Ancient Jewish Writings Related to Scripture. Edited by Louis H. Feldman, James L. Kugel, and Lawrence H. Schiffman. Philadelphia, PA: JPS, 2013, 3:2975–3935.

Black, Matthew. “The Messianism of the Parables of Enoch: Their Date and Contributions to Christological Origins.” In The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity. Edited by James H. Charlesworth. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992, 145–168.

Bokser, Baruch M. “Messianism, The Exodus Pattern in Early Rabbinic Judaism.” In The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity. Edited by James H. Charlesworth. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992, 239–258.

Charles, Robert Henry. The Book of Enoch or 1 Enoch: Translated from the Editor’s Ethiopic Text. Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1912.

James H. Charlesworth “The Concept of the Messiah in the Pseudepigrapha.” In Aufstieg und Niedergang der Romischen Welt II/19.1. Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter, 1979, 189–218.

___. “From Jewish Messianology to Christian Christology.” In Judaisms and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era. Edited by Jacob Neusner, William Scott Green and Ernest S. Frerichs. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987, 225–264.

Collins, John J. The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature. New York: Crossroad, 1984.

Collins, John J. The Scepter and the Star: The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literature. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010.

Corley, Jeremy. “Messianism in Hebrew Ben Sira and Greek Sirach.” In The Septuagint and Messianism. Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium 195. Edited by Michael Anthony Knibb. Leuven, Begium: Leuven University Press/Peeters, 2006, 301–312.

de Jonge, Marinus. “The Use of the Word ‘Anointed’ in the Time of Jesus.” Novum Testamentum 8 (1966): 132–148.

de Jonge, Marinus and Adams S. van der Woude. “Chrio, etc.” TDNT 9 (1974): 493–593.

Fitzmyer, Joseph A. The One Who is to Come. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007.

Goldstein, Jonathan A. “How the Authors of 1 and 2 Maccabees Treated the Messianic Prophecies.” In Judaisms and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era. Edited by Jacob Neusner, William Scott Green and Ernest S. Frerichs. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987, 69– 96.

Green, William Scott. “Messiah in Judaism: Rethinking the Question.” In Judaisms and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era. Edited by Jacob Neusner, William Scott Green and Ernest S. Frerichs. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987, 1–13.

Hogeterp, Albert L.A. Expectations of the End: A Comparative Traditio-Historical Study of Eschatological, Apocalyptic and Messianic Ideas In the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament. STDJ 83. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2009.

Klayman, Seth. “Messianic Expectations ‘Messy-Antic’ Realizations: Evaluating the Influence of Messianisms on Jewish identity in the Second Temple Period.” Kesher 12 (Winter 2000): 3–79.

Klijn, A.F.J. “2 (Syriac Apocalypse of) Baruch.” In Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. 2 vols. Edited by J.H. Charlesworth. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983, 1:615-652.

Laato, Annti. A Star Is Rising: The Historical Development of the Old Testament Royal Ideology and the Rise of the Jewish Messianic Expectations. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1997.

Lauterbach, Jacob, trans., Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael, 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 2004.

Lust, Johan. “Messianism and Septuagint.” In Congress Volume: Salamanca 1983. Edited by John Adney Emerton. VTSup 36. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1985, 174–191.

Mowinckel, Sigmund. He That Cometh: The Messiah Concept in the Old Testament and Later Judaism. G.W. Anderson, trans. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005.

Neusner, Jacob. Messiah in Context: Israel’s History and Destiny in Formative Judaism. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1984.

Neusner, Jacob, William Scott Green, and Ernest S. Frerichs, eds. Judaisms and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Nickelsburg, George W.E. Jewish Literature Between the Bible and the Mishnah: A Historical and Literary Introduction. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2005.

___. “Salvation without and with a Messiah: Developing Beliefs in Writings Ascribed to Enoch.” In Judaisms and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era. Edited by Jacob Neusner, William Scott Green and Ernest S. Frerichs. Cambridge, UK.: Cambridge University Press, 1987, 49–68.

Nickelsburg, George W.E. and James C. VanderKam. 1 Enoch 2: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch Chapters 37–82. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2012.

Pomykala, Kenneth E. The Davidic Dynasty Tradition in Early Judaism: Its History and Significance for Messianism. SBLEJL 7. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1995, 127–229.

Puech, Émile. “Ben Sira 48.11 et la Résurrection.” In Of Scribes and Scrolls: Studies on the Hebrew Bible, Intertestamental Judaism and Christian Origins. Edited by Harold W. Attridge, John J. Collins, and Thomas H. Tobin. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1990, 81–90.

Schiffman, Lawrence H. “Messianic Figures and Ideas in the Qumran Scrolls.” In The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity. Edited by James H. Charlesworth. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992, 116–129.

___. “Messianism and Apocalypticism [in Rabbinic Texts].” In The Cambridge History of Judaism: IV. The Late Roman-Rabbinic Period. Edited by Steven T. Katz Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008, 1053–1076.

Scholem, Gershom. The Messianic Idea in Judaism and Other Essays on Jewish Spirituality. New York: Schocken, 1971.

Shürer, Émil. History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 B.C.—A.D. 135), rev. ed. Edited by Geza Vermes, Fergus Millar and Martin Goodman. Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark, 1979.

Smith, Morton. “What is Implied by the Variety of Messianic Figures?” JBL 78 (1959): 66–72.

Stone, Michael E. Fourth Ezra: A Commentary on the Book of Fourth Ezra. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990.

Stone, Michael E. and Matthias Henze. 4th Ezra and 2 Baruch: Translations, Introductions and Notes. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2013.

Tromp, Johannes. The Assumption of Moses: A Critical Edition with Commentary. SVTP 10. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1992.

VanderKam, James C. “Messianism in the Scrolls.” In The Community of the New Covenant. Edited by Eugene Ulrich and James C. VanderKam. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame, 1994, 211-234.

___. “Righteous One, Messiah, Chosen One and Son of Man in 1 Enoch 37-71.” In The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity. Edited by James H. Charlesworth, et al. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992, 169–191.

VanderKam, James C. and Peter Flint. The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Significance for Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus and Christianity. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2004.

Walck, Leslie W. “The Son of Man in the Parables of Enoch and the Gospels.” In Enoch and the Messiah Son of Man: Revisiting the Book of Parables. Edited by Gabriele Boccaccini. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007, 299-337.

Wright, Benjamin G. “Eschatology Without a Messiah in the Wisdom of Ben Sira.” In The Septuagint and Messianism. Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium 195. Edited by M.A. Knibb. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press/Peeters, 2006, 313-323.

1 Gershom Scholem, “Toward an Understanding of the Messianic Idea in Judaism,” in The Messianic Idea in Judaism and Other Essays on Jewish Spirituality (New York: Schocken, 1971), 1.

2 Ibid. William Scott Green challenges Scholem’s postulations and the influence they have had on subsequent scholarship; see William Scott Green, “Messiah in Judaism: Rethinking the Question,”in Judaisms and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era, Jacob Neusner, William Scott Green and Ernest S. Frerichs, eds. (Cambridge, UK.: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 1–13.

3 The term messianism is derived from חישמ (mashiach), the Hebrew word for messiah, which in the Tanakh denotes something “anointed,” as in the anointed high priest (Lev 4:3, 5, 16) or an anointed king (e.g., 1 Sam 2:10; cf. Cyrus in Isa 45:1). For the biblical meaning of חישמ see Joseph Fitzmyer, “The Term Messiah,” The One Who is to Come (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007), 1–7 and idem, “The Use of חישמ in the Old Testament,” The One Who is to Come, 8–25.

4 The term “messiah” has limited and inconsistent use in early Jewish texts. For more information, see for example, Marinus de Jonge, “The Use of the Word ‘Anointed’ in the Time of Jesus,” Novum Testamentum 8 (1966): 132–148; Marinus de Jong and Adams S. van der Woude, “Chrio, etc.” TDNT 9 (1974): 493–593, specifically 509–527; James H. Charlesworth, “The Concept of the Messiah in the Pseudepigrapha,” Aufstieg und Niedergang der Romischen Welt II/19.1 (1979): 189–218.

5 Johan Lust, “Messianism and Septuagint,” in Congress Volume: Salamanca 1983, VTSup 36, John Adney Emerton, ed. (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1985), 174–191, quote 175.

6 In ancient Jewish literature a messiah is not essential to the apocalyptic genre nor is it a prominent feature in ancient apocalyptic writings. James H. Charlesworth, “From Jewish Messianology to Christian Christology,” in Judaisms and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era, Jacob Neusner and Ernest S. Frerichs, eds. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1957), 225–264; John J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination (New York: Crossroad, 1984).

7 The Dead Sea Scrolls report at least two messiahs, one Davidic and one priestly, neither of which is specifically an eschatological figure. The DSS also apply the term חישמ to prophets who are not necessarily eschatological figures. See Albert L.A. Hogeterp, Expectations of the End: A Comparative Traditio-Historical Study of Eschatological, Apocalyptic and Messianic Ideas in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament, STDJ 83 (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2009), 428–434.

8 For more information on this methodology, see Lawrence H. Schiffman, “Messianism and Apocalypticism,” The Cambridge History of Judaism IV: The Late Roman-Rabbinic Period, Steven T. Katz, ed. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 1053–1076, esp. 1054.

9 See for example: Isa 4:2, 9:7, 16:3–16; Jer 33:15–30; Ezek 34:23–24, 37:24–25; Amos 9:11; Dan 2:44; Joel 2:32; Mic 5:2–3; Zech 6:12–13, 14:1–9.

10 Scholem, “Messianic Idea.”

11 For David in Second Temple literature, see Kenneth E. Pomykala, The Davidic Dynasty Tradition in Early Judaism: Its History and Significance for Messianism, SBLEJL 7 (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1995), 127–229.

12 Morton Smith, “What is Implied by the Variety of Messianic Figures?” JBL 78 (1959): 66–72, quote 68.

13 Pre-destruction refers to books written before the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 C.E. and post-destruction after that date.

14 See Émil Shürer, History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 B.C.–A.D. 135), rev. ed., Geza Vermes, Fergus Millar and Martin Goodman, eds. (Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark, 1979), 2:500.

15 Benjamin G. Wright discusses the eschatology in Ben Sira in “Eschatology Without a Messiah in The Wisdom of Ben Sira,” in The Septuagint and Messianism, Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium 195, Michael A. Knibb, ed. (Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press/Peeters, 2006), 313–323.

16 For more information on messianism in the Hebrew Ben Sira and Greek Sirach texts/manuscripts see Jeremy Corley, “Messianism in Hebrew Ben Sira and Greek Sirach,” in The Septuagint and Messianism, 301–312.

17 Both the Hebrew and Greek texts are problematic and difficult to understand. Additionally, key sections of the Hebrew are missing. See Wright, Eschatology, 319–322 and Émile Puech, “Ben Sira 48.11 et la Résurrection,” in Of Scribes and Scrolls: Studies on the Hebrew Bible, Intertestamental Judaism and Christian Origins, Harold W. Attridge, John J. Collins and Thomas H. Tobin, eds. (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1990), 81–90.

18 See Wright, Eschatology, 317–319.

19 Shürer, History of the Jewish People, 2:503–505.

20 Johannes Tromp defends the title “Assumption of Moses” warning that the ancient title cannot be inferred from the modern text in The Assumption of Moses: A Critical Edition with Commentary, SVTP 10 (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1992), 115. The Stichometry of Nicephorus mentions both a Testament and an Assumption of Moses.

21 See for example, Ex 28:41, 29:29, 33, 35; Lev 8:33; Judges 17:5; 1 Kings 13:33; Ezek 43:26 and T. Levi 8:10.

22 George W.E. Nickelsburg, “Salvation without and with a Messiah: Developing Beliefs in Writings Ascribed to Enoch,” in Judaisms and Their Messiahs, 49–68, quote, 55.

23 See for example, Robert Henry Charles, The Book of Enoch or 1 Enoch (Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1912), 215–216. For a more recent reference, see Jonathan Goldstein, “How the Authors of 1 and 2 Maccabees Treated the Messianic Prophecies,” in Judaisms and their Messiahs, 69–96, esp. 72–73.

24 “Salvation without and with a Messiah,” 56.

25 “Salvation without and with a Messiah;” cf. Schiffman, “Messianism and Apocalypticism,” 1058.

26 For a discussion on the dating of Enoch see George W.E. Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature Between the Bible and the Mishnah: A Historical and Literary Introduction (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2005), 254–256.

27 For an in-depth explanation of the conflation of these traditions, see George W.E. Nickelsburg and James C. VanderKam, 1 Enoch 2: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch Chapters 37–82 (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2012), 43–44; James C. VanderKam, “Righteous One, Messiah Chosen One and Son of Man in 1 Enoch 37–71,” in The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity, James H. Charlesworth, ed., et al. (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992), 169–191. Not all scholars agree that the ‘‘son of man’’ should be understood as a messianic figure. For example Sigmund Mowinckel understands the “son of man” to be a representation of the people of the Most High in He That Cometh: The Messiah Concept in the Old Testament and Later Judaism, G.W. Anderson, trans. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005), 348–353.

28 Cf. Matthew Black, “The Messianism of the Parables of Enoch: Their Date and Contributions to Christological Origins,” in The Messiah, 145–168; Annti Laato, A Star Is Rising: The Historical Development of the Old Testament Royal Ideology and the Rise of the Jewish Messianic Expectations (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997), 285–316; John J. Collins, The Scepter and the Star: The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literature, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010), 52–148.

29 See Leslie W. Walck, “The Son of Man in the Parables of Enoch and the Gospels,” in Enoch and the Messiah Son of Man: Revisiting the Book of Parables, Gabriele Boccaccini, ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007), 299–337.

30 For more information on 4 Ezra see Michael E. Stone, Fourth Ezra: A Commentary on the Book of Fourth Ezra (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990). For more information on 2 Baruch see Albertus Frederik Johannes Klijn, “2 (Syriac Apocalypse of ) Baruch,” in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, James H. Charlesworth, ed. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983), 1:615–652.

31 On the material shared by both texts see George W.E. Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature, 270-285; Cf. Michael E. Stone and Matthias Henze, 4th Ezra and 2 Baruch: Translations, Introductions and Notes (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2013).

32 This imagery is an allusion to “a son of man” in Daniel 7:2. See for example, Stone, Fourth Ezra, 383 and Collins, The Scepter and the Star, 207.

33 Many studies have been devoted to Qumran messianism. See Martin G. Abegg, Jr., Craig A. Evans, and Gerben S. Oegema, “Bibliography of Messianism and the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Qumran Messianism (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 1998), 204–214. The Orion Center provides a comprehensive bibliography on the Dead Sea Scrolls and related literature at

34 On king, priest, and prophet as basic paradigms of earthly messianic figures at Qumran, see Collins, The Scepter and the Star, 12.

35 The statement “until he comes who shall teach righteousness at the end of days” in CD 6:11 is quite controversial. Collins discusses this at length in The Scepter and the Star, 110–148.

36 James C. VanderKam, “Messianism in the Scrolls,” in The Community of the New Covenant, Eugene Ulrich and James C. VanderKam, eds. (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame, 1994), 211–234, esp. 212–219 on these terms as titles of “the Davidic Messiah.”

37 E.g. 1QS 9.2, 9.10-11; 1QM 5.1; CD 12.23–13.1, 14.18–19, 19:10-11, 19.33–20.1; 4Q161[Pesher Isaiah A] 8–10, 11–25, 4Q174 3.11–13, 4Q252 15.1–5, 11QMelch, 4Q246, 4Q521, 4Q541.

38 See Lawrence H. Schiffman, “Messianic Figures and Ideas in the Qumran Scrolls,” in The Messiah, 116–129, esp. 117–119.

39 Translation taken from James C. VanderKam and Peter Flint, The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Significance for Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus and Christianity (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2004), 265.

40 Translation from ibid., 265.

41 This oracle is also understood in a messianic sense in 4QTestimonia (4Q175) and in other ancient Jewish literature, e.g. y. Ta’an. 68d-69a and various Targumim, cf. T. Levi 18:3; T. Jud. 24:1; as well as in Revelation 22:16.

42 Quote from Joseph L. Angel, “Damascus Document,” Outside the Bible: Ancient Jewish Writings Related to Scripture, Louis H. Feldman, James L. Kugel, Lawrence H. Schiffman, eds. (Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 2013), 3:2975–3935, esp. 2996.

43 Some scholars see a priestly messiah with royal characteristics in this passage. For a good explanation of the textual difficulties underlying this passage see Collins, The Scepter and the Star, 87–91.

44 For a detailed discussion of the messianic material in rabbinic traditions, see Jacob Neusner, Messiah in Context: Israel’s History and Destiny in Formative Judaism (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1984).

45 Ibid., 17–25; Jacob Neusner, “Mishnah and Messiah” in Judaisms and Their Messiahs, 265–282; cf. Baruch M. Bokser, “Messianism, The Exodus Pattern in Early Rabbinic Judaism,” in The Messiah, 239–258.

46 Neusner, Messiah in Context, 54.

47 See t. San 13.5; t. B Bat 2.17; t. Men 13.22–23; t. Ber 6.3–6; t. Zev 13.6. These references and others are discussed by Neusner in Messiah in Context, 53–63.

48 Jacob Lauterbach, Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 2004).

49 Neusner, Messiah in Context, 133–137.

50 For more detailed information of messiah in the Targumim, see Neusner, Messiah in Context, 239–247.

51 For more detailed information on messiah in the Jerusalem Talmud see Neusner, Messiah in Context, 79–130 and Schiffman, “Messianism and Apocalypticism,” 1064–1065.

52 The concept that the time of the messiah will be preceded by terrible tribulations (e.g. b. Shabb. 118a and b. Ket. 111a-112b) goes back to the concept of the Day of the Lord found in the Prophets and to Scholem’s utopian approach. Cf. b. Hull. 63a; b. Ber. 57a.

53 Three times are proposed: Nisan, the season of Israel’s first redemption (b. Rosh Has. 11a), in a sabbatical year (b. Meg. 17a), or on a weekday, but not a Sabbath or mo’ed (b. Erub. 43a-b). Despite the fact that the actual time is to remain hidden (b. Pes. 54b; b. Meg. 3a), one sage calculated the date as 4231 from creation, the year 468 C.E. (b. Av. Zar. 9b).

54 b. Zev. 118b.

55 Cf. b. Pes 118a; b. Shabb 118a, and 118b; b. Ket 111a, and 112b; b. Hull 63a; b. Av Zar 9b; b. Meg 17b; b. Suk 52a-b; b. San 93a-b, 94a; b. Yev 76b; b. B Bat 14b; b. Ber 4a; 7b; b. Moed Qat 16b. Neusner, Messiah in Context, 169–191 provides an analysis of these sources; cf. Schiffman, “Messianism and Apocalypticism,” 1065–1069.

56 Scholem, “Messianic Idea,” 18.

57 Schiffman, “Messianism and Apocalypticism,” 1069.

58 Much of this section is drawn from Schiffman, “Messianism and Apocalypticism,” 1069–1070.

59 Seth Klayman, “Messianic Expectations ‘Messy-Antic’ Realizations: Evaluating the Influence of Messianism on Jewish Identity in the Second Temple Period,” Kesher 12 (Winter 2000): 72–73.

Dr. Vered Hillel is a Professor of Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity. She currently serves as the Academic Dean of Messianic Jewish Theological Institute. Her areas of interest are Messianic Jewish Theology, Second Temple Judaism and Literature, as well as the Backgrounds to Early Christianity and Jewish/Christian Relations. She and her husband are the co-founders of Aleinu, a Messianic Jewish organization devoted to Jewish life renewed in Yeshua.