Messianism

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Messianism is the belief in a messiah, a savior or redeemer. Many religions have a messiah concept, including the Jewish Messiah, the Christian Christ, the Muslim Mahdi and Isa (Arabic name for Jesus), the Buddhist Maitreya, the Hindu Kalki and the Zoroastrian Saoshyant. The state of the world is seen as hopelessly flawed beyond normal human powers of correction, and divine intervention through a specially selected and supported human is seen as necessary.

Judaism[edit]

Messiah (Hebrew: משיח‎; mashiah, moshiah, mashiach, or moshiach, ("anointed [one]") is a term used in the Hebrew Bible to describe priests and kings, who were traditionally anointed. For example, Cyrus the Great, the king of Persia, is referred to as "God's anointed" (Messiah) in the Bible.

In Jewish messianic tradition and eschatology, the term came to refer to a future Jewish King from the Davidic line, who will be "anointed" with holy anointing oil and rule the Jewish people during the Messianic Age. In Standard Hebrew, The Messiah is often referred to as מלך המשיח, Méleḫ ha-Mašíaḥ (in the Tiberian vocalization pronounced Méleḵ hamMāšîªḥ), literally meaning "the Anointed King."

Traditional Rabbinic teachings and current Orthodox thought has held that the Messiah will be an anointed one (messiah), descended from his father through the Davidic line of King David, who will gather the Jews back into the Land of Israel and usher in an era of peace.

Other denominations, such as Reform Judaism, perceive a Messianic Age when the world will be at peace, but do not agree that there will be a Messiah as the leader of this era.

The Jewish Messiah was the source of the development of later, similar messianic concepts in Christianity (originally a Jewish sect) and Islam.

Christianity[edit]

In Christianity, the Second Coming is the anticipated return of Jesus from the heavens to the earth (Zechariah 14:3-4, Acts 1:11, Revelation 19:11-20:6), an event that will fulfill aspects of messianic prophecy, such as the resurrection of the dead, the last judgment of the dead and the living and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth, including the Messianic Age. Views about the nature of this return vary among Christian denominations. Jesus is understood as having fulfilled the laws set forth by Moses (such as sacrificial offerings) with the supposition that those laws represented Jesus in the first place, being the shadow of the true substance which would be this new fulfillment, see also New Covenant. Therefore, this new fulfillment of the law is believed to now have potentiality in being upheld by each individual instinctively, as Jesus Spirit is believed to be abiding in each Christian. This includes the allowance and explanation of calling God "Father", because God recognizes the new Christian as a son, since that person has Jesus own Spirit within them. However, Christianity has a unique attribute of a tri-part God. The "Son" is believed to be one with the "Father", and also with the "Spirit". Therefore there is an overall understanding of oneness, and each identity of the Christian God is fully separate, and power is authoritatively different while at the same time retaining equality among the Godhead, as being all three aspects to one God. Granted, this explanation only roughly describes the triune God within the Christian Religion. Therefore, God himself is the Messiah, King of All the Earth, in the person of Christ Jesus.

Islam[edit]

In Islamic eschatology the Mahdi (مهدي Mahdī, also Mehdi; "Guided One") is the prophesied redeemer of Islam who will stay on earth seven, nine, or nineteen years (depending on the interpretation[1]) before the coming of Yaum al-Qiyamah (literally "Day of the Resurrection" or "Day of the Standing").[2] Muslims believe the Mahdi will rid the world of error, injustice and tyranny alongside Jesus.[3] The concept of Mahdi is not mentioned in the Qur'an nor in the Sunni hadith collection called Sahih al-Bukhari.[4][5] Hadith about the Mahdi are present in other Sunni hadith collections, although some orthodox Sunnī theologians do question Mahdist beliefs.[5] Such beliefs do form a necessary part of Shīʿī doctrine.[4]

The idea of the Mahdi has been described as important to Sufi Muslims, and a "powerful and central religious idea" for Shia Muslims who believe the Mahdi is the Twelfth Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi who will return from occultation. However, among Sunni, it "never became a formal doctrine" and is neither endorsed, nor condemned "by the consensus of Sunni Ulama." It has "gained a strong hold on the imagination of many ordinary" self-described orthodox Sunni though, thanks to Sufi preaching.[6] Another source distinguishes between Sunni and Shia beliefs on the Mahdi saying the Sunni believe the Mahdi will be a descendant of the Prophet named Muhammad who will revive the faith, but not necessarily be connected with the end of the world, Jesus or perfection.[7]

The word Masih literally means "The anointed one" and in Islam, Isa son of Mariam, al-Masih (The Messiah Jesus son of Virgin Mary) is believed to have been anointed from birth by Allah with the specific task of being a prophet and a king. In orthodox Islam, Isa is believed to hold the task of killing the false messiah al-Dajjal (similar to the Antichrist in Christianity), who will emerge shortly before him during Qiyamah. After he has destroyed al-Dajjal, his final task will be to become leader of the Muslims. Isa will unify the Muslim Ummah under the common purpose of worshipping Allah alone in pure Islam, thereby ending divisions and deviations by adherents. Mainstream Muslims believe that at that time Isa will dispel Christian and Jewish claims about him.

Buddhism[edit]

Maitreya is a bodhisattva who in the Buddhist tradition is to appear on Earth, achieve complete enlightenment, and teach the pure dharma. According to scriptures, Maitreya will be a successor of the historic Śākyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. The prophecy of the arrival of Maitreya is found in the canonical literature of all Buddhist sects (Theravāda, Mahāyāna, Vajrayāna) and is accepted by most Buddhists as a statement about an actual event that will take place in the distant future.

Though Maitreya Buddha appears in the canonical literature shared by many sects of Buddhism, Buddhists in different historical contexts have conceived of Maitreya Buddha in different ways. In early medieval Chinese Buddhism, for example, Taoist and Buddhist ideas combined to produce a particular emphasis on the messianic role of a Bodhisattva called "Prince Moonlight."[8] Furthermore, the Chinese Maitreyan traditions were themselves marked by considerable diversity. Erik Zurcher has argued that a certain "canonical" Maitreyan cult from the fourth to sixth centuries believed Maitreya to inhabit the Tusita heaven where Buddhists might be reborn in the very distant future. Another rival tradition, however, believed that Maitreya would appear in the imminent future in this world to provide salvation during a time of misery and decline.[9] This latter form of Maitreyan belief was generally censored and condemned as heretical to the point that few manuscripts survive written by Buddhists sympathetic to this tradition.[10]

Maitreya Buddha continued to be an important figure in millenarian rebellions throughout Chinese history such as in the rebellions associated with the so-called White Lotus Society.

Taoism[edit]

Around the 3rd century CA religious Taoism developed eschatological ideas. A number of scriptures predict the end of the world cycle, the deluge, epidemics, and coming of the saviour Li Hong 李弘 (not to be confused with the Tang personalities).

Hinduism[edit]

In Hinduism, Kalki (Devanagari: कल्कि; also rendered by some as Kalkin and Kalaki) is the tenth and final Maha Avatara (great incarnation) of Vishnu who will come to end the present age of darkness and destruction known as Kali Yuga. The name Kalki is often a metaphor for eternity or time. The origins of the name probably lie in the Sanskrit word "kalka" which refers to dirt, filth, or foulness and hence denotes the "destroyer of foulness," "destroyer of confusion," "destroyer of darkness," or "annihilator of ignorance."[11]

Zoroastrianism[edit]

According to Zoroastrian philosophy, redacted in the Zand-i Vohuman Yasht, "at the end of thy tenth hundredth winter [...] the sun is more unseen and more spotted; the year, month, and day are shorter; and the earth is more barren; and the crop will not yield the seed; and men [...] become more deceitful and more given to vile practices. They have no gratitude.

Honorable wealth will all proceed to those of perverted faith [...] and a dark cloud makes the whole sky night [...] and it will rain more noxious creatures than winter."

Saoshyant, the Man of Peace, battles the forces of evil.[citation needed] The events of the final renovation are described in the Bundahishn (30.1ff): In the final battle with evil, the yazatas Airyaman and Atar will "melt the metal in the hills and mountains, and it will be upon the earth like a river" (Bundahishn 34.18), but the righteous (ashavan) will not be harmed.

Eventually, Ahura Mazda will triumph, and his agent Saoshyant will resurrect the dead, whose bodies will be restored to eternal perfection, and whose souls will be cleansed and reunited with God. Time will then end, and truth/righteousness (asha) and immortality will thereafter be everlasting.

Religious Zionism[edit]

Religious Zionists are the Jewish religious minority of the basically secular Zionist movement who justified, on the basis of Judaism, secular Zionist efforts to build a Jewish state in the land of Israel. In their belief, the Jewish state is "the commencement of the growth of our redemption" (Hebrew: ראשית צמיחת גאולתנוreshit tzmichat ge'ulateinu), and that state may be brought about by human action, without waiting for the Messiah to gather the Jews back into the Land of Israel. This view ran contrary to the view of Haredi Judaism which rejected any secular, human effort to preempt the ingathering of the exiles by God and his chosen one, the Messiah. Religious Zionism, explained in terms acceptable to the Halakha, is the secular, mainly socialist, existentialist Zionist vision whereby material needs of the people are addressed through practical and realistic solutions, reflected by secular philosophers such as Ahad Ha'am.

In 1862, German Orthodox Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer published his tractate Derishat Zion, positing that the salvation of the Jews, promised by the Prophets, can come about only by self-help.[12]

The main ideologue of modern religious Zionism was Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, who justified Zionism according Jewish law and urged young religious Jews to support efforts to settle the land, and the mainstream, majority, secular and socialist Labour Zionists to give more consideration to Judaism.

Rav Kook saw Zionism as a part of a divine scheme which would result in the resettlement of the Jewish people in its homeland. This would bring salvation (Geula) to Jews, and then to the entire world. After world harmony is achieved by the refoundation of the Jewish homeland, the Messiah will come.

The apparent contradiction arising from the fact that political and practical Zionism was overwhelmingly secular, socialist and even atheist schools of thought, was resolved by the concept of "the Messiah's donkey" (Hebrew: חמורו של משיחkhamoro shel mashiakh) whereby majority secular Zionism was seen as a temporary divine measure for the achievement of Jewish salvation.

Since the Six Day War, Religious Zionism, spearheaded by mass-movements such as Gush Emunim, has been the leading force behind Jewish settlement in the non-consensual areas of the West Bank, bringing about the main schism dividing Israeli politics for the past 40 years.

Rastafarianism[edit]

Rastafarianism believes that Emperor Haile Selassie was not killed by the Derg in Ethiopia's civil war, but will return to save Earth, and in particular, people of African descent. This is a particularly interesting case, as Selassie is identified as the Second Coming of Jesus, so the Rastafarian prophecy is effectively a second coming of the second coming.

John Frum[edit]

This cargo cult believes in a messiah figure called John Frum. When David Attenborough asked one of its adherents if it was rational for them to be still waiting for Frum to re-appear after 50 years, he was told that Christianity had been waiting 2,000 years, so waiting for Frum was much more rational than that.

Russian and Slavic[edit]

Romantic Slavic messianism held that the Slavs, especially the Russians, suffer in order that other European nations, and eventually all of humanity, may be redeemed.[13] This theme had a profound impact in the development of Russian and Soviet imperialism; it also appears in works by the Polish Romantic poets Zygmunt Krasiński and Adam Mickiewicz, including the latter's familiar expression, "Polska Chrystusem narodów" ("Poland is the Christ of the nations").[14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World, Thompson Gale, (2004), p.421
  2. ^ Glasse, Cyril, The New Encyclopedia of Islam, Altamira, 2001, p.280
  3. ^ Momen, Moojan, An Introduction to Shi'i Islam, Yale University Press, 1985, p.166-8
  4. ^ a b "mahdī." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 21 Jul. 2008. Accessed 2008-07-21<http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/358096/mahdi>
  5. ^ a b Doi, A. R. I, The Yoruba Mahdī, Journal of Religion in Africa (Vol. 4, Fasc. 2), BRILL,(1971-1972), pp. 119-136. <http://www.jstor.org/pss/1594738>.
  6. ^ Mortimer, Edward, Faith and Power: The Politics of Islam, Vintage Books, 1982 , p.54
  7. ^ Nasr, Vali, The Shia Revival, Norton, 2006, p.68
  8. ^ Zürcher, E. (1982). ""Prince Moonlight": Messianism and Eschatology in Early Medieval Chinese Buddhism". T'oung Pao 68: 2. 
  9. ^ Zürcher, E. (1982). ""Prince Moonlight": Messianism and Eschatology in Early Medieval Chinese Buddhism". T'oung Pao 68: 13. 
  10. ^ Zürcher, E. (1982). ""Prince Moonlight": Messianism and Eschatology in Early Medieval Chinese Buddhism". T'oung Pao 68: 16. 
  11. ^ The Kalki Parana
  12. ^ Zvi Hirsch Kalischer (Jewish Encyclopedia)
  13. ^ Russian Messianism: Third Rome, Revolution, Communism and After, Peter J. S. Duncan, London, Routledge, 2000
  14. ^ THE SUFFERING, CHOSENNESS AND MISSION OF THE POLISH NATION, Waldemar Chrostowski, Religion in Eastern Europe, George Fox University

Bibliography[edit]

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  • Vol. 1: Goldish, Matt and Popkin, Richard H. (eds.). Jewish Messianism in the Early Modern World, 2001.
  • Vol. 2: Kottmnan, Karl (eds.). Catholic Millenarianism: From Savonarola to the Abbè Grégoire, 2001.
  • Vol. 3: Force, James E. and Popkin, Richard H. (eds.). The Millenarian Turn: Millenarian Contexts of Science, Politics and Everyday Anglo-American Life in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, 2001.
  • Vol. 4: Laursen, John Christian and Popkin, Richard H. (eds.). Continental Millenarians: Protestants, Catholics, Heretics, 2001.
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