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Messianism is the belief in a messiah, who acts as a savior, redeemer or liberator of a group of people. The concept of messianism, best known in Christianity and Judaism, originated in the Hebrew Bible, in which a messiah is a king or High Priest traditionally anointed with holy anointing oil. Messianism is most commonly found in Abrahamic religions, including the Jewish Messiah (from which the term and meaning originates), the Christian Messiah called Christ (the Greek translation of the Hebrew root word), and the Muslim Mahdi and Isa (one of the Arabic names for Jesus). Other religions also have a messianism-related concept, including the Buddhist Maitreya, the Hindu Kalki, the Zoroastrian Saoshyant and He whom God shall make manifest in Bábism (believed to be Bahá'u'lláh by Bahais).
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.
Orthodox Jewish messianic movements have sprang out throughout the centuries among the Jewish communities worldwide, including various Messiah claimants - which at times became popular, but have either failed to deliver the promises of redemption or remained with only a handful of followers. The most popular Messiah claimants were Simon Bar Kokhba in the 2nd century Judea, Nehemiah ben Hushiel in the 7th century Sasanian Empire, Sabbatai Zevi in the 17th century Ottoman Empire (precursor to Sabbateans), Jacob Frank in the 18th century Europe, Shukr Kuhayl I and Judah ben Shalom in 19th century Ottoman Yemen, and finally Menachem Mendel Schneerson in 20th century US (precursor to Chabad messianism).
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.
In Christianity, the Messiah is called the Christ (//; Greek: Χριστός, translit. Khristós, lit. 'Anointed One'; Hebrew: מָשִׁיחַ, translit. Māšîah, lit. 'Mashiach'), the saviour and redeemer who would bring salvation to the Jewish people and mankind. "Christ" is the Greek translation of "Messiah", meaning "Anointed one". The role of the Christ, the Messiah in Christianity, originated from the concept of the messiah in Judaism. Though the conceptions of the messiah in each religion are similar, for the most part they are distinct from one another due to the split of early Christianity and Judaism in the 1st century. Christians believe Jesus to be the Jewish messiah (Christ) of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament.
Christians believe that the messianic prophecies were fulfilled in his mission, death, Resurrection, and Ascension to his Session on the heavenly throne, where "he sat down at the right hand of God, where he is now waiting until his enemies are made a footstool for his feet" (Heb 10:12-13 NET, quoting the Davidic royal Psalm 110:1). Christians believe that the rest of the messianic prophecies will be fulfilled in the Second coming of Christ. One prophecy, distinctive in both the Jewish and Christian concept of the messiah, is that a Jewish king from the Davidic line, who will be "anointed" with holy anointing oil, will be king of God's kingdom on earth, and rule the Jewish people and mankind during the Messianic Age and World to come.
The word Masih (the Arabic word for "Messiah") literally means "The anointed one" and in Islam, Isa Ibn Mariam, al-Masih (the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary) is believed to have been anointed from birth by Allah with the specific task of being a prophet and a king. In Islam, Mahdi is believed to hold the task of establishing the truth and fighting against oppression and injustice as well as killing the false messiah al-Dajjal (similar to the Antichrist in Christianity), who will emerge shortly before him in human form in the end of the times, claiming that he is the messiah. After he has destroyed al-Dajjal his final task will be to become a just king and to re-establish justice, peace and monotheism in the world .
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." 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. 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.
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.
Around the 3rd century CE, religious Taoism developed eschatological ideas. A number of scriptures[which?] 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).
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."
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. 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.
Rastafarians believe 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.
Some cargo cults believe 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.
Russian and Slavic messianism
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. This theme had a profound impact in the development of Pan-Slavism and 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"). Messianic ideas appear іn the "Books of the Genesis of the Ukrainian People" (Brotherhood of Saints Cyril and Methodius Manifesto), in which universal equality and democracy in the Zaporizhian Sich, recognized as a revival of human society initially planned by God. Extermination of Ukraine by Poland and Russia, and faith in its future revival, associated with faith in the death and resurrection of Christ. Reborned Ukraine will expand universal freedom and faith in all Slavic countries and thus designed by God ideal society will be restored.
- List of messiah claimants
- Messianic Age
- End times
- Messiah complex
- Maitreya (Share International)
- Christ of Europe
- Fifth Empire
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- Zürcher, E. (1982). ""Prince Moonlight": Messianism and Eschatology in Early Medieval Chinese Buddhism". T'oung Pao. 68: 16.
- The Kalki Parana
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