THE MESSIAS, - Rev. Fr. M. P. Hill, S.J.
Who is the Messias? Is it Christ or simply the blessing to rest upon the people of God?
The Truth.—Such is the view entertained by many Hebrews of the present day. It looks like a desperate shift to elude the evidence of the actual coming of the Messias, which took place nearly two thousand years ago. Any Jew who believes in the sacred writings of his nation and has not permitted himself to be infected by the rationalistic spirit of interpretation which is so rife in our day should need only to read the prophecies with ordinary attention to be convinced that the Messias was to be a person. And we shall add that any Hebrew who has the courage and the open-mindedness to step out of the groove of traditional belief in which his education and environment have placed him, and who gives a moderate amount of reflection to the Scriptural evidences for the actual coming of the Messias, will, at the very least, be made to feel the dubiousness of
the traditional Hebrew position.
We shall now group together the texts from the Old Testament on which the Christian dogma is based. Each and all of them indicate the personal character of the Messias and the Messiasship of Jesus of Nazareth.
Jacob prophesied on his deathbed: "The scepter shall not be taken away from Juda, nor a ruler from his thigh, till he come that is to be sent, and he shall be the expectation of nations" (Gen. xlix. 10).
In the eighth verse Jacob had said to Juda: "Juda, thee shall thy brethren praise ; thy hands shall be on the necks of thy enemies; the sons of thy father shall bow down to thee."
The whole Jewish nation once accepted the rendering of the tenth verse as given above. It is that of the Septuagint Version, which was accepted and used by the Jews. Jacob is here prophesying, as all Jews admitted, the leadership of Juda among the tribes of the children of Israel. Its leadership is a historical fact, and it lasted till the coming of Jesus of Nazareth. At that period the leadership of Juda together with the whole Jewish commonwealth came to an end; and since the dispersion of the Jews all distinction of tribes has been obliterated. But this was not to happen till the Messias came. Therefore the Messias has long since come.
"And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him. ... In that day the root of Jesse, who standeth for an ensign of the people, him the Gentiles shall beseech" (Isaias xi. 1, 2, 10). "Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just. Let the earth be opened and bud forth a saviour" (Isaias xlv. 8). "The Lord Himself shall give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son. And His name shall be called Emmanuel [i.e., God with us]" (Isaias vii. 14).
' For a child is born to us and a son is given to us, and the government is upon His shoulders : and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the
Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace" (Isaias ix. 6). Isaias speaks of the Messias as the servant of God (xlii) and describes Him as the man of sorrows (liii). The second psalm speaks of the Messias as the "Anointed One." The one-hundred-and-ninth describes Him as the Son of God and the King of the world. The appellations "servant of God ' ' and ' ' God the Mighty ' are reconciled in the mystery of the Incarnation, in which Christ is both God and Man.
The Jews at the time of Christ were expecting the Messias— a definite person, undoubtedly. The prophet Daniel predicted (ix. 25-27) that from the time of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, or from the year 453 before Christ, to the public appearance of the Messias 69 weeks of years, and to the death of the Messias 691/2 weeks of years, would elapse. By a "week" of years is meant a period of seven years. If 69 be multiplied by 7 we have a period of 483 (or 453 + 30) years. Therefore in the thirtieth year of the Christian epoch the Messias should have shown Himself publicly, and "in the half of the week" following, i.e., three and a half years later, by reason of the sacrifice in which He Himself would be the victim, ' ' the victim and the sacrifice" of the Old Law should "fail," or cease to be acceptable to God. The dates prophesied were precisely those of the public appearance and the death, respectively, of Jesus of Nazareth. The Jews, though not recognizing Jesus as the Messias, expected the Messias to appear at that time—evidently understanding the prophecy, as regarded the dates, as Christians understand it to-day.
Even supposing a possible flaw in the calculation we have just rehearsed, the sixty-nine weeks of years must long since have elapsed and the Messias must have come. The prophet Aggeus (ii. 8, 10) predicted that the Messias would enter the Temple. In the year 70 after Christ the Temple was destroyed by Titus. The Messias is mentioned as being the Son of God (Ps. ii. 7). He shall be God and Man (Is. ix. 6),—a great wonder-worker (Is. xxxv. 5), a priest according to the order of Melchisedech (Ps. cix. 4), —sovereign of the world (Jer. xxiii. 5; Dan. ii. 44). The Messias is to make His entrance into Jerusalem seated on an ass (Zach. ix. 9). He is to be sold by the friend of His table (Ps. xl. 10) for thirty pieces of silver (Zach. xi. 12). He is to be mocked and scourged (Ps. xxi. 7; Ixxii. 14). His hands and His feet are to be pierced (Ps. xxi. 17).
In His sufferings He will be as meek and patient as a lamb (Is. liii. 7).
All these prophecies were accepted by the Jews as pointing to the Messias. Jesus of Nazareth came at the very time when the Jews were expecting the Messias, and the striking resemblance between Him and the one described in the prophecies can not escape the most incredulous of Hebrews in our day. If the Messias has not appeared the prophecy of Daniel can never be verified. If He has appeared He must surely have appeared in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. If Jesus is the Messias the religion of Jesus is the only one acceptable to God.