The Messiah: Who is He?

Messiah-like image

In the realm of Abrahamic religions, the concept of a messiah holds great significance.

A messiah, also known as a messias, is regarded as a savior or liberator of a specific group of people.

This idea originated in Judaism and is deeply rooted in the Hebrew Bible.

Over time, the concept of a messiah has taken on different interpretations in Christianity and Islam.

In this article, we will explore the various aspects of the messiah in these religions, highlighting the key beliefs and differences surrounding this central figure.

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The Origins of the Messiah

This discussion explores the concept of the Messiah across Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

We delve into how each tradition views and interprets the Messiah, shedding light on their unique perspectives.

The Hebrew Bible

The concept of a messiah is deeply embedded in Judaism, with the Hebrew Bible portraying the messiah as a king or high priest anointed with holy anointing oil.

This anointed individual is expected to fulfill predetermined tasks in a future arrival, such as unifying the tribes of Israel, gathering all Jews to Eretz Israel, and rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem.

The messiah's arrival is believed to usher in a Messianic Age of global universal peace and announce the world to come.

The Greek Translation

In the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the messiah is referred to as "Khristos," which is anglicized as "Christ."

This term is used extensively in the New Testament, where Christians commonly associate Jesus of Nazareth as the fulfiller of messianic prophecies.

Unlike the Judaic concept, Christians believe that Jesus is not only the messiah but also the Son of God, and they anticipate his second coming to fulfill the remaining prophecies.

The Islamic Perspective

In Islam, Jesus is considered a prophet and the messiah sent to the Israelites.

Muslims believe that Jesus and the Mahdi will return to Earth at the end of times, defeating the false messiah known as al-Masih ad-Dajjal.

This eschatological belief is widely held among Muslims, although the Ahmadiyya sect has a unique interpretation, considering their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, as the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies.

Etymology of the Messiah

The term "messiah" has its roots in various languages, each carrying its own nuances and meanings.


In Hebrew, "messiah" translates to "anointed one" and is often referred to as "melekh mashiach," meaning the Anointed King.

This term is derived from the ritual of consecrating someone or something by applying holy oil.

The Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament translates the Hebrew "mashiach" as "Khristos," which is frequently used in the New Testament.


In Arabic, "al-Masih" is the word for messiah used by both Arab Christians and Muslims.

It carries the meaning of "the anointed," "the traveler," or "one who cures by caressing."

Arab Christians refer to Jesus as "Yasūʿ al-Masih," while Muslims refer to him as "Īsā al-Masīḥ."

The Messiah in Judaism

In Judaism, the messiah holds a significant role in the eschatological beliefs of the Jewish community.

Let's delve into the key aspects of the messiah in Judaism:

Anointed Kings, Priests, and Prophets

The Hebrew word "mashiach" is used throughout the Hebrew Bible to refer to individuals such as kings, priests, and prophets who have been anointed with holy oil.

This highlights the broader application of the term beyond the messianic context.

The Future Jewish King

In Jewish eschatology, the messiah is envisioned as a future Jewish king from the Davidic line.

He will be anointed with holy oil and will rule over God's kingdom, leading the Jewish people during the Messianic Age.

Unlike in Christianity, the messiah is not considered divine or the Son of God in Judaism.

Belief and Controversy

The belief in the eventual coming of the messiah is a fundamental aspect of Judaism.

Maimonides, a prominent Jewish philosopher, included the belief in the messiah as one of the 13 Principles of Faith.

While the idea of the messiah is widely accepted, there are differing interpretations within the Jewish community, and some messiah claimants, such as Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn and Menachem Mendel Schneerson, have sparked controversy in Chabad messianism.

The Messiah in Christianity

Christianity places great emphasis on Jesus of Nazareth as the messiah who fulfilled the messianic prophecies.

Let's explore the key beliefs surrounding the messiah in Christianity:

The Christ

The Greek translation of messiah, "Khristos," is central to Christianity.

Christians commonly refer to Jesus as "Christ," believing that he is the anointed one who fulfilled the messianic prophecies through his mission, death, and resurrection.

The title "Christ" signifies Jesus as the messiah and the Son of God.

The Second Coming

Christians anticipate the second coming of Jesus, where he will fulfill the remaining messianic prophecies, including the establishment of God's kingdom and the ultimate judgment.

The belief in Jesus as the messiah is foundational to Christian faith and shapes their understanding of salvation and redemption.

The Messiah in Islam

In Islam, Jesus is regarded as a prophet and the messiah sent to the Israelites.

Let's explore the Islamic perspective on the messiah:

Jesus as a Prophet

Islam recognizes Jesus as one of the major prophets, known as "Isa" in Arabic.

Muslims believe that Jesus performed miracles and preached the message of monotheism, but they do not consider him divine or the Son of God.

The Return of Jesus

Islamic eschatology includes the belief in Jesus' return to Earth in the end times.

Alongside the Mahdi, a guided leader, Jesus will defeat the false messiah, al-Masih ad-Dajjal, and establish justice and peace.

This belief varies within different Islamic sects, with the Ahmadiyya sect considering their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, as the messiah and Mahdi.


The concept of the messiah holds profound significance in Abrahamic religions, shaping the beliefs and hopes of millions.

From the Hebrew Bible to the teachings of Jesus in Christianity and the role of Jesus as a prophet in Islam, the messiah represents a savior and liberator for different groups of people.

While interpretations may vary, the messiah remains a central figure in the eschatological beliefs of these religions.

Understanding the diverse perspectives surrounding the messiah enriches our appreciation for the similarities and differences between these faiths.

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