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The Relationship between the Jewish Expectation of the Messiah and Mark’s Portrayal of Jesus as Messiah

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Ever since the fall of the Temple the exiled Jewish nation anticipated the coming of the Messiah, or the Savior, who would be the one to take them back to their holy homeland -Jerusalem. Jesus Christ’s followers, on the other hand, have already witnessed the coming of Messiah referred to as Jesus Christ, who brought the Kingdom of God on earth; and now they are anticipating the second coming. Despite the presence of the common concept of Messiah in both religions and the fact that Hebrew Bible is the major reference of the New Testament, there is a significant difference between the Jewish expectations of Messiah and Mark’s portrayal of Jesus as Messiah.

Messiah or “the anointed” one is seen by both Jews and Christians as the ultimate savior. According to the Hebrew Bible as well as the Christian Holy Bible, his main aim is to bring about the Kingdom of God (Cohn-Sherbok 192-193). The Old Testament, based primarily on the Jewish Bible, but also accepted by the followers of Christ as the referential part of the Holy Bible, contains numerous prophecies about the coming of the Messiah (Cohn-Sherbok 192). For example, the book of Isaiah contains the prophecy with regards to the Messiah who will be called a king, “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion”, where Zion is the synonym of Jerusalem (The Official Kings James Bible, Psalms 2:6). The Gospel of Mark in the chapter 7:7-11, recalls the fulfillment of this prophecy described in the Hebrew Bible by Jesus Christ and his magnificent entrance into Jerusalem (The Official Kings James Bible). Another example illustrates an important concept of Messiah being crucified with the criminals. The Old Testament’s prophecy states that “he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors” (The Official Kings James Bible, Isaiah 53:12). Mark portrays Jesus as the one who was crucified with two thieves, “the one on his right hand, and the other on his left” (The Official Kings James Bible, Mark 15:27). In his chapter 15, verse 28 in the New Testament, Mark shows that this prophecy was fulfilled, providing the reference to Isaiah’s chapter 53, verse 12 in the Old Testament (The Official Kings James Bible). Thus, the prophetic concept of the Messiah is the major commonality the two religions share so far. Therefore, Hebrew Bible serves as the main reference to the New Testament of the Christian Bible.

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Despite the significant prophetic referential connection between the Hebrew Bible and the Gospel of Mark, there is an important difference between the way Jewish people see Messiah and the way Christ’s followers portray him. To the mind of Jewish people, their covenant with God assumes the fact that the Messiah has not come yet. The community of Judaism rejects Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, while Mark apparently portrays him as being the one (Cohn-Sherbok 192-193). He states that Jesus is the Son of God at the very beginning of his Gospel, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (The Official Kings James Bible, Mark 1:1). Many Jewish people, on the other hand, longing for redemption during the revolt against Rome, perceived the leader of this revolt, Simeon bar Kochba, as a messianic deliverer of the Jewish nation. When the revolt was crushed and Simeon was murdered, the coming of the Messiah was set up until the fifth century. Traditional Jewish community continued on engaging in messianic speculation ever since, but it is still expecting the first coming of Messiah until these days (Cohn-Sherbok 193).

The paths of traditional Jews and the followers of Jesus diverged after a certain sect of Jewish people, which Mark, one of the canonical Gospel writers, would soon become a part of, emerged shortly after the death of king Herod. This sect strongly believed that Jesus would introduce the period of messianic deliverance. That idea attracted many sectors of marginalized Jewish society. Thus, Jesus Christ aroused hostility, and was later sentenced to death on the cross under the reign of Pontius Pilate. The disciples of Jesus strongly believed he had risen from the dead to return to glorious reign. Jesus was seen as the long-expected Messiah, anointed by God to bring about His Kingdom, speak the word of God and replace the old law in Torah. Jesus made the concepts of atonement, forgiveness and salvation possible for any human being on earth through redemption and accepting Jesus as the Son of God. Hence, Jesus brought the idea of God’s redemptive intervention in the history of humanity. This view of messianic deliverance, however, is odd and unacceptable to the traditional Jewish community (Cohn-Sherbok 192).

Despite the importance of messianic redemption to traditional Jewish people, the modern world presents the gradual weathering of the idea of the messianic concept. Today, many Jews, with the exception of the Orthodox society of Judaism, hardly accept the traditional belief of eschatological salvation. This is largely due to the influence of science on the mind of Jewish people and the growth of secularism (Cohn-Sherbok 195). The fact remains that the view of Jews on the messianic concept significantly differs from the portrayal of Messiah by Jesus’ followers.

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This essay focused on revealing the relationship between the expectations of the Jewish people of the Messiah and the way one of the Gospel writers, Mark, portrayed Jesus Christ as the Messiah. It was found that these expectations differ in many aspects.

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