Current Trends In Messianology -- By: Eugene J. Mayhew

Journal: Michigan Theological Journal
Volume: MTJ 01:1 (Spring 1990)
Article: Current Trends In Messianology
Author: Eugene J. Mayhew

Current Trends In Messianology

Eugene J. Mayhew

Messianology is an ancient and fascinating field of study within the communities of Judaism, Samaritanism and Christianity. Two thousand years ago, when King Herod sought an answer to the birthplace question of the magi, he consulted the Temple scribes and the established “official” answer was that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem Judah (Βηθλέεμ, γη̑ Γούδα) Matthew 2:5. The basis for their answer was 1 Samuel 17:12 and the prophetic utterance of Micah 5:2, where the older name for the city is used, Bethlehem Ephrathah (ית־לֶתֶם אֶפְרְתָה). The scribes had researched, perhaps debated, and determined that the precise location would be there and not the northern ית־לֶתֶם.1 Here a portion of the messianic idea at the time near the birth of Jesus of Nazareth is openly declared and a glimpse into the messianic mindset at the Temple is clearly seen. The Messiah would be born at a specific location that was known to the scribes and the guiding factor was the Scriptures.

However, through the centuries, both preceding this event and down to the present time, several divergent views and theories have arisen within Jewish circles about the Messiah.2 Today, viewing the Jewish position on the Messiah as monolithic and

unified would be to misunderstand several key concepts, schools of thinking and current approaches regarding this issue.3 Simply speaking, the majority of Jews today do not stand in harmony with the Temple scribes who went before Herod. Not only would the birthplace and manner of His ministry be an issue, but the whole historicity and existence of a personal messiah would be an issue. Many Jews deny the need for a personal messiah and the interpretations of many passages taken to be messianic through the centuries.

Therefore, this article will attempt to trace some of the current trends occurring in modern Jewish thinking related to messianology. The evangelical needs to have a clear understanding of. 1) the diversity in Jewish thinking concerning messianology; 2) the current formulations and reactions to the messianic idea in the Jewish mindset; and 3) the frame of reference that many Jewish people have concerning the Messiah, so that in presenting the Gospel message one can be aware of the issues and perspective that...

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