Who Did Jesus Think He Was?
It may surprise you to find out that Jesus (Yeshua) did NOT believe that he was THE
Messiah. He did, however believe that he was A messiah (one who was
anointed [chosen] ).
10:34 Yeshua says:
not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a
This passage is
somewhat problematic. After all THE Messiah's main purpose is to bring
peace to the earth. So what exactly is Yeshua talking about?
The Two Messiahs
A belief in Orthodox Judaism is that two Messiahs will usher in the end of
the age; Messiah son of Joseph (the suffering servant), and Messiah son of
David (the conquering king).
According to tradition, Messiah ben-Joseph will enable events to bring the
two kingdoms (Judah and Israel) back together. However, through this effort
Messiah ben-Joseph will die. His death also brings a time of war and
After this happens, Messiah ben-David will rule
both houses of Israel with the Third Temple built in Jerusalem as the center
of worship, and an era of peace comes for the entire world.
Messiah ben Joseph
From the Talmud (Sukkot 52a) we read:
What is the cause of mourning [referring to Zechariah 12:10]? R. Dosa and
the Rabbis differ on the point. One explained, The cause is the slaying of
Messiah the son of Joseph, and the other explained, The cause is the slaying
of the Evil Inclination.
It is well, according to him who explains, that the cause is the slaying of
Messiah the son of Joseph, since that well agrees with Scriptual verse, “And
they shall look upon me because they have thrust him through, and they shall
mourn for him as one mourns for his only son.”
Again, from Sukkot 52a we read [as an interpretation of
Our Rabbis taught, The Holy One, blessed be He, will say to the Messiah, son
of David (may he reveal himself speedily in our days!), “Ask of me anything,
and I will give it to you,” as it is said, “I will tell of the decree etc.
this day have I begotten you, ask of me and I will give the nations for your
inheritance.” But when he will see that the Messiah the son of Joseph is
slain, he will say to Him, “Lord of the Universe, I ask of You only the gift
of life.” “As to life,” He would answer him, “Your father David has already
prophesied this concerning you,” as it is said, He asked life of you, you
gave it to him, [even length of days for ever and ever].
Messiah is God’s agent through whom Israel
realizes its redemption. But, remember, there are two Messiahs in Jewish
theology; Messiah ben Joseph, then Messiah ben David. It is the death of
Messiah ben Joseph that brings the two kingdoms of Israel together.
So it is
Messiah be Joseph who "saves" the northern kingdom.
What did Yeshua say
about who he was to save?
For the Son of
man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
Yeshua also talks quite
often about things that are lost, comparing those things to the kingdom of God.
Luke records a number of stories in the 15th chapter.
4 What man of
you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, does not leave the ninety
and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he
8 Or what woman
having ten pieces of silver, if she loses one piece, does not light a
candle and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she finds it?
32 It was fitting
that we should make merry, and be glad: for this your brother was dead, and
is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
Who specifically did Yeshua say
he was sent to?
24 I am not sent
but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Who did Yeshua send
his 12 disciples to?
instructed these twelve as he sent them out: "Do not go into the territory of
the gentiles; and do not go into any city of the Samaritans.
6 Go, rather, to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.
7 As you go, proclaim: The kingdom of Heaven is near.
In the first century
there was no doubt about who he was referring to. The northern kingdom is often
referred to as the "Lost" Ten Tribes. Also, in prophecy the
"House of Israel" and the "House of Judah" are the northern
and southern kingdoms. He is not ambiguous. By saying that he only came for the
"the lost sheep of the House of Israel" means that he did not come for
the Jews and he did not come for the Gentiles.
A great rabbi known
as Malbim from the 1800’s writes:
will take place. The Ten Tribes and the stick of Joseph will draw themselves
closer unto the stick of Judah, and this too, will be through the agency of a
Prophet and by miracles.
In the first
century, as people in the
society around them began to speculate on the
miracles that he performed, many people believed that Yeshua was the Messiah.
31 And many of
the people believed on him, and said, “When Messiah comes, will he do more
miracles than these which this [man] has done?”
32 The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and
the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.
33 Then Yeshua said to them, “Yet
a little while am I with you, and then
I go to him that sent me.
34 You shall seek me, and shall not find [me]: and where I am, there you cannot
35 Then said the Judeans among themselves, where will he go that we shall not
find him? Will he go to the dispersed among the Gentiles?”
Why did they respond
by saying, “Will he go to the dispersed among the Gentiles?” They responded this
way because they knew that is what Messiah was to do; go to those who
were dispersed – the lost ten tribes.
This, however, was a confusing
thing, even to his disciples. They knew that Messiah was to bring about the
return of the northern kingdom, and yet Yeshua didn’t seem to accomplish this
task. Even during their last contact, the restoration of Israel was what they
were waiting for and expecting to happen.
6 When they
therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, will you at
this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
7 And he said to them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which
the Father has put in his own power.
Israel went into
captivity hundreds of years before this time. But they were to be restored at
the end of the age.
In Every Man’s
Talmud Abraham Cohen writes:
belief was that the Messiah would affect the reunion of the tribes of Israel.
While we find the teaching, ‘The ten tribes will have no share in the World to
Come’ (Tosifta Sanh,XIII.12), the Talmud usually takes the opposite view. By
appealing to such text as Is.xxvii.13 and Jer.iii.12, the Rabbis enunciated the
doctrine of the return of the lost ten tribes (Sanh.110b). ‘Great will be
the day when the exiles of Israel will be reassembled as the day when heaven and
earth were created’(Pes.88a).
The early followers of Yeshua believed that
Isaiah prophesied about Yeshua in passages like Isaiah 53:5. Today, these
passages are often interpreted as referring to Israel as a nation, however, Martin Jaffee points out:
The identity of this divine servant is given
as Israel, but the servant is also to “raise up the tribes of Jacob.” Is
Israel, then, its own redeemer?
Since Messiah ben Joseph comes first, what
should we look for and how do we know when he will come?
We know that Messiah ben David will be a
descendent of King David, but what about Messiah ben Joseph? Will he be a
descendent of Joseph?
Maybe. That is certainly one possibility. However,
one reason given for him to have this title is because
he, at first, is not known. Just as Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, so
too will the identity of Messiah ben Joseph remain hidden, until he is
The 9th chapter of the book of Daniel is
often called the “Seventy Weeks Prophecy” (490 years).
Many people of the
first century believed this prophecy
predicted when the Messiah would come.
Daniel lived in Judea 100 years after the
northern kingdom (Israel) had been taken into captivity by the Assyrians.
When Daniel was a young man, Jerusalem and the first Temple were destroyed
and the nation of Judah was also taken captive. Daniel grew up in Babylon
where he wrote this prophecy.
26 But after 62 weeks (434 years) the
Messiah will be killed but not for himself; then the people of the prince
shall come and destroy the city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary (Temple); and
the end thereof shall be with a flood and unto the end of the war
desolations are determined.
There are two points to consider when reading this prophecy. First, If Daniel wrote this prophecy after
the first Temple had ALREADY been destroyed, then this prophecy is about the
destruction of the SECOND Temple. Daniel received this prophecy BEFORE the
second Temple had EVEN been built.
Second, this is NOT a prophecy about Messiah ben David, because THIS Messiah is killed. It is a prophecy about Messiah
Messiah comes and THEN the Temple is destroyed. The second Temple was
destroyed in 70 CE (AD). If it is Messiah
ben Joseph's death that brings the exiles back, allowing the northern and
southern kingdom to once again be brought together. How can this be, since the exiles of the northern
kingdom (an event saved until the end of the age) have not yet returned?
What exactly does the prophecy say?
It says that Messiah ben Joseph dies before
the second Temple is destroyed. It does not say anything about the return of
the exiles. However, we know from other sources that it is BECAUSE of his
death the exiles return, but the return does not happen UNTIL the end of the
Could Yeshua, then, be Messiah ben Joseph?
Clearly this is who he believed he was. There have also been others that seem to have speculated this.
In the New Testament there is a story about Caiaphas, the
47 Then gathered the chief priests and the
Pharisees a council, and said, “What can we do? for this man does many
48 If we let him alone, all [men] will believe on him: and the Romans shall
come and take away both our place and nation.”
49 And one of them, [named] Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year,
said to them, “You know nothing at all,
50 nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the
people, and that the whole nation perish not.”
51 And he spoke not of himself: but being high priest that year, he
prophesied that Yeshua should die for that nation;
52 And not for that nation only, but that he also
together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.
53 Then from that day on they plotted to put him to death.
Why would they plot to kill someone whom
they believed was Messiah?
It is difficult to know how much alteration
to the text has happened in order to "clarify", but IF Caiaphas believed that
Yeshua was Messiah Ben Joseph he also believed that Yeshua MUST DIE in order for the northern kingdom to return, and ALL of Israel
be united as one under the rulership of Messiah Ben David.
Yeshua refers to this "death plot" (quoting
from Psalm 35:19) a few chapters later in John 15:25
25 But this happened that the word might be
fulfilled which is written in the law, “They hated me without a cause.”
If, indeed, Yeshua (and others) believed
that he was Messiah ben Joseph, his
death would have had a tremendous impact on those around him. There would be
an anticapation of the end time. And although the next few years
seemed to be a time of relative peace, looking at the larger picture, this
was NOT a time of peace at all.
A Time of Anguishing Events
The first century is known for some very
devastating historic events. Christianity looks to the life and death of Yeshua,
Judaism one of the most anguishing events was the destruction of the second
In Tractate Yoma of the Talmud
Why was the first Holy Temple destroyed?
Because of three wicked things: idol worship, adultery, and murder. But in
the second Temple in which time the Jewish people were occupied
studying the Torah and doing good deeds and acts of charity why was it then
The answer is: It was because of hatred
without a cause to teach you, that hate without a cause is equal to these sins and that it is as serious
a crime as the three great transgressions of idol worship, adultery, and
murder. [Yoma 9]
Remember, that years earlier Yeshua had
given this as the very reason he would be killed (hatred without a cause).
Also throughout the New Testament he compares his death to the destruction
of the Temple.
19 Yeshua answered and said to them, Destroy
this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and
will you rear it up in three days?
21 But he spoke of the temple of his body.
So, what was the controversy leading to his death?
No one knows exactly why a Rabbi from Galilee with about 150 followers caused so
much concern for the nation's leaders in Jerusalem, but it seems to be not just
religiously, but also politically motivated.
In addition, the controversies that existed during
his life did not diminish with his death. Although
Yeshua was actually put to death by the
Gentiles (Romans), it was his own people (the
Sanhedrin) who sentenced him.
According to the
charges against him were that he:
performed magic, enticed, and led
His was sentenced to be stoned to death,
then hung for a short time on a wooden cross (or to be more exact a wooden "T").
sentencing someone to death, however, was in itself an extremely unusual
The Talmud says in Tractate Makkot:
Sanhedrin that effects an execution
once in seven years is branded a destructive tribunal. Rabbi
Eliezer ben Azariah says: Once in seventy years. Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi
Akiva say: Were we members of a Sanhedrin, no person would ever be put to
death. [Thereupon] Rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel remarked, [yea] and they would
also multiply shedders of blood in Israel! [Makkot 7a]
All executions were, by Roman law,
to be carried out by the empire.
Whether it was the extreme brutality of
the Romans or some disagreement between members of the court, something happened in 30CE that
affected the Sanhedrin (the supreme court of first century Judaism) so much
they physically removed themselves from the Temple so they could never again
impose the death sentence. And indeed the death sentence was never again
Again, from the Talmud in Tractate
Avodah Zara it says:
Forty years before the Temple was destroyed
did the Sanhedrin abandon [the Temple] and held its sittings in Hanuth. Has
this any legal bearing?... Capital cases ceased. Why? -- Because when
the Sanhedrin saw that murderers were so prevalent that they could not be
properly dealt with judicially, they said: Rather let us be exiled from
place to place than pronounce them guilty [of capital offences] for it is
written: And you shall do according to the sentence, which they of that
place which the Lord shall choose shall tell you, which implies that it is
the place that matters. [Avodah Zara 8b]
That, however, was not the only change in
the Temple at that time.
Again from Tractate Yoma in the Talmud it says:
Forty years before the Holy Temple was
destroyed the following things happened: The lot for the Yom Kippur
goat ceased to be supernatural; the red cord of wool that used to change
to white (as a symbol of God’s forgiveness) now remained red and did not
change and the western candle in the candlestick in the sanctuary
refused to burn continually while the doors of the Holy Temple would
open of themselves. [Tractate Yoma 39:b]
The Temple was destroyed in 70CE.
What a tremendous coincidence in that these things began to happen
forty years before the Temple was destroyed; in 30CE, the very year that Yeshua
was put to death and died on Nisan 14 on a hill outside the city walls of Jerusalem.
The Babylonian Talmud says:
Since nothing was brought forward in his
favor he was hanged on the eve of Passover. (Sanhedrin 43a)
So we see that Yeshua himself believed that
he was Messiah ben Joseph. But didn't he ALSO believe that he
would have a "second coming" as Messiah ben David?
point to observe is that rarely, if ever, does Yeshua use a first person
reference when talking about the end time. He put his statements in the
third person, saying "the son of man" will do this or that. We simply
assume that "the son of man" is used as a reference to himself.
But if we
analyze the text we see that sometimes that assumption does not fit. Lets look
again at Matthew 16:13
When Yeshua came into the coasts of
Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I
the son of man am?
Although the Greek word
"me" (translated as "I") is used here, it is a bit awkward. Why not just
say "Who do people say that I am"? Why add the phrase "the son of
man"? In it's original form, the text most likely simply asked, "Who
do people say that the son of man is?
Again, it was assumed
that he was talking about himself, and the word "I" was added for
However, with that
assumption the answer to the question does not seem to make a lot of sense.
And they said, Some [say that you are]
John the Baptist. Some, Elijah; and others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.
Why would people believe
that Yeshua was his cousin, John the Baptist? They knew who John the Baptist
was. Were they just confused as to who was who? Did they believe there were two
Or, why would people
believe that Yeshua was Elijah, Jeremiah, or another one of the prophets? Would
there be ANY reason for them to believe such a thing?
However, if you understand
that the “son of man” and “son of God” are titles, then the answer makes perfect
Who do people say the “son of man” (this
prophetic person) is?
They were not claiming
that Yeshua was a reincarnation of Jeremiah, rather that Jeremiah may have been
this figure known as “the son of man”. As I stated earlier, in
nearly all end-time descriptions of a Messiah figure, Yeshua uses the third
person "son of man". Why is this? Could he have believed that an end-time
Messiah might not be him?
In fact he did.
We can not only see this from his use of the term "son of man", but he also
makes references of "another" one coming.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall
send you another advocate (messiah), that he may be with you forever.
I tell you the truth; It is expedient for
you that I go away: for if I go not away, the advocate (messiah) will not come to you.
What does this mean? The Greek church fathers (who later
tried to explain and "clarify" what Yeshua had said), were not
Torah scholars and certainly knew nothing of the oral traditions. They saw things from their own perspective. They
believed in many gods, and it was natural to assume that a messiah was a
Unfortunately, not understanding the
teaching about Messiah ben Joseph (the messiah that dies) and Messiah ben David
(the messiah that "shall teach you all things") lead to a belief that this
"other" advocate was the "Holy Spirit" bringing with it (as time went on) the
Christian doctrine of the trinity.
The idea that messiah was
God, however was NOT part of the doctrines taught by Yeshua and his disciples.
That is a controversy that developed much later.
To believe that Messiah
would be a gross misunderstanding of first
century concepts and terminology.
So what happened? After all, Messiah ben
Joseph’s specific purpose and mission is to save Israel (the children of God
that were scattered abroad), a task that up to this point remains
As Martin Jaffee writes:
Early Jewish followers of Jesus of Nazareth,
of course, had seen in him the fulfillment of Messianic promises. But he had
died a criminal’s death and left the world in Exile entirely as it had
been, tales of his resurrection notwithstanding.
However, Rabbi Pinchas
Moshiach Ben Yosef’s
success, by our standard of measurement, is a limited one. Not only will he
be, or perhaps already is (or even already was), human, he will be humanly
vulnerable. In fact, according to one opinion in the Talmud, Moshiach Ben
Yosef will leave this world without being able to see the fruits of his
What does THAT mean? It is strange to think that both "branches" of "Christianity"
failed at accomplishing their mission. The
Gentiles, who were suppose to be Noahide supporters
of the Jews, instead became persecutors, and Yeshua
(who believed he was Messiah ben Joseph) along with the Jewish
leaders, never did find the Lost Tribes that were exiled. Most of them, within a short
time, died violent deaths at the hands of pagans.
Judging Christianity from its first
hundred years, it was a miserable failure. So
what was it all for? Why did Christianity even come