Chapter 10
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] ).

In Matthew 10:34 Yeshua says:

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

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 destruction.

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 Psalm 2:7]:

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?

Luke 19:10

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Things 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.

Luke 15:4

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 finds it?

Luke 15:8

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?

Luke 15:32

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?

Matthew 15:24

24 I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Who did Yeshua send his 12 disciples to?

Matthew 10:5

5 Yeshua 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:

A transformation 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.

John 7:31-35

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 come.”
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.

Acts 1:6

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:

Another confirmed 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 revealed.

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.

Daniel 9:26

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 ben Joseph.

NOTICE that 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 age.

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 high priest.

John 11:47-53

47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, “What can we do? for this man does many miracles.
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 should gather 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, and in Judaism one of the most anguishing events was the destruction of the second Temple.

In Tractate Yoma of the Talmud it says:

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 destroyed?

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.

John 2:19

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 Talmud the charges against him were that he:

performed magic, enticed, and led astray Israel.

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").

The Sanhedrin sentencing someone to death, however, was in itself an extremely unusual occurrence.

The Talmud says in Tractate Makkot:

A 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 imposed.

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?

One interesting 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 "clarification".

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 Johns?

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 sense.

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.

John 14:16

And I will pray the Father, and he shall send you another advocate (messiah), that he may be with you forever.

John 16:7

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 god.

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 was God 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 unfulfilled.

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 Winston writes:

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 labors.

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 into existence?


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