A brief (not so brief!) history of MESSIANIC hope

by Terry 3 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Terry

    How can I get this across to you:

    When Alexander the Great conquered the ancient world in the 4th century b.c.e. the effect on other cultures was like a Tsunami!

    Think of Japan BEFORE and AFTER their defeat in WWII.

    BEFORE WWII Japan was a feudal society with God as its political and theocratic leader in the person of the Emperor.

    When the atomic bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki all this was virtually wiped out in a very short span of time!!

    Imagine how this must impact the psychology of people who believe their view of the world and god is entirely and absolutely true.

    Pre War, the Japanese people worshipped their Emperor AS GOD on earth! After the War, their GOD surrendered to the enemy!

    Think about that!

    It creates an awful split in thinking! THIS INVARIABLY LEADS TO ADAPTING BY TAKING ON THE VIEWS OF THE VICTOR and BLENDING THEM with what already exists.

    Japanese society could never go backward to what it was before. They have become a mirror of Western cultured by blending all things Japanese with the ethos of Western thought. Note: it is not identical with Western thought; but, swallows it whole and mutates existing Japanese thought.

    I posit that this is what happened to the cultures in the East when Alexander the Great defeated local armies and wiped out the illusion that God(s) was/were protecting them. BEING DEFEATED causes a rethink.


    JUDIASM was no exception.

    From this point forward three things happened.

    1.Greek language swallowed up Hebrew because it was vastly superior in details of expression and encompassed the science and philosophy of technology superior to primitive tribal society.

    2.Greek explanations had greater scope and allowed more choices of causes and effects, thus, allowing the population at large to think and choose on a greater scale of personal freedom.

    3.Greek ways demonstrated success was to be wrought by actual flesh and blood heroes led by a son of God (Alexander was the "son of Zeus" and descendant of Achilles).


    A split took place in Jewish conception of how Israel was to achieve its "proper" status among all the peoples of the earth.

    1.The MESSIANIC hero was held to be the savior of Israel

    2.The changeover that would place Israel foremost among nations was to be Political and Military FIRST and religious SECOND.

    How this was to be achieved mimicked Greek success in every way.

    The political/religious/scientific/logical community in Israel began to absorb its young men with visions of grandeur and achievement.

    This is similar to what has happened in Muslim countries today. Young men are filled with heroic ideas of HOW TO ACHIEVE paradise by becoming politically radical. They become pawns for achieving the political ends of the leadership through the trappings of GOD and RELIGIOUS MARTYRDOM.

    THE MESSIANIC MOVEMENT was born, but, quickly split into two competing ideas.

    1.Pacifists who thought of the Messiah as a tool of God and who would succeed by divine miracles on the battlefield.

    2.Practical men who thought the Messiah was an earthly King/Priest/Warrior like Alexander.

    The Messiah hope split the religion of Judaism forever after.

    In much the same way as we see young Arab boys and other Muslim ethnicities lured into the excitement of political and religious activism leading to martyrdom--so too, in Israel the young men were lured into Messiah fever. Many a man fell into the trap of believing he might be the "chosen one" only to suffer death (martyrdom) and creating sect after sect of disillusioned followers.

    One such sect after another split Judaism into competing philsophies, rituals and views of what pure worship was all about.

    Among these sectarian splinters we find Gnosticism, Rabbinical Judiasm, Temple ritual sects and mystical leaders. Pharisees, Saducees and other radicals regularly argued with each other as to who was right and who was wrong. .

    NOTE: All this arguing was in the style and manner of the famous Greek, SOCRATES.

    SOCRATES had forever changed the art of discourse by replying to questions with a question of his own. He cut to the essence of every argument in this way. He taught his pupils be getting them to "think out loud" about what they were claiming "to know".


    Now enters Jesus.

    Every thing we admire about Jesus is influenced by Greek thinking; especially his Socratic method of teaching. He is the embodiment of latter day Socratic instruction with his disciples mirroring the Platonic Academy in Athens.Two points:

    1.Jesus use of the words: BODY, SOUL, and SPIRIT are Greek thoughts grafted on to Jewish theology.

    2.Paul (the Hellenized Jew) used Greek Logic to explain how Jesus could fit the Greco-Hebrew conception of Messianic hope.


    The Church was able to use the IDEAL of a spiritualized Messiah TO PROP UP POLITICAL STRENGTH in the Roman empire under Constantine.


    Jesus was absorbed into the CHURCH which was absorbed into the political will of the EMPEROR. The resulting theological war over WHO WAS JESUS was really a scrutiny of this THREEFOLD IDENTITY.

    The TRINITY doctrine reflects this identity.

  • Finkelstein

    Interesting thoughts Terry, thanks

  • Terry

    The Book of Daniel reflects a turning point in the Hebrew apocalyptic thinking.

    The beginning of Messianism was-- when Antiochus III reigned.

    A series of Apocalyptic writings emerged revealing the thinking boiling to the surface.

    The Damascus Document, The Apocalypse of Weeks, the Animal Apocalypse among them.

    Alexander's general, Seleucid, ruled with authority from Egypt and the dynasty of the Ptolemies were supportive to Jewish society. The Egyptian influence period was non-apocalyptic. As hopes for a Jewish Messiah emerged the writings

    began insinuating Egyptian kingship, for example, as a plausible world event.

    As Syria and Egypt clashed and warred in the later period of (Daniel 11:10-20) the Jews took sides. Some loyal to Egypt, some loyal to Syria and others wanting NO Gentile leadership at all!

    Naturally all of this drove everybody toward a bloody civil war in the Maccabean period when Antiochus IV Epiphanes inherited Judea for his predecessor. The origins of the 1st Jewish revolt is around 205-202 b.c.e. when Judea ping-ponged

    between Syrian and Egyptian authority. (Josephus is the authority on this, mentioning members of an apocalyptic band pushing prophecy fulfillment.)

    The Book of Daniel stressed a non-human solution for divine intervention in prophetic resolution.

    Hot-headed men of volence saw things another way and fought against Scopas. The writer of Daniel tsk-tsks and pooh-poohs their efforts by minimizing the Maccabeans as deliverers.

    The book of First Maccabees gives no indication that Maccabeans were motivated by an Apocalyptic urge, but, rather it was through an alliance with the puritain minded Hasidim that a religious zeal for national purification from Gentile corruption was to be attempted.

    The Hasidic sectarians were reacting to the Sadducee sectarians and the Essene sectarians emerged along with the Pharisees to break up solidarity within the Mind of Jewish self-definitions.

    All sorts of in-fighting went on and on, even devolving to disputes over what calendar should be used.

    Among those split among themselves, the Hasidic sect members were divided about Apocalyptic Messiah or Political Messiahship.

    The famous "Teacher of Righteousness" discovered in the Dead Sea Scroll writings led the Essene sectarians to divorce themselves from the others and splinter off on their own agenda 180-170 b.c.e.

    What we find when we read the Book of Daniel is an Apocalyptic view with an undertone of pacifism--hedging its bets as to the effectiveness of direct military effectiveness. General Pompey

    sent a shock wave through all these divided beliefs when he entered the Holy of Holies and defiled the sacred Temple with his Gentile army.

    On the ground, the Jewish society was a mess with complications, divisions, competing agendas and strategies for how to achieve their history and religious aims. The Tsunami begun with Alexander's conquests was to wash over them for about a century of turmoil. The lesson to be learned was written to be: anything can happen. Gentile power can change overnight. Kings can become werewolves! Nations can rise and fall in an instant. God is in control!

  • Terry

    What can we say that is accurate about the early Apocalyptic movements which include Messianic beliefs?

    1.There are many influences as reflected by Ezekiel and Neo-Babylonian impulses, Persian influence in Deuteronomy through Isaiah. (Cyrus was called "Messiah" already).

    2. Superstitious proliferation among societys obsessed with demons, angels, end times, ressurection, monotheistic responses to polytheism, etc.

    3.Jehovah/El vs Baal and the greek-like demigod model for Sampson.

    All of this congealed when the wave of Greek post-Alexandrian changes stirred things up everywhere.

    Where can we actually SEE the Greek influences on Judaism?

    Well, how about the institution of the Sanhedrin (Greek word"synedrion") and synagogue (Greek word for council). Also excavations of these synagogues by archeology reveals decorated motifs directly from Greek mythology.

    Wisdom of Solomon, 4 Maccabees, Josephus and Philo are saturated with Greek ethos.

    The prophecies about the restitution of Israel from Jeremiah, Deutero-Isaiah and Trito-Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah are telling, indeed. Unfulfilled until the second century BC (hence the expectations in Daniel), and unfulfilled in the first century AD; some streams of Christianity offered the idea that the prophecies were finally fulfilled by the Jesus the Christ and more apocalyptic venues still waited for a future fulfillment of some parts of these older prophecies ( seen in Revelation). Jehovah's Witnesses (and others) are still waiting for the literal fulfillment of these expectations from ancient times.

    Later, the Hellenistic period in which we find ideas of Satan (not merely as an accuser of God amidst an assembled counel) much closer to the Christian model ( Mastema in second-century Jubilees, and the "angel of darkness" or Belial of Qumran and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs develop fully the dualist parallelism between Jah and Satan).

    The kings Antiochus I Soter, Antiochus II Theos, Antiochus IV Epiphanes were divine in the way Royal theology was in Greek influence. Whoever authored the Book of Daniel obviously expressed contempt for this Greek ethos and responded with the concoction of "one like a son of man," the stone unmade by human hands, the great prince, Michael). And what about the Jesus traditions reflecting a Greco-Roman divinization construct with an added "advent" or parousia as well as the Christology adoptionist view in the gospel of mark concerning Jesus?

    BODY: what we use to become conscious of the the world around us.

    SOUL: what we use to become conscious of our SELF as an identity, ego and will.

    SPIRIT: what we use to become conscious of the divine: God.

    The above largely comes to us by way of Greek philosophy.

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