Preexistence and the Jewish Messiah

Jewish authors and sages had a very specific way of emphasizing the great importance they attached to certain central values in Jewish life and thought: they made statements to the effect that the features in question were preexistent in the sense that they were either actually created in the six days of Genesis or their idea came up before God at that seminal time. Among them they mentioned the Tora, Repentance, the Garden of Eden and Gehenna, God’s Throne of Glory, the Fathers, Israel, the Temple — and the Messiah. Of these various entities to which preexistence was ascribed, the Messiah is mentioned in a much earlier literary source that the others. He first appears as preexistent in the apocryphal First Book of Enoch, which was originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic about 150 B.C.E. From that period on, the concept of the Messiah who was created in the six days of Creation, or even prior to them, or who was born at variously stated subsequent dates and was then hidden to await his time, became a standard feature of Jewish Messianic eschatology. In one version it is the name of the Messiah which was created in the Beginning; in another, his spirit or his soul; in a third, he himself was actually born and even his celestial throne was fashioned.

The concept of the preexistence of the Messiah accords with the general Talmudic view which holds that “The Holy One, blessed be He, prepares the remedy before the wound” (Babylonian Talmud, Meg. 13b). By this token, of course, the preexistence of the Messiah means that the exile of Israel (the wound) was predetermined by God in the very six days of Creation. Only if this was so did the creation of the Messiah, the ultimate healer of the great national disaster of Israel, at that early date make sense, and more than that, become a mythical necessity.

The names by which the Messiah is called are revealing. In the First Book of Enoch he is called, first of all, “Head of Days,” an epithet alluding to his preexistence, or to the emergence of his name before God prior to the creation of the world. In the same source he is also called “Son of Man,” an old Biblical appellation heavy with theosophical symbolism. Ever since Ezekiel, “Son of Man” has been a designation signifying special nearness to God of the person so called. Some of the Messiah’s names contain historical allusions (e.g. David), others are symbolic (“Shoot,” Menahem [i.e. “Comforter"], Light, Peace). Some rabbis insisted that the Messiah’s name was identical with, or similar to, the name of the sage whose students they were (R. Shelah — Shiloh; R. Hanina — Hanina; R. Yannai — Yinnon). Others applied to him the name of God, a daring procedure in the Jewish context.

To continue reading this Bible article, click here.

Author: Raphael Patai

Keywords: Trinity, Triunity, Three in one, God the Son, Jesus was the Word, The Word was Jesus, Word was God, Messiah, Deity of Christ, Deity of Jesus, Jesus's preexistence, Jesus preexisted before he was born, Spirit of Messiah, Jewish preexistence, Jewish concept of preexistence, Jewish concept of pre-existence, Jewish understanding of pre-existence, Jewish understanding of preexistence, Jewish understanding of preexistence of Messiah, Messiah's preexistence, Messiah preexisted, Messiah pre-existed, Messiah's pre-existence, preexistence of Jesus, Christ's preexistence, Preexistence of Christ, Jesus' preexistence, Jesus preexisted, Christ preexisted, Christ's pre-existence, Pre-existence of Christ, Jesus' pre-existence, Jesus pre-existed, Christ pre-existed, preincarnate, pre-incarnate, preincarnate Jesus, preincarnate Christ, pre-incarnate Jesus, pre-incarnate Christ, Christ preincarnate, Christ pre-incarnate, Preexistence, Pre-existence, Preexist, Pre exist, Jewish preexistence

Bible reference(s): 2 Kings 19:25, Matthew 13:35, Matthew 25:34, John 1:1-2, John 3:13, John 6:33, John 6:38, John 6:58, John 8:58, John 17:5, John 17:24, Acts 15:18, Romans 4:17, Romans 8:29, Romans 16:25, 1 Corinthians 2:7, 1 Corinthians 10:4, Ephesians 1:4, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 1:2, Hebrews 7:9, 1 Peter 1:20, Revelation 13:8, Revelation 17:8

Source: The Messiah Texts (Avon Books, 1979).

Page indexed by: inWORD Bible Software.