In a message dated 12/20/00 9:21:04 PM Eastern Standard Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:

> 2) where Gow holds that the identification of the Antichrist with the one
>  who many Jews would accept as their Christ as opposed to Jesus Christ was a
>  Medieval, largely anti-semitic invention (pp. 2-3).  I guess he has never
>  read Scripture (John 5:43; Mt 24:24; 2 Thes 2:1ff.) or St. Chrysostom, St.
>  Augustine, St. Cyrill, who are hardly described as medievals.
Messianic expectations originate in the OT, which of course lays the
foundation for the Christian claim that Christ is the fulfullment of the OT
prophecies. Emphasis is often put on the point that Jews don't believe Christ
was divine, and don't believe he was the messiah. But it's not always made
clear that this is essentially a mistaken identity argument. It's perfectly
possible to be a devout Jew and believe that the messiah, as predicted,  will
 appear in due time (but Christ was not that messiah). Some (not all) of the
Lubavicher Hasidim believe that their rebbe, Menachem Schneerson, was the
messiah. Although this may sound odd from a Christian perspective, the OT
doesn't require that the messiah be superhuman or an incarnation of God. He
might be just a great leader, another King David. Whether he'll appear in the
near future or far future is left a mystery, at least in the OT. A subsidiary
point is that Jews are not alone in understandings of Christ that are
non-trinitarian or deviant from a catholic perspective. In Islam, Christ is
regarded as one of the prophets, not divine. Unitarians too regard him as
human, not divine, and not a member of a trinity.

In any case, I agree with you, Br. Alexis, on the point that the idea of a
messiah for the Jews was not invented during the middle ages or by
antisemites. It's from the Old Testament, the Jewish Bible. Certainly,
though, anyone can play with this idea in an adversarial manner by filtering
it through the mistaken identity argument, as in  "my messiah is the right
messiah and your messiah is the wrong messiah, and--furthermore--your messiah
is actually satan." Anatole France wrote a novel somewhat along this line, in
which God turns out to be wicked and the devil is mankind's true friend.

To see what was actually done with these ideas at any particular time, we'd
have to look to artifacts and documents. A Hieronymus Bosch painting of the
nativity includes not only the three magi but also a sceptre-carrying figure
who wears a jeweled crown and a loincloth and has a bandage on his leg. The
art historian Lotte Brand Philips feels that this is the Jewish messiah, and
points to a story in the Babylonian Talmud that says the messiah will appear
as a leper (hence the bandage). It's an interesting reading, though I still
don't understand what he's doing in a painting of the nativity. As in the
story of Saint Martin and the beggar, the messiah-as-leper seems designed to
test the faith of those who encounter him. But it's also an example of what I
mean by possible Christianizing elements in the Talmud. For the Jewish
messiah to come from even more humble circumstances than the Christian
messiah (who was born in a stable) is a relatively new idea. I see no
precedent for it in the OT, where the messiah sounds more as if he'll be a
great king or leader, a David.

pat sloane