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The Grammar of MessianismAn Ancient Jewish Political Idiom and Its Users$
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Matthew V. Novenson

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190255022

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190255022.001.0001

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The Jewish Messiah–​Christian Messiah Distinction

The Jewish Messiah–​Christian Messiah Distinction

Chapter:
(p.187) 6 The Jewish Messiah–​Christian Messiah Distinction
Source:
The Grammar of Messianism
Author(s):

Matthew V. Novenson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190255022.003.0006

Gershom Scholem is perhaps its best-known modern proponent, but the essentializing distinction between the Jewish messiah (earthly, political, delivers from oppression) and the Christian messiah (heavenly, spiritual, delivers from sin) goes back as far as Justin Martyr. In this chapter it is argued that this familiar and influential distinction is fatally undermined by counterexamples on the one side as well as the other. Many Jewish messiah texts bend the messiah myth to accommodate contingent historical developments and persons, while many Christian messiah texts obstinately maintain utopian aspects of the messiah myth despite their nonfulfillment in the career of Jesus. It is argued, furthermore, that the enormous popularity of the Jewish messiah–Christian messiah distinction has always been a result, in large part, of its rhetorical utility for religious self-definition and interreligious dialogue.

Keywords:   Christian messiah, Gershom Scholem, interreligious dialogue, Jewish–Christian relations, Jewish messiah, messiah ben Joseph, parousia

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