The Two Messiah Theory
James Scott Trimm
1 And it came to pass, when Yeshua had finished commanding His twelve talmidim, He
passed over from there, to teach and to proclaim in their cities.
2 Now Yochanan, when he heard in the prison the deeds of the Messiah, sent two of his
talmidim, and said to Him,
3 Are you He that is destined to come, or do we await another?
Why does Yochanan ask this question. The answer (below) is found in the Hebraic Roots commentary to Matthew at http://nazarenespace.com/page/books-dvds
Yochanan asks this question because of the "two Messiah theory". There are two basic versions of the two Messiah theory:
1. The "rabbinic" two Messiah theory which held to a Messiah the sonof Joseph, sometimes called "Ephraim." who would come and suffer to redeem his brothers (like the patriarch Joseph); and a Messiah the son of David who would come and rule from David's throne forever.
2. The "Qumran" two Messiah theory which held to a Priestly Aaronic
Messiah and a Kingly Messiah.
In order to understand the Messianic theory of the Nazarenes and Ebionites it is important to understand these two theories. I will first document each version of the two Messiah theory, then I will show evidence that both theories existed in the first century. I will also show that the two versions of the theory are related to each other. Finally I will show that the NT shows an awareness of the two Messiah theory and relates to it.
The first of the two Messiah theories is the "Rabbinic" theory. The Rabbi's have always recognized an apparant conflict between certain Messianic passages. For example:
R. Alexandri said: Rabbi Joshua opposed two verses:
Is is writted:
And behold, one like the son of man came with the clouds
of heaven. (Dan. 7:13)
Whilst it is written:
[behold, your king comes to you...] lowely, and riding
upon an ass! (Zech. 9:9)
The Rabbinic "two Messiah" theory was one of several answers that the Rabbis found for these contradictions. It delegated the lowly, suffering servant passages to Messiah the son of Joseph (sometimes called Ephraim); and the Kingly passages to Messiah the son of David. A good example of the Ephraim Messiah in Rabbinic literature is a Midrash in which the Messiah is being warned by God of what awaits him:
Their sins will be upon you like a yoke of iron.
They will choke your spirit. Because of their sins,
Your toungue will cleave to the roof of your mouth.
Do you accept this? If not, I will remove the decree from you.
The Messiah replies: "Master of the worlds,
how long will this last?
God replies: "Ephraim, my true Messiah,
ever since the six days
of creation you have taken this ordeal upon yourself.
At this moment, your pain is my pain"
Messiah replies: "Master of the worlds,
I accept this with gladness
in my soul, and joy in my heart, so that not a single one of the
House of Israel should perish.
Not only for those alive, but also
the dead. It is enough that the servant be like the Master.
(Midresh Pesqita Rabbah 36)
Rabbi Dosa (who lived around 250 CE) was a chief advocate of the two Messiah theory. The Talmud records that he taught regarding Zech. 12:10:
What is the cause of the mourning [of Zech. 12:12]--...
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 the Scriptural verse:
And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced,
And they shall mourn for him as one mourns for his
only son. (Zech. 12:10)
Now the Qumran community also believed in two Messiahs:
They shall govern themselves using the original precepts
by which the men of the YAHAD began to be instructed,
doing so until there come the Prophet and the Messiahs
of Aaron and Israel.
(Manual of Discipline 1Qs Col. 9 lines 10-11)
Two Messiahs are also evident in 1QSa, 1Q28a where the two Messiahs are pictured at a future Messianic banguet table.
Now it has been stated in recent years that the two Messiah theory did not exist in the first century. These theorists claim that a "suffering servent" Messiah who dies was invented to get Bar Kokhba off the hook. However the Talmud tells us that Bar Kokhba failed, not because he was a suffering servent Messiah, but because he was not a Messiah of any kind whatsoever. Moreover First century sources attest to both the idea of a suffering servent Messiah and the two Messiah theory.
The earliest sources for the two Messiah theory are the Dead Sea Scrolls and Targum Jonathan. Targum Jonathan identifies the pierced one of Zech. 12:10 as the "Messiah son of Ephraim." Targum Jonathan was supposed to have been written in the first century by Jonathan ben Uziel the student of Hillel.
Another question that arises is, can the priestly Messiah of the Qumran community be identified with the suffering servent Messiah? The answer is, I believe, yes. The critical clue lies in the way that the Dead Sea Scrolls use Is. 61:1-4.
One document among the scrolls (11Q13) applies Is. 61:1-3 to a priestly eschatalogical figure who is called "Melchizadek" the document then speaks of a "Messiah" who is called the one "anointed of the spirit" (Is. 61:1) and to whom Is. 62:2 is also applied. This "Messiah" is identified as the figure spoken of in Is, 52:7 and as the Messiah who is "cut-off" in Dan. 9:26. This implies a connection to the suffering servent in Is. 53 who is also cut-off. A final clue is found in 4Q521 which also applies Is. 61:1 to the Messiah and which closely parallels Mt. 11:5 (which will become important later).
Finally, was there to be two Messiahs or one Messiah? There does seem to have been confusion on this issue. While 1QS 9:10-11 refers to the "Messiahs of Levi and Israel" The Damascus Document three times refers to the "Messiah of Levi and Israel" (12:23; 14:19; 19:10) was there a question as to whether these would be two Messiahs or one?
A tradition found in Midrash Rabbah may provide the answer:
Like Moses, Messiah will be revealed, then hidden,
then revealed again.
(Bamidbar Rabbah 11:2)
The Zohar also seems to allude to the fact that the "two Messiahs" are actually combined into a single Messiah. The Zohar says:
This is also hinted at in the verse “the sceptre shall not depart from Judah nor the ruler's staff from between his feet”, “the sceptre” referring to the Messiah of the house of Judah, and “the staff” to the Messiah of the house of Joseph.
Here the Zohar alludes to Gen. 49:10 obviously in light of Ezekiel 37 where two sticks represent the two houses of Israel and become one stick. The Zohar is clearly identifying these with the scepter and the staff from Gen. 49:10 and thus indicating that in reality these "two Messiahs" are one.
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