Messianism is the belief in the advent of a messiah who acts as the savior or liberator of a group of people. Messianism originated as an Abrahamic religious belief, but other religions have messianism-related concepts. Religions with a messiah concept include Zoroastrianism (Saoshyant), Judaism (the Mashiach), Buddhism (Maitreya), Hinduism (Kalki), Taoism (Li Hong), and Bábism (He whom God shall make manifest).
In Judaism, the messiah will be a future Jewish king from the line of David and redeemer of the Jewish people and humanity. In Christianity, Jesus is the messiah, the savior and redeemer. In Islam, Jesus was a prophet and the messiah of the Jewish people.
Messiah (Hebrew: משיח; mashiah, moshiah, mashiach, or moshiach, ("anointed [one]") is a term used in the Hebrew Bible to describe priests and kings, who were traditionally anointed. For example, Cyrus the Great, the King of Persia, is referred to as "God's anointed" (Messiah) in the Bible.
In Jewish messianic tradition and eschatology, the term came to refer to a future Jewish king from the Davidic line, who will be "anointed" with holy anointing oil and rule the Jewish people during the Messianic Age. In Standard Hebrew, the messiah is often referred to as Melech HaMeshiach (מלך המשיח, literally "the Anointed King."
Rabbinic Judaism and current Orthodox Judaism hold that the messiah will be an anointed one, descended from his father through the Davidic line of King David, who will gather the Jews back into the Land of Israel and usher in an era of peace.
Orthodox Jewish messianic movements have occasionally emerged throughout the centuries among Jewish communities worldwide. These surround various messiah claimants. However, the claimants failed to deliver the promises of redemption, and generally remained with only a handful of followers. The most popular messiah claimants were Simon bar Kokhba in 2nd century Judea, Nehemiah ben Hushiel in the 7th century Sasanian Empire, Sabbatai Zevi in the 17th century Ottoman Empire (precursor to Sabbateans), Jacob Frank in 18th century Europe, Shukr Kuhayl I and Judah ben Shalom in 19th century Ottoman Yemen. There are those who currently identify the 20th century Menachem Mendel Schneerson (the Lubavitcher Rebbe) as the Mashiach).
Other denominations, such as Reform Judaism, believe in a Messianic Age when the world will be at peace, but do not agree that there will be a messiah as the leader of this era.
In Christianity, the Messiah is called the Christ (//; Greek: Χριστός, romanized: Khristós, lit. 'Anointed One'; Hebrew: מָשִׁיחַ, romanized: Māšîah, lit. 'Mashiach'), the saviour and redeemer who would bring salvation to the Jewish people and mankind. "Christ" is the Greek translation of "Messiah", meaning "Anointed one". The role of the Christ, the Messiah in Christianity, originated from the concept of the messiah in Judaism. Though the conceptions of the messiah in each religion are similar, for the most part they are distinct from one another due to the split of early Christianity and Judaism in the 1st century. Christians believe Jesus to be the Jewish messiah (Christ) of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament.
Christians believe that the messianic prophecies were fulfilled in his mission, death, resurrection, and ascension to his Session on the heavenly throne, where "he sat down at the right hand of God, where he is now waiting until his enemies are made a footstool for his feet" (Heb 10:12–13 NET, quoting the Davidic royal Psalm 110:1). Christians believe that the rest of the messianic prophecies will be fulfilled in the Second coming of Christ. One prophecy, distinctive in both the Jewish and Christian concept of the messiah, is that a Jewish king from the Davidic line, who will be "anointed" with holy anointing oil, will be king of God's kingdom on earth, and rule the Jewish people and mankind during the Messianic Age and World to come.
In Islam, Isa Ibn Mariam, al-Masih ("Jesus son of Mary, the Messiah") is believed to have been anointed from birth by Allah with the specific task of being a prophet and a king. In Islam, the Mahdi is believed to hold the task of establishing the truth and fighting against divisions of Islam, uniting all sects before the return of Jesus who will kill the false messiah Al-Masih ad-Dajjal (similar to the Antichrist in Christianity), who will emerge shortly before him in human form in the end of the times, claiming that he is the messiah. Then Jesus will pray for the death of Gog and Magog (Yajuj Majuj) who are an ancient tribe sealed away from humanity who will rise to cause destruction. After he has destroyed al-Dajjal, Mahdi's final task will be to become a just king and to re-establish justice. After the death of Mahdi, Jesus' reign of the messianic King will begin bringing eternal peace and monotheism in the world ending all religions besides Islam.
Allah's Apostle said, "The Hour will not be established until the son of Mary (Mariam) (i.e. Jesus) descends amongst you as a just ruler, he will break the cross, kill the pigs, and abolish the Jizya tax. Money will be in abundance so that nobody will accept it (as charitable gifts)."
The Ahmadiyya Muslim community believes that the prophecies regarding the advent of the Messiah and Mahdi have been fulfilled in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian. He claimed to be the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, the metaphorical second coming of Jesus of Nazareth and the divine guide, whose advent was foretold by the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad.
Bábism and Bahá'í Faith
He whom God shall make manifest (Arabic: من يظهر الله, Persian: مظهر کلّیه الهی) is a messianic figure in the religion of Bábism. The messianic figure was repeatedly mentioned by the Báb, the founder of Bábism, in His book, the Bayán. The Báb described the messianic figure as the origin of all divine attributes, and stated that his command was equivalent to God’s command. The Báb stated that once the messianic figure had arrived, the perusal of one of his verses was to be greater than a thousand perusals of the Bayán. The prediction is widely recognized as being fulfilled by Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith.
Maitreya is a bodhisattva who in the Buddhist tradition is to appear on Earth, achieve complete enlightenment, and teach the pure dharma. According to scriptures, Maitreya will be a successor of the historic Śākyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. The prophecy of the arrival of Maitreya is found in the canonical literature of all Buddhist sects (Theravāda, Mahāyāna, Vajrayāna) and is accepted by most Buddhists as a statement about an actual event that will take place in the distant future.
Although Maitreya Buddha appears in the canonical literature shared by many sects of Buddhism, Buddhists in different historical contexts have conceived of Maitreya Buddha in different ways. In early medieval Chinese Buddhism, for example, Taoist and Buddhist ideas combined to produce a particular emphasis on the messianic role of a Bodhisattva called "Prince Moonlight." Furthermore, the Chinese Maitreyan traditions were themselves marked by considerable diversity. Erik Zürcher has argued that a certain "canonical" Maitreyan cult from the fourth to sixth centuries believed Maitreya to inhabit the Tushita heaven where Buddhists might be reborn in the very distant future. Another rival tradition, however, believed that Maitreya would appear in the imminent future in this world to provide salvation during a time of misery and decline. This latter form of Maitreyan belief was generally censored and condemned as heretical to the point that few manuscripts survive written by Buddhists sympathetic to this tradition.
Maitreya Buddha continued to be an important figure in millenarian rebellions throughout Chinese history such as in the rebellions associated with the so-called White Lotus Society.
John Frum is a figure associated with cargo cults on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu. He is often depicted as an American World War II serviceman who will bring wealth and prosperity to the people if they follow him. He is sometimes portrayed as black, sometimes as white. Quoting David Attenborough's report of an encounter: "'E look like you. 'E got white face. 'E tall man. 'E live 'long South America."
In Hinduism, Kalki (Devanagari: कल्कि; also rendered by some as Kalkin and Kalaki) is the tenth and final Maha Avatara (great incarnation) of Vishnu who will come to end the present age of darkness and destruction known as Kali Yuga. The origins of the name probably lie in the Sanskrit word "kalka" which refers to dirt, filth, or foulness and hence denotes the "destroyer of foulness," "destroyer of confusion," "destroyer of darkness," or "annihilator of ignorance."
Russian and Slavic messianism
Romantic Slavic messianism held that the Slavs, especially the Russians, suffer in order that other European nations, and eventually all of humanity, may be redeemed. This theme had a profound impact in the development of Pan-Slavism and Russian and Soviet imperialism; it also appears in works by the Polish Romantic poets Zygmunt Krasiński and Adam Mickiewicz, including the latter's familiar expression, "Polska Chrystusem narodów" ("Poland is the Christ of the nations"). Messianic ideas appear in the "Books of the Genesis of the Ukrainian People" (Brotherhood of Saints Cyril and Methodius Manifesto), in which universal equality and democracy in the Zaporizhian Sich, recognized as a revival of human society initially planned by God and faith in its future revival, associated with faith in the death and resurrection of Christ. Reborned Ukraine will expand universal freedom and faith in all Slavic countries and thus designed by God ideal society will be restored.
Around the 3rd century CE, religious Taoism developed eschatological ideas. A number of scriptures predict the end of the world cycle, the deluge, epidemics, and coming of the saviour Li Hong 李弘 (not to be confused with the Tang personalities).
at the end of thy tenth hundredth winter [...] the sun is more unseen and more spotted; the year, month, and day are shorter; and the earth is more barren; and the crop will not yield the seed; and men [...] become more deceitful and more given to vile practices. They have no gratitude.
Honorable wealth will all proceed to those of perverted faith [...] and a dark cloud makes the whole sky night [...] and it will rain more noxious creatures than winter.
Saoshyant, the Man of Peace, battles the forces of evil. The events of the final renovation are described in the Bundahishn (30.1ff): "In the final battle with evil, the yazatas Airyaman and Atar will 'melt the metal in the hills and mountains, and it will be upon the earth like a river' (Bundahishn 34.18), but the righteous (ashavan) will not be harmed."
Eventually, Ahura Mazda will triumph, and his agent Saoshyant will resurrect the dead, whose bodies will be restored to eternal perfection, and whose souls will be cleansed and reunited with God. Time will then end, and truth/righteousness (asha) and immortality will thereafter be everlasting.
Wicca, Stregheria, Neopaganism and Witchcraft
Aradia is one of the principal figures in the American folklorist Charles Godfrey Leland's 1899 work Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, which he believed to be a genuine religious text used by a group of pagan witches in Tuscany, a claim that has subsequently been disputed by other folklorists and historians. In Leland's Gospel, Aradia is portrayed as a Messiah who was sent to Earth in order to teach the oppressed peasants how to perform witchcraft to use against the Roman Catholic Church and the upper classes.
Since the publication of Leland's Gospel, Aradia has become "arguably one of the central figures of the modern pagan witchcraft revival" and as such has featured in various forms of Neopaganism, including Wicca and Stregheria, as an actual deity. Raven Grimassi, founder of the Wiccan-inspired tradition of Stregheria, claims that Aradia was a historical figure named Aradia di Toscano, who led a group of "Diana-worshipping witches" in 14th-century Tuscany.
Sebastianism (Portuguese: Sebastianismo) is a Portuguese messianic myth, based on the belief that King Sebastian of Portugal, disappeared in the battle of Alcácer Quibir, will return to save Portugal. The belief gained momentum after an interpretation by priest António Vieira of Daniel 2 and the Book of Revelation that foreshadowed a Portuguese Fifth Empire. In Brazil the most important manifestation of Sebastianism took place in the context of the Proclamation of the Republic, when movements emerged that defended a return to the monarchy. It is categorised as an example of the King in the mountain folk motif, typified by people waiting for a hero to return to save them. The Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa wrote about such a hero in his epic Mensagem (The Message).
There has been significant literature on the potential religious aspects of Nazism. Wilfried Daim suggests that Hitler and the Nazi leadership planned to replace Christianity in Germany with a new religion in which Hitler would be considered a messiah. In his book on the connection between Lanz von Liebenfels and Hitler, Daim published a reprint of an alleged document of a session on "the unconditional abolishment of all religious commitments (Religionsbekenntnisse) after the final victory (Endsieg) ... with a simultaneous proclamation of Adolf Hitler as the new messiah." This session report came from a private collection.
- Pronounced // From Latin: Christus, via Greek: χριστός, romanized: khristós, lit. 'the anointed one [of God]'; calqued from Hebrew: מָשִׁיחַ, romanized: māšîaḥ, lit. 'messiah or messias'. Alternatively (Messiah or Messias): Latin: messias, from Greek: μεσσίας, romanized: messías, lit. 'messias or messiah' (alternative to χριστός), via Aramaic: משיחא, romanized: məšīḥā, ultimately from the same Hebrew.
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