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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Messiah

The “anointed,” a term used in the Old Testament (Daniel 9:25-7; Psalm 2:2) from the Hebrew mashiah, to refer to people who were consecrated or anointed with oil, such as princes, priests or holy people. It was a common term in Jewish religious texts and is frequently used in the Talmud. The word Messiah was translated as “Christos” in the Greek Septaguint version of the Hebrew Scriptures.

In the New Testament, it acquired a somewhat special meaning when it was applied to Jesus Christ (John 1:41) with a sense of expectancy (John 4:25). This eschatological sense of the word, specifically the expectancy of a coming redeemer, was not found in the Old Testament, although the Jewish people do expect a coming Messiah. This kind of messianic anticipation is, however, not unique to Christianity. It is found in various other religions and traditions. Among the Buddhists, a future Buddha is expected whose name is Maitreya. Among the Hindus, there is a belief that divine beings called Avatars are periodically born, such as Krishna and Buddha. The next one is called the Kalki-Avat€r. Among the Zoroastrian, he is the Sosiosh or Saoshyant. Among the Druzes, he is Hamsa or the Hakem. Even among the Muslims, who consider Mohammed to be the last prophet, there is an expectation among the Shi’ites of the coming Mahdi. He is supposed to be al-Hanafiyah, a son of the fourth caliph Ali, who died in the 7th century, and who is supposed to restore all things upon his return.

V.H.C.

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