(5-minute read) Only Jesus is the Messiah in the New Testament! The common word used for Messiah in the New Testament, in the original Greek texts, is ‘ho Christos’. Twice it is said to be a translation of the word Messiahs (John 1.41, 4.25). Just as the Quran uses the definite article al to apply the title to Jesus alone, so in the Christian Scriptures he is constantly called ‘’ho Christos’’, that is, the Messiah. The word ‘’Christos’’ occurs about 350 times in the NT. It is often found in the combinations “Jesus Christ” and “Christ Jesus,” and sometimes functions as a second name.[1] Jesus clearly mentions that he was the expectation of this Messianic figure. Luke 24:27, 44;

“beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself… He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

John 5:39 Jesus says:

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”

The Scottish theologian W Graham Scroggie. (1877- 1958) wrote:

“In the Old Testament Christ [the Messiah] is predicted; in the Gospels He is present; in the Acts, He is proclaimed; in the Epistles, He is possessed; and in the Revelation He is predominant. Christ is the focus of all history, prophecy, and type. Divine revelation converges in Him in the Old Testament and emerges from Him in the New Testament. Both parts of the Revelation meet in Him; the one part as preparation, and the other, as realization. In this view all parts of the Bible, from books to verses, constitute a Divine progressive revelation of redeeming love; God and man meet in the One who is the God-Man”.[2]

Jesus Christ is the thematic unity of the whole of Scripture and revelation. Jesus claims unambiguously that He is the central message of the whole sweep of the Old Testament. With his supernatural appearance on the road to Emmaus, he explains what the central theme of the Christian Scriptures was about. For the sake of time, I am going to focus on one central prophetic expectation which is the Messiah. Both Muslims and Christians agree that Jesus Christ was the prophesied Messiah. Where we disagree is that the Messiah was both a man and divine. But what does that mean in the Old Testament Scriptures:

The biblical expectation of Jesus the Messiah and the promised Messiah.

 “The coming Suffering Messiah”

Richard N. Longenecker[3] points to the earliest Jewish Christian community was convinced of the fact that Jesus Christ was the long-expected Jewish Messiah. It is important to note that this was a political and nationalistic expectation where Jesus would have been the coming redeemer of the nation of Israel that would rival and ultimately overthrow the then current political system of Rome. There was therefore a prevailing eschatological expectation that was embedded in the Jewish expectation in where this Messianic figure would ultimately inaugurate the final age and be the deliverer and King for God’s people as the Anointed One (Dan.9:25-26a). The Messianic King’s foundational task would be to restore what Adam lost and He would ultimately bring back the creation and God’s people to their intended glory. This would be accomplished by the Messiah’s penultimate suffering and vindication (Isa.52:13- 53:12, 54:7-9, Ps.22:1-21).

The Messiah is, therefore, an actual individual that would be anointed by God (Isai.61:1-2, Luke 4:18-19) for service where He will return to His place of pre-eminence (Ps.110:1, Isa.53:4; Luke 2:11, Heb.1). Jesus was recognized by His own disciples to be this Messianic figure and the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise (Matt.16:16; Mark 8:27-31; Joh. 1:41, 11:27).

“The Messiah as the last King/Prophet/Priest”

Another aspect that is important is that the Old Testament depicts God to be the Only King and desires universal divine rulership (Psa.145:10-13; cf. 93; 96; 97; Isa.33:22, 52:7). Prolific scholar N.T. Wright[4] mentions that there is only One King over all of Creation and that is Yahweh our God (hegēmon depotes). Even though there are kings that are functioning on earth, the kingdom of God, historically and theologically considered, is essential to Israel’s expectation in their hope that Israel’s god is the only King.

God’s kingdom is fully revealed in the coming of the Messiah inaugurating the Kingdom rule (Psa.110, Isa.9:6) and we clearly notice this is the exact reality of the coming of Jesus Christ in the New Testament (Matt.1:23, cf. Isa.7:14). The coming of Jesus Christ is also the eschatological fulfillment of Israel’s messianic hope and expectations but more so, Gods coming to His people as perfect priestly mediator (1 Tim.2:5, Heb.7) and final prophet[5] (Deut.18:15-20; Matt.21:37, Heb.1:1).

“The Messiah as God’s regent”

The Messiah was not only held to be the eschatological fulfillment of the Jews in early Jewish thought, but the expectation was also that He would restore the people of Israel back to God. James H. Charlesworth[6] shows that Jesus refers to God as ‘Abba’, which is deducted from the Aramaic noun, “The Father” (3 Macc.6:3, 8). Jesus implicitly announces that he is not just referring to God as ‘ābînû’ (m. Yom. 8.9), which would have been a generic reference to God as the One ordering all of Creation, but, Jesus alludes to God as the actual base of His own self-identity. Even though rare in ancient Judaism, Jesus Christ hyphenates a transcendent quality of Sonship that implicitly reveals the true nature of Him as the expected Messiah (Ps.2).[7] Another interesting point is the Messiah’s relationship with the Father as the unique Son of God and Son of Man. The Messiah would be One with the Father in essence, but subject to Him (Deut.18:18, Ps.110, Isai.43;48:16).[8]

 “The Messiah as the preexistent One”

Aquila H.I. Lee[9] stipulates another dimension that is important to our understanding of the Jewish Messiah. She mentions that that coming Messiah was preexistent. Now, this might seem like a foreign idea to contemporary Judaism and the current expectation of the Messiah, but she shows emphatically that there was a common understanding for this to be a reality. The Messianic King was a manifestation and embodiment of a Spirit sent by God.

William Horbury[10] urges that the descriptions of this Jewish Messiah were not incompatible with his humanity or position as king and that the portrayals consistently revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures show the Messiah amongst the ancient Jews as preexistent (Isa.9:5, Mic.5:1). We can infer from a number of texts from the Septuagint (NL. Pentateuch, Prophets, and the Psalms) that the Messiah was preexistent.

The Messiah was (a) light: Isaiah 9:1, 5; (b) a divinely sent Spirit: Amos 4:13; Lamentations 4:20; (c) had a heavenly character: Numbers 24:17, Isaiah 11:1-2; (d) was endowed with the Hebrew title ‘anotole’ [coming forth[11]]: Zacharias 6:12; and was in existence prior to the creation of heavenly bodies: Psalm 72:5, 17; Psalm 110:3 creating with the Father & the Spirit (Gen.1:1, Isai.44:24, 64:8, Job. 26:13; 33:4).

“The Messiah as the coming Lord”

Stemming from the above-mentioned perspective of Yahweh returning to earth Michael F. Bird[12] writes that Jesus without a doubt knew Himself to be divine. He adds that Jesus as Messiah was conscious that in him the God of Israel was finally returning to Zion to renew the covenant and to fulfill the promise Yahweh made to Israel about a new Exodus. The Isaianic declarations emphatically state that Yahweh will return and rule in Zion to judge Israel’s enemies and to dwell amongst His people (Isa.40:3, 52:7-10).

These motifs are not isolated speculations but also evident in other prophetic books that exemplify the end of Israel’s exile entering a new Exodus where Yahweh will return to Zion to judge Israel’s enemies and dwell with His people (Ezek.34:7-16, 22-24). Jesus fulfills in all these expectations and even believes within Himself that He is finally Yahweh returning to Zion and scriptures like Luke 19 in the New Testament affirm that Jesus as Messiah (Luk19:38, cf. Psa.118:26) is Yahweh returning to Zion.

It is a lot to take in but allow me to sum up the Old Testament expectation of the Jewish Messiah. He would be an eschatological figure inaugurating the final age being the Father’s Spirit-anointed accomplishing the task of Salvation restoring what Adam lost and then return to the Father. The Messiah existed, actually, not notionally, before time, in time, and before all created things, creating all things with the Father and the Spirit. The Messiah comes from his abode with the Father, by delegated authority speaking as the Son and ordering all of creation that is made completely subject to Him as the perfect mediator between God and Man. Yahweh returning to Zion with the final decree and testament dwelling with the people in physical form. The Messiah was a Divine Messianic Man.

The Quranic expectation of the Messiah:

in the book, Jesus the complete guide, which was Edited by Leslie Houlden, it says;

“Essentially, what the Quran teaches about Jesus is first that he was a prophet (nabi), sent by God to proclaim a message to the Jews of his day but secondly that he was no more than a human figure, whom it is therefore inappropriate to describe as “the Son of God” or “God the Son.” As regards to the chronology of Jesus Christ’s life, his conception and birth were miraculous, and he taught wisely and performed miracles, but at the end of his time on earth, rather than being crucified and resurrected before ascending to be with God, he was delivered by God from crucifixion, so that he did not die and was taken to be with God directly… Muslims will usually be bitterly critical of some of the affirmations that Christians make about Jesus, most obviously, that he is “Son of God,” the second person of the trinity, and savior or redeemer of the world.”[13]

 John Gilchrist mentions that;

“Only Jesus has the title Messiah in the Quran and the full Quranic name for Jesus is Al-Masihu Isa – “the Messiah Jesus” specifically mentioned in Surah Maryam (4.157, 4.171).”[14]

Geoffrey Parrinder says;

“Jesus receives the title Messiah (Christ) eleven times in the Quran, all in Medinan suras . . . While no explanation is offered of the title Messiah, and it is applied to Jesus at all periods of his life from birth to exaltation, yet it appears to have a particular sense. Muhammad was unaware of the title until he moved to Medina and, as his contacts with Christians and Jews increased, so he came to learn of the unique appellation given to Jesus and, being unaware of its meaning but seeing no reason to reject it, simply adopted it himself and included it in the Quran without any further ado.”[15]

John Gilchrist mentions;

“From the Jewish and Christian scriptures, we can see why Jesus was indeed the Messiah to come, a fact which the Qur’an readily admits. But it is the whole purpose for which he received his anointing that is missed in the Qur’an. The Anointed One, ha mashiah, the Messiah, was to come into the world as the climactic figurehead, the Son of God, in human form. He was to be no ordinary prophet as the Jews themselves knew – he is yet to become the sovereign Lord of God’s eternal kingdom over which he will rule forever. But he came the first time into the world to lay down his life and open the door so that, by faith in him, countless millions would be able to receive the forgiveness of their sins and become heirs of his eternal kingdom.”[16]

That was the essential prophetic expectation of the Messiah.


Works Cited. 

[1] Desiderius Erasmus. “Nothing is to be sought in Scripture but Christ.”

[2] “The Unfolding Drama of Redemption” Pg 31.

[3] Longenecker RN 1970. The Christology of Early Jewish Christianity. Regent College Publishing, Vancouver.

[4] Wright NT 1998. The New Testament and the People of God. SPCK Publishers.

[5] 1. A prophet must be an Israelite, “from among [his] own brothers “(Deut 18:15) (Balaam is the exception that proves this rule).

  1. He must speak in the name of the Lord, “If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name” (Deut. 18:19).
  2. He must be able to predict the near as well as the distant future -” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken” (Deut. 18:22).
  3. He must be able to predict signs and wonders (Deut. 13:2).
  4. His words must conform to the previous revelation that God has given (Deut .13:2-3).

[6] Charlesworth ‘Jesus within Judaism’ pg.132.

[7] http://www.messianicassociation.org/ezine32-af.christology-messianic.htm

[8] https://jewsforjesus.org/answers/top-40-most-helpful-messianic-prophecies/

[9] Lee AHI 2005. From Messiah to Preexistent Son. Mohr Siebeck GmbH & Co. KG

[10] Horbury W 1998. Jewish Messianism and the Cult of Christ. SCM Press Ltd, London England.

[11] https://www.skipmoen.com/2010/01/in-the-east/

[12] Bird MF, Evans CA, Gathercole SJ, Hill CE, Tilling C 2014. How God became Jesus: The real origins of belief in Jesus’ divine nature – a response to Bart Ehrman. Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

[13] Jesus the complete guide. Edited by Leslie Houlden. Pg. 402.

[14] John Gilchrist, The Qur’an and the Historical Jesus. Pg.10.

[15] Geoffrey Parrinder, Jesus in the Quran, p. 30.

[16]   John Gilchrist, The Historical Jesus. Pg.137-138.