Theology Thursdays: Dead Sea Scrolls, Prophecy and Messiah XVIII
In the current and forthcoming edition of The Final Call newspaper - Volume 23 Number 43 and Volume 23 number 44, respectively, theologian Minister Jabril Muhammad, in his Farrakhan The Traveler column makes exceptionally powerful points that should interest everyone who is a witness or student of anything, regardless to classification or category. His writings, broadly speaking, pertain to the subject of learning and understanding any subject. I think his approach and thesis is relevant to any field – economics, medicine, politics, history, mathematics, science, anthropology etc…although it is most applicable to the study of the scriptures.
For the moment, think in terms of the history of Black people living in America and their interaction with the subject of religion and theology.
There are Black scholars and professors who teach at major universities throughout America who have written extensively about how Black people taken from Africa (of various belief systems) were systematically influenced to accept Christianity, primarily as it was taught to them by White slave masters and preachers. (When I was in college I read an interesting book on the subject called, Slave Religion: The Invisible Institution In Antebellum South). But where did these Whites gain their understanding of the Bible?
Generally speaking they received their religion and most of the theological basis that undergirds it from other Whites living in Europe. One can study the process that resulted in the King James translation of the Bible, and the drama and intrigue surrounding John Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible into English to learn important details regarding how the religious establishment in Europe handled the Bible and the education of the masses of people into their interpretation of it.
Then, one should study the theological debates between Catholics, Protestants, Lutherans and Episcopalians to learn even more details regarding the various interpretations of writings said to be inspired by the God. These debates and their consequences have had and continue to have serious political, economic, and scientific consequences for the entire world.
The study of the evolution of what is called Christianity, in Europe and how it spread and was taught in America; and how all of that differs in content, from the words of the historical Jesus and what he taught, should all be part of the research process and education of those seeking to understand the Black experience in America and the role of religion in American history.
Now, look at all of this from the perspective of a popular Black Christian Pastor preaching from The King James Bible, on television, about Jesus, whom he or she represents as the Messiah. Where did the ideas, arguments, and statements proclaimed by this prominent Black preacher originate? Some might say that what comes out of his or her mouth originated with the very person speaking. Others may say that the preacher got what he or she is teaching directly from God. Can either of those answers really be proven to any reasonable person?
Over the last 15 years I have personally noticed an "explosion" in the supply and demand of Bible translations, concordances, apocrypha, study commentaries, historical narratives, and word origin books among Black Christians. I personally know directly or indirectly several Black preachers who have invested hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in these reference materials. Why? What is it that these Black Christian teachers are going after or pursuing as they look at different translations of the Bible, dissect words translated in English in search of their meanings in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek or when they read and intensely study commentaries, written by other men, about certain passages in the Old and New Testament? Are these Black Christians in their fervent study not essentially working to overcome a knowledge deficit that, for their people, uniquely began with the trans-Atlantic slave trade and an especially brutal period of mistreatement and miseducation in America?
Where did any Black Christian Preacher that preaches it, really get the idea and argument that all of the prophecies pertaining to the Messiah in the Old Testament were fulfilled 2,000 years ago? Was the source God and the Prophets, him or herself, or the teaching of others? The New Testament does contain writings that make the point that Jesus fulfilled several prophecies made by the prophets recorded in the Old Testament. But the New Testament does not contain a one-for-one presentation that shows that every Old Testament description that leading Jewish and Christian scholars agree points to the Messiah, is described as being fulfilled by the Jesus described in the New Testament.
More specifically, where did the most famous and influential Black Christian preachers receive the argument that they publicly make regarding the Second Coming of the person they represent as the Messiah? Many of their arguments, of course rely upon the Book of Revelation in what is called the New Testament. But I can hardly recall ever hearing any such pastors go into detail regarding a Second Coming of the Messiah primarily on the basis of writings contained in the Old Testament that are descriptive of the Messiah.
When I began to study this subject more closely around 8 years ago, I realized that the subject of the second coming of the Messiah is one where most Christian preachers (White or Black) are really relying upon the writing of a relatively small group of White theologians, Biblical scholars and commentators, dead and contemporary. These theologians, scholars, and commentators, however intelligent and insightful, in my opinion, take great liberties in interpreting the Old Testament in order to make their case.
Some of how they twist, bend and stretch facts and meanings can be noticed by “the average person” or any person with common sense (smile), so to speak. Other flawed aspects of their arguments can only be detected and exposed by those steeped and rooted in knowledge of the scriptures and the study of logic or mathematical arguments.
A good place for one to begin to learn the scriptural details of the Christian establishment’s view regarding the first and second coming of the Messiah and the nuances (and inconsistencies) in the justification for it, can be found in the writings of the Christian author Hal Lindsey. How many everyday Black Christians who attend church everyday are aware of Mr. Lindsey, his influence, and his view of what they believe? Not many, from my experience. That does not change the fact that Mr. Lindsey’s writings can provide a reference point for an intelligent discussion of the theological underpinnings of what Blacks were trained into believing when taught Christianity while slaves and ex-slaves, over the last 400-plus years.
Generally speaking, most of those who identify themselves as Muslims, Christians, or Jews, regardless of race, superficially or deeply believe in either the pre-existence, existence, coming or return of the Messiah. Most Muslims believe that the Messiah is a man who was present on this earth; escaped a death plot before it was executed; and is with Allah (God) soon to return, or has just recently returned. Most Christians believe the Messiah is a man who lived 2,000 years ago who was raised by God after a conspiracy to kill him; was executed and is in heaven with God soon to return. Most Jews do not believe either position held by the Muslims or Christians and believe that the Messiah is yet to come, and that he will be preceded by another person, Elijah. There is a much smaller number of people who consider themselves to be inside and outside of those three religions who believe in the appearance and return of a Messiah, but that more than one person fulfills that identity or is written of under that title.
In this series at BlackElectorate.com we have presented some views in line with the argument and concept that there was and is more than one person who fulfills the identity or title of Messiah. Some of what we have presented has come from the perspective of the Dead Sea Scrolls which make reference to the coming of Two Messiahs in the last days – two separate individuals. We have also referred to the writing of Rabbis that describe Two Messiahs and how they relate to one another in some detail.
Just recently a friend of mine exposed me to what some members of the Baha’i faith believe regarding the concept of "Two Messiahs".
He sent me an article written from that perspective entitled, "The Role Of Islam In the Return Of Jesus"(http://bupc.montana.com/islam.html ). Here is an excerpt:
The Holy Prophets of Israel who came after Moses saw that there would be two
times in history when an anointed descendant of David--a Messiah, or
Christ--would also be a Great Prophet. In these two instances, the anointed
son of David would be anointed directly: not by the high priest, but
directly by God. At these two times in history, the Messiah ben David, or
Anointed son of David, would be educated directly by God--meaning He would
receive a Message or Revelation from God. Thus these two descendants of
David would be anointed by an olive neither of the east nor of the west, but
by an olive from the Tree of Life--the Tree of God's Revelations to man.
The concept of two Christ's or Messiahs--two different descendants of David
Who are Great prophets--is not new. In fact, Christians acknowledge its
validity. Christian author Hal Lindsey writes in The Late Great Planet
Earth, "Two completely different portraits of a coming Messiah were
described by the Old Testament prophets." He writes, "...They saw two
different persons." Lindsey describes these two persons as a suffering
Messiah who would be utterly rejected by His own people and a reigning
Messiah who would be an actual king that brings the kingdom of God on earth.
Therefore we see that the suffering Messiah and the reigning Messiah have
two different missions--they are two different persons--two different
descendants of David. As we will see…only the reigning Messiah, not
the suffering Messiah, continues God's promise in Psalms 89 that there will
always be a man seated on David's throne: "I have sworn to David my servant
'I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all
There are two different individual Christ's or Messiahs with two different
missions--the suffering Messiah and the reigning Messiah. Those Christians
and Muslims who fuse these two Messiahs into one person--Jesus of Nazareth--
and who expect the suffering Messiah Jesus to return physically from the sky
as the reigning Messiah, are failing one of the first lessons Jesus taught."
What would be the process for any of us, regardless to religious persuasion or ideology to arrive at the facts, proper interpretation, evidence and proof regarding the existence, or non-existence of the Messiah, and if there is a Messiah, the factual basis for the Messiah being a title or identity that is worn or fulfilled by more than one person?
As a partial answer to that question I recommend a study of the article, "Actual facts: The source of true understanding" written by Jabril Muhammad. It is available at: http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/article_466.shtml. Here is an excerpt that pertains to how all of us can start to resolve confusion over the subject of The Messiah or any subject for that matter:
"First, start with the actual facts. Think. See exactly what is to be seen. Then, and only then should one begin to interpret.
It’s like taking a picture with a camera. First, see what’s really there. Think. Then release the shutter or take the picture. Ideally, we should determine meaning, significance, implications, through accurate interpretation, only after we have the facts. Then, and then only, should we speak or write. This takes time. And practice.
...Haven’t we made mistakes in our views of persons; of events; of things? What were the origins of our mistakes? Misinterpretations? Were those misinterpretations based on misconceptions? Why were those misconceptions made, in the first place, and how? What are the causes of our misconceptions that lead to our mistakes? I am not referring to errors. Errors develop by a different process. Of course, mistakes can be just as deadly as errors. Nevertheless, they are to be judged differently.
What happens when we learn that we made a mistake? Do we easily discard our mistakes and eagerly claim what’s correct? Big subject."
Could it be that the costliest of misconceptions, misinterpretations and “mistakes in our views of persons; events; of things” pertain to those regarding the knowledge of ourselves and God? If so, and if the knowledge of self and the knowledge of God is the most important of all things we should know; is it totally unreasonable to believe that Black people in America are suffering the most in light of the knowledge of the complete identity that was stripped of them? If true, this would bring a new perspective to the commonly held view that Blacks in America are “better off” than Blacks in other parts of the world.
Perhaps this, if true, would explain why the most popular and influential group of Black religious leaders – the Black Christian Preacher – spends so much time on the important issues of family, finance, economic development, politics, and community life but so little time in public, teaching on the horror of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and where that subject; the work of the Messiah in relation to it; and the United States of America are related and pictured in Biblical prophecy. Is it that those subjects are not written of in the scriptures, or is it that these powerful Black preachers don’t know where it is located in the Book, or how to explain it?
In the next part of this series, I intend to explain how this omission in what the biggest Black preachers teach is related to this statement from Jabril Muhammad’s important article, published in the Volume 23 Number 43 edition of The Final Call newspaper:
"Not one of us can say, with truth, that we really knew and understood the Bible’s truths before we heard the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, from him or from one of his followers then or now--especially since Minister Farrakhan arose to extend his teacher’s work."
This may seem like a bold statement but it isn’t really, when one considers the exegesis the Honorable Elijah Muhammad gave regarding the 3rd Chapter of the Book of Joel, especially verses 1 to 7, and compares it with the interpretations offered by others.
Click Here To Join Minister Jabril Muhammad's mailing list for updates, articles and study materials. http://www.writtentestimony.com
Thursday, July 22, 2004