Jesus Christ did not drop down to mankind like a meteor from the sky nor was he just a man who turned out to be more evolved and thus superior to all the rest. He represented a marriage of heaven and earth, born of the Creator and a human being.
The Christian qualities and teachings he brought with him represent both aspects of this marriage. While the Spirit in them is of God, the roots of his human nature were planted deep in the soil of Judaism, a soil which had been in intensive cultivation for many centuries in anticipation of just this event -- the culmination of all Hebrew teachings and prophecies in the arrival of the Messiah.
The prophecies are in the Old Testament of the Bible, still used by Christians though actually they are the Scriptures of the Hebrew faith which is sometimes called Judaism. In fact, Jesus was born a Hebrew of the tribe of Judah.
Anyone approaching the Old Testament for the first time, or one who is seeking spiritual upliftment in the old scriptures, tends to feel appalled at the bloodshed, polygamy, rape, destruction and deception -- these things not merely being done in disobedience to God, but often directed by His own prophets and spokesmen.
We must remember that these scriptures also record the history of a nation, and history has always in the past been bloody, for mankind at his baser level has acted abominably. The high office of kings seldom indicated loftiness of character. On the contrary, their selfish desires only had influence over more people, and the opportunities for evil were multiplied. One must admit that while the Christian Scriptures are lofty in their teaching, the history of Christianity on earth since the day it was given by Jesus, is far from unblemished.
The Hebrew nation was actually less cruel and behaved with better conscience than did most of their neighboring non-Jewish countries. Their saving grace was a steadfast belief in One Omnipotent, Invisible God, rather than the powers ascribed to graven images that represented the many gods of their pagan neighbors -- granted they sometimes lapsed, or took on certain aspects of other religions, thus bringing down upon their heads exile and desolation.
But the cries of their inspired prophets, ruggedly selfless individuals, continually warned and turned them back to the One whom they all worshipped. And they would repent, causing God to forgive again and again, and give them another chance.
The words of the prophets are as powerful as the psalms of praise are beautiful. And on second reading, or on opening the Bible at random to the Old Testament, one finds many wondrous passages and words of inspired guidance which seems to anticipate the very spiritual experience one is passing through.
As the Book of Hebrews states in chapters 8 and 9, God had commanded Moses to make all things according to the pattern shown him on the Mount; for the Law was but a shadow of the things to come, and not the perfection of the things themselves.
It seems as if the Old Testament acted as does the shadow of coming events casting themselves before or prefiguring the actual things to come.
There is yet another phase of the Old Testament, often overlooked, which is that actual miracles were performed, some almost as wondrous as those of Jesus, bringing back to life a dead person, for example. And the visions of Ezekiel are not unlike some of those which John saw in Revelations.
The backbone of the Old Testament were the Patriarchs Abraham and Jacob, followed by their Lawgiver Moses, who received the commandments from God; then there were King David and his son Solomon.
Jacob's twelve sons formed the basis for the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob's son Levi became the forebear of the tribe of Levites, who were designated by Moses to be the priests of Israel, exempt from tithing and supported by the tithes of the others. Jacob's son, Judah, became the forebear of David, and eventually of the mother of Jesus (or at least of Joseph).
The backbone of the Jewish teaching and daily life was the Law which Moses had brought them from Mount Sinai.
The blood, passion and cunning of the Old Testament, after the initial shock, mellows with the passing years to provide a rich compost for the soil of that which is to come.
In fact, when one has somewhat transcended beyond personal reaction, it takes on a warmth, something like a rich brown stew, made up of a juicy blend of men's passions, spiced with his courage and faith, and above which rises higher and higher the aroma of prayer and the yearning desire for salvation -- for the one who would save them according to the ancient promises.
Through all the Scriptures were woven the mighty prophecies of the One who would come to save all the people, who would reign from the throne of David over all Israel forever.
By the time Jesus was born, the pleas for the appearance of this longed-for King had reached a great crescendo, which must have found its ultimate fulfillment in the chorus sung by angels to the shepherds outside Bethlehem -- "On earth peace, to men of good will."
The extreme national consciousness of Jewish people places strong belief in the divinity of anointed kings, and even after the Hebrew monarchy had fallen, led them to expect a Messianic (anointed) ruler who would restore the kingship and its autocratic power.
What is Messiah? The word "Messiah" simply means "anointed," as does the word "Christ" -- Christ, or Christos being the Greek translation, while Messias is the Hebrew.
In former days, those of special assignment were anointed in token of their initiation into high office. Kings, high priests, and sometimes prophets were anointed.
Saul, David, Solomon and Joash received the royal unction; Aaron and his sons received the sacerdotal of the priesthood; and God Himself ordered Elijah to give Elisha the prophetic unction. Therefore, the term Messiah, Christ, or "Anointed" was given to kings, and also to certain patriarchs and prophets.
It has not been recorded whether Jesus Christ ever received any external unction, nor whether the apostles anointed the faithful with oil or ointment. This is unlikely, as the anointing which refers to Christ Jesus is that spiritual and internal unction of grace and the Holy Spirit, of which the outward and sensible unction which was anciently applied to kings, priests and prophets, was but the figure and symbol.
The term "Christ" as used in the New Testament represents that holy power which Christed or anointed the blessed Jesus at his time of Baptism, by virtue of which he became the most perfect of men and the highest Initiate of earth's humanity. It is true that his feet were once anointed with costly ointment, and Jesus remarked that the woman was anointing him for burial. He may have indicated that when the spiritual anointing reached all the way down to become a physical fact, it had been brought into earth for finality.
The Jews undoubtedly expected that the Messiah, the Anointed son of David, would, like David, be anointed into the kingship of Israel, to rule over his people temporally as well as spiritually. They hoped he would drive out the Romans and rescue them from the sore oppression which was upon their land. Certain false Messiahs actually did try these forceful methods, but to no avail.
In the Synoptic Gospels the discussion of the Messiahship of Jesus is handled quite otherwise than in John. Let us point out once more, to refresh the reader's recollection, that the word "Messiah" - in Hebrew, or Mashiah; in Aramaic, Meshiha; in Greek Xpiotos (Christos), which is also the past participle of the verb "to anoint" (Xpiw), phonetically transcribed into Latin as Christus, was originally a title of the kings of Israel because they were "anointed," (This is the literal meaning of the Semitic words and of their Greek equivalent), or consecrated with holy oil.
Later it became, on the basis of certain passages of the Old Testament that were regarded as prophecies, the designation of the unknown descendant of the royal family of David who, it was hoped, would one day appear to reclaim the throne of his ancestors and to restore the independence and prosperity of his country. It does not follow, however, as even some theologians honestly admit, that the expectation of the Messiah was as widespread among the people as the evangelical tradition would have one think. Possibly some hysterical patriot (such as the leaders of the Zealot movement) or some fanatical preachers had occasionally claimed to be the messengers of the future Messiah, or even the Messiah himself, without thereby having aroused any dangerous thoughts in the minds of men, as Catholic theology asserts.
After the Hebrews had finally conquered Palestine, their government continued to maintain its theocratic form. The power of the priestly caste was unshakable, and the kings themselves had to accept investiture through consecration with holy oil (olive oil perfumed with myrrh, cinnamon, calamus, and cassia).