Messiah ben Joseph: Jewish Traditions and Legends of a Latter-day Restorer

Trevan G. Hatch, “Messiah ben Joseph: Jewish Traditions and Legends of a Latter-day Restorer,” Selections from the Religious Education Student Symposium, 2007 (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2007), 37–56.

Messiah ben Joseph: Jewish Traditions and Legends of a Latter-day Restorer

Trevan G. Hatch

For more than two thousand years, many Jewish scholars and rabbis have attempted, with only a certain degree of success, to explain and even comprehend the Jewish traditions of the Messiah ben Joseph, the man who would come forth in the last days as a restorer and a forerunner to the Messiah. A handful of scholars have attempted to present these traditions from a Latter-day Saint perspective. Despite their efforts, many Jewish texts and ideas have been ignored. The similarities between the life of Joseph Smith and the traditions of the Messiah ben Joseph (MBJ) are striking.[1] The primary objective of this paper will be to present these similarities in greater detail than has previously been done.

This paper is intended for the reader who possesses a general knowledge of the life of Joseph Smith. I have, in as much detail as possible due to length restrictions, juxtaposed the life of Joseph Smith Jr. and the traditions of MBJ. Occasionally I will cite an event in the life of Joseph Smith that parallels the traditions of MBJ. In other instances, however, I will not mention the parallel but simply present the information concerning MBJ, and the parallel should be quite obvious. I will mention in the text or in the endnotes any aspect of the tradition that may not stand out as an obvious parallel.

I will periodically refer to Jewish scholars and rabbis as “the Jews.” In doing so, I do not imply that all aspects of the tradition were believed by all Jews or even a majority of them. Some aspects of the MBJ tradition mentioned in this chapter may have been the opinion of a single Jewish scholar or rabbi. [2]

Origin and Sources of the MBJ Tradition

Scholars and theologians have been unsuccessful in determining the origin of the MBJ tradition. Without knowing where or from whom the tradition originated, one can only make a vain attempt to explain the ambiguities relating to the tradition. Coming to a full understanding of the MBJ tradition is difficult considering the fact that every rabbi and scholar have expressed different ideas or theories surrounding it. I have included a brief summary of the earliest known sources of the MBJ tradition which may be helpful. The MBJ traditions are found in at least four sources: (1) The Talmud, which is a collection of rabbinical discussions pertaining to Jewish law, custom, and history. The discussions of the rabbis were kept orally for several centuries and were eventually recorded around AD 200.[3] (2) The Targumim, which are Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Bible compiled in Babylon or Israel during the Second Temple Period (537–20 BC). (3) Kabbalistic writings, which contain Jewish mystical traditions regarding the creation of the earth and other ideas concerning God and spirituality. (4) The apocryphal and pseudepigraphical writings, which are religious and extrabiblical texts resembling books of scripture. These texts were not included with the other canonical books and date from around 300 BC to AD 100.

“Two Messiahs”

Modern Jews, in general, do not believe the Messiah has come. To Jews, Jesus was simply a “teacher . . . who in his day and since his day has had a very exceptional influence,” but he was not considered to be the Messiah.[4] However, many Jews and Christians are anxiously awaiting the moment when the Messiah will arrive. For Christians, it will be His second coming and for Jews, His first.[5] Not only are Jews awaiting the Messiah, but they are also awaiting the arrival of a “second” Messiah: one who will precede the first but will be “second in rank of the two Messiahs.”[6] Dr. Joseph Klausner, a noted Jewish scholar, stated that MBJ will have no “atoning power.”[7] He also stated that only the primary Messiah can atone for sins, although other Jewish scholars might argue that the Messiah cannot atone for sins but that atonement is reserved for God. Klausner also stated that the Messiah, not the MBJ, possesses “eternal life.”[8]

Jews refer to the primary Messiah as Messiah ben David (MBD), sometimes referred to as Messiah ben Judah or King Messiah.[9] This Messiah will descend from the lineage of King David, who descended from Judah, a son of Jacob. The secondary Messiah was referred to by Jews as Messiah ben Joseph, sometimes referred to as Messiah ben Ephraim because he will descend from the tribe of Joseph through Ephraim. Messiah comes from the Hebrew word meaning “Anointed One” and ben translates as “son” or “son of,” so Messiah ben Joseph would render as “The Anointed One, son of Joseph.”

Targum Pseudo-Jonathan teaches that the MBD and MBJ existed[10] “before the world was created”[11] and that they were called to take part in a joint effort during the Messianic Age to serve as redeemers[12] and to bring “salvation to the Jewish people and to the whole world.”[13] The two Messiahs will know of one another’s role in redeeming God’s people, and it will be the MBD who will protect the MBJ until his work is completed.[14]

The Messianic Age

Jews referred to the period of time when MBJ will be born, leading up to the arrival of MBD, as the “Messianic Age,” also known as the “footsteps [leading to the coming] of the Messiah” or “birth-pangs [preparing for the coming] of the Messiah.”[15] People will know that the Messianic Age has arrived when they see an increase of miracles,[16] works of evil, and great calamities.

According to Rabbi Nehemiah (Talmudic period), “Impudence will increase and esteem will be perverted” during the Messianic Age.[17] “This period,” wrote Lawrence Silverman, a Jewish scholar, “is generally depicted as one of upheavals in family life, convulsions in social order, intense and prolonged human suffering, rampant heresy and immorality, and worldwide warfare and devastation.”[18] According to Julius Greenstone, “There will be an increase in drunkenness and immorality. Youths will no longer respect their parents, the pious, and the aged. . . . Judges and officers of the law will have no authority, denunciators will multiply, anarchy will reign supreme. . . . Those that fear sin will be despised, and the house of public convention will become a house of harlots.”[19]

Along with continually decreasing morals, truth and the word of the Lord will be hard to find. Rabbi Judah stated, “The wisdom of the Scribes will become foolish. . . . The face of this generation is as the face of a dog, and truth is lacking, as it is written (Isaiah 59:15): ‘And truth shall be lacking, and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey.’”[20] Consider also the following passage of the Talmud, which states,

When our teachers entered the vineyard (school) at Yabneh, they said: The Torah is destined to be forgotten in Israel, as it is written (Amos 8:11): “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor of thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” It is further written (Amos 8:12): “And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east: they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.” . . . “The word of the Lord” means The End; “the word of the Lord” means prophecy.[21]

Calamities, immorality, deceit, disrespect, and famine of God’s word will not be secluded within a few nations or geographical regions but will be prevalent throughout “the whole earth,” and “all who live will experience it.”[22] The teachings of the rabbis and prophets concerning the last days were so graphic and frightening that some people, including the rabbis, prayed that the Messianic Age would not come in their day.[23]

Calamities around the Birth of MBJ

According to Silverman, calamities such as earthquakes and plagues will occur around the time of the arrival of MBJ.[24] Joseph Smith was born December 23, 1805, in Sharon, Vermont. Six years following his birth and one week prior to his sixth birthday, one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history rumbled U.S. soil. This massive earthquake, the seventh largest in U.S. history, shook the New Madrid Region,[25] causing buildings, tall trees, and even cattle to be swallowed up in the earth.[26] On January 23, 1812, just five weeks later, a second earthquake of equal proportion, shook the same region. Two weeks later on February 7, 1812, the New Madrid fault line released yet another massive earthquake, which has been recorded as the ninth largest earthquake in U.S. history.[27] To get an idea of the magnitude of these earthquakes, we may compare the largest of the three to an earthquake of equal proportion which took place in Caracas, Venezuela, just three weeks following the New Madrid quakes. This single earthquake was responsible for the death of over 20,000 people.[28] Fortunately for the Smiths, the New Madrid earthquakes did not reach New Hampshire where they lived.

Three years later in April 1815, one of history’s largest volcanic eruptions exploded from Mount Tambora in Indonesia. The volcanic explosions sent massive amounts of volcanic pollutants into the air, which experts claim altered weather conditions worldwide through 1816. This probably contributed to the record-breaking seasonal low temperatures and frozen crops in New England during the spring and summer of 1815 and continuing through to 1816.[29] Lucy Smith, mother of Joseph Smith Jr., stated that the continual crop failures in 1815 and 1816 “almost caused a famine.”[30] Could these be some of the calamites that Silverman said would accompany the arrival of the Messianic Age and the birth of the MBJ?

Messiah ben Joseph

The coming of MBJ will serve many purposes which will be discussed in further detail below; however, all purposes will encompass one paramount goal, which will be to prepare the way for the coming of the MBD. MBJ, as previously mentioned, was also referred to as Messiah ben Ephraim.[31] Joseph Smith claimed that he descended from the tribe of Joseph through Ephraim.[32]

In the early nineteenth century, Rabbi Hirsch Kalischer wrote a letter in which he expressed his view of the MBJ. At the conclusion of the letter, speaking of MBJ and MBD, he wrote, “God will send His prophet and His anointed king.”[33]

Not only will MBJ be a prophet, but he will also be a “restorer.” According to the Samaritans,[34] although not always consistent with Jewish tradition and understanding, the MBJ will be regarded as a “prophet who will restore.” The word they use, taeb, means “he who restores” or “he who causes to return.”[35]

In analyzing these traditions, we must ask ourselves the question, what would need to be restored that was lost over the centuries? As previously mentioned, the rabbis believed, as did Amos, that “hearing of the word of the Lord” as well as the “word” itself, will be lost. The rabbis believed that not being able to hear the word of God or even “find” it (see Amos 8:11–12), was the result of a lack of faith. Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav (1772–1810) taught that MBJ will be a key figure in restoring faith to the world. This increase of faith in the last days will be a great tool in preparing the world for the coming of MBD. Nahman also taught that MBJ will restore belief in the “supernatural”and that angels and miracles will accompany the Messianic Age.[36]

The Samaritan tradition teaches that MBJ will restore “everywhere the true Law to its former validity.” He will also restore the understanding of the doctrine of repentance, which will have the power to “convert all peoples” to the word of God and to God’s Kingdom.[37] This ties in nicely with the statement by Solomon Shelemiel in the late sixteenth century. He said the “sole mission on earth” of the MBJ will be “to bring about the Redemption and fill the whole earth with the Messianic kingdom.”[38] The Kabbalists also teach of a Tiqqun haolam, roughly meaning a Restoration of the World Order, which will occur in the last days.[39] Perhaps we may say that there will be a “restitution of all things” (see Acts 3:20–26) by which the key figure will be MBJ.

Joseph Smith and a Restoration

Monday, December 23, 1805, a boy was born into the world who would later claim, with impressive boldness, that heavenly personages appeared to him and instructed him to prepare to serve as an instrument in God’s hands in bringing about a restoration of faith, repentance, order, and the word of God. Joseph Smith’s parents knew little about the significance of the birthday of their son, but this was the day following winter solstice, the first day of the year in which light is expected to increase. In Hebrew the very name Joseph means to “add” or “increase.” It seems only fitting that a man who claimed to restore light and truth to a spiritually dark world was born on the day that signifies an increase of light and warmth to a physically dark world.[40]

Following several years of intense study of the Talmud and Torah, Rabbi Manasseh ben Israel (1604–57)[41] wrote a book titled The Hope of Israel: About the Origin of the Americans, published in 1650, wherein he stated that the “prince” and “leader” who will be called MBJ would soon come to earth. “The Talmudic writings,” he concluded, “claim that the [MBD] will reveal himself to the [MBJ].”[42] Joseph Smith claimed that in the spring of 1820, he was visited by two personages, one of them being Jesus Christ,[43] who, to Christians, is MBD. He also claimed a second visit by Christ in the Kirtland Temple in 1836 (see D&C 110). Interestingly, both of these appearances occurred during the Jewish month of Nisan.[44] “It was generally supposed,” stated Julius Greenstone, “that the Messiah would make his appearance in the month of Nisan or Tishri.”[45]

Three and one half years[46] following Joseph’s visit from Christ in 1820, another personage appeared and quoted to Joseph many passages of scripture including Isaiah 11. The angel stated that this prophecy was “about to be fulfilled.”[47] Many scholars, especially Jewish, agree that Isaiah 11 refers directly to the Messianic Age and the gathering of Israel.[48] The angel also quoted other passages referring to the last days,[49] including Acts 3, which prophesies that in the last days there will be a “restitution of all things” (see Acts 3:20–26).[50] September 21, 1823, the day this angel appeared, was significant because it was day two of the seven-day Jewish holiday of Sukkoth, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, or the Feast of Booths.[51] This is a day of remembrance of the Israelites’ wandering in the wilderness for years and the protection they received from God. Jews also remember God’s promise to bring them out of the wilderness.[52]

MBJ will be instrumental in reestablishing the messianic kingdom on earth. He will also perform a great work in spreading the word of God throughout the world.[53] In the teachings from the ancient prophets and rabbis, a trumpet was used to symbolize the preaching of the gospel, the gathering of Israel, and the coming of the Messiah (see Nehemiah 4:20; Revelation 8:13; Isaiah 58:1; Jeremiah 4:5; Joel 2:1).[54] “Sounding the trump of God” (D&C 88:92) was as if to say, “Preach the gospel in all the world and cry with a loud voice.”[55] In Joel we read, “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand” (2:1).

On top of many Latter-day Saint temples, stands the statue of the angel Moroni with a trumpet pressed to his lips. It was this same angel who appeared to Joseph Smith during Sukkoth and told him that the prophecies concerning the Messianic Age were “about to be fulfilled” (Joseph Smith—History 1:40). Four years later on September 22, 1827, Moroni again appeared to Joseph Smith and gave him gold plates to translate and to use as a tool to gather Israel from the four corners of the earth. As an interesting side note, according to Rabbi Joshua Ben Levi (mid-third century AD), precious stones will be used during the Messianic Age.[56] It was Joseph Smith who used precious stones to translate the gold plates.[57]

What was the significance of September 22, 1827, other than Joseph Smith receiving gold plates? This day happened to be one of the Jewish High Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah, [58] also known as the Feast of Trumpets.[59] On this Jewish holiday, the trumpet (ram’s horn or “shofar”) is sounded in celebration of the future gathering of Israel, the rebuilding of the temple, and the coming of MBD.

MBJ and the Gathering of Israel

Preaching the gospel is directly related to the gathering of Israel, and the rabbis taught that MBJ will work to gather the lost tribes.[60] “It is God himself,” according to Joseph Klausner, “who will ‘sound the great horn for freedom’ and ‘lift up the ensign to gather our exiles, and gather us quickly from the four corners of the earth’ just before Messiah’s coming.”[61] The Lord, using roughly the same language, revealed to Joseph Smith, “It is a descendant of Jesse, as well as of Joseph, unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom, for an ensign, and for the gathering of my people in the last days” (D&C 113:6; emphasis added).

Moses appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on April 3, 1836, in the Kirtland Temple and “committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north” (D&C 110:11; emphasis added). Rabbi Zaddok Hacohen (1823–1900) taught that Moses is a type and shadow of MBJ. He said MBJ “will be like Moses . . . ; that is to say, he will put everything right.”[62] In 1841, Joseph sent Orson Hyde to Jerusalem for the purpose of dedicating the land for the return of the Jews.[63] This he did, fulfilling the prophecies of the prophets and teachings of the rabbis, that the MBJ would do a great work in gathering the lost tribes and restoring the Jews to the Holy Land. The Jewish Encyclopedia states that MBJ will not gather all the tribes during his lifetime but will be instrumental in gathering “part of the Ten Tribes.” [64] The gathering will continue throughout the Messianic Age.

MBJ and the Return of Elijah

Many Jews today believe that Elijah will one day return, and when he does, “he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers,” thus fulfilling the prophecy of Malachi (Malachi 4:6). Jews also believe that he will return on Pesach (Passover). Therefore, during the Passover meal, each family reserves a place for him to dine with them in case he happens to return.[65] Jews also taught that the return of Elijah would occur during the Messianic Age.[66] According to one modern scholar, when Elijah returns, he will appear on the top of a mountain.[67] This is intriguing for Latter-day Saints as well as Jews who believe that the “tops of the mountains” or “mountain of the Lord’s house” refers to the Lord’s temple. The prophet Hosea talks of sacrificing and burning incense, both temple-related practices, in “the tops of the mountains” (Hosea 4:13).

Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith on April 3, 1836, in the Kirtland Temple. This day, the sixteenth of Nisan, was the second day of the Passover season in the year 1836. Many Latter-day Saints believe, however, that Elijah returned on the fifteenth of Nisan, the first day of the Jewish Passover season and the day the Seder feast was held; unfortunately, this was not the case.[68] Despite this fact, it is still very significant that Elijah returned during the Passover season, and more specifically, on the second day of Passover, a day some Jewish sects open their doors to Elijah and hold another Seder fest for a second consecutive day.[69]

When Elijah appeared in the Kirtland Temple, he bestowed upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery sealing powers that would unite families for eternity. Klausner states that Elijah will be “a maker of peace among families.”[70] President Boyd K. Packer related this story about Elder LeGrand Richards and the mayor of Jerusalem:

At the dedication of the Orson Hyde Park in Jerusalem in 1979, Elder LeGrand Richards of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had a conversation with the mayor of Jerusalem. Elder Richards told the mayor of having visited a synagogue that day and having observed a large armchair suspended from the ceiling above the altar. He had asked the rabbi what the chair was for. (He said he already knew what it was for, but that he asked the question to see if the modern-day rabbi still held to the tradition.) The rabbi informed him that the chair was for Elijah, and that upon Elijah’s return it would be lowered from the ceiling so that he might occupy it. Elder Richards then bore testimony to the mayor that the tradition was not only true but had been fulfilled.[71]

Interestingly, Moses and Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on the same day in 1836. We find, in a rabbinical commentary of the second century BC, a passage stating that Moses and Elijah would arrive together at the “end of time,” or in the Messianic Age.[72]

The War of Gog and Magog and the Death of MBJ

The rabbis taught that during the lifetime of MBJ, a war will ensue with Gog and Magog. This war will not be a physical war as much as it will be a spiritual one,[73] and it will be fought between the forces of good and evil. Remarkably, on September 22, 1827, the same night Joseph received the plates (Rosh Hashanah), another fascinating event occurred. A group of people including Heber C. Kimball, who was unknown to Joseph Smith at the time, saw a vision in the sky of two armies engaged in a great battle. Perhaps this vision was given as a sign of the forthcoming war to be fought between the forces of good and evil, a war in which MBJ would participate.[74]

The calamities and evil that would plague mankind during the Messianic Age would be the war tactics of Satan’s empire. Satan’s purpose will be to disrupt the work of the Restoration and ultimately destroy Israel.[75] According to Rabbi Nahman (1772–1810), MBJ will use a sword on the spiritual battleground to fight his enemies. Not only will this sword be used by MBJ but it will also be used by all the righteous. Nahman states, “He who attains this sword must know how to battle with it. He must turn neither to the right nor the left, but must strike his mark without fail.”[76] The sword, which will be the “chief weapon [of the righteous army,] will be that of prayer.”[77] It was the prayer of Joseph Smith that brought about the Restoration, it was the prayer of Joseph Smith that healed the sick and even raised the dead,[78] and it was a prayer that fell from Joseph’s lips at Carthage as bullets pierced his body. In these last moments of his life, Joseph cried out, “Oh, Lord, what shall I do?”[79]

Traditionally, the rabbis expected the war to begin shortly following the return of Elijah.[80] MBJ will lead his troops into battle against the evil forces led by King Armilus from the north.[81] “Armilus” means the son of Satan or the “anti-Messiah.”[82] Unfortunately, MBJ will die by the hand of Armilus shortly after being captured by him and taken as a prisoner.[83] Joseph Smith was taken to Carthage Jail on June 24, 1844, and three days later, he was killed.

The death of MBJ will cause great mourning and lamenting to his followers; however, it will “allow the final work of redemption” to proceed.[84] According to one scholar, the appearance and the work of the MBJ in the last days will “arouse both terror and fury in the lands of Christendom.”[85] Anyone who is familiar with Joseph Smith’s story can attest to that statement. In fact, it’s an incredible understatement. This may have played a factor in the war of Gog and Magog as well as in the death of MBJ.

Joseph Smith was killed on June 27, 1844. This day was the tenth of Tammuz on the Jewish calendar. The “three weeks of Tammuz” followed the week Joseph Smith was murdered. This is a time when Jews mourn the destruction of the Temple, both in 586 BC and AD 70. It seems appropriate that Joseph would be killed prior to a time of great mourning and lamenting in all of Israel.

Following the death of MBJ, Armilus will drive the remnants of Israel into the wilderness.[86] Enoch, in vision, saw this take place. He saw them riding in chariots traveling from the east.[87] Klausner translates chariots as “wagons.”[88] After the death of Joseph Smith in 1844, the Saints were indeed driven from their homes into the wilderness. With everything they owned stuffed in wagons, the Saints traveled from the East and eventually gathered in the Rocky Mountains, just as the blessing of Joseph of Egypt prophesied.[89]

Conclusion

We must keep in mind that the rabbis were not prophets, at least not in the traditional sense. Therefore, these legends and traditions must be considered as just that—traditions. However, the fact that scholars and rabbis have been teaching and believing in a Messiah ben Joseph, one who will be born into the world to restore God’s kingdom and prepare the way for the Messiah, is remarkable.

Joseph Smith appeared to have fulfilled many of the Jewish expectations of MBJ. He claimed to be a prophet and a restorer, and he was visited by Elijah and Moses during his lifetime. He saw the Messiah in vision, his work raised “fury in the land of Christendom,” and he was killed in direct association with his divinely appointed mission.

Notes


[1] See W. Cleon Skousen, The Third Thousand Years (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1964), 156–62; Truman G. Madsen, Joseph Smith the Prophet (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1989), 106; David G. Calderwood, Voices From The Dust: New Insights into Ancient America (Austin, TX: Historical Publications, 2005), 463–66; Joseph Fielding McConkie, His Name Shall Be Joseph (Salt Lake City: Hawkes, 1980), 153–84; Matthew B. Brown, All Things Restored: Confirming the Authenticity of LDS Beliefs (American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 2000), 34–37.

[2] The teachings uttered and recorded by the rabbis concerning the MBJ must be analyzed with proper perspective. Their writings are not prophecies in the traditional sense but rather legends and traditions passed down through the ages. These men were not divinely called as prophets of God who received revelation, although some of their statements have been proven to be prophetic; therefore, prophecies that were once free of error may have evolved into fancified and perhaps corrupted traditions. This is clearly evident by the variations of traditions relating to MBJ and the latter days. However, these traditions show fascinating similarities and parallels to our day and could possibly be of great value to Latter-day Saints and should be carefully considered.

[3] The Talmud is an ancient record containing rabbinic discussions and writings regarding Jewish custom, law, and history. The Talmud is made up of two components. One component is called the Mishnah (AD 200), which contains the oral law; the other is referred to as the Gemara (AD 500), which contains discussions mainly pertaining to the Mishnah and the Tanakh (Old Testament). Two sets of the Tamlud exist today: the Babylonian Talmud, produced in Babylon, and the Palestinian Tamlud, produced in Jerusalem (AD 200–400). Today the Babylonian Talmud is recognized as the primary source of authority and rabbinic discussion. These texts are still widely used today especially among Jewish scholars.

[4] Thomas Walker, Jewish Views of Jesus: An Introduction and An Appreciation (New York: Macmillan, 1931), 14.

[5] See Julius H. Greenstone, The Messiah Idea in Jewish History (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1906), 9.

[6] Joseph Klausner, The Messianic Idea in Israel: From Its Beginning to the Completion of the Mishnah (New York: Macmillan, 1955), 497. Dr. Joseph Klausner, professor emeritus of Hebrew literature and Jewish history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, was a noted scholar of the Messiah ben Joseph. See also Harris Lenowitz, The Jewish Messiahs: From the Galilee to Crown Heights (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 30–34. According to Rabbi Zaddok, Proverbs 15:4 tells about MBJ’s resurrection: “The tree of life [MBD] heals the tongue [MBJ].” MBJ is referred to as the tongue because he is the one who proclaims the gospel. According to Greenstone, after the MBJ is resurrected he will be “made viceroy to Messiah son of David” (Greenstone, Messiah Idea, 211). A viceroy is a person who rules over a portion of God’s people.

[7] Klausner, Messianic Idea, 483.

[8] Talmud Sukka 52a, as cited in Samson H. Levy, The Messiah: An Aramaic Interpretation, The Messianic Exegesis of the Targum (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, 1974), 108.

[9] See Klausner, Messianic Idea, 11; see also Dan Cohn-Sherbok, The Jewish Messiah (Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark, 1997), 43; Madsen, Joseph Smith, 106.

[10] See Pseudo-Jonathan Targum Malachi 5:1, as cited in Levy, The Messiah, 93; Cohn-Sherbok, Jewish Messiah, 29.

[11] Pesahim 54a and Nedarim 39b, as cited in Klausner, Messianic Idea, 520. Joseph Smith taught, “Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was. I suppose I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1965], 365).

[12] See Targum of Cant. 4.5 and 7.4; see also Joseph Heinemann, “The Messiah of Ephraim and the Premature Exodus of the Tribe of Ephraim,” in Messianism in the Talmudic Era, ed. Leo Landman (New York: KTAV Publishing, 1979), 345: Heinemann stated that the Targum speaks of “two redeemers who will redeem you in the future, the Messiah ben David and the Messiah ben Ephraim.”

[13] Isaac Landman, ed.,The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia (New York: The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, 1942), 7:499.

[14] See Arthur Green, “Nahman of Bratslav,” in Essential Papers on Messianic Movements and Personalities in Jewish History, ed. Marc Saperstein (New York and London: New York University Press, 1992), 402.

[15] Lawrence M. Silverman, “Messiah Son of Joseph in the Apocalyptic Midrashim,” in “Open Thou Mine Eyes . . . “ Essays on Aggadah and Judaica, ed. Herman J. Blumberg (Hoboken, NJ: KTAV Publishing, 1992), 273.

[16] Greenstone, Messiah Idea, 107.

[17] Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 97a, as cited in Cohn-Sherbok, Jewish Messiah, 45.

[18] Silverman, “Messiah Son of Joseph,” 273.

[19] Greenstone, Messiah Idea, 94. “The young,” said Rabbi Nehorai, “will insult their elders, and the elders will wait upon the young” (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 97a, as cited in Cohn-Sherbok, Jewish Messiah, 45).

[20] Sanhedrin 97a, as cited in Cohn-Sherbok, Jewish Messiah, 45–46.

[21] Shabbat 138b, as cited in Cohn-Sherbok, Jewish Messiah, 46.

[22] Baraithas (Talmud), as cited in Klausner, Messianic Idea, 342.

[23] See Greenstone, Messiah Idea, 95.

[24] See Silverman, Essays on Aggadah, 277.

[25] Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas, Indiana, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, and other states were all in the earthquake zone. Experts claim that the New Madrid fault line, which is located between St. Louis and Memphis, could produce another big earthquake in the future. If the size is similar to the 1811 earthquake, the damage is estimated to reach upward of fifty billion dollars.

[26] See Jay Feldman, When the Mississippi Ran Backwards: Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes (New York: Free Press, 2005), 140–41, 170. James Fletcher, resident of Caruthersville, Missouri, saw “a granary and a smokehouse [sink] into a fissure and disappeared, after which the gap in the ground closed up, permanently burying the buildings” (140).

[27] See U.S. Geological Survey; http://earthquake.usgs.gov/regional/states/historical.php (accessed November 8, 2006).

[28] See Feldman, When the Mississippi Ran Backwards, 178.

[29] Ray L. Huntington and David M. Whitchurch, “‘Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death’: Mount Tambora, New England Weather, and the Joseph Smith Family in 1816,” in Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint History: The New England States, ed. Donald Q. Cannon, Arnold K. Garr, and Bruce A. Van Orden (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2002), 91.

[30] Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954), 59. I must also mention the struggles the Smiths found themselves in when a plague in 1811 swept through New Hampshire. Every child in the Smith home fell sick with typhus fever including Joseph. The disease steadily got worse until an operation was required to save Joseph’s leg. Joseph received proper medical assistance and was bed-ridden for months and walked with a slight limp the rest of his life (see Madsen, Joseph Smith, 20; Joseph Smith, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, comp. and ed. Dean C. Jessee [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1984], 665).

[31] See Targum of Cant. 4.5, as cited in Charles C. Torrey, “The Messiah Son of Ephraim,” Journal of Biblical Literature (September 1947): 254; see also Klausner, Messianic Idea, 484, 487.

[32] See Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 461–62. Joseph was told by the Lord, “Abraham received promises concerning his seed, and of the fruit of his loins—from whose loins ye are, namely, my servant Joseph” (D&C 132:30; emphasis added). At another time he was told, “And also with Joseph and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, your fathers, by whom the promises remain” (D&C 27:10; emphasis added).

[33] Greenstone, Messiah Idea, 267.

[34] The Samaritans clung to their religious traditions and claimed that their form of worship was the true form of ancient Israel. Today there is a community of Samaritans, approximately a thousand, living on Mount Gerizim, which is located in the West Bank.

[35] Klausner, Messianic Idea, 484.

[36] See Green, “Nahman of Bratslav,” 397.

[37] Klausner, Messianic Idea, 484.

[38] Abba Hillel Silver, A History of Messianic Speculation in Israel (Boston: Beacon Press, 1927), 137–38.

[39] See Green, “Nahman of Bratslav,” 391. Green states, “As preached by the Kabbalists, tiqqun was a process of restoring wholeness to a world still suffering the effects of the primal cataclysm; this restoration would culminate in the advent of messiah.”

[40] December 23, 1805, also fell on the eighth day of Hanukkah. The Jews celebrate this holiday in remembrance of at least three events, all of which contain symbolic significance in the life of Joseph Smith: (1) They celebrate the victory over their enemies during the Maccabean revolt in the second century AD. Joseph’s life and death were compact with events which display his and the Church’s victory over their enemies. (2) They remember the “Miracle of Oil,” which was a time when one day’s worth of oil burned for eight days while new oil was prepared, symbolizing light and Spirit, which would shine forth forever. Joseph was given priesthood keys by which he was commanded to bestow the Holy Ghost, or Spirit, upon people after baptism. Oil is a symbol for the Spirit, which is synonymous with light. This authority had been lost for centuries. (3) This day marked the rededication of the destroyed Temple. After Joseph reestablished the Church, he was commanded to build and dedicate temples, which practice had also been lost for over 1,700 years.

[41] Manasseh ben Israel lived in Portugal most of his life. He became well known for his scholarship on the Talmud and the Torah. He knew six languages and had written a Hebrew grammar book by the time he was seventeen years old. He became the Chief Rabbi of a small congregation by the time he turned eighteen and was a well-respected scholar.

[42] Manasseh ben Israel, Sobre el Origen de los Americanos, as cited in Calderwood, Voices from the Dust, 463–66.

[43] See Smith, Personal Writings, 199–205.

[44] Christ appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on Easter Sunday, April 3, 1836, which was the sixteenth of Nisan of the Jewish calendar (see John Pratt, “The Restoration of Priesthood Keys on Easter 1836, Part 2: Symbolism of Passover and of Elijah’s Return,” Ensign, July 1985, 55–64; Stephen Ricks, “The Appearance of Elijah and Moses in the Kirtland Temple and the Jewish Passover,” BYU Studies 23, no. 4 [Fall 1983]: 485). Two scholars have recently presented, in separate studies, strong evidence that the date of the First Vision was Sunday, March 26, 1820, which was the tenth of Nisan in the Jewish calendar. Dr. John Pratt presents the evidence based on the Enoch Calendar, and Dr. John C. Lefgren presents the evidence using 1820 New England weather reports and maple-sugar production cycles (see John P. Pratt, “Enoch Calendar: Another Witness of the Restoration,” Meridian Magazine, August 2002; John C. Lefgren, “Oh, How Lovely Was the Morning: Sun 26 March 1826,” Meridian Magazine, October 2002).

[45] Greenstone, Messiah Idea, 106.

[46] Three and one half years or 1,260 days (“time and times and the dividing of time” [Daniel 7:25; see also Revelation 12:6]) in antiquity symbolized a limited period of time. Half of 7 is 3.5. The number seven symbolizes completeness, wholeness, or even perfection. Thus, 3.5 is not complete but “arrested midway in its normal course.” John the Revelator, speaking of the Church, said she would flee into the wilderness, meaning some sort of apostasy, and return in 1,260 days, or 3.5 years. This symbolizes the Church being taken away for a limited time and Satan, in his attempt to destroy the Church, would be “arrested midway in its normal course.” Thus, the appearance of the angel to Joseph on September 21 or 22, 1823, three and one-half years after his first instruction from heaven, would symbolize that the Church came out of the “wilderness” and that Satan’s purpose was “arrested midway in its normal course” (Alonzo L. Gaskill, The Lost Language of Symbolism [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003], 117–19).

[47] Joseph Smith, Personal Writings, 204.

[48] Silver, Messianic Speculation, 191. Rabbi Manasseh ben Israel, using Isaiah 11, stated that the “Indians,” or Native Americans, were lost Israelites and in due time, they will be gathered with the rest of the “lost ten tribes” by the “leadership of Messiah ben Joseph”; see also Klausner, Messianic Idea, 294.

[49] See Smith, Personal Writings, 203–4; see also Journal of Discourses (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854–86), 24:241; Milton V. Backman Jr., Eyewitness Accounts of the Restoration (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1986), 43.

[50] KJV renders, “restitution of all things.” Amplified Bible renders, “complete restoration of all.” NASB renders, “period of restoration of all things.” NAB renders, “times of universal restoration.” NIV renders, “until the time for God to restore everything.”

[51] David Noel Freedman, ed., The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 1:816–19.

[52] See Hayyim Schauss, The Jewish Festivals (New York: Schocken, 1938), 170–207.

[53] See Silver, Messianic Speculation, 137–38. In a testimony meeting in the early days of the Church many brethren stood up and testified of the truthfulness of the Church and of missionary work. When they were finished, the Prophet Joseph Smith stood and said, “Brethren, I have been very much edified and instructed in your testimonies here tonight, but I want to say to you before the Lord, that you know no more concerning the destinies of this church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it. . . . It is only a handful of priesthood you see here tonight, but this church will fill North and South America it will fill the world” (Wilford Woodruff, The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, ed. G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], 38–39).

[54] See Klausner, Messianic Idea, 352.

[55] D&C 75:4 states, “Lifting up your voices as with the sound of a trump, proclaiming the truth according to the revelations and commandments which I have given you.” We find 155 trumpet references in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants combined. All of the references refer to preaching the gospel, the gathering of Israel, going to battle, and the coming of the Messiah.

[56] Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1947), 4:221.

[57] See Smith, Personal Writings, 215; Jack Welch, ed., Opening the Heavens (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005), 130–31; B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1948–57), 1:129.

[58] See Lenet H. Read, “Joseph Smith’s Receipt of the Plates and the Israelite Feast of Trumpets,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2, no. 2 (Fall 1993): 110; see also John P. Pratt, Divine Calendars: Astronomical Witnesses of Sacred Events (Orem, UT: AstoCal, 2002), 71–72.

[59] Freedman, ed., The Anchor Bible Dictionary 1:816–19.

[60] See Greenstone, Messiah Idea, 124.

[61] Klausner, The Ingathering of the Exiles, 470, as cited in Skousen, Third Thousand Years, 159–60.

[62] Roland Goetschel, “The Messiah Son of Joseph according to Rabbi Zaddok Hacohen,” Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, Volume 15, Jewish Religious Life, 1500–1900, ed. Antony Polonsky (London: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2002), 217. For Joseph of Egypt’s prophecy, see 2 Nephi 3:7–15.

[63] See Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1950), 4:439.

[64] Isidore Singer, ed., The Jewish Encyclopedia (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1904), 8:512.

[65] Lenowitz, Jewish Messiahs, 62.

[66] See Talmud Pesahim 13a and Eduyyoth 8:7, as cited in Cohn-Sherbok, Jewish Messiah, 46–47; Klausner, Messianic Idea, 498.

[67] See Cohn-Sherbok, Jewish Messiah, 47.

[68] Stephen Ricks, “The Appearance of Elijah and Moses in the Kirtland Temple and the Jewish Passover,” BYU Studies 23, no. 4 (Fall 1983): 485.

[69] Ricks, “The Appearance of Elijah and Moses,” 485.

[70] Klausner, Messianic Idea, 257–58.

[71] Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1986), 114.

[72] Deut. Rabba 3:10, as cited in Ricks, “The Appearance of Elijah and Moses,” 485.

[73] See Green, “Nahman of Bratslav,” 408.

[74] See Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 2nd ed. rev. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1945), 15–17.

[75] Simeon ben Yohai said that the “war with Gog and Magog [will be] one of the most terrible evils to befall humankind” (Cohn-Sherbok, Jewish Messiah, 49; see also Klausner, Messianic Idea, 520).

[76] Green, “Nahman of Bratslav,” 396. In Isaiah 14 we read that Satan will be “cut down to the ground” and “thrust through with a sword” (14:12, 19).

[77] Green, “Nahman of Bratslav,” 395; see also page 399.

[78] See Levi Curtis, “Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Juvenile Instructor 27, no. 12 (June 15, 1892): 385–86; see also Mark L. McConkie, Remembering Joseph: Personal Recollections of Those Who Knew the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003), 128–30.

[79] Madsen, Joseph Smith, 123. Madsen also cited Joseph’s statement just after hearing of the trials of the suffering Saints in Missouri: “Oh God, what shall I do in such a trial as this?” (Madsen, Joseph Smith, 182; see also Smith, History of the Church, 6:618).

[80] See Cohn-Sherbok, Jewish Messiah, 43.

[81] It was said that Armilus was the king of Rome. Rome is north of Israel, and therefore this is symbolic of the enemies from the north (see Silverman, Essays on Aggadah, 279).

[82] Encyclopedia Judaica, CDROM (Shaker Heights, OH: Judaica Multimedia, 1997), 3:476. In the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan Isaiah 11:14, the name of Armilus is mentioned.

[83] See Silverman, Essays on Aggadah, 280.

[84] Green, “Nahman of Bratslav,” 424. The Babylonian Talmud uses a scriptural passage in Zechariah to refer to the death of MBJ (Sukkah 52a): “And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son” (Zechariah 12:10).

[85] Isaiah Tishby, “Acute Apocalyptic Messianism,” in Essential Papers, 273.

[86] See Silver, Messianic Speculation, 44.

[87] See “The Book of Enoch,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth (New York: Doubleday, 1983), 1:39.

[88] Klausner, Messianic Idea, 297.

[89] “Joseph is a fruitful bough, . . . whose branches run over the wall: the archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him. . . . The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills” (Genesis 49:22–26; emphasis added). Jacob, in blessing his son Joseph, prophesies that his posterity will travel to another land (“over the wall,” or ocean). One of his descendants will be shot, and then his descendants will gather in the “utmost bound of the everlasting hills,” the Rocky Mountains.