Esoteric images for Christ and the anti-Christ

I have always found it odd and interesting to look at what images exist both in ancient Judaism and in Islam for both the Messiah and the antithetical eschatological character who opposes this ‘Messiah’.

Consider the following in the Dead Sea Scrolls:

[…] on one hand, two [marks…] one mark. Red will be his hair, and moles will be on […] and tiny marks on his thighs, and they will be different from each other.

He will know […] in his youth, his words will be those [of a m]an who does not know anything until he knows the three books. Then he will be wise and will know ma[ny things…] vision to come to him on [his] knees, and through his father and his forefathers [long] life and old age shall be his, and prudence and wisdom, and he will know the secrets of men, and his wisdom shall come to all peoples, and he will know the secrets of living things. ;Al]l their designs against him will fail, and the joy of all living things will be great […] his purposes, because he is the chosen one of God. His birth and the spirit of his breath […] his purposes will last forever […]
~4Q534 Col. 1 (usually taken to be part of a short work called the “birth of the chosen one”)

Take, further, the following image from one Muslim who compiled various Muslim traditions to give an Islamic picture of the anti-Christ:

“Let us look also at the characteristics of the False Messiah, the Dajjal, for it may well be that he will arrive during our lifetime. He will be Jewish, and will not have any children. he will not be able to enter Makkah or Medina. {See Muslim (18/50).} His right eye will be defective and protruding unmistakeably, while his left eye will be bright. He will speak all languages, and will have with him what appears to be a green Heaven with water flowing in it, and a black Hell. There will be two men with him who will go before him and warn people of his coming. {Abu Ya’la, al-Bazzar.} He will emerge from east, and some narrations specify that it will be from Khurasan. {Hakim, Ahmad}, other say Isfahan (Muslim). At first, he will claim righteousness and rectitude, then he will claim prophethood, then godhood. {{fat.h al-bArI}, (13/79).}”

The similarity between this picture of the anti-Christ and the Christian picture of Christ is interesting. Obviously he was Jewish and has no children, and arguably the ‘two men with him who will go before him’ are the two witnesses mentioned in the book of Revelation (Rev. 11:1-14). Finally, of course, it belongs to the Christian portrait, if not also the historical portrait, of Jesus of Nazareth that he came on the scene with an unprecedented sense of divine authority which was interpreted by his audience to imply an equality with God (thus righteousness, prophethood then godhood). What strikes me are the physical characteristics of the anti-Christ here, and the physical characteristics of Messiah in the section of the Dead Sea Scrolls cited earlier.

[…] on one hand, two [marks…] one mark. Red will be his hair, and moles will be on […] and tiny marks on his thighs, and they will be different from each other.

And, in Islam;

His right eye will be defective and protruding unmistakeably, while his left eye will be bright.

What is the significance of these physical markers? What lay behind the religious imagination in these instances, and what exactly informed such precise images? Moreover, the same in Islam can be interpreted to be done for Christ:

… so you should recognize him when you see him, as being of medium height and a reddish-white complexion. The hair of his head will be combed straight, and it will appear as if drops of water are about to fall from it, although it is not wet. (i.e. his appearance will be extremely clean.}. He will be clad in two sheets of cloth. He will destroy the Crucifix, slay the pig, and abolish the {Jizyah}, for in his time, Allah will eliminate all religions other than Islam. Allah will eliminate (also) the False Messiah during his time. Peace will reign on earth, so much so that lions will romp with camels … and wolves with sheep, and children will play with snakes without being harmed. He will remain on earth for forty years, and then he will die, and the Muslims will pray over him and bury him. {Abu Dawud (4/117), Ibn Majah (2/1363), Ahmad (2/406, 411, 494). Durr al-Manthur (2/241-242) ascribes it to Ibn Abu Shaybah, ‘Abd ibn Humayd and Ibn Mardoyah.}

The obvious overlap of eschatological imagery from Isaiah 11 is clear in the instances of wolves being with sheep and children playing with snakes without being harmed. The number 40 is always significant in biblical numerology, so it is interesting that it crops up here as well. What strikes me as being characteristically out of step with the Christian eschatological milieu in which I find myself ‘at home’ is this tendency for giving a physical description. Even when that physical description is unlikely (for instance, what Jewish person has red hair?).

This post isn’t intended to argue anything, just articulate an odd feature of Judeo-Christian eschatological images where the images seem to have no symbolic value. Perhaps they have symbolic value, and I am simply not familiar enough with the traditions to tease these out as of yet.

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About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
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2 Responses to Esoteric images for Christ and the anti-Christ

  1. Pat says:

    interesting read. for some reason the notion of a red headed jewish person or one with a ‘ruddy complexion sticks in my mind, associated with King David for some reason. I have checked my bible and can’t find anything about that, so maybe i’m crazy.

  2. M. Paquet says:

    (1 Samuel 16:12 KJV) And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he.
    (1 Samuel 16:13 KJV) Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.

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