Judaism and Christianity accept the verity of the concept of the “Messiah,” and Christianity has inherited a number of the attributes that Judaism conferred on the Messiah. But contrary to what Christians believe, Judaism did not see the Messiah as a central figure, whereas Christianity is founded on and around the “Christ,” the Greek word for “Messiah.”
One fundamental difference between the two religions is that Judaism does not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. The reason is that Jesus’ life did not fit the Jewish profile of the awaited Messiah. For instance, he did not come as a nationalist leader and warrior whose goal was to restore Israel’s lost glory. Jesus led a completely peaceful life and avoided any conflict with the political establishment. He stressed that he was a spiritual, not military, figure and resisted any attempt by people to get him involved in a conflict with the Roman political leadership. This was a major factor in the rejection of most Jews of Jesus’ claim to messiahship (Fatoohi, 2009: 39-40).
The Jews had to choose between accepting Jesus’ correction of the concept of the Messiah and adhering to their centuries-old distorted portrait of the Messiah, and they chose tradition over correction. The Christians, on the other hand, choose to redefine those traditional attributes to make them applicable to Jesus.
Also, the Christ was killed on the cross, whereas the Jewish Messiah was going to be victorious and successfully restore the kingdom of Israel. The concept of a suffering Messiah has no Jewish origin (Fatoohi, 2009: 75-77).
Another difference between Jesus and the Jewish Messiah is that the latter was a human being, whereas Christianity gave its Messiah divine attributes. A divine Messiah is not a Jewish concept but a Christian invention. It had no roots in history before Paul, the writer of the Gospel of John, and other early theologians developed Christianity to what it came to be. It is an irony that Christianity claims to accept Judaism as a revealed religion and the Old Testament as divine scripture yet it has designed a Messiah that is fundamentally different from the Jewish one.