The Messiah Texts: Jewish Legends of Three Thousand Years
by Raphael Patai

Paperback Reprint edition (January 1989) 
373 pages
Wayne State Univ Pr
ISBN: 0814318509 

Available at:

Table of Contents

From the back cover: "Following a detailed introduction to the world of messianic ideology and its significance in Jewish history, The Messiah Texts traces the progress of the messianic legend from its biblical beginnings to contemporary expressions.

"Renowned scholar Raphael Patai has skillfully selected passages from a voluminous literature spanning three millennia.  Using his own translations from Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Latin, and other original texts, Patai excerpts delightful folk tales, apocalyptic fantasies, and parables of prophetic power.  All are central to the understanding of a magnificent heritage.  Patai also investigates the false messiahs who have appeared throughout Jewish history, the modern Messiah-influenced movements such as reform Judaism and Zionism, and the numerous reasons put forth by the various branches of Judaism as to why the Messiah has not yet appeared.

"Raphael Patai is an internationally regarded anthropologist, Orientalist, and biblical scholar.  He has written over six hundred articles and two dozen books..."

Rabbi Yonassan Gershom, Amazon Review: 

"This book is the most comprehensive compilation of Jewish texts about the Messiah that I know of in English. When it first came out, it filled a great need for an intelligently-written book where both Jews and non-Jews could read the traditional sources on what Jews believe about the Messiah. As it turns out, those sources are much richer and far more complex that you might imagine.

"Patai does not seek to present any particular doctrine as 'the truth,' nor does he seek to convert anybody to anything. He simply presents all the materials he could find, with some academic overviews of the basic themes. His approach is that of an academic folklorist, not a theologian — in fact, the book is subtitled 'Jewish Legends of Three Thousand Years.'

"The chapters cover such things as pre-existent names of the Messiah, prophecies, apocalyptic writings, birth of the Messiah, stages of the Great Redemption, Last Judgement, Resurrection, dreams and visions of the future world, etc. There are sources from the Bible, Talmud, Midrash, medieval texts, Hasidic teachings, and modern accounts. Plus there are literary references to the Messiah from such writers as Elie Wiesel, Scholom Asch, Martin Buber, Jacob Wasserman, etc. All in all, 337 pages of prime material.

"Most interesting were the various people who have claimed (or were once thought to be) the Jewish Messiah, ranging from Bar Kochba to Shabbetai Zevi to — get this — Theodore Herzl! Yes indeed, the founder of the Zionist movement once dreamed that he was the Chosen One (see pp. 272-73) and apparently saw himself as a savior of the Jewish people — albeit a secular one."

(Please read more of what Rabbi Yonassan Gershom has to say about The Messiah Texts as well as his other interesting reviews at    


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