by Matt Slick
Dr. John Hagee is the founder of the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. Cornerstone is a nondenominational church with several thousand members. Dr. John Hagee can be seen on more than 160 television stations and 50 radio stations across America. He is the author of at least 10 books.1
On the surface, everything looks good. On his website at jhm.org, Dr. John Hagee affirms the basics of the Christian faith including the deity of Christ, the Trinity, etc. His beliefs page is not very precise, but it appears to be within orthodoxy. The problem, however, is with his new book "In Defense of Israel" where Dr. Hagee apparently states that Jesus was not the Messiah. If you were to go to youtube.com2 you can hear where Dr. Hagee speaks regarding his book and says his book, In Defense of Israel, will prove that "Jesus did not come to Earth to be the Messiah," (20 seconds in) and that " . . . since Jesus refused by word and deed to claim to be the Messiah how can the Jews be blamed for rejecting what was never offered?" (32 seconds in). Obviously, this is a huge problem.
Hagee defines 'Messiah' as political deliverer
So, instead of making my judgment on a one minute sound bite, I bought the book and went through it. I didn't read the whole thing. Instead, I went to the section (Chapter 10, pages 121-169) where he dealt with Jesus as the Messiah. In short, Hagee takes several pages to characterize the Jewish idea of the Messiah as being a political deliverer who was supposed to free Israel from Roman oppression. This is very significant. Hagee defines Messiah not as a spiritual deliverer, but as a political one. To substantiate his position, Hagee calls Moses the messiah of Israel and speaks of the political deliverance of Israel from Egyptian oppression. Note what Hagee says in his book:
- " . . . God gave Moses four signs to convince the children of Israel that he was their messiah . . . He knew he was anointed of God to overthrow Egypt and lead the Jewish people to the promised land." p. 136.
- "The next two signs God gave Moses were to convince the children of Israel that Moses was their Messiah." p. 136
- "When impetuous Peter could stand it no longer, he blurted out, 'You are the Christ.' Or in other words, 'You are the anointed one! You are the Messiah who will lead the Jews in their revolt against Rome.'" p. 140
- "Even after his resurrection and repeated denials that he would not be the Messiah, his disciples were still hanging on to the last thread of hope that he would now smash realm (Acts 1:6)." p. 141
- For reference, Acts 1:6 says, "So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”
- "He refused to be their Messiah, choosing instead to be the Savior of the world." p. 143.
Notice that in quote number 1 Hagee cites Moses as the Messiah of Israel who was to overthrow Egypt. In quote 3 Hagee interprets Peter's words to again relate the term Messiah as a political deliverer. In quote 4 Hagee cites Acts 1:6 which is a reference to restoring Israel as a political power. So, we can conclude that Hagee is defining the Messiah as a political deliverer. Therefore, if we were to use this definition, Hagee is correct. Jesus did not come to be a political Messiah. But, Dr. John Hagee has still made a big mistake. He has failed to define his terms adequately and caused an uproar.
The term Messiah and John Hagee's error
Remember, in the video2 John Hagee said his book, In Defense of Israel, will prove that "Jesus did not come to Earth to be the Messiah," (20 seconds in) and that " . . . since Jesus refused by word and deed to claim to be the Messiah how can the Jews be blamed for rejecting what was never offered?" (32 seconds in). He did not clarify what he meant by Messiah--and I think he did it on purpose. Nevertheless, let's take a look at the word as it is used in the New Testament--something Hagee should have done but didn't do in his chapter. The English word "messiah" is translated from the greek μeσσίας (messias) and is found only two times in the New Testament:
- John 1:41, "He found first his own brother Simon, and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah' (which translated means Christ)."
- John 4:25-26, "The woman said to Him, 'I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.' 26 Jesus said to her, 'I who speak to you am He.'"
We see that Jesus is called the Messiah in John 1:41 and in John 4:25-26 Jesus affirms that he is the Messiah. This flatly contradicts Hagee's statement that on the video that " . . . Jesus refused by word and deed to claim to be the Messiah." Dr. John Hagee is just plain wrong!
There are two significant points worth mentioning here. First, the word "messiah" is translated as "Christ": "messiah" is the Old Testament Hebrew equivalent for the New Testament Greek "christ". So whenever we see the word Christ used in the New Testament, we know it is speaking of Messiah. Second, Jesus himself affirmed that he was the Christ. Here are some additional scriptures that confirm this.
- Matt. 16:16-17, "And Simon Peter answered and said, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.' 17 And Jesus answered and said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.'"
- Mark 14:61-62, "But He kept silent, and made no answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."
- John 17:3, "And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."
- See also Luke 24:26,46; John 10:23
So, since Jesus affirmed that he was the Messiah (John 4:25-26) and the Christ (Matt. 16:17; Mark 14:61-62; and John 17:3), we must conclude that Hagee has clearly not done his homework regarding how the word is used in the Bible. He has failed to do proper research. How can this be? Why would Dr. Hagee fail to mention these verses and the plain scriptural teaching that Jesus is the Messiah?
I can see only two possibilities to explain Hagee's blatant oversight--but I must state that these are only my opinions. First, perhaps Hagee worded his advertisement and book in such a way to cause controversy and increase sales. I don't know, but it caused me to buy the book so that I could research what he meant. Second, Dr. Hagee has such a huge agenda regarding his support for Israel that he has apparently allowed himself to do shoddy and incomplete research regarding this topic of the Messiah so as to support a particular view of Israel to the complete denouncement of what is known as Replacement Theology.
There are a lot of people complaining about John Hagee's comments and rightfully so since they are misleading. They do not represent the full scope of the term Messiah and they are incendiary. Though I do not like defending him in this issue, I must remind the reader that as far as Hagee's definition of "messiah" being a political deliverer goes, he is correct; Jesus did not come to be a political deliverer and free Israel from Roman rule. However, Dr. Hagee needs to be far more clear and define his terms. I'm convinced he knew the uproar his statements would cause.
Furthermore, he needs to reassess his comments and adopt a more biblically complete position regarding the Hebrew term Messiah (which is equivalent of the Greek term Christ). For example, Christ is Messiah (John 1:41); Christ as Son of Man coming on the clouds (Matt. 26:63-64); Christ as Savior (Luke 2:11); Christ as King of the Jews (Luke 23:2-3); Christ will reign forever (Rev. 11:15), etc. These are definitely "political" as they show Christ as someone who is King and who reigns. He also should address Jesus' very clear claim to be the Messiah in John 4:25-26. I mean, how could he not address it?3
Finally, there were other things in the book that I thought were problematic, but the intent of this article is not to focus on them. Nevertheless, I believe that Dr. Hagee writes with a very specific agenda, the ultra-support of Israel, and I think it has clouded his judgment. He needs to step back, reassess his work, and clarify his position.