Don’t Eat That Hat: Messiah Complex Part 1

Don’t Eat That Hat: Messiah Complex Compared with the True MessiahYeshua/Jesus

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Part 1Messiah Complex

messiah complex (Christ complex or saviour complex) is a state of mind in which an individual holds a belief that they are destined to become a saviour in the past (historic claimants), today or in the near future.

The term can also refer to a state of mind in which an individual believes that they are responsible for saving or assisting others. This desire, in an of itself does not necessarily mean that the individual is mentally ill.

Notwithstanding, such desires need to be considered carefully, before being too quick to condemn such a person as being a crank or someone who is deluded. We are all to ready to put labels on others, due to our own scepticism.

While this desire to save others is virtuous if the individual who has this desire is deluded, the consequence of their actions can have devastating outcomes. During this programme on Shalom Radio UK, we will focus on some of the examples of those who have made such claims.

Within both Judaism, and Christianity, there are some significant examples of certain individuals who have either personally claimed to be the messiah, or their followers have most certainly done so. These claims have at times been made after the death of the messianic luminary, but also these claims have been made while they were still alive.

Matthew 24:23 NIV
At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.

Religious delusion

The term “messiah complex” is not addressed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), as it is not a clinical term nor diagnosable disorder. However, the symptoms as a proposed disorder closely resemble those found in individuals with delusions of grandeur or that they have grandiose self-images that veer towards the delusional.[4] 

An account specifically identified it as a category of religious delusion, which pertains to strong fixed beliefs that cause distress or disability. It is the type of religious delusion that is classified as grandiose while the other two categories are: persecutory and belittlement. According to philosopher Antony Flew, an example of this type of delusion was the case of Paul, who declared that God spoke to him, telling him that he would serve as a conduit for people to change.[The KentFlew thesis argued that his experience entailed auditory and visual hallucinations.

However, we must remember that Professor Flew moved from being an atheistic philosopher to someone who towards the end of his life acknowledge that there is a God. He wrote a book called –– The is No a God. And in the end of his book he asked the Christian theologian NT Wright to write and ‘Afterword.’


Examples of Sabbatia Ziv’s Jewish Apocalyptic cult, the early Adventists and the Millerites, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, Jones Town suicide cult, Charles Manson and his deluded followers, Moonies, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersonand the Waco sect Branch Davidian of David Koresh, are just a few groups that have led to the personal disaster of those caught up with them. Each of these movements and those who have led them, all believed that they had a new revelation from God to follow their chosen path to enlightenment and salvation through what had been shown to them. 

In the case of some of these movements either the founder and luminary either believed that they had a special revelation from God that they were the messiah or in some of their founders and leaders substantially reinterpreted the biblical revelation of who the true Messiah, God’s Anointed One is. The consequences in each of these situations resulted in the development of a movement that led to untold unhappiness, desolation, and at time in the death of those who got caught up in these cults, or sub-Christian sects. Judaism has also produced a number of messianic pretenders.

Sabbatia Ziv Claims to being the expected Jewish Messiah

Along with general messianic beliefs, there was another computation, based on a passage in the Zohar (a famous Jewish mystical text), that Israel would be redeemed by the long-awaited Jewish Messiah in 1648.[9]

In 1648, Sabbatai announced to his followers in Smyrna that he was the anticipated messianic redeemer. To prove this, he started to pronounce the Tetragrammaton, an act which Judaism prohibited to all but the high priest in the Temple in Jerusalem on the Day of Atonement. For scholars acquainted with rabbinical and Kabbalistic literature, this act was therefore highly symbolic. Sabbatai also claimed that he could fly, but told his followers that he couldn’t do so in public because they were ‘not worthy enough’ to witness such a sight. He also claimed to have visions of God.[14] Sabbatai revealed his claim to being the Messiah early on to Isaac Silveyra and Moses Pinheiro, the latter a brother-in-law of the Italian rabbi and Kabbalist Joseph Ergas.[9]

However, at a mere twenty-two, Sabbatai was still too young to be thought of as an established rabbinic authority; his influence on the local community was limited. Even though he had led the pious life of a mystic in Smyrna for several years, the older, more established rabbinic leadership was suspicious of his activities and the local college of rabbis. Headed by his teacher, Joseph Escapa, they kept a watchful eye on him. When his messianic pretensions became too bold, he and his followers were subjected to an edict of cherem, a type of excommunication in Judaism.[9]

In about 1651 (according to others, 1654), the rabbis banished Sabbatai and his disciples from Smyrna. It is uncertain where he went from there, but by 1658, he surfaced in Constantinople. There, he met a preacher, Abraham Yachini (a disciple of the Talmudic scholar Joseph di Trani), who confirmed his messianic mission. Yachini is said to have forged a manuscript in archaic characters which bore testimony to Sabbatai’s claim to being the Messiah.[9] It was entitled The Great Wisdom of Solomon, and began:

“I, Abraham, was confined in a cave for forty years, and I wondered greatly that the time of miracles did not arrive. Then was heard a voice proclaiming, ‘A son will be born in the Hebrew year 5386 [the year 1626 CE] to Mordecai Zevi; and he will be called Shabbethai. He will humble the great dragon; … he, the true Messiah, will sit upon My throne.”[9]

Joseph Smith and the Mormans

Beginning in 1820 at Palmyra, New York, Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ in vision. Through revelation, he translated and published the Book of Mormon, organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 6, 1830, and received revelations to guide the Church.

Joseph Smith certainly fits the criteria of someone who sees himself as having a divine mission.

In terms of the attitude wherein an individual sees themselves as having to save another or a group of poor people, there is the notion that the action inflates their own sense of importance and discounts the skills and abilities of the people they are helping to improve their own lives.[7]

The messiah complex is most often reported in patients with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. When a messiah complex is manifested within a religious individual after a visit to Jerusalem, it may be identified as a psychosis known as Jerusalem syndrome.

 Mark 3:21 NIV
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
Just because we don’t understand someone’s words and actions, we should not jump to too hasty conclusions that the are crazy – ‘out of they minds!’

Helping and Saving Others

Wanting to help save others in and of itself is not a sign of mental illness, or of being delusional, However, when this true virtue goes wrong then the real motivation and reasoning that has motivated the individual will become clear.

Luke 19:28-40
Jesus proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem. As he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples. He said, “Go into the village opposite you, and as you enter it you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. And if anyone should ask you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you will answer, ‘The Master has need of it.’” So those who had been sent went off and found everything just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying this colt?” They answered, “The Master has need of it.” So they brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks over the colt, and helped Jesus to mount. As he rode along, the people were spreading their cloaks on the road; and now as he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of his disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen. They proclaimed: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He said in reply, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!”

Introductory Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I wish to accompany you closely on the road to Calvary. If I were to contemplate you more often as you hang scourged and bloody upon the cross, I’m certain I would be able to rest in your love and base my actions on that one truth. I know that you have loved me with an eternal love: You have proven it there on the wood of the cross. So, I long to respond with gratitude, peace and the firm determination to spread your love to everyone. 
Lord, Jesus, grant me the grace to proclaim you as Messiah and Savior. 
1. A Different Kind of Messiah: Up until now, Jesus has never publicly accepted the title of Messiah. He had confirmed privately to his Apostles that he is the Messiah, but he had commanded them to tell no one. When people had called him the Messiah, he had never accepted the title and most often tried to get away from them as quickly as possible. He had reasoned that the Jews don’t understand what the Messiah is really about. Knowing the Messiah is to be a great descendent of King David, they expect the Messiah to appear, raise an army and lead an uprising against the Romans that will drive them from the country and re-establish David’s kingdom. Several times we read of Jesus having to slip away because the people intend to make him king. He is not going to be what they expect, and he cannot let their expectations get in the way of his mission.
2. A Suffering, Not a Political, Messiah:
His entry into Jerusalem is exactly what the prophet predicted for the Messiah. He enters riding a donkey, for the Hebrews the traditional mount of royalty. Another thing that was supposed to happen when the Messiah entered Jerusalem, was that boys were supposed to be the first to begin to shout, “Hosanna, son of David.” This is exactly what happens. People were supposed to throw down branches and cloaks to pave his way into Jerusalem, and this happens, too. The Pharisees see all this and complain to him because they see that it is a fulfillment of the prophecy. They want him to tell people he is not the Messiah. Jesus refuses to do so. He will be the Messiah that was prophesied—the Suffering Servant of Yahweh. God can fulfill our deepest desires and needs in a way we least expect. Can I read the events in my life as his answer to my prayers?
3. The Messiah Rejected by the Experts:
The Pharisees are angry. They have already decided they don’t want to accept Jesus as the Messiah. Why do they wish to reject him? Is it because he doesn’t show the signs that the Messiah should show? No, he has fulfilled all the prophecies. Instead, they see that Jesus as Messiah will threaten their social and political positions. Jesus will be more important than they. They don’t want that to happen. They don’t want to lose power. In the end they allow themselves to be convinced that he cannot be the Messiah. Rather than consider all the evidence in his favor, they reject him because they don’t want a Messiah like that. Is there any way in which I, in my own life, reject something that God wishes of me or permits me to suffer because I don’t want God acting in that way in my life?
Conversation with Christ:Jesus, fill my heart with a love that knows no limits, the love that drew you from heaven to die on the cross for me. Fill also the hearts of all those who feel threatened by the modern Pharisees who reject you and want to erase your name from the world, so that they will witness bravely to you and to your sacrifice for us.
Today, with the courage of my conviction that Jesus is the savior of the world, I will proclaim in some way that he is my Lord and God, especially through charity towards everyone I meet.

Shalom Radio UK

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1 thought on “Don’t Eat That Hat: Messiah Complex Part 1

  1. Shalom Roni – this is Catherine Lodge, of David and Catherine Lodge in Huddersfield. I came across your blog this morning and just read this post. I found it very interesting and quite edifying. Thank you. We are well and still desiring to live our lives in obedience to YHVH. May He bless you and your family. Shalom.

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