“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing."The word "prophets" in this verse is taken from the Greek word προφήτης. While this word has been used in the Greek society to describe "an interpreter of oracles or of other hidden things," the use of the word by Jesus (and coming from his Aramaic) is better translated as (according to the Greek lexicon) "one who, moved by the Spirit of God and hence His organ or spokesman, solemnly declares to men what he has received by inspiration, especially concerning future events, and in particular such as relate to the cause and kingdom of God and to human salvation."
In other words, the "prophets," which include Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, Moses, Joshua, Eli, Samuel, David, Solomon, Job, Jeremiah, Noah, John the Baptist and others, were God's representatives. They were God's "spokesmen." They were surrendered to God, and were in love with God. They thus worked on God's behalf as His humble servants. Jesus and some of his disciples are also included in this group.
The Greek word προφήτης, translated to "prophets" here, also means "messiah."
How could this be? Isn't Jesus the only Messiah? Actually, the word "messiah" and "prophet" are synonyms according to the Greek lexicon. And in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word מָשִׁיחַ (mashiyach) also can be translated to "messiah," as well as "anointed one." Throughout the books of the Old Testament, it it describes the "anointed" as God's priests and representatives. For example:
Those were the names of Aaron's sons, the anointed priests, who were ordained to serve as priests. (Numbers 3:3)
David also referred to himself a number of times as having been anointed. He also reflected upon God's statement about himself being anointed by God:
"I have found David my servant; with my sacred oil I have anointed him." (Psalm 89:20)
Because "messiah," "anointed one" and "prophets" can be connected as synonyms in the scriptures, we can conclude that each of God's loving servants and representatives such as David, Samuel, Eli, Moses, Abraham, Joshua, Noah, Job, Jonah, Ezekiel, Zachariah, John the Baptist, Jesus and some of Jesus' disciples and others, were all representatives of God - "those sent to you" as Jesus says above - and thus each one can be considered a "messiah."
Meanwhile, ecclesiastical Christian teachers - beginning with the politically-assembled Council of Nicaea of 325 AD put together by Constantine to try to dominate Europe by controlling Christianity - have maintained that Jesus is the only messiah. Yet the scriptures clearly utilize two words translated to "messiah" (מָשִׁיחַ in Hebrew and προφήτης in Greek). Within their context, both were used to describe God's representatives such as Moses, David and so on.
None of their uses in the scripture indicate or single out one particular person as the only Messiah ever. Often they will be used in the singular, but this is referring to "messiah" or "prophet" as a role.
For example, we could use the word "captain" to address a single person who was the captain of a ship (e.g., "Yes sir, captain."). But we could also use the word "captain" to describe the role of captain (e.g., "A captain's duty is to steer the ship"). We could also use the word captain to refer to many people who occupied the position (e.g., "Every captain in the fleet showed great valor.")
Now if a political stranglehold came upon the military, and the group controlling the military said that John Doe was the only captain ever in their military, and they were sure to give no other person that title of captain thereafter, then someone could say that the word "captain" always referred to John Doe. But if we knew that before the political stranglehold came upon the military that many others held the title of captain, well then, that would change everything, wouldn't it?
Stranglehold is precisely what has happened to the ecclesiastical institutional teachings of Christianity. The need for the Roman government to control all of Europe and the regions around the Mediterranean Sea and North Africa depended upon them gaining complete control over the religions of the region - the most prominent in the beginning of the Fourth Century being Christianity.
This realization came to the Roman Emperor Constantine. So even though the Romans had persecuted Christians for centuries, Constantine realized that this did not prevent the religion from growing. It was to be reconciled with, and was a means to control the vast and growing Roman Empire.
So Constantine created a commission of powerful teachers from around Europe, called the Council or Synods of Nicene. He also pushed them to come up with a single edict - called the Nicene Creed - to enable solidarity among the regions, allowing one single church - the Roman Catholic Church - to gain control over the Christian religion - which lasted more than 1,000 years.
This Creed - even though some of the teachers vehemently disagreed with - made Jesus the only Messiah, and relegated all the other messiahs previous to Jesus to the position of "prophets" - with their central purpose to foretell Jesus' coming.
Constantine also ordered that scribes were to be employed to translate a selected group of scrolls - the rest were burned - into the first Latin Bible. The original scrolls were mostly in Greek and Hebrew, and they were confiscated and translated to Latin. Once produced, the new Latin Bibles could only be read by priests and the common people were forbidden to have in their possession any other scripture.
Furthermore, this Latin translation was to mirror the Nicene Creed, and became the official Canon of the Bible for over a thousand years.
This politically corrupted interpretation of Jesus' teachings allowed the the Roman Catholic Church to control the people. Anyone who interpreted the scriptures differently or taught anything different was burned at the stake, put in prison and otherwise tortured and silenced.
The strategy worked. The Roman government, and then the Roman government's proxy, the Roman Catholic Church, dominated Europe and its governments, for well over ten centuries - until the 1500s, when Henry VIII separated from the Roman Catholic Church - because their teachings and politics were strangling his ability to rule England - and created the Church of England.
Yes, even the Church of England and the movement of Martin Luther and others that created the few alternatives to Roman Catholic domination over Christianity still kept to the tenets of the Nicene Creed. After over a thousand years of control over the interpretations of the Christian scriptures, every other possible interpretation was thoroughly squelched by the powerful Roman Catholic Church.
Therefore, the interpretation that Jesus was the only messiah was firmly cemented into Christian thinking. Any other interpretation would be - and still is by practically every ecclesiastical Christian institution - considered blasphemy.
Yet if one simply reads the scriptures and examines the Greek and Hebrew they are taken from, it is quite simple to discover that the Old and New Testaments describe the "prophets" as all being "messiahs." Yes, Jesus did accept that he was Messiah. But he used this term in third-person, indicating it to be a role rather than one person throughout history - a role related to representing the Supreme Being:
"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "God's Messiah." Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. (Luke 9:20-21)These statements clearly indicate that the role of Messiah related to Jesus being God's representative. Jesus was sent by God - and his teachings were given to him by God.
"For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me." (John 6:38)
“My teaching is not my own. It comes from the One who sent me." (John 7:16)
"Messiah" also means savior. The prophets could clearly save their students and followers because they were introducing them to God and giving them God's teachings. They were showing them how to resume their loving relationship with God. This is what saves people. This teaching is also the common thread amongst all of God's representatives, or Messiahs. Consider, for example, the most important commandment according to Moses:
"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deuteronomy 6:4)Now consider Jesus' most important instruction:
Consider Joshua's (Moses' student) instruction to his followers after Moses' passing:“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)
"But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul." (Joshua 22:5)Consider Hosea's instruction:
"But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always." (Hosea 12:6)Consider Joel's instruction:
"Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity." (Joel 2:13)Consider David's statement:
"My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge." (Psalm 62:7)And David's teaching to Solomon:
"And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve Him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts." (1Chron. 28:9)Consider the instruction of the Teacher in Ecclesiastes:
"Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Revere [mistranslated to "fear"] God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man." (Eccl 12:13)And Samuel:
"If you revere [mistranslated to "fear"] the LORD and serve and obey Him and do not rebel against His commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the LORD your God - good!" (1Samuel 12:14)And Job:
"How great is God - beyond our understanding!" (Job 36:26)And Proverbs:
"So that your trust may be in the LORD, I teach you today, even you." (Proverbs 22:18-20)These and so many other verses among the prophets confirm a consistent communication from all of the prophets - all consistent with Jesus' teachings: To give our lives to the Supreme Being, come to love Him and take shelter of Him.
"Look, your house is left to you desolate."So why does Jesus state this? Why is Jerusalem's "house" "desolate"?
"House" here is representing their hearts. Their hearts are desolate, because those Jews who have heard (and were even teaching) the words of these prophets had abandoned their meaning. What is left is emptiness.
Despite their positions as appointed teachers of the Jewish temples, they were not interested in loving or serving God. Jesus thus describes their institution and their teachings as being desolate - empty.
This is the state of anyone who abandons our innate relationship with the Supreme Being: Empty. Desolate.
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Book of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)