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Who was the first person to recognize Jesus as the Jewish Messiah?

Mary presenting Jesus at the temple by Hans Holbein the Elder (1500)
Credit: Wikipedia/Public Domain

Have you ever wondered who was the first person to understand that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah?

Well, as Ben Witherington explains in his article for Biblical Archaeology, it probably wasn’t Mary, the Lord’s mother. When the angel told her that she was to bear the Messiah, Luke writes that Mary was perplexed (Luke 1:29) and when the shepherds visited after being told of Christ’s birth, we are told that Mary pondered these events (Luke 2:19). Pondered means she was literally still trying to put things together.

In fact, at one point Mary joined with her family when they wanted to put Christ away, thinking He was mad (Mark 3:21, 31).

Witherington argues that the first person to understand that Jesus was the Messiah, was most likely Simeon an old man who was told by the Holy Spirit that he would see the Messiah before he died (Luke 2:26).

Moved by the spirit, Simeon was told to go to the temple on the same day, that Mary and Joseph took Christ to the temple to be dedicated as their firstborn son as required by the Law.

After arriving, they encountered Simeon, who held Jesus in His arms saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”
(Luke 2:29-31 NIV)

The second was probably Anna, an 84-year-old prophetess (Luke 2:36) who basically lived at the temple after her husband died. We are told in verse 38 that she prophesied that Jesus was the one who the Jews had been looking for and would redeem Jerusalem.

READ: Mary, Simeon or Anna: Who First Recognized Jesus as Messiah?

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