The Messianic Seal
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 10 December 2013
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of all Scripture and message I use the terms Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament), and Besekh (New Testament).
An increasingly popular symbol is known as the Messianic Jewish Seal. It is also called the grafted-in symbol and may be found on t-shirts and other items with the added Bible reference of Romans 11:17. This seal was discovered etched on a number of artifacts excavated on Mount Zion in the 1960s. It is believed to have been created and used by early Jewish disciples of Yeshua who called themselves Nazarenes (Acts 23:5). At least two of the artifacts were obviously ceremonial pieces which may well have been used by the Lord's brother, Jacob (James) the Just, who was the first rabbi and shepherd of the congregation in Jerusalem. The Messianic Seal of the Jerusalem congregation has, since 135 A.D., been suppressed by various Israeli groups or agencies, while simultaneously being buried by the Church. For the history of the symbol go to Messianic Seal of the Church of Jerusalem. The seal consists of two separate but integrated symbols: a menorah at the top and a fish at the bottom. These two symbols held great significance to early disciples.
The menorah was a lampstand formed with seven lamp branches made of pure gold created to burn pure olive oil (Lev 24:2) in order to give light in the holy place of the Tabernacle and later the Temple (Ex 25:31-40; 37:17-24). Ever since the menorah has served as a symbol of the Jews (Stern 692). In a spiritual sense the light of the menorah was intended to represent not only of the Sh'khinah glory that filled the Temple, but of that 'great light' which 'the people that walked in darkness' were to see, and which was to shine 'upon them that dwell in the land of the shadow of death' (Isa 9:2; cf. Isa 60:1-3) (Edersheim 226). That light was the Messiah (Matt 4:14-16; John 8:12). The menorah also represented the Word of God spoken to His people and written down as Scripture (cf. Ps 119:105; Prov 6:23; 2 Pet 1:19). An important characteristic of the early Messianic disciples is that they were devoted to keeping the Torah (Acts 21:20).
The fish is a symbol consisting of two intersecting arcs, the ends of the right side extending beyond the meeting point so as to resemble the profile of a fish. It was very early associated with disciples of Yeshua, being found engraved in Roman catacombs. The fish features frequently in the apostolic narratives, both in a literal sense (Matt 7:10) and figuratively for a parable lesson (Matt 13:47). Several of Yeshua's twelve apostles were fishermen. He commissioned them with the words "I will make you fishers of men" (Mark 1:17). The fish featured in miracles, both feeding the multitude (Matt 15:36-37) and paying a temple tax (Matt 17:24-27). The fish is also used by Yeshua to describe "the Sign of Jonah" (Matt 12:38-45), symbolic of the his anticipated resurrection, upon which the faith of the Body of Messiah is based (1Cor 1:1-58). The fish as representative of early Jewish and Gentile disciples of Yeshua does not symbolize the Christianity that separated itself from its Jewish roots.
However, in each of the renditions of the symbol the star of David is created by interlacing the stand of the menorah with the tail of the fish. Little considered by Christian (and Jewish) interpreters is that the Star of David represents the Messiah. Balaam, the ancient Mesopotamian prophet had prophesied, "A star shall come forth from Jacob" (Num 24:17). That star would descend from King David making the Messiah the Star of David. Yeshua is called the Morning Star (2Pet 1:19; Rev 2:28; 22:16). Yeshua is the Star of David and in him Jew and Gentile form the Body of Messiah.
Edersheim: Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), The Temple-Its Ministry and Services, Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, 1994. Also online.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications 1996.
Copyright © 2013 by Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.