Netflix is starting out the new decade on January 1st with a controversial new ten-episode series titled ‘Messiah’ created by writer/director Michael Petroni. The series focuses on the modern world’s reaction to a man, who first appears in the Middle East claiming to be the eschatological return of ‘Isa’, the name for ‘Jesus’ in the Koran. In Muslim tradition, Jesus returns in the end-of-days as the penultimate prophet and messenger Allah.
In the screen adaptation, Isa’s sudden appearance and apparent miracles gather a growing international following, casting doubts around who he really is. This leads to an investigation by a CIA officer, who suspects the ‘Messiah’ is a con-artist.
Jesus is mentioned directly and indirectly in the Koran over 187 times. The Koran describes Jesus as the Messiah, al-Masih in Arabic, born of a virgin, performing miracles, accompanied by disciples, rejected by the Jewish establishment, and being raised to heaven. The Koran differs from Christianity in denying Jesus was crucified or died on the cross, and rejects the divinity of Jesus as God incarnate, or the Son of God. Like all prophets mentioned in the Bible, Muslims consider Jesus to be a Muslim.
The series-ending plot twist is the focus of much criticism as it won’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with Muslim eschatology, as reported by Screenrant.
“The problem is that it seems the mysterious man, played by Mehdi Dehbi, was originally called al-Masih ad-Dajjal during Messiah‘s casting stage,” Screenrant wrote. “In Islamic theology, al-Masih ad-Dajjal is a false prophet or deceiver similar to the Antichrist, which heavily implies that this modern-day Messiah might, in fact, not be a Messiah at all.”
According to Muslim tradition, Dajjal has a defective eye which is often regarded as giving more powers to achieve evil goals. As a false Messiah, it is believed that many will be deceived by him and join his ranks. Islam believes that in the end, the Dajjal will be killed by Jesus.
Though both Islam and Christianity believe in an anti-Christ as part of the Messianic process, Judaism does not.
It is interesting to note that the lead role of the Messiah is played by Mehdi Dehbi who was born in Belgium, to a family of Tunisian origin. ‘Mehdi’ is an Arabic surname and masculine given name, meaning “guided one.” It is also the term used to refer to the Muslim concept of the Messiah.