You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Messiah’ tag.

Bock, Darrell L. and Mitch Glaser, eds. Messiah in the Passover. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel, 2018. 379 pp. Pb. $16.99   Link to Kregel

Darrell Bock and Mitch Glaser have edited several recent books on the topic of Israel, including To the Jew First: The Case for Jewish Evangelism in Scripture and History (2008), The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 (2012), The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel (2012), and Israel, the Church and the Middle East (2018), all published by Kregel. This volume collected essays from the staff of Chosen People Ministries, an evangelistic mission to Jews led by Glaser.

In the introduction to the collection, Mitch Glaser asks “Why Study the Passover?” For a Jewish person, Passover is a celebration of God’s deliverance of his people from Egypt. The feast celebrates the symbols of Sinai, Torah, and redemption. For a Christian, celebrating Passover is an opportunity to deepen one’s appreciation for the Jewishness of the Gospel. For Glaser, this “common experience” can better communicate the Gospel to Jewish friends (20).

The first set of essays gather the biblical foundations for Passover. Five essays survey portions of the canon which mention Passover: Passover in the Torah (Robert Walter), the Writings (Richard H. Flashman), the Prophets (Gordon Law), the Gospel of Luke (Darrell L. Bock), the Gospel of John (Mitch Glaser). The weakest of these chapters is the section on the prophets, simply because there are virtually no references in either the former or latter prophets to the Passover. Law could have included references to a “second Exodus” (Isaiah 40-55, for example) in this section, but instead he focuses his short chapter on the links between Elijah and the modern Seder. There are certainly links between Moses and Elijah, but many of these are post-biblical traditions. Both Bock and Glaser deal with the problem of the Last Supper as a Passover meal. Both weigh the evidence and conclude it was in fact a Passover meal, although there are several outstanding difficulties with the conclusion. The final essay in this section also argues the Last Supper was a Passover meal. Brian Crawford examines several passages in 1 Corinthians to conclude Paul used the Passover to deepen the Corinthian church’s experience of the Gospel (109). Communion is therefore passed on Passover tradition.

The second section of the book collects three essays Passover in Church history. Scott P. Nassau deals with the Passover in the early church (“Passover, the Temple, and the Early Church”). Early church history is tangled with post A.D. 70 Jewish Christianity. Hagg includes the Ebionites and Nazarenes as examples of Christian (or better, semi-Christian) groups who continued to keep Passover well into the Christian era. Of special interest is Melito of Sardis, a Hellenistic Jew who converted to Christianity and wrote Peri Pascha, “Concerning the Passover.” Although Melito created a Christian Haggadah, by the time of the council of Nicean there was a clear movement away from Passover in Christian practice. While Nassau only briefly mentions the Quaterodeciman debate, Gregory Hagg introduces the “Passover Controversies in Church History” with the Quaterodecimans. The name means “fourteen” and refers to Christians who chose to celebrate Easter on Passover (14 Nisan). Citing Ignatius’s letter to the Philippians, any Christian who celebrates Passover with the Jews “is a partaker with those that killed the Lord and his apostles” (132). By the time of Nicea, the Quaterodecimans were persecuted. While Hagg’s article begins to deal with Christian anti-Semitism (specifically blood libel), Olivier Melnick traces Christian attitudes toward Jewish people through the modern era.

A pair of essays forms the third until of the book on Jewish Tradition and the Passover. First, Zhava Glaser collects references to the Passover in Rabbinic Writings (the Mishnah, Talmud, Tosefta). It is in this vast literature that many of traditions now part of a Passover Haggadah began to develop. But many of these practices are rooted in biblical texts. For example, the first mention of four cups of wine is in the Mishnah, but Glaser follows Baruch Bosker in arguing the cups drawn on biblical imagery in the Torah itself. After the loss of the Temple, the Passover Haggadah was transformed into a celebration of the sacrificed Lamb which looked forward to a future redemption of Israel (168). Second, Daniel Nessim discusses the fascinating tradition of the Afikoman at Passover. I first ran across the practice in Craig Evans’s Word Commentary on Mark 8:27-16:20 (p. 390; Evans cites Daube, who appears in Nessim’s essay). The word אפיקומן is from Greek ἀφικόμενος, “he who comes.” Nessim argues the word is an acronym for seven elements of the Passover meal (see the chart on page 172). What is intriguing about the practice is the possibility

In the fourth section of the book focuses on the communication of the Gospel through Passover. First, Michael Cohen discusses what the Passover says about atonement. This seems strange since atonement is not mentioned in connection to Passover in the Torah, but it is the backdrop to the New Covenant and the sacrificial lamb does foreshadow Jesus’s once-for-all sacrifice (Hebrews 9:11-12). He then traces the theme of atonement through four stages represented by the Passover mean. Second, Larry Feldman offers several examples of the Gospel in the Passover Seder. He begins with the karpas, the dipping of the parsley into saltwater. The parsley is dipped twice into the sale water to remind participants of both the tears shed while in slavery in Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea. More significant, the parsley is related to the hyssop used to sprinkle the blood of the lamb. He suggests viewing the Seder in the light of its fulfillment in Jesus reminds the Christian of the time when God will wipe away all tears (Rev 21:4) as well as the redemption we have in Jesus (Rom 6:22-23). The section includes two brief sermons, “Jesus, the Lamb of God” (Richard E. Freeman) and “The Third Cup” (David Secada).

Finally, the fifth section of the book has four essays on celebrating Passover as a Christian. First, Cathy Wilson offers some practical advice on keeping Passover in a Christian home. She is clear that in the original Passover the shed blood of the lamb was central. The re-telling of the Passover story, the Christian ought to focus on Jesus as “our Passover lamb” (1 Cor 5:7). She narrates a Christian Haggadah similar to the “Messianic Family Haggadah” from Chosen People Ministries (Chapter 18). Although both follow the traditional order of service (seder), there are frequent references to New Testament when appropriate. Rachel Galilstein-Davis supplements this with “Passover Lessons for Your Children.” She begins with the observation that children are the most important part of a Passover celebration since the point of re-telling the Exodus is to re-inforce the story to the younger generation. She offers are new children’s lessons with crafts and other activities which highlight key aspects of Passover and teach a few Hebrew words along the way.  Finally, Mitch Forman offers a few comments on Passover foods and even shares some recipes (including gefilte fish and roast brisket).

The book includes nine appendices over twenty-three pages, a ten-page glossary of terms, nineteen pages of recommended reading and bibliography, and twenty-one pages of indices. Some of the appendices are valuable, for example “Passover Observances in Biblical History” and “Last Supper Sayings Compared,” of which are in charts. However, a list of the “Jewish and Protestant Canons of the Bible” and a map of the Exodus do not seem like a good use of space.

Conclusion. Glaser began this book with an argument in favor of Christians celebrating Passover, or at least incorporating elements of Passover into their Christian worship. Christians ought to not simply be aware of the Jewish roots of Christianity, but to drink deeply in the waters of the Hebrew Bible. In doing so, they will more fully understand how God has worked in the past, how he is working in the present and will work in the future. However, there is some risk when importing the practice of Passover back into Christian worship. As Glaser himself admits, we really do not have any idea how much Jesus’s practice looked like a modern Passover celebration (24). It is possible some (gentile) Christians can become overly attracted to modern Jewish practice to the point they misunderstand the Body of Christ in the present age.

This book is an excellent contribution to a Christian understanding of both ancient and modern Jewish celebration of Passover.


NB: Thanks to Kregel for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.


The opening of the first seal is a chance to test the method described in the previous series of posts. I suggested that reading Revelation is like reading a political cartoon from another culture and time (see also this post on the seals  in general). There are several key images in the description of the first horse and rider: they are white, the rider has a crown and a bow, and he is “bent on conquest.” How would a reader in the first century have understood the image of a white rider? Of the four horsemen, the identity of this rider is the most frequently debated. (In fact, there is not really any discussion of the meaning of the sword, famine and pestilence!)  If we read the metaphors in the context of a first century Jewish Christianity, we may be able to read the imagery as John intended them in the first place.

The color of the rider is important, but it could support any of the following views. White is often associated with victory. Roman emperors, for example, dressed in white when they celebrated a victory (Charles, Revelation, 1:1620). But white is often associated with holiness, for example when the Lord returns in chapter 19 he is wearing a white robe, the martyrs under the altar of God are wearing white robes (chapter 5).

First, it is possible that the rider is the Roman Empire / emperor, or more generally, the triumphant warfare in the Roman period. This view is less popular than it once was, although a consistent preterist like Ken Gentry sees the white horse as the Roman empire as victorious over Jerusalem (Four Views on the Book of Revelation, 53).

A second possibility is that the rider is Christ and the image is the conquest of the gospel in the present age. Those who read Revelation as from an idealist perspective understand this as preaching of the gospel which continues throughout the present age. They note that in 19:11-16 Christ is the rider of a white horse at the time of his second coming, also wearing a crown. The white rider is the progress of the gospel going out to the nations throughout the present age. This is parallel to the Olivet Discourse. Matthew 24:14 implies the gospel will be heard throughout the world prior to the return of the Messiah.

But there is some trouble with this view, primarily in explaining the meaning of the crown and bow. Matthew 24:14 only says that the gospel will be preached to the end of the age, not that it will be victorious. It is a testimony to the nations, but not specified as being successful. The crown is a victor’s crown promised to the one who overcomes in Revelation 2:10 and 3:11. In 4:4 the elders surrounding the throne are dressed in white and wear στέφανος (stefoanos), but the locust from the abyss have them as well. The “son of man” in 14:14 has a στέφανος (stefoanos) as does the woman in 12:1. The use of νικάω in this context may not necessarily be “positive,” since the same word is used in 11:7 and 13:7 with reference to demonic forces.

A third possibility is that the rider on the white horse is a parody of Christ in 19:10-16.  The rider is a  “false messiah” or “anti-Christ.” The rider is the Anti-Christ, going out “bent on conquest” from the beginning of the tribulation. Several contrasts with the white rider in chapter 19 can be noted, for example, in 19:10-16 the name of the rider is “Faithful and True,” here the rider is given the power to judge and make war. The crowns are different, the weapons are different.

There is a different word used for crown in chapter 6 than in chapter 19. In 6:2 the rider has a bow rather than a sword and he is wearing a στέφανος (stefoanos); in 19:12 he has a sword (coming out of his mouth, describing the power of his word) and a διάδημα (diadema). In addition, the crown “as given” to him, an example of a “Divine passive.”  In addition, it was the Lamb who opened the seals in the first place, it seems unlikely that he would also be the rider. A bow is more naturally a symbol of an enemy, connected to the enemies of God rather than the presentation of the gospel. Ezekiel 39:3, for example, associates the bow with one of the ultimate enemies of God lead by Gog.

The first horseman as an anti-messiah parody fits well with the Olivet discourse since military conquests are associated with the nearness of the end, as are the presence of false-Christs. The word in Matthew, however, is pseudeo-christ not anti-christ.  Yet John himself saw the work of anti-christs even in his own time (1 John 2:18).

If the second through the sixth seal parallel the Olivet discourse, then perhaps it is best to see the first seal as a parallel as well. This leaves two options, the victory of the gospel and the progression of the Anti-Christ. Since the context of the second through fourth seal is not the verse about the gospel, but rather the appearance of false messiahs, it is best to conclude the white horse is a parody of the Messiah.

This conclusion would have been understood by a Jewish Christian readership which knew of the idea of a great persecution at the end of the age, and perhaps even the typology of Antichious Epiphanes from Daniel.  In addition, a Christian congregation may very well have known the teaching of Jesus about false-messiahs.  What is more, it is certain that a person living in the Roman empire would have understood the image as referring to Rome as the empire which is “bent on conquest.”

But there is nothing in this metaphor which invites the reader to identify the white rider with any political or religious figure in history, ancient or recent.  John is painting a picture in the mind of the reader of a conquering ruler who will make war against the people of God in the future with imagery drawn from the first-century Roman empire.

If the writer of 1 Maccabees positioned Judas as David-revisited, it would be unlikely that he would look forward to a future messiah. The book represents a staus quo sort of Judaism, and is “opposed to the Pharisees, the apocalypticists, and the many sectarians in Judea itself” (Fischer, “Maccabees,” 4:442). There is no “return of Judas” theme in 1 Maccabees. His successor Jonathan is enthroned as a king in purple and gold (10:59-66) and as high priest (10:18-21). The writer makes it quite clear that the “yoke of the gentiles was removed” under the leadership of Jonathan (13:41). 1 Maccabees might be described as having a completely realized eschatology because hope for an eschatological age are entirely fulfilled in the Hasmoneans.

Image result for judah maccabee the hammerAs outlined in a previous post, Judas is patterned after the great heroes of the Hebrew Bible. But the brief hymn of praise in 3:3-9 may go beyond even the historical characters found in the biblical material. Goldstein suggests this section is derive from Isaiah 11:12 and 12:5 (Goldstein, 1 Maccabees, 245). Judas gathers the people to the Land and thereby makes his name known throughout the world. There are, however, no exact linguistic parallels between 1 Mac 3:9 and Is 12:5.

In the hymn of praise for Simon (14:4-15), it the Hasmonean dynasty which has established peace in the land and provided the needs of all of the people. Simon is even praised for restoring the temple to glory (14:15). In 14:8, the people described as tilling the land in peace. This is part of the blessings for covenant obedience (Lev 26:4, cf. Deut 28:12) as well as a promise from the prophets concerning the messianic age. Zechariah 8:12 and Ezek 34:27 promise a time of unprecedented prosperity when God restores the people to the land. Since the author of 1 Maccabees is describing the period of Simon in “messianic” terms, there is little need for a coming, future messiah to restore prosperity to the Land.

In 1 Maccabees 14:9, old men are pictured as sitting in the streets talking of good things. This may allude to the messianic age as a time of great rejoicing. For example, in Zechariah 8:4 old men and women in the streets as a symbol of peace. But 1 Maccabees 14:9 describes young men putting on “splendid military attire,” while Zech 8:5 describes children as playing in the streets. It is possible the Hebrew שׂחק, which normally means “to play,” was taken by the author of 1 Maccabees in the same sense as 2 Sam 2:14, to fight (HALOT 4 for bibliography). In this case, the verse might be taken as “children are play-fighting in the streets.”

In either case, the image of if a time when old men and children can rest from work because of the peace and prosperity of the day. While Zechariah sees this as a part of a return from captivity and messianic age, the writer of 1 Maccabees sees the peace as accomplished in Simon. In 14:10 Simon is described as supplying everyone with food and defense, something Goldstein sees as patterned after the kings of great Israel (1 Kings 9:15-19, 2 Chron 8:3-6, 26:6-15; see Goldstein, 1 Maccabees, 491). If a king was to be judged as a “good king” in Chronicles, he undertook building projects which defended the land. Like Judas, Simon’s fame spreads throughout the world.

The reign of Simon is described as a time when “all the people sat under their own vines and fig trees, and there was none to make them afraid” (14:12), a metaphor drawn from several passages in the Hebrew Bible. As early as 1 Kings 4:25, the peace brought by David’s reign is described as a time of safety, when each man sat under his own vine and fig tree. This image is repeated in Isa 36:16, although it is on the lips of the Assyrians when they promise to make peace if the Israelites surrender. More significant are Micah 4:4 and Zech 3:10 where the metaphor appears in clearly eschatological contexts.

In the messianic age there will be peace and safety and all will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree. The Hasmoneans claim to have created a kingdom of peace and safety. Whether they did or not is beside the point, perhaps 1 Maccabees could be described as “alternative facts” which support the script the new dynasty wants to use to support their power.

What should we make of this re-application of prophecy to a more or less secular political dynasty? It is not too difficult to think of several modern (recent) examples of this kind of propaganda in American politics. What is the theological damage to Second Temple period Judaism if the Hasmoneans are re-interpreting prophetic texts to support their regime? That answer may be instructive as we see this sort of thing happening in contemporary contexts.

Baruch goes to the ruins of the Holy of Holies and sits there weeping because “that of which we were proud has become dust” (chapter 35). He falls asleep and has a vision (chapter 36-37). In this vision he sees a forest surrounded by a high mountains and rugged rocks. A fountain appears in the forest and uproots the forest and even made the top of the mountain low. All which remained was a single cedar which was finally cast down. A vine arrives when the fountain is peaceful and tranquil, and finds the cedar.

Jewish-QuarterThe vine speaks to the tree and tells the fallen tree the forest was destroyed because of its sin.  All the cedar ever did was wickedness, never goodness. The cedar is burned to ash while the vine grows and becomes a valley full of unfading flowers. He prays for enlightenment so that he can understand the vision (chapter 38) and the Lord answers him (chapters 39-40). Israel is a vine frequently, see Isaiah 5, for example. This imagery is used in the rabbinic literature, see Sipre Deut. §312 (on Deut 32:9) and W. G. Braude and I. Kapstein, Tanna debe Eliyyahu: The Lore of the School of Elijah (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1981) 369. For both these references, see Craig A. Evans, Mark 8:27-16:20 (Dallas, Word, 2001), 220.

Zion is the forest and it will be destroyed and rebuilt after some time. It will then be destroyed again, four times in all. The last kingdom will be the harshest and will exalt itself above the cedars of Lebanon. After the last kingdom the Anointed One will come (the vine, in the vision). This is roughly parallel to the four kingdoms scheme of Daniel 2 and 7, although the writer here does not detail who the kingdoms are who will overtake Zion. The last ruler of the final kingdom will be captured and brought to Mount Zion where the Anointed One will convict him of his wicked deeds and kill him. The dominion of the Anointed One will “last forever until this world of corruption has ended” (40:3).

Baruch asks the Lord about the timing of the events of his vision (chapter 41). He is concerned because many in the nation have “cast away the law.” What will happen to those Jews who are not prepared for this judgment? The Lord’s response (chapter 42-43) concerns those who have “withdrawn” and “mingled with the nations.” The writer seems to have in mind both natural Jews and converts to Judaism who “mingle.” They will be considered as the mountains in the vision, who were “brought low,” and “corruption will take away those who belong to it.” Baruch reports this vision to the people (chapter 44-47).

He tells them the judgment on Jerusalem was just and fair and that the people ought to dedicate themselves to the Law (44:6-7). The ones who will inherit the peaceful time in the future are those who are prepared for it (44:13-14), they have “not withdrawn from mercy and they have preserved the truth of the Law. For the coming world will be given to these, but the habitation of the others will be in the fire” (44:15).

This vision and interpretation is remarkably important for New Testament studies since it clearly shows an expectation of a Messiah who will free Zion from the oppressive last kingdom and establish a peaceful kingdom on earth for a period of time. If this expectation persisted after the fall of Jerusalem when Baruch was written, it most likely was common a generation before when Jesus was active in Galilee. For at least some Jews in the twenties and thirties Rome was oppressive and they did look forward to an Anointed One who will deliver them. Many of the themes present in Baruch could go back at least to the turn of the era.

Since context of this vision the fall of Jerusalem on A.D. 70, the final enemy must be Rome. Jews living in the post-70 world would have longed for God to act justly and punish Rome for destroying the Temple. Baruch makes it clear that the punishment received was just and fair (the cedar in the vision), but also that a restoration of the Temple (and Jerusalem) is God’s plan.

Schmitt, John W. and J. Carl Laney. Messiah’s Coming Temple. Updated Edition. Grand Rapids, Mich. Kregel, 2014. 248 pp. Pb; $16.99. Link to Kregel.

This book is an update to Schmitt and Laney’s original 1997 Messiah’s Coming Temple, adding three chapters and about 50 pages to the original. In addition to this new material, there are a number of new illustrations including new 3D models of the temple. All illustrations are in black and white, some of the 3D images are on Schmitt and LaneySchmitt’s Future Hope Ministries website. Like the original, this is a popular level introduction to Ezekiel’s vision of a future temple. The book is designed to be read by laymen, so there is little discussion of wider scholarship on the vision.

The first two chapter of the book survey the history of the Temple in the Old Testament. After a description of the Tabernacle, Schmitt and Laney give a brief sketch of the history of the Tabernacle and the Temple. The section on the Tabernacle creates a typology between various elements of the Tabernacle and Jesus Christ. For example the “single entrance” to the Tabernacle foreshadows Christ is the one door of access to the Father (citing John 10:9). As popular as these typological observations are, I have never found them convincing. Several key Hebrew terms appear in these chapters, but unfortunately the authors define temple by using Webster’s Dictionary rather than a Hebrew lexicon. The chapter does not compare Solomon’s temple to other Ancient temples. The history section begins with Solomon, runs through the the destruction of the first Temple and the rebuilding of the second Temple, Herod’s renovations and finally the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Chapters 3, 5 and 8-10 focus on the book of Ezekiel. The third chapter introduces the reader to the prophet Ezekiel in offers a general overview of the book. Chapter 5 is a new chapter in this edition of the book, comparing the temple in Ezekiel’s vision to several to the Solomonic gates at Megiddo, Hazor and Gezer. The chapter includes excellent photographs and several charts illustrating similarities. My only criticism here is the chapter relies on Biblical Archaeology Review articles rather than direct reports from archaeologists. This is simply the nature of a popular book, but a “for further reading” section would have enhanced this chapter greatly. Schmitt includes a section on Mount Gerizim since the Samaritans built a temple there after then time of Ezekiel’s vision. Unfortunately the temple has not been fully excavated because of Byzantine church was built on top of the Gerizim Temple, but it would be interesting to compare the general layout of the Samaritan temple to Ezekiel.

In chapters 8-10 the authors examine the details of the prophecy in the book of Ezekiel, beginning with a survey of the various interpretations of the vision. Some take the vision as a “memorial of pre-captivity temple,” others see it as the real postexilic temple. Others have understood the vision as an allegory of the heavenly state or the present church age. For Schmitt and Laney the vision is a literal temple, a “building in the future kingdom.” The section is good overview although I would have appreciated footnotes to commentaries espousing each of the five views presented. The rest of these chapters survey the vision and offer some architectural comments. Reading the text in Ezekiel is difficult, these notes attempt to summarize and clarify the visions.

Chapter 6 is a new section in this updated edition. Schmitt and Laney survey several other predictions of future temple, calling these predictions “different temples.” Perhaps this chapter was added in response to critiques of the first edition of the book, which did focus on only Ezekiel. Chapter 7 offers a short introduction to Schmitt and Laney’s view of eschatology. “What is next on the Prophetic Calendar…” Chapters 6-7 were an interruption of the theme of the book (Ezekiel’s temple) and the book could be improved if these chapters were moved either before or after the survey of Ezekiel.

Chapters 10-15 concern the future temple, often moving beyond the text of Ezekiel. Here Schmitt and Laney develop the outline of eschatology presented in chapter 7 and deal with a number of “problems” associated with a literal future temple. First, chapter 10 discusses future predictions of the temple and the antichrist attack on that temple. They are adamant the future temple is designed for the Messiah. The problem is: are there two temples, one during the tribulation and a second, new Temple during the kingdom?

Second, Schmitt and Laney discuss the problem of an altar and sacrifice in the future temple (ch. 11). This of course is only a problem for premillennialists who believe that Christ’s  sacrifice on the cross puts an end to Old Testament sacrifices. For some Jews, Ezekiel’s references to an altar are also problematic since it is been two millennia since sacrifice has been made in the Temple. The authors conclude there will be sacrifices in the millennial kingdom and they will serve as a continuous memorial that the Messiah has come (140).

Third, the last new chapter in the book answers the question “Can Sacrifices Be a Part of a Future Temple?”(ch. 12). This chapter answers the question of the previous chapter. It explores the purpose of the sacrifices in the temple during the millennial kingdom. They conclude that Ezekiel’s temple sacrifices do not violate the mosaic system of worship because they are another in system entirely (158).

Fourth, Schmitt and Laney discuss the future temple and the land of Israel (13). Here the authors deal with several suggested locations for the original temple, but also the prophetic location of the future temple. Ezekiel’s map of Israel is idealized for the messianic Kingdom and there are a host of problems with the order of the tribes and the position of the temple.

Fifth, chapter 14 describes what Schmitt and Laney see as “life in the messianic age.” This chapter goes far beyond the confines of Ezekiel to describe what the eschatological age looked like in Old Testament prophecy. This age will be a time of peace, joy, holiness, comfort, healing of sickness, freedom from oppression, and economic prosperity. It will be a time characterized by the personal presence of the Messiah and the universal knowledge of God. It is a time when Jerusalem is at the center of all worship in the world.

Last, Schmitt and Laney list a few items missing from the future temple and offer some explanation for their absence (ch. 15). There are eight missing items listed in the book: the wall of partition, the court of the women, the laver, the golden lampstand, the table of the showbread, the altar of incense, the veil separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple, and the Ark of the Covenant. In addition to the missing items division has a different view of the altar in the temple. Ezekiel uses a different word for altar in 43:15b, אֲרִיאֵל (ʾărîʾēl), although the altar is also spelled הַרְאֵל (harʾēl) in 43:15a. On pages 190-1 the authors transliterate this as ariel and state the root of this unusual word means “lion of God.” They then argue the name of the altar in Ezekiel “lion of God” is an allusion to Judah as a lion in Gen 49:9 (אֲרִי, lion, plus אֵל god). This in turn looks forward to the Messiah is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Rev 5:5). While the word could be construed as a proper name meaning lion of God, their argument seems to me to be quite a stretch. The Mesha Stele uses the related word אראל in reference to a “hearth of an altar” (HALOT) and a similar word appears in Isa 29:1 as a metaphor for Israel as a whole. The etymology of “lion of God” may not be valid and it is even stranger to force the name of the altar into a typology of the Messiah. My criticism here is driven by the popular level of the book. An introduction like this book is probably not the place to discuss the complicated problems of the etymology of Hebrew words. On the other hand, since the problems exist it is probably safer to make typological claims more tentatively.

Conclusion. This is a very easy to read introduction to the Temple both past and future. Premiliennialists (and dispensationalists) will feel comfortable with the ideas presented in the book, although this terminology is not used in the book. The closest they get is in chapter 7 where they discuss the rapture of the church; Laney is pre-tribulational with respect to the rapture and Schmitt leans to mid-tribulational rapture (88). This is the language of dispensationalism, even if the writers want to avoid the term. I find it strange these terms would be omitted from a book so friendly toward dispensationalism. In fact, Laney has a doctoral degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. I suspect this is simply to create some space between the book and more popular (and strange) forms of dispensationalism.

While the sub-title of the book clearly states the book is about Ezekiel’s vision for the future temple, I would have appreciated a chapter relating Ezekiel’s vision to the New Jerusalem vision in Rev21. Since the book is not concerned only with Ezekiel, I think there is space for Revelation.

Thanks to Kregel for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.




Keith, Chris and Larry W. Hurtado. Jesus among Friends and Enemies: A Historical and Literary Introduction to Jesus in the Gospel. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2011. 352 pages, pb. $27.00. Link to Baker  Link to Logos

[This is part two of my review of this book, part one (the “friends”) is here.]

Turning to the enemies of Jesus, Loren T. Stuckenbruck examines the greatest of enemies, “Satan and Demons.” This chapter is highly detailed and an excellent resource for the wide ranging and diverse opinions in the Jewish world of the second temple period on the origin and current status of evil and the Evil One. In fact, Satan is not a particularly common name for the Evil One in Jewish literature of the first century. Stuckenbruck surveys the various names used in the literature. In the Gospels, Satan or the devil are mentioned frequently as they oppose Jesus and his ministry. Stuckenbruck Includes a brief but fascinating discussion of demon possession in this chapter since this phenomenon appears regularly in the gospels. The chapter also includes a survey of apocalyptic literature that describes the origin and activities of demons.

Friends and EnemiesAnthony Le Donne describes the Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus: the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes. Beginning with the Hasmonean dynasty, Le Donne gives a basic history of the Saducees and Pharisees as they developed in the aftermath of the Maccabean revolt. While these two groups are well-defined, “’Scribes’ is a category that overlaps with almost every aspect of the Jewish power matrix” although they were ultimately elite power brokers (204). Turning to the Gospel accounts, Le Donne points out that the Gospels are stories, and stories need some sort of villain to give contrast to the hero. In the Gospels it is often the case that the Pharisees who complain about the activities of Jesus, providing him an opportunity to teach on that topic (Sabbath, purity laws, etc.). The Pharisees are not always portrayed negatively; Luke occasionally describes Pharisees in a positive light. By the time of John’s Gospel, Nicodemus could be described as “ambiguous loyal,” not praiseworthy, but not an enemy. This chapter might have been improved with a brief note on potential anti-Semitism in the Gospels, and the Pharisees are so well-known that they merit a chapter by themselves.

Helen K. Bond contributes a chapter on the “Political Authorities” in the Gospels: The Herods, Caiaphas, and Pontius Pilate. As with the Pharisees in the previous chapter, the Herodians could fill an entire chapter (or monograph), and Bond herself has written monographs on Caiaphas and Pilate. She begins the chapter with a survey of the Hasmonean period leading up to the appointment of Herod the Great. The chapter extends to Herod Antipas since he ruled Galilee at the time of Jesus. The chapter does not offer too much detail on Herod’s building projects, although the continual building up of the Temple is in the background of Jesus’ ministry. Shoe gives an excellent sketch of the family of Caiaphas, including a brief mention of Caiaphas ossuary. For Pilate, Bond surveys material from Josephus and Philo and demonstrates that Pilate was a cruel and insensitive governor of Judea. After the historical material, she surveys the material in each gospel of each of her three topics, making for more than a dozen sections (the Herodians are sometimes treated separately). As is well known, the Jewish leaders are portrayed negatively in the gospels while Pilate fares well compared to his reputation in history.

Finally, Holly J. Carey discusses the chief “enemy” of Jesus, Judas Iscariot. As the betrayer of Jesus, most people would immediately think of Judas as an enemy of Jesus. Since there is no real historical material on Judas outside of the New Testament, Carey offers an interesting review of the various legends that developed about Judas in the early church, culminating in the Gospel of Judas. While most of the early fathers vilified Judas, this apocryphal text portrays Judas as a faithful disciple. Carey points out that this Gnostic book was known in the early church although a copy of it was not discovered until the 1970s and it was not published until 2006. (There was a great deal of hoopla when the National Geographic Society bought the text and published it as a lost manuscript, implying that it was suppressed by the church as heterodox.)  After her examination of the material on Judas in the Gospels, Carey offers two fascinating sections on Judas’s freewill (did he have a choice?) and his motivations for betraying Jesus.

Chris Keith and Larry W. Hurtado offer a concluding chapter on “Seeking the Historical Jesus among Friends and Enemies.” This chapter serves as a mini-introduction to the rise and fall of the criteria for authenticity. As is well known, there is a growing dissatisfaction with these mechanical methods made popular first by Jesus Seminar, primarily because they do not result in much. Rather, the method suggested by Dunn in his Jesus Remembered (Eerdmans, 2003) has gained traction in the last decade. The chapter does not really form a conclusion to the book, since the bulk of the book did not employ the criteria. Most of the friends and enemies in these essays are known from history and the ones that are not historical characters are not subject to the criteria (God and Satan, Angels and Demons, the Disciples and Judas).

Conclusion. One of these reasons this collection is valuable is that a few of the chapters cover characters that are not the usual fodder for a historical Jesus study. While there are a number of books on John the Baptist or Judas, there are few that are interested in Mary Magdalene, the Bethany Family, and the Beloved Disciple, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. Overall I find this a worthy collection that offers some detailed study of characters in the Gospels that are rarely examined closely.

NB: This book is available as a part of the Logos Jesus Studies collection. I offer my thanks to Logos for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Keith, Chris and Larry W. Hurtado. Jesus among Friends and Enemies: A Historical and Literary Introduction to Jesus in the Gospel. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2011. 352 pages, pb. $27.00. Link to Baker  Link to Logos

Jesus among Friends and Enemies is a unique idea for a Historical Jesus book. Strictly speaking, this is not a book on Jesus, but rather the characters who encounter Jesus in the Gospels. Some react favorably and are “friends” while others reject Jesus and are labeled “enemies” of Jesus. Each chapter offers a historical sketch about the character from history and tradition, then a brief overview of their role in the Gospels. Sidebars appear throughout the text explaining technical terms or offering a closer look at something mentioned in the chapter. In the Logos version, these sidebars appear as grey boxes interrupting the flow of the chapter (as they do in the paper version). There are also a few photographs which are faithfully reproduced in the Logos version. The sidebars expose a flaw in the way Logos handle footnotes in the iOS app since some sidebars have notes that do not correspond to the rest of the notes on the page. Each chapter ends with a “for further reading” section.

Friends and EnemiesI found this a fascinating book and ended up writing far more than a normal book review. I will therefore dived the review into two installments, covering the introduction and “friends” here, and the “enemies” and conclusion in the next post.

Chris Keith offers an introduction in which he surveys what can be known about Jesus. He begins with agrapha, the sayings of Jesus which appear outside the canonical Gospel. These sayings were preserved because Jesus was seen as a wise man by many ancient sources. Josephus, for example, calls Jesus a wise man. Both Tacitus and Suetonius considered Jesus a rather foolish character who founded and equally foolish band of followers. Keith briefly reviews the apocryphal gospels, including the infancy gospels and the gospels of Peter and Thomas. After sampling this widely diverse literature, Keith compares it to the portrait of Jesus in each of the four canonical gospels. His emphasis in this section is the narrative first of Mark then Matthew and Luke and finally John. For each gospel he answers the question “Who was (or is) Jesus?” and tries to highlight the way each gospel is distinctive from and similar to other canonical Gospels. This very brief survey indicates that the Gospels offer a multifaceted view of Jesus.

Edith Humphreys covers “God and Angels” in the first chapter, neither of which I would have considered as a “friend” of Jesus. Nevertheless, this chapter is a survey of second temple literature on the rather broad topic of God and monotheism. In addition Humphreys surveys this literature on the topic of angels. Here she is able to bring a great deal of information from such books as 1 Enoch. The “earliest Christian writers were informed by this lore of angels and expected their readers to understand such tantalizing details” (45). Turning to a narrative of the Gospels, Humphreys points out that the main character in each of the Gospels is God. Although angels figure significantly in each of the Gospels, the focus of the writers is squarely on Jesus.

In Chapter 2 Michael Bird introduces John the Baptist. Perhaps more than any of the other characters in this book, John the Baptist has generate the largest secondary literature. This is perhaps due to his ongoing legacy as well as the tantalizing possibility that John’s ministry was somehow connected to Qumran. (Bird deal with this possibility in a sidebar, although it is not clear if the sidebars come for the article authors or not.). He begins this chapter with the lone statement in Josephus’s Jewish Antiquities that mentions John the Baptist. Bird creates a list of seven items that can be known from Josephus. These resonate with the Gospel narrative but the canonical Gospels go beyond these things in the service of their theology. In fact, “They also interweave traditions about the Baptizer into their own narratives in order to present him as a crucial figure in God’s revelation of his Son to Israel” (74). Bird traces the development from Mark to Matthew and Luke, who adopt material from Q to present John as “an apocalyptic preacher of repentance and judgment” (78).

In Chapter 3 Warren Carter begins with the discussion of disciples in general. He compares the four lists of the disciples, and wonders if there was even a fixed roster of 12. The number 12 seem stable but the lists vary. In addition sometimes others are included in the term disciples, such as Jesus is female followers in Luke 6:30-36. Carter concludes that “there is good historical reason to conclude that Jesus gathered disciples,” although the later traditions of their activities remains dubious at best (87). Turning to the gospels, Carter describes the disciples in Mark as “sustained failure” because they consistently misunderstood Who Jesus was what he was trying to teach them. But is it the case, as Carter suggests, that Mark has a “frequently negative presentation of the disciples” (92)? This is possible since there is a contrast between the disciples and the demons or the Gentiles. In fact, Matthew and Luke are far more positive then marking his presentation of the disciples.

Two features of this chapter stand out. First, the chapter seems the most connected to the methods of historical Jesus research. Carter deals with the criteria of authenticity to determine whether Jesus disciples. For some both conservative and less, the use of these criteria is problematic. I personally not that bothered by the use of criteria (especially since in this case I happen to agree with the results). Second, Carter makes use of the Gospel of John, which is normally not used much in a Historical Jesus study. He points out that disciples mentioned 70 times even though the Twelve are only mention four times.

Richard J. Bauckham’s essay on “The Family of Jesus” is one of the more fascinating in this book, probably because so little is known about Jesus’s family. Unlike the prior essays in this collection, Bauckham begins with the biblical material because there is simply very little material outside of The Gospels for him to use.  He does cite the testimony of Hegesippus to the effect that Jesus’ family waned property in Nazareth, but there is no more extra-biblical material on the family of Jesus. Bauckham does deal with the well-known problem of Jesus his brothers in the New Testament. First how are they related to Jesus? Bauckham concludes that they were children of Joseph and Mary born after Jesus. Second, he deals with the fact that all of Jesus’s brothers he came significant leaders in the early church. He cites here the Gospel of Thomas which describes James as “the righteous.” Bauckham describes James as a leader in Jerusalem, but “the other brothers of Jesus worked as traveling missionaries” (111) based on 1 Cor 9:5 (the brothers Jesus had taken wives). My first impression was that this verse referred simply to Christians rather than the literal brothers of Jesus. But Bauckham cites Julius Africanus as evidence that Jesus’ Brothers participated in missionary activity (111).

Dieter T. Roth’s chapter on “Mary Magdalene, the Bethany Family, and the Beloved Disciple” studies some of the most enigmatic characters in the Gospels. While Mary Magdalene has been made famous by The Da Vinci Code, the others characters in this chapter are less well-known. Roth begins with the face that there are two women named Mary and an unnamed sinful woman in Luke 7:37–38 who are often conflated in church history. After showing that he was dealing with different women here, Roth examines apocryphal evidence concerning Mary Magdalene. Most of this evidence he dismisses, and rightly so. The picture from Scripture is that Mary Magdalene was an important disciple of Jesus but not his secret wife, etc. less is known about the Bethany family Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Lazarus only appears and John but Mary and Martha appear in Luke10:38-42. The enigmatic beloved disciple appears only in John and there are a bewildering number of suggestions in the literature for his identity. Roth does not solve this problem nor does he even give his preference for the identity of the beloved disciple. Rather, he describes the role of the beloved disciple in John’s Gospel.

David M. Allen discusses two “Secret Disciples” of Jesus, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. These two friends appeared in John’s account of the burial of Jesus (John 19:38-42). Nicodemus also appears in John 3 as a skeptical yet friendly questioner and again in John 7:45-53 as a defender of Jesus. There is little historical data for Nicodemus although there is an apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, which Allen briefly discusses. Following the suggestion of Richard Bauckham, Allen observes that there was a wealthy priest by the name of Naqdimon ben Gurion (b. Giṭ. 56a) who may represent a later member of Nicodemus’s family. Even less can be known about Joseph of Arimathea. Other than his role in Holy Grail myth, he rarely appears in apocryphal Gospels. Unlike Nicodemus, Joseph appears in Mark 15:43 and parallels where he requests permission to bury Jesus. Mark describes him as “waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God,” a phrase Allen understands as a reference to being a pious Jew, like Tobit. Matthew adds that Joseph was a wealthy man and Luke comments that he was a member of the council who did not agree with the verdict to execute Jesus.

[This review continues in the next post, the “enemies.”]

Bock, Darrell L. Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2002. 704 pages, pb. $40.00  Link to Baker   Link to Logos

Darrell Bock has made many important contributions to the study of the Gospels and Jesus including a two-volume commentary on Luke in the Baker Exegetical series (1994-96) and a Theology of Luke and Acts (Zondervan, 2012). He also edited a major collection of essays along with Robert L. Webb (Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence, Eerdmans 2010).  His Jesus according to Scripture was written to serve as an introduction to the life of Jesus viewed as a whole, primarily from the Synoptic Gospels. He does include three chapters on John’s gospel, but the bulk of the book is a synopsis of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

Jesus According to the ScripturePart one is a single chapter overview of the four gospels. Bock provides an outline and an overview of basic introductory questions (author, setting, etc.) along with some of the main interests of the book (prophecy fulfillment in Matthew for example). Bock’s introduction is very short in comparison to the rest of the book, and given the goals of the book this is a good thing. For every position he takes on date or origin, there are major competing views, but in order to keep the focus squarely on the “life of Jesus according to the scripture,” he does not engage opposing views.

Part two is the story of Jesus from the perspective of the Synoptic Gospels. This is the main section of the book and serves two purposes. First, Bock provides a summary of the events of the Gospels with some commentary on background features that will highlight the significance of these events.  Second, Bock will show how each of the three Synoptic Gospels offer a unique insight into an event. This synthetic approach means that Bock will cover the story of Jesus chronologically. Despite protesting that his intention is not to “merge the gospels together” (p. 49), the chronological approach will always appear to do just that. This approach will also frustrate anyone looking for a “historical Jesus” approach. In fact, Bock eschews this kind of study in his introduction to the second section of the book (p. 50). He does not engage in source criticism to determine which account was first and how it was edited by the later gospels, nor does he weigh the sayings of Jesus to determine their authenticity. He simply tells the story of Jesus in a way that reads more or less chronologically, from the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke to the resurrection stories in all four gospels.

In order to organize the story of Jesus, Bock divided the Synoptic Gospels into 294 units. A chart at the beginning of the book shows the parallel passages in each gospel (including John when applicable). In addition, there are 50 units that are only found in John. These numbered sections form the content of the part two, chapters 2-11 (pages 51-405). In the body of the text, each section is number and equivalent numbers are given in other Synopsis systems (Aland, Orchard, and Huck-Greeven). One advantage to reading the book in the Logos format is that clicking the index number link will take you directly to that place in the book, but the scripture in the columns are tagged as Scripture and will open in your preferred Bible. If you roll your pointer over the link (on the desktop version), the text will appear in a floating window.

For each unit, Bock provides a running commentary on the text, usually starting with Mark when available then commenting on any unique features in Matthew and Luke, when available. Reference is made to the Greek text (without transliteration), but this is not an exegetical commentary by any means.  What strikes me as very useful is Bock’s explanation of historical and cultural background. For the average reader, these comments will provide enough background to set the story into a cultural context. Bock does interact briefly with contemporary scholarship, but the footnotes are not overwhelming. The body of each chapter is meant to be read, so he limits these interactions to pointing out important work for students who want to explore more deeply. Each chapter offers a conclusion summarizing the units covered in the chapter.

Part three consists of three chapters devoted to John’s account of the Life of Jesus. The first chapter covers John 1 as a theological introduction to the book. The second chapter in this section covers the “book of signs” (John 2-12). The final chapter in this section of the book covers the “book of glory” (John 13-21). These divisions are natural and well-recognized in scholarship, although these two “books” make for very long chapters. Both John 2-4 and 5-10 are clear sub-units, and might have made this section more manageable for the reader. As with the Synoptic section, Bock is not very interested in critical issues. There is little said about some of the problems of John’s historical reliability. For example, the “cleansing of the Temple” appears in John’s gospel at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, rather than the end. Bock states that the event might have taken place twice, but it is at least possible it happened only once and John moved the event to foreshadow Jesus’ conflict with the leadership in Jerusalem. Either way, the issue is dispatched in two short paragraphs.

Bock does an excellent job showing the Jewish background for Jesus’ actions in John’s gospel, making frequent reference to the Hebrew Bible, Dead Sea Scrolls or other contemporary literature. For example, while commenting on the third sign, a healing on the Sabbath, Bock describes the problem the leadership had with the man carrying his mat on the Sabbath with several illustrations from the Mishnah and shows potential parallels between Jesus’ response to the Pharisees and Philo’s view of the Sabbath and the Exodus Rabbah.

In the final chapter of the book, Bock concludes by tracing the major theological interests of this Gospels. The Gospels present Jesus as the “Uniquely Authoritative One in Act and Word.”  This 80 page chapter is a biblical theology of Jesus drawn from all four gospels, grouped into several sections. Bock’s method is to begin each subsection with a collation of all the verses that pertain to his topic and then offer a synthesis of that material. Again, here is an advantage of the Logos version of the book, since the reader can look at this long list of verses and click through to the verse in context. In addition, once could copy the list and create a “verse list” that provides all of the verses to read one after another.

Beginning with baptism and temptation, Bock shows that the Gospels present Jesus as the obedient Son of God. Bock offers a summary of Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom of God as “as the expression of God’s dynamic rule and vindication of the righteous both now and yet to come” (565). He provides a list of the titles given to Jesus in the Gospels and surveys Jesus’ teaching on a variety of subjects (forgiveness, Sabbath, purity, etc.)

This theological chapter includes a very good section on the type of community Jesus was forming during his ministry, focusing on repentance and forgiveness. Here Bock deals with discipleship: what did it mean to be a follower of Jesus? What is the calling and mission of the disciple of Jesus? Oddly, it is in this section that he discusses the Parables since Parables represent teaching primarily for the disciples, to whom the mysteries of the kingdom were given. The chapter ends with a section on Jesus’ final week, his rejection by his own people, death, burial and resurrection.

Conclusion. As Bock states in his preface, this book was intended for use in a college or Seminary class on the Life of Jesus. The text is not overly technical; students and pastors ought to be able to use this text as they teach through the life of Jesus in a variety of contexts. Bock is an Evangelical and that is clear from this book. While he interacts with a wide range of scholarship, his commitment is to the inspiration of the text and the Gospel that is presented in the life of Jesus.

Despite the fact that this book is now more than ten years old, it still provides a useful overview of the life of Jesus. It is remarkable how much has developed in Jesus studies over this short time, but this introduction holds up remarkably well. Any survey text like this will occasionally frustrate the reader with brevity, but Bock has provided useful footnotes and bibliography for further reading and research.

Additional Note:  The book is available in the Logos library as a part of a Jesus Studies Collection from Baker. This collection offers eight books from Baker on Jesus, all of which are highly recommended. The Logos Library offers many advantages over other e-readers, especially highlighting and note-taking. Notes and highlights made on the book using the iPad or Android Logos app  are synced to your desktop. All scripture is tagged so you can quickly open a Bible while reading the book, and all abbreviations are tagged so the reader can quickly get a reminder what a particular phrase or title means. In addition, if you download the book to the iPad, footnotes appear at the bottom of the page (the way they should!) While I much prefer reading a real book, the Logos system makes for comfortable reading on an iPad or desktop.

NB: Thanks to Logos for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Bird, Michael F. Are You the One Who Is To Come? Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2009. 207 pages, pb. $24  Link to Baker   Link to Logos

Some scholars argue that Jesus himself did not intend to call himself a messiah, or even that he denied being the messiah. Anything that might be taken as “messianic claim” is dismissed as a secondary addition to the text by the early church as they told and re-told the story of Jesus in the light of their belief in the resurrection. The “post-Easter” Jesus became the Christ. By the time the Gospels were written, a belief that Jesus was the Messiah had taken root and the story of Jesus was written in a way to make him into a messiah. But the “Real Jesus” himself never claimed to be the messiah.

PrintMichael Bird addresses this question in Are You the One to Come?  He states at the very beginning of the book that “the historical Jesus understood his mission, ministry, vocation…in messianic categories” (11). The first chapter of the book provides a short orientation to previous scholarship on Jesus as the Christ. Bird observes that the “well-word position” that Jesus never claimed to be the messiah is not as strongly held as it once was, primarily as a result of the so-called “Third Quest” for the historical Jesus (27) I would add here, the research into the Second Temple Period initiated by the New Perspective on Paul. In the last 50 years scholars like E. P. Sanders and N. T. Wright have explored the diversity of Jewish beliefs, including their messianic expectations. What Bird attempts to do in this book is to argue that Jesus saw himself in Second Temple Period messianic categories. The source of the Christology of the early church was Jesus himself.

Bird’s second chapter surveys messianic expectations in the Second Temple Period. This is a very broad topic since there is a massive the primary literature from the period illustrating a variety of expectations. He begins with by tracing the development of messianic ideas through the Hebrew Bible, then shows how these expectations were sometimes enhanced by the translations of the Hebrew Bible into Greek and Aramaic. Citing Numbers 24:7 as an example, Bird argues that the translators of the LXX “created Messianism” by combining texts to create an exilic hope for national deliverance (45). In order to show that messianic expectations were high in the first century, Bird lists and briefly describes how the Qumran Community interpreted the messianic texts from the Hebrew Bible and how some of these texts were used by “messianic pretenders” both before and after Jesus. This trajectory from the Hebrew Bible through the Second Temple period provides the context for Jesus’ messianic self-understanding.

Chapters three and four are subtitled: “a Role Declined?” and “a Role Redefined?” In the third chapter, Bird examines the evidence often used to argue that Jesus did not claim to be the messiah, primarily the post-resurrection faith that developed into the Christology of the Church and the “Messianic Secret.” But if Jesus did not claim to be the messiah, there is no good explanation for the sign on the cross, “King of the Jews.” That seems to imply that Jesus was in fact claiming something that could be understood as messianic.

Chapter four is the heart of the book.  Here Bird looks at the evidence from the Gospels that Jesus’ whole career was “performatively messianic” (78).  By this he means that Jesus did not necessarily claim to be the messiah, but rather that he acted out the sorts of things expected by the messiah. I expected the chapter to discuss Jesus’ miracles as a sign of the new age, or the feeding of the 5000 as an enactment of the Good Shepherd image, the triumphal entry and Temple action, or even table fellowship as a messianic banquet (which Bird does mention several times in the chapter). Rather than a catalog of “performative acts,” Bird first has an excellent discussion of Jesus’ self-reference as the Son of Man, a saying of Jesus. He argues persuasively that the title is drawn from Dan 7:14, but also that Jesus combined that title with the “smitten shepherd” metaphor in Zechariah 13:7. Jesus as a suffering Messiah is means by which Jesus enters into eschatological suffering on behalf of others.

Second, Bird argues that Jesus is not just the Son of Man, but he is the anointed Son of Man. After has been active for some time, the imprisoned John the Baptist asks if Jesus is the “One Who Is To Come.” Jesus’ response is an allusion to a series of texts from Isaiah describing the messianic age as a time when the blind will receive sight, the lame will walk, the lepers are cleansed, etc. Here Jesus answers John’s question “obliquely but affirmatively” (101). Bird then shows that these sorts of messianic expectations were present at Qumran (4Q521) “despite the protests of several scholars” (103). In fact, this chapter concludes with a short survey of the “I have come” sayings in the gospels.

Third, Jesus’ preaching of the Kingdom of God implies the presence of a King, and in the much of the literature of the Second Temple period, the “dividing line between king and messiah is very thin” (105). Returning to the sign on the cross, it seems obvious Jesus must have preached something that caused the Romans to treat him as a rebel, or a supposed “king of the Jews.”  There are many allusions to David and Solomon as well that support the claim that Jesus thought of himself as a King/Messiah.

I suspect that some readers will take issue with these three points since they are embedded in the teaching of Jesus. The Son of Man sayings are often rejected by historical Jesus scholars (especially in the more extreme practice of the Jesus Seminar). The same is true for the programmatic statement in Luke 4; critical scholars will deny that Jesus could read and Luke created the whole scene to portray Jesus as a “scholar” who reads and interprets Scripture. Bird does not get too distracted by “authenticity” questions, but he makes some use of the “criteria of authenticity” (e.g., multiple attestation, p. 109). The classic historical Jesus scholar is not going to like this since he uses the criteria to show the sayings are likely authentic. At the same time, the use of these criteria is falling out of favor with some scholars.

Are You The One To Come? (Logos on the iPad)

Are You The One To Come? (Logos on the iPad)

In the fifth chapter Bird addresses the difficult problem of a crucified messiah.  Even Peter had a difficult time reconciling Jesus’ claim to be the messiah with his insistence that he would go to Jerusalem and be crucified. When Peter makes his climactic confession in Mark 8:27-30, Jesus does not correct him by denying that he is the messiah, but rather he provides further definition of what the messiah’s mission will include when they finally arrive in Jerusalem. Here Bird examines the anointing at Bethany, the Triumphal Entry and the Temple action as performative messianic claims. The arrest, trial and crucifixion are only explicable if Jesus had claimed something messianic in that last week (if not his whole career to that point). In the final part of this chapter (and anticipating his final chapter), Bird argues that the earliest followers of Jesus remembered Jesus life and teaching after his death and resurrection and began to re-tell the story of Jesus as the “anointed one” who fulfills the prophetic plan of Isaiah in his ministry (146). Jesus was never remembered as a martyr, but rather a crucified messiah, something that simply does not appear in any strand of Second Temple period Judaism.

In the last chapter of the book is a brief sketch of “messianic Christology.” This chapter is not a Christology in the traditional sense, but rather a set of implications drawn from the previous study. If Jesus did indeed claim to be Israel’s messiah, then he did so “from Israel and to Israel.” Jesus cannot be understood properly outside of the context of the story of the Hebrew Bible.

Conclusion. This book appeared while I was working on my dissertation on the messianic banquet, so I quickly read through the book looking for material that I could use in that project. Much of the material in the first few chapters was familiar since I was working through similar issues. When I was asked to review the book as a part of the Logos Library I was able to re-read the book more slowly in order to catch the overall flow of the book.

The book would make an excellent college or seminary textbook in a Gospels class since it does an excellent job describing the variety of messianic expectations in the Second Temple Period. It is not overly technical, although some of the details from the Dead Sea Scrolls might be overwhelming to some readers.  The footnotes provide a rich bibliography for readers who desire to dig deeper into messianic expectations in the Second Temple Period.

Additional Comment: I read this book in print, but it is also available as part of the Baker Jesus Studies collection from Logos Bible Software. The Logos version includes real page numbers and the reader can take advantage of the note-taking and highlighting tools in Logos. One advantage to the Logos reader is that all scripture references are linked to you preferred Bible, including the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and Dead Sea Scrolls if you own those books in your Logos library. If you do not have those books, clicking an abbreviation will float a window identifying the meaning. For example, click on 1QM and a window appears telling you this is the War Scroll. If you download the book to your iPad for reading with the Logos app, all footnotes appear on the page you are reading along with the real page numbers.

NB: I purchased the physical copy of this book from my local bookseller, but thanks to Logos for kindly providing me with an electronic review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Blenkinsopp, Joseph. David Remembered: Kingship and National Identity in Ancient Israel. Grand Rapids, Mich. Eerdmans, 2013. 219 pp. Pb; $26.00.  Link to Eerdmans

In 2009 Blenkinsopp wrote a short introduction to what he called “early Judiasm” in which he argued that origins of Judaism are to be found in Ezra and Nehemiah. This short book described the return from exile as the real beginning of the Judaism we encounter in the New Testament even if that origin stands on a foundation of earlier stories about pre-exilic Israel.  In his earlier work, Blenkinsopp mainly focused on the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, supplemented by 1 Esdras and Josephus.

Blenkinsopp David RememberedBlenkinsopp’s new book studies the same period, but he focuses solely on how the earliest writers of the Second Temple period “remembered David.”  He does not really enter into the discussion of a historical David” nor is he concerned with biblical archaeology for the early monarchy. His task in this book is to trace how the failed dynasty of David was transformed by the post-exilic prophets into a hope for an eschatological restoration of a kingdom to Jews.

After an introductory chapter in which he traces the fall of Judah and the end of David’s dynasty according to 2 Kings and Jeremiah, Blenkinsopp traces the remnants of that line in the early exile (ch. 2-3). In these chapters he argues that while it is possible that the demise of the Davidic line led to interest in a revived Benjamin-Saul dynasty in the early years of the exile, there is very little evidence to support the assertion. The pro-Jeremiah family of Shaphan seems to have had some influence, even to the point as serving as governor until Gedeliah was assassinated, but they fell short of reviving a Davidic kingdom.

Turning to the prophets, Blenkinsopp discusses Deutero-Isaiah’s view of David (ch. 4). There is only one reference to David in Isaiah 40-66, at the conclusion of chapters 40-55 the prophet refers to “tokens of love showed to David.” There are some translation issues with this line, but Blenkinsopp takes this as an allusion to the perpetual covenant offered to the Davidic line in 2 Sam 7. Since the line has come to an effective end, there was a need for re-thinking this “perpetual covenant” in the early post exilic period.  Cyrus, rather than David, will be God’s anointed one.

Chapter 5 focuses on Zerubbabel as the “new David” in the early post-exilic world.  In order to do this, he collects all of the prophetic texts which refer to Zerubbabel in Haggai and Zechariah.  There are quite a few texts that seem to imply that Zerubbabel was seen by these prophets as a kind of “heir to the throne” who was used by the Persians to keep Judea loyal during a particularly stormy period in Persian history.  In fact, it is possible that Zech 6:9-15 is a reference to a secret coronation of Zerubbabel as a new King of Judah.

Beginning in chapter 6, Blenkinsopp connects the post-exilic dream of a restored kingdom to the original stories of David. Beginning as far back as Amos, Blenkinsopp shows that prophetic texts read and reread the story of David in new contexts, finding in David the model for what would become the Messianism of the second half of Zechariah. Whether that represents one or two later prophets is not particularly meaningful to Blenkinsopp’s argument since they both would be among the latest texts in the Hebrew Bible.

In chapter 7, He points out that even the canonical shape of the twelve minor prophets can be seen as implicitly eschatological, looking forward to a reunification of the twelve tribes of Israel. By ending the collection with Malachi’s prediction of the return of Elijah to turn the children back to the fathers, the twelve-book collection anticipates a turning of Israel back to the land and to their first king.

Chapter 8 finishes the post-exilic survey by examining the later Zechariah traditions (Zechariah 10-14). These rather complex chapters are among the latest material in the prophets and consequently have the most detailed messianic hope in the Hebrew Bible. This chapter was the most stimulating for me since Blenkinsopp is doing something of an “intertextual study.” He uses this language several times (p. 154, especially), although there is no effort to define what he means by the term. Essentially, Zechariah finds earlier texts (or traditions) and reuses them in a new context. For this study, these intertextual connections take older texts like the Exodus and Jeremiah and apply them to the current political and religious situation of Judea in the Second Temple period. Since this is a brief study rather than a detailed commentary, Blenkinsopp does not always clearly signal what his intertextual connections are, and when he does, there is no explanation of why he thinks Zechariah used a particular text. For the most part, he may omit this detailed methodological step because of the nature of the book, or because the links are “obvious.”

Blenkinsopp’s final chapter brings his story of David Remembered into the Judaism of the first century as a “resistance movement” to imperial power. When reading the chapter title, I expected to find to sorts of anti-imperial observations that one finds in studies on Revelation or Paul, but that is not the case. He sticks to the texts and avoids the sort of sociological or political agenda that usually plagues anti-imperial studies.

He this chapter begins with a very brief survey of various Second Temple documents, including the Qumran literature and Psalms of Solomon. While there is some allusion to a revival of the Davidic dynasty, it is not as prominent as might be expected and in Qumran it the coming king messiah is subjugated to the coming priestly messiah. After simply observing this as a fact, Blenkinsopp does not every ask why this is the case. Why did most strands of Judaism in the second temple avoid the language of a Davidic messiah or a revived Davidic kingdom?

The second section of the chapter surveys the presentation of the Maccabean revolt and the various messianic pretenders in Josephus.  While there is nothing new in the material, Blenkinsopp does observe that it is remarkable that there is no Davidic monarchy at all in the Maccabean revolt, the Hasmonean dynasty or any of the messianic pretenders. In fact, it is only in the New Testament’s presentation of Jesus that there a revival of David’s kingdom is particularly prominent. Again I am left wondered why Jewish Christianity developed a Davidic messiah while other forms of early Judaism did not.

Conclusions. I found Blenkinsopp’s book fascinating, especially since I have an interest in how later writers use and reuse earlier traditions.  I think the survey might have been improved with more attention to Davidic Messianism in the Psalms. While there is a short section on David’s relationship with the worship of the Second Temple, it seems to me that the final form of the Psalter provides another line of evidence for the development of the idea of the return of the Davidic kingdom.  I also notice that there is little in this book on Joel, arguably the last of the prophets.  I suspect this has to do with the lack of specific mention of David in that prophet, but as a late prophetic voice, I expected to see more from that prophet. Most New Testament readers will find his few pages on Jesus disappointing – the book feels like it building up to a grand conclusion in Jesus the son of David, but the gospels are dispatched in a few pages.

Nevertheless, David Remembered provides a good survey of the development of the Davidic Messiah from the exile to the first century. It is good to see a kind of thematic biblical theology that extends into inter-canonical literature. While the book focuses more on the earliest days of the Second Temple period than the first century, it provides an excellent introduction to the Messianism of the Second Temple period.

Thanks to Eerdmans for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Follow Reading Acts on

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 4,171 other followers

My book Jesus the Bridegroom is now available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle

Christian Theology

%d bloggers like this: