An Issue during Jesus Mission

It is a priori likely that an individual who spoke memorably of God's kingdom, who gathered disciples around him, and who created something of a stir would have raised in many minds the equivalent to the modern question 'Who does he think he is?' It should now be clear that 'claimant to royal messiahship' was one possible answer to be considered. If Simon, one of Herod's slaves, and Athronges the shepherd could aspire to kingship (Josephus, Ant. 17.273-74, 278), we can hardly assume that Jesus' lowly birth would have ruled him out as a potential candidate. He may well have been known to be a descendant of David,

61. Schweitzer, Quest1 343 = Quest1 309.

62. Weiss, Earliest Christianity 1.31.

63. N. A. Dahl, 'The Crucified Messiah' (1960), most easily accessible in his Jesus the Christ: The Historical Origins ofChristological Doctrine (ed. D. H. Juel; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991) 27-47 (here 39-40).

as our sources indicate; at least no hint is given that any such claim was disputed.64 And the reports that the Baptist was considered a possible candidate to messiahship need not be wholly discounted. In fact, there are several incidents involving Jesus, whose historicity in toto is very hard to dismiss and in which the issue of messiahship (or the equivalent religio-political claim) is central.66 We will begin with the climax of Jesus' 'career', his trial and condemnation, since the case is almost indisputable there,67 and work backwards.

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