Priestlv Messiah

For the sake of completeness we need at least to mention this further strand of Jewish expectation at the time of Jesus. For from various sources it is evident that some of Jesus' contemporaries invested considerable hope in the other most prominent anointed figure in the life of ancient Israel — the anointed priest. The development is usuallv traced back to Zechariah 4, where two anointeds are envisaged, not onlv Zerubbabel, the roval figure, but also Joshua the high priest.177 The influence of Zechariah's vision is alreadv evident in ben Sira 45-50,178 but comes to full flower in the Testaments of the 12 Patriarchs, where Levi (the priest) is superior to Judah (the king),179 and in the Qumran scrolls, where the priestlv Messiah (the Messiah of Aaron) takes precedence over the Messiah of


From the perspective of the present studv, the most striking feature of this messianic expectation is that it was apparentlv never seen as an option for Jesus. Presumablv this was because it was well enough known that Jesus was not of the appropriate tribe; he was not descended from Levi. Equallv notable is the fact that when the possibilitv of presenting Jesus as (high) priest is followed up, the author to the Hebrews has to develop a unique argument: Jesus does not belong to the priestlv order of Aaron, but to that of the mvsterious Melchizedek (Heb. 4.14-5.10; 7).

177. Hesse, TDNT9.500-501, 507-508.

178. 49.11-12; Aaron is extolled at greater length (45.6-22) than David (47.2-11).

179. Most clearlv T. Jud. 21.2-4: the Lord 'set the kingship beneath the priesthood. . .. As heaven is higher than the earth, so is the priesthood of God higher than the kingship on the earth'; full detail in Hollander and de Jonge, Testaments 56-61, 222. A small fragment of T. Levi reads 'the kingdom of priesthood is greater than the kingdom . . .' (1Q21 [lQTLevi ar] Fragment 1).

180. 'The Messiah of Aaron': 1QS 9.11. In lQSa (lQ28a) 2.17-21 the Messiah of Aaron stretches out his hand to the bread before the Messiah of Israel; in lQSb (lQ28b) the blessing of the high priest precedes that of the prince of the congregation (see further Collins, Scepter and Star 74-77, 83-95).

It is worth noting these details, if only for two reasons. (1) There was evidently sufficient knowledge regarding Jesus' descent for it to be obvious to all concerned that he did not have a priestly lineage. (2) Those who made evaluations of Jesus, whether his disciples or others, did not feel free to create facts regarding his lineage or to fit him better into some expected role. This in turn suggests, by way of contrast, that the knowledge regarding Jesus' fitness to be considered for other roles was well grounded also.

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