Royal Messiah

We begin with the term most closely identified with Jesus at least from the time of Paul: Messiah = Messias = Christos. It is a familiar fact to any student of NT literature that Christos had become so attached to the name Jesus within about twenty years of his death that it functioned more or less as a personal name: Jesus Christ.9 Nor can there be any doubt that behind this usage is the Christian claim that Jesus was 'the Christ', the Messiah. That claim had already become so familiar, so taken-for-granted among the first Christians that the titular sense was fast disappearing; Jesus as Messiah no longer functioned as a claim to be argued but simply as a fact to be assumed. That must mean that for the first Christians the claim that Jesus was indeed Messiah had been established from the first; they were distinguished precisely by the claim; they were 'Christ-ians', Messiah-ists. But when did the claim become established? Was it made already during Jesus' mission? And, not least, did Jesus himself make the claim, did he embrace a/the role which would have been recognized as 'messianic'? These are the issues which need to be resolved in what follows.10

8. Mark 1.27/Luke 4.36; Mark 6.2-3 pars.; 6.14-16 pars.; 8.27-28 pars.; 14.61 pars.; John 7.40-52; 9.16-17, 29-30; 10.19-21.

9. See my Theology ofPaul 197-99. See also M. Hengel, 'Jesus, the Messiah of Israel', Studies in Early Christology (Edinburgh: Clark, 1995) 1-72 (here 1-15).

10. In what follows I will be drawing on my 'Messianic Ideas and Their Influence on the Jesus of History', in J. H. Charlesworth, ed., The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992) 365-81.

First, however, we need to pause and to remind ourselves that the confidence of an older generation which assumed a single, coherent, widespread Jewish hope for the coming of 'the Messiah' has long since been abandoned.11 Talk of 'the messianic age', as of Jesus' 'messianic self-consciousness', traded on that assumption. But the discoverv of the Dead Sea Scrolls and more careful analvsis of the texts of the period have highlighted several important features.

(1) Anointing was traditionallv associated with three principal roles — king, priest, and prophet;12 as we shall see, all three figures featured in Israel's escha-tological expectation. (2) However, the term itself, 'Messiah' (masiah), 'anointed one', while variouslv used in the OT, predominant^ in terms of a continuing Davidic line,13 nowhere appears as the title for an eschatological figure.14 (3) We have alreadv noted (§ 12.2c) that a messianic figure was not integral to Israel's es-chatological expectation, which was often expressed without reference or allusion to such a figure. (4) Where a messianic hope is articulated it is not alwavs the same figure/role which is in view. As we shall see, the hope of a roval Messiah was one of a more diverse hope, which featured also, or alternativelv, a priestlv and prophetic figures. Nevertheless, as we attempt to clarifv the categories which Jesus' audience might have been expected to attempt to him into, it is the role of roval Messiah which calls for first attention.

11. E.g., O. Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament (London: SCM, 1959) 111-12; Neusner, et al., eds., Judaisms and Their Messiahs; J. H. Charlesworth, 'From Messianologv to Christologv: Problems and Prospects', in Charlesworth, ed., The Messiah 335 (here 14). 'It was Primitive Christianitv's exclusive concentration on Christ that first reduced this tradition to a single person' (Becker, Jesus ofNazareth 191-92). See also Schreiber's review of recent literature {Gesalbter und Konig 5-19).

12. (1) Predominantly the king (e.g., 1 Sam. 16.13; 2 Sam. 2.4,7; 5.3, 17; Ps. 89.20); 'the Lord's anointed' (1 Sam. 24.6, 10; 26.9, 11,16, 23; 2 Sam. 19.21; Pss. 2.2; 89.38, 51; 132.10);

(2) the (high) priest (Exod. 28.41; 30.30; Lev. 4.3, 5, 16; 6.22; Dan. 9.25-26; note also 2 Macc. 1.10 and T. Levi 17.2-3); (3) occasionally ^the prophet (1 Kgs. 19.16; 1 Chron. 16.22; Ps. 105.15; Isa. 61.1-3); details in F. Hesse, TDNT9.497-509; the concept of prophets anointed bv the Spirit mav have been more prominent at Qumran (CD 2.12; 6.1; 1QM 11.7; 4Q270 2.14).

13. S. Talmon, 'The Concepts of Masiah and Messianism in Earlv Judaism', in Charlesworth, ed., The Messiah 'It must be emphasized that in practicallv all its occurrences, the noun masiah serves as a roval title' (87-93); similar^ A. S. van der Woude, TDNT 9.509: in post-biblical Judaism as in the OT, ' "the Lord's anointed" or "mv, his anointed" is used onty for a roval figure'.

14. J. J. M. Roberts, 'The Old Testament's Contribution to Messianic Expectations', in Charlesworth, ed., The Messiah 39-51 (here 51).

15. G. S. Oegema, The Anointed and His People: Messianic Expectations from the Maccabees to Bar Kochba (JSPSupp 27; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1998) concludes that it is not possible to speak of a messianic 'idea' in Judaism or of a historv of ideas in the development of messianic expectations. 'We can onlv locate its historical realizations, but not the idea itself (306).

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Study Aid

Study Aid

This Book Is One Of The Most Valuable Resources In The World When It Comes To Getting A Scholarship And Financial Support For Your Studies.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment