“Messiah” – human or divine?

“There is … no certainty that Jesus thought of himself as bearer of the title “Messiah”.  On the contrary, it is unlikely that he did so:  all the gospel writers so regarded him, but they could cite little direct evidence…” (EP Sanders – Professor Oxford)

Jesus himself never permitted his followers to describe him as “Messiah”.  (Alastair McGrath – Professor KCL and Professor Oxford)

“There were no hard definitions of “Messiah”, “Son of God” or “Son of Man” in the Judaism of Jesus’ day … … In the end the early Christians [...] kept the title “Messiah” [...] but redefined it to accord with their own experience:  Jesus became for them a new kind of Messiah, one who had acted as a miracle-worker and prophet during his lifetime, but who was also the heavenly Lord who would return at the end.  This definition of Messiah…had not been defined in such a way in advance.” (EP Sanders – Professor Oxford)

“Although to a non-Jew like the centurion [at Jesus’ crucifixion] “son of God” might have indicated a divine being, Jesus’ earliest followers, like Mark, were Jewish, and understood that “son of God”, like “messiah”, designated Israel’s human king. During Israel’s ancient coronation ceremonies, the future king was anointed with oil to show God’s favour while a chorus singing one of the ceremonial psalms proclaimed that when the king is crowned he becomes God’s representative, his human “son”.  Thus when Mark opens his gospel saying that “this is the gospel of Jesus, the messiah, the son of God” he is announcing that God has chosen Jesus to be the future king of Israel.  Since Mark writes in Greek, he translated the Hebrew term messiah as christos (“anointed one” in Greek)”.  (Elaine Pagels – Professor Princeton)

In this chapter we have seen just how difficult it is to separate the claims Jesus made about himself from their later development in the early church.  Jesus spoke about this own role reluctantly.  He rarely, if ever, referred explicitly to himself as Messiah.  On the other hand, so many aspects of his actions and teachings were “messianic” in a broad sense that we can understand how his followers claimed soon after Easter that Jesus was the promised Messiah.  Jesus did refer to God as Father and occasionally to himself as a Son (of God); this “self-understanding” was also developed considerably in the early church.  The phrase “Son of Man” had a similar history:  Jesus used the phrase in various contexts to refer indirectly to himself; his followers developed his usage until the phrase eventually became a messianic title.  (Graham Stanton – Professor Cambridge)

‘Messiah’, or ‘Christ’, does not mean ‘the/a divine one’. It is very misleading to use the words as shorthands for the divine name or being of Jesus. It is comparatively easy to argue that Jesus (like several other first-century Jews) believed he was the Messiah. (NT Wright – Professor St Andrews and Oxford)

Those Jews who did believe that a messiah was coming – and not all did – put the messiah together with the messianic age; it was a package deal.   The messianic age meant that the dead would rise, justice would prevail, and war, famine, disease, and death would stop.  Clearly, that hadn’t happened.  Nor did the Jews believe, for the most part, that they needed Jesus’s death to save them from sin or death.  They believed, rather, in a compassionate God who always forgave the repentant sinner, and they did not believe they needed an intermediary.  They had always prayed to their God directly.  (Amy-Jill Levine – Professor Vanderbilt and Cambridge)

“For the majority of Jews… the problem was not the claim that Jesus had been raised; the problem was the claim that he alone had been raised.  Although many expected the messiah would bring about a resurrection, a single resurrection did not prove messianic identity.”  (Amy-Jill Levine – Professor Vanderbilt and Cambridge)

In the decades between Jesus and the great revolt a number of pretenders to [the messianic] role appeared, typically leading their followers into the wilderness, where they promised a miraculous sign from God to authenticate them and to indicate that the time for liberation had come.  (Richard Bauckham – Professor St Andrews, Cambridge)

At Jesus’ trial before the high priest, the high priest finally asked him directly where he was the Messiah.  According to Marks’ Gospel Jesus’ reply was a straightforward “I am”, though Jesus goes onto say something that presumably makes a point about how he saw the role of Messiah.  But in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, Jesus’ reply is “You say that I am”, which is not a repudiation of the tile but more like an oblique way of accepting it.  (Richard Bauckham – Professor St Andrews, Cambridge)

The idea that God might bless and exalt a man (rarely a woman) was a commonplace of Jewish thought.  The scriptures contained many such examples:  Abraham, Moses, and above all, the righteous ruler of ancient Israel, King David.  So central was the figure of the chosen and favoured king in Jewish history that many prophecies had come to focus on the figure of a coming “messiah” who would deliver Israel from all its troubles and oppression.  Though there were many different conceptions of what they messiah would be like, he was generally viewed in largely human terms as a mighty man anointed by God to fulfil the divine purpose on earth.  (Linda Woodhead – Professor Lancaster, Cambridge)

Jews of that period did not read as a reference to the Messiah the strange passage of Isaiah 52-53 that spoke of an innocent servant who suffered for the sake of other s and although righteous bore their sins.  But followers of Jesus did.  Jews of that time did not read as messianic Psalm 22, which portrayed a righteous man persecuted by the unrighteous as crying out in agony “My God, My God why have you forsaken me”, and then being vindicated by God.  But followers of Jesus did.  Through such rereading of scripture, those who considered Jesus to be exalted Lord found also the way in which they could also understand him as Christ, even though his manner of death seemed to disqualify him from that title.  So effective was the process that already in the mid-50s, Paul could state that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3).  The result of the entire process was the literary shaping of the actual narratives, so that they not only stated how everything happened “so that Scripture could be fulfilled” (Mk 14:49), but that at the point of highest scandal – the crucifixion itself –Scripture supplies the actual language) Mk 15:24 = Ps 22:18; Mk 15:29 = Ps 22:8-9; Mk 15:34 = Ps 22:2).  (Luke Timothy Johnson – Professor Candler, Yale)

… the book of Isaiah was traditionally ascribed to the prophet Isaiah, who lived in the eight century BC.  Most of the first half of the book fits with such a tradition.  But chapters 40 through 66 of the book of Isaiah appear to be by someone living about two centuries later.  (Richard Elliott Friedman – Professor Georgia, previously visiting Professor Oxford and Cambridge)

The murder of Jesus… develops the story of the sacrifice of Isaac by his father Abraham (Genesis 22).  In the original story, Abraham the father was prepared to sacrifice even his beloved young son out of devotion to God, but in the end God stepped back from demanding human sacrifice and replaced Isaac with a ram.  Over the course of time, ancient Jewish commentators significantly altered and elaborated the Isaac story.  These elaborated versions were trenchantly similar to the Jesus death stories.  Early Christian writers themselves also drew direct parallels between Isaac and Jesus at his death.  Some modern Christians are understandably reluctant to accept that Jesus’ unique and centrally symbolic death story was adapted from Jewish scriptures.  But the objection is based on imagining a radical split or even opposition between Jews and Christians in the mid-first century, which is anachronistic. The gospel (and pre-gospel) stories about the death of the Messiah inevitably came from a Jewish milieu.  The earliest Christian stories were inevitably Jewish stories.  The similarities between the elaborated Isaac stories and the death of Jesus are remarkable.  Isaac is Abraham’s only and beloved son.  At Satan’s suggestion, as a final test of Abraham’s devotion, God instructs Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham obeys.  But in these elaborated versions, Isaac himself is not a helpless bound boy, but a mature adult, who voluntarily goes to his own death, and like Jesus, at Passover.  Both Isaac and Jesus are Paschal lambs.  (Keith Hopkins – Professor Cambridge)

The claim that Jesus was the promised Messiah was not in itself enough to explain the rift [between the Jews and the Christians; such claims had been made on behalf of others without such far-reaching consequences.  Still, there was something unusual in a group proclaiming as Messiah someone known to be dead, and something paradoxical in making the claim that the Messiah had come when it was obvious to everyone that the yoke of Rome lay heavier than ever on the people and that the promised era of peace was not in sight.  (Norman Solomon – Oxford)

One of the extraordinary features of Paul’s writings is that he uses the word “Christ” almost as though it were a proper name.  As a Jew, Paul knew very well that the word was not a proper name, and that it was the Greek translation of “Messiah”, the Hebrew word meaning “anointed”.  … The character and function of the Messiah were by no means as clearly defined as later Christian re-interpretation of the Jewish texts has led people to believe, but one thing is clear:  the “Messiah” was selected by God to play a particular role in his plans for his chosen people Israel.  It is often suggested that the way in which Paul uses the word “Christ” shows that it had very quickly taken on the character of a name, and that its original meaning had been forgotten.  Strangely, Paul uses the word as a title rather than as a name only once – in Romans 9:5.  Gentiles, it is argued, would not have understood the significance of the word.  Perhaps not, but it is Paul who is writing and he certainly understood its significance!  For the first Christians, who were all Jews, the term would have been full of meaning.  (Morna Hooker - Professor Cambridge)

The Jewish historian Josephus tells us a number of stories about characters whose career could be crudely summarized as following:  some guy wakes up in the morning and he thinks he’s the Messiah or something or he’s a prophet and he gets people to follow him… he says we’re going to go out in the desert and we’re going to wait for God to do something for us.  So a whole bunch of people may go with him, maybe thousands go with him out to this deserted, unsecured place and they wait for what Josephus calls the tokens of their deliverance.  And the Romans send a vicious police action out there and kill everybody.  When that kind of police action is perpetrated against what we might consider harmless fanatics the Romans are really giving us a very good historical lesson in how domination works.  (Allen Callahan - Brown and Harvard)

As is well known, the word [Messiah] means simply “anointed” and is not used in the Hebrew Bible in an eschatological sense.  Several historical kings of Israel and Judah, beginning with Saul, are said to have been anointed.  Elijah is told to anoint Jazael king of Syria (1 Kings 19:15-16).  The rite was not distinctive to Israelite or Judean kings.  Priests as well as kings were anointed, and there is some evidence for the anointing of prophets, although that does not seem to have been commonplace.  (Adela Yarbro Collins and John J. Collins – both Professors at Yale)

In the prophetic writings, the divine status of the king is mentioned only once, in Isaiah 9.  The Deuteronomistic [author or authors] formulate the relationship between God and the Davidic dynasty in covenantal terms and emphasized that the king would be punished for infidelity.  Yet it also preserved the promise that “I will be a father to him, and he will be a son to me,” even if the language of begetting was dropped and the emphasis was rather on parental discipline.  After the demise of the monarch it was easier to speak of the messianic king in purely ideal terms.  Messianic expectation, in the sense of hope for the restoration of the Davidic dynasty, has left some traces in the prophetic restoration of the Davidic dynasty, has left some traces in the prophetic literature of the Persian era, but these oracles do no impute divinity in any degree to the future king.  There is more extensive evidence for messianic expectation in the Hellenistic period, especially after the usurpation of the monarchy by the Hasmonean line.  Many of the references to a future “messiah” in the Dead Sea Scrolls are minimal and refer to him only as the “shoot of David”, who will arise in the last days.  But a significant number of texts in this period impute to the messianic king a superhuman status.  (Adela Yarbro Collins and John J. Collins – both Professors at Yale)

The most important development regarding the divinity of the messiah in ancient Judaism, however, was the reinterpretation of messianic expectation in light of Daniel’s vision of “one like a son of man” (Dan 7:13).  In the Similitudes of Enoch, the Son of Man is a heavenly, pre-existent figure, not a descendant of David, who is seated on the throne of glory as eschatological judge.  But he is also called “messiah” in a passage that alludes to Psalm 2…. This reinterpretation of the messiah as heavenly “son of man”, in accordance with Daniels’ figure, places the traditional language about the king/messiah as “son of God” in a new light.   (Adela Yarbro Collins and John J. Collins – both Professors at Yale)

The early Christian proclamation of Jesus as son of God must be seen in this context of Jewish messianic expectation… the belief that Jesus was “son of God” was entailed in the first instance by the conviction that he was the messiah.  (Adela Yarbro Collins and John J. Collins – both Professors at Yale)

[on the relationship between the terms “son of God” and “messiah” - useful overview of one perspective on this from book description “King and Messiah as Son of God: Divine, Human, and Angelic Messianic Figures in Biblical and Related Literature” by Adela Yarbro Collins]  This controversial book traces the origin and history of the idea that the king and later the messiah is the Son of God, from its origins in ancient Near Eastern royal ideology to its Christian appropriation in the New Testament. King and Messiah as Son of God is distinctive in its range, spanning both Testaments and informed by ancient Near Eastern literature and Jewish non-canonical literature. The authors argue that Jesus was called the Son of God precisely because he was believed to be the messianic king. This belief and tradition, they contend, led to the identification of Jesus as pre-existent, personified Wisdom, or a heavenly being in the New Testament canon. However, the titles Jesus is given – including son of God, son of man, and Christ – are historical titles tracing back to Egyptian New Kingdom ideology. Therefore the title Son of God is likely solely messianic and not literal.

Many Israelites at the time of Jesus were expecting a Messiah who would be divine and come to earth in the form of a human.  Thus the basic underlying thoughts from which both the Trinity and the incarnation grew are there in the very world into which Jesus was born and in which he was first written about in the gospels of Mark and John.  (Daniel Boyarin and Jack Miles – Boyarin Professor Berkley)

For centuries after Jesus’ death, there were people who believed in Jesus’ divinity as the incarnate Messiah but who also insisted that in order to be saved they must eat only kosher, keep the Sabbath as other Jews do, and circumcise their sons.  Here was an environment where many people, it would seem, thought that there was no problem in being both a Jew and a Christian.  (Daniel Boyarin and Jack Miles – Boyarin Professor Berkley)

Clearly, the idea of a living and dying God who is going to be resurrected in the here and now is a non-Judaic idea. Moreover, the idea of an almost God-like Messiah again has no connection with Palestine at all, nor an actual immediate ‘resurrection’ and not at the End of Time (and this for all ‘the Righteous’ not just ‘the Messiah’!), which is nowhere envisioned. All these are non-Jewish and Hellenistic if one prefers or even Egyptian. Of course, you can hark back, as documents like the Gospels try to do, to Daniel’s apocalyptic presentation of ‘one like a son of man coming on the clouds’; but this is meant to evoke the coming of the Heavenly Host in apocalyptic vengeance and Glory as the War Scroll from Qumran, much as the Letter of James, in key passages definitively evokes and describes.  ‘Son of man’ in Hebrew even to this day is the way one expresses ‘being a man’ and this is particularly the case in the Israel of today, where people often say ‘be a Ben-Adam‘ – meaning ‘be a son of Adam,’ ‘Adam’ and ‘Man’ being the same word, that is, ‘be a man.’ …But in the Bible also, Prophets use the term to refer to themselves, the most notable of whom being Ezekiel who is constantly using the phrase ‘son of man’ to refer to himself – probably to distinguish himself from an Angel, e.g., ‘son of man prophesy against the nations,’ ‘prophesy against the peoples’. Here, he is undoubtedly addressing himself. So the whole idea of ‘the Son of Man’ wherever it occurs is a complete misnomer and would show the reader that we are in a total non-Jewish alien environment. (Robert Eisenman – Professor California State, Oxford)

A dying and living Messiah, is completely at odds with any conceptuality that would have been understood or known in Palestine at this time. But of course… it has everything to do with how these sorts of god-like figures were seen elsewhere in the Mediterranean World outside of Palestine.   One can see views of the same conceptuality in the tomb paintings of ancient Egyptian Pharaohs and how to enter the environment of the gods in ancient Egyptian mythology and folklore. It runs through the whole Book of the Dead, a good ten or fifteen centuries earlier – instructions for how to become a living and dying God or a dying and living God.  The same is true in the Hellenistic Roman world where figures like Alexander – probably influenced by this kind of earlier Egyptian practice and ideology – start to claim that they are descendants, not of their own fathers, but of much more important supernatural deities. This, then, becomes transferred to the Roman Emperors in succession to him, who seem to feel they have to make the same kinds of claims – particularly someone like Augustus, with whom it seems to really have begun, has to start to claim that he is the son of a Jupiter or whomever, since he wasn’t really the son of Julius Caesar or anyone like that; and then this idea of being the son of God starts to permeate the whole Julio-Claudian line and Emperors up to the time of the fall of the temple and the fall of that line.  Each member, in turn, had to declare himself the son of God or some such phenomena so obviously, if you were going to compete in the Greco-Roman world with these kind of conceptualities, the Messiah-type person you are trying to disseminate had to incorporate many of these kinds of qualities. This kind of material had already been circulating in the Horus/Isis/Osiris theology, also from Egypt, and it was widespread in Mithra and other Greek Mystery Religion materials that someone like Paul, familiar with the part of the world now called Asia Minor (but then just ‘Asia’), would have known.  (Robert Eisenman – Professor California State, Oxford)

Jesus did not publicly claim to be the Messiah, or indeed make any explicit public claims for himself. … …  Many people quote Matthew 16:16-17, but in Mark’s version of the same incident Jesus does not actually endorse what Peter says.  Others quote Mark 14:61-62, Jesus’ trial, but again there is a variant reading, and Matthew and Luke portray Jesus as not explicitly admitting the charge.  In all, the evidence suggests that Jesus was very wary of the title…. … In a veiled way some special status for himself is implied:  he is the herald of the Kingdom, the Kingdom – bringer, and the one who must endure in his own person the birth-pangs of the Kingdom.  It is possible, but uncertain, that at the end he claimed to be the Messiah, or at least did not refuse the label.  … …. But he undoubtedly had a strong sense of a unique destiny.  It emerges in his view of evil.  The arrival of the Kingdom was inevitably opposed by evil powers, and Jesus felt himself to be at the centre of an apocalyptic struggle against them.  Hence the remarkable tradition (Mark 1:40-4) that on encountering leprosy he could flare up with anger, sensing the presence and power of the enemy. (Don Cupitt and Peter Armstrong – Cambridge and BBC)

While employing the warp and woof of Jewish Messianism, this is exploited basically to produce a pro-Roman, spiritualised, Hellenistic-style mystery religion.  Here, one must understand that, while all the Gospels exhibit differences, the Synoptics are basically variations on a theme – with more or less material added.  John, while differing markedly as to specific historical points and development, still comes from the same Hellenistic, anti-Semitic mind-set – even more extreme.  (Robert Eisenman – Professor California State, Oxford)

This concern to vindicate the predictions of the authors of the prophetic books can also be seen in a few passages where the prophets or their followers have reinterpreted passages to explain their apparent non-fulfilment.  A clear case of such reinterpretation is Ezekiel’s prediction in 587 BC that the Babylonian King Nebuchadrezzar would lay siege to the Phoenician city of Tyre and would eventually destroy it completely (Ezekiel 26:7-14).  In fact, the Babylonians were unsuccessful in capturing Tyre and ended their siege against it sometime around 573 BC.  This unsuccessful outcome caused Ezekiel or his followers to revise the earlier prophecy, and in the latest stated oracle in the book (571 BC) it is explained that God has substituted Egypt for Tyre as a reward for the Babylonians’ hard work during the siege (Ezekiel 29:17-20).  In a similar vein Isaiah’s oracles against Moab (Isaiah 15:16) conclude with an acknowledgment that most of the predictions have not come to pass (16:13) and that god is now issuing a new word calling for the destruction of Moab within three years (16:14).  (Robert R. Wilson – Professor Yale)

For Christians, of course, the Messiah had already come in Jesus, and the New Testament is full of references to Old Testament prophecies that are taken to refer to Jesus’ life and times.  This line of interpretation has continued in Christian circles to the present day, and remains alive in many Christian groups even though it has largely been rejected by biblical scholars.  (Robert R. Wilson – Professor Yale)

In Chapter 3 Sean Freyne [also quoted in this site] addresses the Herodian Period, beginning with the extraordinarily successful and yet religious ambivalent reign of Herod the Great (37-3 BCE) who vigorously invested both in building the Jerusalem Temple and in promoting various centres of the [Roman] imperial cult.  Although himself never of more than doubtfully messianic significance, Herod evoked a series of popular reactions, in successive messianic claimants and movements that culminated in the great revolt against Rome.  After the dominant militancy of the messianisms of Qumran and the Psalms of Solomon, some Jewish apocalyptic writings tended to develop a Messiah transformed into a transcendent figure who framed such hopes in terms of an end-time struggle of wider cosmic dimensions. At the same time, as William Horbury as repeatedly stressed, these strands of Jewish messianism developed not only in the context of internal and external conflict, but also in lively relation with contemporary trends in Graeco-Roman hero and ruler cult.  Hans Dieter Betz illustrates this point with a close reading of Plutarch’s Life of Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome who is for Plutarch vested with messianic significance extending to the discovery of his empty tomb and apotheosis.  (Markus Bockmuehl and James Carleton Paget – Professor Oxford and Cambridge)

The [Jewish] revolts should … be seen in broad terms in the context of the Roman empire.  One could point to Jewish dissatisfaction with an earthly ruler in place of a theocratic state, and indeed Messianic hopes seemed to have fuelled many of the revolts.  But socio-economic factors paly an equally important role.  … religious “Messianic” speculation, or at least national aspirations, fuelled native revolts.  (James K. Aitken – Cambridge)

“The evangelists’ aim is to write “gospel” – “good news” – not biography, and in their presentation of Jesus the so-called “historical Jesus” is already fused with the “Christ of faith”…. … the focus of Jesus’ teaching in the Synoptic Gospels is the Kingdom of God, not Jesus himself.  Jesus speaks only rarely about himself, and when he does, he demands secrecy.. or refers enigmatically to his approaching suffering and vindication… It is only during the “trial” before the high priest that Jesus is said to have agreed that the terms “Messiah” and “Son of God” were appropriate ways of referring to him”… … the picture of Jesus presented by John is very different. Instead of implicit Christology, we have explicit claims… spells out clearly the claims of the Christian community about Jesus by placing them in the mouth of Jesus himself”. (Morna Hooker – Professor Cambridge)

Of all the various movements of protest that can be documented form the first century – sign movements , popular Messiahs and the like – the Jesus movement is the only one explicitly located in Galilee.  (Sean Freyne – Professor Trinity College Dublin, visiting Professor Harvard)

Jewish messianic hopes have typically a strong concern for justice, peace and renewal of Israel.  The issue then becomes one of the extent to which Jesus’ vision was fired by Jewish religious hopes in the same way that these found expression at the levels of both popular Messianisms and in dissident groups which were unhappy with the prevailing ruling elites., Jewish and roman alike.  (Sean Freyne – Professor Trinity College Dublin, visiting Professor Harvard)

It is often assumed… that the Gospel of Mark presented a very human Jesus (called “low Christology”) because it was early the idea of a fully divine Christ had not yet been articulated.  But “high Christologies” of a divine or pre-existent Christ also existed at a very early stage (Phil 2.6-11), and Mark may have deliberately sought to minimize divine or heavenly claims for Jesus (16.5n).  At times Jesus is even said to be lacking in power (6.5) or faith (14.36; 15.34), but the audience already knows the ending of the story:  Jesus is the true Messiah and will be resurrected and vindicated by God.  (Lawrence M. Wills – Professor Episcopal Divinity School, previously Harvard)

One of the most important examples of irony in Mark is the messianic secret:  at a number of point Jesus commands people not to tell anyone about what they have witnessed.  Indeed, in some Jewish texts of this period it is stated that the identity of the messiah, or the time of his coming, is hidden until the very end …. But in 1901, the German scholar William Wrede attributed the reason for these commands of secrecy not to Jesus but to Mark’s own attempt to make sense of why more people did not embrace Jesus during his lifetime.  (Lawrence M. Wills – Professor Episcopal Divinity School, previously Harvard)

Since there is no known Jewish expectation of a resurrected messiah, much less a crucified, one, it is evident that they earliest believers in Jesus would not have regarded him as the messiah simply because they believed he was resurrected.  There is simply no inherent connection between resurrection and messiah.  … Whether Jesus regarded himself as messiah remains unclear because the evidence is ambiguous… only in Mark does Jesus reply “Yes!” to the high priest’s question “Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed? (Mk 14:62); in Matthew and Luke Jesus avoids a clear answer “You said this”.  Both [responses] in Mark reflect the Evangelist’s view of how the Jesus story should be told.  There is simply no other saying in which Jesus either announces to the public or shares privately with the disciples his conviction that he is the messiah.  Moreover, unless one could know also what messiah meant for Jesus, it is not clear what would be gained by knowing that this is who he thought he was or was destined to be.  It is all too often forgotten that in his day being “messiah” could imply various roles, that numerous forms of eschatological hope did not mention a messiah at all, and that there was no inherent connection between the kingdom of God and a messiah.   … no gospel contains a saying in which Jesus either asserted or explained the connection between embodying the impingement of God’ reign and a messiah or between his impending suffering as the Son of Man and his subsequent role as either witness or judge at the Great Assize.  (Leander E. Keck – Professor Yale)

The messiah of biblical and rabbinic tradition is definitely and truly human.  In the Hebrew Bible, the term (which occurs only thirty-nine times) usually designates the current ruler of Judah or Israel:  being anointed with oil was the way one assumed office in the ancient Near East.  Accordingly, we also find meshiach (anointed one) in reference to the High Priest (e.g.  Lev 4:3, 5, 16).  But at one point the entire people are called “God’s anointed” (Psalms 105:15; 1 Chronicles 16:22), and elsewhere so is Cyrus the Persian .. (Isaiah 45:1)…  But the historical anchor for the messianic tradition is the warrior king David.  … The Prince of Peace must first be a man of war: his duty is to inflict final defeat on the forces of evil.  But – and, in the light of the symbol’s resonance with the royal and military Davidic tradition, unsurprisingly – we find the Judaism of this period no idea that the messiah is to die to make atonement for sin.  The dying messiah falls in battle, a prelude to the coming messiah son of David; the one whose suffering expiate the sins of other sin the Servant Songs of Isaiah is the people of Israel.  These two concepts might be conjoined in a later, and significantly different, first century apocalyptic movement [i.e. Christianity]; but within traditional Judaism they were distinct.  … …. Judaism preceding and contemporary with ancient Christianity knew no tradition of a resurrected messiah, and thus nothing of a dying messiah.  Where an “anointed one” does die – in Daniel 9:26, for instance, “after sixty two weeks, the messiah will be cut off and be no more” – he is a human political figure.  But he is not, ipso facto [“by that very fact” i.e. the fact that he has died], the final eschatological Redeemer-king.  (Paula Fredriksen – Professor Boston, Princeton, Stanford)

… standard Jewish usage, in which God is addressed or described as Father in scripture, prayer, and commentary.  Nonetheless, some scholars have wanted to see in Jesus’ particular use of abba – less formal, more intimate and affectionate than the Hebrew ab – an indication of Jesus’ personal consciousness of his uniquely close relationship with and to God.  This interpretation asks abba to bear the burden of later theological developments, which made particular claims about Jesus’ unique metaphysical nature as divine Son.  The Aramaic abba is indeed a term of intimate address.  AS such it was used by Jewish charismatics, such as Hanan the Rainmaker… clearly he [Jesus] was not the only Jewish miracle-worker in this period to do so … …. If God is a Father, who is his son?  In scripture, any number of entities and persons.  Angels, monarchs, just men, the entire nation of Israel – all could properly be called “son(s) of God”.  But in post-biblical Judaism, son of God came particularly to designate the Davidic – that is, royal – messiah … If [italics] the apostles used this term of Jesus, it would have been by attraction to messiah:  Son of God, in other words, would have been an alternative messianic designation.  But even this is unlikely, for son of God is really the language of royalty, and Jesus had not been a royal messiah … Within thirty years of Jesus’ death, however, these terms are no longer linked.  Messiah does denote Davidic royalty, but Son of God denotes something far greater:  a unique, pre-existent divine entity…. The resurrection, Paul proclaims, reveals Jesus’ status as Son of God.  But this divine Son and Lord originates in heaven.  He descended to earth, died on the cross, was exalted at his resurrection back to heaven, and is about to come down from heaven again. (Paula Fredriksen – Professor Boston, Princeton, Stanford)

The fundamental conception of the Messiah in all its many forms was of a victorious figure; how the, outsiders might as, could Jesus’ Messiahship be reconciled with the fact that his career had ended in complete disgrace and a criminal’s death?  (Denis Nineham – Professor Cambridge, Professor Oxford)

[Mark]  The question had apparently been raised: if Jesus was indeed the Messiah, why did he not claim the title earlier and more outspokenly, and why was his Messiahship not more fully and enthusiastically recognized during his earthly life, at any rate by his disciples?  According to St Mark the answer was twofold; partly it was that Jesus had deliberately sought to keep the fact of his Messiahship secret, at any rate until just before his death, and so had promptly silenced any demons or human beings who recognized him; and partly that the crowds – and even the disciples – had displayed an almost incredible obtuseness with regard to what they heard and saw.  (Denis Nineham – Professor Cambridge, Professor Oxford)

One Messianic hope was the Jewish belief that God would send a divinely commissioned figure to deliver the Israelites from the oppression of other nations – such was the experience of the small nation of Israel throughout much of its history.  There was, however, no single, clearly defined Jewish Messianic hope, and there were other visions of a new age that featured no Messianic figure at all… It is possible that there were several others at or near the time of Jesus who claimed to be a Messiah, or even the Messiah, the Christ.   (John Bowker – Professor Gresham, Cambridge)

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah.  (Luke 3:15)

The story of Jesus was certainly not a unique one in first-century Judaea.  There were other prophetic religious figures from Galilee who attracted considerable followings before falling foul of the Roman authorities or their client kings, the most famous being John the Baptist.  What made the Christian sect stand out was that Jesus’ messianic claims did not die with him.  On top of this, Christianity’s growing focus on converting gentiles meant that it stopped being just another Jewish sect.  Paul of Tarsus was a key figure in this process of broadening the sect’s appeal.  His upbringing as a member of the Jewish elite and his status as a Roman citizen made him an unusual convert to Christianity, and he started to take the fledgling religious group in a completely new and ambitious direction.  Paul began missionary work across Syrian, Asian Minor and Greece, and it had a galvanizing effect; by the time of his death in the 60s the sect was still small, although well established in many of the larger cities in these areas.  The majority of the members of  these new Christian communities were gentiles, mostly artisans.  Perhaps because of the hostility they faced, originally from the Jewish elite and later form the Roman authorities, the Christians organised themselves well.  They had a clearly hierarchy and strong leadership from bishops and priests.  Their community had an ethos of charity that made it very attractive to the poorer sections of Roman urban society, who always looked favourably on any one who fed them and buried their dead.  (Richard Miles – Sydney and Cambridge)

The importance of messianic beliefs in the first century AD Judaea may have been exaggerated by the Christian tradition, through which most of the literary texts of the period survive but some Jews at least expected that a Messiah (however defined) would eventually appear, accompanied by a radical reorganization and judgement of the world.  There was no agreement about the nature of the new world: the messianic age depicted in the Dead Sea scrolls differs markedly from that in other texts and no group developed any precise doctrine on the subject…. The precise nature of the Messiah himself was also a matter for speculation.  The concept as expressed in the Hebrew bible involved  king of the line of David, but at Qumran [i.e. Dead Sea scrolls] a second Messiah of priestly stock was envisaged; the notion of a suffering messiah was in this period uncommon and perhaps unknown outside the early Christian community.  (Martin Goodman Professor Oxford)

Renewal and reform movements in Palestinian Judaism are well represented in the first-century generations preceding the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple AD 70; they flourished in a religious context which lacked sharply defined doctrines and practices, where there was no clearly accepted orthodoxy or authority.  Not only was there a range of distinguishable sects 9the most notable being, of course the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Essenes – but there was a number of others, most prominent among which was the “Philosophy of Judas” with his politically active followers, the Sicarii and Zealots); there was, in addition a bewildering array of individual ascetics, prophets and preachers who frequently drew in great crowds and commanded dedicated followings.   What they often shared in common was a passion for the Torah and the Temple, but what often distinguished them a was their precise definition, in ritual practice, of purity and sacrifice.  Messianic expectations were in the air – but they were by no means shared equally by all, nor was there even agreement on the nature of those messianic hopes.  (Professor G.W. Clarke – University of Western Australia)

The Romans didn’t waste much time saying, “How can Caesar be fully
human and fully divine?” They did it primarily with images. On every coin
you have inscriptions of Caesar as divine. In the ancient world, being divine
was a job description, meaning somebody who does something very important for
the human race. So when that claim was made of Jesus, they were not claiming
that he wasn’t human–they were quite aware in that world that he could be a
human being–but they claimed it based on his having done something extraordinary
for the human race. That question is asked all
the time among modern Christians. But in the first century, it was utterly
unlikely we would have asked the question. This is because you also would have
to ask if Caesar believed he was the son of God. Well, did Caesar believe he
was running the world? Yeah. Did he believe he should be running the world?
Yeah. Does that mean he wasn’t human? No. Jesus was claiming to know the will
of God and to know what the Kingdom of God was supposed to be. If I were
talking to Jesus, I would say, “How do you know that? How are you so
certain that Caesar isn’t right? He’s brought peace to the world and everything
else, how do you know your system is right?” I think he would say,
“Well, it’s in the covenant with God.” If I asked if he was the
Messiah, he would ask, “What do you mean by Messiah?” If the Messiah
is the leader who is going to win a battle against the Romans, then no, Jesus
wasn’t the Messiah. But if the Messiah is the one who reveals the word of God,
Jesus’ answer might be, “Yeah, because I’ve done that.”  (John Dominic Crossan – Professor Chicago)

[“cleansing of the Temple”]  Jesus attached the entire temple establishment… The Gospels cite the Pharisees as Jesus’ enemies, but this probably reflected the situation fifty years later when their authors were writing.  The Pharisees were
the more flexible and populist sect, and some of their teachings may have been
similar to those of Jesus.  His real enemies were the Temple aristocracy. The Herodians now challenged him about paying taxes to Rome…. Yet [Jesus] did not call himself the Messiah, emphasising the Shema, the basic Jewish prayer to the one God, and the love of his fellow men: he was very much a Jew.  (Simon Sebag
Montefiore – Professor University of Buckingham)

[two messiahs] the expectation of a single Davidic Messiah had not solidified in the time of Jesus. In text after text, in a diverse variety of expectations reflected in a scattered range of primary texts from the period we read about any number of redemptive figures. In terms of “Messiahs,” what we find most commonly is not one but two Messiahs who are to usher in the Kingdom of God. One is to be a kingly figure of the royal line of David, but at his side will be a priestly figure, also a Messiah, of the lineage of Aaron from the tribe of Levi. The word “messiah” refers to one who is “anointed” or appointed. In ancient Israel both the kings and the priests were anointed with oil and were thus called “Messiahs.”  The verb mashach means to “smear with oil,” and a Moshiach or “Messiah” in English is
one so smeared or “anointed” as we say in English. Technically speaking the
“first” messiah was Aaron, brother of Moses, anointed with oil by his brother
Moses in a formal ceremony that made him the Priest of Israel (Exodus 29:7).
The first anointed king was Saul, anointed with oil by the prophet Samuel (1
Samuel 10:1). When Saul lost favor with God David was likewise anointed by
Samuel as king (1 Samuel 16:13; 2 Samuel 2:4). Both priest and king were
accordingly “messiahs” or anointed ones. This means that the notion of two messiahs was the norm in ancient Israel and this norm, of the dual messiahs was, of course, the one that was projected into the future once the nation begin to be dismantled by the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions in the 8th-6th centuries BCE. (James Tabor – Professor University North Carolina)  (Link to article)

A casual reading of the New Testament will make clear that the claim of New Testament writers is that Jesus is the Messiah prophesied in Scriptures (i.e., the Hebrew Bible), and they identify him with the titles of the Davidic kings and the future David, the messiah par excellence—and indeed with the epithets of the Priestly Messiah. The sobriquet “Son of God” is one borne by the Davidic kings. Scholars have long debated whether this “high Christology” of the Judean royal house is meant to claim divine kingship or points to an “adoptionist” royal ideology. Incidentally, both understandings of the title “son of God” may be found in the New Testament. In my view, there are two basic theologies or ideologies of kingship in Israel. One is that the king is the son of God. The other is that the king has an eternal covenant with the deity. Both amount to the same thing in Israel. Both adoption and covenant are legal substitutes for kinship. They place the obligations and benefits of kinship on both the deity and the king. In adoption procedures, you declare someone “my son,” “today I have begotten you,” and he becomes, by a legal fiction, blood kin. So the Lord addresses the son of David, “Thou art my son. Today I have begotten you” (Psalm 2:7). Alternately, one can speak of the Davidic covenant with the Lord that imposes the duties of kinship on both parties. In short, the language of divine sonship or kinship is already in the Hebrew Bible, and it comes as no surprise to find terms like “son of God” and “son of the Most High” in the pseudo‑Daniel fragment from Qumran. As a matter of fact, in 14th‑century Ugarit, the Canaanite epics use as a standard epithet of their king, “son of gEl” (bn gIl), eerily close to the Aramaic barceh di gEl, “son of God.” There is some evidence that in Canaanite royal ideology the king was fully divinized (as in Egypt and in Mesopotamia in some periods). In Israel, I do not believe there was true divination of the king even in eras of syncretism. Israel’s kingship was limited by the prophets, who were perennial critics of the royal house, and by the rejection of the notion that kingship belonged to the orders of creation. (Frank Moore Cross – Professor Harvard)

Communion meal at Qumran, a ritual enactment of the Messianic Banquet of the New Covenant. Here, the priestly messiah presides and serves; the Davidic or lay messiah is in attendance. Again, the notion of a Messianic Banquet of the New Age is familiar from prophetic literature and later Jewish literature.14 The Pharisees had communion meals, which were similar. So again we must recognize a Jewish‑Christian continuum. The New Testament communion meal is eschatological, anticipating the Messianic Banquet, the feast of the New Covenant. It may be described as eating the bread and the wine of (the new) David as found in the Didache. Paul’s language of eating the body and drinking the blood of the Messiah who is sacrificed is strange and novel and its meaning debated. Some see it as a poetic identification of Jesus with the paschal lamb. Jesus is called “the Lamb.” Others see it as sublimated theophagy. And so on. At Ugarit, we actually have a text describing a mythic scene in which a young woman comes upon her lover, the young god, who lies dead, and “she eats his flesh without a knife, drinks his blood without a cup.”[see the new testament] “This is my body; this is my blood.” I suspect it [this] is a transformation of a lost mythic theme. (Frank Moore Cross – Professor Harvard)

Isaiah predicted a mystical Day of Judgment when an anointed king –the
Messiah – would come” they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning –hooks… and neither shall they learn war any more”.  The dead would rise again.  “The wolf also shall dwell with the lam and  the leopard shall like down with the kid”.  This incandescent poetry first expressed the apocalyptic yearnings that would run throughout Jerusalem’s history until today.  Isaiah would help
shape not only Judaism but Christianity. Jesus Christ studied Isaiah, and his teachings – from the destruction of the Temple and the idea of a universal spiritual Jerusalem to the championing of the underdog – derive from this poetical vision.  Jesus himself would be seen as Isaiah’s Emmanuel.  (Simon Sebag Montefiore –
Professor University of Buckingham )

“Misery and mysticism are related facts.”  (André-Jean Festugière)

During the period between 30 B.C. and A.D. 117 three armed uprisings and revolts demonstrate that the situation of the Egyptian Jews were deteriorating and moved towards their extermination: the armed uprising at the death of emperor Gaius Caligula in A.D. 4 1, the impact of the Jewish war in Palestine on the tensions in Egypt, A.D. 66 and 70-73, and the suicidal Messianic revolution of Jews in Cyrene and Egypt in the years A.D. 115-117The Jewish revolt was Messianic in character. Its aim was to destroy pagans and their polytheistic temples, and to establish Jewish control of the entire area, and probably also with the final aim of delivering Judaea and Jerusalem from Roman occupation. The aim was the liquidation of the Roman regime and the setting up of  new Jewish commonwealth, whose task was to inaugurate the Messianic era. In Cyrene a Jewish Messiah appeared, King Loukuas-Andreas. The revolution was crushed by the Roman legions.  (Peder Borgen – Professor Trondheim) [italics added] 

Philo remains conscious that this politico-religious organization of the Jews sets them apart in the midst of the nations and that this is perhaps the most real cause of anti-Semitism, which was already rife in Roman Egypt. He sees the solution to this eternal problem in the coming of the Messianic era, but for him there is no question of a conquering, still less of a warlike, Messianism: it is to be the adoption of the Law by the whole universe, the conversion of humanity to the God of the Jews and to that religion, the universalism of which he has often emphasized. This, nevertheless, could not happen before Israel became the true Israel, that is one which is sincerely and totally faithful to the teaching of Moses, nor before the day when all men wholeheartedly seek out virtue and wisdom. That is the discreet and essentially spiritual Messianism of Philo. (C. MONDÉSERT  – Professor Institut des Sources Chretiennes)

Paul was informed by the apocalyptic-Pharisaic tradition. In that tradition, despite the firmly entrenched doctrine that the Law was perfect, unchangeable and eternal, some expected that Elijah would be a Messianic forerunner who would explain obscurities in the Law; that in the Messianic Age or in the Age to Come difficulties in the Law would be explained; that certain enactments would cease to be applicable; and that there would be changes in the commandments concerning things clean and unclean. But more than all this, there are late passages where a New Torah for the Messianic Age is envisaged and others where the Law is to be completely abrogated at that time. As before and after, but especially in the First century when Judaism was more varied than at a later time, the content and character of the one perfect Law was a matter of intense debate. How was it to be interpreted? The answers were many. (W.D. Davies – Professor Princeton and Duke)

Raisanen finds Paul’s statements about the Law so full of contradictions as to be totally incoherent, and the contradictions are undeniable … … [That said] We suggest that the revolutionary messianic situation in which Paul stood is likely to have produced responses that would appear chaotic. The fluid volcanic messianic context within which the early Christians lived cannot be overemphasized.  (W.D. Davies – Professor Princeton and Duke)

scholarship over the last five decades has emphasized the great diversity in ancient messiah texts… … Previous scholarship
was indeed at fault for essentializing the messianic idea by suggesting that
messianic language meant one and the same thing in every text… … [but]
Even if ancient writers did construct their messiahs ad hoc from the established array of scriptural passages, they might well
have been aware of other ad hoc messianic ideas in circulation
and borrowed from or repudiated those ideas accordingly. By way of analogy, every baker ultimately makes his cake from the same generic set of ingredients; nevertheless, most bakers are familiar with different cake recipes and consider them when developing their own. (Joshua Garroway – Hebrew Union College)

The Jews are still waiting for the biblical messianic promises such as in the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Hosea, on the one hand, while the Christians consider the OT to be a cluster of “promises” that were, in fact, fulfilled by the appearance, life, and death of Jesus Christ. (Isaac Kalimi Spertus – Institute of Jewish Studies, Chicago)

While redemption takes many forms, its primary focus in Judaism is on the transforming role of the Messiah, a divine figure who, it is said, will descend to this world and initiate the End of Days. The longing for the Messiah is a direct result of the hardship and exile within Jewish history. Since the time of the prophet Isaiah, no one idea has obsessed the Jews more than this: When will the coming of the Messiah take place? Every Jew hoped it would be in his lifetime. Some Hasidim kept their staffs and white robes by the door, ready to answer the Messiah’s call on the shortest notice. Even today many observant Jews still anxiously await the arrival of the Messiah, which is expected to initiate a heaven on earth, known as the End of Days. Of course, the requirements to be the Messiah are steep, and there are three: raising the dead, restoring the exiles to the Land of Israel, and rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. (Howard Abraham – Professor University Missouri)

It quickly becomes evident that there are two basic concepts of the Messiah: one, a heavenly figure of supernatural origin who makes his home in a heavenly palace; the other, a human Messiah, an exceptionally righteous man who takes on the mantle of the Messiah and initiates the End of Days. In time, these two separate motifs were combined into a single myth in a clever manner: there were said to be two Messiahs, whose fates were linked.101 One is identified as Messiah the son of Joseph (Messiah ben Joseph) and the other is the heavenly Messiah, Messiah the son of David (Messiah ben David).102 According to this combined myth, Messiah ben Joseph, the human Messiah, will be a warrior who will go to war against the evil forces of Gog and Magog103 and die in the process. He will be followed by Messiah ben David, the heavenly Messiah, who will defeat the evil empire and initiate the End of Days. In some versions of this myth, Messiah ben David will prove he is the real Messiah by resurrecting Messiah ben Joseph.104 In the myths of the heavenly Messiah, he is described as a supernatural figure living in his own heavenly palace, known as the Bird’s Nest, waiting to be called upon to initiate the End of Days.105 Some versions of this myth emphasize his suffering,106 while others describe the Messiah as being held captive in heaven or in hell…. … in general the human Messiah is described as the Tzaddik ha-Dor, the greatest sage of his generation, who will step into the role of Messiah if all the circumstances happen to be right. Naturally, there are many failures, due to one mistake or another. These are recounted in a series of myths about why the Messiah has not yet come. there are two models of monotheism in Judaism: one in which there is one god and no other divine figures higher than the rank of angels, and a second model, in which other divine figures are acknowledged to exist, but they are subject to God, who is the king of the gods. This second type of monotheism is known as “monolatry,” where worship of only one God/god is allowed, but the existence of other gods is acknowledged, at least tacitly.115 In Judaism, it is defined as a stage in the religion of ancient Israel when the existence of gods other than Yahweh was admitted, but their worship was strictly forbidden.116 That there was worship of some forbidden gods by the ancient Israelites has been demonstrated by archaeological discoveries, as well as by the tirades of the biblical prophets against such worship, such as the women weeping over Tammuz (Ezek. 8:14), or the people defending their worshipping the Queen of Heaven (Jer. 44:17-19). There is also evidence of the awareness of other gods in several biblical verses, such as Who is like You among the gods (ba-elim), O Lord? (Exod. 15:11).117 Also, in Psalm 82, God stands in the divine assembly; among the divine beings (Elohim) He pronounces judgment (Ps. 82:1). Above all, many parallels exist to the biblical account of the Flood. One Mesopotamian Flood myth is found in the Epic of Atrahasis, who, like Noah, is the survivor of the great Flood. The god Ea-Enki advises Atrahasis to build an ark. Ea-Enki says: “Place a roof over the barge, cover it as the heavens cover the earth. Do not let the sun see inside. Enclose it completely. Make the joints strong. Caulk the timbers with pitch.”131 This is very much like the directions God gives to Noah to build the ark.132 So too does Atrahasis fill the ark with animals. Another Flood myth, an even closer parallel, is found in the Mesopotamian epic of Gilgamesh, in which Utnapishtim is parallel to Noah. Ea, the divine patron of fresh water, warns Utnapishtim about the coming Flood and tells him to build an ark and take specimens of every living thing on board. In this way Utnapishtim and his wife are the lone human survivors of a Flood brought on by the divine assembly that was intended to destroy every other mortal. Another great Flood myth, this one Greek, is recounted in the Latin poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It is remarkably similar to the biblical account of Noah, and even includes a dove. Here Zeus floods the earth, intending to wipe out the entire race of man. But Deucalion, King of Phthia, is warned by his father, Prometheus, and builds an ark. All the world is flooded, and all mortal creatures are lost except for Deucalion and his wife, Pyrrha. Deucalion sends out a dove on an exploratory flight, and is reassured by it.133 These Flood narratives with their distinct parallels strongly suggest that all of them— including the biblical narrative of the Flood—are based on the same ancient Mesopotamian tradition from the third millennium BCE.  (Howard Abraham – Professor University Missouri)

For Jewish pre-Christian conceptions of the
Messiah as Son of God, see I. Knohl, The Messiah before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 87-89. See ibid., 25, where Knohl states that a combination of divine status and suffering is unknown before the Qumran
hymns, where a messianic interpretation of the suffering servant of Isa 53 is offered for the first time
. [Guy Stroumsa Professor Oxford - footnote][italics added]

In a work that challenges notions that have dominated New Testament scholarship for more than a hundred years, Israel Knohl gives startling evidence for a messianic precursor to Jesus who is described as the “Suffering Servant” in recently published fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Messiah before Jesus clarifies many formerly incomprehensible aspects of Jesus’ life and confirms the story in the New Testament about his messianic awareness. The book shows that, around the time of Jesus’ birth, there came into being a conception of “catastrophic” messianism in which the suffering, humiliation, and death of the messiah were regarded as an integral part of the redemptive process.
Scholars have long argued that Jesus could not have foreseen his suffering, death, and resurrection because the concept of a slain savior who rises from the dead was alien to the Judaism of his time. But, on the basis of hymns found at Qumran among the Dead Sea Scrolls, Knohl argues that, one generation before Jesus, a messianic leader arose in the Qumran sect who was regarded by his followers as ushering in an era of redemption and forgiveness. This messianic leader was killed by Roman soldiers in the course of a revolt that broke out in
Jerusalem in 4 B.C.E. The Romans forbade his body to be buried and after the third day his disciples believed that he was resurrected and rose to heaven. This formed the basis for Jesus’ messianic consciousness, Knohl argues; it was because of this model that Jesus anticipated he would suffer, die, and be resurrected after three days.  Knohl takes his fascinating inquiry one step further by suggesting that this
messiah was a figure known to us from historical sources of the period. [from synopsis of book by Israel Knohl – Professor Hebrew University Jerusalem]

The coming of the Messiah is surely a cornerstone of mature rabbinic Judaism [i.e. post 70 CE], just as the rabbis cautioned against too easy belief in the Messiah’s arrival. And belief in the coming of the Messiah is evidenced throughout the later midrash.  Strangely enough, however, the Mishnah of Rabbi Judah the Prince carries scarcely a mention of the Messiah. Was this because the rabbis feared repercussions from the Romans or because they feared a further outbreak of messianism of the type that produced Christianity? In any event, it is not clearly present in the earliest rabbinic document. So then did Paul become messianic because he became a Christian or was messianism a part of his Judaism before his conversion? It seems to me quite improbable that the Pharisees before the Amoraim were devoid of messianism and that Paul found it only when he became a Christian. Paul, then, is again the earliest Pharisaic evidence of the existence of messianic beliefs among the Pharisees, even if that belief was perhaps greatly augmented and quickened by his later Christian faith. The messianic beliefs and the eschatology of the Pharisees have never been seriously in doubt, and no one seriously doubts that the messianic beliefs and the eschatology of Christianity came from its Jewish past, yet were greatly augmented by their experience of the resurrection of Jesus. But it is hardly noted that the best proof of messianic beliefs in the Pharisees in the first century comes from Paul.  (Alan Segal – Professor Columbia)  [italics added]

share save 256 24 Messiah   human or divine?