Herbert W. Bateman IV, Darrell L. Bock, and Gordon H. Johnston. Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2012. 528 pp. $36.99.
In Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, three leading biblical scholars bring their differing expertise to provide a survey of “contextual-canonical, messianic, and christological developments of God’s promise of ‘Messiah’ within the larger framework and unfolding of Jewish history in canonical and extracanonical literature” (20). Gordon Johnson covers the Hebrew Bible, Herbert Bateman IV covers intertestamental literature, and Darrell Bock covers the NT. By using the Hebrew Scriptures as the starting point, Jesus the Messiah already differs significantly from certain streams in biblical scholarship that ignore Jesus’s Jewishness and view him primarily through Graeco-Roman lenses (e.g. John Dominic Crossan). However, their approach has a significant difference from others that see the foundational value of the Hebrew Scriptures as well: in distinction from Evangelicals who use a single reading strategy and see direct prophecies in many OT texts, Bateman et al. argue that “these texts do not need to be only direct prophecies for them to reveal a messianic connections [sic] and fulfillment in Jesus…while the wording is ultimately messianic, it is often more implicitly stated and becomes clearer only as the entirety of God’s portrait of messiah is eventually and fully disclosed” (25, italics original).
Jesus the Messiah employs a threefold reading strategy of Scripture: first contextual-canonical, then messianic, and finally christological. In Part I, Promises of a King, Gordon H. Johnston addresses the contextual-canonical reading of the Hebrew Bible, tracing out messianic trajectories in various OT texts by illuminating the passages in their original historical, literary, and theological context. In Part 2, Promises of a King, Herbert W. Bateman IV explores reflections about the Messiah during the second temple period. “The goal is twofold: (1) to identify typical obstacles we need to overcome in order to trace the history of Messiah during the second temple period (ch. 8), and (2) to pick out, observe, and appreciate the multiple portraits of Messiah in the second temple literature (chs. 9, 10, and 11) (211). Intertestamental literature is shown to heighten both continuity and discontinuity between the two testaments. Finally, in Part 3, The Coming of a King, Darrell L. Bock examines christological readings of the First Testament, looking at the messianic portrait of the Hebrew Scriptures in light of the Second Testament’s witness to the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the Messiah. In the Second Testament we see both continuity and discontinuity with second temple Judaism.
The uniqueness of Jesus the Messiah is that it presents “a median approach to discovering who Jesus the Messiah is, and how Jesus himself, in the progress of revelation, fits together the pieces of God’s messianic puzzle” (30). By equally emphasizing contextual-canonical, messianic, and christological readings, this book neither under-emphasizes Jesus’s Jewishness nor overemphasizes an unambiguous continuity between the Testaments. Readers are likely to quibble with specific texts being unexamined, but it’s almost impossible to be exhaustive in a study like this. In fact, because the study would be unmanageably large without restricting the pool of texts by some criteria, the authors have intentionally chosen to focus on kingship and covenant texts. I think focusing a study in this way is fine, but I would have liked to see more emphasis on covenant as explicitly stated in their purpose.
My major quibble about Jesus the Messiah concerns typographical and editing errors. I usually don’t mention these types of errors in reviews, but in the case of this book they are more frequent and glaring than usual (e.g. “Yet another good options” n6 p 23, “a messianic connections” p. 25, “Should this be capitalized?” before the word “scripture” p. 327). In terms of approach and content, this book is an excellent non-technical overview of the teaching concerning the Messiah, from promises in the Hebrew Bible to expectation in the second temple period to fulfillment in the NT. This is a great book for any non-specialist interested in messianic prophecy and fulfillment.
Thanks to Kregel Academic for the review copy!