Jesus the Messiah by Batean, Bock & JohnstonWith the understanding that the term messiah simply means “anointed one” it can be rightly stated that there are many religions which have a messiah or messiahs. This being said, the messiah that has dominated the topic has been that of the Christian faith – Jesus Christ. Since the Jesus Seminar the discussion of Jesus as messiah has largely dominated the discipline of Christology with various understandings of the messiahship of Jesus.

Amidst the many approaches (both liberal and conservative) Herbert Bateman IV, Darrell Bock and Gordon Johnston have teamed up to add to the discussion with their newly published book Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King with Kregel Publishers. While on the conservative side of the discussion and having approached the messiahship of Jesus from a unique angel, this book is not wedging itself against other conservative contributions.

The Approach

The approach of the authors is to offer a “contextual-canonical, messianic, and Christological developments of God’s promise of ‘messiah’ within the larger framework and unfolding of Jewish history in canonical and extra-biblical literature.” (p. 20) This threefold focus encapsulates the unique angle the authors wish to address the topic of messiah. The underlying theme that unifies the three sections together is to view, interpret and present the biblical discussion of messiah progressively throughout biblical and human history.

First, with the “contextual-canonical” focus Gordon Johnston addresses the Old Testament (or first testament as the authors term it) texts that deal directly with the promise of the Messiah. These chapters cover the relevant texts beginning in Genesis and ending in the prophets. Contextually the key passages are exegeted for their meaning and canonically they are placed with the overall trajectory of the OT concerning the nature of the Messiah. Since the progress of revelation underlies each section of the book, Johnston is careful not to import NT fulfillment understanding into the OT text.

Second, with the “messianic” focus Herbert Bateman addresses the expectations the Jews had during the Second Temple period concerning the nature of the Messiah. In setting the stage for evaluating second temple Judaism, Bateman first discusses three issues in dealing with the relevant material: (1) limited resources to deal with, (2) blurred vision in that we are overly familiar with second temple teaching and the early church had a desire to distance itself from Judaism and (3) a lack of historical and social sensitivities to the second temple period and the mindset of the Jews themselves.

Finally, with the “Christological” focus Darrell Bock looks at how the Second Testament and the early church understood Jesus to fulfill the First Testament expectations of the coming Messiah. Bock takes the unique approach of working backwards from Revelation to the Gospels teaching of the Messiah. The primary reason for doing so is that the overwhelming majority of NT uses of christos are in the non-narrative portions, over 72% being in the Pauline Epistles (p. 333-334).

Conclusion

Jesus the Messiah is a clear, thoughtful, exegetical, and intentionally nuanced defense of the biblical teaching both of the messiah figure and the fulfillment of it by Jesus Christ. Exegetically based and progressively driven are the two primary words that describe this book. All three contributors do the exegetical work to faithfully present each texts contribution to the biblical whole concerning the messiah. Accompanying this exegetical work is the historical-progressive nature of Scripture itself. Johnston and Bock especially are careful not to import later biblical messianic teaching into earlier texts (see esp. Johnston’s appendix on Gen. 3:15). While the book is mixed with some Christological considerations I would have liked to see more systematic/biblical theology discussion.

That being said, Jesus the Messiah is a great book for delving into the biblical discussion of Jesus as messiah. This is probably more suited for college level or higher and pastors, students, teachers and educated laymen will certainly benefit from the book.

NOTE: I received this book for free from Kregel in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts and words are my own and I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

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