Jesus


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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If you wanted to learn more about a person how would you go about doing it? Depending on the person in question you might look their name up in a search engine like Google, or in a book if they would be listed and even search the popular social media sites for information. You also might try and talk to people who knew or know them personally. This would include friends, co-workers, family and even enemies.

When it comes to studying people from the distant past we are left with very few avenues in which to interview people who knew the person we are trying to obtain information about. Often times our study is relegated to reading literary material of various sorts and trying to piece together a coherent picture of the person. So if we were to study a person, say, like Jesus, then would we study him any differently?

Chris Keith and Larry Hurtado would say no. In their newly co-edited book, Jesus Among Friends and Enemies: A Historical and Literary Introduction to Jesus in the Gospels, the contributors believe that we can learn a lot about Jesus by studying how he interacted with the people of his day – both friends and enemies alike.

Since Baker has made three short videos interviewing Christ Keith about the book I will use them in this review and add additional comments having read the book.

Structure & Utility

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As the Keith states, the book is broken into two sections: Jesus’ friends are discussed first and then His enemies. The two part outline of the book and the uniformity of the chapters gives the book a fluid read. While detailed, each chapter serves to introduce the reader to the character of each chapter providing material for further study.

In the introduction, Keith introduces the reader to Jesus Himself in the same fashion as the rest of the character of the book are discussed. Much attention is given to the apocryphal gospels, namely the Gospel of Thomas. Keith discusses the differences between these gospels the four Gospels of the New Testament. One of the unique differences between the Gospel of Thomas and the four Gospels of the NT is how they present Jesus. Keith explains:

The Christians responsible for the Gospel of Thomas present their image of Jesus in the form of a catalogue of His sayings. In contrast to the Gospel of Thomas, the canonical Gospels have narrators who tell the story of Jesus, characters who enliven the story of Jesus, settings that situate the story of Jesus, plots that direct the story of Jesus, and conflict that drives the story of Jesus to its resolution. (p. 17)

How the Gospel Narratives Portray Jesus

Following a brief introduction to each person(s) is a discussion of the relevant extra-biblical literature. For instance, in the chapter on John the Baptist, Michael Bird looks into the works of Josephus and the possible connections to the Qumran community. For the chapter on Judas Iscariot, Holly Carey examines the Gospel of Judas and the various legends that formed years after his death. Then the Gospels themselves are examined in order to draw out from them what they tell us about Jesus as he interacts with various people. Since the bulk of the material we have abut Jesus is the Gospels themselves, the bulk of each chapter deals with them. The narrative of each Gospel is traced and each contributor notes the points of similarity and dissimilarity in how each Gospel writer presents Jesus. Also apparent is the value in learning about Jesus from how He was misunderstood at so many points, even by His followers (note Peter).

The Historical Jesus

Here, the text of the Gospels is given a priority of voice in the quest for the historical Jesus. After all they are an eyewitness testimony. Keith & Hurtado interact with the two ideas of multiple attestation and dissimilarity in the discovery of the authenticity of the words and works of Jesus. The criteria of multiple attestation states that “the likelihood of a particular saying or action of Jesus being authentic increases if it appears in multiple, ideally independent, sources.” (p. 273 ) The criteria of dissimilarity states that “the likelihood of a particular saying or action of Jesus increases if it differs from Jesus’ first-century Jewish context on the one hand and from the early church on the other hand.” (p. 273) Keith & Hurtado discuss the rationale for each criteria and ultimately show why they are wanting.

Jesus Among Friends and Enemies is a great introduction to Jesus through the various people He interacts with through His life and ministry. There were several bits of insightful observations of both the Gospel texts and the extra biblical literature. There is a heavy emphasis on the reliability of the Gospels to provide us with accurate and trustworthy information about Jesus. Readers will walk away with a greater appreciation for what one can learn about Jesus from all four Gospels and the characters within them. This book will serve students, pastors and teachers as a serious intro to the various people studied and ultimately Jesus Himself.

NOTE: I received this book for free from Baker in exchange or a review. I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review and the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Lk. 24:27, ESV). Oh how I wish I were one of the two men with Jesus on the road to Emmaus after His resurrection. I would have gladly taken Jesus stern remarks in the previous two verses to hear Jesus explain to me ever so clearly how all of the Old Testament spoke of and towards Him.

While abuse can occur in this regards, there can be no serious denial of the fact that the authors of all 66 books of the Bible are a consistent witness to the reality that Jesus is at the heart and center of all of Scripture. While the Old Testament is pointing forward and the New Testament is looking back at the cross, it is the person on the cross that makes it so significant. It is Jesus that runs through Scripture and his name is whispered and shouted from every book.

While there are a number of books presently that address the issue of Jesus in all of Scripture, there are none so simple and striking as Michael Williams newest book How to Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture. In less than 300 pages Williams covers each book of the Bible in four pages as he draws our attention to how each book reveals its Jesus centeredness. This is the Jesus lens.

Each chapter begins by stating the books main theme and then in two or three paragraphs gives a brief overview of the book showing how this theme is woven throughout the book. Within this section one verses is suggested as the main verse than encapsulates the theme of the book.

Following the overview is The Jesus Lens section. In just one to two paragraphs Williams clearly shows the reader how the central theme of the book is connected to Jesus. Williams does not look in to find what is not there but rather, as Jesus did with the two men on the road to

From here Williams takes a walk from the text to today by showing us the contemporary implications of this Christ-focused reading of Scripture. Because Scripture was written to people in their own world and contemporary setting and Jesus is its focus, it goes without saying that what was relevant concerning Jesus to the original hearers and recipients is in fact relevant to everyone after them.Emmaus, explains how each book points to and back to Jesus.

Finally, closely tied to the application section, each chapter closes with Hook Questions. These questions are designed to get the reader thinking about how to connect the Christ-centered message and implications of each book into their own lives.

At the end of the book there is a helpful chart of all 66 books of the Bible with each books theme, Jesus-focus, implications and hook questions. Reading through these few pages will make the Jesus-focused lens of Scripture all the more clear.

As part of the Zonverdan How to Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens blog tour, in addition to providing a review of the book I am responsible for highlighting the pastoral epistles and their Jesus-focused message.

Given the collective name of the pastoral epistles (I & II Timothy and Titus), it is no surprise that the theme of all three books is essentially unified around that of truth. The church is to promote the truth and oppose error (I Tim.), be loyal to the truth of the gospel message (II Tim.) and proclaim the ways in which the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ transforms the life and the believer and the church community. It is no stretch to see how the theme of truth relates and speaks to Jesus. He is its source and manifestation. As being sent from God, Jesus was to and did live and speak the truth of God. We are encouraged to be loyal to God’s truth as revealed in Jesus just as God will be loyal to his followers because they are in Christ Jesus their Savior. Until Christ returns to bring completion to His salvific promise, believers have the life of Jesus as an example of how to live out the truth of His saving and transforming gospel in our lives. In writing to Timothy and Titus, Paul speaks to us today and encourages us to be loyal to the gospel through our defense of truth, correction of error and our witness to the world through the transforming power of the gospel in our lives.

I highly recommend How to Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens as a simple and clear introduction to the Christ-focused message of each book of the Bible. As Justin Taylor says on the back of the book, this is the kind of book you want to put into the hands of every member of your church!

NOTE: I received this book from Zondervan for review in return for an unbiased and free review.

If  you enjoy Tim Keller and love to see how Jesus fulfills the OT then you will love this video clip made from one of his sermons: