ISRAEL’S MESSIAH IN THE BIBLE AND THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS

Written by Richard S. Hess and M. Daniel Carroll R. (eds) Reviewed By Simon Gathercole

This collection of essays addresses the central topic of the Messiah in, as the title suggests, the OT, Dead Sea Scrolls and NT. It also has two concluding chapters on Latin American theology, and each section has a main chapter followed by responses.

Part 1 leads off with Daniel Block’s exposition (‘My Servant David: Ancient Israel’s Vision of the Messiah’) of the main evidence for Messianism in the OT, in which he challenges the traditional three-fold categorisation of the Messiah as prophet, priest, and king. In reality, Block argues, it is the Davidic (i.e. royal) identity of the Messiah that is really defining. Block’s approach to the evidence on the other side is extremely cautious, and Daniel Hays’ response asks some pertinent questions in this regard. In particular, he rightly challenges Block both on the exegesis of the ‘prophet like Moses’ passages in Deuteronomy 18:15–18; 34:10–12, and on their christological appropriation in the NT. Secondly, while Block focuses on what the ancient Israelites might have known, Hays rightly asks some important questions about the relative understandings of the original readers, the human author and the divine author (59). Similarly, in a second response to Block, Daniel Carroll also questions the adequacy of ‘classical exegetical approaches’ to answer the important questions in this matter.

Part 2 is concerned with the Messiah at Qumran, and Craig Evans offers a useful essay. He sides with the consensus in arguing for a dual-messiahship in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and offers a particularly useful summary of the way in which the scrolls use the OT texts of Genesis 49:10, Numbers 24:17 and Isaiah 10–11 in their exegesis. Rick Hess’s response does not tackle Evans’ arguments, but instead takes on two rather outlandish theories about Messiahship at Qumran from Michael Wise and Israel Knohl.

In Part 3, Craig Blomberg offers a rollercoaster tour of the NT, and argues persuasively against the common idea that ‘Christ’ in the NT has lost its significance as a title (with the Jewish background that goes with that) and become a surname for Jesus. In fact, his bold conclusion is that ‘There is no unambiguous evidence to demonstrate that “Christ” in any of its 531 New Testament uses ever “degenerated” into a mere second name for Jesus’ (141). Blomberg’s point is well-made, although Klein’s response concerning the extent to which the Jewish background is in mind in every case is a helpful caution.

Finally, Part 4 is a fascinating window into the scene of Latin American theology and exegesis, in dialogue with perhaps the leading exponent of liberationist Christology, Jon Sobrino. The main essay comes from Gerardo Gonzales who, like all the contributors to this volume, is an evangelical; it is especially interesting to have a perspective on Messiahship from a scholar based in Guatemala. His insistence that Latin American theology should not simply be regarded—either within or without South America—as simply synonymous with liberation theology is a welcome message.

In brief, this volume is a useful collection from a strongly evangelical standpoint. At times the eccentricity of the conclusions will make it less useful, but the responses ensure that the multiplicity of views from within an orthodox framework mean that no particular individual’s position is offered as the only answer. Both the evangelical stance of the contributors, and the final section on Latin American approaches marks the volume out from the other, legion, collections of essays on Messiahship.


Simon Gathercole

Simon Gathercole
Cambridge University
Cambridge, England, UK