Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King by Herbert W. Bateman, IV, Darrell L. Bock, and Gordon H. Johnston
Thanks to the folks at Kregel for this review copy!
I have had the privilege of studying under both Gordon Johnston and Darrell Bock and both are truly gentleman and scholars. Naturally, when given the opportunity to review a book on which they (and Bateman) had collaborated, I jumped at it. I must say that this book met my expectations and will serve as the go-to guide for many when it comes to messianic expectation in Jewish and Christian literature.
Essentially this book covers three major literary corpora and how each demonstrates, in varying degrees, messianic expectation, promise, and fulfillment. Gordon Johnston tackles various texts from the Hebrew Bible, Herbert Bateman discusses the various messianic expectations recorded in intertestamental Jewish literature, and Darrell Bock tackles the NT teachings on Jesus as Messiah.
Though plenty of readers will find fault with interpretations presented throughout (a given for any book of this sort), I found the hermeneutical approach quite satisfying. There is a stereotype/stigma that attends books of this sort, i.e. that books about messianic issues written by evangelicals are predictable. Many may assume that the sections dealing with the Hebrew Bible and intertestamental literature will default to seeing Christ in every possible text so as to demonstrate the obvious presence of messianic expectation. I must say that such hyper-messianic readings of Jewish literature are off the mark, but you won’t find such a view here. While the authors obviously see messianic expectation in a number of texts in the Hebrew Bible and intertestamental literature, they don’t see it everywhere. They lay out their hermeneutical approach on pages 20-36, which I will not rehash here. The gist of the approach is that God revealed the Messiah via progressive revelation, even from the first of canonical literature. This is not to say that everything about the Messiah, particularly his identity, was revealed, but that there were glimpses that continually built over generations until the Jesus the Christ could be made known.
Permit me a lengthy quote by Bateman that describes the difference in their approach (pgs. 24-25).
Granted, our starting point is not unlike other approaches that acknowledge the value of Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) when discussing Messiah. Yet there is a difference. Many people today unfortunately fail to grapple with the human journey of discovery about “Messiah.” Many preachers who preach sermons about Jesus as the Messiah often over emphasize their theological system with limited or even no consideration of any progress of revelation in human history. Others may read the text historically, often looking exclusively to the long-term reality. But in their quest for a singular historical-contextual meaning throughout all of Scripture, they argue that what a First Testament human author said about Messiah equals that which is stated about Jesus the Messiah in the Second Testament. They tend to suggest that Jesus and the apostles assert that the Hebrew Scriptures testify directly and (or more importantly) exclusively about him. In their mind, the evangelists and epistolarists believe Moses foretold only the death of Jesus the Messiah; David foresaw only the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah; Isaiah predicted only Jesus’ ascension into glory; and that Abraham heard only the Gospel to the Gentiles preached to him. Thus, they stress the work of the divine author and thereby over emphasize an unambiguous continuity between the Testaments. The idea is that most or all of these texts need to be direct prophecies to work for Jesus being the messianic fulfillment in the way the Second Testament describes…We, however, will offer a slightly different approach. Granted, there is most certainly a link, but we will argue, just not a completely exclusive one. One of our goals is to argue that these texts do not need to be only direct prophecies for them to reveal a messianic connections and fulfillment in Jesus. Such an explicit-exclusive reading of the First Testament tends to ignore the complexities of Jewish history as well as God’s revelation and its progress. Such an explicit reading deprives us of historical information that ultimately helps us grasp what was going on in the lives of the Jewish people and what God’s revelation told them about their present and future. While a traditional approach argues for explicit predictions about Jesus, we suggest that 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, both by how the First Testament concludes and by what Jesus himself does to pull all the messianic pieces together.
I hate to quote things at such length, but this is the grid through which the texts in the book are read and it leads to a much more suitable interpretation than does a hyper-messianic reading mentioned earlier.
All in all, this is a superb book with little to fault. Again, as with any book (particularly those of an exegetical nature), there will be disagreements on this detail or that and I’ve chosen to leave that for others to discuss. Whatever disagreements you may find, I think most who read this, even those outside evangelical camps, will find a trove of exegetical treasure and plenty of food for thought.
Αυτω η δοξα
Cain’s wife, that is. In Gen 4:17 Cain and his wife “know” each other, conceive and give birth to Enoch. But his wife just appears in the story, seemingly out of nowhere. Obviously the biblical writers/editors/redactors don’t always give us the information we would like, but it seems odd not to mention where she came from. I suppose it just wasn’t that important.
What also piques my curiosity is how this issue is handled in light of a literal interpretation of the creation accounts. If Adam and Ever were the only humans created and they only had two sons, then where does Cain’s wife come from? I’m willing to admit my ignorance on this question–I’ve not studied this particular issue.
So, what say ye?
Αυτω η δοξα
I registered for the summer and fall semesters this past week, but I’ve reconsidered my fall schedule and I think I am going to change courses. I am presently registered for the Gospel of Luke and the Epistle to the Hebrews, but I am thinking of changing to the NT in Contemporary Culture and the Use of the OT in the NT. There are two reasons for this change: 1 – The NT in CC is not primarily focused on exegesis, but gives a lot more attention to NT backgrounds. Though later I will have to take a seminar that is fully dedicated to this subject, I’d like to get into some of these issues now. Here’s part of the catalog description:
This course will engage in discussion of contemporary issues about the origins of the Jesus tradition, the apostolic teaching, the New Testament as a canon, and the origins of Christian orthodoxy as seen in the New Testamentand important collateral writings of the period. Attention will be given to major first-century cultural features, both Jewish and Greco-Roman, that serve as a backdrop for the original Christian message leading to a greater appreciation of the New Testament message.
The second change is from Hebrews to the Use of the OT in the NT. This is a subject that has piqued my interest and I’ve not been able to do much here at present, so this would be a great opportunity.
2 – This class schedule will not be as spread out over the week as the other, so that’s always a plus.
This summer I will be leaping into Theological German, which I am eager to get into! Obviously for reasearch this is essential, but just think–I’ll be able to read all those other posts that Jim foists upon the bibliblogging world!
Anyway, should be a great remainder of the year, but I’ve got plenty to finish this semester!
Αυτω η δοξα,
Ok John, Jeremy, Jim, and other OTers (NT folks, too, if you’ve worked through Jeremiah)–what are the best commentaries/exegetical works on Jeremiah? I need to pick up a few for my papers this summer session (I have until the end of the first week of August to have them turned in), so I am hoping you can point me in the right direction.
Thanks in advance!
Αυτω η δοξα,
The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate by John H. Walton
Published by InterVarsity Press
Many thanks to Adrianna Wright at IVP for this review copy!
I was very excited to see Walton’s book would be available this year, and even more so when I received a copy for review. There are two reasons I was anxious to read this book. One, I have become disenchanted with my original understanding of the creation account of Genesis 1 (namely, the literal six-day creation view) and, two, I have become weary of the incessant debate between evolutionists and ID advocates. These two issues meet head-on in Walton’s book as he makes a case for understanding the creation account of Genesis one in terms of function, not material creation, and how this plays out in the ongoing evolution/ID debates, particularly with reference to public education.
Walton arranges the book into eighteen propositions, successively building his case for function-oriented creation in Genesis 1. Each chapter (proposition) is relatively short, which makes for easy reading, but is substantial enough that Walton’s thesis is adequately argued. In propositions 1 and 2, Walton orients the reader to a proper setting in which to read and interpret Genesis 1 and discusses the way Genesis’ creation account would have been understood in its original time and culture. Propositions 3-7 deal primarily with textual matters concerning the various acts of God’s creative work in Genesis 1. Propositions 8 and 9 focus on the concept of the cosmos as Temple, seeking to provide a synthesis of the argument thus far. Proposition 10 argues specifically against Genesis 1 as an account of material creation. Propositions 11 and 12 are essentially a discussion of the positives of the view articulated in the book, as well as a brief address of competing views of Genesis 1. In propositions 13-18, Walton discusses his view of Genesis 1 in relation to science, with the final proposition focusing on public education and the ongoing evolution/intelligent design debate.
Overall, Walton does a fine job of articulating an interpretation that could easily consume twice or three times as many pages.[i] Walton’s knowledge of the Ancient Near East is obvious, though certainly condensed for this work, and his exegetical ability is clearly seen. However, given the scope of the book, I was a little disappointed that there was not ample space for more thorough discussions of various aspects of this interpretation of Genesis 1, particularly the exegetical discussions (see below).
There were a couple of negatives concerning this book. First, I find that Walton is somewhat repetitive concerning the thesis of the book; if you got to the end of this book and couldn’t remember what it’s primary argument was, it wasn’t for lack of stating it! Second, as with any book of this length (considering the weight of such a topic), there are some sections that I would have liked to have had more interaction with sources and more detailed analysis of varying viewpoints. Though I believe Walton is very skilled in his exegesis, I also wanted more detailed discussion of the various scriptures he cited in defense of his argument.
These two points aside, my opinion of the book is decidedly positive. One of the more appreciable aspects of the book is Walton’s dealing with sensitive nature of the issue of origins, an issue that is often guarded by dogmatic antagonists from both biological evolution and ID camps. Though not all advocates for either position could or should be categorized in this way, they are the ones who usually get the most attention. Essentially, Walton believes both sides to be in error (generally speaking) regarding their posturing for a place in the classroom. He rightly argues that both theories (as well as others) should be taught in the classrooms, so long as each theory’s metaphysical assumptions are held in check.
He rightly acknowledges that proponents of biological evolution enjoy the dominant position at present, but that this should not be a threat to Bible-believing Christians. Given his interpretation of Genesis 1, he concedes there is at least open the possibility of biological evolution as a means of God’s creative work (though he is not convinced of this and does not advocate the theory). Rather than being a threat to faith, Walton views this as an opportunity to find common ground on the discussion of origins, because Genesis 1 is essentially irrelevant to this matter. This approach to Genesis frees the Christian from using Genesis to defend something it does not address.
In summary, I think Walton’s book is a much-needed contribution to a discussion that is polarizing for the many involved. It hearkens the reader of Genesis 1 to shed his/her contemporary spectacles and view the text through the lens of those to whom it was written, to read Genesis 1 as a ancient cosmology, not a paradigm of modern science. Walton says,
“Through the entire Bible, there is not a single instance in which God revealed to Israel a science beyond their own culture. No passage offers a scientific perspective that was not common to the Old World science of antiquity” (p. 19).
To understand what the text means to us, we must first understand what it meant to them, and if you are seeking to understand better Genesis 1, I highly recommend this book!
“One of the sad statistics of the last 150 years is that increasing numbers of young people who were raised in the environment of a biblical faith began to pursue education and careers in the sciences and found themselves conflicted as they tried to sort out the claims of science and the claims of the faith they had been taught. it seems to many that they have to make a choice: either believe the Bible and hold to a young earth, or abandon the Bible because of the persuasiveness of the case for an old earth. The good news is that we do not have to make such a choice. The Bible does not call for a young earth. Biblical faith need not be abandoned if one concludes from the scientific evidence that the earth is old” (p. 96)
“Divine intention must not be held hostage to the ebb and flow of scientific theory. Scientific theory cannot serve as the basis for determining divine intention” (p. 105)
“The most respectful reading we can give to the text, the reading most faithful to the face value of the text—and the most ‘literal’ understanding, if you will—is the one that comes from their world not ours” (p. 106).
“In the functional view that has been presented in this book, the text can be taken at face value without all of the scientific gymnastics of YEC” (that is, Young Earth Creationism; p. 109)
“That is precisely what we are proposing as the premise of Genesis 1: that it should be understood as an account of functional origins of the cosmos as a temple” (p. 84).
[i] As noted here, Walton does have more detailed treatment of the thesis of this book slated for publication sometime in the near future, entitled Genesis One as Ancient Cosmology, from Eisenbrauns.
Well, I’ve delved into my Hebrew Bible reading and fared decently on the first verses. I managed to read and translate Genesis 1:1-8 in about 30 minutes time. Certainly not very quick reading, but not bad considering how little time I have devoted to Hebrew lately. And, yes, it helps to be more familiar with the passage from English translations. Given the difficulties of pasting Hebrew text and trying to get the normal font to behave as I wish, I’ll only post my translations for now.
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2 And/but the land/earth was formless and empty and darkness was over the watery deep and/but the Spirit of God was hovering over the water.
3 And God said “Let there be light,” and there was light.
4 And God saw that the light was good and he separated between the light and the darkness.
5 And God called the light “day” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening and morning—the first day.
6 And God said “Let there be a firmament/expanse in the midst of the waters and let it separate waters from waters.”
7 And God made the expanse and separated between the waters which were under the expanse and between the waters which were above the expanse and it was so.
8 And God called the expanse “the heavens,” and it was evening and morning—the second day.
That’s all for today. I will probably translate a few more verses tonight or tomorrow and post my translation soon thereafter.
Αυτω η δοξα,
I have decided to embark upon a decidedly arduous and potentially perilous journey—reading through the Old Testament. But I will not be reading it in an English translation, but in Hebrew. I was partially inspired to do such a thing after reading the introduction to Zondervan’s A Reader’s Hebrew Bible. Co-author Bryan W. Smith tells of his inspiration for taking on the task of co-producing such a work, which came from listening to a sermon by John Piper. Smith says that he majored in Old Testament interpretation and was required to be advanced in his Hebrew skills; however, when he began preparing for this project he realized some areas of weakness. Though I am positive that Smith’s capabilities far exceed my own, I take on this task partially for the same reason—to sharpen my now very dull Hebrew skills. I am far more capable in Greek, so I want to bridge the gap in my abilities. In addition to this improvement in ability to read/parse/translate/interpret the Hebrew text, I wish to simply read God’s word through. I must confess that I have neglected the OT of late (with the exception of reading Isaiah). This shouldn’t be if we are to more faithfully preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).
The works I’ll be using are only two—Zondervan’s A Reader’s Hebrew Bible by A. Phillip Brown II and Bryan W. Smith and The Vocabulary Guide to Biblical Hebrew by Miles V. van Pelt and Gary D. Pratico. I will try to record my translations as I go, but reading through the text will be more time consuming at first, so I don’t know that I will record all of my reading. The point of this exercise will not be to produce a translation for study necessarily, so I will not give the same time and attention to textual matters, problem passages, etc. I simply want to regain a grasp of basic verb and noun patterns, vocabulary, prepositions, and other basic elements of Hebrew grammar.
I have not begun this exercise in earnest, but will do so very soon. I will post occasionally regarding the progress I am making, perhaps posting my translations and other aspects of the text I find interesting. I welcome any and all comments/suggestions, particularly if you have done this type of exercise.
Αυτω η δοξα,