Prophecy & Eschatology in the New Testament: Messianic Expectation

Messianic Interpretation and Expectation in the New Testament

The very name and title Christ (Xristo/$), “Anointed”, signifies the fundamental Christian belief that Jesus is the “Anointed One”, the Messiah (Heb. j^yv!m*). Early Christians generally followed Jewish tradition in their expectation of Messianic figures (Prophet, Davidic Ruler, Heavenly Deliverer), adopting many Scripture passages, which had been interpreted in a Messianic sense, and applying them to Jesus. We see this throughout the New Testament, and I have discussed the subject in considerable detail in my earlier series “Yeshua the Anointed”. The process, in fact, goes back to the earliest layers of Gospel Tradition and the words of Jesus himself.

However, Christians today, in considering the “Messianic” passages and prophecies in the Old Testament, tend not to view them as eschatological. This is due to the time (nearly 2,000 years, and counting) which has passed since Jesus’ death and resurrection. The various Scripture passages may be seen as prophecies of Jesus (his birth, death, resurrection, etc), but it is difficult to regard them as referring to the End Time per se. The situation was quite different for the earliest believers, for whom Messianic and Eschatological expectation were closely connected. According to the Jewish belief and tradition at the time, the coming of the Anointed One—any/all of the Messianic figure-types—was linked to the end of the current Age. Early Christians generally retained this outlook, though adapting it in several key ways due to the unique circumstances of Jesus’ life, and, especially, his death, resurrection, and departure to God the Father in heaven. As he did not fulfill many of the traditional Messianic roles during his lifetime, these would have to wait until his subsequent return, which was felt would take place very soon, and could occur at any time.

In order, then, to understand the eschatology of the New Testament, it is important to include, and emphasize, the Messianic expectation of early Christians. This will be discussed at various points in this series, but it will be helpful to begin with a survey of the Scripture passages which had been interpreted in a Messianic sense during the first centuries B.C./A.D., and which were applied to Jesus by early believers. As most of these have been examined in some detail in the series “Yeshua the Anointed”, I will address them only briefly here. There are, of course, many other passages which were understood as prophecies concerning Jesus, but I include here only those which clearly were regarded as Messianic by at least some Israelites and Jews of the time.

The Key Passages

Deuteronomy 18:15-20

In the Old Testament, especially in Deuteronomic tradition, Moses is viewed as a Prophet—indeed as the ideal and greatest Prophet (Deut 34:10-12). In Deuteronomy 18:15ff we find the famous prediction that another Prophet will (eventually) arise who is like Moses and who will take his place. In the same manner, Elisha took the place of Elijah, being anointed by his predecessor (1 Kings 19:16) and possessing his spirit and character (2 Kings 2:9, 15). Eventually, this prediction was given a future, eschatological interpretation—at the end-time, a Prophet-like-Moses would arise to instruct the faithful of Israel.

This expectation probably underlies the notice in 1 Maccabees 14:41 (“…until a trustworthy Prophet should arise”), as well as the reference to “the unique Prophet” in Testament of Benjamin 9:2. In the Qumran texts, Moses was clearly regarded as a Prophet, as in the “Apocryphon of Moses/Pentateuch” writings—cf. especially 4Q375 column 1 (in line 7 the phrase “trustworthy prophet” appears); in 4Q377 column 2, line 5, Moses is referred to as God’s “Anointed (One)” [jyvm]. Deut 18:18-19 is cited in 4QTestimonia [4Q175] lines 5-8, in what is likely an eschatological/Messianic context. The expected Prophet of 1QS 9:11 (“…until the coming of the Prophet and the Anointed [Ones] of Aaron and Israel”) presumably draws upon this Moses tradition as well.

The same may be said of passages in the New Testament which contain a reference to “the Prophet” (Jn 1:21, 25; 6:14; 7:40; Luke 7:16, 36 v.l. etc); in Jn 1:21-25, “the Prophet” seems to be understood as a separate figure from “Elijah”, possibly an indication that the Moses-tradition is involved. John the Baptist explicitly denies being “the Prophet” (Jn 1:21), but that Jesus was thought to be so by people on numerous occasions is indicated by several of the references above. In Acts 3:18-24 (sermon-speech of Peter), Jesus is identified specifically with the coming “Prophet like Moses” of Deut 18:15ff (cf. also Acts 7:37). Within early Christian tradition, Jesus is identified or associated with Moses in a number of ways. For more on this, cf. Parts 2 and 3 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed”.

Malachi 3:1ff; 4:5-6

The Messianic “Elijah tradition” derives from Malachi 3:1, combined with the explanatory interpretation of Mal 4:5-6 [Hebrew 3:23-24] which many scholars consider to be a (later) editorial gloss (see my supplementary note on the original context of Mal 3:1). In any case, already by the time of the completion of Malachi (and, presumably, the collection of the Twelve Prophets [Hosea–Malachi] as a whole), the “Messenger” [Ea*l=m^] of Mal 3:1 was identified as Elijah, who will (re)appear just prior to the “Day of YHWH” to bring repentance to people before the Judgment. Over time, this belief was given greater eschatological emphasis—”Elijah” would appear at the end-time, prior to the last Judgment—expressed already in Sirach 48:10 (early-mid 2nd century B.C.). Somewhat surprisingly, perhaps, evidence for this belief at Qumran is rather slight, though it is attested in the fragmentary 4Q558 (fragment 1), but is perhaps reflected more prominently in a text such as 4Q521 (cf. below). Evidence for this tradition is found specifically in Mark 9:11-13 (Matt 17:10-12), the citations and allusions to Mal 3:1; 4:5-6 in Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27; Matt 11:10-14, and may be inferred from other references listed below. Also worth noting is Sibylline Oracles 2:187ff (Christian expansion/adaptation of earlier Jewish material).

While Christians came to apply this Messianic figure to John the Baptist, there is some evidence in the earlier strands of Gospel Tradition that people also identified Jesus with the Prophetic figure-type. Indeed, Jesus is connected with Elijah in various ways in the Gospels. For a discussion of this subject, again cf. “Yeshua the Anointed” (Parts 2 and 3).

Psalm 2 (esp. verse 7-9)

This Psalm, drawing upon the ancient religious symbolism of the king as God’s “son” (vv. 7ff), was applied to Jesus at a very early stage of Christian belief. There are allusions to it in the account of Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:11 par), and the voice from heaven actually quotes it in some manuscripts of Luke 3:22. More commonly, it was associated with Jesus’ resurrection (and exaltation) in early Christian preaching (Acts 13:33, cf. Rom 1:4 etc); the author of Hebrews continues to use it this way (1:5; 5:5), though, by this point, the idea of Jesus’ pre-existence and eternal Sonship was also in view. The overall context of the Psalm (vv. 1-2ff) fit the Messianic portrait, and was applied to Jesus as well (Acts 4:25-28, cf. also Luke 22:66-23:25).

2 Samuel 7:8-16 (cf. also 2 Sam 22:44-51 / Ps 18:44-51, and Psalm 89:3-4, 9-37ff)

The narrative in 2 Samuel 7, with the oracle by the prophet Nathan, is the primary Scripture passage which established the Messianic association with David—i.e., a ruler from the line of David who would appear at the end-time. Together with Psalm 2 (cf. above), it allowed the idea of the Messianic ruler-figure to be identified as “Son of God”. In Jewish tradition, this is best exhibited in the so-called Florilegium (4Q174) from Qumran, which blends together Psalm 2:7 and 2 Sam 7:14 (along with other passages) in what is clearly both a Messianic and eschatological context. Another key Qumran text is the Aramaic 4Q246 (i. 9, ii. 1) with its striking parallels to Luke 1:32-35. There would seem to be references to Psalm 89 in 4Q252, and also (possibly) the fragmentary 4Q458. Important allusions are also to be found in the 17th of the so-called Psalms of Solomon (mid-1st century B.C.). For more on the Davidic ruler figure-type, and the title “Son of God”, cf. Parts 68 and 12 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed”.

Psalm 110:1-4

The opening verse(s) of this Psalm were central to early Christian understanding of Jesus as both the Messianic (Davidic) ruler and “Son of God”. It also was enormously influential in establishing the title “Lord” (ku/rio$), in a divine sense, for Jesus. As in the case of the title “Son of God” in Psalm 2:7, verse 1 of Psalm 110 was associated primarily with the resurrection of Jesus, following which he was exalted to the right hand of God the Father in heaven. The verse is quoted specifically in this context in Acts 2:34-35, but there are certainly allusions to it throughout the New Testament (Mark 14:62 par; [16:19]; Acts 2:25; 5:31; 7:55-56; Rom 8:34; Col 3:1; Eph 1:20; 1 Pet 3:22, etc). The author of Hebrews quotes it, along with Psalm 2:7 (vv. 5ff), in 1:13, where the idea of divine pre-existence is also present (cf. also 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2).

Jesus quotes Psalm 110:1 in a definite Messianic context (Mark 12:36ff par), making it all but certain that Jews at the time were interpreting it this way. However, contemporary evidence for this is slight indeed. The Qumran text 11QMelchizedek [11Q13], drawing upon traditions regarding Melchizedek (in a Messianic context), would suggest some dependence on Psalm 110, but there are no specific quotations or allusions in the surviving fragments. The interpretation of the figure Melchizedek in Hebrews 7, relying heavily upon Psalm 110, also suggests that there were significant interpretative traditions, perhaps Messianic in nature, which might have been familiar to Jews and Christians of the time. It is also possible that Psalm 110 was influential in shaping the distinctive Messianic tradition, best seen in certain of the Qumran texts, of an Anointed Priestly figure, with a blending of royal and priestly characteristics.

Psalm 118:26

The fact that this verse is quoted both by Jesus (Matt 23:39; Luke 13:35), and by the crowds at his “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem (Mark 11:9 par), suggests that it was understood in a Messianic sense by Jews at the time. However, corresponding contemporary evidence outside of the New Testament is extremely slight. It would have related to the same (Davidic) royal figure-type discussed above.

Isaiah 9:1-6

This passage, along with 7:10-14ff (cf. Matt 1:22-23), came to be interpreted as a prophecy of Jesus’ birth (cf. Luke 2:11). Matthew specifically quotes Isa 9:1-2 as a way of introducing the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry (4:14-16). The characteristics of a special royal birth, as well as the message of (future) promise, made Isa 9:1-6 a natural candidate for Messianic interpretation; however, there is little evidence for this in contemporary Jewish writings. Perhaps the closest example is the allusion to verse 6 in the Qumran Hymn 1QH 3. Cf. my earlier Advent/Christmas season study on 9:5-6.

Micah 5:2-4

Likewise, there is little contemporary evidence for a Messianic interpretation of Micah 5:2-4, though it is an obvious candidate. The context of Matthew 2:1-6ff makes no real sense if a Messianic understanding of this passage were not in existence among Jews in the 1st century B.C./A.D.

Amos 9:11

This verse is given a Messianic interpretation in both the Damascus Document (CD 7:14-21) and the Qumran Florilegium (4Q174 3-4). This helps to establish the background of its use in the speech of James (Acts 15:15-18), where it is quoted in very different sense, though still retaining something of a traditional Messianic (and eschatological) context.

Zechariah 9:9-10

The use of this passage, with its royal symbolism and eschatological orientation, in the Gospels, at the “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus (Mark 11:2-10 par, with a specific citation in Matt 21:4-5 and John 12:14-15), would indicate that it may have been understood as a traditional Messianic passage. However, there is little or no contemporary Jewish evidence to support this. Moreover, the singular importance which Zech 9-14 holds in the Gospel Tradition, and the influence it had on shaping the (Passion) narrative, increases the likelihood that this is a uniquely Christian interpretation. This will be addressed a bit further in the upcoming articles.

Daniel 7:13-14; 9:24-27

These important eschatological (and Messianic) passages, so influential for Jews and early Christians both, will be discussed in detail in the upcoming articles.

The Servant Songs of Isaiah

Special attention must be given to the “Servant Songs” in the book of Isaiah (so-called “Deutero-Isaiah”), usually delineated by four passages: Isa 42:1-9; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12. Only the first and last of these played a central role in early Christian belief. However, it is worth noting that the Isaian “Servant” figure came to be understood and interpreted in a Messianic (or quasi-Messianic) sense by Jews in the first centuries B.C./A.D. The extent of this is indicated, not only by the many (and various) allusions (in the Dead Sea texts, etc), but by the way in which the thought and language of these passages has shaped and colored the texts themselves.

A good example of this may be found in the Qumran Hymns (1QH), especially those which are often attributed to the “Teacher of Righteousness”, an historical (but at least partly Messianic) figure with certain parallels to Jesus (cf. Part 4 of “Yeshua the Anointed”). In these hymns, the speaker repeatedly refers to himself as God’s servant (db#u#)—cf. Hymns IV. 11, 23ff; V. 24; VI. 8, 11, 25; VIII. 19, 21, 23ff; XIII. 15, 28; XV. 16; XVII. 11; XVIII. 29; XIX. 27, 30, 33; XXII. 16; XXIII. 6, 10 (Blenkinsopp, pp. 270-2). There are numerous allusions to the Servant songs, and related Isaian passages, throughout (cf. below).

Isaiah 42:1-9

It is verse 1 which has been most influential for Messianic thought:

“See, my servant—I hold on(to) him, my chosen (one whom) my soul favors; I have given my Spirit upon him, (and) he shall cause justice/judgment to come forth for the nations.”

The words in italics are particularly noteworthy. First, the substantive adjective yr!yj!B= (“my chosen [one]”), rendered in Greek as o( e)klekto/$ mou. This title is parallel, in many ways, with “my anointed [j^yv!m*] (one)”, and can serve as similar Messianic title, as is clear from texts such as the (fragmentary) Qumran 4Q534. There is unquestionably an allusion to Isa 42:1 in the words spoken by the voice from heaven in the Baptism and Transfiguration scenes (Mark 1:11 par; Matt 17:5 par). In the Lukan version of the latter (according to the best manuscript evidence) we read:

“This is my Son, the (one) gathered out [e)klelegme/no$, i.e. chosen]…” (9:35)

Similarly, in the Johannine description of the Baptism, we have the Baptist’s declaration (corresponding to the heavenly voice in the Synoptics):

“…this is the Son of God” (1:34)
though in some MSS the reading is:
“…this is the (one) gathered out [e)klekto/$, i.e. chosen one] of God”

In the New Testament, both the verb e)kle/gw (“gather out”) and the related noun e)klekto/$ are typically used in reference to believers, not Jesus. This suggests that the Gospel usage in such passages where it is applied to Jesus (cf. Luke 23:35) reflects early (Messianic) tradition.

On the second italicized portion above, cf. the discussion on Isa 61:1ff further below.

Isaiah 49:1-6

This Servant Song appears to have influenced Messianic thought and expression at two points: (1) the idea of a sword coming out of the Servant’s mouth (v. 2), and (2) the twin themes of restoration and salvation in v. 6. On the first point, the idea of the sword from the mouth overlaps with the (Messianic) portrait in Isa 11:4 (cf. below); there is an apparent allusion to this in Revelation 1:16 (cf. also Heb 4:12). It is possible that there is a general (Messianic) reference to verse 2 in the Qumran text 1QSb (5:23f).

The theme of the restoration of Israel in verse 6 certainly fits the main contours of traditional Jewish eschatological (and Messianic) thought, even though it is difficult to find contemporary use of the verse to support this. Early Christians, however, understood it in this light, including the second half of the verse, indicating that the Servant will be made “a light to the nations” (cf. Luke 2:32; Acts 13:47).

Isaiah 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12

These two songs introduce the theme of the Servant’s suffering, which early on was interpreted by believers as referring to the suffering and death of Jesus. The famous “Suffering Servant” passage in 52:13-53:12 is central to episode recorded in Acts 8:32-35 (and note the interesting critical question by the Ethiopian official in v. 34). In the Gospels, it is cited directly only at Matt 8:17, in the context of Jesus’ healing miracles, not his death. However, the passage likely influenced the way that the Passion narrative was told and understood, corresponding (rather clearly) in certain details to Isa 53:3-9. The identity of this Servant figure in Isaiah, in terms of its original context, continues to be debated by scholars and commentators.

There is relatively little evidence for the use of Isa 52:13-53:12 at Qumran; unfortunately, the surviving portions of the Commentary (pesher) on Isaiah do not cover 52:13-53:12. Nor would there seem to be any evidence for these Scriptures being interpreted in a Messianic sense prior to their use in the New Testament. The closest we find to a Messianic interpretation would appear be an allusion to Isa 53:3-5, 11-12 in the Qumran text 4Q491c (line 9), which is thought to be related to the Hodayot hymns (1QH) in some way (cf. 1QH 7:10; 8:26-27, 35-36; 9; Blenkinsopp, pp. 278-9ff). There is also an allusion to Isa 52:7 in 11QMelchizedek [11Q13] 2.16, where there is a connection with a Messianic interpretation of Isa 61:1ff, etc (cf. below).

In many ways, the emphasis on the suffering of the Messiah is uniquely applicable to Jesus. Early Christians had to explain how, and why, the Messiah would endure such suffering and the shameful death of crucifixion. This came to be an important point of emphasis in the Gospel Tradition (Mark 14:21, 49 par; Luke 18:31; 22:37; 24:25-26, 44-46), and the earliest (Jewish) Christian missionaries (such as Paul) would have to work hard to establish a sound Scriptural basis for such an idea (cf. Acts 5:42; 9:22; 13:26ff; 17:3; 18:5, 28, etc). Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is one of the only passages in the Old Testament which could be cited in this regard. For more on the idea of the suffering and death of Jesus, in a Messianic context, cf. Part 11 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed”, as well as a supplementary article on the subject.

Other Passages

There are several key Messianic passages which are surprisingly absent from the New Testament; two of these are—Genesis 49:10, part of the blessing of Jacob over his sons (Judah, vv. 8-12), and Numbers 24:17-19, in Balaam’s fourth oracle (vv. 15-24). Both of these passages use the word tb#v@ (“stick, staff”), as a symbol of rule (i.e. “scepter”), and this came to be an important Messianic motif, in texts such as the Damascus Document (CD) 7:19-20 (= 4Q266 3 iv.9), and 1QSb 5:27-28; 1QM 11:6-7; 4Q161 ii 19; 4Q521 2 iii. 6, etc, at Qumran. Numbers 24:17 was especially prominent as a Messianic prophecy in the Qumran texts, with both “star” and “staff” serving as key symbols (CD 7:19-20; 4Q175 12, etc). Yet, this Scripture is not cited in the New Testament, though it may, possibly, form part of the background of the Star/Magi episode in Matthew 2. Somewhat later in time, but presumably reflecting older traditions, Num 24:17ff does appear as a Messianic prophecy in the Targums (Onkelos, Jonathan), and was famously applied to the quasi-Messianic revolutionary leader Ben-Kosiba (“Bar-Kokhba” = “Son of the Star”), cf. j. Ta’anit 68d.

The relative absence of Isaiah 11:1-9 in the New Testament is also a bit surprising, since this passage, along with Psalm 2, would be extremely influential in the development of the Davidic Ruler figure-type. The prophecy begins with the declaration “A branch [rf#j)] will go out from the stem of Jesse, a fresh/green (sprout) [rx#n@] will grow (out) from his roots”. These words and phrases became foundational motifs for beliefs regarding the coming Davidic ruler in Messianic thought. In particular, this passage associated the Davidic ruler with the defeat/subjugation of the nations and the end-time Judgment. Here also we find the idea of Judgment (vv. 3-4) followed by a new Age of peace (vv. 6-9), common to much Messianic thought.

Among the many texts in the 1st centuries B.C./A.D. which draw upon Isa 11:1ff, we may note the Qumran (pesher) commentary on Isaiah (4QpIsaa [4Q161] 11-12), as well as 1QSb 5:23ff, and important allusions in 4Q285 and 4Q534. The classic portrait of the militant Davidic ruler is found in the 17th of the so-called Psalms of Solomon (mid-1st cent. B.C.), and also features prominently in the 13th chapter of 2/4 Esdras (mid-late 1st cent. A.D.). It is perhaps this militant character of the Messiah which kept it from being applied to Jesus by early Christians; Paul does allude to verse 4b in 2 Thess 2:8, in a clear eschatological context. In relation to Jesus, more appropriate to the Gospel portrait, we may note the reference to the Spirit of YHWH resting upon him (v. 2a, cf. Isa 61:1, below).

The Davidic promise is given new form in the oracles of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, in the historical context of the fall of Judah and the Babylonian exile. Jer 23:5ff declares that God will raise for David “a righteous sprout [qyD!x* jm^x#]” who will rule as king. The same expression and message is found in Jer 33:14-16ff. That these prophecies point to the future, in contrast to the historical circumstances in the prophet’s own time, is indicated by the surrounding context (cf. Jer 22:30; 33:19-26). In Ezekiel 34:23-24, there is a similar promise that God raise up for Israel “one shepherd, my servant David”; cf. also Ezek 37:24-25. In the early post-Exilic period, Zerubbabel appears to have been seen as a fulfillment of the restoration of Davidic rule (Haggai 2:21-24; Zechariah 4:6-14, cf. also 3:8; 6:11-14). Ultimately, of course, the true fulfillment had to wait for a future coming King, as indicated in the (later) oracle Zech 9:9-10ff. All of these passages formed part of the fabric of Messianic thought in the first centuries B.C./A.D.

Isaiah 61:1ff

Of all the Messianic passages, regarded as such at the time, it is perhaps that of Isaiah 61:1ff which best fits the Gospel portrait of Jesus, especially during the time of his earthly ministry. In Luke 4:17-21, Jesus quotes vv. 1-2, and alludes to them again in 7:22 (“Q” par Matt 11:5). Thus, during his ministry (in Galilee), the Messianic figure with whom Jesus specifically identifies himself is the anointed Prophet/Herald of Isa 61. Luke’s positioning of the episode at Nazareth, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, almost certainly is meant to draw a connection between the Spirit-anointing of Isa 61:1 and the descent of the Spirit at Jesus’ baptism (3:22 par). Following the baptism, Jesus moves about in the guidance and power of the Spirit (4:1, 14).

The phrase “in the power of the Spirit” is probably meant to indicate Jesus’ own Prophetic status (cf. Lk 1:17; Acts 10:38)—specifically as an Anointed Prophet. Even though the noun jyv!m* [m¹šîaµ] / xristo/$ [christós], is not used in Isa 61:1 (rather it is the verb jv^m* / e&xrisen), this verse does seem to have been extremely influential toward the idea of a Messianic Prophet. The figure in Isa 61:1ff certainly does not appear to be a king or ruler of the Davidic mold, nor a priest, but rather a prophet like Isaiah himself. It describes a herald who announces a message of good tidings (in Hebrew, literally “fresh” tidings) to the poor and oppressed.

By the time of Jesus’ ministry, there is evidence that Isa 61:1ff was already being understood in an eschatological sense, with the anointed figure of verse 1 identified as a Prophet-Messiah. This is seen most clearly in the Qumran text 4Q521, where in fragment 2 (column ii, line 1) we read: “…[the heav]ens and the earth will listen to [i.e. obey] his Anointed (One)”. What follows in lines 2-14 etc is a blending of Isa 61:1ff and Psalm 146; but the idea of heaven and earth obeying God’s Anointed is suggestive of a Prophet in the manner of Elijah who “shut up the heavens” so that it would not rain and brought down fire from heaven (1 Kings 17:1ff; Sirach 48:2-3; James 5:17); Jesus of course exhibited a similar authority over the elements (Mark 5:35-41; 8:45-52 pars). Moreover, in column iii of fragment there is an allusion to Mal 4:5-6 and the (end-time) role of Elijah in bringing people to repentance.

Isaiah 40:1-5

Finally, we should note the famous prophecy in Isa 40:1-5 (esp. verses 3ff), which was foundational for the religious self-identity of both the Qumran Community and the earliest Christians. For the Community of the Qumran texts, the key passage is in the Community Rule (1QS) 8:14-15f, where Isa 40:3 is cited and applied to the Community. The association of the same verse with John the Baptist and his ministry (Mark 1:2-3 par; Matt 11:10 par; John 1:23; cf. also Luke 1:17, 76 and the connection with Mal 3:1ff) has, among other factors, led a number of scholars to posit some sort of relationship between John and the Qumran Community. For early Christians, it is likely that Isa 40:3 influenced the use of “(followers of) the Way” as a self-designation (cf. Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22).

It should be noted that the use of Isa 40:3-5 in the Gospel Tradition, and among early Christians, is Messianic only in a special, qualified sense. For the most part, early believers identified the herald (“one crying out [in the desert]”), like the Messenger of Mal 3:1ff, with John the Baptist, rather than Jesus. And, while it is likely that some Jews at the time regarded John as a Messianic figure (Jn 1:19-27; 3:26-30, etc), the issue quickly disappeared from Christian thought. The twin passages of Isa 40:3-5 and Mal 3:1ff were interpreted, not in the original context of a chosen (Messianic) Prophet/Herald appearing before the coming of the Lord (YHWH), but in terms of John the Baptist preparing the way before the coming of the Lord (Jesus).

References above marked “Blenkinsopp” are to Joseph Blenkinsopp, Opening the Sealed Book: Interpretations of the Book of Isaiah in Late Antiquity (Eerdmans: 2006).

The “Messianic Apocalypse” (4Q521)

For students of the New Testament, and other interested Christians  today, the Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran provide many examples which shine a light on the religious world and thought inherited by early Christians from the Judaism of the time. Two texts, in particular, are tantalizing in the mode of Messianic thought expressed, and their possible relation to the understanding of Jesus as the Messiah in the New Testament and early Christian tradition. The first of these texts, which I discuss here in this article, is labeled 4Q521.

The customary title, “Messianic Apocalypse”, was applied by the editor Émile Puech—’Une apocalypse messianique (4Q521), Revue de Qumrân 15 (1992), pp. 475-519—who also prepared the critical edition published in Discoveries in the Judean Desert (DJD) Vol. XXV, 1-38, pls. I-III. The title is rather misleading, though the thrust of the surviving fragments certainly appears to be eschatological and Messianic. The handwriting is recognized as being from the Hasmonean period, and the text itself was likely written at the beginning of the 1st century B.C. (or perhaps late in the 2nd century). Like nearly all of the Qumran texts, 4Q521 is highly fragmentary; the intelligible surviving portions are represented by five principal fragments, of which the most substantial are numbers 2 and 7. Even so, there are many gaps, and no way of knowing (or even guessing) the extent of the work as a whole, nor where precisely these fragments fit into its outline and structure.

Overall, the fragments suggest a work of exhortation and instruction (for members of the Community) in light of coming end-time events. This may be glimpsed in the surviving pieces of fragment 1 (col. 1), where the importance of listening to wisdom/instruction, the need for repentance from sin, remaining in the fear of God and love, etc, appears to be in view. More practical instruction is indicated in fragment 5 (col. 1 + 6): “…do not serve with those [… with] his frie[nd] and with [his] neighbor […] good to you and fortify the [po]wer […] sustenance, the faithful ones will grow…” (transl. García Martínez & Tigchelaar).
Note: in these translations, square brackets indicate reconstructions, square brackets with ellipsis mark lacunae (gaps) in the text.

It is the larger fragment 2 (cols. 2 & 3) which has most intrigued scholars. The surviving portion of column 2 begins (lines 1-2):

“[for the heav]ens and the earth will hear {i.e. listen} to his anointed (one), [and all wh]ich (is) in them will not turn (away) from the commands of his holy (one)s.”

At first glance the use of j^yv!m* (“anointed”) need not refer to anything beyond the priest (or prophet) who instructs the people (i.e. the Community). The plural <yv!odq= (“holy [one]s”) could refer to the Prophets of old, but, more properly, to the faithful ones in Israel, i.e. the members of the Community, who hold to the tox=m! (commands/precepts of the Torah) and teach them to others. The ancient idea of the universe (heavens and earth) obeying God’s word has joined the religious-ethical concept of faithfulness to the Torah (and to the Community)—both are aspects of a single dynamic which is about to come more clearly into view at the end-time. Indeed, the context suggests an eschatological orientation, and that the “anointed (one)” is a Messianic figure who is (about) to appear. This is confirmed by a careful reading of the remainder of the fragment.

Following the exhortation in lines 3-4, the remaining lines (5-14) record a promise of what God will do for his people, inspired by the beginning of the famous oracle in Isaiah 61, blended with a citation of Psalm 146:7-8, and allusions to eschatological/Messianic passages such as Daniel 7. In applying this chain of Scripture passages, it is clear that the “poor” and suffering ones are synonymous with the pious and devout ones (<yd!ys!j&)—the faithful Community in the midst of the wicked and corrupt world. It is they who receive the “good news” proclaimed by the Anointed herald of Isa 61:1ff. Note how these associations are worked out in the wording of the text here:

“For my Lord will consider the devout (one)s and will call the righteous/faithful (one)s by name, and his Spirit will hover upon the poor/afflicted (one)s, and he will renew with his strength the (one)s firm (in trust). For he will give weight to {i.e. honor} the devout (one)s (by putting them) upon the seat of a kingdom unto (the Ages)…” (lines 5-7)

Four different plural nouns are used to describe the people who will be thus blessed by God: (1) <yd!y!sj&, µ¦sîdîm [“devout/faithful ones”], (2) <yq!yd!x~, ƒadîqîm [“righteous/loyal ones”], (3) <yw]n`u&, ±¦n¹wîm [“poor/afflicted ones”], (4) <yn]Wma$, °§mûnîm [“trustworthy ones”]. What follows in lines 8-9 echoes Psalm 146:7-8, referring to the freeing of prisoners, opening eyes, straightening the twisted, etc. Unfortunately there is a gap in line 10, but it indicates an imminent eschatological expectation: God is about to “do weighty (thing)s which have not (yet) been” (line 11). These deeds of deliverance will, it seems, be performed by an Anointed representative, such as is mentioned in line 1, identified with the herald of Isa 61:

“…according to that which he spoke, [for] he will heal the wounded (one)s, and will make (one)s dead to live (again), and will bring (good) news for the poor/afflicted (one)s…” (lines 11-12)

To this, in the badly preserved third column of same fragment, is added an allusion to Malachi 4:5-6 [Hebrew 3:23-24] and the end-time role of “Elijah” as the Messenger who prepares things for God’s appearance on earth to bring the Judgment (3:1ff). Thus, we find here two key passages—Isa 61:1 and Mal 4:5-6—understood in an eschatological and Messianic sense, referring to the coming Judgment and deliverance of the faithful. The eschatological/Judgment context is even clearer in fragment 7, despite the many gaps in the text; lines 4-15 appear to be a portrait of the Last Judgment, sharing features with apocalyptic works such as 1 Enoch, with its description of the heavenly geography, the role of the Angels, etc.

Isaiah 61:1 and Mal 3:1; 4:5-6 also feature prominently in the Gospel Tradition, relating to the identity of Jesus as the Anointed One (Messiah). Both passages came to be understood in Jewish tradition as referring to Messianic Prophet figure-types—”Elijah” and the herald of Isa 61. Both figure-types were applied to Jesus in the earliest Gospel tradition, though eventually the role of “Elijah” was seen as being fulfilled by John the Baptist. Jesus identifies himself specifically with the Anointed herald of Isaiah 61:1 in two distinct lines of tradition (Lk 7:22 par [“Q”] and Lk 4:18ff). I discuss these matters in considerable detail in Parts 2 & 3 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed”. An especially interesting point in common between the Gospel tradition and 4Q521 is that the Isaian oracle has been adapted to include a reference to raising the dead (line 12, Matt 11:5b par), which, in Jewish tradition, came to be associated particularly with Elijah (cf. 1 Kings 17:17-24; Sirach 48:5, [11]; m. Sota 9; j. Sheqalim 3:3; Pesikta de R. Kahana 76a). By the end of the 1st century A.D., resurrection came to be connected with the appearance of the Messiah generally (2 Baruch 30:2; 2/4 Esdras 7) [cf. Collins, pp. 119-20].

The Qumran text 4Q521 demonstrates that similar Messianic associations were already being made early in the 1st century B.C., whereby an Anointed figure was expected to appear at the end-time, a divinely-appointed representative who would act on God’s behalf, able to work miracles, control/alter the natural order, and who would bring aid and deliverance to the faithful ones among God’s people.

References above marked “Garcia Martinez & Tigchelaar” are to Florentino García Martínez and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (Brill / Eerdmans: 1997-8).
References marked “Collins” are to John J. Collins, The Scepter and the Star: The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literature, Anchor Bible Reference Library [ABRL] (Doubleday: 1995).

Yeshua the Anointed, Part 1: Introduction

This series, originally designed for Easter season, is entitled “Yeshua the Anointed” (in conventional rendering, “Jesus the Messiah”) – focusing specifically on Jesus as the Anointed One, or Messiah. Within a generation (less than 30 years) after his death and resurrection, the term Xristo/$ (Christos, “Anointed [One]”) was being applied to Jesus virtually as a second name. Through the generations, right up to the present day, believers have been so accustomed to referring to him as “Jesus Christ” or “Christ”, that much of the original meaning of the title has been lost or forgotten. This began to change, to some extent, in the 20th century, largely as a result of more thorough critical study of the Jewish background of the New Testament (aided considerably by the discovery and publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls), and we are now able to gain a clearer sense of what the term might have meant or signified for Jews and early Christians in the 1st century A.D.

The word “Messiah” is simply an Anglicized transliteration of the Hebrew j^yv!m* (m¹šîaµ), a substantive noun derived from the root jv^m* (m¹šaµ), which has the basic meaning to wipe, rub or otherwise apply a substance (such as paint or oil). It came to be used in the technical or ceremonial sense of the application of oil to persons or objects, as a means of consecration. More generally, in ancient Near Eastern culture, anointing with oil was often a way of bestowing honor or dignity upon a person (the use of oil typically being a sign and symbol of wealth), e.g. Psalm 23:5; Amos 6:6; Mic 6:15; Luke 7:46. Anointing with oil was also thought to be a means and medium for healing, i.e. of illness or disease (James 5:14; cf. Isa 1:6, etc); in addition, there was the ceremonial practice of anointing (or “embalming”) associated with burial ritual (cf. especially regarding Jesus’ burial in Mark 16:1; Matt 26:12; Luke 23:56; John 19:39).

Hebrew jv^m* is typically rendered in Greek by the corresponding verb a)lei/fw (aleíphœ), which likewise has the meaning “rub, wipe, smear” (used 8 times in the NT—Matt 6:17; Mk 6:13; 16:1; Lk 7:38, 46 [twice]; Jn 11:2; 12:3; Jas 5:14). However, when referring to the ritual/ceremonial practice of anointing rulers, priests, sacred objects, and the like, the verb xri/w (chríœ) is more common (LXX Exod 30:26; 40:10; Lev 8:11ff, et al); xri/w occurs 5 times in the NT (Lk 4:18 [quoting Isa 61:1]; Acts 4:27; 10:38; 2 Cor 1:21; and Heb 1:9 [quoting Ps 45:7]), with the compound forms e)pixri/w and e)gxri/w in Jn 9:6, 11 and Rev 3:18. The derived noun xristo/$ (christós) corresponds to j^yv!m*—both mean literally “anointed (one or thing)” (i.e. person or object). The related noun xri=sma (chrísma) refers to the application or anointing itself (LXX Ex 29:7; 30:25, etc), and is used in the NT (of believers) only in a symbolic, spiritual sense (1 Jn 2:20, 27, cf. 2 Cor 1:21).

Use of the noun j^yv!m*

The substantive noun j^yv!m* (m¹šîaµ) occurs 39 times in the Old Testament Scriptures (cf. Fitzmyer, pp. 76-77), and always in the ritual/ceremonial sense of a consecrated person (or object):

  • Most commonly it refers to the reigning/ruling King generally—1 Sam 2:10, 35; 16:6; Psalm 2:2; 20:7; 84:10 (and Psalm 28:8; Hab 3:13 ?), or to a specific ruler, such as:
    • Saul—1 Sam 24:7, 11; 26:9, 11, 16, 23; 2 Sam 1:14, 16, 21 (?), and cf. also 1 Sam 12:3, 5
    • David—2 Sam 19:22; 22:51; 23:1; Psalm 18:51; 89:39, 52; 132:10, 17 (and/or the Davidic line)
    • Solomon—2 Chron 6:42
    • Zedekiah—Lam 4:20 (cf. 2 Kings 25:4-5)
  • It may also be used of an ordained/officiating Priest (or High Priest)—Lev 4:3, 5, 16; 6:15
  • References to anointed Prophets in the OT are rare or uncertain, but note 1 Chron 16:22, Psalm 105:5, and cf. also 1 Kings 19:16
  • Only twice does the term clearly refer to a future, expected figure:
    • Isaiah 45:1 (the Persian ruler Cyrus)
    • Daniel 9:25-26 (of a military commander or “prince” [dyg]n`])—this famous passage will be discussed in due course

There are, of course, many references to the anointing of kings and rulers, priests, and sacred objects (i.e. of the Tabernacle), not all of which necessarily use the verb jv^m*: e.g., Gen 31:13; Ex 28:41; 29:7, 21, 29, 36; 30:25ff; 40:9-11ff; Lev 6:20, 22; 7:36; 8:10-12; 10:7; 16:32; 21:10, 12; Num 3:3; 7:1, 10, 84, 88; Judg 9:8, 15; 1 Sam 9:16; 10:1; 15:1, 17; 16:3, 12-13; 2 Sam 2:4, 7; 3:39; 5:3, 17; 12:7; 19:10; 1 Kings 1:34, 39, 45; 5:1; 19:15f; 2 Kings 9:3, 6, 12; 11:12; 23:30; 1 Chron 11:3; 14:8; 29:22; 2 Chron 22:7; Psalm 45:7; 89:20; Dan 9:24; and cf. also Zech 4:14.

The concept of anointing and anointed persons need not be limited to the use of the noun j^yv!m* (or the verb jv^m*), but it is helpful indeed to begin with these terms (and/or their Greek equivalents) when analyzing the idea of a “Messiah” in Jewish and early Christian thought.

Definition of Basic Terms

  • “Messiah”—As a basic concept, I define the term as: a ruler or leader, specially appointed by God, and through whom God will bring about the restoration of Israel, in a political and/or religious sense. To this definition, several additional or qualifying points should be made:
    • (1) The distinctive concept of a “Messiah” is primarily a product of the historical circumstances of the Exile, with the end of the old Israelite/Judean kingdoms, the conquest of the territory (and people), and the destruction of the Temple. Only in the Exilic and Post-exilic periods does the idea of the restoration of Israel come into view, and with it the hope of a divinely-appointed figure who will bring it about.
    • (2) This future hope gradually came to be understood in an eschatological context—that is, the appearance of a “Messiah” (or the “Messiah”) will precede, or coincide with, the end-time Judgment of God, and will usher in the Age to Come.
    • (3) While a “Messiah” may correspond to a number of different images or ideas (cf. below), the primary figure which developed in Israelite/Jewish thought was that of a Davidic ruler (i.e. from the dynasty or line of David) who will arise at some point (in the future) and restore the kingdom of Israel, subjugating the nations, and inaugurating a (worldwide) reign of peace.
    • (4) It is worth noting the virtually all of the traditions associated with the idea of a “Messiah” in Jewish and early Christian thought are derived from a relatively small set of Old Testament passages. Apart from the verses where the specific word j^yv!m* is used (cf. above), these include Gen 49:10; Num 24:15-19; 2 Sam 7:11-17; 22:44-51 (= Ps 18:44-51); 23:1-3, 5; Isa 11:1-9; Amos 9:11; Jer 22:4-5; 23:5-6; 30:9, 21; 33:14-22; Ezek 17:3-4, 22-23; 34:23-24; 37:24-25; Zech 3:8; 4:11-14; 6:12-13; Dan 7:13ff, and perhaps a few others. These will all be discussed at various points in this series. Extra-Scriptural influence on the Messiah concept would seem to be slight indeed.
  • “Messianic”: any belief, teaching, image, or motif which relates to, or is characteristic of, the idea of a “Messiah” as defined above.
  • “Messianism”: a distinct set of “Messianic” beliefs or concepts which is relatively consistent, and may be expressed as such (with some degree of clarity) in tradition or writing. I do not find the term to be particularly helpful, and it really ought to be used sparingly, as little as possible.

Some authors and scholars, on occasion, will apply the terms “Messianic” and “Messianism” to similar religious-cultural phenomena outside of Judaism—i.e. ancient Persian, Egyptian (in the Roman period), Hindu, Islamic, etc. While one may legitimately consider “Messianism” or “Messiah” concepts under the larger umbrella of the Phenomenology of Religion—and, admittedly, there are any number of parallels in other cultures—it is best to reserve “Messiah” and “Messianic” specifically for Jewish (and early Christian) thought. The only (partial) exception is that I would, without hesitation, include Samaritan beliefs (associated with a future/coming Taheb [bht]) as “Messianic”.

Sources for Messianic thought (in the 1st century A.D.)

I would group these into four categories:

  • The Old Testament Scriptures—for a list of the most relevant passages, see above.
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls (from Qumran)—These texts span the period roughly 150 B.C. to 50 A.D., with the majority to be dated somewhere in the 1st century B.C. It is generally assumed that the scrolls found in the various caves belonged to a Community which resided at the site of Khirbet Qumrân. The corpus represented by the scrolls comprises a wide range of writings: documents related to the organization of the Community, copies of Scripture, commentaries, pseudepigrapha and other interpretive treatments of Scripture, and much more. A number of texts contain definite eschatological and/or Messianic passages, which will be introduced and discussed throughout this series.
  • Other Jewish writings c. 250 B.C.–100 A.D.—These include:
    • Pseudepigraphic works with an apocalyptic and/or eschatological emphasis, especially—
      • The Psalms of Solomon (mid-late 1st century B.C. [sometime after 63 B.C.]), esp. the 17th and 18th psalms
      • The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, which appears to be a Christian expansion (or adaptation) of earlier Jewish source material (mid-2nd century B.C.?). The presumed Christian additions likely date from the early/mid-2nd century A.D. The Qumran text 4QTLevi is related in some way to the Testament of Levi.
      • The Sibylline Oracles (esp. portions of Books 3 and 5), which contain much Jewish material (variously dated from the mid-2nd century B.C. to the late 1st century A.D.), along with Christian additions and adaptation.
      • The Similitudes of Enoch (1 Enoch 37-71), date uncertain, probably early-mid 1st century A.D.
      • The Apocalypse of Baruch (2 Baruch), late 1st century A.D.
      • The deutero-canonical 2/4 Esdras (or “4 Ezra”), late 1st century A.D.
    • Several passages in the books of Jubilees and Sirach (both typically dated early/mid-2nd century B.C.)
    • Philo of Alexandria shows little interest in eschatology or Messianic ideas (but cf. On Rewards and Punishments §§165-9). As for Josephus, his pro-Roman viewpoint made him averse to popular Messianic expectation, but he does bear witness to several would-be “Messiah”-type figures who appeared and had some influence (Antiquities 18.85; 20.97, 169-172; War 7.437ff). That Messianic expectation was relatively widespread is indicated by Josephus’ report of a prophecy that a world-ruler would come out of Judea (War 6.312ff, and cf. Tacitus, Histories 5.13.2; Suetonius, Vespasian 4.5).
    • We might also include texts and inscriptions associated with the Bar-Kokhba rebellion (132-135 A.D.)
  • Later Jewish Literature, from the 2nd century A.D. on into the middle ages—these writings may contain earlier traditions, but one must be extremely cautious about trying to read them back into the time of Jesus. There is a wide range of material, including:
    • Later Pseudepigrapha, such as so-called “Hebrew Enoch” (3 Enoch)
    • The Targums, Aramaic translations of Scripture which are often highly interpretative and expansive
    • Traditions contained in the Midrash and Talmuds
    • Collections of Midrashim (such as the Midrash Rabbah) and other Rabbinic writings

j^yv!m* in Jewish writings 1st-century B.C./A.D.

It is instructive to list the relevant passages where the noun j^yv!m* (m¹šîaµ), or the corresponding Greek xristo/$ (christós) etc., is used in Jewish writings of the 1st centuries B.C. and A.D. (including the New Testament). For Old Testament passages using j^yv!m, cf. above.

The Dead Sea (Qumran) Texts (cf. “Qumran-Messianism”, pp. 191-4), including the so-called “Damascus Document” which, in addition to the fragments from Qumran (QD), is attested also in later versions or copies found previously in Cairo [CD]:

  • It is often used of a political/military leader (presumably, if not explicitly, Davidic):
    • Anointed (One) of Israel
      CD 12:23-13:1; 14:19 (= 4Q266 10 i 12); 19:10-11; 20:1
      1QS 9:11 (passage apparently missing from 4Q259 1 iii 6)
      1QSa 2:14-15, 20-21; and also 4Q382 16 2
    • Anointed (One)
      1QSa 2:11-12; 4Q252 5:3-4; 4Q381 15 7; 4Q458 2 ii 6
  • It is used similarly of a priestly leader (Priest/High-priest):
    • Anointed (One) of Aaron
      CD 12:23-13:1; 14:9; 19:10-11; 20:1; 1QS 9:11 (all parallel to “Anointed [One] of Israel”)
    • Anointed Priest
      4Q375 1 i 9; 4Q376 1 i 1
  • It frequently refers to the (historical) Prophets, always in the plural (“Anointed Ones”):
    • CD 2:12; 5:21-6:1 (= 4Q267 2 6 / 6Q15 3 4); 1QM 11:7-8; 4Q270 2 ii 13-14; 4Q287 10 13; 4Q521 8 9
    • And similarly of Moses: 4Q377 2 ii 4-5, and cf. CD 5:21f
  • It is used of an Elijah-like Prophet figure in 4Q521 1 ii 1, 7 3 (drawing upon Isa 61:1ff and Ps 146)
  • It is used of an Anointed “herald” (r?bm) in 11QMelch 2:18, referring specifically to Daniel 9:25

Pseudepigrapha (cf. “Qumran-Messianism”, pp. 29-43)—the key passages are:

  • Psalms of Solomon 17:32[36]; 18:5, 7 (and cf. the context of 17:21-33)
  • The Similitudes of Enoch—1 Enoch 48:10; 52:4 [Ethiopic]
  • The Apocalypse of Baruch (2 Baruch) 29:3; 30:1; 39:7; 40:1; 70:9; 72:2 [Syriac]; and note esp. the context of chs. 72-74.
  • 2/4 Esdras (4 Ezra) 7:28-29ff (throughout ch. 7); 11:37-12:34; and see also 13:3-14:9

New Testament—here I list out only those verses where xristo/$ is clearly used in the general sense of an expected (future or end-time) figure; square brackets indicate references which are slightly less certain, or which may be colored more by early Christian belief about Jesus. Naturally enough, nearly all of these come from the Gospels and Acts.

In John 1:41; 4:25, j^yv!m* is transliterated (as Messi/a$), rather than translated by Xristo/$.

Messianic Figures or Types

I would highlight five distinct figures or types associated with the Messiah-concept in Jewish and early Christian tradition:

  1. The Davidic King—a political/military ruler, usually understood to be a ‘descendent’ of David, though this does not necessarily mean biological descent.
  2. The True or Ideal Priest—a priestly ‘descendent’ of Levi/Aaron who will oversee the religious restoration of Israel; this figure is associated especially with the Messianic beliefs and expectations of the Qumran Community.
  3. The Coming Prophet—an end-time miracle-working and/or teaching prophet whose appearance will precede the Judgment of God; there are two strands of tradition which developed:
    (a) A Moses-figure (from Deut 18:15-19)
    (b) An Elijah-figure (from Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6)
  4. A Teacher of Righteousness/Holiness—who will bring divine revelation and instruction, especially with regard to a proper understanding of the Law (Torah); a distinctive feature of the Qumran texts.
  5. A Heavenly/Angelic Deliverer—associated as well with the end-time Judgment of God; best known in terms of the “Son of Man” concept, as developed (it would seem) from the brief reference in Daniel 7:13f.

These are best understood as specific types or roles—it may be possible for a single person or figure to fulfill more than one role. As we shall see, all five of these can be seen as being fulfilled by Jesus in various ways, and this as been expressed at different points throughout the history of Christian belief and tradition.

Outline for this Series

Here is the outline I will be following for this series:

  • Part 1: Introduction
  • Part 2: The Coming Prophet
  • Part 3: The Coming Prophet: Moses and Elijah
  • Part 4: The Teacher of Righteousness
  • Part 5: The Kingdom of God
  • Part 6: The Davidic King: Overview and Background
  • Part 7: The Davidic King: Detailed Analysis
  • Part 8: The Son of David
  • Part 9: The True Priest
  • Part 10: The Son of Man
  • Part 11: The Death and Resurrection of Jesus
  • Part 12: Messiah and the Son of God

In each article I will attempt to examine: (a) the Old Testament background, (b) Jewish believers or traditions which are likely to have been in existence during the 1st century A.D., (c) how it relates or applies to Jesus at the historical level and in Gospel tradition, and (d) how it further was understood in early Christian thought.

Bibliographic Note: There are many books and articles which survey Messianic beliefs in the Qumran Texts (Dead Sea Scrolls); I found three to be especially useful, which I will be citing frequently during this series:
* John J. Collins, The Scepter and the Star: The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literature (Anchor Bible Reference Library [ABRL] 1995)—referenced as “Collins”.
* Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins ([Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature], Eerdmans: 2000), esp. pp. 73-110—referenced as “Fitzmyer”.
* James H. Charlesworth, Hermann Lichtenberger, and Gerbern S. Oegema, editors, Qumran Messianism: Studies on the Messianic Expectations in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Mohr Siebeck: 1998)—referenced as “Qumran-Messianism”.

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