Saturday, July 25, 2009
The Return of the Messiah
No, I'm not talking about the parousia here. Rather, I'm talking about what I perceive to be a "surge" of sorts in ascribing a messianic paradigm, intent, self-consciousness to the historical Jesus in recent scholarship. In the Wrede to Bultmann era, the messiahship of Jesus was a theological construct, a profession of the christology of the believing community, read back into the earthly life of Jesus in the Gospels. N.A. Dahl provided a glimmer of continuity between the pre-Easter Jesus and the post-Easter christology by arguing for the authenticity of the titulus on the cross. So Jesus did not claim to be the messiah, but he never denied the allegation of being a messianic claimant at his trial either, which is why the titulus was put up. Others (e.g. Fredriksen, Dunn) argued that while Jesus' followers and some of the crowds thought him the messiah, Jesus himself shied away from this leadership role. Some like Sanders say that Jesus saw himelf as the royal arbiter of God's kingdom, but not in fact as a messiah.
But times they are a changing. Obviously, you have guys like N.T. Wright and Craig A. Evans asserting the case for a messianic Jesus. I have my own contribution to the subject as well in the now released book, Are You the One Who is to Come? The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question. Then there is also Dale C. Allison's work on Jesus of Nazareth: Millennarian Prophet and his more recent book The Historical Christ and the Jesus of Faith. What is more, in the latest issue of JSHJ there is a cracking good essay by Suzanne Watts Henderson titled, "Jesus' Messianic Self-Consciousness Revisited: Christology and Community in Context." Henderson's article concludes:
"In embodying God's dominion unleashed on earth, both Jesus and those who followed him apparently thought they were ushering in the messianic age of God's rule. As messiah, Jesus functioned authoritatively to bridge the chasm between divine and human power, making God's kingdom authority available to those who would trust in God's coming rule. Understood in this light, Jesus' messianic demurral, his messianic death, and his designation as 'messiah' in the post-resurrection age make more coherent and contextual sense than is often recognized"
I've said elsewhere, that this would make a great Ph.D topic for some brave soul.