Just today in reviewing another book, I read about an anthropology course at the University of California, Santa Cruz that was titled “Will the real Jesus please stand up?” In his reflection the author recalled studying Jesus from the perspectives of the four Gospels, a couple of fictional novels, and a few movies. The conclusion for the course was that each student offered a relative definition on who Jesus “was” based on their preferred perspective. This type of subjective religious understanding, though becoming less and less relevant in a post-Christendom, Western context, is the norm among those whore express interest in faith matters, yet are outside of the church. In regards to Jesus, society has accepted the motto, “to each their own”. An agnostic may believe Jesus was merely a good moral teacher. To the historian, he was a carpenter who never intended for the religious sect he started, to last two thousand years. And according to whatever science or philosophy is newest among the New Age spirituality crowd, Jesus might as well be syncretized with practices of medieval alchemy, be reincarnated as the next Buddha, or portrayed as the biases for an upcoming fictional space movie trilogy. Essentially, the point I am making, is that in such a spiritualty diverse and relativistic culture, as is North America, people are encouraged to pick whichever “Jesus” they like most, if anyone at all.
This of course is neither the Truth of Jesus nor the Truth of the Bible to whom it testifies. In their new book Jesus the Messiah, professors Bateman, Bock, and Johnston do just as their subtitle suggests, “trace the promises expectations, and coming of Israel’s King.” The book is separated into three sections. In part one, Gordon Johnston covers the “Promises of a King”. In chapters one through seven, he looks at the predominate Old Testament books of Genesis and the Psalms as well as passages that declare God’s covenant with David, and the messianic trajectories of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. In Part 2, Herbert Bateman IV discusses the “Expectations of a King” and addresses such topics as the three obstacles that challenge a historic understanding of messianism during the second temple, including paralleled ancient events, social sensitivities, and the reality of limited resources. Chapter eleven, “Anticipations of the One Called Son” is my favorite portion of this section. In it Bateman reflects on the classic “Psalms of Solomon” translated by R.B. Wright, by paying special attention to the profiled “Lord Messiah” and his righteousness, gentle kingship, and authority over the nations. The final section of part 3, Darrel Bock analyses Jesus in light of Revelation, the Catholic Epistles, and the Pauline letters.
Complete with Hebrew word studies, full color maps, and significant footnotes, “Jesus the Messiah” is a considerable volume of academic research. Though this is a weighty book, both theologically and literally (finishing out at 527 pages in all), it is an essential contribution to the study of biblical Christology.
Disclaimer: In agreements with the FTC guidelines, I was provided a free copy of “Jesus the Messiah”, courtesy of Kregel Academic Publishers, in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.