Is it right to think that the Old Testament expects a Messiah? Many would answer yes, but perhaps the next question is more pointed and the answer ever more complex: in what way does the Old Testament expect a Messiah? Is the Old Testament full of direct and exclusive prophecies of an individual Messiah, or are the predictions less direct? And if indirect, then how are they legitimately Messianic? Or is it better to conclude that the NT authors illegitimately ripped OT passages out of their original context, claiming fulfilment in Jesus? This is no doubt a thorny issue, and Darrell Johnston, Herbert Bateman IV, and Darrell Bock recognised that their “median approach” (p30) offers a way forward. This is the motive behind the joint effort Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King.
So how is Jesus the Messiah unique (I felt sacrilegious just writing that)? According to Bateman’s introduction, “a significant point of our book is to argue how this portrait of messiah presented in both Testaments is gradually unfolded” (p21), and, “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” (p25, emphasis italicised in original). Unlike the more traditional approach of many, who read OT passages as exclusively predictive of Jesus, the authors take a different route to get to the same conclusion. Their approach is more akin to a typological reading of prophecy that allows for immediate fulfilment in the near future, but also a greater escalation fulfilment in Jesus: “not all prophecy is exclusively pointing to Jesus, just ultimately” (p26). The three authors in Jesus the Messiah trace the messianic expectation from Old Testament (Gordon Johnston), to the extra-Biblical Jewish literature (Herbert Bateman IV), which they rightly emphasise is not on the same level as Scripture, and then finally to the New Testament fulfilment in Jesus (Darrell Bock).
Many thanks to Alban books for providing a review copy of Jesus the Messiah. Their generosity has not affected my opinion of this book.