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II

THE MESSIANIC HOPE

THE attitude of Jesus to His suffering was of necessity deeply influenced by His estimate of His Person, and, inasmuch as in the Gospels He is represented as, and as claiming to be, the Messiah of Jewish expectation, it is necessary to describe the Messianic Hope of Israel.

Like other Old Testament ideas that of the Messianic hope has a history.11   Cf. F. J. Foakes Jackson and Kirsopp Lake, The Beginnings of Christianity, vol. i. part i. 346-68. Its simplest beginnings are to be seen in the use of the term 'anointed' which in various ways is used to designate offices of divine appointment. This description, for example, is used of kings. Saul is anointed to be prince over Israel (1 Sam. ix. 16), and when David appears before Samuel the word of Yahweh to the prophet is: 'Arise, anoint him: for this is he' (1 Sam. xvi. 12). Even of a heathen king like Cyrus it is said: 'Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden' (Isa. xlv. 1). In Psa. cv. 15 the patriarchs are spoken of as 'mine anointed ones', and in Hab. iii. 13 the same language is used of the people as a whole.22   Cf. also Psa. xxviii. 8, lxxxiv. 9, lxxxix. 38, 51. These passages illustrate the wide uses of which the idea which lies at the root of the term 'Messiah' was capable. In course of time, however, it came to be applied in a special sense in connexion with the expectation of the Scion of David whom God would raise up for the rule and deliverance of Israel. This hope was based on the belief 25 in the permanency of David's dynasty which is expressed in 2 Sam. vii. 16, and which persisted in spite of the evil fortunes of his house and even after the monarchy ceased to exist. Its real foundation, however, was religious; it rested in the unwavering conviction regarding the faithfulness of Yahweh to His purpose of founding a Kingdom of righteousness of which Israel would be the expression and symbol.

Prophecies which originally may have had another application came to be read in the light of this hope. Isa. ix. 2-7, for example, speaks of the birth of a child for whom an almost semi-divine greatness is reserved, and Isa, xi. 1-9 describes the coming forth of 'a shoot out of the stock of Jesse' on whom 'the spirit of Yahweh' shall rest, and the dawn of a golden age when 'the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid'. 'The earth', it is said, 'shall be full of the knowledge of Yahweh, as the waters cover the sea'. These passages illustrate the close connexion between the Messiah and the Kingdom, and this is a characteristic of the Messianic Hope throughout its later history.

Jer. xxiii. 5f. expresses the hope, although here, it has been said, 'the idea has lost something of the glamour of its first inception';11   J. Skinner, Prophecy and Religion, 319. 'Behold, the days come, saith Yahweh, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute judgement and justice in the land. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, Yahweh our righteousness.'22   Cf. also Jer. xxxiii. 14ff. A similar expectation appears in Ezek. xxxiv. 23f.: 'And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I, Yahweh, will be their God, and my servant David prince among 26 them. I, Yahweh, have spoken it.'11   Cf. also Ezek. xxxvii. 24. Other passages of like tenor are Isa. lv. 3f., Psa. lxxviii. 70ff., lxxxix. 20-37. Psa. xviii. 50 illustrates the use of the term 'anointed': 'Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth loving-kindness to his anointed, to David and to his seed, for evermore'. The same expression also appears in Psa. ii. 2, which, whatever its original application may have been, came to be interpreted in line with popular expectations.22   Cf. The Beginnings of Christianity, vol. i. part i, 353.

The hope of the Messianic Age was not killed by the bitter experiences of the Exile; indeed, it is to the post-Exilic period that much of the evidence for the belief belongs. A new form is given to the expectation in Zech. ix. 9f. which is of great interest because it is quoted in Mt. xxi. 5 and Jn. xii. 15 in connexion with the story of the Entry into Jerusalem. In this passage the unknown prophet portrays a Messiah-King who is 'lowly' or 'afflicted', who rides upon an ass and whose mission it is to bring universal peace:33   The prophecy may probably be dated shortly after May 23, 141, when the citadel of Jerusalem surrendered', R. H. Kennett, Peake's Commentary, 580. For the theory of a fourth century date see H. G. Mitchell, I.C.C., Zechariah, 253; J. E. McFadyen, The Abingdon Bible Commentary, 826. See also R. S. Cripps, The Prophets and the Atonement, 30.

'Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion;

Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem;

Behold, thy king cometh unto thee;

'He is just, and having salvation;

Lowly, and riding upon an ass,

Even upon a colt the foal of an ass.

'And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim,

And the horse from Jerusalem,

And the battle bow shall be cut off;

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'And he shall speak peace unto the nations:

And his dominion shall be from sea to sea.

And from the River to the ends of the earth.'

The Similitudes of Enoch and the Psalms of Solomon show how the belief persisted in the century preceding the birth of Jesus. The teaching of the former, with reference to the Son of Man, must be considered in the next chapter, but the descriptive passage in lxii. 2f. may with advantage be quoted here :

'And the Lord of Spirits seated him on the throne of His glory,

And the spirit of righteousness was poured out upon him,

And the word of his mouth slays all the sinners,

And all the unrighteous are destroyed from before his face,

And there shall stand up in that day all the kings and the mighty.

And the exalted and those who hold the earth,

And they shall see and recognize

How he sits on the throne of his glory,

And righteousness is judged before him,

And no lying word is spoken before him.'

It is clear that in this description the Messianic idea has passed from the historical to the supramundane sphere. In the Psalms of Solomon, however, there is a closer approximation to earlier ideas under the influence of the cruel times in which these poems were written. In xvii. 23ff. prayer is made that God will raise up 'the Son of David', and that he may be girded with strength 'that he may shatter unrighteous rulers'. His task is to destroy the pride of the sinner 'as a potter's vessel', and to break in pieces their substance 'with a rod of iron'. A nobler note is struck in xvii. 28f. where it is said:

'And he shall gather together a holy people, whom he shall lead in righteousness,

And he shall judge the tribes of the people that has been sanctified by the Lord his God.

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'And he shall not suffer unrighteousness to lodge any more in their midst,

Nor shall there dwell with them any man that knoweth wickedness,

For he shall know them, that they are all sons of their God.'11   Cf. R. H. Charles, Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, ii. 649.

The Gospels testify to the existence and strength of the hope in the first half of the first century A.D. There must have been many righteous and devout men like Simeon 'looking for the consolation of Israel' (Lk. ii. 25), and many women like Anna who spoke 'to all them that were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem' (Lk. ii. 38). The expectation is further attested by the fact that Jesus (Mk. xiv. 61) and John the Baptist (Jn. i. 19-28) were questioned as to their claims, and also in the confession of Peter near Caesarea Philippi (Mk. viii. 29). In 4 Ezra the Eagle Vision (xi-xii. 39),22   The Lion which predicts the destruction of the Eagle (Rome) is described as 'the Messiah, whom the Most High has kept until the end of days, who will spring from the race of David, and will come,' Cf. G. P. Moore, Judaism, ii. 338. and the Vision of the Man rising from the Sea (xiii.)33   Before the Man rising from the sea everything quakes and his enemies are burned to ashes by a fiery stream from his mouth. Afterwards he calls to himself 'another multitude which was peaceable'. Cf. xiii. 12f. W. O. E. Oesterley thinks that both visions represent a transcendental Messiah, and that they are earlier than 4 Ezra itself. Cf. An Introduction to the Books of the Apocrypha, 148-55., show that the belief was current at the end of the first century A.D.; and its persistence is illustrated by the fact that Akiba recognized the Messiah in Bar-Cochba, the ill-fated leader of the revolt against Hadrian in 132-5 A.D.

It is not possible to reduce all the ideas which gather round the figure of the Messiah to a single conception. The outstanding portrait is that of an expected Scion of David, a Prince of the Royal House, whose work it is to 29 restore the ancient glories of Israel, to execute justice on her heathen oppressors, and to inaugurate the reign of peace and of righteousness. Sometimes, however, the emphasis is so much on the Kingdom to be established that the figure of the Davidic King fades away into the background, and even, as for example in Isa. xlff., is not mentioned at all. When the Messiah is introduced into the picture, his work is that of an Agent; he is the divinely chosen instrument of God who Himself effects the deliverance. G. F. Moore, however, maintains that more frequently 'he appears on the scene only after the great deliverance has been wrought by God himself, as the ruler of a redeemed and regenerated Israel.'11   Judaism, ii. 330f. In the later Apocalypses the Messianic Age is not final. In 4 Ezra, for example, it lasts four hundred years, and after a silence of seven days the Last Judgment follows (vii. 28-35). A conception similar in certain respects appears in the Christian Apocalypse of John (cf. xx).

In these Jewish forecasts the figure of the Messiah, however great in respect of his authority and power, remains essentially human, and his work is predominantly political and nationalistic. As we have seen, a very different conception appears in the Similitudes of Enoch in the portraiture of a Supernatural Being whose home is on high, and who waits the divinely appointed hour for his emergence in glory and in power upon the plane of human history. These two very different conceptions continued to exist side by side. The Fourth Gospel is only echoing current diversities of thought when it voices the opinion of those who held that the Christ would come from Bethlehem, 'the village where David was' (vii. 42) and the ideas of others who held that the Messiah would be of unknown and mysterious origin (vii. 27). It is abundantly manifest 30 that in the days of Jesus the way stood open for a Messianic claimant to select from among existing conceptions and, according to the degree of his insight, to make of them a symbol of redemptive activity at once old and new. Such an exercise of creative thinking is precisely what Jesus accomplished in connexion with the Messianic Hope of Israel as centred in Himself and in His ministry of suffering, death, and exaltation.

That Jesus claimed to be the Messiah has been repeatedly denied, and, in modern times, by no one more trenchantly than by W. Wrede in his Das Messiasgeheimnis in den Evangelien (1901; 2nd ed. 1913). His arguments have been answered by many scholars including Julicher,11   Neue Linien in der Kritik der evangelischen Uberlieferung. Schweitzer,22   The Quest of the Historical 'Jesus', 336-48. Sanday,33   The Life of Christ in Recent Research, 69-76. Peake,44   The Messiah and the Son of Man, an essay printed from The Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, vol. 8, no. 1, Jan. 1924. and Rawlinson55   The Gospel according to St. Mark, 258-62.; but they have been given a new importance by the leading Form-Critics, Dibelius66   From Tradition to Gospel, 55, 73f., 94, 223f., 229f., 260, 297. and Bultmann,77   Die Geschichte der synoptischen Tradition, 371f. and by R. H. Lightfoot in his recent Bampton Lectures.88   History and Interpretation in the Gospels, 16-22, 57-88, 220.

In brief, Wrede's position is that Jesus did not claim to be the Messiah, that He was not recognized as such until after the Resurrection, and that in Mark's Gospel Messiahship is read back into the story of Jesus by means of the theory of 'the Messianic Secret'. Much is made of the injunctions to secrecy in Mark. Silence, we are reminded, is enjoined when the devils seek to make Jesus known (i. 23ff., 34, iii. 11f., v. 6f., ix. 20); after notable 31 miracles (i. 44, v. 43, vii. 36, viii. 26); after Peter's Confession (viii. 30); and when Jesus speaks of His Messianic Mission (ix. 9). Jesus also withdraws from the crowd on secret journeys (vii. 24, ix. 30), and gives private instruction to His disciples concerning the 'mystery of the kingdom', His Person, and destiny (iv. 10-3, 34, vii. 17-23, ix. 28f., xiii. 3ff.). The purpose of this representation, it is argued, is to show why Jesus was not recognized as the Messiah during His earthly life.

It may be that, in points of detail, Mark has overpressed the idea of the Messianic Secret; but, in substance, Wrede's explanation is quite unconvincing. Everything is based on the effect of 'visions' of the Risen Christ; but it is in the highest degree improbable that such experiences would have taken place if Jesus had made no Messianic claims. Moreover, belief in resurrection does not of necessity suggest Messiahship; it did not in the case of the Baptist (cf. Mk. vi. 14-6). Again, the first Christians would not have created for themselves the most formidable of difficulties by preaching a Crucified Messiah, unless Jesus had been condemned as a Messianic pretender. Further, as Schweitzer observes, 'a creative tradition would have carried out the theory of the Messianic secret in the life of Jesus much more boldly and logically, that is to say, at once more arbitrarily and more consistently.11   Op. cit., 338 Finally, the Markan representation is credibly explained as historical. A record which begins with a story of revelation (i. 9-11) followed by temptation (i. 12f.), which describes efforts to conceal the secret from popular misconception, to reveal it to intimate followers, to express it, albeit in a veiled form, in the events of the Entry (xi. 1-11), and, finally, to confess it when the claim is extorted by the high priest's question (xiv. 61f.), has 32 every right to be accepted as trustworthy. There can be no reasonable doubt that Jesus believed He was, and claimed to be, the Messiah.

But what Messiah? The Gospels clearly show that to Jesus Messiahship was a burden; no conception of it, current among His contemporaries, answered to His own. It is highly doubtful if He ever used the term 'Christ' of Himself, and it is significant that, according to Matthew (xxvi. 63f.) and Luke (xxii. 70), His reply to the question of Caiaphas is: 'You say it', 'the word is yours'.11   Cf. J. H, Moulton, Grammar of New Testament Greek, i. 86. It is as if He were accepting a title under constraint. How original and distinctive is the thought of Jesus is shown by His preference for the term, 'Son of Man', and still more by His bold reinterpretation of this title by the idea of the Suffering Servant.

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