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Jesus the Messiah

Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King by Herbert W. Bateman IV, Darrell L. Bock, and Gordon H. Johnston

This new book by three capable scholars in the fields of Old Testament and New Testament is a welcome addition to the growing number of books on issues regarding Messiah, prophecy and fulfillment.  What is different from the start in this book is the authors’ insistence that “not all prophecy is exclusively pointing to Jesus, just ultimately(26).  They see the First Testament’s prophecies as providing information regarding ‘prefiguring portraits.’  Their commitment to a contextual-canonical reading allows for a reading that is faithful to the Old Testament context and its historical fulfillment while also maintaining the view that progressive fulfillment concern the whole scope of redemptive history. 

Why buy this book?

For one, this book provides a mountain of evidence in favor of understanding messianic trajectories in the Old Testament through a healthy contextual lens.  In other words, the authors do not quickly point out one aspect of God’s covenantal dealings without dealing with a holistic understanding.  For instance, when talking about God’s covenant promise to David in 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Kings and Chronicles, the writers point out that, “Although Nathan’s oracle did not contain any explicit moral obligations, subsequent passage made clear that God required David’s sons to be faithful to him for the initial historical fulfillment of these promises:…Solomon’s faithfulness in building the temple, obedience of each generation of royal descendants” (69).  Covenantal obedience took a two prong approach; the heir of the promise individually was called to be faithful and the royal dynasty as a whole was to lead in obedience.  What is important here is the collective and individual call for obedience.  The authors are careful to point out that even where explicit moral obligations are not pronounced, a fuller reading of the context opens up the necessity of obedience for nation and heir.

Secondly, the illustrations, graphs, and diagrams in the book really put the storyline of the bible, both historically and chronologically into a coherent picture.  In the chapter on the Pauline Epistles, there is a very helpful outline of transition in Paul’s life (358).  The chart indicates both key markers in Paul’s life; his conversion, commissioning at Antioch and confinement at Rome with the dating of each event.  Furthermore, there is a helpful window chart that brings out his missionary journey and the epistles associated with the travels.  This is immensely helpful because it helps the reader imagine what Paul was facing as he was addressing key issues with the growing church.  And, the chart also reveals the amazing missionary spirit within the heart and mind of Paul.  Often, in reading the Pauline texts we forget the zeal and physical dedication Paul had to his readers and the gospel.

The chapter on Anticipations on the One Called Son is worth the whole price of the book.  Herbert Bateman traces key texts from the First Testament, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Pseudipigrapha literature that look forward to the coming Messiah and how his office would be executed.  This chapter is  beneficial in providing another indicator of how Jewish thinkers envisioned the coming Messiah.   Detailing individual messianic texts and their exact place in connection to the Old Testament is a great resource for scholars and those who can draw on this literature for teaching and writing. 

This book is a first rate work by some top-notch scholar working with an eye towards the messianic portraits in the Bible.  What you find is a whole Bible look at how messianic words, ideas, and story capture the essence of the coming King.  What I found most appealing in the book is the interpretive approach of looking at the context, the canonical trajectory, and finally the future aspect of the text.  This kind of approach yields a faithful but careful reading of the myriad types of literature that speak of the Messiah.  I hope this book will find its way into the hands of scholars, teachers, and believers who rejoice in their risen Savior.

Thanks to Kregel Academic for the review copy of this book in exchange for review.


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