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Magnus Zetterholm: The Messiah in Early Judaism and Christianity


Magnus Zetterholm, ed., The Messiah in Early Judaism and Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007), xxvii + 163 pages, ISBN 9780800621087.

The Messiah in Early Judaism and Christianity presents the papers read at a meeting at Lund University in 2006. Three of the essayists are from Sweden, while the other two flew in from Yale University. In spite of the specialist nature of this type of meeting, most readers should find the papers broadly accessible. The essays in this book should speak directly to anyone who has wondered about the meaning of the term “messiah”. Although the subject is one that requires a thorough knowledge of biblical and postbiblical apocalyptic writings, the essays are written in such a way that the beginning student of NT backgrounds will understand everything and learn much. Although there is a time and place for making arcane points, many readers will be relieved to learn that one does not find that type of deliberation here. Beginners will especially get a lot out of the first essay, written by one of the world’s foremost experts on the subject of messianism (John J. Collins). Collins shows that the idea of the messiah was not eschatological in the Old Testament, but that it became so within second-temple Judaism.

Other contributions are by Adela Yarbro Collins (on “The Messiah as Son of God in the Synoptic Gospels”), Magnus Zetterholm (on “Paul and the Missing Messiah”), Karin Hedner-Zetterholm (on “Elijah and the Messiah as Spokesmen of Rabbinic Ideology”), and Jan-Eric Steppa (on “The Reception of Messianism and the Worship of Christ in the Post-Apostolic Church”). All of the essays are clear and written with a firm grasp of the facts surrounding the issue. As the reader can see, three of the five essays deal directly with the Christian aspect of messianism. There are many books that give a fuller treatment of messianism, but at only 163 pages, this book deserves pride of place for what it packs into a somewhat slim paperback.

Reviewed by John Poirier



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Category: Church History, Spring 2009

About the Author: John C. Poirier, Th.M. (Duke Divinity), D.H.L. (Jewish Theological Seminary), is an independent scholar who has published numerous articles on a wide range of topics. He is the author of The Invention of the Inspired Text: Philological Windows on the Theopneustia of Scripture (2021).

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