Book Review: Jesus the Messiah

Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King is a monumental work with a breadth of coverage and detail that is not often matched; it is not intended for a casual read nor quick study of Scripture. It is a fine volume and will be a valuable addition to many personal libraries. The audience is for “anyone seriously versed in Scripture” (p. 35). Specifically, “it is written for all those who wrestle with how the messianic portrait and claims of Scripture for Jesus work within human history and divine revelation” (p. 35), and it helps “nudge others to consider moving beyond the notion that all First Testament readings about ‘messiah’ were fixed and only spoke directly about Jesus” (p. 35). Obviously that is a tall order. The authors do an admirable job of presenting material to lead them to this goal. While there may be individual points to disagree with, the book achieves its purposes.

Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King

Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King

The book follows the subtitle, as each author presents one major section: Promises (Johnston), Expectations (Bateman), and Coming (Bock).

1. Promises of Israel’s King: Johnston follows the promises from Genesis through Zechariah. He covers the major messianic figures, especially the Davidic trajectories in chapters 2 and 3. I was surprised, though, that nothing was mentioned in regard to Joshua and the commander of the army as potential messianic background and promise (Josh. 5). The extended discussion of Isaiah was excellent. However, the absence of Isaiah 7 and 8 in any of the discussion left untouched another perspective of promises.

Extensive material is available for detailed study in these critical areas. The move of Genesis 3 discussion to an appendix was not convincing; the more I read the book and followed the arguments, it seemed even more critical that it should have been within the first section.

2. Expectations of Israel’s King: This section covering the inter-testamental period and the development of the Messianic expectations during the second temple period. He notes three challenges for studying this time period: 1) limited resources, 2) blurred vision (familiarity with Second Testament and early church opposition to Judaism), and 3)lack of historical and social sensitivities.

This is the section that is least familiar to most readers. Therefore, the extensive tables and maps and lists of leaders, writings, etc. are extremely helpful. This section alone makes the purchase of the book worthwhile.

3. Coming of Israel’s King: Bock’s presentation looks at the New Testament documents as presenting the fulfillment of the promises and expectations. He offers many details and valuable summaries. I think the strongest part of this section is his work with Galatians, 2 Corinthians, and Romans

The major disagreement I have with this section does not relate to content, but rather methodology. In the first two sections there was a strong emphasis on following the chronological development of the promises and expectations of Israel’s King. Yet in this third section, Bock does not follow that. Thus, he starts with Revelation and the Catholic Epistles, then proceeds through Paul’s letters, and finally the Gospels.

Despite his attempt to justify that approach it goes contrary to everything presented to that point. That moves Revelation and the Catholic letters out of chronological sequence as well as canonical sequence. And these writings have the least to offer in the Second Testament in this whole project (see the number of times “Christ” is used compared to Pauline letters). Note: This criticism does not subtract from the actual information and argument he provides

Layout and Typeface

The typeface is very readable even though smaller than most books of this kind. There are sufficient headings and subheading to facilitate finding something or reference it later. Unforunately the subtitles in the chapters are in a light orange color, which is not nearly as easy to read, especially in low light conditions.

The tables are easy to read and provide important information in a condensed format. This becomes important when consolidating newer material (for many readers) regarding the inter-testamental period (i.e. see p. 326). The maps are excellent with vivid colors and decent contrast. However, the font size could have been a little larger for easier readability (see p. 242, and especially the legend).

Noticed one typo on p. 254, second paragraph, second line: the second sigma in χριστοσ does not have the final form, which should be: χριστος.

Conclusion:

Well done to Kregel Academic for offering this book to the Church. This book adds considerably to the library of those who want to study and teach this information. It seems that the ideal target is a pastor or theologian who could use this as a reference to teach the topic in a congregation or college course. My reason for the 4 stars and not 5 relates to the movement of Genesis 3 discussion to an Appendix and the odd pattern that Bock followed in the third section of the book.

Thanks to Kregel Academic for providing a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review.

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