When I was taking my 3rd and 4th semester Hebrew classes, Dr. Johnston mentioned a book he was working on with Darrell Bock about Messianic prophecy. I really liked Dr. Johnston’s scholarship, and so I was really looking forward to the book’s eventual release. That was in 2009.
Now, over 3 years later, I finally got the opportunity to read the finished product, Jesus The Messiah: Tracing The Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King. Johnston and Bock teach Old and New Testament respectively at Dallas Seminary, while Herbert Bateman IV teaches New Testament at Southwestern Baptist Seminary. Collectively, they’ve done us all a huge favor in offering an inductive study of the all the messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, all the relevant intertestamental interpretation and conceptual development, and all the New Testament fulfillments and explanations of Messiah’s significance and true identity.
The book begins with an introduction by Bateman that lays out the issues in a study like this. It is here we find our first of a myriad number of charts that are an interesting mix of purple and yellow text and backgrounds. They are simultaneously informative and colorful. Headings throughout the book are yellow, while subheadings are purple as well. Leaving aesthetics aside, Bateman defines and differentiates the approach used in the book, and also explains its relevance. Essentially, they are writing a book for anyone seriously versed in Scripture who wants to see contextual and canonical readings of Old Testament prophecy, as well as the intertestamental development of those expectations and New Testament Christological readings of the results.
The first proper section is Johnston’s on Old Testament prophecy. He gives the following passages a detailed contextual and canonical reading over his 7 chapters of the book:
- Genesis 49:8-12
- Numbers 24
- 2 Samuel 7:8-16
- Psalms 2, 45, 72, 89, 110, 132
- Amos 9:11-15
- Hosea 1:11, 3:1-5
- Micah 5:2-6
- Isaiah 9:1-7, 11:1-9, 11:10-16,
- The Servant Songs in Isaiah (42:1-7, 49:1-13, 50:4-11, 52:13-53:12)
- Jeremiah 23:1-8 (the passage Johnston had us do an exegetical on in 4th semester Hebrew), 33:14-26
- Ezekiel 34:22-24, 37:24-25, 44-48
- Daniel 7:13-14
- Zechariah 3:1-10, 6:9-15, 9:9-10, 12:2-13:1
Readers might be surprised that Genesis 3:15 isn’t included. The short answer is that they are dealing with specific texts that introduce the idea of a coming King (first in Genesis 49:8-12). The long answer is found in the appendix of the book that you can read for yourself when you buy it.
Having given an exhaustive look at OT messianic prophecy, Johnston passes the baton to Bateman who then takes a detailed look at all the relevant intertestamental texts. Though not discounting the value of Bock and Johnston’s contributions, I think this section is where most readers will run into material and discussions that shed new light on how they understand Messianic prophecy. This is probably because most people, even people who are steeped in Scripture, don’t have access to these intertestamental texts (though they could) or they do and just never bothered to read them in any detail (which is me). Through Bateman’s work, readers will see how Messianic expectations both developed over the period, and how they solidified. After a chapter detailing the obstacles to overcome, Bateman looks at texts related to a coming King, coming branch and prince, and finally a coming Son.
He concludes that while many pieces are in place, many are still missing. His conclusion is worth quoting in full:
Although most of the portraits point to a powerful and victorious messianic figure, missing is a Messiah who silences people from announcing his coming. Missing is the concept of a suffering Messiah. Missing is a Messiah whose kingdom and rule extends over the seen and unseen of all creation. Missing is a resurrected Messiah who returns to consummate an already inaugurated kingdom. Missing is a Messiah miraculously born of a virgin in Bethlehem. Missing is a Messiah who is a divine Davidic regal priest.
This isn’t to say these aren’t in the Old Testament. Rather, the expectations that solidified in the intertestamental period didn’t include these pieces. “Yet,” as Bateman continues,
With the coming of the historical Jesus, God turns over several significant pieces of his messianic puzzle [a metaphor they have used throughout the book and Johnston used in classes], puzzle pieces that peopel were unable to see let alone link together based upon their own preconceived understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. (329)
The baton is then passed to Bock, who interestingly starts at the end of the New Testament rather than the beginning. He has a 3-fold goal (335):
- To trace the usage of Christ in the Second Testament
- To see if a case can be made for the roots of this usage in Jesus himself (christological fulfillment)
- To point out in a few places how explicit texts from the earlier Testament are used messianically
He starts in Revelation and the epistles because there is the least amount of interpretive controversy there (336). His chapters then look like this:
- Messiah Confessed (Revelation and Epistles)
- Messiah Preached (Acts)
- Messiah Veiled and Presented (Gospels and Historical Jesus Questions)
Dealing with Revelation and the Epistles takes two chapters (one just for Paul of course). After working backwards through the New Testament, Bock then ends with a chapter on the identity of Jesus as Messiah in his ministry. This brings the book to a close, except for the short appendix on Genesis 3:15 which I already mentioned.
One complaint I do have with this book is that the individual sections are not sufficiently separated. So for instance, chapter 7 ends Part 1, and chapter 8 starts Part 2, which also signals a change in authorship. But there is nothing within the text itself to signal we’ve started a new section. You can kind of tell, but it’s part of a larger picture of editing lapses, of which another notable example is “Should this be capitalized?” right up against the word “scripture” on pg. 327 but in the same text size and font as the rest of the text. Clearly it’s an editorial note left in the text, but I’ve never seen that in a book I’ve read and reviewed. It’s not enough to detract from the content of the book, but it is something that I didn’t particularly like. I’m not sure what I think of all the internal charts using purple and yellow coloring or the headings alternating those colors as well, but it was at least an interesting choice.
As far as conceptual issues go, I really don’t have any. This book is an excellent resource. If I had to pick a key strength, I think for most evangelical readers it is the exposure to intertestamental texts and interpretations. It not only bridges the gap well between Johnston’s and Bock’s work, but represents very thorough scholarship in an area that most of us probably don’t give much attention.
After waiting for a while to finally see this book, I was definitely not disappointed. Formatting issues aside, this is an excellent resource. Serious students of both Old and New Testaments alike will profit from reading this book. Both will benefit greatly from Bateman’s work in the middle section, and both will benefit from the overall approach taken by these scholars. Especially this Easter season, it’s worth looking into a book like this to take your study of the person and work of Christ into deeper waters. For some post-Easter digging into Scripture, this book would make a great addition to your library!
- Authors: Herbert W. Bateman IV, Darrell L. Bock, & Gordon H. Johnston
- Title: Jesus The Messiah: Tracing The Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King
- Publisher: Kregel Academic (December 1, 2012)
- Hardcover: 464pgs
- Reading Level: Bible School
- Audience Appeal: Bible students interested in a detailed study of the OT Messianic prophecies, intertestamental expectations, and NT fulfillments
- Gratis Review Copy: Yes (courtesy of Kregel Academic)
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