|Coins minted by a Messiah|
I've never felt right making major assertions without giving something to support them. Especially on a site dedicated to explaining Christianity to interested parties, asking you to just trust me isn't terribly convincing.
So today is going to be a bit of a wonky day. Today I'd like to show you all the technical information that lies behind saying, as I did in the last post, that, "broadly speaking most people agreed [the Messiah] would: be a warrior, ride into Jerusalem, defeat the enemies of God (i.e., the Romans, naturally), purify the temple, and set up the Kingdom of God, which ushered in an age of unending bliss."
Just to warn you ahead of time, this may be incredibly boring. Then again, you might find it fascinating. I sure do.
I could recommend several heavy and expensive books by E. P. Sanders, James J. D. Dunn, and particularly N. T. Wright, but I think it might be handier and cheaper to recommend this webpage instead. On it Glenn Miller pulls together pretty much every scrap of information available about what the Jewish people thought about the Messiah in the centuries surrounding the coming of Jesus. He lists and quotes it all in organized fashion, and provides references in case you happen to become wildly interested in, say, the Targum of Onkelos.
Mr. Miller is coming at this subject from a slightly different angle than I am. He's answering people who say nobody was expecting a Messiah (!) or that they just thought he'd be a regular politician; I'm more interested in what the Messiah was supposed to do rather than what he was supposed to be.
Of course, I can't cut and paste the whole thing into my blog, but I do want to quote his overall conclusion:
"Just as it would be incorrect to affirm that:
- EVERY 1st century Jew had a passionate expectation of a Messiah-figure; or
- The 1st century Jewish expectation was exclusively of a NT-model God-man messiah;
SO ALSO... it is accordingly incorrect to say that :
- The 1st century Jew HAD NO expectation of a Messiah-figure; or
- The 1st century Jewish expectation was of a purely natural, human-only, regular political leader.
What we CAN affirm is that a messianic expectation (broadly considered) was present in the wide range of Jewish groups that produced literature--throughout the time period-- and that for some of them, their expectations for the 'deliverer who shall come forth from Jacob' was intense, theologically-charged, and surprisingly detailed. It was into this world of mixed hopes, pre-conceived categories, and pre-built eschatologies that Jesus of Nazareth proclaimed that 'the Kingdom of God has drawn nigh'..."