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«November 29, 2002 Trinity Theological Seminary Newburgh, Indiana 2 CONTENTS I. INTRODUCTION 3 II. MESSIANIC MOVEMENTS: TOWARD A DEFINITION 4 III. ...»

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November 29, 2002

Trinity Theological Seminary

Newburgh, Indiana








The purpose of this paper is to determine bona fide messianic movements of the first century.

Many have written articles using the term “messianic” or “messianic movement” but few seem to define the terms. 1 Other terms such as “messianic pretenders” 2 and “messianic consciousness” are also used without definition. In order to avoid the ambiguity that comes with using undefined terms, I will attempt to define the terms “messiah” and “messianic movement” using criteria drawn mainly from Jewish writings of the 200BC to 100AD period. This will allow us to determine messianic expectations that were prevalent among Jewish people at the time under discussion. I will then use the common expectations as criteria for determining bona fide “messianic movements” of the first century.

It is the thesis of this paper that there are seven figures that led Jewish movements which can be considered “messianic” between the years of 4 BC and 100AD. These movements were led by (1) Judas, son of Ezekias, (2) Simon, a slave of King Herod, (3) Anthronges, a shepherd, (4) Jesus of Nazareth, (5) Menahem, a descendent of Judas of Galilee, (6) John of Gischala, and (7) Simon bar Giona.

1 Richard A. Horsley, “Popular Messianic Movements Around the Time of Jesus,” CBQ 46 (1984): 471- 95, uses the term “messianic” but does not seem to define it. David M. Rhodes, Israel In Revolution: 6-74 C. E., (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976) also uses the term without defining it. An article that has attempted to define this idea is M. De Jonge, “The Use of the Word ‘Anointed’ in the time of Jesus,” Novum Testamentum 8 (1966): 132-48.

2 David Hill, for example, uses the term “messianic pretender” in “Jesus and Josephus’ ‘messianic’ prophets” in Text and Interpretation, edited by E. Best (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 143-59, without defining it.



In this chapter, I will survey Jewish literary works written near the first century, which seem to speak of a coming messiah. I will then attempt to discover common characteristics of the messiah from those different writings. These characteristics will qualify a person as “messianic”. I will focus, but not limit, my search to those literary works that actually use the term “messiah” or “christ.” 3 As for the term “messianic movement,” it will be determined in association with someone who claims to be, is acclaimed to be, or shown to have the characteristics of a “messiah”. 4 The term “messiah” (Hebrew j'yvim;, Greek: cristos) means “anoint” 5 or “anointed one.” Most Old Testament references to this word “have to do with the pouring of specially prepared ointment on a person or object as part of a ritual of inauguration”. 6 With respect to leadership, “the bulk of the references occur with regard to the establishment of the kingships in Israel” or a type of “change in dynasty”. 7 The person anointed was one who was chosen by God for the purpose of doing God’s will. Oswalt states that the concept of “the anointed one” in its own right in the sense of an eschatological messiah occurs only in 3 There are indeed many other terms that have been associated with a messianic age. These include terms such as “Branch of David,” “son of man,” “son of God,” “Prince of the Congregation,” “stump of Jesse,” etc. These terms, in my opinion, do not add much to the general concept of messiah found in the texts that use the explicit terminology of “messiah” or “christ”. Compare how this is true in the Qumran texts discussed by Kenneth Atkinson, “On the Herodian Origin of Militant Davidic Messianism at Qumran: New Light From Psalm of Solomon 17,” JBL 118 (1999): 435-59, and the general characteristics of “messiah” this paper sets forth at the end of this chapter.

4 It is my opinion that it is necessary to focus our attention on the passages which clearly use the term “messiah” in order not to assume or extrapolate from a text more than it might allow. De Jonge (p. 132-33) cautions that “... the word ‘messiah’ is commonly used to denote any figure that brings about future salvation of any kind, regardless as to whether the source in question uses the term or not”. He goes on to say, “The word ‘messianic’ has acquired a correspondingly wider range of meaning and is even used in connection with passages which do not speak of a future deliverer (let alone one who is actually termed messiah) at all”.

5 John N. Oswalt, “j'yvim” in The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, Vol., 2, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), 1123, and Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), 602.

“Cristos” means “anointed one, the messiah” according to Walter Bauer, William Arndt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1974), 895.

6 Oswalt, 1124.

7 Oswalt, 1123, 1126. Oswalt says the term is used 15 times of Saul’s anointing, 16 of David’s, and 5 of Solomon’s. It is also used several times with Jehu, Absalom, Joash, Jehoahaz, and Hazeal. All of these have a special circumstance of some type of change in dynasty.

5 Daniel 9:25-26. 8 Here the “anointed one” is one who “comes” and is described as dygn, which means “ruler, prince”. 9 Hence, we find our first note as to the nature of the messiah. He is to be a ruler or prince.

Nearer to the first century, we find several other writings that speak of the messiah. Psalm of Solomon 17, now possibly to be dated during the time of Herod the Great (37-4 BC) instead of 63BC, 10 speaks of a messiah that will be a true son of David (as is shown in 17:21), one who will reign as king in Israel with “power, wisdom, and righteousness,” as well as being a future deliverer.

11 Psalms of Solomon 17:26-32 states:

He will gather a holy people whom he will lead in righteousness; and he will judge the tribes of the people that have been made holy by the Lord their God. He will not tolerate unrighteousness (even) to pause among them, and any person who knows wickedness shall not live with them. For he shall know them that they are all children of their God. He will distribute them upon the land according to their tribes; the alien and foreigner will no longer live near them. He will judge peoples and nations in the wisdom of his righteousness. Pause. And he will have gentile nations serving him under his yoke, and he will glorify the Lord in (a place) prominent (above) the whole earth. And he will purge Jerusalem (and make it) holy as it was even from the beginning, (for) nations to come from the ends of the earth to see his glory, to bring as gifts her children who had been driven out, and to see the glory of the Lord with which God has glorified her, and he will be a righteous king over them, taught by God. There will be no unrighteousness among them in his days, for all shall be holy, and their king shall be the Lord Messiah. 12 This Davidic messiah is to lead a “violent rebellion against occupying forces” 13 until all Jerusalem is under his control. The psalm also states that the messiah will “smash the arrogance of sinners like a potter’s jar, to shatter all their substance with an iron rod; to destroy the unlawful nations with the word of his mouth.” 14 He will rule in Jerusalem as a righteous king and “purge Jerusalem from gentiles” (17:22). All this will be done by his faith in God and not by his own strength. He will thus be a “national figure using political means and even military power” 15 to accomplish his goals. Hence, we see here a righteous military messiah, one who is victorious because of his trust in God, one who delivers the Jewish people from foreign domination, and rules as king.

–  –  –

In the Dead Sea Scrolls of Qumran (250BC-68AD), the term “messiah” is also found in several places. In the Damascus Document (CD 12:23-13:1; 14:19; 19:10-11; and 20:1) the messiah is seen as one

who will pardon sins and save some, but who will also deliver others up to the sword. CD 19:9b-11 states:

those who are faithful to him are the poor ones of the flock. These shall escape in the age of visitation; but those that remain shall be delivered up to the sword when there comes the messiah of Aaron and Israel. 16 Here the Messiah is seen as someone to come in the future. The term is singular even though it is stated as being “of Aaron and Israel”. Wcela believes this phrase refers not to two messiahs but to “messiah of all Israel”. 17 At one point, however, a Qumran scroll seems to be indicating two messiahs, a royal/political

one and a priestly one. This is found in the Manual of Discipline IQS 9:11. It states:

They should not depart from any counsel of the law in order to walk in complete stubbornness of their heart, but instead shall be ruled by the first directives which the men of the community began to be taught until the prophet comes, and the messiahs of Aaron and Israel. 18 16 From Wilfred G. E. Watson, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated, (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1994), 45.

17 Emil A. Wcela, “The Messiah(s) of Qumran”, CBQ 26 (1964): 340-41.

18 Wilfred G. E. Watson, 13-14. The probability that one messiah is meant here is argued by Robert B.

Laurin, “The Problem of Two Messiahs in the Qumran Scrolls,” Revue De Qumran 4 (1963): 39-52. Emil Wcela, pp. 348-349, notes J. Starcky’s proposed four-stage evolution of messianic teaching in Qumran as an explanation of the plural messiah concept. Starcky feels that the two-messiah concept developed in Qumran with the Hasmonean era (the messiahs of Aaron and Israel) and then the teaching was reversed in the Pompeian era to a single messiah (messiah of Aaron and Israel). Terry L. Donaldson, “Levitical Messianology in Late Judaism: Origins, Development and Decline”, JETS 24 (1981): 193-207, believes that Qumran expected a levitical messiah (i.e., a “messiah of Aaron”) up until the end of their existence.

Donaldson argues that the term “messiahs of Aaron and Israel” refers to two messiahs, one priestly and one militaristic and Davidic. He traces the development and decline of the Levitical messianic idea from the

time of Judas Maccabeaus through the end of the Qumran community. He sees six stages:

a) The Maccabean victory over Antiochus “inaugurated the period of eschatological fulfillment that would soon result in the new heaven and new earth.

b) The legitimacy of the Levitical (Hasmonean) rule begins to be questioned. Since the Hasmoneans were not in the line of Zadok, a group reacted against this and withdrew in to the desert of Qumran following a priest called the Teacher of Righteousness.

c) The age of peace brought by the Hasmoneans replaced a future eschatological apocalyptic age with the idea of an immanent messianic age or an age of realized eschatology.

d) The Hasmonean line was then considered messianic and given messianic significance but the traditional belief in the messiah from Judah still persisted.

e) The Hasmneans declined (67 BC). With this, the levitical messianic concept declined and the Pharisaic movement revived the traditional Davidic Messianology.

f) At Qumran in the desert, however, the concept of the priestly/levitical messiah continued. But it developed separately from the Hasmonean idea and as such should not be seen as developing linearly from I Maccabees, Jubilees, or the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs. Hence, Qumran developed the ideas not of realized eschatology with respect to the messianic age, but rather an age of righteousness that would be inaugurated by a sudden violent and cataclysmic event. This group never saw any messianic significance to the Hasmonean reign.

7 Other writings of Qumran depict a messiah who is a warrior and who ravages the earth with his

scepter and kills the ungodly. IQ Sb (lines 20-27) states:

The Master shall bless the Prince of the Congregation.... May the Lord raise you up to everlasting heights, and as a fortified tower upon a wall! (May you smite the peoples) with the might of your hand and ravage the earth with your sceptre; may you bring death to the ungodly with the breath of your lips! (May He shed upon you the spirit of counsel) and everlasting might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of God; may righteousness be the girdle (of your loins) and may your reins be girdled (with faithfulness)! May He make your horns of iron and your hooves of bronze; may you toss like a young bull (and trample the peoples) like the mire of the streets! For God has established you as a sceptre. 19 Florilegium (4QFl) 1:10-11 connects the future messiah with the house of David. He will also be associated with the Interpreter of the Law, will rule in Zion and save Israel. It states, He is the Branch of David who shall arise with the Interpreter of the Law (to rule) in Zion (at the end) of time. As it is written, I will raise up the tent of David that is fallen (Amos ix, 11). That is to say, the fallen tent of David is he who shall arise to save Israel. 20 Patriarchal Blessings (4QPB on Genesis 49:10) depicts a Davidic messiah who will liberate Israel

and give her sovereignty. The scroll reads:

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