So what does it mean to be the Messiah? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
In this chapter, Campbell starts off with listing what the Messiah is. He tells us matters that are uncontroversial at first, such as the Messiah being a king of Israel and a deliverer of the people. Then, he gets to some prophecies that he says everyone, Jew and Christian, agree the Messiah fulfills.
I am confused by #2 as he says everyone will speak one language when Messiah comes, but the text he references is Zech. 3:9. I went to look that up and saw:
“See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.”
Yeah. I’m having a hard time finding it there.
I also wonder about some of the others. Yes. One day knowledge of the Lord will cover the Earth as the waters do the sea, but what does this mean? I could argue that since Jesus came, to a large extent this has happened. What about Jews returning to Israel? A lot of your dispensationalists would agree. A number of us can’t sign on that dotted line. The same applies to a third temple being built. Actually, when Julian the Apostate became an emperor, he tried to build a third temple to DISPROVE Christianity. (For some strange reason, he died before it could take place. Odd thing that.)
Campbell wants to say all Jews and Christians agree, but he doesn’t cite any.
He also says the Messiah couldn’t be the greatest king because Israel already had one, Hezekiah. One would think that if anyone was considered the greatest king by most Jews, it would be David. But what about 2 Kings 18:5 that says about Hezekiah:
“He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.”
The problem is Campbell doesn’t realize this is Hebrew exaggeration. Look at 2 Chron. 30:26 describing the Passover of Hezekiah.
“So there was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem.”
Wow. That must have been some Passover. Nothing like it from the time of Solomon to the present.
But then when we get to Josiah in 35:18 of the same book.
“And there was no passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet; neither did all the kings of Israel keep such a Passover as Josiah kept, and the priests, and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel that were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”
The same kind of thing shows up when God tells Solomon that no king will rival him in wisdom before or after. This is just the way Hebrews spoke to exalt a person or event. Campbell sadly reads the text like a fundamentalist, which isn’t a shock.
He also says that according to Christian theology, Jesus could not have been a dedicated lover of the Torah because He came to replace the Torah and the Temple. Which Christian theologians say this? We don’t know. He doesn’t tell us. I contend that Jesus did not come to replace the Torah but to fulfill it. He did replace the temple, but that doesn’t mean He’s not a great lover of the Torah. All Christians should be. Jesus loved the Torah. So should we.
He says also that Jesus being divine would negate His human nature. Why? He doesn’t say. He tosses this out there like it’s an uncontroversial statement. Never mind 2,000 years or so of Christian thinkers writing on this topic. Campbell just needs to make the assertion.
He says God is one alone and solitary in the Torah. We went through a lot of this looking at Anthony Buzzard and it’s not any more convincing. All Trinitarians agree that God is one.
He also says to deify or worship anything besides God would be idolatry. That’s the point of the Trinity. No one is being worshipped but God alone.
He says that Pauline Christians looked for any passage that might in some context speak about Jesus. They had no understanding of the context and no problem ignoring it. No. There is no interaction with the church fathers to see what they said. There is no interaction with communities like the Essene community to see how they interpreted the Old Testament. There is no mention of different styles of interpretation like midrash or pesher. There is no interaction with scholarship on the New Testament’s usage of the Old Testament, like Richard Longenecker. Just an assertion.
He points to the creed in 1 Cor. 15 and says Paul says according to the Scriptures and gives no citation. Of course not. Paul is talking about the whole of the Scriptural message. Considering how timely and expensive letter writing was, do we expect him to list out every single reference he has in mind?
He also points to Luke having Jesus say similar to the disciples about the Scriptures in the end of his Gospel. Obviously, the only conclusion is Luke got this from Paul. Campbell has a habit of thinking his way of reading is the only way to read the text. It could be that, oh, I don’t know, this is what Jesus actually said.
Next time, we’ll start looking at the proof texts.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)