Category Archives: Messianism

Review of Joel Kennedy’s The Recapitulation of Israel

Joel Kennedy. The Recapitulation of Israel: Use of Israel’s History in Matthew 1:1–4:11. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2.257. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008. 264pp. 9783161498251. $105.00 (paper). Published in Bulletin for Biblical Research 20.2 (2010): 268-69.

This book is a revision of a dissertation supervised by Francis Watson at Aberdeen. The subject of the book is “the Christological use of Israel’s history in Matthew 1:1–4:11” (3), and its “primary focus . . . is examining Israel’s history and the recapitulation of it in Matthew” (17). Though Kennedy defines “recapitulation as a particular subset of typology,” he thinks “at this point in the discussion, it appears best to step aside from trying to defend typology as a legitimate label for Matthew’s work” (21). He states that typology needs “further refinement,” and therefore his study avoids “the term typology and seek[s] to strictly examine Matthew’s text itself in regard to recapitulation” (22). Kennedy states, “The term most apt in describing [the] utilization of Israel’s history in Matthew is recapitulation, which includes repetition, summing up, representation, and embodiment” (23).

After the Introduction, Chapter 2 looks at Matthew’s Genealogy (Matt 1:1–17). Kennedy passes over Matthew 1:18–25, moving directly to what he refers to as the “Passive Recapitulation of Israel’s History” in Chapter 3 (Matt 2:1–23). Chapter 4 then treats the “Active Recapitulation of Israel’s History” (Matt 3:1–4:11).

Kennedy’s treatment of Matthew’s genealogy first discusses the multilinear and unilinear genealogies in the Old Testament, then proposes that unilinear genealogies can also be teleological when they aim to highlight a key figure at the climactic end of the genealogy, such as the genealogy in Ruth that concludes with David. He then shows that genealogies are compressed narrative summaries. All this sets up a useful discussion of the way Matthew uses the genealogy to present Jesus as the recapitulation of Israel. The sense in which Israel’s history is “passively” recapitulated is that Jesus relives and repeats it in the events that happen to him as a child. Kennedy reads Matthew 2 from the perspective that it is narrating the new exodus. Chapter 4 then discusses the baptism and testing of Jesus.

This book makes an important contribution to the discussion of the use of the OT in the New. More work like this needs to be done, looking at the larger patterns and frameworks in the OT and then examining how these are used in the New. This goes far beyond citation formulas, verbal quotations and allusions, and other connections that are established at lexical levels. The kind of work that needs to be done, like Kennedy’s, is only possible from reading the texts in their original languages, gaining a thorough knowledge of the stories and patterns, and then engaging in slow reflection on textual connections. Too much work on the use of the OT in the New has been done without respect for OT context. Too many assertions have been made by NT scholars (and OT scholars too) whose conclusions betray simple failure to understand what either the OT or NT author was doing.

My only complaints about the present volume have to do with the way it tries to avoid the issue of typology. The attempt to circumvent the issue fails because though the word “typology” is avoided, the term that is used, “recapitulation,” is presented as a subset of typology. I cannot find a statement that differentiates between the two, nor do I see appreciable distinctions between what Kennedy calls “recapitulation” and what Allison, for instance, calls “typology” (Kennedy briefly summarizes Allison, with approbation, on p. 21). Connected to this is Kennedy’s dissatisfying decision to pass right over Matthew 1:18–25. The thesis of my essay (“The Virgin Will Conceive: Typological Fulfillment in Matthew 1:18–23,” in Built upon the Rock, ed. John Nolland and Dan Gurtner [Eerdmans, 2008], 228–47) fits perfectly, it seems to me, with Kennedy’s thesis, and he cites other essays from Built upon the Rock, so he had access to the volume. Perhaps the sticking point was the word “typology,” but in the absence of clear discrimination between that term and “recapitulation,” it seems that one word is merely standing in for the other. Many people have reservations about typology as a method of interpretation, but I do not think that using a different term for the same thing will alleviate those concerns. These complaints registered, let me say that this is an enjoyable and insightful volume that moves in a productive direction. Kennedy models an interpretive approach that will yield sound conclusions regarding how the New Testament authors understood the Old and presented their work as its fulfillment.


Filed under Bible and Theology, Books, Messiah in the OT, Messianism, OT in the NT, Typology

What Is the Old Testament?

Over on the MCTS blog there’s an answer with which I heartily agree!


Filed under Biblical Theology, Messiah in the OT, Messianism

SBC Messianic Fellowship

For those coming in early for the SBC this summer, it would be great to have you join me on Saturday, June 20 from 1:25pm to 4:30 for two sessions at the SBC Messianic Fellowship Meeting. Come ready to study the Twelve Prophets! (some of them, anyway).

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Review of Chester, Messiah and Exaltation


Andrew Chester, Messiah and Exaltation: Jewish Messianic and Visionary Traditions and New Testament Christology, WUNT 207. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007. 716pp. ISBN: 978-3-16-149091-0. $215.00. Cloth.

Published in BBR 18.2 (2008), 348-50. 

Encouraged to do so by Martin Hengel, Andrew Chester has revised or expanded several published essays, written three substantial new ones, and given them to us as Messiah and Exaltation. Chapter 1 sets forth the purpose of publishing these essays, which Chester states do not “form a single sustained argument” (2). These essays focus on key ideas regarding Jewish messianism and early Christology. In many ways all of the essays develop ideas first presented in what appears as chapter 5 of this volume. 

In chapter 2, Chester takes up arguments made by Maurice Casey, Richard Bauckham, and Timo Eskola. Casey argues that the Jewish prophet Jesus was only later turned into a Gentile God. Chester gives much more attention to Bauckham and Eskola. Bauckham posits a hard and fast line between the divine identity and other supernatural beings who do not, for instance, receive worship. Chester argues that Bauckham’s explanation of Logos and Wisdom as being included within the divine identity fails, bringing forth and discussing at length evidence that appears to overturn aspects of Bauckham’s argument. Eskola, according to Chester, recapitulates many themes already present in the work of others, such as Hengel, in his presentation of an intriguing Merkabah throne mysticism, which he argues is reflected in such texts as Psalms 110, 16, and 132, 2 Samuel 7, and Acts 2:22–36. For Chester, Eskola begs too many questions (a favorite charge of Chester’s) and insufficiently defines both “Messianism” and “Merkabah mysticism.” Chester summarizes, critiques, and seeks to go beyond these arguments in order to base early Christology primarily on the extraordinary visions experienced both by Christ himself and by his followers. These visions, Chester argues, were the central and shaping forces operating in early Christological thinking. Only once the importance of the visions is established would Chester bring in both the citation of Old Testament Yahweh texts with reference to Christ and the worship of Jesus, but he concedes that the process of theological development cannot be neatly demarcated. 

Chapter 3 examines the themes of “Resurrection, Transformation and Christology” in the OT, extra-biblical, and NT texts. Chester argues that “resurrection can be used to portray individual, national and cosmic transformation.” The NT presents the resurrected Christ as “transformed to take on the divine glory and image” (189), and believers anticipating transformation into the image of Christ. 

Chapter 4 turns to “The Nature and Scope of Messianism.” Chester first discusses the various definitions of messianism before turning to the primary evidence. His treatment of the Hebrew Bible is mainly a review of the works of minimalists such as Pomykala and Karrer and maximalists such as Laato and Horbury. Chester is not overly impressed with the minimalists, and his summaries of Laato and Horbury are nothing short of fascinating, though in Chester’s estimation, Laato begs too many questions and Horbury’s understanding of the messiah is too broad. Chester then undertakes a comprehensive discussion of evidence for messianism in the Qumran texts. He suggests that the evidence for two messiahs at Qumran is limited and “cannot simply be assumed to underlie all of Qumran messianism” (269). Chester then considers Messianism as it relates to the temple and the Torah and concludes with the NT evidence. 

Chapter five is the heart of the volume. This earliest essay contains the main lines of the arguments Chester develops, revises, and even changes through the subsequent essays. The essay is introduced with discussion of the various positions scholars take, followed by treatment of Jewish messianic expectation reflected in second temple writings, which leads into consideration of Jewish mediatorial figures (with which Bauckham took issue in God Crucified, an argument Chester challenges in chapter 2 of the present volume), and Chester concludes this essay looking at Pauline Christology as it relates to Jewish messianic expectation and mediatorial figures. 

Chapter six will be particularly interesting to pre-millennial interpreters. Chester provides a thorough discussion of Eschatology and Messianic Hope. The Jewish evidence of a messianic “golden age” is treated, as are Christian texts, focusing on Revelation, chiliasts and non-chiliasts, Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, 1 and 2 Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp, and the Epistle to Diognetus. Chapter seven treats “Messiah and Temple in the Sibylline Oracles,” chapter eight discusses “Messiah and Torah,” and chapter nine concludes the volume with “The ‘Law of Christ’ and the ‘Law of the Spirit’.” 

These essays are the work of a mature scholar who is thoroughly conversant with the primary and secondary evidence. Chester fairly presents the views of other scholars, summarizing them at length before moving into discussion and critique of the positions with which he agrees or disagrees. This aspect of the volume will benefit anyone interested in messianism. 

The detailed character of the arguments, the wide-ranging scope of the collection, and the massive scholarship involved make it difficult to take issue with particular points in a short review such as this. I submit a few general observations, more in the form of impressions than critiques. The long discussions sometimes yield little payoff or are so technical as to be mainly of interest to those working specifically on, say, “the law of Christ” (chapter 9), yet holding much less interest for those working on primary evidence for messianism in the Hebrew Bible (chapter 4). But, that is the nature of both the vast question of messianism and this particular volume—a collection of essays, which, as the author states at the outset, do not comprise a sustained argument for a thesis. The sometimes unremarkable conclusions to these long discussions reflect Chester’s caution, which is perhaps overly resistant to synthetic summaries. For some, this aspect of Chester’s work will be a mark of the quality of his scholarship, and there can be no disputing its quality. Others, though, will feel that the pendulum has swung too far from the synthesis of messianism presented in Schürer to an overemphasis on its diversity as seen in the minimalists. Chester’s work is moving the pendulum back toward the middle, but it is perhaps only a short step from Chester to Horbury (in spite of Chester’s claim that his view is “altogether different” 283 n. 293), which might make that middle look more and more like Schürer’s synthesis. If Schürer goes too far, it nevertheless seems that there is a core of messianism that holds together its various expressions (as Craig Evans has recently noted in The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments, Eerdmans 2007, 239). 

Chester, in spite of all the qualifications, reservations, and nuances, is no minimalist and helpfully argues that the messianic expectations attested in extra-biblical Jewish literature and the NT can be described as at least “latent” in the Old Testament itself (282–84). Further, he acknowledges Horbury’s point that bringing the various writings of the Old Testament together into the beginnings of the OT canon resulted in them being presented side by side, creating a dynamic interaction between the diverse OT indications of an expected deliverer (279–80). Minimalists may appreciate Chester’s ever present caution, insistence on the value of the texts in their own right, and attempts to qualify the conclusions drawn by maximalists, who may feel that the massive evidence Chester presents, in spite of his attempts to stem its tide with nuance and qualification, inexorably reinforces their position. No one will be convinced by everything here, but the thorough summaries of scholarship and the thoughtful discussion of primary evidence make this volume a valuable contribution.

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Filed under Bible and Theology, Books, Messiah in the OT, Messianism, OT in the NT

The Tie: Understanding Scripture in Light of Christ

The spring issue of the Southern Seminary magazine, The Tie, has just appeared online, and it takes up the question of reading the Bible Christologically. You can subscribe to the magazine for free, and I think you ought to do so and ask them to send you a copy of the current issue.

The current issue is now online, and it has essays from Stephen Wellum, Russell Fuller, and myself on how the whole Bible preaches Christ, David Powlison writes on how to center counseling on Christ, Russ Moore shows us how to go beyond the Veggie Tales Gospel (you have to read this) to preach Christ ourselves, and David Prince gives us an example of preaching Christ from Judges. And there’s more. Check it out online, subscribe right away, and may the Lord use this magazine to help us fix our eyes on Jesus!

–my short piece deals with how the authors of the New Testament understand the Old Testament.

Here is the text:

The Interpretation of the Old Testament in the New

One sometimes hears people express a desire to know exactly what Jesus said to the two men on the road to Emmaus following His resurrection. But if one wants to know how Jesus interpreted the Old Testament on the road to Emmaus, the easiest way to find out is to read the New Testament. This point is so important that its central implication needs to be made explicit: the New Testament indicates that its authors understand themselves to be reading the Old Testament the way that Jesus read the Old Testament. Continue reading


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Let Athanasius Spur You to Study the Psalms

In his fascinating lecture on “Reading the Psalms Messianically,” Gordon Wenham recommends The Letter of St. Athanasius to Marcellinus on the Interpretation of the Psalms.

Having followed that recommendation, I am now passing it on, and I would also recommend having a listen (or multiple listens) to Wenham’s lecture. The most striking thing, for me, about Athanasius’s letter is his absolutely thorough knowledge of the Psalms! What a gift to be spurred on to a closer and more comprehensive knowledge of the Psalms!


By the way, if you have the SVS Press edition of Athanasius’s On the Incarnation (the one with the brilliant introduction by C. S. Lewis), the letter to Marcellinus on the interpretation of the Psalms is included as an appendix.


Filed under Bible and Theology, Books, History, Messiah in the OT, Messianism

Review of Messiah in the Old and New Testaments, ed. Stanley E. Porter

Stanley E. Porter, ed., The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007. ix + 268pp. $29.00, paper.

These essays were presented at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 2004. The collection is preceded by an introduction written by Stanley Porter and concluded with a response, in which each paper is briefly considered, written by Craig Evans. The book is presented in two parts: Part 1: Old Testament and Related Perspective, containing essays that deal with the OT, the Qumran documents, and the literature of early Judaism; and Part 2: New Testament Perspective, containing essays that deal with most of the New Testament (Revelation seems to receive no treatment).

The first essay after Porter’s introduction comes from Tremper Longman, who explores the Law and the Continue reading


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Audio of “The Typology of David’s Rise to Power”

Dr. Moore has just posted the links to the text of Graeme Goldsworthy’s addresses on Biblical Theology given this week at SBTS, and he has also linked to the newly posted audio of the Julius Brown Gay Lecture I gave last week, The Typology of David’s Rise to Power: Messianic Patterns in the Book of Samuel (right click, save as).


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Julius Brown Gay Lecture at SBTS

I am humbled and honored by the opportunity to deliver a Julius Brown Gay Lecture at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.


If you’re in Louisville and find the topic interesting, it would be a joy to see you there (particularly if we know each other from my time in Louisville!). 

Otherwise, please pray for me as I prepare my remarks on “The Typology of David’s Rise to Power: Messianic Patterns in the Book of Samuel.”
Soli Deo gloria


Filed under Bible and Theology, Messiah in the OT, Messianism, Typology