Vridar Against the Messiah Concept

Vridar is the moniker of Neil Godfrey, an avid fan of some rather extreme historians such as Thomas L. Thompson, Philip R. Davies, Niels Peter Lemche, and other pleasant individuals (avid politickers for the Palestinian cause using historical writing to deny Jewish historical ties to the Temple Mount and so on).

See more about these generally cheerful and positive individuals and their school known as the Copenhagen School of Theology.

So, as a rabbi of Messianic Judaism, I suppose it is good for me to defend the notion that there was such a thing as being messianically hopeful in Second Temple Judaism. You can read Vridar’s long and complicated post denying the Jewish nature of “messianic hope” in Second Temple Judaism and my response here. Also, let me say a few things in this post about the concept.

The sources Vridar refers to are campaigning on a simple point of historical reality, but the way they develop implications is not generally helpful.

The simple point is: there was no standardized expectation of a Messiah in Second Temple Judaism.

I agree and overly simple statements made in the past deserve to be corrected. But it does not follow from this that the Messiah concept is “Christian” and “unJewish.”

The Messiah concept surrounding Yeshua is a school of thought which draws together many different ideas into an understanding based on what Yeshua did and said as well as reflection about him after his departure. A better model for understanding the idea of Messiah and Yeshua is this:

(1) People expected a turning of the ages, an end to Israel’s exile, and an age of renewal of divine power on earth.

(2) Yeshua entered into a scene with many ideas of revolution and renewal and he taught and lived a particular model of Messianic identity that is complex and profound.

(3) The early Jewish movement of his followers began to crystallize an idea of Messiah that incorporated themes from Israel’s prophets with the life and teaching of Yeshua.

So what if people did not have a clear idea of a Messiah-figure like Yeshua before Yeshua came. As has long been held in Christian theology: the life of Yeshua was in and of itself a revelation from God, making clearer the meaning of much that had come before, and bringing specificity to a confusing array of ideas about deliverance, redemption, a change in history, and so on.

Now, the model of understanding Messiah and Yeshua that I list above, I’ll gladly defend. We’ll see how badly I get slaughtered in the comments. Will actual dialogue happen or just the usual maintaining of intellectual territory that governs most religious discussion?

About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christian, Judaism, Judeo-Christian, messianic, Messianic Jewish, Messianic Judaism, Yeshua, Yeshua In Context and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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