Is there an Evolution in NT Christology?
Analyzing Muslim Claims That the Christological Portraits of the Bible Are Contradictory

[Part 1] [Part 2]

Sam Shamoun


Muslims have devised different approaches in which to undermine the Biblical case for the absolute Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. The most popular approach is to attack the historical veracity of the NT documents, that these documents contain an authentic historical core from which something of the historical Jesus can be known, but they are also full of legendary accretions. The Muslim argues that the NT books are a mixture of truth and error, historical and ahistorical anecdotes, and cannot be completely trusted.

Another form of this argument is to say that the NT documents do not present one uniform portrait or picture of Christ. It is presumed that the NT contains contradictory views of Christ, or what is commonly referred to as Christology. Instead of speaking of a NT Christology, the Muslims claim it is more proper to speak of NT Christologies in the plural.

The most popular advocate of this view is Shabir Ally. Throughout his writings, lectures and debates Ally argues that there is an evolution within the NT regarding the Person of Jesus. Ally claims that if one analyzes the earliest NT book or Gospel and then examines it with a book written much later in time, one will see that the portrait of Jesus has evolved from an anointed Messenger of God to the highest and first creature of God through whom all other things were made.

For instance, Shabir would argue that Mark’s Gospel, being the first of the Gospels to be written (ca. 64-75 AD according to liberal-critical dating), presents a Jesus who was an extraordinary human being, anointed to be God’s Son. Yet, according to Shabir, Mark’s Jesus falls way short of being God Incarnate. At the same time, John’s Gospel, believed to have been written ca. 90-100 AD, presents Jesus as a highly exalted creature, in fact the first creature, through whom God created everything else. Yet even John falls short of portraying Jesus as God according to Ally, who denies that the NT teaches the absolute and full Deity of Christ. He adopts the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ position that the Holy Bible teaches that Christ is the first creature of God Almighty.

What we would like to do in this series of rebuttals is to provide answers to these claims for those Christians who may have been deceived into believing such assertions. We also want to provide materials for Christians planning to debate Muslims such as Shabir so as to help them refute such arguments rather easily (solely by God’s grace of course!). We want to enable and equip our brothers and sisters in our risen and immortal Lord Jesus to prove to honest seekers how weak and untenable such argumentation truly is. Our aim here is to present the facts which conclusively demonstrate that all the earliest data points to Christians having always believed that Jesus is the God-man, and that no Christological evolution has taken place.

Our paper will be broken down in five specific sections:

1. Old Testament Christology

2. Inter-Testamental Jewish Interpretations

3. Pauline Christology

4. Markan Christology

5. One Muslim’s Blatant Inconsistency

1. OT Christology

Long before any of the NT books were written, the Hebrew Bible, the OT scriptures, had already presented the Messiah as God Almighty.

“But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. … For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” Isaiah 9:1-2, 6-7

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘Yahweh is our righteousness.’” Jeremiah 23:5-6

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel His goings forth are from long ago,From the days of eternity. Therefore He will give them up until the time When she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren Will return to the sons of Israel. And He will arise and shepherd His flock In the strength of the LORD, In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God And they will remain, Because at that time He will be great To the ends of the earth.” Micah 5:2-4

The preceding passages all speak of a king, a ruler, from the family line and ancestral home of David (David was from Bethlehem of Judea). All three identify this ruler as God, i.e. he will be called Mighty God and Yahweh is our Righteousness, whose origin is from eternity itself! According to the NT, this ruler, this king is the Lord Jesus Christ:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.' When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, 'In Bethlehem of Judea , for so it is written by the prophet: And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” Matthew 2:1-6

“Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles-- the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.’ From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 4:12-17

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’ But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’ And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy--the Son of God.’” Luke 1:26-35

“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn… ‘For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” Luke 2:4-7, 11

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” John 10:11-16

Even Muslim tradition agrees that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Sunni writer G.F. Haddad narrates the following tradition:

... Gibril said: "Alight and pray here." He [Muhammad] did so and remounted, then the Buraq continued his lightning flight and Gibril said: "Do you know where you prayed?" He said no. Gibril said: "You prayed in Bayt Lahm [Bethlehem], where 'Isa ibn Maryam was born." ... (Islamic Doctrines & Beliefs, Volume 1: The Prophets in Barzakh, the Hadith of Isra' and Mi'raj, The Immense Merits of Al-Sham, The Vision of Allah, Al-Sayyid Muhammad Ibn 'Alawi al-Maliki, translation and notes by Dr. Gibril Foaud Haddad [As-Sunna Foundation of America, 1999], p. 100; bold emphasis and comments within brackets mine)

And he mentions Muslim scholars who graded it as sound:

Narrated as part of a long hadith from Anas by al-Nasa'i with a sound chain and from Shaddad ibn Aws by al-Bayhaqi who declared it sound in Dala'il al-Nubuwwa (2:355-357), and by al-Tabarani in al-Kabir and al-Bazzar with a sound chain as indicated by Haythami in Majma' al-Zawa'id. See Ibn Hajar's Mukhtasar (1:90-91 #32). (Ibid., p. 101, fn. 134)

Here is another OT text which identifies the Messiah as Yahweh God:

“Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord (ha Adon) whom you seek will suddenly come to HIS temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.” Malachi 3:1

Malachi foresees God sending a messenger to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord to his Temple. The Hebrew ha Adon is only used for Yahweh throughout the OT scriptures, indicating that this Person who is coming is God Almighty himself (Cf. Exod. 23:17; 34:23; Deut. 10:17; Isa. 1:24; 3:1; 10:16, 33; 19:4). A further indication that the Lord of this passage is Yahweh God is the fact that he is coming to HIS Temple., i.e. that the Temple belongs to Him, it is his. According to the Hebrew Scriptures, the Temple was built for the worship and glory of Yahweh:

“Now when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of Yahweh, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise Yahweh according to the directions of King David of Israel.” Ezra 3:10

“But now, do consider from this day onward: before one stone was placed on another in the temple of Yahweh, … Do consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month; from the day when the temple of Yahweh was founded, consider:” Haggai 2:15, 18

The NT tells us who Yahweh’s messenger was:

“As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,”’ John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, ‘After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’ In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” Mark 1:1-11

“And John’s father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.’ And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.” Luke 1:67-80

Mark and Luke identify John as the messenger of Malachi 3:1 who was sent to prepare for the appearance of the Lord himself. Jesus himself applies Malachi 3:1 to John the Baptist:

“This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’” Matthew 11:10

Yet the Lord whom John prepared for, the Lord who came to his Temple, was the Lord Jesus Christ! John the Evangelist reiterates this point:

“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.” I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ And John bore witness: ‘ I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.’” John 1:29-34

The foregoing demonstrates that Jesus is the very Lord of the Temple, the One for whom the Temple was made, the One whom John the messenger was sent to prepare the way.

There are additional references which affirm the Messiah’s sovereignty and universal authority, with all the nations serving him, and that he is a priest on his throne:

The LORD says to my Lord (Adoni): ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours. The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.’ The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth. He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.” Psalm 110:1-7

The other OT text is from Daniel:

"I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed." Daniel 7:13-14

Much like the previous citations, both these references are applied to the Lord Jesus in the NT:

“And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, ‘How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.’ David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?" And the great throng heard him gladly.” Mark 12:35-37

“Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Acts 2:30-36

“So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’; as he says also in another place, ‘You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.’” Hebrews 5:5-6

We will present the NT passages applying Daniel 7 to Jesus in our section on Mark.

Obviously, Shabir will deny that these OT texts refer to the Messiah and will do everything he can to prove otherwise. Anticipating that this is what he will do, we have decided to provide some of the Jewish interpretations of these passages to show that Christians weren’t the only ones who saw these texts as Messianic prophecies.

Isaiah 9:6-7

The prophet saith to the house of David, A child has been born to us, a son has been given to us; and he has taken the law upon himself to keep it, and his name has been called from f old, Wonderful counselor, Mighty God, He who lives forever, the Anointed One (or Messiah), in whose days peace shall increase upon us. (The Targum of Isaiah, J.F. Stenning, Editor and Translator [Oxford: Clarendon], p. 32)

Another explanation: He said to him: ‘I have yet to raise up the Messiah’ of whom it is written, For a child is born to us (Isa. IX, 5). (Midrash Rabbah Deuteronomy, Rabbi H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, Editors; Rev. Dr. J. Rabbinowitz, Translator [London: Soncino Press], I.20, p. 20)

Jeremiah 23:5-6

… Behold the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘when I will raise up for David a righteous Messiah, and he shall reign as king, and prosper, and shall enact a righteous and Meritorious law in the land. In his days they of the house of Judah shall be delivered, and Israel shall live in security. And this is the name which they call him: "May vindication be accomplished for us by the Lord in his day."’ (Targum Jonathan, The Messiah: An Aramaic Interpretation, Samson H. Levy (New York: Hebrew Union College, 1974), pp. 68-69)

Say unto him: Thus says the Lord of Hosts saying: ‘Be hold the man whose name is "The Messiah." He is destined to be revealed and to be anointed, and he shall build the Temple of the Lord. He shall build the Temple of the Lord, and he will bear the radiance, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and there shall be a high priest on his throne, and there be a counsel of peace between the two of them.’ (Ibid., p. 99)

R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Johanan: Three WERE CALLED BY THE NAME OF THE holy One, blessed be He, and they are the following: The righteous, the Messiah and Jerusalem. [This may be inferred as regards] the righteous [from] what ha just been said. [As regards] the Messiah - it is written: And this is the name whereby he shall be called, The Lord is our righteousness (Jer. XXIII, 6) (The Babylonian Talmud, Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein, Editor (London: Soncino Press), Seder Nezekin, Volume II, Baba Bathra 75b, p. 303)

God will call the king Messiah after His own name , for it is said of the king Messiah This is his name whereby he shall be called: The Lord our righteousness (Jer. 23:6). (The Midrash on Psalms, William G. Braude, Translator (New Haven: Yale, 959), Yale Judaica Series, Volume XIII, Leon Nemoy, Editor, Book One, Psalm 2.2)

Micah 5:2

And you, O Bethlehem Ephrath, you were too small to be numbered among the thousands of the house of Judah, from you shall come forth THE MESSIAH, to exercise dominion over Israel, he whose name was mentioned from before, from the days of creation. Then they shall be handed over for the length of time it takes a woman in labor to give birth, and the children of Israel shall rely upon the rest of their brethren. And he shall arise and rule with the might of the Lord, in the exalted name of the Lord his God; and they shall be gathered in from the midst of their Dispersions, for now his name shall be great into the ends of the earth. (Targum Jonathan, p. 93)

And you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, you who were too small to be numbered among the thousands of the house of Judah, from you shall come forth before me the anointed One, to exercise dominion over Israel, he whose name was mentioned from of old, from ancient times. (Targum Micah, The Targum of the Minor Prophets, translation with a Critical Introduction, Apparatus, and Notes by Kevin J. Cathcart and Robert P. Gordon [Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1987], The Aramaic Bible, Volume 14, Micah 5:2)

Psalm 110 and Daniel 7:13-14

In the decree of the Prophets it is written Behold My servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high (Isa. 52:13), and it is also written Behold My servant, whom I uphold, Mine elect, in whom My soul delighteh (Isa. 42:1). In the decree of the Writings it is written, The Lord said unto my lord: “Sit at My right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (Ps. 110:1), and it is also written I saw in the night visions, and, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the Ancient of days, and he was brought near before Him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him (Dan. 7:13, 14).

In another comment, the verse is read I will tell of the decree: the Lord said unto me: Thou art My son… Ask of Me, and I will give the nations for thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for thy possession (Ps. 2:7, 8). R. Yudan said: All these goodly promises are in the decree of the King, the King of kings, who will fulfill them for the lord MESSIAH. (The Midrash on Psalms, William G. Braude, Translator [New Haven: Yale, 1959], Yale Judaica Series, Volume XIII, Leon Nemoy, Editor, Book One, Psalm 2:9)

R. Yudan said in the name of R. Hama: In the time-to-come, when the Holy One, blessed be He, seats the lord Messiah at His right hand, as is said The Lord saith unto my lord: “Sit at my right hand” (Ps. 110:1), and seats Abraham at His left. Abraham’s face will pale, and he will say to the Lord: “My son’s son sits at the right, and I at the left!” Thereupon the Holy One, blessed be He, will comfort Abraham, saying: “Thy son’s son is at My right, but I, in a manner of speaking, am at thy right”: The Lord [is] at thy right hand (Ps. 110:5). Hence Thy gentleness hath made great. (Ibid., p. 261)

5. For thou shalt make him most blessed for ever (Ps. 21:7) means that all the nations shall bless themselves in the king Messiah (Psalm 21). Thou shalt make him exceeding glad with Thy countenance (Ps. 21:7). R. Berechiah said in the name of R. Samuel: One verse reads of the king Messiah that One, like the son of man…came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before Him (Dan. 7:13), but in another verse God says, I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto Me (Jer. 30:21). How reconcile the two? Angels will bring the king Messiah to the outer edge of their encampment, and then the Holy One, blessed be He, will reach out His hand and bring the king Messiah near to Him. Hence, it is said I will draw him near. (Ibid., Book One, Psalm 21:5)

R. Alexandri said: R. Joshua b. Levi pointed out a contradiction. It is written, in its time [will the Messiah come], whilst it is also written I [the Lord] will hasten it!- If they are worthy, I will hasten it: if not, [he will come] at the due time. R. Alexandri said: R. Joshua opposed two verses: it is written, And behold, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven (Dan. VII, 13); whilst [elsewhere] it is written, [behold thy king cometh unto thee…] lowly and riding upon an ass! (Zech. IX, 9)- If they are meritorious, [he will come] with the clouds of heaven (Dan. VII, 13); if not, lowly and riding upon an ass (Zech. IX, 9). King Shapur said to Samuel. ‘Ye maintain that the Messiah will come upon an ass” I will rather send him a white horse of mine.’ He replied, ‘Have you a hundred-hued steed?’ (The Babylonian Talmud, Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein, Editor [London: Soncino Press], Seder, Nezikin, Volume III, Sanhedrin 98a, pp. 663-664)

Malachi 3:1

The late Alfred Edersheim noted that, “Malachi iii. 1 is applied to Elijah as forerunner of the Messiah in Pirqe de R.Eliez. c. 29.” (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Appendix 9, List of Old Testament Passages Messianically Applied in Ancient Rabbinic Writings; online source)

Renowned Messianic Jewish scholar, Dr. Michael L. Brown, writes:

We see from this passage that the Lord (in Hebrew, ha’adon, always used with reference to God in the Hebrew Bible when it has the definite article), preceded by his messenger, would visit the Second Temple, purifying some of his people and bringing judgment on others. That is to say, there would be a divine visitation of great import that would occur in the days of the Second Temple. How are these verses to be understood?

According to the famous medieval Jewish commentaries of Radak (David Kimchi) and Metsudat David, “the Lord” refers to none other than “King Messiah.” However, neither of these commentaries took sufficient note of the fact that the Messiah was to come to the Temple that stood in Malachi’s day (and note also that it is called “his Temple”- pointing clearly to the divine nature of the “Lord” spoken of here). I ask you, did this happen? If it did, then the Messiah must have come before the Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E.; if not, God’s Word has failed. (Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: General and Historical Objections [Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 2000], Volume I, pp. 77-78)

Except for Malachi 3:1, the preceding quotations are taken from William Webster's masterful work, Behold Your King: Prophetic Proofs That Jesus Is the Messiah, Christian Resources, June 2003. We are specifically quoting from Appendix C: The Messianic Prophecies of the Old Testament from the Authoritative Jewish Writings, pp. 151-312. All bold, underline and capital emphasis were ours.

Webster’s book can be purchased here. All bold, underlined and capital emphasis ours.

What the foregoing implies is that, even before the NT was written, the OT scriptures present a very high view of the Messiah. According to the Hebrew Bible, the Messiah is an eternal figure, the very manifestation of Yahweh God in human form, being both God and man at the same time.

2. Inter-Testamental Jewish Interpretations

As a further indication that some of the above OT citations were applied Messianicly, we now turn to the Jewish literature compiled after the writing of the last OT book and during the time of Christ. These writings are commonly referred to as the Inter-Testamental (“Between the Testaments”) literature, and fall under two specific categories: Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha. There is also Apocalyptic literature, writings dealing with end time events, but even these can fall under the category of Pseudepigrapha or Apocrypha.

Before we even examine specific books from this period we need to make a necessary qualification. We do not believe that these books are inspired, nor do we believe that they were always accurate in their understanding of the OT texts regarding the Person and work of the Messiah. In fact, we feel that these sources do not go far enough in explicating the clear OT witness that the Messiah is an eternal, divine figure from heaven. We cite them solely to silence the oft-repeated claim that the belief that the Messiah is both God and man, or a heavenly preexistent figure, is a later Christian tradition. There were Jews even before the time of Jesus who saw that the OT portrait of the Messiah wasn’t that he was only, or merely, a human figure anointed by God.

The Book of 1 Enoch

"And in those days a whirlwind carried me off from the earth, And set me down at the end of the heavens. And there I saw another vision, the dwelling-places of the holy, And the resting-places of the righteous. Here mine eyes saw their dwellings with His righteous angels, And their resting-places with the holy. And they petitioned and interceded and prayed for the children of men, And righteousness flowed before them as water, And mercy like dew upon the earth: Thus it is amongst them for ever and ever. And in that place mine eyes saw the Elect One of righteousness and of faith, And I saw his dwelling-place under the wings of the Lord of Spirits." 1 Enoch 39:3-7a

"On that day Mine Elect One shall sit on the throne of glory. And shall try their works, And their places of rest shall be innumerable. And their souls shall grow strong within them when they see Mine Elect Ones, And those who have called upon My glorious name: Then will I cause Mine Elect One to dwell among them. And I will transform the heaven and make it an eternal blessing and light." 1 Enoch 45:3-4

"And there I saw One who had a head of days, And His head was white like wool, And with Him was another being whose countenance had the appearance of a man, And his face was full of graciousness, like one of the holy angels. And I asked the angel who went with me and showed me all the hidden things, concerning that Son of Man, who he was, and whence he was, (and) why he went with the Head of Days? And he answered and said unto me: This is the Son of Man who hath righteousness, with whom dwelleth righteousness, And who revealeth all the treasures of that which is hidden, Because the Lord of Spirits hath chosen him, And whose lot hath the pre-eminence before the Lord of Spirits in uprightness for ever. And this Son of Man whom thou hast seen Shall raise up the kings and the mighty from their seats, [And the strong from their thrones] And shall loosen the reins of the strong, And break the teeth of the sinners. [And he shall put down the kings from their thrones and kingdoms] Because they do not extol and praise Him, Nor humbly acknowledge whence the kingdom was bestowed upon them. And he shall put down the countenance of the strong, And shall fill them with shame." 1 Enoch 46:1-5

"And in that place I saw the fountain of righteousness Which was inexhaustible: And around it were many fountains of wisdom: And all the thirsty drank of them, And were filled with wisdom, And their dwellings were with the righteous and holy and elect. And at that hour that Son of Man was named In the presence of the Lord of Spirits, And his name before the Head of Days. Yea, before the sun and the signs were created, Before the stars of the heaven were made, His name was named before the Lord of Spirits. He shall be a staff to the righteous whereon to stay themselves and not fall, And he shall be the light of the Gentiles, And the hope of those who are troubled of heart. All who dwell on earth shall fall down and WORSHIP before him, And will praise and bless and celebrate with song the Lord of Spirits. And for this reason hath he been chosen and hidden before Him, Before the creation of the world and for evermore. And the wisdom of the Lord of Spirits hath revealed him to the holy and righteous; For he hath preserved the lot of the righteous, Because they have hated and despised this world of unrighteousness, And have hated all its works and ways in the name of the Lord of Spirits: For in his name they are saved, And according to his good pleasure hath it been in regard to their life. In these days downcast in countenance shall the kings of the earth have become, And the strong who possess the land because of the works of their hands, For on the day of their anguish and affliction they shall not (be able to) save themselves. And I will give them over into the hands of Mine elect: As straw in the fire so shall they burn before the face of the holy: As lead in the water shall they sink before the face of the righteous, And no trace of them shall any more be found. And on the day of their affliction there shall be rest on the earth, And before them they shall fall and not rise again: And there shall be no one to take them with his hands and raise them: For they have denied the Lord of Spirits and His Messiah. The name of the Lord of Spirits be blessed." 1 Enoch 48:1-10

"For wisdom is poured out like water, And glory faileth not before him for evermore. For he is mighty in all the secrets of righteousness, And unrighteousness shall disappear as a shadow, And have no continuance; Because the Elect One standeth before the Lord of Spirits, And his glory is for ever and ever, And his might unto all generations. And in him dwells the spirit of wisdom, And the spirit which gives insight, And the spirit of understanding and of might, And the spirit of those who have fallen asleep in righteousness. And he shall judge the secret things, And none shall be able to utter a lying word before him; For he is the Elect One before the Lord of Spirits according to His good pleasure." 1 Enoch 49:1-4

"And in those days shall the earth also give back that which has been entrusted to it, And Sheol also shall give back that which it has received, And hell shall give back that which it owes. For in those days the Elect One shall arise, And he shall choose the righteous and holy from among them: For the day has drawn nigh that they should be saved. And the Elect One shall in those days sit on My throne, And his mouth shall pour forth all the secrets of wisdom and counsel: For the Lord of Spirits hath given (them) to him and hath glorified him." 1 Enoch 51:1-3

"And I asked the angel who went with me, saying, 'What things are these which I have seen in secret?' And he said unto me: 'All these things which thou hast seen shall serve the dominion of His Messiah that he may be potent and mighty on the earth.'" 1 Enoch 52:3-4

"God, the Lord of Spirits. Ye mighty kings who dwell on the earth, ye shall have to behold Mine Elect One, how he sits on the throne of glory and judges Azazel, and all his associates, and all his hosts in the name of the Lord of Spirits.'" 1 Enoch 55:4

"And thus the Lord commanded the kings and the mighty and the exalted, and those who dwell on the earth, and said: 'Open your eyes and lift up your horns if ye are able to recognize the Elect One.' And the Lord of Spirits seated him on the throne of His glory, And the spirit of righteousness was poured out upon him, And the word of his mouth slays all the sinners, And all the unrighteous are destroyed from before his face. And there shall stand up in that day all the kings and the mighty, And the exalted and those who hold the earth, And they shall see and recognize How he sits on the throne of his glory, And righteousness is judged before him, And no lying word is spoken before him... For from the beginning the Son of Man was hidden, And the Most High preserved him in the presence of His might, And revealed him to the elect. And the congregation of the elect and holy shall be sown, And all the elect shall stand before him on that day. And all the kings and the mighty and the exalted and those who rule the earth Shall fall down before him on their faces, And WORSHIP and set their hope upon that Son of Man, And petition him and supplicate for mercy at his hands... And the righteous and elect shall be saved on that day, And they shall never thenceforward see the face of the sinners and unrighteous. And the Lord of Spirits will abide over them, And with that Son of Man shall they eat And lie down and rise up for ever and ever." 1 Enoch 62:1-3, 7-9, 13-14

"And there was great joy amongst them, And they blessed and glorified and extolled Because the name of that Son of Man had been revealed unto them. And he sat on the throne of his glory, And the sum of judgement was given unto the Son of Man, And he caused the sinners to pass away and be destroyed from off the face of the earth, And those who have led the world astray. With chains shall they be bound, And in their assemblage-place of destruction shall they be imprisoned, And all their works vanish from the face of the earth. And from henceforth there shall be nothing corruptible; For that Son of Man has appeared, And has seated himself on the throne of his glory, And all evil shall pass away before his face, And the word of that Son of Man shall go forth And be strong before the Lord of Spirits." 1 Enoch 69:26-29

"And he (i.e. the angel) came to me and greeted me with His voice, and said unto me, 'This is the Son of Man who is born unto righteousness, And righteousness abides over him, And the righteousness of the Head of Days forsakes him not.' And he said unto me: 'He proclaims unto thee peace in the name of the world to come; For from hence has proceeded peace since the creation of the world, And so shall it be unto thee for ever and for ever and ever. And all shall walk in his ways since righteousness never forsaketh him: With him will be their dwelling-places, and with him their heritage, And they shall not be separated from him for ever and ever and ever. And so there shall be length of days with that Son of Man, And the righteous shall have peace and an upright way In the name of the Lord of Spirits for ever and ever.'" 1 Enoch 71:14-16 (Source)

4 Ezra

“I, Ezra, saw on Mount Zion a great multitude, which I could not number, and they all were praising the Lord with songs. In their midst was a young man of great stature, taller than any of the others, and on the head of each of them he placed a crown, but he was more exalted than they. And I was held spellbound. Then I asked an angel, ‘Who are these, my lord?’ He answered and said to me, ‘These are they who have put off mortal clothing and have put on the immortal, and they have confessed the name of God; now they are being crowned, and receive palms.’ Then I said to the angel, ‘Who is that young man who places crowns on them and puts palms in their hands?’ He answered and said to me, ‘ He is THE SON OF GOD, whom they confessed in the world.’ So I began to praise those who had stood valiantly for the name of the Lord. Then the angel said to me, ‘Go, tell my people how great and many are the wonders of the Lord God which you have seen.’” 4 Ezra 2:42-48

For MY SON the Messiah shall be revealed with those who are with him, and those who remain shall rejoice four hundred years. And after these years MY SON the Messiah shall die, and all who draw human breath.” 4 Ezra 7:28-29

“He said to me, "This is the interpretation of this vision which you have seen: The eagle which you saw coming up from the sea is the fourth kingdom which appeared in a vision to your brother Daniel. But it was not explained to him as I now explain or have explained it to you… And as for the lion whom you saw rousing up out of the forest and roaring and speaking to the eagle and reproving him for his unrighteousness, and as for all his words that you have heard, this is the Messiah whom the Most High has kept until the end of days, who will arise from the posterity of David, and will come and speak to them; he will denounce them for their ungodliness and for their wickedness, and will cast up before them their contemptuous dealings. For first he will set them living before his judgment seat, and when he has reproved them, then he will destroy them. But he will deliver in mercy the remnant of my people, those who have been saved throughout my borders, and he will make them joyful until the end comes, the day of judgment, of which I spoke to you at the beginning. This is the dream that you saw, and this is its interpretation.” 4 Ezra 12:10-12, 31-35

“And when these things come to pass and the signs occur which I showed you before, then MY SON will be revealed, whom you saw as a man coming up from the sea. And when all the nations hear his voice, every man shall leave his own land and the warfare that they have against one another; and an innumerable multitude shall be gathered together, as you saw, desiring to come and conquer him. But he shall stand on the top of Mount Zion. And Zion will come and be made manifest to all people, prepared and built, as you saw the mountain carved out without hands. And he, MY SON, will reprove the assembled nations for their ungodliness (this was symbolized by the storm), and will reproach them to their face with their evil thoughts and the torments with which they are to be tortured (which were symbolized by the flames), and will destroy them without effort by the law (which was symbolized by the fire)… I said, ‘O sovereign Lord, explain this to me: Why did I see the man coming up from the heart of the sea?’ He said to me, ‘Just as no one can explore or know what is in the depths of the sea, so no one on earth can see MY SON or those who are with him, except in the time of his day.’” 4 Ezra 13:32-38, 51-52

“Lay up in your heart the signs that I have shown you, the dreams that you have seen, and the interpretations that you have heard; for you shall be taken up from among men, and henceforth you shall live with MY SON and with those who are like you, until the times are ended.” 4 Ezra 14:8-9 (Source)

These writings provide us with some of the prevalent Jewish opinions and understandings during the time of Christ on specific issues like the Person and work of the Messiah. For instance, the preceding citations make extensive use of or allusions to OT texts such as Isaiah 11, 42, and specifically Daniel 7, applying them all to the Messiah. In the above passages the Messiah is preexistent, hidden with God before the creation of the world (therefore of heavenly origin), is called God’s Son, is worshiped by the nations, sits on God’s glorious throne, and is the One who overthrows kings and kingdoms.

The following noted scholar, John J. Collins, comments on the importance 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra have on understanding the Jewish mindset regarding passages such as Daniel:

“… The two earliest Jewish interpretations of Daniel 7 are found in the Similitudes of Enoch and 4 Ezra 13. Both these passages assume that Daniel's 'one like a son of man' is an individual, and both use the term 'messiah' with reference to him. In both these documents, the Son of Man figure is pre-existent, and therefore transcendent in some sense…” (Collins, “The Danielic Son of Man,” The Scepter and the Star--The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literature [Doubleday: 1995], Chapter 8, p. 167)

The figure of the Son of Man in the Similitudes shows considerable development over against Daniel's 'one like a son of man.' In later, rabbinic, tradition the name of the messiah is listed among the things that preceded the creation of the world. The Son of Man is equated with the messiah in 1 Enoch 48:10 and 52:4. While the title messiah plays a minor role in the Similitudes, it is all the more significant that the identification of messiah and Son of Man can be assumed. Daniel's 'one like a son of man' appears after the judgment of the beasts/kingdoms. In the Similitudes he is said to cast down kings from their thrones and from their kingdoms, and he takes his seat on his throne of glory as judge (62:5; 69:29). He also has the role of revealer. In many respects he seems to be assimilated to the Deity (who also sits on the throne of his glory). In 48:5, people fall down and worship him. (Ibid., p. 181; bold and underline emphasis ours)

“While they are not primarily a work of interpretation, however, the Similitudes remain an important witness to the early understanding of Daniel. They take for granted that Daniel's 'one like a son of man' is a heavenly individual of very exalted status. While they offer no reason to think that this figure was known independently of Daniel, they show how the Danielic text inspired visions of a heavenly savior figure in first century Judaism.” (Ibid., p. 182)

Collins notes that the image presented by Enoch and Ezra regarding the Messiah is that:

“… he is a preexistent, transcendent figure, whom the Most High has been keeping for many ages.” (Ibid., p. 186)

Collins concludes his analysis by highlighting the commonalities between 1 Enoch's and 4 Ezra's portraits of the Danielic Son of Man:

“First, both assume that the 'one like a son of man' in Daniel refers to an individual, and is not a collective symbol. In fact, the collective interpretation is not clearly attested in Jewish sources until Ibn Ezra.

Second, this figure is identified in both works as the messiah, and the understanding of 'messiah' is thereby qualified. The title messiah has only minor importance in the Similitudes, but the fact that it is still used there shows that it must have been commonly associated with the Danielic 'Son of Man.' This again is accordance with the prevalent interpretation in early Jewish tradition.

Third, he is preexistent: 'the one whom the Most High has kept for many ages,' and therefore a transcendent figure of heavenly origin. even if he also has a Davidic ancestry in 4 Ezra. Both figures, in different ways, appropriate imagery traditionally reserved for God: the Enochic Son of Man sits on the throne of glory, and the figure in 4 Ezra is portrayed in terms of the theophany of the divine warrior. Even the association with the clouds in Daniel was a motif traditionally associated with the Deity...

If 'servant' rather than 'son' is the original designation of the messiah in 4 Ezra, then the possibility arises that both documents associate this figure with the Isaianic 'servant of the Lord.' In neither document, however, does the Son of Man figure undergo suffering. While the Similitudes contain some clear allusions to the text of Isaiah (e.g. 48:4, 'light of the nations,' cf. Isa 49:6), that is not the case in 4 Ezra 13. At most, the motif of 'hiddenness' may be derived from Isa 49:2 ('in his quiver he hid me away'). It would be quite misleading, however, to speak of a 'suffering servant' in this connection.

The correspondence between 4 Ezra and the Similitudes point to common assumptions about the interpretation of Daniel 7 in first-century Judaism. It is difficult to say how widespread these assumptions were. Allusions to Daniel 7:13-14 are conspicuously absent at Qumran (apart from the 'Son of God' text, 4Q246), despite the heavy use of other parts of Daniel, especially chapter 11, in the Scrolls. However, there is no evidence of influence between Similitudes and 4 Ezra, and they were certainly not products of a single group. It is reasonable to suppose that their common assumptions were also shared by others in first-century Judaism.” (Ibid., pp. 187-188)


“In Jewish writings emphasis on the heavenly character of the savior king appears in texts of the first century CE, especially in the period after the failure of the first revolt against Rome and the destruction of the Temple (4 Ezra, Sib Or 5). We may suspect, then, that it reflects a certain disillusionment with messiahs of human, earthly origin. The disillusionment was not complete, as can be seen from the messianic revolts of the early second century. Also the hope for a heavenly deliverer, under God, is attested in the early apocalyptic literature, notably Daniel 7, and the heavenly messiah of the Similitudes is likely to be older than 70 CE. What we find in the writings of the first century CE, however, is a tendency to combine traditions about a Davidic messiah with the expectation of a heavenly savior. There was, then, some flexibility in the use of messianic traditions in this period. Daniel's 'one like a son of man' could be understood as a purely heavenly figure (in the Similitudes) or as a messiah who operates on earth to restore Israel (4 Ezra). Danielic imagery could be applied to the Davidic messiah to give him a more heavenly, transcendent character than is apparent in other sources. In short, Davidic messiah and 'Son of Man' were not mutually exclusive concepts. Each involves a cluster of motifs, which could be made to overlap…” (Ibid., p. 189)

Collins makes similar remarks in his monumental commentary on the book of Daniel:

1 Enoch 71:14, where Enoch is greeted by an angel with the words ‘you are the son of man who was born to righteousness,’ is usually taken to imply the identification of Enoch with this heavenly figure. While this is problematic, it is not impossible, for in later tradition Enoch is identified with Metatron. In 1En 70:1, however, Enoch is clearly distinguished from the Son of Man. In fact, identification is not necessarily implied at 71:14. The Ethiopic text can be translated ‘you are a son of man who was born to righteousness,’ that is, a human being in the likeness of the heavenly Son of Man. There are also some indications that 1En 70:3–71:7 is a secondary addition to the Similitudes… In the Similitudes he is said to cast down kings from their thrones and from their kingdoms, and he takes his seat on the throne of glory as judge. Moreover, ‘even before the sun and the constellations were created, before the stars of heaven were made, his name was named before the Lord of Spirits’ (48:3). The name here represents the person who was created before the universe, like Wisdom in Proverbs 8. Consequently, ‘from the beginning the Son of Man was hidden, and the Most High kept him in the presence of his power and revealed him only to the chosen’ (62:8; cf. 48:6). In later, rabbinic tradition the name of the messiah is listed among the things that preceded the creation of the world. The Son of Man is equated with the messiah in 48:10 and 52:4, but he evidently represents a transformation of traditional royal messianism. He also has the role of revealer. In many respects he seems to be assimilated to the Deity (who also sits on the throne of his glory). In 48:5 he is even portrayed as the recipient of worship… The apparition of the figure on the clouds in Daniel was certainly compatible with the notion that he existed before creation. The portrait of the ‘Son of Man’ figure was filled with the reminiscences of preexistent Wisdom (Proverbs 8), which was also a revealer and of the hidden servant of the Lord (Isa 49:2). There are also messianic overtones even apart from the use of the title ‘messiah.’ The account of the Chosen One in 1En 62:2 (‘the spirit of righteousness was poured out on him and the word of his mouth kills all the sinners’) recalls Isa 11:2, 4. The motif of a second figure enthroned beside God has its clearest precedent in Psalm 110, another messianic passage… Although they are not primarily a work of interpretation, the Similitudes remain an important witness to the early understanding of Daniel. They take for granted that Daniel’s ‘one like a son of man’ is a heavenly individual of exalted status. Though they offer no reason to think that this figure was known independently of Daniel, they show how the Danielic text inspired visions of a heavenly savior figure in first-century Judaism. In this, of course, they were not alone.” (Hermeneia – A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, A Commentary on the Book of Daniel, by John J. Collins with an essay, “The Influence of Daniel on the New Testament,” by Adela Yarbro Collins, edited by Frank Moore Cross [Fortress Press, Minneapolis 1993], pp. 80-82; underline emphasis ours)

In a footnote Collins says in reference to the Messiah being named before creation that:

63 … Urbach notes that “there are no grounds … for a distinction between the pre-existence of his name and the pre-existence of his personality.” (P. 81)

And this is what he writes concerning 4 Ezra:

“The relation of 4 Ezra 13 to the Similitudes of Enoch is also complex. On the whole the ‘man from the sea’ is very different from the Enochic Son of Man. The one is a warrior who takes his stand on a mountain and is concerned with the restoration of Israel and Zion; the other is a judge enthroned in heaven. There is no allusion to the Similitudes in 4 Ezra. Nonetheless, some of the features in 4 Ezra that are new over against Daniel are paralleled in the Similitudes. The figure flying on the clouds is identified as the messiah. He is preexistent: ‘the one whom the Most High has kept for many ages.’ He also takes an active role in the destruction of the wicked. Both figures, in different ways, appropriate imagery traditionally reserved for God: the Enochic Son of Man sits on the throne of glory, and the figure in 4 Ezra is portrayed in terms of the theophany of the divine warrior. The correspondences do not require that 4 Ezra was influenced by the Similitudes. Rather they point to a shared tradition of the interpretation of Daniel 7.

It is taken as obvious that the figure on the clouds, or the ‘Son of Man,’ is an individual, and he is identified as messiah. (4 Ezra is more in line with traditional national messianism than the Similitudes.) He is preexistent, in the sense that he is kept hidden in heaven ‘for many ages’ before his final revelation…” (P. 84; underline emphasis ours)


“IV. Traditional Interpretations. The earliest interpretations and adaptations of the ‘one like a human being,’ Jewish and Christian alike, assume that the phrase refers to an individual and is not a symbol for a collective entity.263 In the Similitudes of Enoch (1En 46:1), the white-headed ‘head of days’ is accompanied by one ‘whose face had the appearance of a man, and his face [was] full of grace, like one of the holy angels.’ He is explicitly called ‘messiah,’ or anointed one, in 48:10; 52:4, and ‘his name was named’ before creation (48:3). In 4 Ezra 13 the man who rises from the sea and flies with the clouds of heaven is also a messianic figure, but like ‘that Son of Man’ in the Similitudes, he is a preexistent, supernatural figure (13:26; ‘This is he whom the Most High has been keeping for many ages’). The messianic literature prevails in rabbinic literature264 and remains the majority of opinion among the medieval Jewish commentators. The tradition is not entirely uniform. In some circles the two figures in Dan 7:9-14 were taken as two manifestations of God, apparently to the heretical view that they represented two powers in heaven. The collective interpretation is not clearly attested in Jewish circles until the Middle Ages… In summary, the traditional interpretations of the ‘one like a human being’ in the first millennium overwhelmingly favor the understanding of this figure as an individual, not as a collective symbol. The most usual identification was the messiah, but in the earliest adaptations of the vision (the Similitudes, 4 Ezra, the Gospels) the figure in question had a distinctly supernatural character.” (Pp. 306-308; underline emphasis ours)

263… Montgomery (320), who argues for the collective interpretation, nonetheless writes, “It must be admitted that the earliest interpretation of ‘the Son of Man’ is Messianic.” See also Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 170-172; and the list of passages in H. L. Strack and P. Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch (Munich: Beck, 1922) 1.486.

264. Undisputed examples include b. Sanh. 98a; Num. Rab. 13:14; ‘Aggadat Ber’esit 14:3; 23:1 (Casey, Son of Man, 80). It is probably implied in Akiba’s explanation of the plural “thrones” as one for God and one for David, which we noted at v. 9, above (so, e.g., Montgomery, 321). Casey (Son of Man, 87) points out that it is not a necessary inference in the case of Akiba, but his arguments do not lessen its probability… (Pp. 306-307; underline emphasis ours)

What this all implies is that, even before the rise of Christianity, certain Jews understood from specific OT texts that the Messiah was a preexistent, heavenly Divine figure, and not just an ordinary human being. In light of this it is little wonder that Collins could make the following observation regarding the Christian veneration of Jesus:

“One need not subscribe to all aspects of Bultmann’s theories to grant that the title ‘Son of God’ took on a new and more exalted meaning in Hellenistic Christianity. Nonetheless, we should bear in mind that even in the Hebrew Bible the king could be addressed as a ‘god,’ elohim. The title “Son of God” and “Son of the Most High” imply that this figure stands in a special relationship to the Deity, and that he is not an ordinary mortal. Here again, as in the “throne of heaven” text considered in the previous chapter, the distinction between divine and human is not so sharply drawn as it was in the Deuteronomic tradition or in rabbinic Judaism. The notion of a messiah who was in some sense divine had its roots in Judaism, in the interpretation of such passages as Psalm 2 and Daniel 7 in an apocalyptic context. This is not to deny the great difference between a text like 4Q246 and the later Christian understanding of the divinity of Christ. But the notion that the messiah was Son of God in a special sense was rooted in Judaism, and so there was continuity between Judaism and Christianity in this respect, even though Christian belief eventually diverged quite radically from its Jewish sources.” (Ibid., “The Messiah as the Son of God,” Chapter 7, pp. 168-169; underline emphasis ours)

Another source even goes so far as to admit that in the Mishnaic period, that within the Mishnah, the Messiah was viewed as a God-man! Jewish scholar Jacob Neusner in his chapter, "Mishnah and Messiah", states:

"We focus upon how the system laid out in the Mishnah takes up and disposes of those critical issues of teleology worked out through messianic eschatology in other, earlier versions of Judaism. These earlier systems resorted to the myth of the Messiah as savior and redeemer of Israel, a supernatural figure engaged in political-historical tasks as king of the Jews, even a God-man facing the crucial historical questions of Israel's life and resolving them: the Christ as king of the world, of the ages, of death itself." (Judaisms and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era, edited by Jacob Neusner, William Scott Green & Ernest S. Frerichs [Cambridge University Press, 1987], p. 275; bold and underline emphasis ours)

It is therefore clear that the portrait of the Messiah as the God-man, as a preexistent Divine figure coming down from heaven, did not originate within the Christian tradition. It had already been established in the OT prophetic tradition, and specific exegetical works compiled by Jews before, during and after the time of Christ.

For more on the OT witness to the Deity of the Messiah, as well as the inter-Testamental period and first century Jewish expectations of the Messiah, we recommend the following articles:

Messianic Expectations in 1st Century Judaism
The Ruler Goes Forth: Micah 5:2 Pinpoints the Messiah

Continue with Part 2.

Articles by Sam Shamoun
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