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Are You the One Who Is to Come?: The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question Paperback – 1 Aug 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic; 1 edition (1 Aug 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801036380
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801036385
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,283,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Michael F. Bird (Ph.D., University of Queensland) is lecturer in theology at Crossway College and honorary research associate at the University of Queensland in Australia. He is the author of Jesus and the Origins of the Gentile Mission and The Saving Righteousness of God: Studies on Paul, Justification, and the New Perspective. He is also co-moderator of the New Testament blog "Euangelion."

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Jesus Is the Messiah and He Knew It All Along! 2 Jan 2010
By Dr. Marc Axelrod - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The premise of this book is to show that what Jesus said and did can be submitted as evidence that He understood himself to be the Messiah of Israel. The first chapter shows that there are many scholars who doubt that Jesus ever claimed to be the Messiah or affirmed others when they addressed him as such (EP Sanders, James DG Dunn (!), R.E Brown.

The next chapter shows from the Hebrew Bible (2 Samuel 7:14, Psalm 2:7, 110, Isaiah 11, 35, 53, Daniel 7:13-14, Amos 9:11, et al) that there was a messianic expectation within the community). Bird also goes into the intertestamental literature (1 Enoch, 2 Baruch, 4 Ezra) and the Qumran literature (4Qum246) to show that this expectation was heightened in some quarters by the first centuries BCE and CE. In particular, the Son of Man designation proved to be a very helpful vehicle for Jesus; own understanding of His messianic identity and ministry.

The next chapter features Bird taking apart the arguments of those who contest that Jesus ever claimed to be the Messiah. The messianic secret was not a secret throughout the Gospel of Mark, and the downplaying of it early on is more consistent with the apocalyptic nature of this gospel than it is with any attempt to deny the Messiahship of Jesus.

Moreover, even though the resurrection of Jesus helped to authenticate Jesus' messianic identity, it is not its point of origin and it by itself could not be the reason for the messianic designations ascribed to Christ. We need to consider what Jesus said and did during His ministry.

Bird goes on to explain this in the next chapter. He highlights Matthew 11:5-6 and the riding into Jerusalem on a donkey as overt attempts by Jesus to conduct and explain His ministry in messianic terms. Other appeals to the "I have come" texts and to the anointing of Christ in Mark 14 are less convincing, but Bird has made his case in the main.

Bird goes on to discuss and defend the historicity of the texts (Matt 16:13-20; Mark 14:61-64) where Jesus affirms His messianic identity. He coyly acknowledges that his defenses of the historical integrity will not convince everyone.

But I didn't see the need for the reticence. Matthew and Mark have Jesus answering the Messianic question in the affirmative (multiple attestation), and even though it looks like Jesus dances around the question in Luke, his answer to the followup question leaves no doubt in the minds of His interrogators.

The book has a great closing chapter about the theological ramifications of Jesus's Messiahship. Jesus is the eschatological deliverer, and He is our prophet, priest, and king. Being our prophet means that He is God's messenger to and for us, being our priest means that He is our mediator to and for us, and being our king means that He is our monarch. Good stuff!

This book reminds me of Ben Witherington's classic volume "The Christology of Jesus." This volume makes its case more cautiously. It brings the discussion into the 21st century. It is well organized, well written and should be consulted by scholarly pastors and pastoral scholars.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful; brilliant scholarship and good writing! 21 Aug 2009
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
There aren't many biblical scholars who write well, so it can be tiresome to slog through the books. Well, Bird is different. Not only is his scholarship and logic wonderful, he actually writes well.

Bird tackles one of the thorniest problems in historical Jesus scholarship, "whether or not Jesus believed himself to be the Messiah. (It) is a recurring riddle of historical Jesus scholarship" (p 24). Many, if not most, scholars reject the idea that Jesus said he was the Messiah.

Bird argues that Jesus saw himself "in messianic categories...(and) that it is the messianic nature of Jesus's ministry that explains the reason for Jesus's death and accounts for the messianism of the early church, including its Christology" (p 29).

In the Old Testament, David was promised by God that his dynasty would continue "through a physical descendant...eternally, and that the king will have a unique filial relationship with Israel's God" (p 36). Given these promises, it is not surprising that, during the intertestamental period, messianism frequently centered on the Davidic line. Nor is it surprising to learn of "spasmodic revolts that seem to echo messianic ideas" (p 52).

The early church clearly proclaimed Jesus the Messiah. But why? Jesus could have been resurrected without being the Messiah. John the Baptist could have been proclaimed the Messiah; he was not. Why? For that matter, if Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah, then why didn't Jewish polemics state this, since it would be "their best opportunity to pose a counterassertion to early Christian proclamation" (p 71). In fact, why did the claim originate after Easter if Jesus never made a claim to being the Messiah?

Bird points out that many of Jesus's actions and sayings point to a messianic awareness. Among them, the "Son of Man' sayings seem steeped in messianic awareness, and, as Fitzmyer has argued, these sayings are closely tied to the coming Jewish king. Sanders has also asserted that the disciples of Jesus already thought of him as the Messiah even before the resurrection.

"While it is undoubtedly true that Jesus's Davidic heritage was part of the christological reflection of the early church, it seems too widespread and too early to attribute it entirely to post-Easter currents" (p 109), Bird concludes.

I would also strongly recommend Larry Hurtado and Martin Hengel for their books that investigate the earliest Christology.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Finding a Messianic Jesus 20 Sep 2011
By James Korsmo - Published on
Format: Paperback
In this great little book, Bird undertakes the much contested question in Jesus Studies concerning Jesus own self-presentation: who did he say and show himself to be? And for Bird, this means investigating the intention and identity exhibited by Jesus, arguing that Jesus "saw himself in messianic categories" (29). This proceeds, after an introductory chapter, with a careful though certainly not exhaustive look at messianic expectation in Second Temple Judaism, which provides the essential background and material for what is to follow, arguing that while there was indeed a variety of expectation, or in some cases even lack there of, during this period, even amid this diversity there were ideas and trajectories that were recognizably messianic. He then looks at whether Jesus declined the messianic role, undertaking specifically a study of the Markan Messianic secret motif, as well as interacting with the idea that Jesus' messiahship was only a post-resurrection inference, concluding that Jesus acted in such a way to deliberately arouse messianic hopes. The third chapter looks at how Jesus redefined the role of messiah in his own ministry, with a focus on how Jesus understood the "Son of Man" imagery and also the royal imagery that arises out of Israel's Scripture. The fifth chapter focuses in on Jesus final week and death as keys to seeing Jesus messianism. He concludes the chapter, "I think that Jesus' deliberate attempt to act out a messianic vocation is the smoking gun that explains the messianic testimony of the early church" (158).

These careful investagations lead him to the conclusion that several patterns and themes from the Jesus tradition come together to show that "Jesus' career centered on several messianic scenarios based upon the themes of victory, temple, and enthronement, and these were related to sociopolitical circumstances of Palestine in the first century," and that Jesus saw his role as "'the man' who will be vindicated and receive a kingdom" (159). He then concludes the book with a relatively brief yet helpful constructive chapter thinking about what understanding Jesus as Messiah means for the Christian faith, looking at such themes as relation to Israel, eschatology, and christology proper.

Bird's book is relatively brief, considering the vast amount of terrain it covers, but I found it enjoyable and well argued. He has woven a number of important threads of the Gospels together to paint a coherent picture of Jesus as the Christ, and specifically of Jesus as one who took that role upon himself and acted it out. I am appreciative of his arguments and his great learning, and will certainly refer to it any time questions arise concerning Jesus and his messiahship.
Cogent Argument for Jesus as Messiah 2 Oct 2014
By Dataman - Published on
Format: Paperback
Many of those who believe Jesus to be the Christ might be surprised to learn Jesus never actually stated that he was the Messiah (Christ). His curious silence has led some scholars to conclude that Jesus never considered himself to be Israel’s Messiah, and that the messianic portrait of Jesus in the Gospels is a “post-Easter” invention of the early church. In his book Are You the One Who Is to Come?: The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question, Michael F. Bird seeks to “argue that Jesus saw himself in messianic categories, as enacting a messianic role or a messianic vocation.”

In the first chapter, he provides a short orientation to previous scholarship on Jesus as the Messiah. In the second chapter, Bird surveys messianic expectations in Second Temple Judaism. He discusses messianic elements in literature of the period. In order to show that messianic expectations were high in the first century, he includes a description of messianic interpretations of the Hebrew Bible found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. He contends that Jesus “acted in such a way as to quite deliberately arouse messianic hopes in those around him.” In chapter four, Bird looks at the evidence from the Gospels that Jesus acted out the sorts of things expected of the messiah. He also contends that Jesus intentionally sought out to arouse messianic hopes by way of his enigmatic use of the phrase “Son of Man," the title drawn from Dan 7:14. Finally, in chapter five, he tackles the difficult problem of a crucified messiah. Bird reasons that the political reality of Palestine made it necessary for Jesus to keep his messianic identity secret; he also argues that Jesus set out to re-define that identity by emphasizing that that he was going to suffer and die.

This text offers a careful analysis of the evidence; the footnotes alone offer an extensive bibliography for readers who wish to dig deeper. Bird is to be lauded for presenting both sides of the debate. It should also be noted that he avoids proof-texting for passages that support his views. Bird’s overall argument that the intentions of Jesus can be labeled as messianic is cogent. However, this book would best be used by scholars, pastors or teachers, as it is a bit dry. It would make an excellent college or seminary textbook for a class on the Gospels.
Considers Jesus' words and actions together 13 Oct 2014
By Stu2 - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The value of this book is to consider Jesus' words and actions together to gain a full understanding of whether Jesus thought he was the Messiah. Michael Bird does this and concludes that Jesus did think he was the Messiah, but the nature of his Messiah-ship was complex. Jesus wove together several themes from the Old Testament, while negotiating contemporary politics and Jewish expectations of the Messiah, to present himself as the Messiah that fulfilled the Old Testament and yet also went beyond it to become something wonderfully new. That's the reason that very soon after his death and resurrection, Jesus was being referred to as "Lord" (Christos in Greek) and not merely "Messiah" and his followers are referred to as "Christians" and not merely "Jesuians".
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