Kaiser, The Messiah in the Old Testament

Personal Thoughts

This is an interesting and often insightful look at many of the clear/direct Messianic prophecies found in the OT. Kaiser’s respect for the original context is welcome. However, I don’t think the restrictions he has applied to his method always result in convincing readings of the text and don’t necessarily always jive with how the NT is willing to understand a text. Additionally, so much of the OT anticipation of the Messiah is authorially intended typology that is completely excluded from this study. In the end, I think it ends up coming short the Emmaus road vision of opening up the life and work of Christ “Beginning with Moses”. Not that Kaiser fails with what he set out to do, but that he falls short of providing a full orbed view of the Messiah in the OT.

I. Introduction: The Study of Messianism

A. Definitions

B. Starting Points

#hermeneutics #prophecy #messiah

Is the original meaning of the OT context durable enough to suggest anything like what “most people” think the OT says, let alone what the NT claims for this doctrine of the Messiah? (18)

That’s the big question, which Kaiser would answer with a definite, “Yes,” though not wishing to depend on the traditional methods, which are often critiqued as “proof-texting”. He catalogues those as:

  1. Dual meaning (predicted local and future meaning)
  2. Single meaning (it didn’t predict it)
  3. New Testament meaning (The NT is inspired and can make its own meaning)
  4. Developmental meaning (OT meaning expands in like of NT fulfillment)
  5. Goal meaning (Christ is the final goal of prophecy)
  6. Relecture meaning (reading the old prophecies in a new light gives them new meaning)
  7. Theological meaning (the old is ultimately fulfilled and supplanted by the new)

C. A Proposal

Kaiser stands firm that original, grammatical-historical meaning is the only one that matters (although see [[ Leithart, Deep Exegesis ]] for a challenge to this). He argues for 4 principles that will bring this home:

  1. Epigenetical meaning - the original word plants a seed that germinates over time to its development. In other words, the promise is made and historical events give more and more shape to it.
  2. Single meaning - the words mean what they mean
  3. Corporate solidarity - One who represents the group and the group are included in the represented one
  4. Unity of the plan of God

D. The Promise-Plan of God

We should view the promises, not as mere predictions but as plans that include the means of carrying them out.

Instead, it is amazing how the depictions concerning the coming Messiah and his work comprised one continuous plan of God. Each aspect was linked into an ongoing stream of anouncements beginning in the prepatriarchal period, supplemented by the patriarchal, Mosaic, premonarchial, monarchial, and prophetic periods, down to the postexilic times of Israel’s last leaders and prophets. The promise was a single one; yet it was cumulative in its net results. Indeed, its constituent parts were not a collection of assorted promises about a Messiah who was to come: instead they formed one continuous patter and purpose placed in the stream of history. (29)

Kaiser, while not espousing dispensationalism, wants to maintain a distinction between promises “for Israel” and promises “for the Church.”

E. Problems in Messianic Interpretation

He opposes the idea of “double meaning”, which leads to chaos. The problem is that his description seems to preclude even authorially intended messianic portraits. See, for example, the work of Sailhamer (e.g. [[ Sailhamer, The Meaning of the Pentateuch ]]), who argues that the OT books were originally composed with Messianic intent, so the types and shadows can be seen as intended by the human author (or compiler). He does allow for divine typology but excludes that from this study.

II. The Messiah In the Pentateuch

A. The Edenic Prediction

Speaking of Gen. 4:1, he discussed Luther’s rendering of “I have begotten a man, even the LORD”

Such as translation is possible, for there is no word for “help” as most modern versions generally render it “with the help of the Lord” (italicized words are not in the Hebrew text). If this suggestion is correct, then Eve understood that the promised male descendent of human descent would be, in some way, divine, “the LORD”. If so, then Eve’s instincts about the coming Messiah were correct, but her timing was way off! (42)

B. The Noahic Prediction

Questionable understanding that the Noahic prophecy is that God will dwell in the tents of

C. The Abrahamic Prediction

D. The Judaic Prediction

E. The Balaamic Prediction

Jeremiah repeated Balaam’s prophecy and still placed it in the future (Jer 48-49). (55)

F. The Mosaic Prediction

In a footnote while discussing Deuteronomy 18, he cites David Baron on the singular nature of this intended “prophet like Moses” -

“But against this interpretation we have, first, the fact that nabi (prophet) is singular - God says not prophets, but ‘a prophet’ - secondly, that this word nabi is never taken collectively; thirdly, that sacred history points out no such succession of one prophet; and fourthly, this and the preceding intepretations are all contrary to to plain passages of Scripture: Numbers xii. 6-8… and Deuteronomy xxxiv. 10-12, a passage inserted probably by Ezra, asserts that ‘there arose no prophet like unto Moses.’” (58)

Appendix: The Messiah in Job

III. The Messiah Before and During the Davidic Monarchy

A. Hannah and the King: God’s Anointed One

Defending Hannah’s song as speaking of the Messiah, he makes the good point:

It is interesting to note that later on, Peter comes to the same conclusion in Acts 3:24: “All the prophets from Samuel on … fortold these days” (i.e.the days of the Messiah). Where does Samuel make reference to any messianic prediction except in Hannah’s prophecy, which he records or leaves behind from his ministry? (71)

He nicely sums up what he calls “the four stages of royal messianism” -

First, Abraham had been promised that “kings will come from you” (Ge 17:6, 16) and God reaffirmed the same promise to Jacob: “Kings will come from your body” (35:11). In the second stage, the symbols of rule and authority (the “scepter” and “ruler’s staff” were given to Judah (49:10); accordingly, this royalty was promised the “obedience of the nations”. The third stage speaks of this coming king crushing his enemies, as Balaam predicted of the one he called the “star…out of Jacob” and the “scepter…out of Israel” (Nu 24:17). Now in 1 Samuel 2:10, the fourth stage is reached: the Messiah as th exalted King will be the judge of all th earth.(72)

B. Eli and the Faithful Priest: God’s Anointed One

He takes the faithful priest as only referring to the Messiah and not any sort of typical or antitypical fulfillment. He also insightfully argues in v30 that it is the “house” that is “walking before” the Messiah, and this refers to the NT royal priesthood.

C. Nathan and the Established Dynasty and Kingdom of David

1 Sam. 7 - “for all humanity” means David knows this promise is the blessing of the Messiah to come

D. David’s Dynasty and the Psalms

Kaiser (strangely IMO) argues that Psalm 89 must be from David’s time even though it overwhelming fits an exilic context.

Appendix: The Messiah in the Wisdom Literature

Kaiser allows for essentially no Messiah in the Wisdom literature

IV. The Messiah in the Psalms (Part 1)

A. The Conquering King and Enthroned Messiah (Psalms 110 and 2)

B. The Rejection of the Messiah (Psalm 118)

Psalm 118 is about David and predicts the Messiah typological

C. The Betrayal of Messiah (Psalm 69 and 109)

Dealing with the fact that it speaks of David’s son sinning, as well as previous historical fulfillments of the betrayer.

There is a line of evil (recall the seed of the serpent in Ge 3:15 that finds its epitome and climactic fulfillment in the representative of the whole group, just as there is a line of righteousness that eventuates in the Messiah. (107)

V. The Messiah in the Psalms (Part 2)

D. The Death and Resurrection of the Messiah (Psalm 22 and 16)

Psalm 22 is seen as primarily prophetic of the Messiah’s suffering. Citing James E. Smith approvingly:

Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, David in Psalm 22 saw his descendant resembling, but far surpassing, himself in suffering. Furthermore, the deliverance of this descendant would have meaning for all mandkind. (113)

Psalm 16 is a direct prophecy, David seeing through his own life into the future conquering of death of the Messiah (following Acts).

E. The Written Plan and Marriage of Messiah (Psalm 40 and 45)

F. the Triumph of the Messiah (Psalms 68 and 72)

VI. The Messiah in the Ninth- and Eighth-Century Prophets

A. The Ninth Century: The Messiah as a Teacher (Joel 2:23)

B. The Eighth Century: The Messiah As the Second David (Hosea 3:4-5)

C. The Eighth Century: The Messiah As the Raised House of David (Amos 9:11-15)

D. The Eighth Century: The Messiah As the Coming Ruler (Micah 5:1-4)

VII. The Messiah in the Eighth-Century Prophets (Isaiah)

A. The Messiah as King

Discussing Isaiah 7:14, Kaiser notes:

Given the frequency with which OT and NT prophecy have both a now and a not-yet aspect to their predictions, Ahaz is granted evidence of this sign in his own daya, even though the full impact of all that God has in mind will not be realized until the Messiah himself is born in a unique manner in fulfilment of this passage. (160)

I really have a hard time seeing how this is not an example of “double fulfillment” that he criticized in Chapter 1.

B. The Messiah as Servant

C. The Messiah as Anointed Conqueror

VIII. The Messiah in the Seventh- and Sixth-Century Prophets

A. The Messiah in Jeremiah

B. The Messiah in Ezekiel

C. The Messiah in Daniel

IX. The Messiah in the Post-Exilic Prophets

A. The Messiah in Haggai

B. The Messiah in Zechariah

C. The Messiah in Malachi

X. Conclusion

A. Exegesis, Biblical Theology, and Jesus

B. Continuities and Discontinuities in the Testaments

C. Prediction and Fulfilled Prophecy

Appendix 1: Chart of New Testament Fullfillments of Old Testament Messianic Prophecies

Appendix 2: Chart of the Progress of the Sixty-Five Direct Predictions of the Messiah in the Promise Doctine