The Messiah before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls / Edition 1

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Overview

In a work that challenges notions that have dominated New Testament scholarship for more than a hundred years, Israel Knohl gives startling evidence for a messianic precursor to Jesus who is described as the "Suffering Servant" in recently published fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Messiah before Jesus clarifies many formerly incomprehensible aspects of Jesus' life and confirms the story in the New Testament about his messianic awareness. The book shows that, around the time of Jesus' birth, there came into being a conception of "catastrophic" messianism in which the suffering, humiliation, and death of the messiah were regarded as an integral part of the redemptive process.

Scholars have long argued that Jesus could not have foreseen his suffering, death, and resurrection because the concept of a slain savior who rises from the dead was alien to the Judaism of his time. But, on the basis of hymns found at Qumran among the Dead Sea Scrolls, Knohl argues that, one generation before Jesus, a messianic leader arose in the Qumran sect who was regarded by his followers as ushering in an era of redemption and forgiveness. This messianic leader was killed by Roman soldiers in the course of a revolt that broke out in Jerusalem in 4 B.C.E. The Romans forbade his body to be buried and after the third day his disciples believed that he was resurrected and rose to heaven. This formed the basis for Jesus' messianic consciousness, Knohl argues; it was because of this model that Jesus anticipated he would suffer, die, and be resurrected after three days.

Knohl takes his fascinating inquiry one step further by suggesting that this messiah was a figure known to us from historical sources of the period. This identification may shed new light on the mystery of the "Paraclete" in the Gospel of John. A pathbreaking study, The Messiah before Jesus will reshape our understanding of Christianity and its relationship to Judaism.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
After ten years, the recently released texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls are still creating waves. In his second book, Knohl (chair, Bible Dept., Hebrew Univ.) challenges liberal and conservative New Testament scholarship. He asserts that "Jesus was the heir and successor of the Messiah of Qumran," whom he identifies as Menahem the Essene. Knohl arrives at his hypothesis through an examination of two purportedly messianic hymns from Qumran, the Oracle of Hystaspes, the Book of Revelation, Josephus, and Talmudic literature--combined with imaginative historical reconstruction. Though the story makes fascinating reading, the evidence Knohl presents for the role of Menahem as both Qumran leader/Messiah and member of the court of Herod is not overwhelming. Likewise his claim that Menahem was slain as a messianic leader in the revolt against Herod in 4 B.C.E. Even less convincing is his assertion, based on its use of the "Paraclete" concept, that the Gospel of John preserves a tradition that Jesus saw himself as a "second Menahem." Though intended primarily for general readers, this book depends heavily upon material that is not readily available to them; thus, it is more appropriate for academic collections.--Craig W. Beard, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham Lib. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Linda L. Giedl
Courageous, responsible scholarly work such as Knohl's deserves attention—and admiration...Three years' research into Jewish messianism during the complex and treacherous Herodian era has enable Knohl to make a stunning imaginative leap. Thanks to David Maisel's excellent English transtaltion, we can consider Knohl's thesis that historical sources, including remnants of one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, point to a self-declared Jewish messianic leader one generationb before Jesus.
—Christian Science Monitor
Kirkus Reviews
A Jewish scholar challenges the received wisdom of contemporary scripture studies by contending that fragments of a Dead Sea scroll contain evidence of a suffering messiah prior to Jesus.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520234000
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 2/26/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 159
  • Sales rank: 836,938
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Israel Knohl teaches at the Bible department of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He taught as a visiting Professor at Berkeley, Stanford, and Chicago. He is the author of The Sanctuary of Silence (1955), which won the Z. Shkop Award for Biblical Studies.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures ix
Preface xi
Introduction 1
1. The Messianic Secret 5
2. After Three Days 27
3. Another Paraclete 51
Postscript 72
Appendix A The Messianic Hymns 75
Appendix B Between Rome and Jerusalem 87
List of Abbreviations 103
Notes 105
Index 143
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