A Final Post on The Messiah in the Old Testament (Walter Kaiser)
I am loathe to write this post because if you read my blogs regularly, you know at the beginning of 2016, I intended to write blog posts throughout the year reacting to Kaiser’s book. He makes the case that anticipation of Jesus coming as Messiah (Anointed one of God, the Christ) is seen in the Old Testament. According to Kaiser, from Genesis to Malachi, there is unmistakable evidence of the Messiah’s presence in the Old Testament. I wanted to learn Kaiser’s perspective and share it with you, my readers.
I did OK through the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy) and I reviewed his assessment of OT books up through the Psalms. Alas, time caught up with me. Some of Kaiser’s meatiest work is done in the prophets. In 2016, other interests (family life, church, study of racial dynamic in American life) took me away from working on writing my responses to the ideas in this book.
So now, I conclude by recommending that you go to Amazon (or whatever site you prefer) and get your own copy of Kaiser’s book.
I do offer this. I have only recently come to appreciate just how important and controversial it is to think that New Testament concepts arose first in the Old Testament and then served as fulfillment of the Old Testament. For Jewish people who do not believe Jesus is the Messiah, this is a great insult. For them, the Old Testament is not “Old.” It is “the Bible,” the Torah. Some Jews may feel that their book was stolen from them by the same Christians who perpetrated the Pogroms and ignored the Holocaust. I think the story is more complicated than that, but I want to be gentle with the feelings of others, especially those who have suffered enormous wounding in history.
I want to respect the Jewish reading of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). I want to be in dialogue with Jewish friends and neighbors. I want to learn about this sacred text from them; they’re the experts. If I see something about the Messiah (Jesus as Messiah) in Psalm 22 or Genesis 3 or Isaiah 53, something my Jewish friends don’t see or refuse to see, I want to come to that knowledge humbly. I want to hold that reading reverently and with no intent to marginalize or discard the Jewish viewpoint.
At the same time, I recognize the absolute nature of this conversation. Either Jesus is the Messiah or he isn’t. I believe he is. I believe His Holy Spirit resides in me and compels me to read the Hebrew Bible through Gospel-tinted lenses. I believe what Kaiser says is true. “A straightforward understanding and application of the text leads one straight to the Messiah and to Jesus of Nazareth, who has fulfilled everything these texts said about his first coming” (p.232).
Thus, I live in this tension. I want to love and respect my Jewish neighbor who says “Don’t undermine my Bible by insisting that its message is fulfilled in Jesus.” At the same, I believe scripture (including the Old Testament) can be properly only when read in such a way that we see that the message points to Jesus. The Bible is about God’s relationship with humanity, and God’s relationship with humanity is made whole through the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth who is the Christ, the Messiah. I believe that with all my being, all my soul.
I pray that conversations around this topic can be peaceful and friendly, even if they end in disagreement.