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The Messiah before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls Paperback – February 26, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0520234000 ISBN-10: 0520234006 Edition: New Ed

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 159 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; New Ed edition (February 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520234006
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520234000
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.9 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,154,908 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Knohl's chief claim is "Jesus was the heir and successor of the Messiah of Qumran." The latter is described in two hymns in fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Knohl argues that he was a certain Menachem, a friend and supporter of Herod who was removed from his position of leadership in the Jewish community when he made his messianic aspirations public after Herod's death. Knohl includes the hymns in an appendix, along with discussion of the influence of the Messiah of Qumran on Jesus' messianic consciousness and the influence of the Roman vision of redemption in Virgil's Fourth Eclogue on the Messiah of Qumran. Readers who share Knohl's questioning attitude about "the Jewish context of Jesus' messianic career" will find the brief, accessible book fascinating and informative, as will readers more generally interested in the visions of redemption that emerged out of the rich religious context of Rome in the centuries before Jesus. Steven Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Readers who share Knohl's questioning attitude about 'the Jewish context of Jesus' messianic career' will find [this] brief, accessible book fascinating and informative." - Booklist "A small but mind-bending book...a stunning imaginative leap. The impulse to reject Knohl's thesis is very strong...yet Knohl's consummate scholarship and intimate familiarity with other scholarly work gradually prevails. Is this book important to anyone but scholars? Yes, courageous, responsible scholarly work such as Knohl's deserves attention-and admiration." - Christian Science Monitor "This is a very significant, original, and daring book. It illuminates an important era in the history of the Jewish people as well as the background of Christianity, making full use of the new Qumran material." - Professor Emanuel Tov, Editor-in-Chief, Dead Sea Scrolls Publication Project "This is a work of very high quality....Knohl convincingly points out the historical event of a Messiah who predated the more famous one, Jesus Christ....This is one of the most fascinating findings regarding the history of Jewish Messianism and the understanding of the emergence of Christianity...I am confident that it will mark a new phase in research of ancient Judaism." - Moshe Idel, author of Messianic Mystics "Fascinating....Knohl's book is an original piece of research that defies some of the most solid beliefs of our time." - Avraham Burg, Chairman of the Keneset (Israeli Parliament).

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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Goranson on October 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book provides an interesting discussion of some late Second Temple Period texts. The proposal that Augustus being called divi filius, Son of God, is reflected in a negative allusion to him in a Qumran Cave 4 text is well worth consideration. The Menahem mentioned in the Mishna (Hag. 2.2) may indeed be the Menahem the Essene mentioned by Josephus (Ant. 15), even though those writers who suggested this centuries ago misunderstood the origin of the name "Essenes," IMO.

But Menahem was not the Essene Teacher of Righteousness, nor was the teacher considered messiah.

The Essene Teacher was apparently earlier than Menahem (and earlier still than John the Baptist, James et al.). Most probably the teacher was Judah the Essene, a teacher, the first Essene mentioned by Josephus (in both Ant. and War), as is shown in "Jannaeus" [...].

Damascus Document indicates 390 years after the end of Babylonian captivity (538 BC), and after 20 more years, God saw the ma'asim. deeds, of a group (Essenes, from 'asah, 'osey hatorah, observers of torah) and raised the teacher. The Qumran Essene Pesher texts associate the teacher and the 'osey hatorah, the Essenes. Archaeology of Qumran and C14 and paleography dating of some Qumran mss also point to a time for the teacher earlier than Menahem, but fitting Judah.

In any case, Knohl raises several interesting questions.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Joel Brown on February 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The Messiah Before Jesus is a new anomaly in Dead Sea Scrolls and New Testament studies. Israel Knohl is one of the many authors to propose an uncommon unheard of idea. The book is primarily about certain Qumran documents, the Thanksgiving Hymns, namely, the 'Self-Glorification Hymn.' His work is somewhat speculative, and rests on a number of historical assumptions. I'm not saying that this automatically makes it incredible, since most of history IS reconstruction. But for example, this Scroll theory heavily lies on the Sectarian Hypothesis regarding the Essenes inhabiting Khirbet Qumran. What I found interesting is his new historical insight on the book of Revelation (St. John's Apocalypse) and its historical basis in Roman history and connection to Qumran. Knohl's thesis is another which robs Jesus Christ of his orthodox "uniqueness." It views him as the successor to Menahem (the Essene's messiah) in a chain of messiahs that would continue even after Christ. So essentially, he disagrees with the historians and at the same time the Christians. He does this by asserting that Jesus DID in fact regard himself as the Son of God and the Suffering Messiah. (which Christians also would do, but for theological agreement with Him) Historians regard things like the divine conception and self predictions of suffering and death as post-historical Christ interpolations of the earliest Christians. They assent this because they have come to believe that such concepts were alien to the first century Judaism that expected a military Messiah-conqueror. But this book sets out to establish a precursor to Jesus identified as Isaiah 53's 'Suffering Servant.Read more ›
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By "bergsie" on October 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A Messiah before Jesus is not a new idea. After all, this is what the main crux of the Dead Sea Scrolls is all about, where we have an Essene Teacher of Righteousness whose life not only paralles that of the life of Jesus, but appears to pre-date the Christian saviour. What is more, the Wisdom of Solomon, found in the Catholic Bible but not in the Protestant, if part and parcel of the Old Testament and not the New, suggests in chapters 2 & 3 that not only was there a Messiah before Jesus, but chapter 3 implies that there were many. The Dead Sea Scrolls in turn, "Manual of Discipline: Rules of the Order," also appears to support this view where it states, and I quote from the Millar Burrows translation:
"They shall not depart from any counsel of the law, walking in all the stubbornness of their hearts; but they shall be judged by the first judgments by which the men of the community began to be disciplined, until there shall come a prophet and the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel."
What the Manual of Discipline appears to suggest, was that there was not one or two Messiahs, one pre-dating the other, but rather there was a belief in many Messiahs, this being possibly a group, or "Messianic Order." However, on a more positive note regarding "The Messiah Before Jesus," Israel Knohl's view will certainly open up more avenues for thought, discussion and insight into what really was the situation in Palestine during this period in history.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Santi Tafarella on September 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
Israel Knohl's "The Messiah Before Jesus" is a University of California publication and has a promotional blurb from a number of big-gun scholars on its back cover, including Emanuel Tov, the Editor-in-Chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls Publication Project. It's a good thing, because the thesis of the book has the potential of overturning many assumptions about early Christianity and might be dismissed if proposed by a less respected scholar. The thesis of Knoll's book is that the most recent fragments coming out of the Dead Sea Scrolls project reveal that the Qumran community believed that the Messiah would suffer, be pierced, and rise again on the third day in accordance with the scriptures. This has been the long-anxiety of Orthodox Christians, that the Dead Sea scrolls would prove to undermine the uniqueness of Jesus, or somehow anticipate the central doctrines of Christianity, making them less "special." And Knoll's thesis, and the evidence he supports it with, is compelling and ought to be of grave concern to those who style themselves "Christian apologists." Knoll believes that the Qumran community not only anticipated an Isaiah 53-style "suffering servant" Messiah, but that the leader of their sect believed that he was that Messiah. Knoll further postulates that this Messiah had in fact acted out his beliefs, was martyred, and that the Qumran community believed that he had been raised from the dead and taken up to heaven. This Messiah, according to Knoll, did this a full generation prior to Jesus. Knoll gathers several lines of persuasive evidence for these assertions. Some of his arguments, however, are circumstantial, but if you buy his stronger lines of evidence, they become possible.Read more ›
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