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The One Who Is to Come Paperback – April 1, 2007
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About the Author
Joseph Fitzmyer is Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the Catholic University of America. He is the author of over 40 books including The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins and Spiritual Exercises Based on Paul's Epistle to the Romans, both published by Eerdmans.
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The last stage of the Messianic belief begins after the close of the Hebrew Bible books, when prophecy ceased in Israel, for almost four centuries. The messianic hope concept started gradual change, deteriorating towards acquiring mundane power, among the masses of the Jewish people, who suffered oppression by the pagan Roman empire. Exciting new insights have been provided recently, by the writings of numbers of scholars and some remarkable archaeological finds. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls caught the popular imagination and engaged the attention of worldwide scholarship. Understanding this watershed period of history set the stage to appreciate the events and understand differences between the OT and NT, wrt Messianic hope, and prophecies.
Fr Fitzmyer articulated a series of essays tracing the roots of messianic hope in the Hebrew Bible, and Jewish extrabiblical writings. He assembled his research in a compelling historical progression in his well searched book chapters. His inclusion of the Septuagint's interpretation of relevant OT passages is crucial, since this Alexandrine Greek translation used a Hebrew Bible a thousand year older than the Masoretic.
The peek of his study is his exposition of the second temple messianic writing from 1 Enoch, including an extensive examination of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Various Qumran texts, an area of his expertise, reveal the developing pre-Christian Jewish messianism. Fitzmyer notes the Talmud does contain a belief in a messiah who precedes creates and is in some sense a "preexistent being." He underlines that expectation of a Messiah was in Judea at the times of Jesus of Nazareth.
For Fitzmyer, the Messiah perceived by Christians is the one who fulfills the role of God's Suffering Servant in (Deutro) Isaiah 53, raised by God to offer hope to humanity of sharing a glorious afterlife in the Fathers beatific presence.
Such things are not always supportive of superficial feelings of satisfaction and makes you have to work out what is really important to believe and what to say to other people who may have questions about Christianity.
Jesus and the church are phenomenal things in their own right and stand alone without a lot of weird hype about "fulfilled prophecy".
Jesus made his own prophecy and he interpreted every prophecy that came before him.
You judge things by their results and the promises that Jesus made are fulfilled and we see it and especially in how the world outside of Christianity has become so depraved in comparison.
Naysayers will always be around and their arguments are insubstantial and really wishful thinking on the part of those not wanting Hell to be real.
For instance, after discussing several of the key "Messianic Psalms," Fitzmyer concludes, "The attempt to interpret these Psalms anachronistically in a `messianic' sense is misguided." According to Fitzmeyer, "Psalm 2 is not `messianic' in any sense." Fitzmyer claims Psalm 110 "could hardly refer to any eschatological ideal in the distant future." There are other gems in this book. Fitzmyer argues that "there is no passage in the book of Isaiah that mentions a `Messiah" in the narrow sense, and all attempts to speak of Isaiah's `messianic prophecies' are still-born." He claims that the Servant Song of Isaiah 53 "has no messianic connotation" per se. His conclusion is this: "The idea of a suffering Messiah...is found nowhere in the Old Testament or in any Jewish literature prior to or contemporaneous with the New Testament. It is a Christian conception that goes beyond the Jewish messianic tradition."
Fitzmyer argues that the Jewish conception of the Messiah was different than what early Christians thought. According to Jewish conceptions, the Messiah was that "of a human kingly figure who was (and is) to bring deliverance, at once political, economic, and spiritual, to the Jewish people, and through them peace, prosperity, and righteousness to all humanity." (p. 182). Fitzmyer believes Jesus was the Messiah, even though he argues against the early Christian claim that there were specific details prophesied of this Messiah in the Old Testament which Jesus fulfilled in his birth, life, death and resurrection.
His scholarship is superior to all others on this topic. I could only wish he drew the proper conclusion that the New Testament writers got it wrong about Jesus. It's so sad that he refuses to come to the conclusion that his scholarship leads him to. This is what I call believing against the evidence, and it's too bad he feels the need to do this because of his faith. Furthermore, if the New Testament writers falsely interpreted Old Testament Messianic prophecy when it came to the specific details of his life, death, and resurrection, why would Fitzmyer believe them when they go on to claim Jesus is the Jewish Messiah? If they are wrong about the prophetic details then he should also question their larger claim that Jesus was the Messiah.
Skeptics will like this book very much, because we WILL draw the proper conclusions from his research, and for that I thank him and highly recommend his book.