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

Translated by David Maisel
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: 1
Pages: 159
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  • Book Info
    The Messiah before Jesus
    Book Description:

    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 Jesusclarifies 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 Jesuswill reshape our understanding of Christianity and its relationship to Judaism.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92874-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Israel Knohl
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    To understand Christianity and its relationship to Judaism one must answer a profound and difficult question: What was the Jewish context of Jesus’ messianic career? With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls there was great anticipation that the elusive answer to this question might be found within them. However, this hope has not been realized. While parallel language has been noted between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament, no direct connection to Jesus has been found—until, I believe, now.

    The nature of Jesus’ messiahship as described in the New Testament has remained a puzzle for almost...

  6. CHAPTER ONE The Messianic Secret
    (pp. 5-26)

    The time: A day in January in the year 18 BCE.

    The place: Jerusalem, Herod’s palace, in the western part of the Upper City,¹ and the Essene Quarter of Jerusalem, to the

    south of the palace.²

    The Messiah gets up early in the morning, before the sun rises,³ and goes to the “House of Prostration,”4the Essenes’ place of assembly and prayer in Jerusalem. In this building, high up on a hill, all the members of the community have gathered for morning prayers.5After prayers the Messiah leaves the building. The winter sun rises in the east over the Dead...

  7. CHAPTER TWO After Three Days
    (pp. 27-50)

    We will start our search for the historical setting of the Qumranic Messiah with a discussion of two apocalyptic works. In my view, these apocalypses tell us about the violent death of the Messiah of Qumran. Our first task will be to date the events described in these works. In an apocalyptic work the author usually describes the events of his time as a prophecy of the future. This is why apocalyptic works should be interpreted against the background of the historical events of the time they were composed. As I argue in detail, the content of these works can...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Another Paraclete
    (pp. 51-71)

    In this chapter, I wish to suggest a historical identity for the Messiah before Jesus.

    The argument of this chapter is based on an assumption accepted by most scholars of the Dead Sea literature, though not by all. I refer to the identification of the people of Qumran with the Essenes, known to us from the writings of Josephus Flavius and the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria.¹ Despite the high degree of probability, in my opinion, that this assumption is correct, it is not indisputable fact. The discussion that follows therefore depends on the reasonableness of this assumption.

    The identity...

  9. Postscript
    (pp. 72-74)

    In 70 CE, about forty years after Jesus’ death, the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. In the Jerusalem Talmud, there is a legend about something that took place on the day of the destruction:

    A Jew was ploughing and his cow was lowing as he went.

    An Arab who passed by heard it, and said: “Son of the Jews, release your cow and abandon your plough, for the

    Temple has been destroyed.”

    The ox lowed again, and the Arab said: “Son of the Jews, tie up your cow and tie up your plough, for King Messiah has

    been born.”


  10. APPENDIX A: The Messianic Hymns
    (pp. 75-86)
  11. APPENDIX B: Between Rome and Jerusalem
    (pp. 87-102)
  12. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 103-104)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 105-142)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 143-145)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 146-146)