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ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 56, 2008

W. HORBURY, Messianism among Jews and Christians (London: T. & T. Clark, 2003).
Pp. ix + 417. Paper. 50.00.

The twelve essays in Messianism among Jews and Christians have all been published previously (between 1981 and 1998) in academic journals or collected works. For the present volume they have been revised and have some additions. The essays are divided into three sections: The Second Temple Period; The New Testament; Synagogue and Church in the Roman Empire. They have as their focus the setting and content of messianism in the various periods. They are prefaced by an introduction with sub-headings as follows: Debate on the Importance of Messianic Hope; New Sources in Late Twentieth Century Study; Messianic Hope in Ancient Biblical Interpretation; Messianic Catastrophe; Messianism and Monotheism. A thorough review of scholarly thought, which should prove valuable to the student and academic alike, is given in each of these categories.

The essays themselves include references to the categories of Messianic thought debated in the Introduction and cover the following topics. Section One: Messianism in the Old Testament Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha (35–64); The Gifts of God in Ezekiel the Tragedian (65–82); Herod’s Temple and “Herod’s Days” (83–122). Section Two: The Messianic Associations of the “Son of Man” (125–55); The Twelve and the Phylarchs (157–88); Jerusalem in Pre-Pauline and Pauline Hope (189–226); The Aaronic Priesthood in the Epistle to the Hebrews (227–54); Septuagintal and New Testament Conceptions of the Church (255–72). Section Three: Messianism among Jews and Christians in the Second Century (275–88); Suffering and Messianism in Yoseben Yose (289–327); Antichrist among Jews and Gentiles (329–49); The Cult of Christ and the Cult of the Saints (351–80). Indices of subjects, authors and textual references are appended to the work.

Horbury’s knowledge of the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint and other ancient versions, the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, Philo, New Testament, rabbinic works, synagogue prayers and art is comprehensive, and he is able to trace intertextual connections between them with great agility. At the same time he is well versed in secondary literature, utilising it where appropriate to support his reading of a particular topic and opposing it where he deems necessary.

The present volume is a valuable contribution to scholarly knowledge of Messianism in its various manifestations in the late centuries B.C.E. and early centuries C.E., and will prove indispensable to the academic working within that time-frame. It demonstrates clearly that Messianic thought and concerns were not largely absent in the Judaism of the period prior to the Christian era, as posited by scholars such as Horsley (R. A. Horsley & J. S. Hanson, Bandits, Prophets and Messiahs [Minneapolis, Winston Press, 1985]), but formed part of a tradition which continued long after the close of the New Testament.

This is a rich mine of resources for all future investigation of Johannine imagery.

Review by
Anne E. Gardner
Director of Religion and Spirituality Studies
La Trobe University
Bundoora VIC 3086