Wednesday, May 02, 2007


The following is on pages 326-27 in the book pictured to the left.

“Jesus' lifetime spanned roughly the first 35 years of a turmoil
 extending over 140 years. The turmoil did not cease with his death, but continued for another century. And it engendered the psychological and cultural adjuncts inevitably attending any such sustained defiance of an oppressor. One of these adjuncts was the hope and
 longing for a Messiah who would deliver his people from the 
tyrant's yoke. It was only by virtue of historical and semantic 
accident that this term came to be applied specifically and exclusively to Jesus.

“For Jesus' contemporaries no Messiah would ever have been
 regarded as divine. Indeed, the very idea of a divine Messiah would have been preposterous, if not unthinkable. The Greek word for Messiah is Christ or Christos. The term—whether in Hebrew or Greek—meant simply "the anointed one" and generally referred to a king. Thus, David, when he was anointed king in the Old Testament, became, quite explicitly, a "Messiah" or a "Christ." And 
every subsequent Jewish king of the house of David was known by the same appellation. Even during the Roman occupation of Judaea, the Roman-appointed high priest was known as the Priest Messiah or Priest Christ.

“For the Zealots, however, and for other opponents of Rome, this puppet priest was, of necessity, a false Messiah, For them the true Messiah implied something very different—the legitimate roi perdu or "lost king, "the unknown descendant of the house of David who
 would deliver his people from Roman tyranny. During Jesus' lifetime anticipation of the coming of such a Messiah attained a pitch verging on mass hysteria. And this anticipation continued after
 Jesus' death. Indeed, the revolt of A.D. 66 was prompted in large 
part by Zealot agitation and propaganda on behalf of a Messiah whose advent was said to be imminent.

“The term "Messiah," then, implied nothing in any way divine, 
Strictly defined, it meant nothing more than an anointed king, and in the popular mind it came to mean an anointed king who would also be a liberator. In other words, it was a term with specifically political connotations—something quite different from the later Christian idea of a "Son of God." It was this mundane political term that was applied to Jesus. He was called "Jesus the Messiah" or—translated into Greek—"Jesus the Christ." Only later was this designation contracted to "Jesus Christ" and a purely functional title distorted into a proper name.”

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