Christ Among the Messiahs: Christ Language in Paul and Messiah Language in Ancient Judaism

Paperback | October 15, 2015

byMatthew V. Novenson

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Recent scholarship on ancient Judaism, finding only scattered references to messiahs in Hellenistic- and Roman-period texts, has generally concluded that the word 'messiah' did not mean anything determinate in antiquity. Meanwhile, interpreters of Paul, faced with his several hundred uses ofthe Greek word for 'messiah,' have concluded that christos in Paul does not bear its conventional sense. Against this curious consensus, Matthew V. Novenson argues in Christ among the Messiahs that all contemporary uses of such language, Paul's included, must be taken as evidence for its range ofmeaning. In other words, early Jewish messiah language is the kind of thing of which Paul's Christ language is an example. Looking at the modern problem of Christ and Paul, Novenson shows how the scholarly discussion of christos in Paul has often been a cipher for other, more urgent interpretive disputes. He then traces the rise and fall of 'the messianic idea' in Jewish studies and gives an alternative account ofearly Jewish messiah language: the convention worked because there existed both an accessible pool of linguistic resources and a community of competent language users. Whereas it is commonly objected that the normal rules for understanding christos do not apply in the case of Paul since he uses theword as a name rather than a title, Novenson shows that christos in Paul is neither a name nor a title but rather a Greek honorific, like Epiphanes or Augustus. Focusing on several set phrases that have been taken as evidence that Paul either did or did not use christos in its conventional sense, Novenson concludes that the question cannot be settled at the level of formal grammar. Examining nine passages in which Paul comments on how he means the wordchristos, Novenson shows that they do all that we normally expect any text to do to count as a messiah text. Contrary to much recent research, he argues that Christ language in Paul is itself primary evidence for messiah language in ancient Judaism.

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Recent scholarship on ancient Judaism, finding only scattered references to messiahs in Hellenistic- and Roman-period texts, has generally concluded that the word ''messiah'' did not mean anything determinate in antiquity. Meanwhile, interpreters of Paul, faced with his several hundred uses ofthe Greek word for ''messiah,'' have conclu...

Matthew V. Novenson is Lecturer in New Testament and Christian Origins at the University of Edinburgh.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 9.09 × 6.1 × 0.59 inPublished:October 15, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190274093

ISBN - 13:9780190274092

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Table of Contents

AbbreviationsIntroduction1. The Modern Problem of Christ and the Messiahs2. Messiah Language in Ancient Judaism3. Names, Titles, and Other Possibilities4. Christ Phrases in Paul5. Christ Passages in PaulConclusionBibliographyIndex of SubjectsIndex of Ancient SourcesIndex of Modern Authors

Editorial Reviews

"Christ among the Messiahs is a successful project that hopefully will spur many scholars to reconsider the possibility that Christos in Paul is a meaningful term. If they do, and I think they should, then we are likely to see a spate of new investigations into Paul's messiah Christology and,more broadly, into the complexity of messianic language in ancient Judaism. Should that development bear fruit, we will have Novenson, among others, to thank for it." --H-Net Reviews