Posted: Jul 20, 2013 5:50 am
by neilgodfrey
spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:
spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:

What's a "messianist"?

A believer in a messiah. In Jewish thought the messiah was usually still coming, as in the view of John the Baptist and his proselytes.

So Jews did not as a whole believe in such a messiah? This belief was distinctive enough to be the mark of certain assemblies among the Jews?

Probably all Jews knew of the notion of the messiah, but it didn't impact on most of their lives. The messianism of John is quite different and staunchly anti-established religion. To be ready for the eschaton and the appearance of the messiah you had to receive baptism, a rite that had nothing to do with the temple or the synagogue.

But there is no evidence for any of this apart from Christian apologetic tradition. & that JB is simply a theological foil for Jesus found only in theological faith-documents. And one of those, the Gospel of John, does not even support the idea of baptism being necessary for an eschaton. Nor is this the reason for Paul's notion of baptism.

spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:I do know of literary evidence for notions of a messiah to come and especially of messiahs that had been in the history of Israel, but I don't know of any evidence that such ideas were discussed and occupied the minds of the general populace of Judea until the time of the first Jewish War.

I think that those individuals who caused people to go out into the wilderness, as mentioned in Josephus, were either messianic contenders or prophets of a coming messiah. It would be hard not to have heard the notion before the war.

As I've been noting in previous comments, this is the common assumption but lacks evidence. The details of these groups actually belie the idea: the messiah was supposedly to come as a conqueror and Christianity is said to be unique in that it accepted a non-conqueror for a messiah, yet at least one of those leaders carried no arms; bandit leaders were common enough throughout many regions of the empire, too, and with little to set them apart as necessarily "messianic" movements in Judea; and Jews were quite capable of looking for kings to rule in the Second Temple period without assigning such individuals the sort of "messianic" status we are talking about here.

According to Green, Thompson et al there is no evidence of any contemporary figure being declared a messiah until the time of Bar Kochba. Following their evidence I see merit in their argument and have yet to see it rebutted. The expectation of such an imminent figure is not testified until the time of the first Jewish War. It is only after 70 that we have our first Christian literature speaking of such figures and using them as foils against their Messiah.

spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:(John the Baptist as a foreteller of a Messiah can be explained as a literary patch-work creation of miscellaneous OT passages, just the way Psalm 22 etc were worked to create a dramatic declaration on the cross. Josephus who appears to have less of a theological agenda for his account of John the Baptist places him after Christ and associates no messianist view to him.)

He might be able to be explained that way, but christianity certainly had to accept his existence. It certainly had to accept baptism as well, though baptism has nothing to do with christian salvation. Given that John's beliefs were imminently apocalyptic, christianity's acceptance of him required a lot of dancing. Christianity provides a testimony for John when taken with Josephus gives him a historical foundation. The foretelling of the messiah as part of his non-christian eschatological message is reasonable, though perhaps not comfortable for Josephus to tell the Romans. The gospels inadvertently tell us interesting things about John and his followers. Why did John's followers fast when those of Jesus didn't need to? Why did he have to send to find out if Jesus was the messiah? Don't these show some of the contention between the two sets of belief? Followers of John's religion didn't know that Jesus was the messiah. This makes one think of the Apollos story in Acts 18:24ff. Apollos, the Johannine believer, had to be taken aside and told about Jesus, presumably of his coming and more specific teachings.

He certainly can be explained that way in the Gospels, and I would argue that that is the simplest explanation for his appearance and function there.

Christianity did not "have to" accept JB until he appeared in the Gospel of Mark. It was his function there that led to the questions surrounding him and Jesus, and all the so-called "embarrassed" responses in later gospels.

Paul did not know of him; nor any of the other letter-writers; nor did the Marcionites; nor those attached to the Gospel of Thomas. (The latter appear to have given special place to James, but there is no JB.) JB only makes his mark in later developments for some reason. The Acts story has many grounds for being argued to have been a mid/latter second century product.

But come back to the phrase behind "in Christ" itself. I doubt that this is the most natural way to refer to "assemblies" who were "believers in a messiah".

Firstly, most of the literati among the Jews would have known that the writings spoke of such a figure; how much of these ideas were in the awareness of the broader population is simply unknown until the time of the Jewish War/s.

Secondly, "in Christ" sounds more like something out of Stoicism -- living "in Reason/Logos", for example. Was there ever a Maccabean who could have been said to have been "in Christ"? It does not sound quite right as a reference to those who supposedly believe an idea that every Jew was supposed to have believed in anyway (as the conventional wisdom asks us to accept).