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Jesus’ Claim to Be the Messiah

 

I’m afraid I have been sidetracked from my thread within a thread within a thread, but now want to get back to it.  This particular sub-sub-thread is about whether Jesus considered himself to be the Jewish messiah.  My view is that Yes he did.  But he meant something very specific by that, and it is not what most people (Christians and non-Christians) today mean by it.

Recall what I have tried to show thus far.  There were various expectations of what the messiah would be like among Jews of Jesus’ day – a political ruler over Israel, a great priest who ruled God’s people through God’s law, a cosmic judge of the earth who would destroy God’s enemies in a cataclysmic act of judgment.   All these views had one thing in common: the future messiah would be a figure of grandeur and might who would come with the authority and power of God.

And who was Jesus?  For most people of his day, Jesus was just the opposite – an itinerant Jewish preacher from the backwaters of rural Galilee who ended up on the wrong side of the law and was tortured and executed for his efforts.  He didn’t destroy God’s enemies.  He was crushed by them.

In establishing that Jesus nonetheless considered himself to be the messiah I have so far made two points:

  • Jesus was considered the messiah by his followers after his death, so much so that “Christ” became the most common designation for him. Nothing about his crucifixion, or the belief in his resurrection, would have led anyone to think he was the messiah (since the messiah was not supposed to be raised from the dead, let alone humiliated and crucified).  So he must have been called the messiah *before* his followers came to believe in his resurrection.  But the question is: did Jesus himself tell his followers this?  To get to *that* question we have to consider what we know about what Jesus told his followers in general.
  • Jesus’ proclamation was all about the coming kingdom of God. He was an apocalypticist who believed that God would soon intervene in the course of history, overthrow the forces of evil, and establish a good (and very real, political) kingdom here on earth.  His listeners had to turn to God in preparation for this imminent end.

If that was Jesus’ proclamation, why should we think that he thought that he himself was to be the messiah of that coming kingdom?  I will give two reasons for thinking so.  Both are strong, in my opinion.  Together they are especially strong.

First,

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Judas and the Messianic Secret
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Comments

  1. jonfoulkes  November 30, 2015

    Hi Bart, a rather tenuously linked question but I wondered where your thoughts would be on this. Many believers and non-believers talk about the morality of Jesus’ message (I understand the turn the other cheek stuff) but when it effectively boils down to; ‘soon there will be a new order, I will be king (no choice there), anyone not with me will be cast in the fiery furnace with much wailing and gnashing of teeth’. It doesn’t seem very moral to my mind, isn’t it all rather despotic to say the least? Thank you for your time once again!

    • Bart
      Bart  December 1, 2015

      Well, it certainly sounds like that in our day and time, but probably not so much in his. Still, I think that his ethical teachings have to be put in the *context* of these eschatological procalmations.

  2. mitchftd  November 30, 2015

    Jews did not believe the Messiah would be the High Priest since he comes from Judah not Levi

    • Bart
      Bart  December 1, 2015

      At Qumran they did indeed believe in a priestly messiah.

  3. Wilusa  November 30, 2015

    I suppose speculation on this point can’t be more than a guess. But…assuming you’re right about Jesus’s believing that…do you think he would have envisioned himself as king over *only* all twelve of the tribes of Israel (with his disciples as tribal “governors”), or over a kingdom that encompassed the whole world?

    I’m guessing your second point is that he was crucified for calling himself the “King of the Jews.” But if that was based on what he supposedly told his disciples, he might not have admitted to them that he had even higher aspirations. (Or were these people so inbred that they thought the rest of the world – Rome, for example – would *cease to exist*?)

    • Bart
      Bart  December 1, 2015

      I’m not sure, but I imagine the idea was that Israel would rule the other nations.

  4. tasteslikecorn
    tasteslikecorn  November 30, 2015

    Dr. Ehrman, I’m wondering why Matt. or Luke didn’t edit Jesus’ statement to account for Judas Iscariot. Do you believe they felt obligated because they were copying it verbatim from another document? It seems like a strong argument for Q. How do those that dismiss Q deal with these verses?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 1, 2015

      My guess is that they simply didn’t think through the implications of the saying — just as hardly anyone today who reads it does!

  5. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  November 30, 2015

    Okay, so Jesus believed he was to be the future king and said so privately. Maybe you said before, I can’t remember, but now why exactly did he believe himself to be the messiah? And if he truly believed he was the future king, why say it in private? Why not declare it to everybody? He obviously didn’t think he was going to die. Also, I think you said elsewhere that Judas did betray Jesus but we can’t know for sure his reasoning for it. What about his reasoning for suicide?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 1, 2015

      I’m afraid we don’t know why! (And I’m not sure we know if Judas was a suicide; that’s only in Matthew)

  6. godspell  November 30, 2015

    This is a strong argument, but like all arguments dealing with the acts, words, and motivations of human beings, holes can be found in it. That’s unavoidable.

    One could argue that Jesus believed God would be ruling directly–that really does seem to be the implication of ‘The Kingdom of God.’ God is the only true king. And he’s giving the disciples this important role to play, thrones to sit upon (perhaps not literal thrones), and as for the 12 tribes of Israel thing–hmm. Jesus was a Galilean–from a province where many of the Jews were in fact fairly recent converts, and quite possibly his own family (this is one reason, as you have mentioned, why the gospel writers wanted so badly to prove he was descended from David, and was born in Bethlehem of Judea, when neither is likely to be the case). Therefore, Jesus is not actually a member of one of the 12 Tribes (to the extent those tribes could be said to exist as discrete entities in his day).

    So 12 Kings ruling over 12 Tribes–God ruling the world directly–Jesus’ position is–what? He gives himself no throne, no crown. We should remember his very deep belief that those who exalt themselves shall be humbled, and those who humble themselves shall be exalted. Perhaps he simply didn’t want to be giving himself airs–and perhaps he believed he wouldn’t be there in the Kingdom he was leading them to. As Moses never made it to the promised land. You can’t seriously think that analogy never occurred to him.

    He was a very strange and subtle man. We all know this. What may seem obvious, with him, may turn out to not be true at all.

    I understand Mark did not use Q. However, Mark’s gospel is particularly concerned with leading the reader towards the conclusion Jesus is Messiah, and has him proclaim himself as such to Pilate (when none of his followers could hear him, naturally). It’s a mystery story–who is this man? You’d think that if he’d really said this thing about the thrones to all 12 disciples (and would he have said it only once?), it would be a well-known story among Christians during Mark’s time, and it’s a strange thing for him to omit. If Mark didn’t have the version in Q, he’d have some version of it, one would imagine. Possible that he wouldn’t use a story like this because it ruins the story–outs Jesus as Messiah too soon–but Jesus isn’t saying he’s Messiah in Matthew’s story. He’s saying the disciples will be rulers in the coming Kingdom.

    None of this proves Jesus did not think of himself as Messiah, because to know whether he did or not, we’d have to know who and what he thought the Messiah was, and we know he did not embrace the popular meaning of that role. But to argue that he believed he would be King because he said God would come to rule the earth and the disciples would rule the 12 tribes of Israel (will every tribe of mankind have its own king?)–begs the question–what’s his tribe? How many interceding layers of monarchy does God need, really? And how far had he really worked any of this out?

    If he did come to believe he needed to sacrifice himself for the Kingdom to come, that would explain why he’s not explaining his role in it–because he’d be in heaven, with God. His work accomplished. Those who humble themselves shall be exalted.

    Maybe the disciples were a little frazzled and discouraged that day (there would have been a lot of days like that), and he felt like they needed a pep talk. 🙂

  7. JamesFouassier  November 30, 2015

    Professor, I’d appreciate your comments on one line of thought that has the entire tradition of twelve apostles being a myth – albeit an early one – to add credence to the even earlier tradition that Jesus was the messiah of the twelve tribes of Israel. From the historical fact that Jesus had disciples came the story that he had a special group of twelve, sent out on a special mission – hence the term “apostles” – and who collectively and individually served Paul and the evangelists as sounding boards, foils, and for other literary and mythological purposes. I haven’t read or seen much about any of this and would enjoy knowing what you think. Thank you.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 1, 2015

      The problem is that the different Gospels all know that there were twelve of them, but they have different names for some of them. It *could* have been a very, very early tradition; but it appears that everyone connected with Jesus seeemd to think he had twelve disciples (including Paul), and it does make sense given what else he stood for.

  8. plparker  November 30, 2015

    Was it well known in the years immediately after the crucifixion that Judas was the one who had betrayed Jesus? If not, then the author of Q could have made up the “you 12 will each have a throne” story without realizing the disconnect.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 1, 2015

      I would date Q to about 20-25 years after Jesus’ death; by then I suppose it was widely known that Judas had betrayed him.

      • Robert  December 2, 2015

        Why so early? I know others also date Q early, but it seems like a very subjective issue. Are there good reasons for dating Q in the 50s? HT Fledderman dates Q to as late as the mid-to-late 70s. (He also does not consider Mark to be independent of Q, but that his gospel was intended to be used alongside Q.)

        • Bart
          Bart  December 4, 2015

          It’s a bit of a guessing game. Q had to pre-exist both Matthew and Luke and to have been in relatively wide circulation by their day. Its theology seems relatively primitive. It doesn’t seem to know about the destruction of Jerusalem. 50s or 60s makes sense of all that.

          • Robert  December 4, 2015

            It’s not definitive, of course, but Fledderman would say that Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem and prediction that it will be abandoned does presuppose the destruction of Jerusalem. And if, as Fledderman believes, Q was and remained in use in Mark’s community, it would have become known to Matthew and Luke along with Mark.

  9. talmoore
    talmoore  November 30, 2015

    I’m afraid to say, Dr. Ehrman, that I don’t agree with your conclusion, and here’s offer why:

    I disagree that Jesus actually spoke the words of Matt. 19:28. I’ve noticed that the Jesus seminar have voted that line black (as well as Luke 22:28), but in their case it is because most of the fellows are non-apocalypticists, so they strike out all eschatological verse pro forma. I doubt its authenticity for a different reason. I think it is probably a gloss that was later attached to an actual authentic saying of Jesus; namely, the line “Many of the first will be last; and of the last will be first.” (Mark 10:31; Matt. 19:30 & 20:16; Luke 13:30; Thom. 4). As I’ve stated in previous comments, I think that Jesus preached/prophecied in Hebrew, and only latter did his disciples translate his Hebrew utterances in Aramaic. This line in particular has a chiastic structure like that of Proverbs or other “wise” sayings of the Hebrew Bible, making it a prime example of how Jesus probably spoke in order to appear sagacious. And, in fact, when I reconstruct it in the Aramaic or Hebrew, that structure becomes much more apparent.

    Mark 10:31 & Matt. 19:30 — esontai protoi eschatoi kai eschatoi protoi “Will be first, last; and last, first”
    Q (Luke 13:30 and Matt. 20:16) — esontai eschatoi protoi kai protoi eschatoi “Will be last, first; and first, last”

    Both traditions are a greek translation (or transliteration) from either a Hebrew or Aramaic original. In this case, I think the Aramaic makes more sense, which should be apparent when I reconstruct them.

    Aramaic A — להוין ראשין אחרין, דלהוין ראשין אחרין “They (who) will be first (will be) last, and they (who) will be last (will be) first.”
    Aramaic B — להוין אחרין ראשין, דלהוין אחרין ראשין “They (who) will be last (will be) first, and they (who) will be first (will be) last.”
    Hebrew A — יהו ראשון אחרון, ויהו אחרון ראשון “They (who) will be first (will be) last, and they (who) will be last (will be) first.”
    Hebrew B — יהו אחרון ראשון, ויהו ראשון אחרון “They (who) will be last (will be) first, and they (who) will be first (will be) last.”

    As you can see, the permutations we see in the Greek translation are simply a matter of switching the first clause for the last and vice versa, which is what we would expect from people who have the two clauses memorized, but not their order. One tradition (Mark and Matt. 19:30) used version A, while Q (Luke and Matt. 20:16) used version B.

    As for why this works better in Aramaic than Hebrew, simply look at the internal rhyme of the words:
    leheweyeen achareen resheyeen, daleheweyeen resheyeen achareen
    When each word ends in -een, making the expression not only lyric and but memorable. THIS is an expression people are going to remember. And remember it they did. But more than that, Jesus is making a pun (which is very characteristic of the way he speaks in Aramaic and Hebrew). The word for “first” comes from the same root for “head”, which can also suggest a chief or leader; and the word for “last” uses the same letters as “other”, which can also suggest separate or removed–i.e. the alienated and unwelcome. So Jesus is saying a lot with one very simply phrase. He’s saying the first/old leaders will become the last/unwelcomed, and the last/alientated will become the first/new leaders.

    Now, the reason I’ve gone over this in such detail is to put the original verse in perspective. What you have latched onto as an original utterance of Jesus is likely only a gloss (or targummimic expansion) of an original expression by Jesus–the last will be first and the first last–by the disciples after Jesus had already died, when the disciples were trying make sense of what he said while alive. This becomes all the more apparent when we look at all the verses later attached to this expression, such as leaving everything behind to follow Jesus for future rewards (Mark 10:28-30; Matt. 19:27; Luke 18:28-30) etc.

    That is to say, Jesus never actually said that his disciples will inherit thrones. He merely said that since they are at the bottom now, they will be at the top then, and the disciples merely interpreted it to mean that since they are the leaders of the “bottom” now they will therefore be the leaders of the “top” then, if that makes any sense.

    • RGM-ills  December 4, 2015

      Or that what stars you see overhead now will soon be underfoot or a constellation we look at upright to the east, will be upside down to the west. The kingdom is both present tense and future tense. The kingdom was current in the ecliptic with one ruler of 12 possibles, but there would also be future kingdoms, with each of the 12 having their hand at ruling.

  10. Mhamed Errifi  December 1, 2015

    hello Bart

    I have been reading your posts on Jesus and I came to realise that your view about him is not what most of christians think . what is the reason that believing schoolars which I found puzzuling still think that jesus was God in flesh and he died to redeem mankind then he rose from the dead even though there are many evidences that these things were invented decades after jesus .

    thanks

  11. dragonfly  December 1, 2015

    That makes a lot of sense. And makes a lot of things fall into place.

    I’ve been thinking about it and doesn’t the crucifixion itself show that Jesus must have thought he was the messiah? The only reason i can think that he was crucified is the one given in the gospels, he called himself king of the jews. Clearly he couldn’t have thought he was currently the king, he must have meant the future king. Did he really think he and his small band of merry fishermen could overthrow the romans? No. He wasn’t interested in stockpiling weapons and raising an army. He didn’t need to. He thought God would do it and make him king. If he thought God was going to make him king, however that would happen, then by definition that would mean he was the messiah, right?

  12. RonaldTaska  December 1, 2015

    This is certainly a view not taught in any of the many churches I have attended. The most interesting part is the part about the coming “son of man” being separate from Jesus. The whole concept of Jesus expressed here makes me (a retired psychiatrist) wonder whether or not Jesus was delusional and psychotic. I have read Schweitzer’s book concerning the psychiatry of Jesus and I think Schweitzer’s conclusion was that Jesus was not psychotic, but the Jesus described in your blog is certainly grandiose. I guess one issue in determining whether or not Jesus was psychotic is how His views fit into the culture of His time and how these views of Jesus were viewed by those in that culture.. A delusion is usually defined as not being part of a subculture.

  13. dragonfly  December 1, 2015

    Could someone explain the son of man to me? Surley the expression “ben adam” would have originally meant a descendant of adam, ie. a human. Thus when Daniel talks about beasts and then “one like a son of man” he means one that looks like a human, but presumably isn’t human. Somewhere along the line, by the first century, the son of man had become a title for some figure that could be human or could be some cosmic figure from heaven, depending on your particular beliefs. I am i making some bad assumptions here?

  14. SidDhartha1953  December 1, 2015

    How certain are you that all of the Twelve are historical, specifically Judas Iscariot? Is Judas named in any of the Q sayings? Could the author(s) of Q have been unaware that Jesus might have been betrayed by one of the Twelve?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 1, 2015

      Judas is multiply attested in our sources; Q doesn’t contain many narratives, nothing in the Passion, and so does not tell the tale of the betrayal. It is almost entirely sayings of Jesus.

  15. Tnewby4444  December 1, 2015

    I’m confused on what Jesus thought his role was (during his earthly life and after). In your opinion, did Jesus believe himself to be a divine being during his lifetime?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 1, 2015

      Nope. I have a long discussion of this in How Jesus Became God.

  16. Kirktrumb59  December 1, 2015

    Perhaps you’ve already plans to address my question in a subsequent post, or have already addressed it (if so, not in your post of July 10, 2012):
    What’s your opinion of Jesus’ having SELF-identified as the ‘suffering servant’/’man of sorrows’, and thus the messiah? Later Xtians clearly added relevant passages from so-called 2nd Isaiah to the long list of Hebrew bible episodes (e.g., Abraham’s 3 angel visitors, etc) which (in their view) prospectively referred to…Jesus. (That the ‘suffering servant’ referred to captive “Israel,” and not to the future Jesus or future anything else is irrelevant to my question.)
    Some scholars have suggested that the scripturally-literate Jesus MIGHT have re-interpreted this ‘suffering servant’ as an alternative-type messiah, and then, because he viewed himself as an about-to-die suffering servant (handwriting on the wall, as it were), therefore identified himself as the messiah. Obviously conjecture, can’t be proven. What opine you?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 1, 2015

      I don’t think there’s any way Jesus anticipated his death, let alone a death for others; I think the attribution of Isaiah 53 to him was because of later Xn story tellers.

  17. Adam0685  December 1, 2015

    Isn’t it difficult to imagine what the disciples thought/came to believe since our main sources about them–Paul and the gospels–are written much later by people not connected with the disciples. I think we can say that later Christians, not necessary the disciples, reinterpreted Jesus’ life, identity, and role in their gods plan.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 1, 2015

      Very difficult indeed! Hence the need for serious scholarship on the issues.

  18. Yvonne  December 1, 2015

    If the 12 disciples were to judge the 12 tribes, where do the gentiles (anyone who wasn’t a jew) fit in? Seems to me Jesus was only preaching to the jewish community.

  19. Eric  December 1, 2015

    I wonder if John the Baptist had told HIS disciples, which I believe included Jesus, that HE was the messiah. And when that didn’t work out, Jesus realized “oh, no, it must be ME that is the messiah…” ala Joseph smith and Brigham young (not precisely the same).

    • Bart
      Bart  December 4, 2015

      Possibly. The question is what evidence there is that John thought he was the messiah (as opposed, say, to a prophet)

      • Eric  December 4, 2015

        Understood. If you don’t have any evidence, then I sure don’t.

        But it might be fun for me to try to frame an argument along the liens you sometimes do (albeit you do it with extensive background, knowledge, and fact, and mine is just an exercise).

        Using your beginning, Middle, and End argument, in the beginning there were apocalyptic groups, some of which expected some kind of messiah figure to be a component. At the end, the jesus-following movement was an apocalyptic movement centered on a messiah figure. Therefore perhaps the middle was also an apocalyptic movement centered on a messiah figure, but the main figure for that period was John, so how would anyone else be the messiah but John?

        Maybe that’s weak cheese.

        And another Ehrman-mimicking argument to build on that: Why would early Christians go to such lengths to try to establish John’s submission to Jesus? If John was well known to present himself as a prophet, not a messiah, and if early Christians all understood Jesus declared himself the messiah, not just a prophet, why go to the “protest too much” effort over trying to overturn an embarrassing fact?

        Just having fun with the process, not a strong conviction at all.

        • Bart
          Bart  December 7, 2015

          All your first instance shows is that John was an apocalypticist, not that he thought of himself as the messiah (you have no beginning where he thought he was). Your second instance … loses me!

  20. Cadfael  December 1, 2015

    One of the interesting things in John’s narrative to me, is that the betrayal was planned by Jesus with Judas and the others aware of it all. He tells some disciples who has been chosen to do this and then instructs Judas to go and do what he must do quickly. Was it Jesus’ intent to bring the Kingdom of God into being that Passover fully expecting it to come down when the future king was threatened.?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 4, 2015

      It’s not clear to me that Judas and Jesus were in cahoots on the matter in John. The Gospel does speak of Judas as “a devil,” for example.

  21. Blackwell  December 2, 2015

    If no later Christians would invent a saying of Jesus in which he indicated that Judas would become a ruler then for the same reason no Christian would have written this down for the first time after his death.
    So, either it was recorded while Jesus was alive and then faithfully copied or else the words are fictional.
    In the first case, who made the record?
    In the second case, this same argument would apply to many other quotations attributed to Jesus.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 4, 2015

      Right — the difference is that someone writing it down may not be thinking through the implications: “Wait a second, that means Judas too!!!” My reason for thinking that no one decades later thought of it that way is that readers today never think of it that way, until someone points it out to them.

      • Blackwell  December 6, 2015

        You suggest that someone may have written down, decades after the words were spoken and without thinking through the implications, that Jesus had said that all twelve disciples would become kings after the apocalypse.
        Maybe what Jesus actually said was something like “The first shall be last and the last shall be first” as suggested by Talmoore (Nov 30) and oral transmission changed this to “The poor weak disciples will become powerful kings” by the time it was recorded (Without consideration of the implications).
        This illustrates that no words attributed to Jesus are certain unless they were written down shortly after they were spoken.

        • Bart
          Bart  December 7, 2015

          Even if they were written down soon afterward — there would be no proof that he said them!!!

          • Blackwell  December 7, 2015

            I agree that there is no proof that Jesus actually said anything that is attributed to him, even if it was written down soon afterwards, but written records are much more certain than oral transmission, which is notoriously unreliable.
            It is therefore not almost certain (your original claim) that Jesus told his disciples that they would be seated on thrones after the apocalypse, but it would be a lot more certain if you could explain how it might have been written down shortly after the words were spoken.

          • Bart
            Bart  December 8, 2015

            You have to apply rigorous criteria to surviving records to determine the likelihood that they are authentic; it’s not just guess work! It’s a matter of establishing historical probabilities.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 4, 2015

      I’m not *quite* sure I’m following you, but my argument is that someone who later recorded the saying wasn’t thinking through its implications (Oh! Judas would have been one of them!), just as people today don’t think through them.

  22. godspell  December 2, 2015

    Bart can’t possibly respond to all of our nitpicks, but I think we have more than enough information to know that Jesus expected the actual material world people lived in to change. He may not be 100% sure when it’s going to happen, he may keep moving the goalposts back, he may even start thinking he has to sacrifice himself for it to happen, but he believes some of the people he’s talking to will see it, and it won’t JUST be an inner change.

    You’re confused on this because he believes inner and outer change are basically the same–people change themselves in order to change the world. This is true, btw. This is the only way people can bring about true change for the better (or in some cases, worse).

    He may not have said “My Kingdom of not of this Earth.” Maybe that’s later Christians explaining why the Kingdom has not come yet. But if he said that, he might have meant that he himself would not be an earthly king.

    In my opinion, he started to believe that he had to trigger the change himself, by offering himself up as a sacrifice–at Passover. That’s his role, and maybe that would, in his mind, make him the Messiah, but it’s a very unorthodox interpretation of the role, if so.

    Apocalypticists today most definitely believe it has everything to do with this world. Next time you see one of those bumper stickers explaining that if The Rapture comes, and you’re not one of the saved, you better be prepared to swerve around a driverless car, think about that.

  23. Rick
    Rick  December 2, 2015

    Dr. Ehrman, I am no doubt guilty of over-simplifying but would appreciate some …clarification. On first learning of Q I naively thought it had a good chance of getting back to things Jesus really said. Then, on learning it was written in Geek in the 50’s to 60’s, with earlier and later “levels” assumed it was no more reliable than say Mark. The Jesus Projects votes could help identify what he said if reliable but seem to favor their wandering Cynic thesis. Is there a short statement on how you approach Q as to reliability to the historic Jesus?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 4, 2015

      I think Q was an early source principally of Jesus’ sayings floating around in the 50s or 60s, and needs to be treated like all our other sources (Mark, M, L, John’s sources) for Jesus’ life, historically. I deal with it a bit in my book Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium.

  24. Steefen  December 5, 2015

    Dr. Ehrman: Jesus was considered the messiah by his followers after his death.

    Steefen: After Jesus, the Galilean’s death, what followers of his had reason to call him Messiah when Galilee, led by a man named Jesus, was slaughtered on land and in the Sea of Galilee during the First Jewish-Roman War? What did the Messiah do there? How did he reign there? How did his followers think he was the Messiah when Jerusalem was taken over by civil war and starvation? How did his followers think he was the Messiah when Jesus of Gamala and Ananus, high priests, were killed in the Temple by the Idumeans during the civil war with Rome at Jerusalem’s door? How did his followers think he was the Messiah when people died in the fires of the Temple’s destruction?

    Dr. Ehrman: the future messiah would be a figure of grandeur and might who would come with the authority and power of God

    Steefen, author of the Greatest Bible Study in Historical Accuracy, First Edition: Jesus loses his authority when God stops empowering the Jews in the Parable of the Wicked Tenants. When land rights are taken from a people, there are no more rights to a Messiah or a need for a Messiah. Second, when the Messiah is “put on death row” and killed which causes the Landowner of the Promised Land to give the land to the Romans, that career is over.

    Dr. Ehrman: overthrow the forces of evil, God himself was going to bring destruction on his enemies

    Steefen: Who were the forces of evil before God’s Son was put on death row and killed. Who were these forces of evil to constitute people from whom the Messiah needed to save the Jews? Messiah without a cause is what you are advocating? The forces from whom Jesus of the New Testament spends most of his time combatting are an internal threat: the Pharisees, scribes, and Temple money changers.

    Dr. Ehrman: The Son of Man would establish God’s kingdom on earth. And he would appoint Jesus to be its ruler.

    Steefen: That is erroneous with regards to Daniel: “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him.” The Son of Man was not to appoint someone else to be served.

    Dr. Ehrman: Jesus did not publicly proclaim his self-understanding, at least according to our earliest Gospels and their sources. He does not preach about himself as the future messiah in Mark, Matthew, Luke, Q, M, or L. He only tells his disciples, in private.

    Steefen: That too is erroneous. Mark 14: 61-62 (and cross-references to that verse in other gospels)
    Aramaic Bible in Plain English
    The High Priest asked him and said, “Are you The Messiah, The Son of The Blessed One?” Jesus answered, “I am.”

  25. Steefen  December 20, 2015

    Dr. Ehrman, Jesus ignored this (Micah 5:1-5)?

    A Promised Ruler From Bethlehem

    1Marshal your troops now, city of troops,
    for a siege is laid against us.
    They will strike Israel’s ruler
    on the cheek with a rod.

    2“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clansa of Judah,
    out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
    whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times.”

    3Therefore Israel will be abandoned
    until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
    and the rest of his brothers return
    to join the Israelites.

    4He will stand and shepherd his flock
    in the strength of the Lord,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
    And they will live securely, for then his greatness
    will reach to the ends of the earth.

    5And he will be our peace
    when the Assyrians invade our land
    and march through our fortresses.
    We will raise against them seven shepherds,
    even eight commanders,

    • Bart
      Bart  December 21, 2015

      We have no clue what Jesus thought of this passage. It could obviously be interpreted in lots and lots of different ways….

      • Steefen  December 22, 2015

        Jesus would have needed to plea to the Pharisees, Yes, I am the Messiah, son of the Living One, but in no shape or form the Messiah from Bethlehem as warrior-king, David was from Bethlehem or the Bethlehem of the prophet Micah.

        Unsurprisingly, Christians today link the birth of Jesus to Bethlehem and see no other reference for Micah 5 than Jesus.

  26. Deviantlogic  January 30, 2016

    So if “Jesus did think of himself as the messiah…of the coming kingdom” and “God himself was going to bring destruction on his enemies by sending the Son of Man from heaven (a cosmic savior…). I’m just curious as to who or what this ‘Son of Man’ was to Jesus? I mean this ‘Being’ couldn’t have been just an empty concept. Was this ‘Being’ in existence from eternity, do we hear about this ‘Son of Man’ prior to the NT? If Jesus didn’t think of himself as this ‘Son of Man’ and this ‘Son of Man’ isn’t God, then who or what is it?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 30, 2016

      I think he’s basing his views on the description of “one like a Son of Man” in Daniel 7:13-14; the Son of Man is a divine being (a great angel perhaps?) who comes as the judge of the earth at God’s behest.

  27. JR  March 22, 2016

    Forgive me if this is covered elsewhere and I haven’t seen it yet – but other than Jesus referring to ‘the Son of Man’ in the third person, is there any other evidence to suggest that he didn’t see himself as the Son of Man?

    Given that Daniel 7 is an apocalyptic vision, the son of man coming on the clouds surely would have been understood by Jews as a symbolic event where a ‘figure’ is given authority to rule? They would not have expected a literal ‘coming’ as modern Christians do.

    And given that Jesus thought of himself as the Messiah / king why would he not have understood this passage to be about him being given God’s authority to rule?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 23, 2016

      Yes, I’d say that it’s not just that he speaks of the son of man in the third person, but that in some of the sayings he appears to differentiate between himself and that one. I explain all that in my book Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium

      • JR  March 23, 2016

        Thanks! I will get a copy.
        Really appreciate the blog! It has made realise afresh what a great thing the internet is. Rather than just a vehicle for cat videos and pornography.

  28. Matthew Villarreal  May 30, 2016

    If Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, did He consider Himself to be a King already, or is this something that would only happen after the coming of the Son of Man? In other words, did Jesus expect His followers to obey Him as a King during his life?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 30, 2016

      My sense is that he thought he would be installed as the messiah when the son of man arrived….

  29. theyugu  July 3, 2017

    Do you think Jesus thought of himself as coming from the line of David, or why do you think he thought he was the messiah?

    • Bart
      Bart  July 4, 2017

      I’m afraid there is no way to know what he thought about his lineage. But I mount a rather long argument that he must have seen himself as the messiah in my book Jesus: Apocaylptic Prophet of the New Millennium.

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