Messianic Prophecies/Introduction

Messianic Prophecies  (1880)  by Franz Delitzsch


§ I.

The names Messiah and Christ.

Messianic prophecies, in the most common acceptation of the term, are such as connect the hope of salvation and the glory of God's people with an ideal king, who, originating in Israel is to rule the world. This king is as such divinely anointed, but this attribute does not become a distinctive designation in the Old Testament. First in the doctrinal language of post-biblical Judaism he is called almost with the significance of a proper name (Hebrew characters), Greek Μεσσίας, which follows the Aramaic form (Hebrew characters). The fundamental passage for this designation of the king of the final period is Ps. II, 2. There is no Old Testament passage in which (Hebrew characters) indisputably indicates the future king with eschatological exclusiveness. The name Χριστός is the translation of (Hebrew characters), but although it corresponds to it verbally, yet it is not really coextensive, for in the designation of Jesus as the Christ the idea of king is relieved of its one–sidedness. The ideas of the superhuman deity and of the prophet of the kingdom of heaven, and of the priest by reason of the sacrifice of himself, are combined in this name with the idea of the royal dignity. With it is united the representation of one triply anointed to a threefold office.

Rem. I. In the Old Testament David, 2 Sam. XXIII, I, and the king of the house of David are called (Hebrew characters). In other passages it may be questioned whether the name is eschatologically intended Hab. III. 18; Ps. CXXXII, 17; in still other passages the Messiah is at least indirectly intended, since the name indicates a king, who realizes the idea of the king of Israel I Sam. II, 10. 35. Only in Ps. II, 2 can there be scarcely any doubt about the eschatological meaning. Perhaps in Dan. IX, 25 (Hebrew characters) indicates the future One as high priest and king in one person. On the other hand in ver. 26 (Hebrew characters) is not the king Messiah, but either Seleucus IV Philopator, (d. 175 B. C.) compare Dan. XI, or Onias III (d. 171 B. C.) the high priest, after whose fall Antiochus Epiphanes plundered the temple. Probably the latter is intended, for Seleucus IV Philopator would hardly be called by the prophet (Hebrew characters) as Cyrus was by Deutero-Isaiah.

Rem. 2. De Lagarde holds that Μεσσίας is the Greek form of (Hebrew characters), a transjordanico-Arabic nominal form like (Hebrew characters) for (Hebrew characters). It is however the Greek form of (Hebrew characters); the (Hebrew characters) remaining unexpressed between the two long vowels as in μιδα = (Hebrew characters) Neh. VII, 54, and Μεσίας or Μεσσίας was written like Άβεσαλώμ or Άβεσσαλώμ, since through duplication greater stability was given to the short vowel.

§ 2.

Messianic and Christological Elements.

Even within the Old Testament itself the royal image of the future divinely anointed One is proved to be incomplete, since it is neither coextensive with the needs, nor exhausts the expectations of salvation. But besides this, since the idea of the future God-man at first comes to view only in occasional glimpses, the Man of Salvation does not yet occupy a central position in Old Testament faith, but the completion of the kingdom of God frequently appears, with the recession of human instrumentality, as the proper work of the God of Salvation. But we include even this kind of prophecies under the Messianic classification, because, as the New Testament fulfilment shows, it is God in Christ, who, starting from Israel, secures for the human race and offers to it the highest spiritual blessings. Even the prophecies of the final and essential salvation, which are silent respecting the Messiah, are christological when viewed in their historical fulfilment.

Rem. I. Within the course of the evangelical history the Lord is called Jesus. First after he has proved to be the Messiah, who was foretold in the Old Testament, Acts II, 36, he receives in addition to the proper name Jesus the designation of honor, which has likewise become a proper name, Christ. Within the gospels, except in John I, 17; XVII, 3, this double designation only occurs in Matt. I, I. 1 8 (only here (Greek characters)); Mark I, I. The evangelists write this double designation over the gates of their gospels like an anagram or emblem of the entire following history, with a similar signification as the Tora prefixes the double designation (Hebrew characters) to Gen. II—III.

Rem, 2. The accumulation of the names Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus, or merely Christ, rarely Jesus, in the apostolic epistles, e. g. in the beginning of the epistle to the Colossians is remarkable. It is the transcendent love of the Lord which is mirrored in this cumulative designation, and we feel thoroughly, that the name Christ is not equivalent to the conception of the king, but that the Lord is thus named as the One, in whom all God's promises have become yea and amen, 2 Cor. I, 20. Even in the language of the synagogue (Hebrew characters) signifies more than (Hebrew characters). It is the name of the coming One (δ μέλλων), for which reason the designation of the king is indicated by (Hebrew characters).

§ 3.

Historical Sketch.

The New Testament references to Old Testament prophecies are limited by the occasions afforded in the gospel history, and the apostolic trains of thought. Hence it has come to pass that many Messianic passages of prime importance have remained unnoticed, e. g. Is. IX, 5—6; Jer. XXIII, 5—6; Zech. VI, 12—13. A richer, and to a certain extent, more systematic discussion of the predictions and representations concerning Christ in the Old Testament, begins with the epistle of Barnabas (71—120 A. D.) which is related to the epistle to the Hebrews, but which stands far below it, and in Justin's Dialogue with Trypho (about 148 A. D.), who is in so far inferior to his Jewish opponent, that he is acquainted with the Old Testament only through the secondary source of the Septuagint and puts the apocryphal on the same footing with the canonical (compare Ps. XCVI, 10 ιο ὰπὸ ξύλου). Origen (d. 254) was acquainted with Hebrew, but his interpretation of the Scriptures suffers from his effort at that arbitrary allegorization, in which the Alexandrian School is the succesor of Philo. On the other hand the historical method of the Antiochian School brought about a reaction, which even referred direct Messianic prophecies like Micha V, I to Zerubbabel and in general to objects before Christ, and only, with reference to the result of their higher fulfilment, to Christ. It was not taken into account by the ancient church, down to the time of the Middle Ages, that there is in the Old Testament a preparation for the salvation in Christ through a connected and progressive history. Nor was it taken into account in the time of the Reformation, when the predominantly apologetic interest of the ancient church was replaced by one which was predominantly dogmatic, and a spiritualistic interpretation took the place of an allegorical, which removed the national elements of the old prophecy by means of a symbolical or a mystical interpretation. First Spener (d. 1705) and his school made way for a better understanding of the prophecies, while he with reference to Rom. XI, 25—26, recognized that which is relatively authorized in the national form of the Old Testament prophecy. John Albert Bengel (d. 1752) and Christian Augustus Crusius (d. 1775) began to modify the stiff idea of inspiration, since they regarded the prophets not only as passive, but also at the same time as active instruments, and placed their range of view under the law of perspective. With Cocceius (d. 1669) began the method of treating the Old Testament in periods. But they were not able to divide this history into periods according to its internal development, in which chance and plan, freedom and necessity interpenetrate. When then rationalism degraded Jesus to a teacher of religion and morals, the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament became almost entirely without an object, until the gradual unfolding of the idea of the Messiah was recognized in them, and, as there was a return from a merely nominal Christianity to that of the apostles, the gradual subjective preparation of the essential salvation was perceived. This revolution was established by Hengstenberg's (d. 1869) Christologie des A. T. (in three volumes, Berlin 1829—1835, second edition 1854—1857), which formed a new epoch in the treatment of the subject, followed in a spirit of freer criticism by Tholuck's (d. 1877) work: Die Propheten und ihre Weissagungen, Gotha 1860, and the articles Messias and Weissagung by Oehler (d. 1872) in the first edition of Herzog's Real–Encyklopädie, vols. IX Stuttgart 1858, and XVII Gotha 1863. Hofmann's (d. 1877) work, entitled Weissagung und Erfüllung, in two parts, Nördlingen 1841—1844, is far more systematic. The Old Testament history is here reconstructed as an organic whole, developed in word and deed until the time of Christ, with which the history of the fulfilment, as the other half, reaching to the end of the present dispensation, is joined together. Many views of truth which have come into the modern scriptural theology, have sprung from this original work, whose main fault is the straining of the type at expense of the prophecy. Bertheau's lengthy article, Die alttestamentliche Weissagung von Israel's Reichsherrlichkeit in seinem Lande in the fourth volume of the Jahrbücher für deutsche Theologie, Gotha 1859, is intended to distinguish between that which is particularly national and that which is truly divine respecting the glory of Israel's kingdom in their own land. Riehm's valuable work, which is from a more decidedly supernaturalistic standpoint, Die Messianische Weissagung, Gotha 1875, is written from a similar point of view, but in its antijudaistic tendency it has almost returned to the antiquated mode of spiritualising Scripture. The rationalistic standpoint, in which the historical method is carried out, is represented by Stähelin's work, Die Messianischen Weissagungen, Berlin 1847, Anger's lectures published after his death (d. 1866) Ueber die Geschichte der Messianischen Idee, Berlin 1873, and Kuenen's extensive work, The Prophets and Prophecy in Israel, London 1877, which regards ethical monotheism, as the kernel of prophecy, and in this sense Jesus as the greatest prophet, according to which view Christianity and Judaism, the church and the synagogue may be easily blended together.

Remark. A work which is entirely in sympathy with us is Kueper's Das Prophetenthum des Alten Bundes, übersichtlich dargestellt, Leipzig 1870. A sketch of the history of the interpretation of Old Testament prophecy may be found in Oehler's article entitled Weissagung in the first edition of Herzog's Real-Encyklopädie, and its progress since Bengel is given in Delitzsch' work Die biblisch-prophetische Theologie, ihre Fortbildung durch Chr. A. Crusius und ihre neueste Entwickelung seit der Christologie Hengstenberg's, Berlin 1845. Many materials, bearing upon the subject are afforded in Diestel's (d. 1879) Geschichte des Alten Testaments in der christlichen Kirche, Jena 1869.