The Literature and History of the New Testament (1915) [Lesson 6]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

The Messiah


A) About the author of the chapter:

John Gresham Machen “studied at Johns Hopkins University, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the universities at Marburg and Göttingen. In 1906 he joined the faculty of the Princeton Theological Seminary …

He left Princeton in 1929, after the school was reorganized and adopted a more accepting attitude toward liberal Protestantism, and he helped found Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.” [1]


B) Chapter Summary:

The promised king of David’s line at last has come. Acts 2 : 30; II Sam. 7 : 12, 13; Ps. 89 : 3, 4; 132 : 11. And David’s son is David’s Lord—David’s Lord and ours. Acts 2 : 34, 35; Ps. 110 : 1; compare Matt. 22 : 41-46.[1]

1. The New  Testament Appeal to Prophecy

“This speech of Peter [in Acts 2:17-21] is typical of the preaching of the early Church. The appeal to prophecy was absolutely central in the presentation of the gospel.”[2]

“Israel had looked not merely for a king, but also for a prophet and a priest. Peter, after his first arrest, for example, could appeal to the notable prophecy of Deuteronomy: “A prophet shall the Lord God raise up unto you from among your brethren, like unto me.” Acts 3 : 22; Deut. 18 : 15, 19. The author of Hebrews could appeal to the priest after the order of Melchizedek, Heb. 5:6; Ps. 110 : 4, and to the symbolic sacrifices of the temple which found their fulfillment on Calvary.”[3]

“What Old Testament passages has Paul here in mind [in 1 Corinthians 15]? With regard to the death for our sins, the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah was probably in his mind. That passage was being read by the Ethiopian when Philip met him, and Philip made the passage a basis for preaching about Jesus. Acts 8:27-35. With regard to the resurrection, it is natural to think of Ps. 16 : 10. Paul himself quoted that passage in his speech at Pisidian Antioch. Acts 13 : 34-37.”[4]

“The appeal to prophecy did not begin with the apostles. It was initiated by Jesus himself. “To-day,” said Jesus at Nazareth after the reading of Isa. 61 : 1, 2, “hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears.””[5]

2. The Messianic Hope A Preparation for the Gospel

“When the gospel was preached to pure Gentiles, a great deal of preliminary labor had to be done. Under what title should the claims of the Saviour be presented? “Christ” to the Gentiles was almost meaningless, till explained. “Son of God” was open to sad misconception. There were “sons of God” in Greek mythology, but they were not what the early Christians meant to show that Jesus was.”[6]

“In the synagogues, ” Christ” was no new term, and no new conception. In the synagogues, one proposition needed first to be proved, ” This Jesus … is the Christ.” Acts 17 : 3. If that were proved, then the rest would follow.”[7]

“It will be remembered that the synagogues attracted not merely Jews but also Gentiles. The Gentile “God-fearers,” as well as the Jews, were acquainted with the Messianic hope. Even the Gentile mission, therefore, was prepared for by the prophets of Israel.”[8]

3. The Permanent Value of Prophecy

“[Prophecy] represents Jesus as the culmination of a divine purpose. The hope of Israel was in itself a proof of revelation, because it was so unlike the religious conceptions of other nations. The covenant people, the righteous king, the living God, the world-wide mission—that is the glory of Israel.”[9]

“The promise was manifold. Sometimes the Messiah is in the foreground. Sometimes he is out of sight. Sometimes there is a human king, sometimes Jehovah himself coming to judgment; sometimes a kingdom, sometimes a new covenant in the heart; sometimes a fruitful Canaan, sometimes a new heaven and a new earth. But manifold though the promise, Christ is the fulfillment of it all.””[10]

4. The Messianic Hope of Later Judaism

“The Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament promise is worthy of attention. What did the Jews of the first century mean by the Messiah, and what did they mean by the Messianic age?

In the first place, they retained the hope of a king of David’s line—a human king who should conquer the enemies of Israel. When it was held in a one-sided form this was a dangerous hope. It led logically to materialistic conceptions of the kingdom of God and to political unrest.”[11]

– e.g. see John 6:15, Matt. 8:1-4, Mark 9:33-35, Luke 9:46-47

“Yet even where the Messiah was conceived of as an earthly ruler, the spiritual hope was by no means always and altogether lost.”[12]

– e.g. Ps. Sol. xvii, 35, 36.

“In the second place, however, the Messianic age is sometimes in later Judaism conceived of as purely supernatural. The Messiah is not an earthly ruler, merely helped by God, but himself a heavenly being, a preexistent “Son of Man,” judge of all the earth. The Messianic age is ushered in not by human warfare, but by a mighty catastrophic act of God.”[13]

– see e.g. the Book of Enoch

“Finally, the Messianic hope was held in a pure and lofty form by the “poor of the land”—simple folk like those who appear in the first two chapters of Luke.”[14]

– e.g. the hymns of Mary and Zacharias and Simeon

“Later Judaism thus preserved the manifoldness of prophecy. There was exaggeration and there was one-sidedness; but in Judaism as a whole the promise was preserved. One element at most was forgotten—the suffering servant and his sacrificial death … The cross is the heart of the gospel.”[15]

[1] p.31

[2] p.31

[3] p.31

[4] p.32

[5] p.32

[6] p.32

[7] p.33

[8] p.33

[9] p.33

[10] p.33

[11] p.34

[12] p.34

[13] p.34

[14] p.35

[15] p.35

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