The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments

By Stanley E. Porter, ed.
Grand Rapids : Eerdmans (2007). 268 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Will Varner
18.2 (Fall 2007) : 266-267

Stanley Porter must be the world’s leader in the number of books that one person has edited. The amazing thing about them is the high degree of academic excellence that pervades his works. One of his recent edited collections of chapters by different authors is a compilation of addresses given as part of the H. H. Bingham Colloquium in New Testament at McMaster Divinity College, where Porter is president. Delivered as part of the 2005 Bingham Colloquium, the theme of the book is obvious form its title—a summation of recent scholarly work on the concept of the Messiah in both the Old and the New Testaments. Porter introduces the theme and the chapters in his opening chapter. Craig Evans sums up the conference and offers some brief concluding observations.

The material is handled canonically, with four chapters by Tremper Longman, Mark Boda, Al Wolters, and Loren Stuckenbruck on Messianic themes as traced through the Law, the Writings, the Prophets, the Qumran documents, and other Second Temple “apocalyptic” literature. While the chapters are serviceable as surveys, little fresh ground is plowed. The theological position that seems to be advocated in the chapters could be described as an evangelicalism broadly understood. Too much ground is conceded, in this writer’s opinion, to higher critical views. Recognition of a eventual supernatural Messiah predicted by the OT writers is acknowledged, although some traditional texts are questioned as to their legitimate application to Jesus. Another work that is often mentioned by the writers (see 2, 4, 13, 20, 25, 46, 144) and one that better serves the theological character of these writings is The Lord’s Anointed: Interpretation of Old Testament Messianic Texts, eds. Satterthwaite, Hess, and Wenham (London: Scholars Press, 1998).

The five authors who cover the Messianic themes of the NT, in my opinion, rescue the book from the level of academic mediocrity. I. Howard Marshall explores “Jesus as Messiah in Mark and Matthew” with his usual thoroughness and aplomb. Stanley Porter himself writes of “The Messiah in Luke and Acts: Forgiving the Captives” with his usual bibliographical thoroughness, while focusing on one theme of the Messiah’s work in one author. Tom Thatcher covers what he calls the “negative Christology” of the Gospel of John, while S.A. Cummins stresses Paul’s “Corporate Christology” of God, Jesus, and the covenant community. Cynthia Long Westfall effectively covers the Messianic ideas as expressed in Hebrews and the General Epistles in a marvelously compact fashion.

If you are a pastor preaching on this vital subject or a professor desiring an update on some current thinking about the Messiah, this book could serve you well. Better overall works are available (e.g., The Lord’s Anointed above), but Porter is to be thanked for his efforts, in this and many other volumes, to bring before readers stimulating chapters on similar themes. Also, for a more popular study of the subject that interacts with Jewish views, see this reviewer’s The Messiah: Revealed, Rejected, Received (Indianapolis, Ind.: AuthorHouse, 2004).