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The Grammar of MessianismAn Ancient Jewish Political Idiom and Its Users$
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Matthew V. Novenson

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190255022

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190255022.001.0001

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The Quest for the First Messiah

The Quest for the First Messiah

(p.161) 5 The Quest for the First Messiah
The Grammar of Messianism

Matthew V. Novenson

Oxford University Press

There is an important strand in modern scholarship on ancient Jewish messianism whose practitioners set for themselves the task of identifying the first messiah. Representatives of this school of thought include Andre Dupont-Sommer, Michael Wise, and Israel Knohl, among others, and their key texts include especially the Qumran Hodayot, the Self-Glorification Hymn, and now the Hazon Gabriel stone. In this chapter it is argued that the quest for the first messiah not only happens to have been unsuccessful so far (as other critics have suggested), but is actually fundamentally misguided. It is misguided not because it is theologically intolerable, but because it is conceptually unstable, presupposing as it does an Idealist model of messianism that is demonstrably incommensurate with the relevant evidence. There are scriptural oracles, and there are ancient Jewish and Christian interpreters, but there is no such thing as the first messiah.

Keywords:   Dead Sea Scrolls, first messiah, Hazon Gabriel, Hodayot, Israel Knohl, Michael Wise, Qumran, Self-Glorification Hymn, Teacher of Righteousness, Vision of Gabriel

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