Christ among the Messiahs: Christ Language in Paul and Messiah Language in Ancient Judaism  -     By: Matthew V. Novenson
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Christ among the Messiahs: Christ Language in Paul and Messiah Language in Ancient Judaism

Oxford University Press / 2012 / Hardcover

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CBD Stock No: WW844579

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 240
Vendor: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2012
ISBN: 0199844577
ISBN-13: 9780199844579
Availability: Available to ship on or about 10/12/14.
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Publisher's Description

Recent scholarship on ancient Judaism, finding only scattered references to messiahs in Hellenistic- and Roman-period texts, has generally concluded that the word ''messiah'' did not mean anything determinate in antiquity. Meanwhile, interpreters of Paul, faced with his several hundred uses of the Greek word for ''messiah,'' have concluded that christos in Paul does not bear its conventional sense. Against this curious consensus, Matthew V. Novenson argues in Christ among the Messiahs that all contemporary uses of such language, Paul's included, must be taken as evidence for its range of meaning. In other words, early Jewish messiah language is the kind of thing of which Paul's Christ language is an example.

Looking at the modern problem of Christ and Paul, Novenson shows how the scholarly discussion of christos in Paul has often been a cipher for other, more urgent interpretive disputes. He then traces the rise and fall of ''the messianic idea'' in Jewish studies and gives an alternative account of early Jewish messiah language: the convention worked because there existed both an accessible pool of linguistic resources and a community of competent language users. Whereas it is commonly objected that the normal rules for understanding christos do not apply in the case of Paul since he uses the word as a name rather than a title, Novenson shows that christos in Paul is neither a name nor a title but rather a Greek honorific, like Epiphanes or Augustus.

Focusing on several set phrases that have been taken as evidence that Paul either did or did not use christos in its conventional sense, Novenson concludes that the question cannot be settled at the level of formal grammar. Examining nine passages in which Paul comments on how he means the word christos, Novenson shows that they do all that we normally expect any text to do to count as a messiah text. Contrary to much recent research, he argues that Christ language in Paul is itself primary evidence for messiah language in ancient Judaism.

Author Bio


Matthew V. Novenson is Lecturer in New Testament and Christian Origins at the University of Edinburgh.

Editorial Reviews


"Novenson's argument in this volume appears to be focused, consistent, and overall convincing. His nuanced presentation on the messianic meaning of Paul's Christ language is commendable... I value Novenson's genuine contribution to our understanding of Paul's language." --Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


"Interpreters of Paul have traditionally understood christos in his letters as a mere proper name. Marshalling impressive resources of both classical and Jewish scholarship in this careful, shrewd and ground-breaking work, Matthew Novenson overturns this tradition, demonstrating that christos functioned for Paul as an 'honorific' with clear messianic meaning. This should precipitate a revolution not only in Pauline theology and exegesis but in our understanding of messianic ideas throughout second-temple Judaism."
--The Right Reverend Professor N. T. Wright, Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St. Mary's College, University of St. Andrews


"Novenson argues convincingly that christos in Paul's letters means 'messiah,' with the term functioning as an honorific, much like Antiochus Epiphanes or Caesar Augustus. With its historically-rooted solution to the 'name-versus-title' debate, Novenson's study makes a significant contribution to the understanding of messiah language in Paul and in ancient Judaism. This book is a must-read for all interested in the historical and scriptural origins of Christian confession of Jesus as christos."
-- David J. Downs, Associate Professor of New Testament Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary


"In this learned and lucid book, Novenson makes two important claims: when Paul said 'Christ' he meant 'messiah', and Paul's own language testifies to the varieties of messiah language in ancient Judaism. Novenson's arguments are compelling, and make a major contribution to the study of Paul and of ancient Judaism."
--Susan Eastman, Associate Professor of the Practice of Bible and Christian Formation and Director of the Doctor of Theology Program, Duke University


"I expect his full-length study will contribute to overturning the scholarly consensus that Christos is an insignificant proper name in Paul's letters and will also open avenues for further research."--Themelios


"Christ among the Messiahs is a successful project that hopefully will spur many scholars to reconsider the possibility that Christos in Paul is a meaningful term. If they do, and I think they should, then we are likely to see a spate of new investigations into Paul's messiah Christology and, more broadly, into the complexity of messianic language in ancient Judaism. Should that development bear fruit, we will have Novenson, among others, to thank for it."--H-Net Reviews


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