In our Christology of the New Testament class, we just read on the Second Temple Jewish messianic expectations. W.S. Green, in his chapter “Messiah in Judaism: Rethinking the Question,” noted the wide variety of messianic understanding in that period; he sees the diversity as too great to allow for any great unification in messianic expectation. Furthermore, the expectation is that the messiah is primarily human—or if in some sense divine, then an intermediary figure. Against the nineteenth-century scholars, W. Horbury has argued for coherence (see Horbury, “Jewish Messianism and Early Christology,” in Contours of Christology, ed R. N. Longenecker, 14-17).

Coming back to the biblical texts themselves—from which, by the way, Horbury argues for a coherence in a messianic tradition based on messianic interpretations of the scriptures—Bauckham has understood the Gospel of John to interpret Deutero-Isaiah to refer to the messiah and include him in the divine identity:

But the full significance in terms of Deutero-Isaianic monotheism we can appreciate only when we observe, as hardly anyone has done, the conjunction in [John] 8:28 of the allusion to Isaiah 52:13 (the lifting up of the Son of Man) with the divine self-declaration, ‘I am he,’ also from Deutero-Isaiah. . . . When Jesus is lifted up, exalted in his humiliation on the cross, then the unique divine identity (‘I am he’) will be revealed for all who can to see.

(Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity [Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2008], 48)

Assuming Bauckham’s understanding is correct, John’s (and other Jewish New Testament writers’) messianic expectations were turned completely upside down in their encounter with Jesus Christ. Jesus the Christ is not only human, nor is he simply an intermediary figure, but he participates in the divine identity of YHWH.