King and Messiah as Son of God
King and Messiah as Son of God

Adela Yarbro Collins and John J. Collins, King and Messiah as Son of God: Divine, Human, and Angelic Messianic Figures in Biblical and Related Literature (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008). (Amazon.com)

Message of the Book:

In King and Messiah as Son of God: Divine, Human, and Angelic Messianic Figures in Biblical and Related Literature Adela Yarbro Collins and John J. Collins combine their expertise to examine the development of the idea of a divine messianic figure. John J. Collins focuses upon ancient near eastern literature and ideas, especially those of the Hebrews. Adela Yarbro Collins focuses upon how Greco-Roman and Jewish literature and ideas, especially those related to early Judaism and incipient Christianity. While the book does not aim to present direct chronological causation from say Egyptian ideas about divine kings to Christian ones about a divine messiah it does allow the reader to get a broad view of how ancient peoples across the ages thought of and spoke of divine kings and how the Hebrews and Jews adopted those ideas.

Summary of the Content:

Chapter 1 (The King as Son of God) juxtaposes ancient Judah with Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Canaan as regards the idea of a divine king. J.J. Collins summarizes how these people understood divinity as it related to kings, evaluating whether or not these ideas contain explicit metaphysical claims or whether these ideas were more functional (i.e., the office of a king was a divine office making that king not preexistent, or divine by nature, but divine as a representative of deity). Chapter 2 (The Kingship in Deuteronomistic and Prophetic Literature) focuses more specifically on how Judah understood their king to related to YHWH. Collins examines 2 Samuel 7, various psalms, and Isaiah primarily. This allows him to sketch a basic, early messianism. Chapter 3 (Messiah and the Son of God in the Hellenistic Period) examines how Hellenistic Ruler Cults may have influenced those who were under the rule of people like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Caesar Augustus. In this chapter he explores texts from the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls in order to evaluate themes that were emerging in Jewish thought. In Chapter 4 (Messiah and the Son of Man) the relationship between the Daniel 7 “one like the son of a man” and the messiah is presented as an evolving one of exegetical imagination. Collins understands the Daniel 7 figure to be angelic, likely the archangel Michael, though he observes that eventually this idea seems to have been abandoned in favor of a messianic figure. Those ideas of a Davidic King became combined with others like that of a heavenly deliver.

Adela Yarboro Collins begins her section in Chapter 5 (Jesus as Messiah and Son of God in the Letters of Paul). She maintains the strict, limited focus set forth by her husband. The titles of Messiah and Son of God are her primary focus, especially those texts that may be used to discuss some form of preexistence, thought she doesn’t come down strongly in favor of later Christian exegesis she is also quite willing to explore preexistence as it vaguely related to Jewish Wisdom Traditions. Chapter 6 (Jesus as Messiah and Son of God in the Synoptic Gospels) continues the agenda of Chapter 5. Collins discusses Jesus’ birth in Matthew and Luke, his baptism, and his public activity. She is not convinced that Jesus thought of himself as Messiah like many people later understood him to be the Messiah, but she is also cautious in acknowledging that there is not one shared messianism at that time, so the idea of messianic consciousness is a complicated one. In Chapter 7 (Jesus as the Son of Man) she builds on Chapter 4. Also, she maintains a sustained dialogue with other scholars who have studied and debated the meaning of the Son of Man, especially how it may or may not have functioned as an Aramaic saying and whether or not the Evangelists are interpreting Daniel 7 when they use it as one of Jesus’ primary self-designations. Chapter 8 (Messiah, Son of God, and Son of Man in the Gospels and Revelation of John) shifts to Johannine literature. Collins notes the obviously high Christology of the Gospel wherein the Logos is deity in close relation to God the Father. In her study of Revelation she doesn’t propose as high a Christology, observing that the author of the Apocalypse often describes Jesus using imagery from the Hebrew Scriptures that were applied to angelic beings.

The book contains an introductory chapter, a concluding one, a large bibliography, and helpful indexes. The authors show great discipline in restraining there focus so that this book ends at page 213. A study like this one presents the temptation to go down many rabbit trails and they do not.

Concluding Thoughts:

This is a helpful book for summarizing a few limited aspects of messianism, specifically kingship, messianic titles, and son of God and/or son of man language. The authors display a wealthy of knowledge as concerns literature from a wide array of epochs and cultures. For the person seeking to research these particular ideas you can’t beat this book as a starting place. It would take a very long time to survey all the sources they used to gather the data they present so clearly. As far as its lasting contribution to studies of messianism it is a book to read alongside recent works by people like Richard Bauckham, Simon Gathercole, and Larry Hurtado. The authors do interact briefly with the ideas presented by these authors, though often not extensively, and at least in the case of Gathercole’s work on Jesus’ preexistence in the Synoptic Gospels, somewhat dismissively.

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