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John 1:41 He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him,
We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.

Messianic Expectations in 4 BC

and Other First Century "Christs"

The New Testament

Simeon - Individual Expectation

Luke 2:25(-35) And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. 26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.


Luke 2:36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

Scribes and Priests

Mat 2:4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, :6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Galilee - No Way!

John 7:(40-)41 Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? .... 52 They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.

[Isa 9:1 Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterWard did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. :2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.]

Miracle Worker

John 7:25 Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? :26 But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? 27 Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is. 28 Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. 29 But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me. 30 Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come. 31 And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?


John 4:25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. 26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.

Misplaced Kingdom Hopes

Acts 1:6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

Jesus as King Excursus

Mat 2:2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

John 1:49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.

John 6:15 When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.

Mat 21:5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.

John 12:13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. 15 Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt.

Luke 19:38 Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.

Luke 23:3 And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it.

Mat 27:11 And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.

Mark 15:2 And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it.

John 18:(33-)37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

John 19:2 And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, 3 And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. .... 15 But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.

Acts 17:7 Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.

1 Tim 1:17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Tim 6:15 Which in his times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;

Mat 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: .... 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Rev 15:3 And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.

Rev 17:14 These shall make War with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.

Rev 19:16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

False Christs

Mat 24:24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Mark 13:22).

Acts 5:36 For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. (See also Josephus, Antiquities 20.5.1).

Acts 5:37 After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. (See also Josephus, War II,4,1).

Acts 21:38 Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers? (see also Josephus, War II.13.5 and Antiquities 20..8.6).


Our main source of primary historical information about the 1st century outside of the New Testament is Flavius Josephus, "Antiquities" and "Jewish War."

Preface    Preface to War of the Jews.
Book 1    From the taking of Jerusalem by Antiochus Epiphanes to the death of Herod the great.
Book 2    From the death of Herod till Vespasian was sent to subdue the Jews by Nero.
Book 3    From Vespasian's coming to subdue the Jews to the taking of Gamala.
Book 4    From the siege of Gamala to the coming of Titus to besiege Jerusalem.
Book 5    From the coming of Titus to besiege Jerusalem, to the great extremity to which the Jews were reduced.
Book 6    From the great extremity to which the Jews were reduced to the taking of Jerusalem by Titus.
Book 7    From the taking of Jerusalem by Titus to the sedition at Cyrene

Josephus records a number of Messianic pretenders in the first century.

Eleazar (War IV.4.1, 5.1.2), Menahem [Manahem] son of Judas the Galilean (War II.17.8-9) are two revolutionaries mentioned by Josephus.

The Egyptian false prophet led an attack against Jerusalem (War II.13.5). 

Jewish false prophet (and a "great number" of other false prophets) who told the Jews that God would deliver them from the Romans during siege in 70 AD (War VI.5.2).

The Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls show the transition in Judaism between Biblical Judaism and the Judaism of the rabbis. The materials are approximately dated to the time of the New Testament Early Church. Some of the practices of the Qumran community are shared with the Early Church such as baptism and communal meals.

Textually, the Dead Sea Scrolls push back the oldest texts of the Old Testament by more than 1000 years. Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest Hebrew manuscript was the Allepo manuscript which dates from the early tenth century. The Scrolls substantially validate the accuracy of transmission of the Old Testament texts. Additionally, the Dead Sea Scrolls lend credence to the Septuagint (LXX) over and against the Masoretic Text (MT). The Septuagint is quoted extensively by the New Testament writers. The differences between the Septuagint and the Masoretic Text have long been an object of debate between the Christian and Jewish communities.

The exegetical methods of interpretation of the Scriptures that the Early Church used has much in common with the methods used by the interpreters of the Bible as found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The frequently use of phrases in the Dead Sea Scrolls that occur infrequently in the Old Testament such as "Son of Man" has created much scholarly buzz. The demonology and angelology of the Early Church is also found in Dead Sea Scroll parallels.

The Messianic expectations of the Qumran community are perhaps the greatest contribution that the Dead Sea Scrolls offers to the Christian community. These expectations were quite consistent with what one encounters in the New Testament. The Messianic expectation reflected in the Scrolls centers more around the Priest and King who may have been accompanied by a Prophet than the Christian conception of Jesus as Prophet, Priest and King.

In particular 4Q175, The Messianic Anthology, contains a collection of proof-texts regarding the Prophet like Moses (Deut 5:28-29, 18:18-19) and the Star/Sceptre – royal Messiah (Numbers 24:5-17) texts. This document clearly resembles the proof-texting of the New Testament where the Messianic promises are related to the Person of Jesus Christ. Since this text is dated to about 50 BC, it wasn’t written by a Christian source.

The Book of Enoch also confirms many of these Messianic expectations that the New Testament contains. The Dead Sea Scrolls contained sections of the original Aramaic which predate earlier texts by a considerable time.

The alleged founder of the Qumran sect, the "teacher of righteousness" has parallels to Jesus as well, although there is no evidence that the "teacher of righteousness" was considered to be a Messiah. Both claimed to preach an eschatological message, such as in Isaiah 61.

Apocalypticism, which had just begun with Daniel in the Old Testament, was expanded in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The allegorical method of the Epistle to Barnabas can be seen in the Dead Sea Scrolls as well. In particular, the application of Biblical texts to contemporary situations is found in both as well as in the New Testament. Other themes including election and holiness are also found in the Scrolls and the New Testament. Phrases such as the "New Jerusalem" are also found in the Scrolls.



Copyright 2001 Douglas Gilliland