Cornelis Bennema, «The Sword of the Messiah and the Concept of Liberation in the Fourth Gospel», Vol. 86 (2005) 35-58
This article elucidates the Johannine concept of Jesus’
"sword" as the means of liberation against a background of Palestinian messianic
apocalypticism. It is argued that the Johannine Jesus is depicted as a messiah
who liberates the world at large from the spiritual oppression of sin and the
devil by means of his Spirit-imbued word of truth. In addition, Jesus also
provides physical, social, religious and political liberation. Jesus’ programme
of holistic liberation is continued by his disciples through the transference of
his "sword" in the form of their Paraclete-imbued witness.
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38 Cornelis Bennema
use â€œmessianicâ€ rather loosely, namely as referring to an anointed
(eschatological) figure who would act as Godâ€™s agent (in the last days)
to liberate â€œIsraelâ€ (and to rule over her in justice and peace) (10).
Hence, we shall examine those texts that evoke the concept of a
messiah, even if the literal term jyvm or cristov" does not occur. We
will neither elucidate Jewish messianism at large, nor attempt to
homogenize the diverse messianic ideas, but merely examine the
specific activities of a messianic liberator.
1. Psalms of Solomon
The Psalms of Solomon is a collection of eighteen psalms which
were almost certainly written in Palestine in the wake of Pompeyâ€™s
conquest of Jerusalem in 63 B.C.E. Historical allusions to this event
are found in 2,1-2; 8,15-21; 17,7-14. We also have in 2,26-27 in all
probability an allusion to Pompeyâ€™s assassination in Egypt in 48
B.C.E. We cannot be certain how close in date the other Psalms are to
the three that refer to Pompey, but scholars assume that the final
collection of the Psalms took place before 40 B.C.E.(11).
The Psalms are highly polemical in that they give a negative
evaluation of both the Hasmonean dynasty and the subsequent Roman
rule in Palestine. According to the psalmist, the reason for the Roman
invasion by Pompey is the illegitimate usurpation of the priesthood
and the Davidic throne by the Hasmoneans and their consequent
defilement of the Jerusalem temple (2,1-3; 8,6-13; 17,4-6) (12).
Consequently, God used Pompey/Rome to bring judgment on Israel
(2,4-21; 8,15-21; 17,7-14), as he had done in the past by using foreign
(10) Cf. Judaisms and Their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era (eds. J.
NEUSNER â€“ W.S. GREEN â€“ E.S. FRERICHS) (Cambridge 1987) ix; G.S. OEGEMA,
The Anointed and his People. Messianic Expectations from the Maccabees to Bar
Kochba (JSPSS 27; Sheffield 1998) 21-27; M.A. ELLIOTT, Survivors of Israel. A
Reconsideration of the Theology of Pre-Christian Judaism (Grand Rapids â€“
Cambridge 2000) 436.
(11) M. DE JONGE, â€œThe Psalms of Solomonâ€, Outside the Old Testament (ed.
M. DE JONGE) (Cambridge 1985) 161; R.B. WRIGHT, â€œPsalms of Solomonâ€, The
Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (ed. J.H. CHARLESWORTH) (New York 1985) II,
641. K.R. Atkinson, however, argues that PsSal 17 reflects the time of Herod the
Great and puts its date between 37-30 B.C.E. (â€œOn the Use of Scripture in the
Development of Militant Davidic Messianism at Qumran: New Light from Psalm
of Solomon 17â€, The Interpretation of Scripture in Early Judaism and
Christianity [ed. C.A. EVANS] [JSPSS 33; Sheffield 2000] 109).
(12) Cf. WRIGHT, â€œPsalmsâ€, II, 651; DE JONGE, â€œPsalmsâ€, 163, 168.