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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48 Cornelis Bennema
In sum, 4 Ezra portrays a non-nationalistic Davidic warrior-
messiah rooted in Isaiah 11, who will liberate â€œIsraelâ€ from the
Romans not by human military means but by supernatural agency,
namely, through forensic speech (11,36-46; 12,31-34) or a Spirit-
imbued word (13,9-11) (42).
Although the Palestinian messianic apocalyptic literature presents no
homogenous view of the messiah and his functions, some common traits
can be detected. In order to respond to the present political-religious
crises, messianic apocalypticism envisaged the new age of peace and
justice (Godâ€™s rule) on earth to occur through Godâ€™s Spirit-endowed
messiah, and many of the texts we elucidated draw on or allude to Isaiah
11 (esp. v. 4), and sometimes Isaiah 42. We argued that the primary and
powerful means by which the messiah executes judgment, sifts the
righteous and the wicked, and establishes the new age is his Spirit-
imbued word (of wisdom and power). Although messianic apoca-
lypticism emphasizes the judgment aspect of the messiahâ€™s Spirit-
imbued word, this is not its only function. In Psalms of Solomon and
Qumran, the messiah is also expected, with this same word, to provide
cleansing, moral instruction and justice for the righteous. However,
whereas Psalms of Solomon envisages only one messiah in whom both
aspects of judgment and teaching are combined, Qumran could visualize
two messiahs â€” the Davidic warrior-messiah and a teacher-messiah.
Thus, Palestinian messianic apocalypticism developed, with various
nuances, the picture of a Davidic Spirit-empowered messiah of Isa 11,1-
4.9; 42,1.4 (certainly the teaching function).
We further discovered that, in Palestinian apocalyptic literature, the
principal religious-political conflict is not between Israel and Rome but
between the righteous and the wicked (whether the latter be Romans or
Jewish aristocracy, collaborators or apostate high-priestly rulers) (43).
The messianic figures that the apocalyptic literature presents, then, are
(42) Although 2 Baruch, compiled around the same time as 4 Ezra, also
depicts a traditional warrior-messiah, it does not reveal by what means he will
achieve his task. The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs do not shed more light
on our agenda either. The apocalypse of Revelation, contemporary with 4 Ezra
and 2 Baruch, is more informative: it describes a messianic figure who destroys
the wicked by a two-edged (s)word from his mouth (19,13-15; cf. 1,15-16;
(43) Cf. HORSLEY, Jesus, 133, 140; HORSLEY â€“ HANSON, Bandits, 245.