Book review: Jesus is the Christ
by Michael F. Bird
So when did Jesus’ followers begin to proclaim him the Messiah? Michael Bird argues that Jesus deliberately acted out a messianic role, and that his followers would hardly have proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah against Jesus’ own self-understanding. I needed no convincing on this topic, but if I did, the introduction to Bird’s book alone provides evidence enough. Indeed, I found the long introduction to be the most thought-provoking part of the book!
After the introduction the book settles down to a methodical look at each of the four gospels and their unique contribution in portraying Jesus as the Judaic Messiah. I found Bird’s examination of the gospels less bold, but no less interesting and informative. The question to be answered seems to shift from When did Jesus become known as Messiah? to How clearly is Jesus portrayed as Messiah? Bird describes the gospels as “stained-glass windows offering different shapes and colors about a figure they all regard in their own unique way as the long-promised Messiah.” He reads them this way:
Mark: The Crucified Messiah
Matthew: The Davidic Messiah
Luke/Acts: The Prophetic Messiah
John: The Elusive Messiah
The three main titles that Bird examines are Son of Man, Son of God, and Son of David. Each, he argues, is a messianic expression. The Gospel Christology thus is a form of messianism and must be understood in that light.
Bird’s writing is scholarly, precise, and well-argued, with lots of references and endnotes. I’ll definitely be picking up more books from this author.