New Book on Jewish Messianism and Early Christology

Though technically released in April–and then delayed due to some printing/inventory issues–my newest project is finally out: Corpus Christologicum: Texts and Translations for the Study of Jewish Messianism and Early Christology. Weighing in at over 730 pages, it’s certainly the most technical project I’ve done. It has been in the works since roughly 2014.

What is it? In a nutshell, this volume attempts to bring together all the primary sources from the Jewish world (broadly defined) that are of relevance in the study of messianic ideas leading into and following shortly after the era of the apostolic church. It aims to be the go-to resource for anyone who wants to study the background of the development of early Christian ideas about Jesus Christ from the perspective of primary sources themselves, not just what so-and-so scholars say about them. As such, it includes ~300 passages that are regularly cited in the study of “Messiah” terminology, messianic metaphors, “wisdom” and “logos” speculation, and so on.

Why does this book exist?

The study of the formation of early Christology continues to be vibrant, not only at the academic level (Bauckham, Hurtado, Gathercole, etc.) but even at the popular level (Ehrman, etc.). Essential to the field is the close study of biblical and post-biblical writings that speak about Davidic kings, eschatological prophets, heavenly mediators, and so on. Indeed, one cannot go very far in any major work on Jewish or Christian messianism without bumping into loads of citations of ancient writings.

But therein lies a twofold problem: (1) accessing these texts in English involves a high degree of translator interference (where one translator might refuse to use the term “Messiah” while another will, for instance), and (2) accessing them in the original languages is enormously time-consuming and costly. Indeed, I used roughly 250 critical editions for this book (not including secondary sources).

Thus, this book has a simple aim: compile all the regularly-cited sources in both their original languages and a fresh English translation (done with a consistent methodology), and provide tools for the user to navigate them on their own. Even if the reader does not know a given ancient language, the translation approach is intentionally “wooden” so that key words/ideas can be traced across sources.

What’s in it?

The book includes key passages from six main categories:

  • Hebrew Bible (and Versions): Focusing on 39 texts that receive the most attention in Jewish interpretation, particularly in the Greek and Aramaic translations that sometimes enhance, if you will, the messianic freight of a given passage.
  • Dead Sea Scrolls: Including 42 passages from the non-biblical Judean scrolls, ranging from the Damascus Document to the Community Rule to the Sabbath Songs and so on.
  • Apocrypha: Including 25 passages from the so-called Apocrypha or Deuterocanon, not only in their standard Greek form but also (where available) any other languages like Hebrew (i.e. Sirach).
  • Pseudepigrapha: Including 102 passages from the miscellaneous writings that are generally labeled OT Pseudepigrapha, such as 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch, Ezekiel the Tragedian, and many more.
  • Philo and Josephus: Including 38 passages from these two early Jewish writers (note: while the number of logos passages in Philo is enormous, I focused only on the major ones).
  • Other Jewish and Early Christian Writings: Including 48 passages from a handful of pre-Nicene fathers (particularly focusing on “Son of Man”) as well as “early” Jewish sources (mishnah, select talmud passages with some clear historical pedigree, etc.). Drawing the boundary line here was difficult, of course.

What do the pages look like?

Here’s a sample page with the various components highlighted (scroll down to the end for more examples):

  1. Selection of Sources: I provide the passage reference using standard SBL abbreviations (and other common referencing forms, as needed) with column/verse/line/etc. ranges. Each passage has a unique identifier used in cross-references elsewhere.
  2. Commentary: Given that this book focuses on texts/translations, I only provide a very limited commentary that attempts to explain why this passage is relevant. I intentionally do not offer my own “take” on the passage.
  3. Text, Translation, and Apparatus: This is, of course, the bulk of the project. I render the text in its original language on the left and a translation on the right. Languages covered include: Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Greek, Latin, Ethiopic, Syriac, and Coptic. (I fall back on English-alone for sources in Armenian, Slavonic, and Samaritan because I have not studied those languages.) On top of this, I provide a selection of textual variants or other pertinent footnotes.
  4. References: On the “P” line I list the standard critical editions where the primary texts can be found (e.g., DJD, VTG, PVTG, SC, etc.). On the “S” line, I take a crack at a bibliography of the books and articles that discuss this passage. I tried my best to be exhaustive but, of course, it’s impossible to achieve. The comprehensive bibliographic details are included at the end of the book.
  5. Thematic Tags: This is the “special sauce” of the book. Each passage is “tagged” for christological epithets/titles (e.g., Messiah, Prince, King, Prophet, Son of God, Son of Man), hypostases (e.g., word, wisdom, voice), exalted patriarchs (e.g., Melchizedek), metaphors (e.g., branch, horn, star, lion), and attributes (e.g., angelic, battle, deliverance, eschatological). The front of the book includes numerous indices that list the passages for each tag, allowing the reader to trace them out. For instance, the list of passages tagged for a “horn” metaphor is as follows:

What have scholars said about it?

I’m enormously grateful for the kind things other scholars have said in endorsing the book.

Richard Bauckham: “Familiarity not only with the Hebrew Bible but also with a wide range of early Jewish writings, in several languages, is now essential to the study of early Christology. For that purpose this is a superb reference work. I wish it had been available to me when I did my earlier research and will certainly have it to hand as I pursue further work in this area.”

Michael Bird: “Greg Lanier has put together an invaluable collection of texts and translations about messianic figures in antiquity. There is no resource comparable to this one and no better tool for the study of Jewish and Christian messianism. This is a must-have volume for anyone involved in serious or scholarly study of messianism in the ancient world.”

John J. Collins: “Gregory Lanier has assembled a magnificent sourcebook of all the texts that have been regarded as messianic from the Bible, Second Temple sources, Targum, Midrash, and even inscriptions. He has provided texts, translations, and basic notes. In an age of rampant transliteration, he uses the original scripts not only for Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, but also for Ethiopic, Syriac, and Coptic. A special feature of the book is the attention to metaphors that are not obviously messianic but have often acquired messianic overtones. This is a marvelous resource for scholars and students. It lays out the relevant information without prejudicing the interpretation.”

Craig Evans: “Gregory Lanier’s Corpus Christologicum is the critical reference tool that New Testament scholars and students for decades have waited for. The book is beautifully and efficiently laid out. All of the relevant texts are presented in original language and English translation and are accompanied by brief notes and bibliography. This wonderful resource will greatly facilitate studies in Jewish messianism and early Christology. Highly recommended!”

Simon Gathercole: “Lanier’s collection of material here is marvelous in its range, and will be hugely beneficial to students and scholars. The various indexes mean that a mass of relevant information can be found very quickly. I know I will come back to this book again and again.”

Nijay Gupta: “‘Read the primary sources first, and study them carefully.’ That is a mantra I was taught and one that I try to live by as a researcher. So, I consider Corpus Christologicum a special gift to students of early Judaism, the New Testament, and early Christianity. This is one of those kinds of books you keep close at hand and open often. I know I will.”

Matt Novenson: “This book represents a herculean effort on the part of Gregory Lanier, who has collected and retranslated virtually all the primary texts pertinent to early Jewish and Christian messianism. The final product is a gold mine for students and researchers: hundreds of primary texts, in seven ancient languages, with facing translations and text-critical notes, thoroughly cross-indexed, and all in a single volume. Congratulations and thanks to Lanier for this outstanding reference tool.”

James VanderKam: “I highly recommend Gregory Lanier’s Corpus Christologicum as a rich resource for the study of ancient passages relevant to messianism and Christology. The nearly 300 texts he includes and the form in which he presents them should make the book the starting point for work in this lively field of study. In the compendium, he presents the texts in the languages in which they have survived, supplies facing English translations, and adds brief notes and bibliographies. An indexed system of tags is a bonus feature that makes the sizable volume easily searchable.”

Chris Tilling: “Gregory R. Lanier’s Corpus Christologicum offers something quite unique. It presents a compendium of important texts relating to the study of early Christology and Jewish messianism that have not, until now, been gathered into a single volume. Passages are brought together from the Hebrew Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, and a selection of other early Christian and rabbinic texts. Not only that, but Lanier also presents fresh translations of the relevant texts, together with text-critical annotations. In short, the selection of sources is well considered, the commentary sharp and helpful, and the textual apparatus clearly laid out. The numerous references provided offer useful springboards to more specific scholarly analysis. He therefore amply succeeds, as he expressly desires, in providing a ‘starting point for any future scholarly research on Jewish messianism and early Christology.’ There is nothing else like this on the market. Thank you, Lanier, for providing this exceptional resource!”

More sample pages

Click on the thumbnails to view this assortment of examples that cover most of the languages included in the book (to see how they appear).

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