THE SCEPTER AND THE STAR by John J. Collins

THE SCEPTER AND THE STAR

The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literature
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A scholarly work with considerable contemporary relevance that traces the Jewish messianic idea through its many ancient manifestations. In this densely written volume, Collins (Hebrew Bible/Univ. of Chicago) has collected and analyzed scriptural references to the figure of the messiah. In its original meaning, that of ``anointed,'' the term was used in the Hebrew Bible to refer to a number of people--priests, kings, and teachers among them. In the Book of Isaiah, the term described Cyrus, king of Persia, the emperor who enabled the Jews to return from the Babylonian captivity and eventually rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem. It is only in the postbiblical (what Christian scholars refer to as the ``intertestamental'') period that a messiah becomes the Messiah, words used to refer to a heroic figure who would redeem Israel and bring peace to humankind. Among the major sources of information on the postbiblical period are the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in the late 1940s and early '50s but published in their entirety only in the last few years. Collins ably leads readers through the confusing plethora of scroll texts and interpretations, offering new insights into claims that the scrolls present a view of the messiah that dovetails with early Christian doctrine. Though it focuses on Jewish texts, both biblical and extrabiblical, one of the book's central concerns is the wish to elucidate Christian origins against their Jewish background. This title is part of a new series, the Anchor Bible Reference Library, which--if subsequent volumes are as solid as this one--promises to live up to the standards of its intellectual parents, the Anchor Bible and the Anchor Bible Dictionary. Written in academic prose, somewhat technical but accessible and jargon-free. Students of biblical history and the messianic idea can rest assured that they are in competent hands. (b&w photos, maps, not seen)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-385-47457-1
Page count: 270pp
Publisher: Anchor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1995