Review: The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic?

8218468Michael Rydelnik is Professor of Jewish Studies in the Intercultural Studies Department at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He has a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary and a DMiss from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Rydelnik was an OT Translator for The Holman Christian Standard Bible, a contributor to The Moody Bible Commentary and various Study Bibles, and the author of the present volume The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? (B&H Academic, 2010).

The Messianic Hope opens with a helpful introduction to orient the readers to the study of messianic prophecy in the OT. Rydelnik does well in the initial chapters to define key terms and delineate the shift away from a messianic interpretation of the OT. For Rydelnik, there appears to be a growing chasm of conviction between those that view messianic prophecy as explicitly predictive and those that view it as merely an ultimate end that points towards the Messiah. This is an appropriate foundation and Rydelnik does an admirable job interacting with recent scholarship.

Following the initial chapters, Rydelnik directs the reader’s attention towards various perspectives on messianic prophecy. While all the chapters are meaningful and important for the holistic portrait that Rydelnik paints, two chapters are particularly significant to the thesis of the book. First, the chapter on the innerbiblical perspectives on messianic prophecy offers readers a glimpse into how the OT interprets and understands itself, but especially messianic passages. Second, the chapter on the NT perspectives on messianic prophecy offers a similar window into the OT messianic passages but from a NT vantage point, including Jesus’ own understanding of messianic passages.

Beyond the establishment of the major thrust of his argument concerning messianic prophecy, Rydelnik offers the reader three examples from the three major divisions of the Hebrew Bible—Law (Gen. 3:15), Prophets (Isa. 7:14), and Writings (Ps. 110). These examples help the reader to observe the method and consistency of Rydelnik’s approach. I found the examples particularly helpful to bring together the bits of Rydelnik’s study that weren’t as clear early on in the book. Where Rydelnik shines is his keen ability to uncover the interpretive nuances of messianic prophecy. Where I would have liked to see Rydelnik do a bit more exploration is in the arena of reception history. Nevertheless, Rydelnik has provided a goldmine of interpretive and biblical-theological treasure.

The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? By Michael Rydelnik is an outstanding push against a growing interpretive trend. Rydelnik is consistently kind and courteous in his interactions with his opponents. But, more than that, he is readable and aware of his target audience. If you’re looking for a book that will encourage your heart towards an appreciation of the forward-pointing nature of the OT, then Rydelnik will be indispensable. It comes highly recommended with little reservation despite some interpretive disagreement.

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