Aslan is confident that he knows what it means for Jesus to be labelled “messiah.”

Aslan explains that

to call oneself the messiah at the time of the Roman occupation was tantamount to declaring war on Rome. 19

Aslan is either not aware, or simply ignores the fact that, in none of the Gospel accounts of Jesus does Jesus anywhere “call” himself “messiah.” The designation comes from others and, everyone apparently, according to Aslan, have understood what this meant.

Nevertheless, among the crowd of Jews gathered for the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:14-52),there seems to have been a fair consensus about who the messiah is supposed to be and what the messiah is supposed to do: he is the descendant of King David… 28

To be the “descendant of King David” according to Aslan means to be a political revolutionary.

he comes to restore Israel, to free the Jews from the yoke of occupation, and to establish God’s rule in Jerusalem. To call Jesus the messiah, therefore, is to place him inexorably upon a path – already well trodden by a host of failed messiahs who came before him – toward conflict, revolution, and war against the prevailing powers. 28

The problem with Aslan’s description of the kind of messiah Jesus must have been, is that the details of Aslan’s messiah are found nowhere in the text he cites to prove his case. John the Gospel writer writes,

When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, ‘This is really the prophet.’41Others said, ‘This is the Messiah.’ But some asked, ‘Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he?42Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?’43So there was a division in the crowd because of him.44Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. (John 7:49-44)

The only evidence Aslan has to support his argument that messiah always meant “conflict, revolution, and war against the prevailing powers” is a question from some anonymous Jews in a crowd who asked “Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David”. This is slim evidence upon which to base a description of what “messiah” means, especially when Aslan himself has already acknowledged that it is

True, the Jews of Jesus’s time had somewhat conflicting views about the role and function of the messiah, fed by a score of messianic traditions and popular folktales that were floating around the Holy Land. 27

There is one other dimension of what it must have meant to be messiah in Jesus’ day about which Aslan is certain,

The idea of a divine messiah is anathema to Judaism. 32

Aslan’s conviction here might have come as a bit of a surprise to the prophet Isaiah who wrote,

For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Aslan’s certainty about Jewish abhorence of the idea of a “divine messiah” would also come as a bit of a surprise to Taubman Professor of Talumdic culture at the University of California Daniel Boyarin who writes in his  The Jewish Gospels,

Many Israelites at the time of Jesus were expecting a Messiah who would be divine and come to earth in the form of a human. 6

“Messiah” was and remains a complex concept. As applied to Jesus it certainly cannot be reduced to the narrow parameters of Aslan’s political interpretation.

 

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