RBL Review of Novenson's Christ Among the Messiahs

RBL Review of Novenson's Christ Among the Messiahs July 10, 2013

Once in a while, I look at a so-called consensus in scholarship and roll my eyes. Such is the case with the pervasive and surprisingly resilient perspective that when St. Paul used the word Christos, he did not mean “messiah,” but rather used it as a name. I have always found this a hard pill to swallow, and it is high-time that somebody brewed a strong enough coffee to help folks wake up from this nonsense.

So, many thanks to Matthew Novenson who percolated a powerful cuppa joe in his revised dissertation called Christ Among the Messiahs (Oxford). If you want to read a summary of his work, filled with admiration, check out my recently published RBL review. Normally, when I review a book, I try to find at least 2 areas for improvement. (Usually, that is not too hard!) This is one of the first times that I was really at a loss given the creativity, thoroughness, and sheer sensibility of his monograph. Kudos to Novenson – dole yourself some extra haggis, Matthew, and celebrate a job well done!


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  • Thanks for this Nijay. It is good to see ancient onomastic practice being employed.
    I think the point is that the ancients did not make clear distinctions between names and titles. There was a continuum between these categories. I sometimes us the term “name/title”. When someone was given an new name/title in adult life the name/title was loaded with meaning (e.g. Cephas, Amerius, Africanus).
    One small point: it is not true that double names were always given in the same order. There is at least one example of someone being referred to as “X ho kai Y” in one place, and Y ho kai X, in another. Sorry, I don’t remember the reference for this.