A fascinating discussion of Matthew Novenson’s The Grammar of Messianism

Matthew Novenson, The Grammar of Messianism: An Ancient Jewish Political Idiom and its Users,
New York: Oxford University Press, 2017
ISBN 978-0190053215 (paperback)

There’s a really interesting conversation about Matthew Novenson’s fascinating The Grammar of Messianism going on at Syndicate, the home of many such book discussions, at present. A key claim of the book is that it helps to think about ‘Messiah’ passages in Jewish and Christian texts as engaging in a ‘language game’ in which they use the term in a variety of ways—and this is better than the ‘idealist’ tradition of constructing one view of ‘Messiah’ and then reading the texts in the light of that ‘idealist’ reconstruction. This is both a provocative claim and a programme for future study—there are several PhD theses (not to say monographs) to be written in the light of Novenson’s arguments here.

Thus far James Carleton Paget has provided a fine summary of the book with some provocative questions and responses, and Esau McCaulley has given an engaging response to the book. In each case Matthew Novenson has responded with further thoughts and some valuable clarifications. Three more responses will follow in subsequent weeks, from Aryeh Amihay, Paula Fredriksen, and John Gager, who represent a wide range of interests and scholarly expertise. The first section of the Syndicate page outlines the discussion with Novenson’s five interlocutors in full, and we’ll look forward to seeing the three later responses, with Novenson’s comments, soon!