Septuagintal Saturdays have become an occasional affair, and I think I”m going to have to make my peace with that. However, when I get around to doing them I find them very educational and fun. This one was no exception.

Gog or Agag? Num. 24:7


Num. 24:7 ἐξελεύσεται ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ σπέρματος αὐτοῦ καὶ κυριεύσει ἐθνῶν πολλῶν καὶ ὑψωθήσεται ἢ Γωγ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ καὶ αὐξηθήσεται ἡ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ 

MT/LXX Comparison

יזל־מים מדליו ἐξελεύσεται ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ σπέρματος αὐτοῦ
וזרעו במים רבים κυριεύσει ἐθνῶν πολλῶν
וירם מאגג מלכו καὶ ὑψωθήσεται ἢ Γωγ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ
נשׂא מלכתו καὶ αὐξηθήσεται ἡ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ 


“A man will come forth from his seed 

and he will rule many nations 

and his kingdom will be lifted up above Gog, 

and his kingdom will be increased.”


Having reviewed both books by Fitzmyer and Kaiser, and having noticed their significant differences, I thought it would be interesting to compare the two of them on certain key texts. Here is a first look at Fitzmyer vs. Kaiser. We’ll start at the beginning, with Gen. 3:15.

Gen. 3:15 is also known as the protoeuangelion, because it is often interpreted as the ‘first gospel.’ It is often understood to be the first promise of a coming deliverer. The crux of the interpretation turns on the understanding of the Hebrew word ‘he/him’ (הוא). Here is a comparison of the views of Kaiser and Fitzmyer.

Gen. 3:15

Gen. 3:15 ואיבה אשׁית בינך ובין האשׁה ובין זרעך ובין זרעה הוא ישׁופך ראשׁ ואתה תשׁופנו עקב׃


‘And enmity I will put between you and between the woman, and between your seed and between her seed. He will strike you [on the] head and you will strike him [on the] heel.’

Fitzmyer Kaiser
“The pronoun should not be rendered ‘he,’ because that immediately specifies an individual male, whereas the Hebrew speaks of a collectivity, ‘your seed, your offspring.’ (27) “the reference to ‘his heel’ bears out the correctness of understanding Hebrew [הוא] as a singular masculine pronoun in the phrase ‘he will crush your head.” (39)       


the LXX: “only in 3:15 did the translators of the Greek text break their own grammatical rules, which require that the pronoun agree with its antecedent in gender and number.” (40)  Kaiser sites, Martin, saying “The most likely explanation for the use of [masculine pronoun] autos [rather than the neuter pronoun auto] in Gen 3:15 to refer back to [the neuter noun] sperma is that the translator has in this very way indicated his messianic understanding of this verse.” (40, citing, Martin, 427)

“‘Seed’ is often used as ‘offspring’ in a collective sense: e.g., Gen 9:9; 12:7; 13:16; 15:5, 13, 18; 2 Sam 7:12.” (27) “the very fact that the noun ‘seed’ is a collective singular deliberately provides for the fact that it may include the one who represents the whole group as well as the group itself.” (39)



Regarding the first argument, (more…)

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Messiah in the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 235 + Appendices and Indices. 

In preparation for my ‘Messiah in the Old Testament’ class this summer I read Kaiser’s take on the subject. Having read Fitzmyer’s work, I found this one to be an entirely different take. Kaiser is only concerned with the biblical texts themselves, paying little attention to how they have interpreted historically (though he does touch on this at points).

Kaiser organizes his book diachronically based on a very conservative dating of texts. Thus, after an introduction, he looks at 1) messianic passages in the Pentateuch, 2) before an during the monarchy, 3) in the psalms, 4) in the ninth and eighth century prophets, 5) in Isaiah, 6) in seventh and sixth century prophets, and 7) in the post-exilic prophets.

Kaiser begins by citing what he believes is the usual definition of the term ‘messianic,’ namely, “everything in the OT that refers to the hope of a glorious future” (15). He is aware that this is problematic since many passages that speak of a glorious future speak of the Lord’s actions rather than the Messiah’s but he also claims that there are significant overlap between the actions of the Lord and the actions of His Messiah. 

From the start, as Kaiser surveys the various texts, he sees Messiah in almost every passage traditionally thought of as messianic. He argues that the ‘edenic promise’ is a messianic promise, even though he is aware it is only the beginning of a progressive revelation of the messianic message. Throughout his book he tends to make arguments (some very good, some less so) for Messiah in all the traditional passages. 

One major weakness of Kaiser’s book is that it reads like an insiders discussion amongst evangelicals. He interacts most often with James Smith, What the Bible teaches about the Promised Messiah; Charles Briggs, Messianic Prophecy; the commentaries of Keil and Delitzsch, and Kaiser’s own previous works. Almost no mention is made of classic texts such as Mowinckel’s. 

Despite that drawback, Kaiser’s work, though written at a semi-popular level is also capable of making fairly detailed arguments. For example, he argues that Jeremiah 23:5-6 should be understood as “the LORD our righteousness” (as opposed to “the LORD is righteousness”) based on the accent marks of the Masoretic Text (and not just the atnac or zaqef…)

It took me a while to get into this book but in the end I enjoyed it. If you are looking for a good defense of a conservative reading of messianic prophecies than this a good choice. If Fitzmyer is overly minimalistic in his views, Kaiser may be overly maximalistic. Hopefully, somewhere between them is a good view of the messianic passages of Scripture. It would be a great exercise to compare the arguments of Kaiser and Fitzmyer of some specific passages but that is fodder for another post, or series of posts.

The One Who Is to ComeJoseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., The One Who Is to Come (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2007), xvi + 183 pp. + Indices.

 For Christians, the subject of Messiah and Messianic prophecies is a very important one. Too often, however, in our ‘christocentric’ hermeneutic we read the Old Testament and see Christ everywhere. In this new book, Fitzmyer tries to stay that tendency by studying the messianic concept as a developing concept throughout Israel’s history.

Fitzmyer defines the technical use of Messiah as “an eschatological figure, an anointedhuman agent of God, who was to be sent by Him as a deliverer and was awaited in the endtime” (1). With this technical concept of Messiah in mind Fitzmyer begins a study of the messianic concept in two parts. First, he examines the messianic concept in the Old Testament (chs. 2-5), then examines it in (roughly chronological order) in other sources: the Septuagint (ch. 6), 2nd Temple Jewish Literature (ch.7), the NT (ch. 8 ) and Mishnah, Targums and other Rabbinic writings (ch.9).

 Because of Fitzmyer’s ‘narrow’ understanding of the technical use of Messiah (Heb.: msh) he can survey its uses and claim that (more…)