cover image The First Messiah: Investigating the Savior Before Jesus

The First Messiah: Investigating the Savior Before Jesus

Michael O. Wise. HarperOne, $25 (342pp) ISBN 978-0-06-069645-0

In a mix of historical research, sociological analysis and fiction, Wise (The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered) tells a story about a messiah called the Teacher of Righteousness in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Wise names this messiah Judah, and claims he is ""the first messiah known to history [and] in a certain way the most important messianic claimant ever, because he was the first."" Throughout the book, the author reminds readers that the life and work of ""Judah"" can be paralleled with the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth. Confusion reigns in this book, however, because it is difficult to sort out the story of ""Judah"" from Wise's commentary, his commentary from historical research, historical research from the author's reconstruction and the author's reconstruction from textual evidence. Even the endnotes, which are intended to provide some scholarly support to Wise's conjectures, are full of assumptions based on little evidence. While the book contains interesting insights into myths and dreams, the central thesis that ""Judah's"" influence shaped Jesus and, in turn, the whole of Christianity is an incredible leap of logic and faith. (Mar.)