The Messianic Secret against its Jewish background (Part 2):
“Before these things Enoch was hidden,
And no one of the children of men knew where he was hidden”
(I Enoch 12.1)
In the next two posts, we will show that referring to the coming of the Messiah as hidden and revealed may be taken as representative of first century (A.D.) Palestinian Judaism. In order to prove this statement, we are going to look at the evidence from different streams and representatives of this Judaism.
Dead Sea Scrolls – If we turn to the Qumran library, the different texts from this library testify to the powerful presence of the “hidden and revealed” motifs in the community of Qumran. The distinguished Dead Sea scholar Michael O. Wise writes in his book, The First Messiah, that Judah (this is his name, according to Wise) was the first hidden messiah and that his life helped to lay the foundation for Jesus as the hidden messiah. Judah’s key phrase, wondrous mysteries, (רזי פלא), contains the most prominent term for “mystery” in the Qumran writings – the word raz – which is generally regarded as a Persian loanword taken over into Aramaic and Hebrew. The biblical Greek translation of raz is mysterion, and two Hebrew terms associated with raz are sod and nistarot – the latter is often translated as hidden. All these terms convey the idea of the essential heavenly knowledge known only to God and granted to humans by revelation. Members of the community were expected to “walk perfectly together, each with his neighbor, in everything revealed to them” – while remaining hidden was seen as an an essential part of messianic consciousness and messianic behavior. “He who nurtures the Holy Shoot to become a Tree of Truth is himself hidden, without esteem, unknown, his secret sealed up.”
Apocalyptic Literature – In the Second Temple Period, the apocalypse turns out to be the main carrier of eschatological ideas and messiah concepts. Why? What was so special about this literature? An explanation should be sought in the history. The Hebrew Scriptures teach the concept of God reigning visibly and tangibly in the history of His people. A king was God’s anointed one. If the king was righteous, God would bless the people and this blessing, as well as the kingdom itself, was a very tangible, earthly reality. However, what happens if the king is unrighteous? Gradually, the vision of an “anointed one to come” who would rectify the wrongs perpetrated by the ruling king and remedy the ill of the present situation, is emerging within the framework of actual history,. The worse the current historical situation became, the stronger would be a hope for the reverse order that the messiah would bring. Thus, in the post-biblical age the transcendent motif began to ring very clearly: As things on this earth were bad and the unrighteous were winning, for the first time the clearly cut-out concept of the transcendent kingdom and transcendent last-day savior made its way into Jewish thought. The Messiah would become a fully transcendent figure, a heavenly counterpart of the righteous on the earth. While they are oppressed and lowly, he is enthroned and exalted, but hidden. However, when he is manifested at the eschatological judgment, they will also be exalted. In the center of this process of reinterpretation and rethinking stands ‘One like the Son Man’ of Daniel 7: I saw in the night visions, and, behold, One like the son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days…
Thus, the hidden and revealed Messiah occurs many times in the apocalypses, especially in the Book of Enoch, where we see the heavenly Son of Man being hidden in heaven till the appointed time comes: “For the Son of Man was concealed from the beginning, and the Most High One preserved him in the presence of his power; then he revealed him to the holy ones and the elect ones.” The Ezra Apocalypse (4th Ezra) – composed, says scholarly consensus, in the late 1 CE in Hebrew, also played on the theme of the hidden and revealed Messiah. In this work, God explains to a visionary who writes in the name of Ezra: “For my son Messiah shall be revealed with those that be with him.” There is no way, however, that anyone could find and see the Messiah by his own efforts – “the anointed one whom the Most High has kept unto the end”, has to be revealed when the appointed time comes: “Just as no one can explore or know what is in the depth of the sea, so no one on earth can see My son or those who are with him, except when his time and his day have come.” The same terminology is found in the Apocalypse of Baruch (2 Baruch), a composite Jewish work written in the latter half of the first century of the Christian era: “And it shall come to pass when all is accomplished … that the Messiah shall then begin to be revealed. In all these writings, the Messiah is the pre-existent being, who will be revealed by God Himself; and even if men do see the Messiah before he is revealed, they will not see him as he really is – as the Messiah – until he is revealed to them by God. The crucial moment here is timing: then, in those days, his time – these words appear again and again in the apocalyptic texts.
With this transcendent Messiah hidden in the heaven till the appointed time comes, we come to the turn of the era. Of course, all these texts are of human origin and are not the Word of God – but the writings of the NT should be seen against the background of these texts, and no NT scholar can ignore them. I personally believe that in these texts, we can see the human reflection of God’s plan for Israel: The Messiah was to be hidden till the appointed time comes. If we know these texts, if we know this plan. we can better understand how important it was for Jesus to keep his messianic identity hidden and concealed – until the appointed time comes.
 1QH 8.
 1 Enoch 62.7
 4 Ezra 7.28
 4 Ezra 12.32
 4 Ezra 13:52
 2 Baruch 39.5