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
Join the conversation (82 comments)
Thank you for the insight. This is a very interesting and thought provoking view. I look forward to studying it further.
Would you advise then that those to whom Jesus has been revealed thus far do what they can, (as they do to other nonbelievers), to preach and share the great news of the revelation of Christ to nonbelieving Israelites/Jews so that they repent ?
Hi Daniel, I don’t think it’s my place to advise in these matters. It always depends on His leading and his guidance – and the bottom line is always His revelation. The Messiah can only be known through revelation by God -like He was revealed to Peter: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven”. So, your prayer and following His guidance – this is my advice. However, the more you know the better you understand how to pray; in this sense, i really hope that you find helpful the articles on this blog.
Thank you Julia. Apart from the overall subject of your teaching (which I am valuing very much) you are helping me to see the importance of other texts.
“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.”
My church history has been to steer me away from exploring these writings as ‘unreliable’ and ‘adding to scripture’ but people write books today that add color and understanding. How foolish to create fear and block avenues of learning. Thank you again.
Thank you, Gabrielle. I am glad if my posts help you (and others) understand that between Tanach and New Testament, there was a huge corpus of so called inter-testamental literature – and these texts can’t be ignored. Israel’s understanding of God’s plan with her could be traced through these texts – and that is why they are vitally important for both scholars and regular believers seeking to understand God’s plan with Israel.
Thank you very much for this information.
This helps me understand specially the motif of hidden identity throughout the G of Mark, as well many passages in the G of JOHN, as you have pointed out.
If this was the expectation of the Jewish people at the time of Christ, this consolidates many of the misconceptions that the disciples had about Jesus’ role as the suffering Messiah/Servant.
Thank you, John! You are absolutely right: the ideas that the disciples had about Jesus, the questions they asked, show and prove more than anything else how different their Messianic expectations were. We have to be aware of that, because there are so many misconceptions regarding Israel and Jesus. I am glad you find these posts helpful.
Very interesting to know . And I want to know more .
Thanks very much .
“there is no way, however, that anyone could find and see the Messiah by his own efforts”
Wouldn’t this include prayer? I bring this up because my “prayer” in Judaism was very different than my later
re-evangelized prayer of salvation (sinner’s prayer). I believe that repentance gave “the Spirit” ( Romans 8:18-30) access to me before I heard the gospel and the Spirit interceded. In Christianity I had access to God and He heard me. This changes how I see hidden
Hi Kat, I also like very much this sentence that you quote. Like Jesus said to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” Of course, it starts with our prayer – but it’s always His Spirit that reveals.
Great article-helps to better understand the Jesus story. Obviously, we still await Messiah and Kingdom !
Thank you for your insights on this topic. I am still a little confused on the “hidden -revealed” aspect of the Messiah as far as who that relates to. Does this mystery relate to the nation of Israel as a whole or to individuals . Jesus obviously did reveal himself as the Messiah to individuals and still does, but as the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 11: 7 What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; 8 just as it is written, “GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT, DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY.” , the nation of Israel as a whole has been denied the clarity of vision regarding the revealed Messiah.
So when you speak to the issue of of timing, are you relating the concept to Israel as a whole?
Hi Mark, thank you for writing and thank you for your questions. There are several aspects of this mystery. First, there is the Messianic secret (see my previous post): the fact that in the Gospels, Jesus was maintaining secrecy about his own person and work – it means that as Messiah, He was “hidden” from those around him throughout the length of his public ministry . Of course, there were also those like Peter – but we know that ” this was not revealed… by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven”. One of the purposes of this study is to show that, unless the Father in Heaven reveals it, Jesus remains “hidden” from His contemporaries during His life – and that it was God’s plan and choice. Then, if we speak about Israel as the nation – we all know that Jesus is still “hidden” from Israel, and in this sense, the appointed time hasn’t come yet. Once again, though, it’s God’s time and God’s choice – and it’s very important to understand that.
As Paul says in Romans 11:26, quoting Ps.14, “There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer and shall turn away the ungodliness from Jacob,” and Zech. 12:10 “… I shall pour upon the house of David… the spirit of grace and supplication and they shall look upon ME whom they have pierced and shall mourn for HIM …” As Sara said, there is also a ‘hidden and to be revealed Israel’. I believe that when Messiah is revealed to Israel, the whole world will witness this and be deeply affected, and finally Israel will take her rightful place of honour in the world.
Right now we are also seeing many thousands of Muslims throughout the world (esp. Middle East) having dreams and visions of Christ and being converted. We live in interesting times indeed. This study is very timely.
Thank you, Dorothy, your insights are always so profound. It’s always a blessing to hear from you.
Hi, Sara and Julia!
I’m fascinated by the notion of a hidden and revealed Israel.
I am a Jew and a Christian. There are some Christians who believe (unfortunately, in my view) in a “replacement theology” — building that idea, perhaps, around Paul’s comment in Romans 9:6 (taken out of context) that “not all Israel are of Israel,” and some other sad notions based on prejudicial and anti-Semitic views that have been (essentially) handed down to them by their peers and predecessors. (Here’s a sad comment: Most anti-Semites don’t even realize that most of them are Semites!) I’ve come to conclude in my heart that most of those within the world at large, or even within “Christendom” who disparage Jews and Israel can basically be counted on to disparage other things! It may very well be a favorite pastime! (Enough of that. Enough of me.) I really wanted to say, having a recently new and passionate interest with things Judaica — in composite with Christ and Christianity — and having a strong fascination with things mystical, I am eager to partake of and participate in discussions and explorations of things eternal. Hidden Israel. (Perhaps hidden meanings and multiple applications, hmm?)
And Mark, thank for your reminder about the veil presently over “Israel’s” eyes. Romans 11 touches on that … Romans 9 through 11 make up an indivisible packet, I think. Romans 11:26 is particularly and poignantly fascinating: “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” Who does he mean by “all Israel?” I choose not to speculate, but to wait and anticipate. I believe the Church and Israel are two distinct bodies ( with some overlap, of course, which I myself believe I am an example of — a “completed Jew,” as some of my friend like to chide me with) … two bodies, each with their own destiny and dispensation, both chosen of God, and both important players in the Millennial Kingdom (I believe in that, too), and both interactive with one another there and beyond. (Ahh … Beyond!)
ἀγάπη and שָׁלוֹם to all!
Shalom Larry, I am very grateful for your participation and your comment! Your comments are always very insightful, and I am glad to have a “completed Jew” on these pages. We will get also to Paul, I promise, and of course, we will discuss Romans 9 through 11, – but our first portion of NT, as I mentioned already, will be Luke-Acts. I hope, this study will be a blessing for you too, as it was for me, because I received many answers to me questions through this study. Let’s keep thinking about it together.
Just as you speak of a hidden Messiah that is to be revealed, I believe there is a hidden and to be revealed Israel. Do you have any article on that?
Hi Sara, I think it is a very powerful observation (revelation). I don’t have a special article on this topic, but I wrote many times about the different parallels between Israel and Yeshua. Something very close to what you wrote, I had written in one of my books, If you are Son of God come down from the Cross. The entire book is about God’s plan with Israel and the parallels between Israel and Messiah.
Thank you Julia for this very interesting background context on 1st C Judaism, and the writings that reveal an expectation of a hidden and revealed Messiah. Even if many Jews of Jesus’ day had some knowledge of this, it would not have helped them to identify Yeshua as the One for whom they waited, for they couldn’t know just how this hidden and revealed idea would play out.
This reminds me of Jn. 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him. As the Apocalyptic writings say, the Messiah will be revealed by God Himself, and it was not up to Jesus to reveal himself as such, except as directed by the Father.
Thank you Julia this is such a topic that speaks to my wanting to learn. This is interesting explanation on talks which I have heard before on my spiritual journey throughout my life of being taught texts from the Old Testament and New Testament. I have taught young people and seniors, as a member of the Methodist Religion and as an adult. I read every book on the shelf as a member of Unity School of Practical Christianity Teachings. Le Summit, Missouri. USA. I am constantly living with the awareness in the spirit of “The renewal of my mind.” If I find myself in any situation where there is contention or discord, I center myself before entering any participation.” I like the caption on this subject. “The circle and the image in the clouds.” The Hidden Saviour in the Heavens.
Geneva M. E. Neale (Audain) (http://www.thepassionandthepoetry.com Author
Thank you, Geneva! I am so glad you find these articles helpful, and I am grateful for your comments and contribution.