Cover image for The first messiah : investigating the savior before Jesus
The first messiah : investigating the savior before Jesus
Wise, Michael Owen, 1954-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
San Francisco : HarperSanFrancisco, [1999]

Physical Description:
x, 342 pages ; 25 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BM488.T5 W57 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In The First Messiah renowned Dead Sea Scrolls scholar Michael O. Wise brings to light the life of Judah, a forgotten prophet who predated Jesus as a messianic figure by a century and has had a profound impact on the course of Christianity and Western civilization.

Although Judah, known in the Dead Sea Scrolls as the Teacher of Righteousness, preached a message distinctly different from that of Jesus, the parallels between their lives are striking. Sharing with his successor a strong foundation in earlier written revelation, Judah came to believe--through meditation on Holly Writ--that he brought a divine message from God; like Christ, Judah's claims to messianic status led to his arrest and condemnation. Judah's warnings of Jewish apostasy and his apocalyptic prophecies, combined with powerful personal charisma, also built a movement that survived his death and even grew into an institution comprising bishops, priests, and laity.

Unlike Jesus, Judah left behind a personal testament, in his own words, of his relationship with God. By analyzing the Thanksgiving Hymns discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls, Wise uncovers the basis of a groundbreaking understanding of the prophetic mind. In so doing, Wise deepens our understanding of Christ, his impact on the Jewish community of his time, and even his interpretation of his own messianic role.

The parallels between Judah and Jesus blaze forth in sharp relief:

Both declared themselves prophets. Both were hailed by followers as He Who Is to Come and worked attendant wonders. Both founded vital and long-lasting movements before leaving this world.

In all these things, Judah was first, anticipating the far more famous prophet from Galilee. How can these similarities be explained?

A century before Christ, a man came to Jerusalem who became known as the Teacher of Righteousness. In The First Messiah, distinguished Dead Sea Scrolls scholar Michael O. Wise provides a detailed examination of Judah, a figure whose life and prophecies helped lay the foundation for the acceptance of Jesus as the savior. Drawing on ancient texts as well as contemporary anthropological thought, Wise reveals compelling parallels between early prophets such as Judah and Jesus, and messianic figures who have emerged through the ages to the current day in cultures around the world.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This clever and engaging book takes a look at the factors and forces that make people receptive to a messiah figure. Wise (ancient languages, Northwestern Coll.), coeditor of The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation (LJ 12/96), focuses his study on a figure in the Dead Sea Scrolls that he calls Judah, a man predating Jesus. What could be a turgid and heavy study comes to life in Wise's hands. He cites modern psychology and philosophy to provide context and draws parallels between ancient times and the present. Most interesting is his discussion of elements common to what many would deem fringe groups and figures throughout history, including Waco cult leader David Koresh. The literature on the Dead Sea Scrolls is growing rapidly, and libraries with a high circulation in this area will certainly want this title. Those looking for a good overview of the Dead Sea Scroll controversies should consider Hershel Shanks's The Mystery and Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls (LJ 5/15/98).ÄPaul M. Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.