This already brings us to the other designation which Jesus gave of himself: the Messiah. Before I attempt briefly to explain it, I ought to mention that some scholars of note — and among them, Wellhausen—have expressed a doubt whether Jesus described himself as the Messiah. In that doubt I cannot concur; nay, I think that it is only by wrenching what the evangelists tell us off its hinges that the opinion can be maintained. The very expression “Son of Man “—that Jesus used it is beyond question—seems to me to be intelligible only in a Messianic sense. To say nothing of anything else, such a story as that of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem would have to be simply expunged, if the theory is to be maintained that he did not consider himself the promised Messiah and also desire to be accepted as such. Moreover, the forms in which Jesus expressed what he felt about his own consciousness and his vocation become quite incomprehensible unless they are taken as the outcome of the Messianic idea. Finally, the positive arguments which are advanced in support of the theory are either so very weak, or else so highly questionable, that we may remain quite sure that Jesus called himself the Messiah.
The idea of a Messiah and the Messianic notions generally, as they existed in Jesus’ day, had been developed on two combined lines, on the line of the kings and on that of the prophets. Alien influences had also been at work, and the whole idea was transfigured by the ancient expectation that God Himself in visible form would take up the government of His people. The leading features of the Messianic idea were taken from the Israelitish kingdom in the ideal splendour in which it was invested after the kingdom itself had disappeared. Memories of Moses and of the great prophets also played a part in it. In the following lecture we shall briefly show what shapes the Messianic hopes had assumed up to Jesus’ time, and in what way he took them up and transformed them.