The Old Testament had an expectation of a Messianic figure, albeit a rudimentary one. Looking at the very early chapters of Genesis we quickly come to the entrance of sin and death into the world (Genesis 3). But with this tragic turn of events we come across a wonderful promise from God.
“And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
This is God speaking to the devil after he successfully tempted Adam and Eve to sin. Notice the singular pronoun “He”, as the one descendant from Eve who would death a fatal blow to Satan. This has traditionally been called the proto-Gospel because it is the first promise of what is later fully developed as the Gospel of Jesus Christ’s resurrection and promise of salvation. The Old Testament is not a collection of random stories collected together to inspire future God-fearing people to live good lives. Rather, it is a historical account of God building upon the promise in Genesis 3:15 and bringing it to fruition in Jesus as the Messiah and His Kingdom.
Some would argue the Jews did not have a concept of a Messiah until after the exile and thus Christianity is simply the outworking of a misguided Jewish theology promoted because the post-exilic Jews needed hope. I believe this view to be false for three reasons.
- First, it is impossible to believe such a hope could have been invented without leaving a mark of its origin. It just so happens we have examples in the Old Testament of this view predating the post-exilic Jews. Many examples could be given but I will stick with a major one for now. The book of Daniel shows the Messianic idea was fully developed in a very mature and real sense long before the days of Jesus. Daniel 2 speaks of a spiritual kingdom inaugurated by God that would destroy the previous world powers. Also, we could speak of the visions and interpretations of the visions we find in Daniel 9-10 that speak of the Messiah and the time of his coming.
- Second, if the Messianic hope had sprung up during or immediately after the exile, we would not expect it to put so much emphasis on the House of David. While the concept of the House of David as a royal lineage is a huge focus at the genesis of the Kingdom of Israel, it has almost disappeared from the scene by the time we get to the post-exilic times of Nehemiah and Ezra. This should be expected since the royal line of David was deposed by the Babylonians when Jerusalem was destroyed and vassal leaders were set in their place until the days of the Romans.
- Third, if this hope had originated in the post-exilic period, it would have connected itself with any distinctly monarchic aspirations. This last point I learned from the great theologian Edersheim. In his book Prophecy and History in Relation to the Messiah he states there is not a trace of a desire to restore the old Davidic monarchy or even establish a new one in the post-exilic literature of the Jews. He goes on to show the true outcome of the post-exilic period is Rabbinism, which coincidentally is anti-monarchial. We see this clearly in the days of Jesus. One of the biggest problems the Jewish leaders had with Jesus is that he claimed to bring a spiritual kingdom where their concept of leadership, authority, and power were not welcome.
Where did Christianity originate? In the mind of God, revealed directly after the Fall, developed throughout the Old Testament, and brought to fruition in Jesus and His Kingdom.