Monday, May 30, 2016

Review of Collins, The Scepter and the Star (2nd ed.)

EXPLORING OUR MATRIX: The Scepter and the Star (James McGrath).
I am grateful to Eerdmans for having sent me a free review copy of the second edition of John J. Collins’ book The Scepter and the Star: Messianism in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Anyone familiar with the first edition will already know that the book at the very least retains its value even without any updates. But Collins has gone through and updated references and interaction with secondary literature, as well as adding some new material, in particular an excursus on Israel Knohl’s The Messiah Before Jesus.

As I gear up for the Enoch Seminar on the Gospel of John and/as Jewish messianism in June, reading the second edition of Collins’ book seemed an appropriate way to remind myself of key relevant material. But I found that the book did much more than merely remind. Instead, its treatment seemed fresh and new, as well as thoroughly up to date. The key ancient sources are all given ample discussion, with consideration of a full range of scholarly views and disagreements. Not only the standard Dead Sea Scrolls that are always mentioned, but relatively neglected ones like the “self-exaltation hymn,” are discussed, as are 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra, the Psalms of Solomon, Josephus, and many other texts.