I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of “You Say That I Am : Jesus and the Messianic Problem” from the author, Matthew O’Neil. For those not familiar with Mr. O’Neil, he is an educator with a with an MA in Theology as well as graduate certification in mediation and education. In addition to this book, he is releasing another book soon named Come Lord Jesus : What The Bible Really Says (and Doesn’t Say) About Sex, which should be an interesting and intriguing read! He was also covered. an episode of our podcast in one of our atheist/skeptical author segments. I also must mention he’s a pretty damn good musician, as well as an all-around cool guy.
The subject of You Say That I Am is the question of whether Jesus of Nazareth was truly the Messiah as foretold by the Old Testament of the Holy Bible. Spoiler alert : Mr. O’Neil’s answer is a resounding no! I must disagree on one point, which is really irrelevant to the subject of the book itself, but which I feels bears mentioning. Mr. O’Neill believes Jesus of Nazareth was an actual historical figure, while I myself am a mythicist, which essentially means I believe that Jesus was invented from whole cloth, or perhaps he is an amalgamation of different prophets who were quite common at the time. Mr. O’Neill in fact addresses the issue of Jesus’ existence in his first chapter, in which he explains why he believes that a historical Jesus DID exist, and gives cogent and well-reasoned arguments why he believe this to be the case. As I said, however, this doesn’t really pertain to the main thrust of the book, for Mr. O’Neill and I do agree that Jesus was most definitely not the Messiah as prophesied by Jewish tradition.
Mr O’Neill’s arguments in favor of his contention that Jesus was not the Messiah are backed up by plentiful evidence from the scriptures themselves. Indeed, this is where his knowledge and background in Theology really come through to great effect. He uses specific verses to clarify his points, and he also uses background on the ancient Hebrew culture to explain the context of these verses.
Lest you think that this book is overly dense and difficult to read, Mr. O’Neill’s writing is clear and concise, even when tackling the most esoteric topics. He does an excellent job in explaining the topics he covers in such as a way as to enable the reader to understand his conclusions, even though the reader may not be familiar with the subject matter. Mr. O’Neill make sure that the reader is there with him every step of the way, and that is important when trying to reach a wider audience.
In his prologue Mr. O’Neil states that the idea for this book came from a question a student of his asked him : “Why don’t Jews accept Jesus as the Messiah?” He spends this book trying to answer this question, from Jesus’ very existence; to the definition of the word “Messiah”; to other titles used in the Hebrew bible which are equivalent to Messiah; on to the attributes of the Messiah as stated in Hebrew lore; and then including the problem of miracles (did Jesus perform any?), the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the acts of the apostles. When finally he comes through all this research and exposition, he finally has an answer to give to his student :
It should not be a question of why the Jews do not accept Jesus as the Messiah, but instead, given the evidence that has been presented, one of why anyone would ever consider Jesus the Messiah.
Why would anyone indeed?