From Jerusalem To Rome: The Hidden Messiah
By Julia Blum August 26, 2021No comments
By now, we know what Peter revealed: the great mystery of the Gospel, the secret things that Father has hidden …from the wise and prudent and revealed to babes, is the messiahship of Jesus. In Luke’s Gospel, this secret is hidden and concealed from Israel; in Acts, Peter is sharing this secret with all the house of Israel. This contrast between the Gospel and Acts is a dramatic one. No words can better describe this abrupt change in the atmosphere from the Gospel to Acts than this verse from Luke himself: What you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops. As against the hidden, concealed, only in the ear revealed secret of the messianic dignity of Jesus in the Gospel, there is an open proclamation of his messiahship in Acts. Not only in this first speech but in his first three public speeches – in chapters 2, 3, 4 of Acts – Peter proclaims loudly, almost literally on the housetops, that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus who was crucified both Lord and Christ (Messiah – JB)” “let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel…”  All of a sudden, the secret, esoteric knowledge of the Gospel becomes a widely broadcasted message in Acts. Why? For what reason do we see Jesus consistently hiding his messiahship in the Gospel, and even commanding his disciples to keep silent? And on what account does his messiahship yield to the public proclamation in Acts? Why this drastic difference between “before” and “after”?
“Hidden Savior” in Second Temple Judaism.
Jesus was Jewish and undoubtedly was influenced by contemporary Jewish ideas—by his Jewish upbringing and by the completely Jewish context of his life. Can we find an explanation of this New Testament quandary in contemporary Jewish thought of the day? Indeed, we can!
The literature and historical evidence prove that almost every trend of Second Temple Judaism held some beliefs concerning the Hidden Messiah. Of course, different patterns can be discerned regarding this messianic incognito. There are some texts—mainly apocalyptic ones, but also Targums (Targums are free Aramaic renderings of the Old Testament for use in synagogues)—referring to a “hidden” Savior proper; to the one who had been concealed from the beginning and will be revealed only when the appointed time comes. The texts of the second group are built around the “unrecognized” motif: Messiah, when he comes, would be hard to identify; he would be “hidden, without esteem, unknown, his secret sealed up”.This motif is present to a certain extent in some Qumran texts and becomes especially clear in later rabbinic literature. In any case, if Messiah is not supposed to be recognized, that means that he would need to remain silent concerning his messianic status, and would go unrecognized until God makes him manifest. The thought that Messiah needed to remain hidden and silent and could not reveal who he was, became the prevailing idea in Jewish religious thought at the turn of the era.
To sum it up, we can say that referring to Messiah as hidden and revealed may be taken as representative of Second Temple Judaism. We can now ask our next question: how and why was this “hidden savior” paradigm developed in Jewish thought? Since all the Jewish texts were shaped and influenced by Scripture, we probably need to turn to the Tanach (Old Testament) to try and find the “Hidden Messiah” there.
For most Christians today, it is the 53rd chapter of Isaiah that presents a prophetic Messianic program that Jesus actually did fulfill to the letter. However, there is nothing about a hidden Messiah in this chapter you might say – and I would agree. There is nothing about a hidden Messiah there now, after all the translations that the text went through; but it is in this Chapter that we will discover a “hidden prophecy” that was completely lost in translation and which explains why Jesus, if he was to fulfil this program, needed to be silent about His messianic status.
What do I mean? A literal translation of the Hebrew text of Isaiah 53:3 would go like this: He was despised and rejected by men, a man of pains and knowing disease. And like (as though) one hiding his face, he was despised and we did not consider him. However, instead of “like one hiding his face” (an action referring to the Suffering Servant himself), in translations, we read: And we hid our faces from Him. Thus, the Suffering Servant is transformed from the object to the subject of this action: it is no longer his action, but something that the people around him did. I won’t go into detail showing how this happened – you would need to know some Hebrew for me to explain it properly (once again, those interested can read my book). The result, of course, is very different: The original meaning of this verse: as though hiding his face from us… implies that the Suffering Servant hid his status, but this part of the Messianic program became completely lost in translation, and the prophecy itself became the “hidden prophecy”.
If we know that, according to Isaiah 53:3, the hiding of the face had to become an important step in the Messianic program, we would understand that probably, the “Hidden Messiah” motif in Second Temple Jewish literature had been developed under the strong influence of this verse. Furthermore, if a man considered himself to be the messiah, he had to be silent about his messiahship until the appointed time. Jesus had to fulfill every single step of this messianic program, and therefore, the hiding of the face in Isaiah 53:3b contained the main reason for him to hide his messiahship: He was supposed to hide the face; His messianic status had to be concealed during his life and ministry. Thus, we arrive at a new and deeper (and quite unexpected, I would say) understanding of the Messianic Secret: the silence of Jesus concerning his messianic status was precisely what was expected of the Messiah when came. The secret of his messiahship would be revealed on the Day of Revelation—on that glorious Shavuot day in Jerusalem that we witness in Acts 2 right now!
Thus, the two volumes of Luke, if read in the light of this “hidden prophecy” and in the light of the “hidden savior” paradigm, show clearly that Luke describes Jesus’ life and ministry in terms of a Messiah “hidden and revealed”—hidden until the appointed time for it to be revealed. This is the powerful and drastic transition that is marked by Peter’s speech: from Messiah visible, but hidden and not recognized – to Messiah revealed, recognized, but invisible. We really need to be aware of this dynamic if we want to understand the book of Acts.
 Luke 12.3
 1QH xi 11