Is The Messiah Announced In Malachi 3:1? -- By: Andrew S. Malone

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 57:2 (NA 2006)
Article: Is The Messiah Announced In Malachi 3:1?
Author: Andrew S. Malone

Is The Messiah Announced In Malachi 3:1?

Andrew S. Malone


Malachi 3:1 is often touted as a key messianic text: YHWH supposedly announces the sending of the Messiah and a preceding messenger, a pattern confidently identified by Jesus himself. Such an interpretation continues to be published by evangelicals in both popular and scholarly works. Closer inspection, however, suggests that this conclusion is not supported by exegesis nor by all conservative interpreters. This can result in uncertainty for evangelical readers and even in the bringing of disrepute upon evangelical conclusions and methodology. This study of a familiar problem surveys the interpretative options of the identities involved, evaluates what can be said with confidence, and demonstrates a defensible christological way forward.

1. Introduction

Christians have long sought to demonstrate the christological value of the Old Testament. Malachi 3:1 is one passage regularly quarried for its New Testament significance. It is cited in the New Testament, even by Jesus, and it refers to otherwise undefined angels/messengers of YHWH. Because of the New Testament’s application of the verse to the coming of the Messiah, it is reasonable to seek here a reference to the Messiah. Because of the lack of definition of the various characters in the verse, there is little to impede a messianic identification. Malachi 3:1 is thus among the first of any Old Testament texts surveyed in popular Christian messianic studies, ancient and modern.1 Even more

sober analyses of the verse in its Old Testament context endorse the traditional interpretation that here we see the prediction of the coming of John the Baptist and Jesus, and that ‘the messenger/prophet announces the coming of the messiah.’2

Why another survey of this topic, when the interpretative issues surrounding the verse itself, its immediate pericope (2:17-3:5), and ever-wider spheres of context are well documented in the commentaries? Four answers may be given. First, despite the trend towards more and longer commentaries, few really offer the space to document thoroughly the interpretative options.3 Second, dogmatic pressures often lead scholars and readers to take shortcuts, either consciously or unconsciously. Third, when it comes to a passage so clearly adopted and interpreted in the New Testament, i...

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