Was the Jewish messiah believed to be divine? The answer, based on this wide-ranging study of the Old Testament, Second Temple literature, and the New Testament, is "yes and no." But the reader should be advised that answers to questions like this can vary widely with differing definitions of "messiah" and "divine." The volume can be read as a sustained apology for an angelic Messiah and an angel Christology. For those who do not take the time to read the entire work, there is an excellent summary of the main points in the final pages (204-213). The book concludes by challenging some ideas of two leading proponents of early high Christology, Larry Hurtado and Richard Bauckham (211ff.).
Co-author John Collins summarizes his own work on the Old Testament (OT) and Second Temple literature in such a way as to provide background on the ideas of the king, messiah, and son of man for New Testament Christology. His definition of "messiah" (42, 71) is stricter than that of William Horbury (Horbury, Messianism Among Jews and Christians: Twelve Biblical and Historical Studies, London: T&T Clark, 2003), who includes Daniel 7:13 and Isaiah 52:13, but it is broader than that of Joseph Fitzmyer, who limits it to an eschatological ruler who is explicitly called the "messiah" (Fitzmyer, The One Who Is to Come, Eerdmans, 2007). John Collins tries to press OT texts like Isaiah 11:1-5; Jer. 33:14-16; and Zechariah 9:9-10 in the direction of messianic readings (43ff., 61f.). The widely-recognized expansion of messianic ideas in the first century BCE (esp. in the Dead Sea Scrolls ) is for him, therefore, a "resurgence of messianic expectation" (46) rather than an origin. The difference is largely a matter of definition.
As the title indicates, the book has two distinct topics: ideals of kingship and ideas about the messiah. Trying to cover both of these topics at the same time is necessary for New Testament purposes, but it causes some difficulties because the Old Testament has little if anything explicit to say about an eschatological messiah. Accordingly, John Collins focuses on ideals of divine kingship in the Old Testament, and his first two chapters are more useful for learning about the background for a quasi-divine "son of god" than they are for learning about background for messianic beliefs.
The kings of Israel were already called "sons of God" (2 Sam. 7:14; Pss. 2:7; 89:26-7). Royal enthronement could be portrayed as a divine "begetting" (Pss. 2:7; 110:3 Septuagint) that elevated the king of Israel to a status well above other humans (14-17). According to John Collins, this divine begetting was more than mere adoption (pp. 20ff., 204). The king was empowered to act as God's surrogate on earth, and the title "god" (elohîm, also used for angels) was applicable (Ps. 45:6; Isa. 9:6), a usage that had its roots in Canaanite and Jebusite culture (13, 16, 41f.). Still, none of the kings of Israel were divine in the (proper) sense of parity with the God of Israel (22, 204). This clear subordination may be the reason these divine titles were not completely obscured by the Deuteronomic reform (24, 41f.).
A chapter on "messiah and the Son of Man" focuses on major new developments in the late Second Temple period. In the Similitudes of Enoch and 4 Ezra, the messiah was equated with Daniel's angelic "son of man" (78, 90, 94) and regarded as pre-existent (97, 99, 207). John Collins's coverage of this material is excellent, but the focus on superhuman traits of the king-messiah can give a mistaken impression. Texts like Psalms of Solomon 17-18 that are important for more mundane messianic beliefs are only mentioned in passing (46, 63, 206). John Collins's conclusion, that "it is not surprising or anomalous that divine status should be attributed to someone who was believed to be the messiah" (100), provides a transition to the four chapters covering the New Testament, where co-author Adela Yarbro Collins reaches the same conclusion. This conclusion is rather one-sided: it is based on a few texts that suggest the pre-existence of the messiah (172) and it skirts over the difficulties that the more mundane concept of messiah raised for early Christians (see Paula Frederickson, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, New York: Knopf, 2000). It also risks misleading readers who miss the strictures the book places on the meaning of "divine status." It is a middling Christology at best.
Co-author Adela Yarbro Collins packs a wealth of exegetical insights into her chapters on the New Testament. Her review of the literature on the "son of man" idiom (156-73) is by itself worth the price of the book. Like John Collins, she has a tendency to read messianic meaning into New Testament texts where other meanings are equally possible (she also finds Jesus as pre-existent Wisdom in 1 Cor. 8:6; 2 Cor. 4:4; 111ff., 147, 208) For example, she repeatedly argues for equivalence of the titles "son of God" and messiah (104, 106). Clearly there is a connection between the two titles largely due to a messianic reading of Psalm 2 (102). But Paul's use of "son" also has important connections to the "binding of Isaac" in Genesis 22 and the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53. Yarbro Collins misses this in her treatment of Galatians 2:20 (106 ) and she does not even discuss Romans 8:32 (although she does cite the binding of Isaac in her treatment of John 3:16; 181, 202). In both of these texts, Paul describes Jesus as "son of God" in terms very different from any previous treatment of the messiah.
Yarbro Collins also sees Paul's references to the "Lord" who is coming (1 Cor. 1:7, 8; 1 Thess. 3:13) as the coming messiah or "son of man," interpreting them in terms of the Synoptic Gospel Sayings Source (Q), even though Paul is earlier (108f., 208). She studiously avoids Paul's descriptions of Jesus as Yahweh using OT texts like Zech. 14:5 that describe Jesus as Yahweh (cited in most footnotes of English translations of the Bible; see Donald Capes, Old Testament Yahweh Texts in Paul's Christology, Tübingen: Mohr, 1992). Other divine epithets like "Lord of glory" (1 Cor. 2:8) and "the name above every name" (Phil. 2:9) are said to have been "transferred to Jesus" as a result of the Resurrection. (110f., 118). The possibility that Paul saw the Great Glory in human form (as in 1 Enoch 14:20) and realized that it was Jesus is never considered (cf. Alan Segal, Paul the Convert, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990). The problem here is not so much the particular explanations that Yarbro Collins offers, many of which are well argued, but her systematic attempt to exclude other possibilities (although she occasionally expresses some uncertainty) and make all texts affirm an angel (or first creature) Christology. Yarbro Collins does not appear to allow for the possibility that early Christians arrived at a diversity of formulations, human, angelic, and truly divine.
Yarbro Collins does give a thoughtful account of the origin of "deity" Christology, which goes like this: when the disciples had visions of Jesus exalted to heaven, they identified him with the Son of man whom he had proclaimed as coming in glory (taking Mark 13:26 as authentic). Since contemporary Jewish sources discussed by John Collins regarded the Son of man as a pre-existent angelic being who exercised divine kingship as God's agent, the risen Jesus was also recognized as an angelic being. Since human rulers were worshipped as gods in Hellenistic ruler cults, Jesus was even worshipped as a god (172ff.). In her final chapter, Yarbro Collins suggests that her ideas are hypotheses (172, 201). If so, it would help to make that clear from the start. Hypotheses can be affirmed and tested, but the researcher ought to begin with all current hypotheses on the table. What is clearly needed is a study in which various hypotheses concerning the origin of deity Christology are articulated and tested at critical points. One of the values of this volume is that it may provoke a more comprehensive research program.
In short, I recommend this volume to scholars who already have a good grasp of the diverse possibilities for the meaning and origin of deity Christology, but a newcomer to the field may be misled by the biases of this (as any) particular approach.