Much of Smith’s argument focused on addressing literal versus notional preexistence. Using Old and New Testaments as well as a wide range of ancient Jewish literature, Smith demonstrably produced convincing evidence for notional preexistence.
In his response, Irons objects to “Smith’s methodology,” stating that he could not
“follow Smith in elevating this early Jewish literature to such heights that it is capable of defining the qualifications for the Messiah” p. 149.
I believe this to be an inaccurate assessment of Smith’s presentation, there was no indication that Smith derived his Christology or claimed to do so from anywhere but the Scriptures. His citation of Jewish literature was patently for the purpose of illuminating perspectives of the Second Temple era, examining the various methods, metaphors and allegorical ways of speaking concerning the religious dynamics of utmost value in the worship and service to their covenant God, Yahweh.
Smith points out that the subjects of (but not limited to) the patriarchs, the Torah and (name of) Messiah etc. were among the most important elements in their worldview.
“Things which are fixed within God’s plans are regularly spoken of as having already taken place, despite the fact that they clearly have not done so in the literal sense (see Gen 15:18; 28:4; 35:12; 2 Kgs 19:25; Matt 6:1; Rom 8:30; 1 Cor 2:7; 2 Cor 5:1)” p. 102-105.
Despite the hyperbolic presence of “heavenly messenger” (e.g. 1 Enoch, p. 149) language, the notion that these texts must necessarily spell out messianic expectation to have been a human being is absurd. The foundation and bedrock of messianic hope was first detailed in Deut 18, where God had promised he would raise-up a prophet like Moses from among the community of Israel, not that he would send an existing angelic messenger or incarnate himself. This individual was not expected to be anything other than human; it didn’t need to be re-defined. In these other texts however, embellishment not redefinition, is often exhibited. Smith never suggested biblical definition should be abandoned for or surveyed as equal to extra-biblical texts.
In the final reply to his challengers, Smith expressed his astonishment concerning the disregard of various Jewish texts:
“I am disappointed that my employment of Jewish texts in an attempt to recreate plausible historical contexts was so effortlessly dismissed. Any text, biblical or extra-biblical, needs to be placed into its proper context…I find it rather amazing that Irons waves the sola scriptura flag in defense of his position, seeing how the consensus of Church historians is that the Trinity was a slowly developing doctrine of the course of the first five centuries. Scholars who have attempted to acutely define the specifics regarding how ‘a preexisting being can become human’ are regularly puzzled, forcing them to retort to unpersuasive lingo concerning a ‘mystery [which] can only be described in terms of a paradox’” p. 176.