Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Whose Son is the Messiah?

So, I've decided to start this thing off with a series of posts about passages in the Old Testament that are quoted a lot in the New Testament. This will be one of those.

There are some passages in the Bible we never talk about. Okay, that actually goes for most of the Bible, but some of them seem to be really, like, important. Jesus didn't say a whole ton about his own identity, at least in the synoptic gospels (read: first three gospels). Mostly, when people actually know who/what he is, he tells them to stuff it. In fact, I'm not sure Jesus ever gives a completely strait answer about who he really is. Sure, he gives a lot of nods and winks, but nothing too solid in the synoptics (whereas in John, he has quite a lot to say on the subject). The whole messianic thing is kind of a secret up until just before they kill him -- not a coincidence, of course.

So, one of the places where Jesus addresses the question "Who is the Messiah?" is Mark 12:35-37 (and parallels, Matt. 22:41-45, Luke 20:41-44). At this point, his close disciples (and the readers) already know that Jesus has privately affirmed that he is the Messiah, though the other listeners, while they have their suspicions don't know for certain yet.

So Jesus is like:
How say the scribes that Christ is the Son of David? For David himself said by the Holy Ghost,
The Lord [Yhwh] said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. (Ps. 110:1)
David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son?
So how about that? Some scholars think this means Jesus didn't think the Messiah would be descended from David. Not sure that would really make any sense, since it's pretty hard to read the Old Testament any other way. Still, Jesus is definitely undermining the importance of the messianic linage with this statement. Jesus has something much bigger in mind than simply being the heir of David, and we're going to try and figure out what that was. His quotation of Psalm 110 is the key here.

Interesting thing, Psalm 110 wasn't quoted much in Jewish writings much before or after Jesus, with the one exception being the very Jewish New Testament we've inherited. This is one of the most-quoted OT passages in the whole NT. A partial listing would include Matthew 26:64, Acts 2:34-35, I Corinthians 15:25, Ephesians 1:20,22 Colossians 3:1, Hebrews 1:3,13 2:8 5:17 7:17,21 8:1 10:12,13 12:2, 1 Peter 3:22. You'd think it was important or something. Weird we never hear any sermons on it [insert rant about sermons here]. (disclaimer: not picking on my pastor here. I've never heard a sermon about it anywhere in 29 years of church attendance across three continents).

Next post, we dive into Psalm 110.

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Edit: Next post is up!


  1. Interesting. I see this quote ("David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son?") as simply using logic to show himself (Jesus) as eternal, always there, "I AM". In my ignorance of the subject matter(s) at hand, I would not have seen it as a comment on his physical lineage.

  2. In a way, you're right. Jesus is, I believe, ultimately using this as a way to show his oneness with God (as I'll discuss in the next post), which supersedes any other claim to kingship that he might have. Of course, if we are right that Jesus is God's son, his claim to the Davidic throne is weak anyway. Sure, he may have it on his mother's side, but kingship isn't passed down maternaly. When Jesus uses this psalm, it subverts a lot of things, and we're going to see that.