Is Jesus the descendant of David in Mark?

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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Is Jesus the descendant of David in Mark?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Jan 23, 2019 6:11 pm

robert j wrote:
Wed Jan 23, 2019 3:54 pm
As for the current differences of opinion on the question among NT scholars--- I suspect at least some apologetics are at work in order to defend the position of many NT scholars that are heavily invested in the concept that Jesus was of the seed of David.
I suspect apologetics are often at work on this issue and on almost all other issues whatsoever. But my question for you would be, how likely is the text of Mark, as it stands, to change a less biased mind? For somebody who already thinks that Jesus is the son of David, or at least that early Christians (including Mark) thought of him as such, would the puzzling question posed in the Psalm episode be enough to change that person's mind? For somebody who already thinks that Jesus is not the son of David, or at least that early Christians (including Mark) thought of him as not being such, would the confidence of Bartimaeus and the crowds, in conjunction with Jesus' failure to reject the title on the spot, be enough to change that person's mind? For somebody who had no idea yet either way, would one or the other of these two observations be enough to sway that person's opinion in one of the two directions?

ETA: Bear in mind that, on your own view, the Messiah being the son of David is treated by Mark as a widespread assumption. If so, then is that puzzling question really enough to dispel that assumption? I can attest for my own part that, growing up in evangelical churches in which the natural assumption was that Jesus descended from David, the question was absolutely not enough. It took me a long time, as well as the realization that there were nonconformists (like Barnabas) in the early church, to view that question as anything other than a clever conundrum posed by a teacher in order to lead people to a better understanding that Jesus is more than his ancestry: he is Lord. And this was years after whatever apologetic instinct I felt in my late teens had been dead and buried; the perception (with respect to Mark's beliefs and meaning) even survived the long period during which I was simply a Jesus mythicist (of the Wells variety, for the most part). Maybe this all says something more about me than about the nature of the question itself, but I cannot speak to what I do not know.
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Re: Is Jesus the descendant of David in Mark?

Post by Secret Alias » Wed Jan 23, 2019 6:51 pm

Since the Marcionites seemed to have read the Bar Timaeus narrative as Jesus denying he was the awaited son of David, one might argue that others rallied to strengthen the association. The idea that anyone claiming to be 'Christos' would be a 'son of David' shouldn't be surprising.
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Re: Is Jesus the descendant of David in Mark?

Post by robert j » Thu Jan 24, 2019 12:08 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Wed Jan 23, 2019 6:11 pm
robert j wrote:
Wed Jan 23, 2019 3:54 pm
As for the current differences of opinion on the question among NT scholars--- I suspect at least some apologetics are at work in order to defend the position of many NT scholars that are heavily invested in the concept that Jesus was of the seed of David.
I suspect apologetics are often at work on this issue and on almost all other issues whatsoever. But my question for you would be, how likely is the text of Mark, as it stands, to change a less biased mind? For somebody who already thinks that Jesus is the son of David, or at least that early Christians (including Mark) thought of him as such, would the puzzling question posed in the Psalm episode be enough to change that person's mind? For somebody who already thinks that Jesus is not the son of David, or at least that early Christians (including Mark) thought of him as not being such, would the confidence of Bartimaeus and the crowds, in conjunction with Jesus' failure to reject the title on the spot, be enough to change that person's mind? For somebody who had no idea yet either way, would one or the other of these two observations be enough to sway that person's opinion in one of the two directions?

ETA: Bear in mind that, on your own view, the Messiah being the son of David is treated by Mark as a widespread assumption. If so, then is that puzzling question really enough to dispel that assumption? I can attest for my own part that, growing up in evangelical churches in which the natural assumption was that Jesus descended from David, the question was absolutely not enough. It took me a long time, as well as the realization that there were nonconformists (like Barnabas) in the early church, to view that question as anything other than a clever conundrum posed by a teacher in order to lead people to a better understanding that Jesus is more than his ancestry: he is Lord. And this was years after whatever apologetic instinct I felt in my late teens had been dead and buried; the perception (with respect to Mark's beliefs and meaning) even survived the long period during which I was simply a Jesus mythicist (of the Wells variety, for the most part). Maybe this all says something more about me than about the nature of the question itself, but I cannot speak to what I do not know.
Ben,

Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I hope to get back to this before too long and offer some ideas.

And if Irish1975 is "listening", I also want to respond to your post in the thread on 1 Thessalonians when I am better able.
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Re: Is Jesus the descendant of David in Mark?

Post by robert j » Fri Jan 25, 2019 8:57 am

Do the texts reveal evidence of an early schism within the wider world of Christian thought --- a difference of opinion over a foundational question ---

--- was Jesus Christ of the seed of David?

And if such a schism did exist, what was the earliest and most original doctrinal position on this question?

About the “son-of-David question” in gMark, Ben wrote ---
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Wed Jan 23, 2019 6:11 pm

For somebody who already thinks that Jesus is the son of David, or at least that early Christians ... thought of him as such, would the puzzling question posed in the Psalm episode be enough to change that person's mind?

... on your own view, the Messiah being the son of David is treated by Mark as a widespread assumption.

... there were nonconformists (like Barnabas) in the early church ...
The widespread expectation of a Davidic-messiah in the Gospel of Mark is confined to the Jews in his story.

But who was the intended audience of Mark’s tale? I don’t think it was Jews, but rather the author’s own people --- Gentile, Hellenist (Greco-Roman), Pauline Christians.

Whatever the intended purpose of Mark’s tale, of overriding importance would be an accurate reflection of the doctrines and beliefs of the author and his close associates. In regards to the “son-of-David question”, the author of gMark said no, not Davidic

In the earliest extant Christian texts, Paul was silent on the question. But in my understanding of Paul, I think Paul would have clearly rejected the concept. Paul’s Jesus was a different kind of redeemer.

It’s interesting that the only 2 mentions of a Davidic/Jesse lineage in Paul are found in the 1st and 15th chapters of Romans --- chapters for which evidence from MSS and early attestations lend significant support for manipulation of the text. And the fact that the only other “support” for a Davidic lineage to be found in a NT letter attributed to Paul is in 2 Timothy --- a fact that only further feeds my skepticism and suspicions about the 2 occurrences in Romans.

So, in terms of the Davidic lineage in the earliest texts, Paul is a no (silent) and Mark is a no.

But I wonder if the concept of Jesus as the seed of David was beginning to gain some traction among some Christians of the time? Was a schism developing over this very foundational issue?

I think the texts leave behind clues to the evolution of such a schism ---

Paul --- not Davidic (silent)

Hebrews --- silent

gMark --- not Davidic

Epistle of Barnabus 12:10-11 --- not Davidic

The Didache --- seems to lean to Davidic

gMatthew and gLuke --- Davidic (“correcting” Mark)

gJohn 7:40-43 --- highlights the difference of opinion ---

I don’t think the intention of the author of gJohn was to highlight a difference of opinion among the Jews here. But rather, I think the author was using his story --- and his only mention of David --- to acknowledge a schism within his own intended audience of Christians.

Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, "This certainly is the Prophet." Others were saying, "This is the Christ." But others were saying, "Surely the Christ does not come out of Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that Christ comes out of the seed of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?" So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him. (John 7:40-43)

Revelation 22:16 --- Davidic

Acts 13:22-23 --- Davidic, from the mouth of Paul no less

Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, XLIII (and elsewhere) --- Davidic

2 Timothy 2:8 --- Davidic

Tertullian, in fine form, On the Flesh of Christ, ch, 21 --- Davidic ---

Now, since He is the blossom of the stem which sprouts from the root of Jesse; since, moreover, the root of Jesse is the family of David, and the stem of the root is Mary descended from David, and the blossom of the stem is Mary's son, who is called Jesus Christ, will not He also be the fruit? (On the Flesh of Christ, ch, 21)

I think the difference of opinion on this issue was in terms of physical lineage from the seed of David, along with the associated doctrinal baggage. I think arguments that the relationship was only spiritual, even if early in the schism, belong in the realm of apologetics and compromise.

It seems from our extant texts that the earliest Christians did not consider Jesus Christ as the seed of David. Then there are hints of a schism on the issue, gaining traction as time goes by. And then, as reflected in relatively later texts, the Davidic camp took control of the argument.

Seems possible to me.

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Re: Is Jesus the descendant of David in Mark?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Fri Jan 25, 2019 9:06 am

robert j wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 8:57 am
The widespread expectation of a Davidic-messiah in the Gospel of Mark is confined to the Jews in his story.
This is not saying much, given that nearly all of the characters in the story are Jews. Of the few exceptions, Pilate refers to Jesus repeatedly as "king of the Jews," which is certainly no denial of Davidic stock and may well suggest it.
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Re: Is Jesus the descendant of David in Mark?

Post by Giuseppe » Fri Jan 25, 2019 10:42 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 9:06 am
Of the few exceptions, Pilate refers to Jesus repeatedly as "king of the Jews," which is certainly no denial of Davidic stock and may well suggest it.
Absolutely not a denial of it. Rather the exact contrary. Against who was opposing the judaizing reduction of a "Son of Father" to the status of "Jesus" ("YHWH-saves") and of the Jewish "Christ".
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Re: Is Jesus the descendant of David in Mark?

Post by John2 » Fri Jan 25, 2019 2:18 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 9:06 am
robert j wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 8:57 am
The widespread expectation of a Davidic-messiah in the Gospel of Mark is confined to the Jews in his story.
This is not saying much, given that nearly all of the characters in the story are Jews. Of the few exceptions, Pilate refers to Jesus repeatedly as "king of the Jews," which is certainly no denial of Davidic stock and may well suggest it.
I'm starting to think that Jesus (or Mark) is just subverting the idea that the Messiah (or "the Christ") is "merely" a son of David, that he is also the divine "the son of God" (as Jesus is called several times in Mark, and as per Daniel's divine "son of man"). So maybe Jesus (or Mark) is trying to have it both ways. This is what I think is going on in Mk. 12:35-37:
“How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? ... David himself calls Him Lord. So how can He be David’s son?”


In other words, I think Jesus (or Mark) is saying that the Messiah (Jesus) is greater than a "son of David" in the traditional sense, he is (also) a divine being, "the son of God," "I am" and Daniel's "son of man." He doesn't quite deny being David's son, does he? He just asks, "how can he be David's son?"

This is why I think that when the high priest asks Jesus if he is "the Christ, the son of the Blessed One” Jesus says “I am” (as per LXX Ex. 3:14) and that "you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven” (as per Dan. 7:13). But when Pilate asks Jesus if he is "the king of the Jews,” Jesus only says, “You have said so.” He doesn't quite deny it here either, but is only cagey about it.

I noticed something the other day while reading the source text for Jesus riding a colt in Zech. 9, which I thought might have clear "Davidic" resonance, but it turns out that even though it refers to "the Lord" and a king, there is no reference to David at all in Zechariah until chapter 12. And something else caught my eye that I had never noticed before, that in chapter 12, and right before the reference to "the one they have pierced," it says in verse 8:
On that day the Lord will defend the residents of Jerusalem, so that the weakest among them will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the Angel of the Lord going before them.


I had to check to make sure the underlined part says "God," and it does, and it is the same word (elohim) used to describe Moses in Ex. 7:1:
Then the Lord said to Moses, "See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.
And though this doesn't imply that Moses was divine, he had a special relationship with God and was thus in a sense "like God." And this is what I think could be going on with Jesus. He had a special relationship with God, in that he was "the son of God," Daniel's divine "son of man," and maybe he was likewise "the son of David" in this Zecharian sense of being "like God" (all the more so given that it precedes the reference to "the one they have pierced").
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Re: Is Jesus the descendant of David in Mark?

Post by John2 » Fri Jan 25, 2019 2:35 pm

And in Zech. 12:10, "the one they have pierced" is God, and in the context of God pouring out his spirit on "the house of David" and grieving for the pierced one as a "firstborn son," which I think underscores Jesus' divine status and brings all of Mark's elements together: "the son of God," "I am" and "the son of David."
Then I will pour out on the house of David and on the residents of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and prayer, and they will look on Me, the One they have pierced. They will mourn for Him as one mourns an only child, and weep bitterly for Him as one grieves a firstborn son.
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Re: Is Jesus the descendant of David in Mark?

Post by robert j » Fri Jan 25, 2019 3:33 pm

robert j wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 8:57 am
Do the texts reveal evidence of an early schism within the wider world of Christian thought --- was Jesus Christ of the seed of David?

The widespread expectation of a Davidic-messiah in the Gospel of Mark is confined to the Jews in his story. But who was the intended audience of Mark’s tale? I don’t think it was Jews, but rather the author’s own people ... In regards to the “son-of-David question”, the author of gMark said no, not Davidic.
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 9:06 am
... given that nearly all of the characters in the story are Jews. Of the few exceptions, Pilate refers to Jesus repeatedly as "king of the Jews," which is certainly no denial of Davidic stock and may well suggest it.
For the sake of argument, let’s say the reversal in gMark is not as dramatic as I have suggested. It doesn’t weaken my wider suggestion of a developing schism over the Davidic-sonship of Jesus evolving over the first two centuries of Christian texts. It may even lend greater support for such a schism.

Mark reversed the expectation of the crowd, as you have acknowledged ---
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sun Nov 19, 2017 9:27 am

Okay, Bernard ... The thing is, I agree with you that Mark 12.35-37 is probably against Jesus being David's son ...
With a rebuke of the scribes by Jesus, Mark implied Jesus was not Davidic. But if one finds hints of equivocation sprinkled-in the story --- it certainly could reflect an acknowledgement of some differences of opinion among Mark’s wider circle of Christian associates.

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Re: Is Jesus the descendant of David in Mark?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Fri Jan 25, 2019 3:50 pm

robert j wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 3:33 pm
For the sake of argument, let’s say the reversal in gMark is not as dramatic as I have suggested. It doesn’t weaken my wider suggestion of a developing schism over the Davidic-sonship of Jesus evolving over the first two centuries of Christian texts. It may even lend greater support for such a schism.
I believe there was such a schism, since we have examples from both sides of it extant in the literature. But I may demure from supposing that the author/editor of canonical Mark was trying to take sides within this schism. As I will make clearer below, s/he may simply have been compiling materials from different strands within the movement.
Mark reversed the expectation of the crowd, as you have acknowledged ---
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sun Nov 19, 2017 9:27 am

Okay, Bernard ... The thing is, I agree with you that Mark 12.35-37 is probably against Jesus being David's son ...
With a rebuke of the scribes by Jesus, Mark implied Jesus was not Davidic. But if one finds hints of equivocation sprinkled-in the story --- it certainly could reflect an acknowledgement of some differences of opinion among Mark’s wider circle of Christian associates.
I do not necessarily think that Mark (as an author) reversed the expectation of the crowd. Rather, I think that Mark 12.35-37 assumes that Jesus is not the son of David and then produces a clever (but ad hoc) scriptural argument in favor of this assumption. And I think that the assumptions elsewhere in the gospel are the reverse of this. For now, I am sticking with the position that I developed earlier in this very thread, which is still the one to beat from my perspective:
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:44 am
On the other hand, the Bartimaeus episode does not explicitly state that Jesus is the son of David, nor does the Psalm episode explicitly deny it. It is as if both passages are operating with certain assumptions in place that the author does not feel he has to spell out for his readers; the catch is that the assumption behind the one passage and the assumption behind the other are not the same. This implies to me the following chain of events:

1A. Somebody tells the Bartimaeus story and has Bartimaeus call Jesus the son of David because that is what the storyteller thinks, who has no reason to make clear what is obvious to him (that is, that Jesus is the descendant of David). (Matthew and Luke agree with this approach.)
1B. Somebody else recounts the Psalm 110 paradox and has Jesus mitigate the Davidic sonship of the Messiah because that is what the recounter thinks (that is, that Jesus is not his descendant), who has no reason to make clear what is obvious to him. (The epistle of Barnabas agrees with this approach.)
2. "Mark" (the author/redactor/editor/compiler of the gospel) puts both episodes in his gospel, not necessarily realizing that their underlying assumptions conflict. Just as modern adherents to either view can justify both stories in the same gospel, so too can Mark. If I had to guess his own stance, it would either be that he does not care (as you have suggested, Kunigunde) or that he thought of Jesus as the son of David and considered the Psalm 110 paradox as simply making clear that Jesus is Lord, too.
This scenario would explain why neither passage is a clear assertion either for or against the Davidic sonship of Jesus. (Another scenario which would explain it is Mark being ecumenical, taking two bits of material which originally did make the assertions clear, but then removing as much as required to make each bit more vague. But I think that such a scenario may require more moving parts, as it were.)
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