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Again on Mk 12:35f (David's Son)

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic Cc: GPG On: Mk 12:35f (David s Son) From: Bruce On the recently discussed issue of whether Mk 12:35 deals with the requirement that Jesus needs to
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 21, 2009
      To: Synoptic
      Cc: GPG
      On: Mk 12:35f (David's Son)
      From: Bruce

      On the recently discussed issue of whether Mk 12:35 deals with the requirement that Jesus needs to be a lineal descendant of David in order to function as the Jewish National Messiah, and supplementing the small quotations previously supplied, I thought that this commentary from the Jewish side of the hill might be helpful. It is from C G Montefiore, The Synoptic Gospels (2ed 1927, ad loc).


      "The section is of little interest to Jewish readers. The introductory words come awkwardly. They would find a better place after 12:27. The meaning of the section seems clear, but the more clear the meaning, the stranger does it become. Jesus certainly seems to say: How can it be asserted that the Messiah is the son of David, if David in Psalm 110 regards himself as inferior to the Messiah? A father would not call his son 'lord,' but David calls the Messiah 'lord.' (Jesus shares the ordinary belief of his time as to the authorship of the 'Davidic' Psalms). Apparently this must imply that Jesus claims to be the Messiah, though he be not the descendant of David. (The genealogies in Matthew were made up later to prove that he was). Jesus seems not to wish to be regarded as the 'son of David.' But how could he be the Messiah if he was not the Messiah of prophecy? If the Old Testament was wrong, and the prophets spoke falsely,why did Jesus not say so? Why did he not say, 'There will be no Davidic Messiah, but I am something far higher than the mere Davidic Messiah of the prophets?' The puzzle is that Jesus wants both to refute and to fulfil the Old Testament and its prophecies. He is the predicted Messiah, and he is not the predicted Messiah. One asks in vain: (1) Did he really take up this illogical position? (2) Was he conscious of the illogicalness? To say that Jesus thought he was the Servant-Messiah of Isaiah 42 and 53, but not the Messiah of Isaiah 11, is not an adequate answer."

      "Dr Carpenter thinks that the explanation is that the 'Old Testament does not speak with one voice. The Gospel writers were no more historical critics than Jesus himself. If they and he fastened on the Servant passages (Messianically interpreted), the only way open to them was to ignore the Davidic king passages.' But the difficulty of this view is (1) that there is very little evidence indeed that Jesus did 'fasten' on the Servant passages, and (2) that Jesus does not here merely 'ignore.' He goes out of his way to attack. He combats the doctrine which the "Davidic king" passages emphatically teach."


      Thus far (and so on, for another page) Montefiore on Mk 12:35f. It strikes me as eminently normal: the thoughts of a reflective and logical reader who is dealing with the text as it is. I don't hold with every word Montefiore says. For example, as I have come to see it, Mk 12:35 does not come in after 12:27 (the passage legitimizing the later Resurrection theory). Instead, it comes in after 12:17, which like the Davidic Son passage deals with Roman issues. This whole part of the text (that is, the segments of it that were not interpolated into it to reflect later doctrine) are in fact a series of traps which Jesus as a Davidic pretender had to avoid or overcome, to keep from being arrested and at the same time to retain the sympathy of the crowds who, as Mark tells us, had hailed him on his entry into the city precisely as the one who was to restore the "Kingdom of our father David that is coming." No Isaianic subtleties here. Rather, the issues in 11:27-33, 12:13-17, and 12:35-37, are posed on the level of just that earthly kingdom, that anti-Roman kingdom, which the crowds envisioned.

      I think the crowds were right. I think Montefiore is a good reader of the crowds. I also find him to be a good reader of the text at large. He sees its problems, and he dwells over them. Such people would be an asset to any modern team investigating the stratification of Mark. When comes such another?

      But if one should, be sure to have them write me. We have a spot or two still open.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst

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