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Re: [XTalk] Rikk Re: Messiah in spite of himself

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  • Bob Schacht
    ... Rikk, Thanks for the continuing dialogue! Please excuse the re-arrangement of your post, but I think it will help us make progress. Later on in your ...
    Message 1 of 76 , Dec 1, 2003
      At 02:30 PM 12/1/2003 -0800, Rikk wrote:
      >Hi Bob,

      Thanks for the continuing dialogue! Please excuse the re-arrangement of
      your post, but I think it will help us make progress. Later on in your
      post, you wrote:

      >So, as I've said before, I agree that for our writers, Jesus does not
      >explicitly fulfill one of the major contemporary Davidic expectations. Every
      >time you point out differences of this kind, we are only agreeing.

      Good; I think it helps to start with what we agree on. But just out of
      curiosity, which one of the major contemporary Davidic expectations was not
      fulfilled? Or was the failed expectation different for different writers?

      > Where I disagree is that I see the NT writers nevertheless insisting
      > that Jesus is
      >Israel's Messiah (Paul and Mark). And that needs to be explained.

      Well, I think "insisting" is way too strong. I will concede that a Davidic
      messiah was the normative Jewish expectation in the First Century; it was
      the "default" messianic image for most people-- Qumran types possibly
      excepted. But the ABD article on NT Christology paints a rather different
      picture than you do. In a 12 page article, the author (James D.G. Dunn)
      devotes only two paragraphs to Jesus as "Royal [i.e., Davidic] Messiah." He
      acknowledges the royal messiah as "probably the figure of popular hope-- a
      new king to restore Israel's independence and greatness," but claims that
      Jesus did not react very positively to the idea. "So far as we can tell,"
      he writes, Jesus "did not reject the title 'Messiah' outright when put to
      him, but as currently understood it was evidently unsuited to describe the
      role he saw for himself."

      As Brian Trafford pointed out, the NT writers differed a lot in how they
      treated this issue. Paul's Messiah, as has been pointed out, is more a
      "cosmic Christ" than Davidic Messiah. Also, Paul's constant refrain of
      "Christ crucified" as central to his thinking hardly sounds like any
      Davidic Messiah to me.

      And Mark, rather than overtly claim that Jesus was the Davidic Messiah,
      mainly makes the point that there were among the public those who regarded
      him as a Davidic Messiah, in the Blind Bartimaeus story (Mark 10), and in
      the Triumphant Entry (Mark 11: 10). And contrary to your thesis, in Mark
      12:35-37 he argues that the Messiah is *NOT* the son of David. Only in Mark
      2:25 does he appear to hint at a comparison between himself and David, but
      the claim is far from explicit. So it seems to me to be far from clear that
      Mark is "insisting" on a Davidic Messiah. Indeed, he seems to reject it. He
      even has the Romans kill off this "Davidic Messiah," and while he has an
      Empty Tomb story, it is less a triumphant resurrection than any of the
      other Gospels. In other words, Mark seems to deliberately undermine the
      concept of Davidic Messiah. Instead, as Weeden has claimed, Mark bases his
      Christology more on the Suffering Servant image of Isaiah. Mark, through
      Peter's confession, says in effect, "Yes, Jesus was the Christ, but he
      wasn't the Christ you thought he was going to be!"

      > It becomes even more problematic if Jesus himself not only did not claim
      > to be the
      >Messiah but also repudiated such a title.

      He seemed ambiguous about the title of Messiah, but rejected the idea of
      *Davidic* Messiah, according to Mark.

      > > We know that *some* early Christians may have thought so. But I think you
      > > may be over-reaching to imply that they *all* (or even mostly) "owned"
      > > Jesus (what an interesting phrase) as a *Davidic* Messiah.
      >you are right of course, we can't speak for all, though mainstream might do.
      >What concrete evidence do you have of early Christians explicitly denying
      >Jesus messianic status, and how significant a proportion do they represent?

      OK, now we're talking about early Christians rather than Jesus. I would
      seek those who minimized his *Davidic* messianic status among the Gentiles,
      to whom that wasn't especially important, anyway. The key here is to look
      for "adoptionist" Christologies, because in those, Jesus' anointing takes
      place at his baptism, which would make his Davidic lineage, if any,
      irrelevant. But we are fortunate now in that there is a copy of Tom
      Kopecek's essay on early Christian Christologies on the web at
      He refers to the adoptionist Christologies of the Ebionites, the Shepherd
      of Hermas, and later orthodox Christianity. The odd thing is, is that there
      is scarcely any reference to the Davidic Messiah. It scarcely even seems on
      the radar screen, so "explicitly rejecting" it seems pointless, as their
      interests were clearly elsewhere.

      The Jewish Christians, particularly the Ebionites, saw the earthly Jesus,
      anointed at his baptism (and therefore "adoptionist"), more as a Messiah on
      the model of Moses rather than David. They expected that he would return as
      Davidic Messiah at the second coming, according to Tyson (1984; I am
      grateful to Tom Kopecek for this information). Meanwhile, (again as pointed
      out to me by Tom Kopecek), until the second coming, God was to be king.

      > >> (e.g. Paul and yes then later Mark)
      > > I don't think this is a slam dunk. In fact, I think Weeden would disagree
      > > with your characterization of Mark, if he would re-emerge from Lurkerdom
      > > long enough to tell us. See more on that below, but for now, let's just
      > > observe that unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark does NOT provide Jesus with a
      > > Davidic lineage.
      >Yes, as someone who did the PhD in Mark, I am well aware of Ted's views on
      >Mark. I don't mean to be unkind but I think it is fair to say that few would
      >think he's made his case.

      Does this refer only to his first book decades ago, or to his recently
      formulated revision of these ideas on XTalk? I don't remember you taking
      issue with his characterization of Mark's christology when he brought it up

      > >> when he seemed to fulfill none of the classic tasks of
      > >> same, got himself crucified, and that after having done things no one
      > >> expected such a messiah to do (e.g. his mighty deeds)?
      > > That's the problem with the Davidic Messiah thing, isn't it? But is the
      > > Davidic Messiah the only option?
      >What others do you propose (i.e. not merely anointed language but figures to
      >whom a titular Ho Xristos might be applied, as per say Rab Akiba and Simon?
      >(As I stated in a recent post, I think this diversity of messiahs thing is
      >grossly overplayed).

      Well, first there is the testimony of Jimmy Dunn's article on Christology
      of the NT in ABD, in which royal messianic christology plays only a very
      minor role. In an earlier draft of his article on Christology that is cited
      above, regarding the Christology of the Shepherd of Hermas, Kopecek
      contrasted it with I and II Clement. He commented,
      "the Christologies of the two sets of documents ...are radically different.
      This reveals that ancient Catholicism was quite open to doctrinal variety
      in its Christology during its early centuries. The whole matter of
      Christology was a topic for discussion more than an agreed-upon doctrine to
      be, as it were, dogmatically insisted upon." (Christ and Salvation in
      Ancient Christianity, p. 126)

      > >> Was it perhaps because it was impossible for them to think of Israel¹s
      > >> restoration apart from a Davidic messiah?
      > > Impossible, maybe. Difficult, almost certainly-- especially when you add
      > > "Israel's restoration" to the menu. Do you really think that's what Jesus
      > > had in mind? You keep adding preconceptions in, while I'm trying to
      > > separate them out.
      >The earliest hard evidence we have consistently understands Jesus in the
      >light of Israel's scriptures, chief among those being Isaiah (a book which
      >might fairly be described as focused on Israel's and especially Jerusalem's
      >restoration) and the Psalms (with the majority of those cited by the NT
      >involving either Davidic/Jerusalemite or restorationist traditions). These
      >are the same early Xn documents that see Jesus in messianic terms. So, my
      >question remains: whence this view merely decades after Jesus in Paul, and
      >then in the canonical gospels?

      It is only natural that early Christians would *try to understand* the
      messiahship of Jesus in these terms. But that doesn't guarantee that it is
      what Jesus meant. Dunn's article in ABD concludes with four short sections, on
      1. Continuity with Judaism
      2. Continuity with Jesus' own self-understanding
      3. Unity and Diversity within the NT
      4. The Foundation for Subsequent Christology

      --i.e., all the topics we've been discussing. His summary of the continuity
      with Jesus' own self-understanding is:
      "there are sufficiently clear antecedents within the historical Jesus
      tradition itself that a continuity can properly be claimed-- particularly
      in Jesus' consciousness of intimate sonship, his premonition of suffering
      in a representative capacity, and his hope of vindication following death."
      (ADB I, p. 989)

      > >> But if for them, why not also for Jesus?
      > > I'd turn that question around: Why for Jesus?
      >Because, as I'm arguing, I can't see anywhere in Jewish restorationist hopes
      >a serious alternative that doesn't include some kind of Davidic figure. What
      >would ever make us think that it was desirable, or even conceivable, to
      >Jesus, a first century Jew, to think of the restoration of Israel (which
      >again is how the earliest writers configure him) apart from God's covenant
      >to David?

      This is asking the wrong question, as I have tried to show. Despite our
      initial agreement quoted at the outset, we differ in the emphasis you place
      on the restoration of Israel, which Dunn thinks is only a minor theme in NT
      Christology, and which apparently mattered little to early Christians in
      Kopecek's survey of early Christology.

      >I think it is generally recognized among Pss scholars that the
      >retention of Davidic psalms even though the Davidic kingship had well and
      >truly ceased is best explained in terms of Israel's future hopes. Do you
      >have any evidence of any first century Jewish or Christian group repudiating
      >those psalms? If not, then perhaps this is just another indication of how
      >pervasive the Davidic hope was.

      I am not denying that the Davidic hope was popular. And I'm not denying
      that there are those who tried to squeeze Jesus into that mode. But it
      doesn't seem to have much to do with his own self-understanding.

      > >> And conversely, if it wasn¹t necessary for Jesus, why should it be for
      > them?
      > > Because they are in the position of trying to figure out what it means, and
      > > what they have mainly to fall back on is existing cultural categories, even
      > > if they don't have anything to do with Jesus' own sense of calling. Mark is
      > > on record re: thinking the disciples were a bit dimwitted about
      > > understanding what Jesus was trying to tell them.
      >Ah yes, there's the rub. The trying to figure out what "it" means. What is
      >this "it"? Maybe the problem, quite straightforwardly is that the disciples
      >just couldn't put together Jesus' view of messiahship with what they had
      >traditionally understood.


      >But it seems clear from Mark that he thinks that
      >both the Davidic messiah, and Isaianic servant belonged together in Jesus'

      No. (See above)

      > >
      > >> ... So,(again) if one accepts with Wrede that Jesus made some kind of
      > Davidic
      > >> messianic claim,
      > > Again, you inject the word "Davidic" into Wrede's deathbed conversion. Did
      > > Wrede really use that word? Or are you just assuming it? Is that part of
      > > the problem?
      >Be careful of anachronism. We don't want to go reading 1980s discussions
      >about varieties of messianisms back into those of a previous century. In the
      >late 1800s, to the best of my understanding, there was only one
      >understanding of first century Messianism. A Davidic one.

      OK, but I no longer care what Wrede thought <g>. Haven't we moved beyond
      that? After all, the"1980s discussions about varieties of messianism"
      hardly seem unique or original to the 1980s.

      I hope this advances the dialogue.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Ted Weeden
      Dear Listers, I had indicated two weeks ago that I would submit my own response to responses of others re the thread Messiah in spite of himself in an
      Message 76 of 76 , Dec 18, 2003
        Dear Listers,

        I had indicated two weeks ago that I would submit my own response to
        responses of others re the thread "Messiah in spite of himself" in an
        article which Jeffrey Gibson has offered to upload to the Xtalk articles
        page. With the demand of other matters, it has taken far longer than I had
        envisioned to complete the article. And with the holidays at hand, it
        looks like I cannot get this article out until after the first of the year.
        I plan in the article not only to deal with matters related to the "Messiah"
        thread but also to incorporate in it issues related to the "4Q521" thread
        and the "Gospel of Mary Magdalene" thread, which I had introduced.

        Happy holidays to you all.

        Ted Weeden
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