Re: [XTalk] Rikk Re: Messiah in spite of himself
- At 02:30 PM 12/1/2003 -0800, Rikk wrote:
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 notGood; I think it helps to start with what we agree on. But just out of
>explicitly fulfill one of the major contemporary Davidic expectations. Every
>time you point out differences of this kind, we are only agreeing.
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 insistingWell, I think "insisting" is way too strong. I will concede that a Davidic
> that Jesus is
>Israel's Messiah (Paul and Mark). And that needs to be explained.
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 claimHe seemed ambiguous about the title of Messiah, but rejected the idea of
> to be the
>Messiah but also repudiated such a title.
*Davidic* Messiah, according to Mark.
> > We know that *some* early Christians may have thought so. But I think youOK, now we're talking about early Christians rather than Jesus. I would
> > 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?
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)Does this refer only to his first book decades ago, or to his recently
> > 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.
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 ofWell, first there is the testimony of Jimmy Dunn's article on Christology
> >> 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
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 Israel¹sIt is only natural that early Christians would *try to understand* the
> >> 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?
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?This is asking the wrong question, as I have tried to show. Despite our
> > 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
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 theI am not denying that the Davidic hope was popular. And I'm not denying
>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.
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 forYES! YES! YES! BINGO!
> > 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
>But it seems clear from Mark that he thinks thatNo. (See above)
>both the Davidic messiah, and Isaianic servant belonged together in Jesus'
> >OK, but I no longer care what Wrede thought <g>. Haven't we moved beyond
> >> ... So,(again) if one accepts with Wrede that Jesus made some kind of
> >> 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.
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]
- 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.