son of David

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It is claimed both in the gospels (Matt. 1: 17) and by Paul (Rom. 1: 3) that Jesus was descended from the royal house of David on the human side. But it is a title usually given to Jesus by those who are not members of the inner circle of disciples e.g. by the two blind men (Matt. 9: 27) and by a Gentile woman (Matt. 15: 22); Jesus is the Messiah of Israel but on the broader human rather than the political level. ‘Son of David’ must be complemented by the belief that he is also ‘*Son of God’, even if the affirmation is ironically put on the lips of mockers (Matt. 27: 40 and 43).

It was a Jewish belief (Pss. of Sol. 17: 21) that the Messiah would be descended from David, and this is cited as evidence of Jesus' Messiahship by Peter in Acts 2: 30–31 and in 2 Tim 2: 8, but the title was rarely used by the Church as it spread out into Gentile areas where Davidic Sonship would have negligible importance. Jesus himself appears to belittle the phrase in the controversy recorded in Mark 12: 35–7, possibly because it contained overtones which he repudiated; yet at the same time he goes on to argue that the Messiah is greater than King David. More probably this is a pericope which reflects Mark's situation rather than that of Jesus shortly before the crucifixion: the readers of the gospel are to recognize that Jesus' Messiahship is not only the fulfilment of Jewish hopes; he is the Lord of all. That is the force of quoting Ps. 110: 1 (a favourite Christian proof text) in Mark 12: 36. David, presumed in those days to have written the psalm, himself calls the Messiah ‘Lord’, so he must be more than David's Son. The verse significantly anticipates the Gentile centurion's expression at Mark 15: 39.

Subjects: Biblical Studies.

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