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Jesus: Davidic Messiah?

December 18, 2017

Relating to the historical Jesus issue, one of our recent PhD students has his recently published thesis reviewed favorably in a recent issue of Review of Biblical Literature here.

Michael Zolondek, We Have Found the Messiah: How the Disciples Help Us Answer the Davidic Messianic Question (Eugene, Oregon:  Pickwick, 2016).  Whereas many previous scholars tried to assess Jesus’ “intentions” and what he thought of himself, Zolondek focuses on what others seem to have made of him.  Zolondek concludes that Jesus’ followers thought he was (or was to be shown) the royal (Davidic) Messiah.  And, by the way, that also makes the most sense of Jesus’ crucifixion.  Congratulations, Michael!

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  1. Julian permalink

    Sorry for my long- windedness. Once you called it a theory, I figured you deserved to hear it a little more fully. Glad to know Schweitzer thought there was something to it. Too bad he didn’t get the reason for it right. I can’t demonstrate historicity. I can just demonstrate consistency with Gospel accounts and what we know of the character of Jesus.

    • Perhaps, at the risk of being pedantic, that last phrase might better be “and what we may surmise about the character of Jesus.”

  2. Julian permalink

    Prof. Hurtado, unless I have misunderstood Ritsema ( or he has not succeeded in representing Zolondek), I don’t think I’ll be buying the book. My own view is that Jesus was trying to provoke a reaction by the authorities in Jerusalem that would result in putting him to death, and that he succeeded.

    • Julian: When you’ve worked up your theory and presented it for proper scholarly review, let us all know, and THEN we’ll take it seriously. At least Zolondek had to get his work past a PhD examination, and then get it published.

      • Julian permalink

        I would think at least one scholar had already presented “my” theory, by now. In the Synoptics:

        1. While in Galilee, Jesus downplays any public connection between himself and the Davidic Messiah. Thus, in Matthew 9, when the two blind men call him “son of David,” Jesus ignores them in public, and only responds to them privately inside the house.

        2. As a result, when he asks the disciples who people think he is, they say some kind of prophet, one who can work miracles, such as Elijah. I don’t think anyone was expecting the Davidic Messiah to be a religious teacher and healer.

        3. When Peter says that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus tells them to keep it quiet. He already knows who he is. He doesn’t need the disciples to tell him who he is. Jesus has to be the most self-aware human ever to grace our planet, for goodness sake. You don’t need to be a scholar to see that. It is only now that Jesus begins to tell the disciples that he will be put to death. He’s trying to prepare them for the shocking tragedy ahead.

        4. It is only at Jericho, fifteen miles from Jerusalem, when Bartimaeus calls him “son of David,” that Jesus public responds, indicating that he is now publicly accepting that designation, and admitting that he sees himself as the Davidic Messiah. This is to prepare the Galilean crowd that is accompanying him for his next action.

        5. After walking all the way from Galilee to Bethany, Jesus mounts a donkey to ride into Jerusalem. The crowd that saw him acknowledge Bartimaeus’s “son of David” designation will now recognize this act as a claim to fulfill Zechariah 9:9. The crowd responds appropriately, treating him as the king.

        6. Either the Romans weren’t paying close attention, or being unfamiliar with Zechariah 9:9, didn’t realize the significance of what was happening. But if the Temple authorities saw it or heard about it, they would grasp its significance and wonder how to respond.

        7. I admit that I do not fully understand what if any symbolic significance the Temple cleansing would have in relation to the Davidic Messiah. If Zolondek explains the connection, then I’m willing to buy his book just for that reason. However, the disturbance and the connection of the money changers to the high priests would be enough to provoke the Temple authorities to anger. And again, we would wonder why the Romans didn’t get involved at this point.

        8. So up to now, Jesus has twice engaged in behavior that might have already gotten him crucified by the Romans. It’s as if he had a death wish.

        9. Why haven’t the Temple authorities arrested him? I suggest because of the Galilean crowd, which is already treating Jesus as the Davidic Messiah. The last thing they want is a riot on their hands.

        10. Jesus comes into Jerusalem in the morning with the Galilean crowd, and leaves with them in the evening. Thus, he is “safe” from the Temple authorities.

        11. So Jesus himself provides an opportunity for the Temple authorities by staying in Jerusalem Thursday evening, and eating the Passover in isolation, with only the twelve as company. This is the one time that he is vulnerable, and the authorities take advantage of it, arresting him at night, safe from the Galilean crowd.

        12. The hearing seems to be initially political in nature. They are looking for evidence to present to Pilate that Jesus is indeed dangerous and needs to be executed. Unable to substantiate their case, they ask him directly if he is the Messiah, the son of God (which I interpret as a Davidic Messianic title). To their delight, Jesus is gracious enough to say yes, he is. Again, it certainly looks like Jesus is trying to get himself killed.

        13. I think what Jesus says next is an added gift. Up until now, I think the authorities were just looking to build a political case. But now Jesus tells them that they will see him seated next to Power and coming on the clouds of Heaven. They interpret this as a blasphemous statement. And I think Jesus wanted them to interpret it that way. It’s as if he is giving them the cover they need for protection from the Jewish people. Not only is he claiming to be a rebel against Rome, but he is also making himself equal to God. At this point, the priests have no choice but to seek his execution.

        In summary, it sure looks like Jesus was trying to get himself killed. And he succeeded.

        If a scholar hasn’t presented this view, I have to wonder why not.

      • Julian: Your itemized account has been noted . . . often, by others. Nothing new. E.g., Albert Schweitzer proposed that Jesus very deliberately put himself forward for arrest and execution. Your account does, however, depend heavily on prior judgements about the historicity of relevant details in the narratives. That’s the work of convincing that would be needed to secure your thesis. But, please, no more long comments here. If you want to do the work, present it in a proper forum for critique.

  3. Very interesting. I will look to reading this book in the (hopefully soon) future.

  4. thunker permalink

    Dr. Hurtado – This post made me think of research by David Mitchell concerning the Davidic Messiah. Have you read any of his articles?

  5. Julian permalink

    I just read Ritsema’s summary. How does Zolondek deal with Jesus’s pronouncements that he will be put to death?

    • I don’t recall that Zolondek addresses these sayings, as his primary concern is to explore how Jesus was perceived by others.

      • Julian permalink

        I guess I’m just confused. It sounded as if Zolondek was saying that Jesus acquired his own self-understanding that he was the Davidic Messiah from the feedback he received from his disciples, who saw him as the Davidic Messiah. If so, then that leaves the rather obvious question of whether Jesus actually thought he was going to be put to death and told the disciples about it. If he did, then clearly Jesus saw himself as something other than just the Davidic Messiah. If he didn’t…does Zolondek think the triumphal entry and the Temple incident happened? Ritsema’s summary makes it sound as if he thinks it is. If so, then did Jesus think he was going to foment an uprising in Jerusalem? If so, then Jesus is reduced to just another Messianic pretender and a fool.

      • Julian: You might just have to read a book, in this case, Zolondek’s, to see what he contended.

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