Did Jesus use the title of himself? It is not easy to answer that question.
After giving several other (highly problematic) reasons for doubting that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, Fitzmyer’s final argument is this:
At his interrogation before the Sanhedrin, when asked whether he is “the Messiah,” he answers in Mark, “I am” (14:62), but in the Matthean parallel, his answer becomes, “You have said so” (Matt. 26:64); and Luke completely rewords the high priest’s question (HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, p. 678)
The exact texts are as follows:
And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him. “You have said so.” (Matt 26:63-64)
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am.” (Mark 14:62)
They said, “If you are the Messiah, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer…” And they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” (Luke 22:70)
In other words, Fitzmyer is arguing that while in Mark’s account Jesus explicitly identifies himself as Messiah, this evidence has no weight because in Matthew and Luke, he only says: “You have said so.”
Now my question is this: Presupposing the Two-Source Hypothesis, when else do historical Jesus scholars use the later “redactional” alterations of Matthew and Luke to discard the historical information present in Mark’s (supposedly older) account? Shouldn’t scholars be saying, “Yes, Jesus claimed to be the Messiah”—as the most ancient account in Mark tells us—but Matthew and Luke obscured this particular point? Even more to the point, shouldn’t historical Jesus scholars who use the criteria of authenticity be pointing to Mark 14:62 and John 4:25 as a case of multiple independent attestation for the fact that Jesus saw himself as the Messiah? The latter text—which Fitzmyer never even mentions—reads:
The [Samaritan] woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all thing.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:25)
As far as I can tell, a strict application here of the criterion of multiple attestation, working under the two-source hypothesis, should lead to the conclusion that Jesus did see himself as Messiah, and explicitly said so on at least two different occasions. So what’s the problem? It seems to me that what’s driving this apparent “difficulty” is the assumption that Jesus did not or could not have claimed to be the Messiah. Scholars like Fitzmyer (or Sanders) seem to have their minds already made up when they turn to the Gospels. Any evidence to contrary is either ignored (as in John) or inconsistently dismissed (as in Mark). Is this sound argumentation? Can anyone give me a good reason for accepting Fitzmyer’s approach (which is certainly not limited to him)?
As many of you may already know, Fitzmyer has just published a new book on the Messiah, entitled, The One Who is To Come (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007). It will be interesting to see what he does with this in this more substantial work.