Thursday, May 17, 2007

Jesus and the Restoration of the Davidic Kingdom (3.1.1. Restoring the Davidic Ideal: The Triumphal Entry & Temple Action)

3.1. Jesus’ Message in Light of Davidic Expectations
As we saw in the first part of this paper, N. T. Wright believes that the overarching theme of Jesus’ ministry is restoration from exile. According to Wright, Jesus believed the restoration had come in the form of God’s Reign. Dunn has countered by responding that this seems to overlook a number of other motifs, including the inclusion of the Gentiles, healing, a feasting, an eschatological pilgrimage of the nations, and victory over Satan.[1] It is our proposal that Wright (and Dunn) have neglected the central role of David in Jewish restoration hopes. This is not to say that all eschatological frameworks of the time involved a Davidic element. Expectations certainly took a variety of forms. However, this should not obscure the fact that restoration was frequently linked to God’s covenant with David. Here we will show how the restoration of the Davidic Kingdom, was central to Jesus’ ministry.

There are several episodes in the Gospels which make it clear that Jesus understood his mission against Davidic expectations. Here will name just a few of the most obvious ones. It is widely accepted that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem evoked royal imagery (Matt 21:1-11//Mark 11:1-10//Luke 19:29-38).[2] The picture of Jesus riding on a colt into a city full of a shouting crowd clearly resembles Solomon’s coronation (1 Kgs 1:33, 38). It also evokes Zecheriah’s eschatological prophecy: “Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem, Lo, your king comes to you… humble and riding on an ass” (Zech 9:9).

Each of the Synoptic accounts record the crowd mentioning something relating to David or royalty (Matt 21:9: “Hosanna to the Son of David”//Mark 11:10: “Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming!”//Luke 19:38: “Blessed is the King!”). Although some scholars question whether Jesus actually intended this impression,[3] to think that he was not aware of what this action would evoke stretches the imagination—especially given the fact that others apparently readily made the connection. Even E. P. Sanders, who often downplays Jesus’ Davidic claims, recognizes royal imagery here.[4]

In the Synoptic tradition Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem is followed by his act of “cleansing” the temple (Matt 21:12-13//Mark 11:15-17//Luke 19:45-46). Here again, historical Jesus scholars have recognized royal imagery,[5] though Sanders understands this action primarily within the larger context of the restoration of Israel.[6] Yet, as we have seen, there is a deep connection between the temple and the Davidic covenant. Meier writes,

[T]he two symbolic actions he performed as he came to Jerusalem for his last
Passover—the ‘triumphal entry’ and the ‘cleansing of the temple—may have been
intended as an expression of a royal messianic claim over David’s ancient
capital and the temple first built by Solomon, the Son of David.”[7]

By acting as he does—coming to Jerusalem/Zion and symbolically cleansing the temple— Jesus evokes the larger picture of the eschatological restored Davidic kingdom. Meyer notes that “here the motif of messianic acclamation was followed by eschatological restoration of the cult.”[8]
[1] James D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 475.
[2] Wright, Jesus and the Victory, 490-493; Meier, A Marginal Jew, 3:496; Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 306-307; Witherington, The Christology of Jesus (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990), 113-115.
[3] Paula Fredriksen, Jesus of Nazereth: King of the Jews (New York: Vintage Books, 1999), 247.
[4] Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 306
[5] Meier, A Marginal Jew, 3:496; Wright, Jesus and the Victory, 491; Meyer, Aims of Jesus, 179-202; Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 307.
[6] Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 335, 340.
[7] Meier, A Marginal Jew, 3:496.
[8] Meyer, Christus Faber, 264.

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