and Pattern in Matthew's Use of the Title
'Son of David'
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Introduction: 'Son of David', its frequency in Matthew
I Infancy Narrative
II Verbal themes
III Literary relationships of some incidents
IV The sections in their Matthaean order
(All notes are bookmarked, with return path to text)
"Purpose and Pattern in Matthew's Use of the Title 'Son of David'", N.T.S 10 (October, 1964) 446-64.
Why does the title occur more frequently in Matthew than in the
other Gospels? Do these more numerous references serve any real purpose in
Matthew? It is not enough merely to say that they occur because the First Gospel
was written by a Jewish Christian (or Christians), for the Fourth Gospel does
not have the phrase at all.1
Other than the discussion of Christ's Davidic sonship which is to be found in
all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matt. 22.41-45; Mark 12.35-37a; Luke
20.41-4), Mark, followed by Luke-Acts, has the phrase 'Son of David' only in the
twofold appeal to Jesus for healing by a single blind beggar (Mark 110, 47, 48;
Luke 18.37, 39).2 Matthew, on the
other hand, calls Jesus the Son of David in his opening sentence (1.1), follows
it up with a genealogy to prove it (1.2-16), alludes to it at least twice more
in the infancy narrative (1.20; 2.6), and records the title as related to Jesus
during his ministry seven times in the mouths of others on five separate
occasions (9.27; 12.23; 15.22; 30.30, 31; 21.9, 15), where, as will be shown, it
is used messianically.
One of the emphases in the First Gospel is upon Jesus' divine sonship,3 and it appears certain that to attain this end the author inserted additional references to God as the Father of Jesus and his disciples beyond those which he found in his sources.4 Similarly the greater number of references to Jesus as the Son of David in this gospel are probably largely, and perhaps completely due to his hand as well. As we shall see, the circumstances in which these references occur form what appears to be a deliberate pattern showing progressive development for the purposes of which the evangelist increased the number of occurrences of the phrase 'Son of David'.
Our assessment of Matthew's pattern and purpose in the materials at hand will be set out in five sections. We shall first deal with the infancy narrative (chaps. 1 and 2), and secondly with the verbal themes which help to make a recognizable overall pattern out of the passages where the adult Jesus is witnessed to as Son of David. Thirdly we shall look at the literary relationships between the two accounts of the healing of two blind men who accost Jesus as 'Son of David' (9.27-31 and 20.29-34) and those relations between the two sections concerned with the source of Jesus' ability to exorcize demons (9.32-4 and 12.22-4). Fourthly, having done much of our spadework, we shall consider the content of the sections under consideration in their Matthaean order, and lastly we shall summarize our conclusions.
Our main interest in this study will centre around the passages
where the phrase 'Son of David' is found in Matthew's account of Jesus'
ministry, but first we should take note of material in the Matthaean infancy
narrative (chaps. 1 and 2).
In Matt. 1.1 Jesus is termed 'Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham', which must, at the least, be taken to mean the designation of Jesus as the (Jewish) Messiah in the Davidic line of the Covenant of Promise4b. Perhaps also Jesus is designated as the seed 'as of one', the heir to the promise of Abraham (cf. Gal. 3.16). The genealogy that follows (1.2-16), with its peaks at Abraham, David, the Exile, and Jesus, is primarily a kerygmatic statement of the climactic significance of Jesus, not a mere recital of generations, but even so, it does include the latter, thereby claiming for Jesus a place in the Davidic line according to the flesh.
Jesus' Davidic lineage is further attested when Joseph is addressed by the angelic voice in his dream as 'Joseph, son of David' (Matt. 1.20), followed by the command that he himself should name the child 'Jesus' (v. 21).5 Since in O.T. and Jewish thought it is the acknowledgement by the father which makes a child his son (rather than physical procreation per se as in Graeco-Roman culture),6 this obviously means that he is to acknowledge Mary's child as his own and hence place him beyond question in the line of David.7 At Matt. 13.55 the evangelist modifies his Marcan source to show that this human lineage through Joseph was not questioned as such. The question of the Nazarenes in Mark 6.3, 'Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary?' becomes in Matt. 13.55: 'Is this not the carpenter's son?'
In the visit of the Magi (Matt. 2.1-12), they look to Jesus as the one born to be King of the Jews (v. 2), and this is buttressed by Matthew's variant form in v. 6 of Micah 5.2 (5.1 in M.T. and LXX) concerning the governor who is to come out of Bethlehem, that is, David's city. This quotation may be in part a conflation of Micah 5.2 with v. 4 (M.T. and LXX: v. 3), where the ruler is mentioned as one who will shepherd the people, with the identical form, ποιμανεῖ, being used in the LXX and in Matthew's quotation. In any case, Jesus is here designatd as the awaited king of David's line, the Messiah of popular expectation. Perhaps Matthew himself or some other Jewish Christians substituted ποιμανεῖ for the εἶναι εἰς ἄρχοντα of the LXX or the מוֹשֵׁל
Thus within his first two chapters Matthew has solidly attested that Jesus was a son of David - indeed, the Messianic Son of David - according to the flesh.
After the infancy narrative up to the discussion with the
Pharisees of the Davidic sonship of the Messiah (Matt. 22.41-45). the evangelist
weaves throughout his account of Jesus' ministry a pattern of cumulative witness
top Jesus as the Messianic Son of David. The occurrences of the phrase
around which this pattern is built are its use by two blind men asking to be
healed (9.27), a query by the crowd witnessing the healing of a blind and dumb
demoniac by Jesus (12.23), an appeal by a Canaanite woman for healing for her
daughter (15.22), a further appeal by two blind men (20.30 f.), the cry of
'Hosanna to the Son of David' of the crowd upon Jesus' entry into Jerusalem upon
an ass (21.9), and the same cry on the lips of children in the Temple (21.15).
Before we consider the content of this pattern, let us note some of the verbal; signposts which indicate that it is a deliberate pattern. The sections in question are the following:
I. Matt. 9.27-31 (Huck 5610 - Two blind men healed);
II. Matt. 9.32-4 (Huck 57 - Blind demoniac healed; crowds marvel; Pharisees make accusation);
III. Matt. 12.22-24 (Huck 85 - Blind and dumb demoniac healed; amazed crowds question; Pharisees make accusation);
IV. Matt. 15.21-28 (Huck 116 - The Syro-phoenician woman);
V. Matt. 20.29-34 (Huck 193 - Two blind men healed);
VI. Matt. 21.1-9 (Huck 196 - The entry into Jerusalem);
VII. Matt5. 21.10-17 (Huck 198 - Christ in the Temple);
(VIII. Matt. 21.10-17 [Huck 209 - About David's Son], which will not be dealt with in this part of the essay).
The four verbal links to be treated at this point are 'Have mercy ... Son of David' (ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς, υἳος Δαυίδ), crowd (ὄχλος), blind (τυφλός), and deaf-mute (κοφός). Then will follow a note on Matthew's intentions in his use of these last two terms and others which also designate physical disabilities.
(1) 'Have mercy on me/us, Lord, Son of David' (I, IV and V: 9.27: ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς, υἳος Δαυίδ, v. 28: ναί, κύριε. 15.22: ἐλέησον με, κύριε υἱος Δαύιδ, v. 27: ναί, κύριε. 20.30 and 31: κύριε, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς, υἱὸς Δαυίδ). The verb ἐλεέω, to have mercy, occurs nine times in Matthew (against three in Mark, four in Luke, and none in John). In Matthew the cry for mercy, ἐλέησον, is addressed to Jesus five times (9.27; 15.22; 17.15; 20.30, 31), every time in conjunction with κύριε, and except for 17.156 (where, incidentally, the man worships Jesus), the cry is to υἱὸς Δαυίδ, to Jesus as the Son of David. In the words of H. J. Held: 'The very form of this cry for help, which Matthew uses particularly frequently, shows, by its linking of ἐλέησον with the term of address κύριε, that merciful help is expected and received from a mighty one, from the Lord.11 Thus in these healing miracles it is clear that Jesus is not appealed to merely as a son of David, but rather as the Messianic King of David's line, with power to judge and to dispense mercy.
G. Bornkamm12 has observed that διδάσκαλος or ῥαββί, although used frequently enough in Matthew, is never used therein by a disciple - other than Judas Iscariot - when addressing Jesus. His disciples call him κύριε. On the basis of Matthew's total use of the term, Bornkamm concludes that 'the title and address of Jesus as κύριος in Matthew have throughout the character of a divine Name of Majesty',13 or, as Bornkamm says in another essay, 'κύριε contains a confession of discipleship'.14 Thus the involvement of discipleship is present in these miracles concerning the blind men and the Syro-phoenician woman.
(2) Crowd(s), ὄχλος, ὄχλοι (II, III, V, VI, VII; 9.33: οἱ ὄχλοι, 12.23: πάντες οἱ ὄχλοι, 20.29: ὄχλος πολύς, 20.31: ὁ ὄχλος, 21.8: ὁ πλεῖστος ὄχλος 21.9: οἱ ὄχλοι, 22.11: οἱ ὄχλοι). Of these, 9.33 occurs in a passage created by Matthew with a direct question asked by the crowds (see below), 12.23 occurs in the Q variant (Cf. Luke 11.14) corresponding to Mark 3.20-2, but only in Matthew is direct speech attributed to the crowds. In 20.29 Matthew adds πολύς to the simple ὄχλος of Mark 10.46 and further adds that the great crowd followed Jesus. In 20.31 it is ὁ ὄχλος in Matthew (against πολλοί in Mark 10.48 and οἱ προάγοντες in Luke 18.39) which tries to silence the blind from crying after Jesus. Matthew's ὁ πλεῖστος ὄχλος (21.8) replaces Marks' πολλοί (11.8) strewing garments in Jesus' way, and Matthew adds οἱ ὄχλοι to Mark's description in 11.9 of the shouting pilgrims as οἱ προάγοντες καὶ ἀκολουθοῦντες. It is these same pilgrims, described as οἱ ὄχλοι, who announce to the city of Jerusalem (in Matthew only) that 'This is the Prophet, Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee' (21.11). Sections II, III, VI and VII are the only places where Matthew ascribes a direct quotation to οἱ ὄχλοι other than iun Matt. 27.20-2, where, seeking the prisoner's release at the feast, they cry out, 'Barabbas!' and, seeking Jesus' death, they shout, 'Crucify him!' All of these direct speeches, including the last mentioned, are concerned with recognition and acceptance - or rejection - of Jesus. When we compare these with the only direct quotations ascribed to ὁ ὄχλος in Mark (3.33 and 15.13, 14) and to οἱ ὄχλοι in Luke (3.10), it becomes apparent that for Matthew, and Matthew alone, (1) οἱ ὄχλοι form an integral part of his Son of David structure; (2) οἱ ὄχλοι represent the mass of the common Jewish people moving toward recognition of Jesus, as we shall see, and (3) they play a much greater part in the growing recognition of Jesus as the Messiah than in the other Gospels.15 As Bultmann observes, 'In Matthew after vii.28 the ὄχλοι come to the fore as the audience'.16 Thus Matthew's heightened role for the ὄχλοι is unique among the Gospels. The dominant translation for אַם, people, is λαός, which is a common word in Luke for the Jewish people (occurring 36 times to Matthew's fourteen, Mark's two and John's two). In Matthew λαός occurs four times in O.T. prophesies (2.6; 4.16; 13.15; 15.8), in the genitive five times as 'chief priests/elders/scribes of the people' (2.4; 21.23; 26.3, 47; 27.1), twice in direct statements by Jewish leaders (26.5; 27.54), once in the angel's words to Joseph: 'He shall save his people from their sins' (1.21), and that leaves only 4.23 and 27.25. In 4,23 at the the beginning of his ministry Jesus acts to heal the people; in 27.25 at the end of his ministry the people act to kill Jesus. Thus ὁ λαός
Only Matthew relates a direct statement by the λαός: ‘His blood be on us and on our children’ (27.25), and this is the sole passage in Matthew, apart from quotations of O.T. prophecies, where actual speech (direct or indirect) or action is ascribed to ὁ λαός. Apart from the effect of emphasizing the number of people involved, it appears that Matthew employs οί ὄχλοι (thirty times in the plural and twenty times in the singular)17 instead of ὁ λαός to emphasize the gulf between the masses and the Pharisees, and only when οί ὄχλοι fully stand at the end with the Jewish leaders in condemning Jesus (27.20-22) are they then finally equated with ὁ λαός (Ἰσραήλ) which is too clear-cut a pattern not to be intentional.18
(4) Deaf and/or mute, κωφός (II, III: 9.32, 33; 12.22). In II and III the Pharisees assign Jesus’ work to the devil. The explicit connection of these healings with the Pharisees is Matthew’s, following a Marcan lead (Mark 3.22: οἱ γραμματτεῖς οἱ ἀπὸἸεροσολύμων καταβάντες).19 The Pharisees, kin contrast to those healed, are spiritually κοφοί, unwilling to hear God’s Word in Jesus’ words and to witness to him with their tongues.
In dealing above with τυφλός and κωφός we have taken for granted that it is Matthew’s intention for his readers to infer that the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders who are present at the healings and exorcisms under discussion have the spiritual counterpart to the physical disability cured by Jesus. It is a device which Mark had already used to his own ends with regard to the obstinacy of the disciples (see Mark 8.18), but it is worth while to present some further evidence at this point of its being Matthew’s technique as well and to consider how widely he may be applying it.
Two of the passages in Matthew indicating that Jesus’ healings are viewed as concerned with the spiritual counterparts of the physical maladies treated are 9.1-8, the case (from Mark 2.1-12) of the paralytic whose sins are forgiven in conjunction with his physical healing, and 18.8 f. (Par. Mark 9.43-8) where it is stated that to enter into life deformed (κυλλός), lame (χωλός), or limited in vision (μονόφθαλμος) is better than to be cast into the fire of Gehenna with a whole body that causes one to stumble. Other passages, many of Marcan or Q origin, concerned with spiritual sight and hearing, are 5.29; 6.22 f.; 7.3-5; 10.27; 11.15; 13.9, 13-17, 43; 20.15; Jesus tells the disciples of John the Baptist to report to John what they see and hear:20 the τυφλοί see again, the χωλοί
Matthew presents two healings of two blind men (9.27-31; 20.29-34). He had before him in Mark two healings of a blind man (Mark 8.22-6; 10.46-52). As we shall demonstrate, Matthew bases his second account on Mark’s second one, writes his first account as a careful recasting of his own later one,21 and probably borrows features for each of them from both of Mark’s accounts.
That Matthew’s second healing (20.29-34) is based upon the healing of Bartimaeus, Mark 10.46-52, is too obvious to need arguing here.22
That Matthew 9.27-31 is another version of 20.29-34 is shown by their parallel contents: (1) two blind men (versus one in Mark 10 and Luke 18); (2) the cry, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David’ (inverting Bartimaeus’ ‘Son of David ... have mercy on me’ in Mark 10.47);23 (3) a repeated imploring of Jesus;24 (4) a questioning of the blind men by Jesus, in answering which they address him as κύριε (compared with Mark’s ῥαββουνί, 10.51);25 (5) an effecting of the healing by touching their eyes (used in Mark’s earlier account at Mark 8.22). Verbs common to both reports are ἅπτεσθαι as just noted (Matt. 9.29 and 20.34), παράγειν (9.27 and 20.30), and ὰκολουθεῖν (9.27 and 20.29).
Not only does Matthew very likely borrow ἅπτεσθαι for both his stories from Mark’s request by the blind man of Bethsaida (Mark 8.22) as seen above, but from the same earlier account he takes up ὄμματα for the actual healing of the eyes in his second version (Mark 8.23; Matt. 20.34 – the only occurrences of the word in the N.T.)26 Why he does so we shall consider in the next part of the essay.
Matt. 9.27-31 has a slight direct verbal link with Mark’s second account (Mark 10.46-52) in the simple connecting of κράζειν and λέγειν with καί (without an intervening phrase modifying κράζειν) which is found in the N.T. only at Matt. 9.27 (κράζοντες καὶ λέγοντες) and at Mark 10.47 (κράζειν καὶ λέγειν). A connection in content between this first healing in Matthew and Mark’s first one (Mark 8.22-6) is that they both contain a similar charge to the healed which is disobeyed in each case.
The verbs παράγειν and ἀκολουθεῖν help to form a stronger bond in content between the two Matthaean healings than might at first appear, for they emphasize the note of discipleship.
W. C. Allen notes on Matt. 9.27 that ‘it is striking that Matt., who in vii. 4 omits ἐμβριμησάμενος and the disobedience to Christ’s express and urgent command from Mark i. 43-5, should here (vv. 330-1) have ἐνεβριμήσατο followed by just such an act of disobedience.32 The present writer would suggest that it was more to Matthew’s point to record this charge and disopb4edience in connection with explicit reference to the Son of David in a discipleship context.
We may safely conclude that these Matthaean healings of blind men are two versions of one event represented by a conflation of what appeared to be the relevant materials of the two Marcan healings,33 and these versions are meant to be considered by the reader as parallel and yet contrasted, as we shall see even further in the next section.
Our other two parallel sections are Matt. 9.32-4 and 12.22-4, in each of which a demoniac is brought to Jesus (προσφέρειν, a detail peculiar to Matthew), Jesus exorcises him. The healed man speaks (and sees in chap. 12), the ὄχλοι are amazed, ask who Jesus is, and the Pharisees in answer ally him with the prince of devils. This is clearly a case of intentionally paralleled accounts.
Here Matthew appears to have had both Marcan and Q-materials at hand (Mark 3.20-2 and Luke 11.14-16)34 and to have consciously remoulded elements of them into two of his own. Phrases in Matthew’s earlier occurring version which are found in Luke are: ἐλάλησεν ὀ κωφός. καὶ εθαύμασαν οἱ ὄχλοι (matt. 9.33; Luke 11.14) and ἐν [Βεελζεβούλ] τῷ ἄρχοντι τῶν δαιμονίων ἐκβάλλει τὰ δαιμόνια (Matt. 9.34, which omits Βεελζεβούλ for reasons to be given later, and Luke 11.15). Further, Matt. 9.32 uses ἐκβάλλειν for the actual healing as does Luke 11.14, but Matt. 12.22 uses θεραπεύειν. In Matt. 12.23 in the place of Luke’s ἐθαύμασαν οἱ ὄχλοι we have ἐξίσταντο πάντες οἱ ὄχλοι, with a more potent verb conveying astonishment mixed with awe.35 If Matthew has picked this verb up from Mark 3.21 which lay close at hand, where Jesus is considered to be out of his mind, perhaps Matthew has in irony transferred it to the ὄχλοι in his second account with something more than the attenuated meaning of ‘be amazed’ which Arndt and Gingrich assign to this passage.36 Matthew changes the scribes of Mark 3.22 to Pharisees, adds the bringing of the men to Jesus (lacking in Luke), and also adds the direct sayings to each account which we shall consider below.
Once more Matthew has made a closely related but differentiated pair of accounts from a conflation of his sources.37
What unity, if any, emerges
from the passages where the adult Jesus is named as Son of David?
If the First Evangelist had a plan in mind, it will emerge when we take
his material in its Matthaean order – after we have handled one more question.
Why are two men healed in each of Matthew’s two versions of the hailing of Jesus as Son of David by the blind as opposed to Mark’s single blind man? Typical of the many ingenious but unconvincing explanations offered are the three following. F. V. Filson tentatively suggests that it may be Matthew’s way of indicating that he knows more stories than he tells.38 Bultmann thinks it obvious that here and in his two Gadarene demoniacs (Matt. 8.28 ff. – to Mark’s one at Gerasa) the Evangelist is conforming to a ‘popular folk motif’ in story telling, ‘in all probability resting on the demands of comprehension or symmetry’.39 E. Klostermann records Bultmann’s contention but inclines toward the view that Matthew, when conflating the two Marcan accounts, adds the two single men together to make his two.40
These ideas all place too low a value on Matthew’s δύο in these three healings. Matthew includes twelve healings of individuals, five healings of many persons, but no healings of two persons other than these three accounts. Matthew has two persons healed only where Jesus is acclaimed as Son of God (by the demoniacs) or Son of David (by the blind men). Jesus is never acclaimed by either title in Matthew by less than two witnesses except by Peter at Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16.16).41 Matthew’s concern, then, is to have the two witnesses who agree in their testimony in accordance with the requirements of Jewish jurisprudence42 and probably in conscious antithesis to the two witnesses (see Matt. 26.60 f.) needed before Jesus could be sentenced to death (Num. 35.30; Deut. 17.6).
II. In the next three verses (9.32-4) a deaf-mute demoniac is brought to Jesus (which is the act of faith of those who bring him),44 is healed by him and speaks. The marvelling όχλοι say, ‘Never was anything like this seen in
III. In 12.22-4, of which the above is a reworking, once again a blind and dumb demoniac (dumb only in Luke 11.14-16) is brought to Jesus, is healed by him, sees and speaks. This time the ὄχλοι, being amazed (literally, beside themselves – like a demoniac?), pose the question (in Matthew only), ‘Can this be the Son of David? (v. 23), which may be meant to mean, ‘Can the cured men have been right in proclaiming him as the Son of David?’ Now the crowds are entertaining the Messianic title by name, and the Pharisees reply more explicitly this time, naming the prince of demons, and saying, ‘It is only by Beelzebub ... that this man casts out demons’ (v. 24). This time their spiritual deaf-muteness and blindness is made even clearer than the first time, for they not only deny to Jesus the title and office of Son of David (which is forgivable. See 12.32 in the discourse immediately following), but even directly attribute the works of God which their physical eyes behold to Beelzebub (which is unforgivable, see 12. 31 f.; cf. John 10.38). In order to heighten this clearer rejection the note of spiritual blindness is added to that of spiritual deafness: the man is not only κωφός
V. Now comes the second healing of two blind men (Matt. 20.29-34; pars.: Mark 10.46-52; Luke 18.35-43). They cry out, ‘Lord, have mercy on us, ‘Son of David’, and the great crowd (ὄχλος πολύς) which is present tries to silence them (vv. 30 f.) In view of the disciples’ attitude to the Canaanite woman discussed above, it would appear that Matthew means to imply that the ὄχλος, being spiritually blind, still rejects the witness of those who can see that this is the Son of David. But the two witnesses will not be silenced and repeat their cry (v. 31). Jesus asks them what they want, and they address him as Lord in their request for the opening of their ὀφθαλμοί. He heals them by touching their ὄμματα, a word for eyes which occurs primarily in poetry and numerous times in the phrase ‘eyes of the soul’ from Plato (Republic VII, p. 533D) to 1 Clement (19.3).51 That Matthew suddenly injects it here means that he is intentionally implying that Jesus gives them spiritual sight as well as physical. ‘And they followed him’ (20.34), not ‘in the way’ (towards
Thus the two double healings of Matt. 9.27-31 and 20.29-34 are used by Matthew to mark different stages in the growth of recognition and acceptance of Jesus’ Messianic Davidic sonship.
VI. Finally the ὄχλοι likewise succumb (the Pharisees apparently not being there to head them off) and acclaim Jesus at his entry into Jerusalem (Matt. 21.1-9) as ‘Son of David’ (21.9) as he rides in on an ass as the Messianic king of Zech. 9.9 (cited in Matt. 21.5). They go on to proclaim him as ‘the Prophet’ to the questioning Jerusalemites (21.10 f.).
VII. After Jesus cleanses the Temple, Matthew adds that he stays there healing the blind and the lame (χωλοί) who come to him (21.14), and even the children cry out in the Temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’ (21.15). But the chief priests and scribes, beholding the wonders and hearing the children, remain spiritually blind, indignant and unbelieving (v. 16). At the first healing of two blind men Jesus charged them to silence (9.30), but now he endorses, albeit obliquely, even the acclamation of the children (21.16). Jesus goes away, but the priests and scribes, being, it seems implied, spiritually χωλοί, do not follow after him.
VIII. Now the time has come to say that a greater than David is here, and to say it both in word (22.41-6) and in deed (chaps. 26-28, the Passion, Resurrection and Exaltation). Matthew has taken ‘Son of David’ and wrung it dry; sufficient testimony has been obtained both to Jesus as a son of David and as the Son of David in a mounting crescendo which is now to be silenced – or at least re-channelled.
The fact that Jesus’ question about how can the Christ be David’s son appears in all three Synoptics (Matt. 22.41-6; Mark 12.35-7a; Luke 20.41-4) is clear indication that it caused nogreat trouble to the early Church, and assuredly was not taken in the sense of a denial by Jesus of genealogical Davidic sonsjip.53 If this had been the case, the pericope would have been either dropped or radically reworked. Thus the meaning of the question, ‘If therefore David calls him Lord, how is he his son?’ (Matt. 22.45; pars.: Mark 12.37; Luke 20.44), must be basically that of Bartlett’s exegesis, namely that Jesus ‘disclaims and refutes by showing the impasse to which it led (on their own premises), ... the Pharisees’ notion of Messiahship as determined by sonship to David “according to the flesh”, rather than by the divine sonship, or unique spiritual relation to God – which was to Jesus the basis of his own Messianic vocation’.54
The positioning of this discussion after all the other Son of David references and just before the Passion in all three Synoptic Gospels, whether this or not this is historically correct, would seem to be a further indication of the inadequacy of the title as a designation for the person and work of Jesus.55
Matthew sharpens the whole discussion and shifts its emphasis by breaking up Mark’s (and Luke’s) single question by Jesus, ‘How can the scribes say that Christ is Son of David ...? (Mark 12.35; Luke 20.41, Luke dropping the scribes). In Matthew, Jesus poses two questions to the chief antagonists in this Gospel, the Pharisees: ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?’, and they reply, ‘David’s’ (22.42). From the start then, Matthew raises two questions which only come out by implication at the end of the other two Synoptic accounts: (1) How high an estimate do you place on the Christ?, (2) Who is his father? By making a separate question, ‘Whose son is he?’ Matthew sharpens the issue of to whom he Christ (that is, Jesus to Mathew’s readers) owes filial obedience and from whom he receives his sonship. Also, the Christ is, according to Matthew’s version, basically son of someone, of someone to whom he owes obedience and whose character he is to manifest, and the one who controls the nature of his sonship is not David. Clearly, he can only be ‘Son of God’,56 an acclamation which the Pharisees refuse to make. This pointed refusal is driven home by Matthew (v. 46) when he himself adds, ‘And no one was able to answer him a word’, followed by, ‘nor from that day did any one dare to ask him any more questions’. The latter clause has been transferred here by Matthew from the discussion of the great commandment which [precedes it, where it forms the conclusion of that section in Mark (Mark 12.34b). Perhaps Matthew means to imply that they were afraid that they would be forced to even greater admissions than the one just wrested from them by their silence.
Before we draw our conclusions there are two other sections which underline what we have said about the Pharisees, and which are both closely related to Son of David passages, Matt. 12.25-45 and 23.1-36. Let us briefly consider them.
The first of these (12.25-45) immediately follows the rejection of Jesus as the Son of David by the Pharisees and their ascribing his work to Beelzebub (12.22-4). Addressed by Jesus to the scribes and Pharisees (vv. 25 and 38), this section accuses them of inward evil (vv. 34 f.), of blindness to the very works of the Holy Spirit (i.e. as seen in Jesus’ deeds) (vv. 31-3, 38-42), and of standing as finally condemned for rejection of those works done in their midst (vv. 32, 36, 41-5).
The second of these sections (23.1-36) immediately follows the question about David’s son, but is even more explicit in condemning the scribes and Pharisees. It has two addresses by Jesus, one to the ὄχλοι and his disciples about the Pharisees and scribes (vv. 1-12), and the other to the scribes and Pharisees themselves. Matthew’s lead for this whole section undoubtedly comes from Mark 12.37b-40, which occupies the same position and gives Matthew his tripartite outline: the scribes’ honour-seeking (Mark 12.38 f.), their inward evil and outward piety (v. 40a), and their ultimate great condemnation (v. 40b). Some of the material is found in Luke, but most of it is Matthaean.
In his address to the crowds and disciples (vv. 1-12), Jesus says first of all, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat’ (v. 2), that is, they are the ones who are responsible (and accountable) for the interpretation of the Law (see v. 3). But actually they lay heavy burdens on men without even helping with them (v. 4) and seek adulation for themselves, including the titles Rabbi and father (vv. 5-7). In other words, they seek to lord it over their fellow Jews. But there is only one proper Father: God (v. 9), and one Teacher: the Christ (v. 10), and, ‘He who is greatest among you shall be your servant’ (v. 11, cf. 20.26-8). The chiefest of all among them is clearly the Christ, Jesus, in the minds of Matthew and his readers. Whoever does not follow this pattern but exalts himself (i.e., the Pharisees and their followers) will be humbled (v. 12). This is a far cry from both the despotism of the Pharisees and from the expectation of many of a triumphantly ruling Davidic King-Messiah who would overthrow
Jesus then addresses woes to the scribes and Pharisees (vv. 13, 15-36). The first two (vv. 13, 15) concern their diligence in misleading others as well as themselves, neither themselves entering nor allowing others to enter the kingdom of heaven, which may well refer to their turning of the ὄχλοι against Jesus. In the next part of the woes appear five of Matthew’s six metaphorical occurrences of τυφλός (vv. 16, 17, 19, 24, 26). The Pharisees are blind guides who so discount oaths made only on the temple, the altar, and heaven, that they dishonour them and the God to whom they belong (vv. 16-22). They do the outward part of the Law (vv. 23, 25, 27), which is commended (v. 23b), but inwardly are iniquitous hypocrites (vv. 23, 25, 28), having ‘neglected the weightier matters of the Law: justice and mercy and faith’ (v. 23). Finally min vv. 29-36 Jesus says that the scribes and Pharisees will reject and even murder, as did their fathers, those who come proclaiming God’s true Torah, and upon these Jewish leaders will now ‘come all the righteous blood shed on earth’ (v. 35a). Thus there can be no doubt that the scribes and Pharisees are Matthew’s villains.
In conclusion, Matthew emphasizes Jesus as the Son of David, in whom are
fulfilled all legitimate Jewish Messianic hopes, far more than do Mark and Luke,
but he then uses the result even more strongly than they do as a springboard
with which to push onward to Jesus as the Son of God, the Saviour who comes from
the Jews to all who put their faith in him, both Jew and Gentile.
In Matthew the human recognition of Jesus as Son of David comes primarily from Gentiles (the Magi, 2.1-12, and the Canaanite woman, 15.22) and the blind (9.27; 20.30 f.). The Jews are slow to see in Jesus even the limited Messiahship of the Son of David, but it is so apparent that even the blind and foreigners can recognize it.
Mark, unlike Matthew, maintains the spiritual blindness and deafness of even the disciples until at least Caesarea Philippi.57 This is his answer to the question of why Jesus was not recognized: the so-called Marcan Messianic secret. Matthew, on the other hand, makes a frontal attack on the Jewish leaders, especially the Pharisees, and claims, as we have seen, that all who had understanding and faith,58 both Jew and Gentile, could see who Jesus was and respond to him; it was only the active opposition of the Pharisees who were spiritually τυφλοί and κωφοί which prevented the ὄχλοι, the mass of the Jews, from coming to full acceptance of him as well.59
The Pharisees were so blind to the true nature of the Torah that they could not recognize Jesus as its fulfiller and fulfilment (Matt. 3.15 and 5.17),60 or, in John’s words, that in Jesus ‘the Logos was made flesh and tabernacled among us’ (John 1.14). Perhaps this is why the Pharisees are explicitly called blind in Matthew only in regard to their interpretation of the Law: being spiritually τυφλοί, κωφοῖ, and probably χωλοί (pluys perhaps κυλλοί or λεπροί),61 they could see, hear, or follow the Word of God when in flesh he acted before their eyes. Spoke to their ears, and walked as the Way in the Way, the true Torah.
In short, Matthew uses his occurrences of the phrase, ‘Son of David’, to argue five points:
(1) Jesus was the Messianic Son of David after the flesh (1.1-16, 20; see also 13.55).
(2) Jesus’ Messiahship was so apparent in word and deed that even the Gentiles and the blind could recognize it (Gentiles: 2.1-12, 15.21-8; blind: 9.27-31, 20.29-34).
(3) The Gentiles can come to Christ by placing their faith in him as the Jewish Messiah (2.1-12, but especially 15.21-8).
(4) The mass of the Jews were moving toward recognition of Jesus (9.33; 12.23; 21.8 f., 11) and would have come to accept him if it had not been for the direct opposition of the perverse Pharisees and other Jewish leaders (9.34; 12.24; 21.15-16; 27.20-5; see 22.46. See 28.11-15 for continuation of perverse opposition after the Resurrection).
(5) Finally, Matthew emphatically lays aside the title ‘Sonnof David’ as inadequate in the face of recognition of Jesus as the Son of God (22.41-6).
1 But see John 7.42, discussed in note 5. (Back to text)
2 Luke has additional Davidic allusions in chaps. 1 and 2, but no other passages witnessing to the adult Jesus as Son of David apart from calling him king when he enters Jerusalem (19.38), appears before Pilate (23.2 f.), and is crucified (23.37 f.). (Back)
3 'Son of God' occurs thirteen times in Matthew to six times at most in Mark (i.e. including Mark 1.1) and eight in Luke. But since a son in both the O.T. and N.T. is primarily to show forth the character of his father, this Matthaean filial emphasis may be seen even more clearly in the references to God as Father. In the words of H. F. D. Sparks, 'Whereas Mark (in what would appears to be the true text [i.e. omitting 11.25] has only three references to God as Father, the material shared in common by St Matthew and St Luke nine, and Luke seventeen, Matthew has no less than forty-four references. Since Matthew is only about half as long again as Mark, and is not quite as long as Luke, these figures indicate that the author had a special interest in the Divine Fatherhood' ('The Doctrine of the Divine Fatherhood in the Gospels', Studies in the Gospels, ed. by D. E. Nineham [Oxford, 1955], p. 251). (Back)
4 See Sparks, op.cit., pp. 251-4, and also T. W. Manson, The Teaching of Jesus2 (Cambridge, 1936) pp. 95 f., 98. (Back)
4b [2004: For the fuller significance of Matt. 1.1 see Wisdom, Power and Well-being.] (Back)
5 C. G. Montefiore, in The Synoptic Gospels edited with an Introduction and a Commentary2 (London, 1927) vol. II, p. 3, strenuously rejects Jesus' Davidic descent, taking Mark 12.37 as showing that Jesus 'was conscious he could make no such claim', not even on the basis of family tradition. O. Cullmann. in The Christology of the New Testament (London, 1959), pp. 129 f., cites Hegesippus' account as reported by Eusebius (H. E. iii, 19 f.) of the denouncing and arrest of the grandson of Judas, a brother of Jesus, because he was a descendant of David and hence a potential focus of Jewish messianic revolt. Cullmann takes this as showing 'that the Davidic tradition in Jesus' family was not contested' (p. 130), and he argues that Rom. 1.3 indicates that the primitive Christian confession generally included that Jesus was Son of David 'according to the flesh'.
The Fourth evangelist does not even deign to comment when the question of Jesus' birthplace is raised (John 7.42). In C.K. Barrett's words: 'We may feel confident that John was aware of the tradition that Jesus was born at Bethlehem...; he writes here in his customary ironical style. The critics of Jesus ignorantly suppose that because he was brought up in Galilee he was also born there. But John's irony goes far deeper than this. The birthplace of Jesus is a trivial matter in comparison with the question whether he is ἐκ τῶν ἄνω or ἐκ τῶν κάτω (8.23), whether he is or is not from God' (The Gospel According to St John [London, 1955], p. 273.
But all this aside, Montefiore has obviously missed the point of Mark 12.37 and its parallels. See below, Section IV, No. VIII.
6 See W. H. Bennett, 'Family', A Dictionary of the Bible, ed. by J. Hastings (Edinburgh, 1898) I, 849, and James Strahan, 'Family (Biblical and Christian)', Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. by J. Hastings, V (Edinburgh, 1912), 725. (Back
7 In Luke Mary is told to name the child (1.31). (Back)
8 See Ezek.34.1-56 for the description of the inverse of the good shepherd-king. Ezek. 34.23 ff. and Jer. 22.4-8 describe the ideal shepherd-king of David's line. On this see S. Mowinckel, He That Cometh (Oxford, 1956), pp. 177, 179. (Back)
9 'The prevailing view is that the heathen will yield to him voluntarily; for the Messiah is the prince of peace; and when the heathen have been overcome, he has put an end to war. His kingdom is a kingdom of peace and prosperity for both Israel and the other peoples. He will be the good shepherd to his people' (Mowinckel, op. cit. p. 316). He cites inj support of this summary Sib. v, 429 ff.; cf. iii, 706 ff.; Jub. 31.20; II Bar. 73.1; Test. Judah 24; Ps. Sol. 17.44-6; Exodus Rabbah 2 (68b). (Back)
10 Section numbers for readers' convenience fom Albert Huck, Syniopsis of the First Three Gospels9 revised by H. Lietzmann, English edition by F. L. Cross (New York, 1935). (Back)
11 H. J. Held, 'Matthew as Interpreter of the Miracle Stories', Tradition and Interpretation in Matthew, by G. Bornkamm, G. Barth and H. J. Held (london, 1963), p. 263. This book will be cited as Trad. and Interp. Its contents are: G. Bornkamm, 'End-Expectation and Church in Matthew' (to be cited as 'Church'), 'The Stilling of the Storm in Matthew'; G. Barth, 'Matthew's Understanding of the Law' (to be cited as 'Law'); and Held's essay (to be cited as 'Miracle Stories'). (Back)
12 'Church', Trad. and Interp. p. 41. (Back)
13 Ibid. pp. 42 f. (Back)
14 'The Stilling of the Storm in Matthew', Trad. and Interp. p. 55. (Back)
15 John used ὄχλος (which occurs 20 times inn the singular, never in the plural, if P66 אּ D lattsy are to be followed at 7,12) for the 'am hā-'ārets according to Rudolf Mayer (T.W.N.T. v, 587-90). John's ὄχλος however, unlike Matthew's, remains blind to Jesus throughout his whole ministry, as is evidenced by the two direct statements of the crowd at John 7.20 and 12.34 and the one indirect statement at 12.29. In Matthew Jesus has a large fringe following in addition ton the disciples; in John the fringe element is excluded after 6.66. (Back)
16 R. Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition (Oxford, 1963), p. 333. (This work is cited as Synoptic Tradition below.) (Back)
17 Compared with Mark's one plural, thirty-seven singular; Luke's sixteen plural, twenty-five singular. (Back)
18 Rudolf Meyer seems to have missed all this in Matthew, for he ascribes a significant meaning and character to the crowd itself only in the Entry Pericope of Matt. 21.1-11 (T.W.N.T. v, 586, lines 33-8). (Back)
19 Cf. Luke 11.15: τινές ἐξ αυτῶν, that is, part of the crowds. (Back)
20 In Luke's version one might almost say that Jesus obliges the messengers by doing a number of representative healings for their benefit (7.21) and then telling them to report what they 'have seen and heard' (v. 22). Unlike Matthew's account, this sounds more like an objective and disinterested reporting of physical events. Luke may have meant the same thing as Matthew, but Matthew's version is, in that case, the clearer one. (Back)
21 Up to this point Held reaches the same conclusions ('Miracle Stories', Trad. and Interp., pp. 219 f.). The material he sets forth parallels some of what follows. See also Bultmann, Synoptic Tradition, pp. 212, 214. (Back)
22 It is simply taken for granted by most commentators. See, for example, W. C. Allen, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to S. Matthew (Edinburgh, 1907) p. 218, E. Klostermann, Das Matthäusevangelium2 (Tübingen, 1927) p. 164, and Bultmann, Synoptic Tradition, p. 316. (Back)
23 This word order, the cry for mercy and then the title 'Son of David', is invariable in Matthew and peculiar to him. See Held, 'Miracle Stories', Trad. and Interp. p. 220. (Back)
24 Held points out that a renewing of the request must be implied in Matt. 9.28 when the blind men come to Jesus at the house (ibid. p. 219, n. 1). (Back)
25 Luke has κύριε as well at this point (18.41) probably because it is more intelligible to the Gentiles in his audience. (Back)
26 Held recognizes this as a Matthaean borrowing from Mark ('Miracle Stories', Trad. and Interp. p. 209, n. 1). (Back)
27 The alternative verb παρέλθειν
28 The only exception is Matt. 9.19 where Jesus follows the ruler of the synagogue, but the ruler has already worshipped Jesus (9.18) so there is no question of Jesus' becoming the ruler's disciple. (Back)
29 T.W.N.T., i, 214, lines 7 f. (Back)
30 K. L. Schmidt merely concludes that 'the identical Mark i.16; ii.14; John ix.1 may be appraised as a pericopes beginning' (T.W.N.T., i, 129, lines 3 f.) True as this is, it does not seem to do full justice to the contexts, as was shown by Eernst Lohmeyer in 'Und Jesus ging vorüber', Nieuw Theologisch Tijdshrift, 1934, pp. 206-24. (Back)
31 Retaining the αὐτῷ
32 Allen, S. Matthew (I.C.C.), p. 97. (Back)
33 A view favoured by E. Klostermann, Das Matthäusevangelium2, p. 83. (Back)
34 Either there is a direct literary dependence between Matthew and Luke, which is unlikely, or it is very probable that both authors found the materials behind Luke 9.14-16 already a unit which included the accusation of Mark 3.22. (Back)
35 W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich, A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago and Cambridge, 1957), ἐξίστημι
36 Ibid. (Back)
37 Bultmann (Synoptic Tradition, p. 212) recognizes 9.32-4 as a variant of 12.22-4 and thinks both passages were created by Matthew for the purpose of providing illustrations of the healing of τυφλοί and κωφοί
38Floyd V. Filson, A Commentary on the Gospel According to St Matthew (London, 1960), p. 123. (Back)
39 Synoptic Tradition, pp. 315 f. N. Walker, on the contrary, argues with even less reason than Bultmann that Matthew's use of 'two' in these passages makes it likely that he was not copying Mark and had a more original version at hand ('The Alleged Matthaean Errata', N.T.S. ix , 394). (Back)
40 Das Matthäusevangelium2, pp. 83, 164. On p. 79 Klostermann expresses the same views on 8. 28 ff. (Back)
41 Peter's confession must have been too well known for Matthew to modify it much even if he wished to. But he does add 'Son of God' to 'Christ' as being more adequate for his purposes. Even so, Jesus' question is addressed to all the disciples, and Peter appears to answer as their inspired spokesman. Further, in Matthew they all have worshipped and confessed him as Son of God at the earlier stilling of the storm (Matt. 14.33), in contrast to their hardened heart in Mark's version (Mark 6.52). (Back)
42 Sifré on Num. 35.30 and Rosh ha-Shanah iii.1; see John 8.17. This rule is made part of Jesus' teaching at Matt. 18.16 and is respected at 2 Cor. 13.1; 1 Tim. 5.19; Heb. 10.28; 1 John 5.6 ff. See A. R. C. Leaney, A Commentary on the Gospel According to St Luke (London, 1958), p. 8, where its influence on Luke-Acts is also dealt with. (Back)
43 At the least, this is reminiscent of Matt. 7.21: 'Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.' (Back)
44 προσφέρειν is used in the Gospels and Acts of the bringing of the sick to be healed only once in Mark (2.4=Matt. 9.2), where this action is recognized by Jesus as faith, but further in Matthew at 4.24; 8.16; 12.22; 14.35; 17.16. In all these further examples faith in Jesus is tacitly assumed because of this action, and healing by Jesus imm3ediately follows without question. See Held, ‘Miracle Stories’, Trad. And Interp. P. 279.
Held notes that in the whole Synoptic tradition,. Apart from the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (Mat5t. 8.14 f.; Mark 1.29-31; Luke 4.38 f. – this might be vicariously based on Peter’s faith in following Jesus) and the widow’s son in Nain (Luke 7.11-17), ‘Jesus only heals when people come to him or expressly ask him’, that is, manifest some degree of faith (ibid. p. 169, n. 2). He excludes exorcisms from consideration as not healings in the actual sense of the word, but as we have seen, Matthew tends to bring even these into line, probably because of his care to present Jesus in terms of personal relationships (to God and to men, and as the one top be followed) as opposed to a Hellenistic wonder-worker conceived in terms of power rather than personality (compare Matthew’s use of δύναμις with that of Mark and Luke; on GHellenistic ‘sons of god’ see A. D. Nock, ‘Studies in the Graeco-Roman beliefs of the Empire’, The Journal of Hellenic Studies, xlv , pp. 84-101). (Back)
45 Note how the Pharisees are called spiritually blind in John 9.39-41 after their rejection of the blind man healed who becomes Jesus’ disciple (9.1-38). (Back)
46 Although in Matt. 14.14 the disciples have already recognized Jesus as ‘Son of God’, Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi is the first recognition of him as the Messiah by the disciples, carefully linked alone by Matthew with ‘Son of God’, the greater recognition; see Huck 122. The Passion prediction in this section is followed in the Synoptics by the demands of discipleship (Huck 123): ‘Let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me’ - καὶ ἀκολουθείτω μοι (Mark 8.34; Matt. 16.24; Luke 9.23, who has ‘take up his cross daily’). Thus recognition of Jesus as Messiah demands discipleship: demands a following of Jesus. This pattern seems to be especially apparent in Matthew’s handling of the two accounts of the healing of the blind men. (Back)
47 See above, n. 8. Cf. John 10.11, 14: ‘I am the good shepherd.’ (Back)
48 This is in contrast to the contextually smoother and more likely original ‘crumbs of the children’ in Mark 7.28. (Back)
49 ‘Miracle Stories’, Trad. and Interp. p. 200. (Back)
50 Between Matthew’s accounts of this event and the second healing of two blind men comes Peter’s Messianic confession at Caesarea Philippi (16.16), but Peter’s confession moves in a different direction: the Messiah not as Son of David but as Son of God. See above, n. 46. (Back)
51 For examples see the lexica of Liddle and Scott9 and Arndt and Gingrich (also obviously Bauer5); see also J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament (
52 Held maintains this view ('Miracle Stories', Trad. and Interp. p. 221). (Back)
53 As, for example, C. G. Montefiore thinks likely (see above, n. 5) and also R. Bultmann (Theology of the N.T. I [
54 J. Vernon Bartlett, 'S. Mark' in Century Bible (1922), quoted by C. G. Montefiore, The Synoptic Gospels2 I, 289, on Mark 12.35-7. Montefiore characterizes this view as 'unnatural and awkward', 'much too subtle, if not too sophistic, to be probable'. But then, the force of Matt. 1.21 (Joseph to name Mary's son) was incomprehensible to his way of thinking as well, for his commentary preceded the rise of modern biblical theology and thus his views tend to be those of a liberal classicist. (Back)
55 Although the title is superseded, the position is still claimed for Jesus throughout the Passion narratives of all four Gospels by the repeated references to Jesus as 'Christ' and 'King of Israel' (in Matthew and Mark) and as 'King of the Jews' (in all four Gospels). (Back)
56 So understood by Barnabas 12.10 f.; see Bultmann, Theology of the N.T. I, 23, n. (Back)
57 See in Mark Jesus' application to the disciples as blind and deaf (Mark 8.18) of the healings of the blind man of Bethsaida (Mark 8.22-6) and of the deaf man with a speech impediment (Mark 7.31-7); cf. Held, 'Miracle Stories', Trad. and Interp. pp. 207 f. Matthew shifts this attack to the Pharisees, for, unlike Mark, Matthew grants pre-Resurrection (albeit imperfect) understanding to the disciples (G. Barth, 'Law', Trad. and Interp. p. 109), However, he makes a stronger accusation of defective faith and obedience against them (ibid. 119 f.). (Back)
58 G. Barth has shown that for Matthew πιστεύειν has as its necessary presupposition συνιέναι (‘Law’, Trad. And Interp. p. 116; cf. pp. 105-16). (Back)
59 Barth seems to have overstated it when he says that it is Matthew's 'intention to portray the multitude as obdurate as a whole' (ibid. p. 108, n. 2). It is rather his intention to show that the Pharisees and other Jewis leaders actively nipped in the bud their (albeit slowly) growing recognition of Jesus. (Back)
60 G. Bornkamm views Matt. 3.15 as referring to Jesus' obedience and v. 17 to his teaching ('Church', Trad. and Interp. p. 50, n. 4), but the shift can be no more than that of moving from one focus of an ellipse to the other: both foci, word and deed, are required to establish the perimeter of Jesus' person, and both are contained within that one perimeter. (Back)
61 Since their interpretation of the Law was distorted and disfigured, and they made the Law itself unapproachable by the masses. Perhaps it is their interpretation itself which is characterized as κυλλός and λεπρός.