Having explored the background and development of the Messianic figure-type of Anointed (Davidic) King in the previous article, here I will proceed to examine a number key passages—first from Jewish writings of the 1st centuries B.C./A.D., then from the Gospels (and early Christian tradition).
Jewish Writings (c. 150 B.C. to 100 A.D.)
Sirach 47:11; 51:12ff (line 8 of the hymn)—The book of Sirach is dated from the early-mid 2nd century B.C., though the Hebrew hymn that is set after 51:12 is probably a later addition. Both verses refer to God exalting/raising the “horn” (Grk ke/ra$), an Old Testament idiom indicating power and prestige (2 Sam 22:3; Psalm 18:2; 75:4-5; Jer 48:25; Dan 7:8ff; 8:5ff, etc). The idea of God “exalting the horn” of the ruler (esp. of David and his line), reflects the divinely-appointed status of the king, who enjoys the power and protection of YHWH—see Psalm 89:17, 24; 92:10; 112:9. The announcement or promise of a future raising/sprouting of a horn for Israel is found in Psalm 132:17; 148:14; Ezek 29:21. A Messianic use of this idiom is also found in the New Testament (Luke 1:69). Interestingly, the book of Sirach generally accords greater prestige and importance to the figure of (High) Priest, rather than king—compare the description of David and the kings of chap. 47 with that of Moses, Aaron and Phineas in chap. 45 (and cf. also the praise of Simon ben Onias in chap. 50). The elevation of the Priestly figure over and against the King/Prince is a feature of a number of Jewish writings from the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. It can be seen in the book of Jubilees (Jub 31:4-32), the traditions underlying the Testament of Levi (cf. also Testament of Judah 21-22), and throughout the Qumran texts (the Community rule-texts CD/QD, 1QS, 1QSa-b, also 4QTLevi and 4Q541). This presumably reflects the reality of the situation in the post-Exilic period, where the High Priest was set more or less in an equal position with the Prince/King (cf. on Zerubbabel and Joshua and the “two sons of oil” in Zech 3:8-10; 4:1-14; 6:11-13). Indeed, throughout much of the Intertestamental and second-Temple periods, the High Priest (along with the great Priestly families) was the dominant figure in Judah/Judea. The texts and traditions of the 2nd-1st centuries B.C. likely also reflect an underlying polemic against the Hasmonean/Herodian rulers of the time. In lines 8-9 of the hymn in Sirach 51, the “horn of David” (as Ruler) and the chosen “sons of Zadok” (as Priest) are set in tandem.
Psalms of Solomon 17-18—Here we have the clearest pre-Christian expression of the traditional image of an Anointed Ruler who will defeat/subdue the nations and establish a (Messianic) Kingdom for Israel. The Psalms are to be dated in the mid-1st century, in the Hasmonean period, presumably sometime after Pompey’s invasion (63 B.C.). Ps Sol 17 begins with an address to God as King (and the source of kingship): “Lord, you are our king forever… the kingdom of our God is forever over the nations in judgment” (vv. 1-3). The covenant with David is mentioned in verse 4 (“you chose David to be king… that his kingdom should not fail before you”), contrasted with “sinners” (presumably the Maccabean/Hasmonean line) who arose and set up their own monarchy, and so “despoiled the throne of David” (v. 6). Then came “a man alien to our race”, a “lawless one” (vv. 7, 11ff)—most likely a reference to Pompey and the Romans—who invaded and desecrated Jerusalem, scattering its people. This inaugurated an era of sin and injustice (vv. 18b-20). In verse 21-25, the call goes out to God:
“See, Lord, and raise up for them their king, the son of David, to rule over your servant Israel in the time known to you, O God…”
The actions of this Davidic ruler will be two-fold: (1) he will judge and destroy the wicked nations (vv. 22-25, using language from Psalm 2 and Isa 11:1-4), and (2) he will gather/restore Israel as the people of God, establishing a new kingdom of righteousness and peace (vv. 26-32). This ruler is called “Anointed Lord” (xristo\$ kuri/ou) in verse 32, and his reign over Israel and the nations is further described throughout vv. 33-44; ultimately, however, it is God who is the true King of Israel, as stated in the concluding verse (“the Lord Himself is our king forevermore”, v. 46).
Ps Sol 18 is much briefer, but likewise offers a petition to God for cleansing, “…for the day of mercy in blessing, for the appointed day when his Anointed will reign” (v. 5). This rule will take place “under the rod of discipline of the Anointed Lord” (v. 7a).
(Translations by R. B. Wright, OTP 2:665-9, with modifications [in italics])
A generally similar description of the Messiah and his coming rule is found in the (late) 1st-century A.D. works—the Apocalypse of Baruch (2 Baruch) and the deutero-canonical 2/4 Esdras (also known as 4 Ezra). 2 Baruch 26-28 sets forth a twelve-part series of calamities to come upon the world, and then “when all that…has been accomplished, the Anointed One will begin to be revealed” (29:3)—his appearance will usher in an era of peace and prosperity, after which the resurrection will come (30:1). The Messiah’s role in judging and subduing the nations is described in 39:7ff (“…and his dominion will last forever until the world of corruption has ended”, 40:3). An even more detailed description is found as part of the Vision of the Clouds and Waters (2 Bar 53-76)—in 70:9, after the coming of many tribulations, “all will be delivered into the hands of my Servant, the Anointed One”; “he will call all nations, and some of them he will spare, and others he will kill” (72:2). After he has judged the nations and established rule, an idealized era of peace and security will commence (ch. 73). Translations by A. F. J. Klijn, OTP 1:630, 633, 645.
2/4 Esdras similarly has the image of a Messianic Kingdom which precedes the Resurrection and Last Judgment, and which will last 400 years (7:28-29). In the great “Eagle Vision” of chapters 11-12, the lion which appears is identified as “the Anointed (Messiah) whom the Most High has kept until the end of days, who will arise from the posterity of David” (12:32). He will judge and destroy the wicked, and deliver the remnant of Israel (12:34). Modified translation by B. M. Metzter in OTP 1:550.
The Qumran Texts—Here I focus on texts and passages which use the expressions “Prince of the Congregation” (hduh aycn) or “Branch of David” (dywd jmx), both of which are identified with the “Anointed One (of Israel)”, and almost certainly represent the same expected/eschatological Ruler-figure from the line of David (see the discussion in Part 6). Both expressions are found in the Commentary (Pesher) on Isaiah, 4QpIsaa [4Q161]. In column ii (fragments 2-6), on Isa 10:24-27, there is a reference to the “Prince of the Congregation”, and according to what follows, “…after(wards) he/it will be removed from them.” Since the context overall is that of the judgment on the wicked/nations and preservation of a remnant from Israel, the verse probably relates to this. The war against the Kittim (a cipher for Rome) is described in column 3 (fragments 7/8-10), along with a citation of Isaiah 11:1-5 (cf. above) as a Messianic prophecy—”…the interpretation of the word concerns the shoot/branch of David which will sprout in the final days… with the breath of his lips he will execute his enemy and God will support him… he will rule over all the peoples… his sword will judge all the peoples” [restored translation adapted from Martínez-Tigchelaar, 1:317]. The end-time war against the Kittim and the wicked/nations is described in much more detail in the famous War Rule [1QM, 4QM], where the “Prince of the Congregation is mentioned in at least one key passage: “upon the shield of the Prince of the whole Congregation they shall write his name…and the names of the twelve tribes…” etc (5:1 [Martínez-Tigchelaar, 1:121], see also 3:16 and 4Q496 col. 4 frag. 10). It is not clear in this document, whether, or to what extent, this Prince takes an active role in the war, which is what one would expect of the Davidic Ruler to come. This role as conqueror and/or judge of the wicked is more in view in the fragmentary 4Q285, which is likely related in some way to the War Rule; “Prince of the Congregation” appears four times (partly restored) in this text, twice identified specifically as the “Branch of David”. In fragments 6 + 4, the Prince is clearly involved in the war against the Kittim, and at some point “they shall bring him [i.e. leader of the Kittim?] before the Prince of the Congregation”; in fragment 5 (= 11Q14 1 1), in the context of Isa 11:1ff and the defeat of the Kittim, it is stated that “the Prince of the Congregation will kill him” [Martínez-Tigchelaar, 2:643]. Cf. also 4Q376 (frag. 1, col. iii).
In the Community Rule documents—the Damascus Document [CD, QD], Rule of the Community [1QS] and the related 1QSa, 1QSb—the “Prince of the Congregation” and/or the “Anointed (of Israel)” is depicted in terms of his future/end-time role as leader of the Community. This is not particularly surprising, since the Qumran Community (and the Community of the Damascus Document) almost certainly saw itself as representing the faithful ones of the last days. Only those Israelites who join the Community and follow its ways will be saved from the Judgment and be part of the coming Kingdom (Rule over the Community = the Kingdom). In CD 7:19-20 (= 4Q266 3 col. iii), the “Prince of the Congregation” is said to be the fulfillment of Numbers 24:17, the Scripture being given a Messianic interpretation—he will destroy the wicked of Judah and the “sons of Seth” (cf. also CD 19:10-11). The Anointed of Israel is also mentioned in the context of judgment in CD 20:1; for other references to the Anointed, see CD 12:23-13:1; 14:19; 1QS 9:11; 1QSa 2:11-12, 14-15, 20-21. In 1QSb 5:20ff, after the announcement of blessing, the “Prince of the Congregation” will play a role in the renewal of the covenant and the establishment of the kingdom for his [i.e. God’s] people forever (note also the allusion to Isa 11:1-4 and judgment on the wicked in 5:24ff).
In the Florilegium [4Q174], as part of a string of messianic/eschatological Scripture passages, the “Branch of David” will arise as the fulfillment of 2 Sam 7:11-14 to deliver Israel from the “sons of Belial” (col. i, lines 7-11). The Commentary on Genesis [4Q252], on Gen 49:10 (col. v), interprets the “staff” as “the Anointed (One) of Righteousness” and “Branch of David”—”…to him and to his descendants has been given the covenant of kingship for everlasting generations” [Martínez-Tigchelaar, 1:505]. For other Messianic interpretation of the “staff/sceptre” of Gen 49:10 and Num 24:17, see 1QSb 5:27-28; 1QM 11:6-7; 4Q175 12; 4Q521 frag 2 col. iii, as well as the famous reference in the Jewish/Christian Testament of Judah (24:1-6).
The Gospels and the New Testament
Use of the term xristo/$ (“Anointed”)
Apart from the various uses of xristo/$ as a virtual second name for Jesus in early Christianity (reflected in the New Testament), I am examining here only those passages which refer to a specific coming/expected figure: “the Anointed” ([o(] Xristo/$), or with the transliteration “the Meshiyach [Messiah]” ([o(] Messi/a$). It is best to begin with the core Synoptic Tradition, looking especially at those instances which definitely (or are likely to) refer to an Anointed (Davidic) Ruler. There are four main passages:
Peter’s Confession (Mark 8:29 / Lk 9:20 / Matt 16:16)—The Markan version (“You are the Anointed [One]”), has been given expanded form in Luke (“…Anointed [One] of God“) and Matthew (“…Anointed [One], the Son of the living God“). The Matthean formula is somewhat problematic as an utterance by Peter in the historical context of the narrative. In any event, it is clear that something very distinct and special has been revealed. Note:
- Here “Anointed” is in contrast with Jesus being identified as a Prophet (Elijah); as discussed previously (cf. Part 3), a number of instances where “Anointed” is used in the Gospels during the period of Jesus’ ministry, etc., better fit the idea of an Anointed Prophet to come, but this does not seem to be the case here.
- Jesus gives a firm instruction that the disciples not make this identification known to anyone.
- There seems to be an intentional contrast between this identification and the announcement of suffering and death which follows (Mk 8:31 par, similarly following the Transfiguration scene [Mk 9:12, 30-31 par]).
- The relationship between the “Anointed” and the “Son of Man” (cf. the Passion predictions and other sayings that follow).
- The Lukan and Matthean versions seem to relate in some way to the Divine voice in the Baptism and Transfiguration scenes (Mk 1:11; 9:7 pars), indicating that Jesus, as the Anointed One, is specifically the Elect/Chosen One (and Son) of God, cf. Lk 9:35.
The Question regarding the Anointed and the “Son of David” (Mark 12:35-37 / Lk 20:41ff / Matt 22:42ff)—This difficult and somewhat ambiguous passage, set during Passion week in Jerusalem, will be discussed in some detail in Part 8.
The Question of the High Priest (Mark 14:61ff / Lk 22:67 ff / Matt 26:63ff)—This of course takes place during Jesus’ appearance (or “trial”) before the Council (the Sanhedrin), and would seem to denote something very specific. In Mark the question is: “Are you the Anointed (One), the Son of the Blessed (One)?” (Matthew reads “…Anointed [One], the Son of God”); in Luke, it is simply “Are you the Anointed (One)?” In the context of the Synoptic narrative, this question serves as a parallel to Peter’s confession, especially if we consider the expanded version in Matthew:
“You are the Anointed (One), the Son of the living God”
“Are you the Anointed (One), the Son of God?”
The joining of “Anointed” and “Son of God” is particularly noteworthy. The Lukan scene is more developed:
- High Priest’s question: “Are you the Anointed One?”
- Jesus eventually responds, identifying himself with the coming Son of Man
- High Priest follows: “Are you then the Son of God?”
In all three Gospels, there is the three-fold association: Anointed–Son of Man–Son of God. Jesus’ response to the question differs somewhat; only Mark records an unmistakable affirmative answer: “I am” (Mk 14:62). Regardless, Jesus’ response is enough for the High Priest to declare that it is blasphemy—i.e., slander/insult against God. Nowhere is the idea of an Anointed King mentioned, but the subsequent events of the Passion narrative (Mk 15:2ff, 16-20 etc) make it clear that this is in mind.
The Taunts while Jesus is on the Cross (Mark 15:32 / Luke 23:35 [+ 39])—Here the title “Anointed One” is linked directly to Jesus as a (supposed) king: “The Anointed (One), the King of Israel, let him step down now from the stake [i.e. cross] that we may see and trust [i.e. believe]!” (Mk 15:32). In Luke the taunt is recorded as: “…let him save himself, if this (man) is the Anointed (One), the Chosen [i.e. gathered out] (One) of God!” (cf. also verse 39). The expression “Elect/Chosen One” (o( e)klekto/$) in the Lukan context is an echo of the Divine voice in the Transfiguration scene (“My Son, the Elect/Chosen One [o( e)klelegme/no$]”, Lk 9:35). There is thus a loose association through the Synoptic Tradition: Anointed–King–Elect One–Son of God.
It is important to note that all of these instances are centered around the Passion events and narrative; in fact there are very few instances of the term “Anointed (One)” in the Gospel narrative which are set (chronologically) prior to Peter’s confession. In the Synoptics these are: Matthew 1:16-17; 2:4; 11:2; 16:20; Luke 3:15; 4:41—all of which are explanatory references by the narrator, and only Matt 1:16-17; 2:4 are clearly in the context of a Davidic Ruler (these are from the Infancy narratives, which will be treated separately in the next article). For other occurrences of xristo/$ in the context of the Passion narratives, cf. Matthew 23:10; 24:5, 23 par (sayings of Jesus set during Passion week); 27:17, 22. In the last two references, “Anointed” appears to be synonymous with “King (of the Jews)” [Lk 23:2]. In Luke 24:26, 46, “Anointed” is used by Jesus (after the Resurrection) as an identification of himself, parallel to “Son of Man” (v. 7; 9:22, 43-45, 18:31ff).
There are, in addition a number of references unique to the Gospel traditions recorded in the Gospel of John. The title “the Anointed (One)” is used in connection with John the Baptist in Jn 1:20, 25; 3:28 (cf. also Lk 3:15); and, as I have discussed previously, these likely refer to an Anointed Prophet figure, even though “the Anointed” and “the Prophet” seem to be distinguished in Jn 1:20ff. The same is true of Jn 4:25, 29—the “Messiah” of the Samaritans (the Tahêb) was a Prophet-like-Moses (Deut 18:15ff) rather than a Davidic Ruler. In Jn 7:26-27, 31; 9:22; 10:24; 12:34, the precise meaning of the expression is uncertain—though the context of the Shepherd theme in 10:24 might suggest a Davidic ruler (cf. Ezek 34:23-24); in 12:34 there is an association with the “Son of Man”. Only in Jn 7:41-42 is there a clear connection with David (allusion to Micah 5:2), distinct from “the (Anointed) Prophet”. John 1:41 and 11:27, represent identifications by disciples, similar to Peter’s confession in Synoptic tradition—note especially, Martha’s confession: “You are the Anointed (One), the Son of God”.
Within early Christian tradition, there are also some notable references, especially those in the book of Acts, from Peter’s speeches: Acts 2:31, 36 (association with David in the context of the resurrection); and 3:18, 20. In Acts 4:25-27, Psalm 2 is cited and applied to the Passion and Resurrection. Similarly, we find a number of references where early believers are said to hold, as a tenet of belief, that Jesus was “the Anointed (One)”, proclaiming and demonstrating it from the Scriptures, etc—Acts 5:42; 8:5; 9:22; 17:3; 18:5, 28; 26:23 (cf. also Rom 9:5). This probably should be understood in terms of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection—i.e. that the Messiah (or Son of Man) must suffer and die (Lk 24:26, 46). The identification of Jesus as Anointed/Christ has become a test of orthodoxy by the time of 1 John 2:22; 5:1. Finally, we may note the statement in John 20:31, which concludes the Gospel.
Jesus as King and Davidic Ruler
There are, in fact, very few references to Jesus as King in the Gospel tradition outside of the Passion narrative. As I have discussed previously (see Parts 2 and 3), during the period of his ministry (in Galilee), especially in the Synoptic tradition, Jesus filled the Messianic role of Prophet rather than King. Here are the main passages (Lk 1:33 and the Infancy narratives will be treated separately, in Part 8):
- Use of the expression “Son of David” (3 times) in the Gospel of Matthew—Matt 9:27 (cf. 20:30-31); 12:23; 15:22. In 12:23 we find the question of whether Jesus is the “Son of David”, a debate similar to the one in John 7:41-42 (cf. above).
- The declaration by Nathanael in John 1:49: “You are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel!” This offers a formal parallel to the confession by Peter in Synoptic tradition—joining “King of Israel” with “Son of God”, just as Peter (in Matt 16:16) joins “Anointed (One)” with “Son of God”. Such a declaration is a bit unusual at this early position in the narrative.
- John 6:15—following the feeding miracle, it is stated that Jesus knows people will come and attempt to make him king by force. Interestingly, however, in the narrative itself, the crowd declares Jesus to be the coming (end-time) Prophet, rather than a king (v. 14).
- Matthew 16:28—in the Matthean version of this Synoptic saying (Mk 8:38; Lk 9:26f), Jesus refers to the Son of Man “coming in his kingdom“.
This theme, and the association of Jesus with the Messianic (Davidic) Ruler type becomes more prominent as he approaches Jerusalem, and then, subsequently, throughout the Passion narrative:
- The double declaration “Son of David” in Mark 10:47-48 par
- The parable in Luke 19:12-27, which directly precedes the entry into Jerusalem
- The account of the Triumphal Entry (Synoptics and John); in particular we should note:
- The question regarding the Messiah (“Anointed”) and the “Son of David” in Mark 12:35-37—cf. above, and the upcoming discussion in Part 8
- Elements or parallels in the Passion narrative associated with David:
- The Roman proceedings before Pilate, leading to Jesus’ execution as King of the Jews (Mark 15:2, 9, 12, 18 par):
In the scene of Jesus’ death, all four Gospels effectively present the image of him hanging on the cross, with the written charge fixed overhead (variously cited):
“This is (Jesus of Nazareth) the King of the Jews“
In the book of Acts, we see a basic extension of the imagery and motifs from the Passion narratives, associating the death and resurrection (and exaltation) of Jesus with David and certain key (Messianic) Psalms:
The accusation against early believers in Acts 17:7 reflects the charge made against Jesus (Lk 23:2)—i.e., that Jesus was considered to be a king, contrary (or in addition) to Caesar.
There are also a good number of references in the New Testament, reflecting early Christian belief and tradition, that Jesus was a King—among the most notable are:
However, it should be pointed out that most of these NT references are related more to the idea of the deity of Jesus—whether by way of his exaltation to the right hand of God, or according to a more general Christological belief, and have little connection to the earlier Jewish tradition of an Anointed Ruler from the line of David. This particular Davidic figure-type is largely limited to the Gospels, and the early strands of Christian tradition in the book of Acts (cf. also Rom 1:3; 2 Tim 2:8; Rev 5:5; 22:16). It is this association—Jesus as the “Son of David”—which will be discussed in more detail in the next part of this series.
References above marked “OTP” are to The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (2 Vols.), ed. by James H. Charlesworth (Anchor Bible Reference Library [ABRL] 1983, 1985).
References marked “Martínez-Tigchelaar” are to Florentino García Martínez and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (2 Vols.) (Brill / Eerdmans: 1997-8).