Entering the promised land, 11:1-16:20

2. The blindness of Israel exposed, 12:13-44

Jesus' question concerning David's son


Jesus is in the temple court in Jerusalem, answering questions put to him by the religious authorities. He now asks his opponents a tricky question. Referring to Psalm 110:1, Jesus asks what the theologians of his day mean when they say that the messiah is David's son. Israel's theologians assume that the Psalm is written by David and that in v1 David is referring to the messiah. A son does not have authority over his father, so why does David call the messiah his lord? How can the messiah be both the son of David and lord over David? The religious authorities are left flummoxed, but the crowd is impressed.


Jesus may be a descendant of David, but as the messiah, he is lord over David - lord over all and under the authority of no man.


i] Context: See 11:27-33. At first glance there seems little attempt by Mark to relate this independent saying of Jesus to its context, other than place it within a question-answer section of his gospel. None-the-less, the allusion that Jesus is David's lord leads nicely into a description of Israel's religious poverty, v28-44, and then to Jesus apocalyptic teaching on the coming judgment, chapter 13.


ii] Structure: Who is David's son?:

And Jesus answered and said, teaching in the Temple

"How do the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David?

David himself said in the Holy Spirit,

    The Lord said to my lord, "Sit on my right

    until I put your enemies under your feet."

David himself calls him lord;

and how is he his son?"

And the large crowd heard him gladly,


This chiastic structure is suggested by Marcus. Form: A A1, narrative frame, B B1; the problem of messianic sonship; C C1, the problem explained; D, scriptural input:


iii] Interpretation:

Jesus does not explicitly identify himself with the "lord" of this Psalm, but presumably the identification is intended; certainly, Mark intends it. The Lord God addresses the "lord" over David - David's "lord", ie., the one who has authority over David. For Mark, Jesus is indeed a descendent of David, the "Messiah" / "son of David", who, in his later ministry, accepted the testimony of Bartimaeus and the popular acclaim of the crowd, 11:10, thus fulfilling messianic prophecy. Yet, the title "son of David" does not properly express the authority of the messiah for he is David's "lord"; he is not a son under the authority of David.

Matthew's account of this pericope implies that Jesus the messiah is not just lord over David, but lord over everyone and everything. He sits, not at the right hand of David, but at the right hand of the Ancient of Days. The early church, resting on apostolic testimony, confessed the Christ as Lord, and Mark would be we well aware of this confession. So, it seems likely that we are expected to take the lordship of Christ from this passage, that he is Lord, co-regent with God the Father.


The authenticity of Psalm 110. The above conclusion rests on the assumption that Jesus / Mark believed that David composed Psalm 110 and that it was messianic in intent.

It is generally accepted that in the incarnation, the divine-man Jesus emptied himself to become man with all the human limitations so entailed, although without sin. We may rightly question Davidic authorship today, but we don't expect Jesus to be endowed with twenty-first century scholarship. There is also no guarantee that the Psalm was viewed as messianic in the first century. If the Psalm is Maccabean (second century B.C.) then its messianic interpretation may well be a later construct (this issue has prompted ongoing debate). Despite these qualifications, it does seem likely that we are to understand the Psalm as both Davidic and messianic and "that the reader is expected to apply it to Jesus", France.

Marcus argues that the quote from Psalm 110:1 is partly conflated with Psalm 8:9, still expressing the authority of the messiah, but as the new Adam, the divinely endowed sovereign of creation. Probably a mite overly subtle.


iv] Synoptics:

Matt.22:41-46, Lk.20:41-44. See Daube, The Earliest Structure of the Gospels, NTS 5:3, 1959, for his argument that the series of questions, concluding with this question asked by Jesus, developed as a replacement for the four questions posed at Passover Haggadah, and so were set in tradition long before their adoption by Mark.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes Who is David's son?

Text - 12:35

Jesus overturns the scribal view of the messiah, v35-37. The religious authorities were giving Jesus a hard time with their tricky questions, but had ended up floundering with nothing more to say. Jesus now has his turn, and so asks them a tricky question. We are not told if the theologians present attempt to answer Jesus' question, it's likely that they didn't even get to first base. The question may be tricky, but more importantly, it revels something of Jesus' true person. So, Jesus asks "why" Israel's theologians constantly speak of the messiah as the son of David. Their constant reference to the messiah as a descendant of David implies that David has precedence over the messiah, as if the messiah's authority is equal to, or even less than David.

αποκριθεις [αποκρινομαι] aor. pas. part. "-" - [jesus] having answered [was saying]. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant, expressing action accompanying the verb "said"; "answered and said." A Semitic construction.

διδασκων [διδασκω] pres. part. "while [Jesus] was teaching. teaching. The participle is adverbial, best taken as temporal, as NIV.

εν "in" - in [the temple]. Local, expressing space.

πως "why" - how [say]. Interrogative, "how", usually in the sense of "in what way" / "to what extent" - here as a challenge, Boring; "how is it that the experts in the law maintain that God's anointed is a descendent of David's?", Cassirer - how do they come to that conclusion given that the scripture says ......?

οἱ γραμματεις [ευς εως] "the teachers of the law" - the teachers. "The Scribes", most of whom were Pharisees.

ὁτι "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what the teachers of the law say.

Δαυιδ gen. (proper) "of David" - [the christ is son] of david? The genitive is adjectival, relational. The title is messianic, but strictly it indicates "descendant of David." It was a popular messianic title because of its nationalist overtones, and for this reason Jesus avoided it. Although popular, David's links to the messiah are not overly strong, cf., Jer.23:5, 33:15 for the branch raised up out of David, and the "branch" allusions in Isa.11:1 and Zech.3:8, 6:12.


Jesus blows his opponents away with a text from scripture. He quotes from Psalm 110:1, a Psalm recognised as a Psalm of David. Here David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, speaks of the messiah as his lord, his master, the one who has authority over him. David describes the Lord God, YHWH, addressing the messiah as David's lord, his master. So, the "lord", the messiah, may be a descendant of David, but he is something more than just a descendant. In the end he sits, not at the right hand of David, but at the right hand of God where he will bring everything under his subjection. David's lord is co-regent with God the Father; he is Lord, capital "L"

εν + dat. "by" - [david himself said] by [the holy spirit]. Instrumental, expressing means, "under the influence of", BAGD. The statement asserts that the word of the Psalm is authoritative, it is divine revelation. Like the prophets, David looks into heaven where he beholds the one he calls "my lord", enthroned at the right-hand of the Ancient of Days. Mark implies that "my lord" is Jesus, the Christ, and certainly he is affirmed as such by the early church. "David himself, moved by the Holy Spirit", Barclay.

κυριος [ος] "The Lord" - lord. In the Hebrew text of this quote the word is used for God, YHWH. The second use of the word "Lord" is the word adonay, a word for master, king, ruler, so "lord". The LXX uses κυριος for both, as in the quote before us. Taking the Psalm as a coronation hymn, "the first Lord refers to God and the second to the king; that is, at his coronation the king of Israel was inducted as God's vice-regent and seated symbolically at God's right hand", Edwards.

τῳ κυριῳ [ος] dat. "to [my] Lord" - [says] to lord [of me]. Dative of indirect object. David recognises "my lord" "as his superior rather than his son", France.

εκ pres. imp. "-" - [sit] away from = at [right of me]. The sitting position denotes authority / co-regency; David's Lord sits at the right-hand of the Lord God. This too is the position assumed by Daniel's Son of Man. Technically ek expresses separation in this phrase, but logically expressed locally, "at", as NIV; the ensuing phrase is idiomatic. "The right-hand signified honour and closeness to God, and legitimacy to rule with dominion and justice", Edwards.

ἑως αν + subj. "until" - until [i put the enemies of you]. Introducing an indefinite temporal clause, future time, as NIV.

ὑπακατω + gen. "under" - under, beneath [the feet of you]. Spatial. Expressing subservience.


Jesus now drives home his point. "If He is David's Master, does not our Law deny a son mastery over his father?" This paraphrase by Junkins nicely captures Jesus' point and would have flummoxed his opponents. Of course, Jesus is not actually denying that the messiah is a descendant of David, he is just making the point that he is something more than David's descendant. Those with eyes to see, those earnestly waiting for the messiah and his kingdom, could not help but ask themselves whether David's Lord, the co-regent with God, is actually the man asking the question. The religious authorities are obviously not impressed with Jesus' words, but the common people are.

The verse is technically not a conditional clause but the position of και may give the sense of a 1st. class condition; "if, as is the case, [David ....,] then [how can he .....?]" Junkins' paraphrase is worth considering; "If He is David's Master, does not our Law deny a son mastery over his father?" See ποθεν below.

αυτος pro. "himself" - [david] he = himself [calls him lord]. The personal pronoun is intensive, as NIV.

ποθεν "how then" - [and] from where [is he the son]? This interrogative conjunction is usually taken here to express cause / reason, "in what sense, how, in what way, why", Taylor, etc, as NIV., but this is disputed. Gundry suggests it expresses source, "from where"; "where in the scriptures do you find the messianic title son of David?" The question logically implies that the messiah is not David's son - by calling him "Lord" he obviously isn't David's son. Yet, it is more likely that the question does not deny that the messiah is a descendent of David, but just that he is something more than a descendent. The argument establishes the inferiority of David to the messiah rather than deny the messiah's heritage, cf., Rom 1:3-4 - both son of David and Son of God. Of course, the title Son of God has its own difficulties in that it can signify nothing more than messiah / Christ, but then, depending on the context, it can signify the filial relationship of the Son with God the Father. "The Markan Jesus is not denying the Messiah's physical descent from David but the adequacy of the Davidic image to express his full identity", Marcus.

πολυς adj. "the large [crowd]" - [and the] large, huge [crowd]. The AV, leaning toward classical Greek, has "the common people", and this may well be the sense here.

ἡδεως adv. "with delight" - [was hearing him] gladly, with pleasure. Adverb of manner. "The large crowd enjoyed listening to Jesus teach", CEV.


Mark Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]