Engaging Josh Jipp’s Christ is King, Chapter 4: King and Kingdom, Part 2

Engaging Josh Jipp’s Christ is King, Chapter 4: King and Kingdom, Part 2 January 6, 2016

5130ey-BqRL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_In this post, I continue the discussion I began in the last post on Josh Jipp’s fourth chapter in his book Christ Is King: Paul’s Royal Ideology. In the first post, I summarized the argument.

Now I offer six critical observations and questions.

Psalms of Solomon 17

In previous posts, I’ve raise the relevance of Psalms of Solomon. Josh does interact with this ancient pre-New Testament Davidic messianic text, but not sufficiently enough in my view. Again here in this discussion I am surprised that Josh didn’t make more of the Messianism of Psalms of Solomon 17. Pss. Sol. 17:32 is relevant:

And he will be a righteous king over them, taught by God. There will be no unrighteousness among them in his days, for all shall be holy, and their king shall be the Lord Messiah.

Notice the relationship between the king’s righteousness on account of his being “taught by God” and the people’s. The righteousness of the people is consequent: as goes the king so go the people. This is the exact point Josh is making. Further, the arguments of each Christ the King’s chapters can be demonstrated by this pseudepigraphon. What I’ve learned from Josh’s study however is the way that Psalms of Solomon was but one representation of a much wider ancient Mediterranean kingship ideology. What makes it most important is its Davidic focus.

Why Davidic Messianism?

I have a concern that I’m struggling to put into words. It is related to a criticism I’ve noted in previous posts. Josh’s Paul seems to have a greater independent agency than I think is historically likely. One way of putting it, is that he seems to me above the evidence, not within the evidence. It is as if he knows “the Son” apart from his Davidic character. But he knows the significance of the Son so he uses his tradition to express the “truth” of the Son. The structure of his knowledge of the Son is somehow outside, above, independent. Perhaps an example would help illuminate what I am putting my finger on. Consider this paragraph:

For the early Christians familiar with Israel’s Davidic royal ideology, Rom. 1:3 would almost certainly activate rereadings of the Davidic royal tradition around Messiah Jesus and would suggest that God had fulfilled God’s promises for a messianic-Davidic ruler for Israel. In order to function as Israel’s royal representative as the true seed of David, it is necessary that God’s son share in human, Davidic flesh. Adolf Schlatter states it clearly: “He would not be the promised Son of God if he did not share in the flesh and thus belong to Israel and to the family of David” (171, emphasis added).\

One other interestingly put statement about Jesus’ Davidic identity:

In Rom 1:3-4, and throughout the epistle, Paul characterizes Christ as God’s singular anointed Davidic-like figure who is marked by God’s Spirit and enacts God’s rule through his royal career (166, emphasis added).

On the surface, the statements seems true. But on a deeper level I feel a problem. Perhaps it is because Josh, and it seems others, read Rom 1:3 as asserting the pre-existence of the son who then became Davidic flesh: “[The gospel] about his son who was born from the seed of David according to the flesh” (Josh’s translation from pg. 168). But this reading is not required. I’ve always taken the two adjectival participles following the word “son” to define who the son is, the son is the one who is both a Davidide and the son of God by the Spirit in his resurrection. So rather than assert that Paul had a knowledge of the pre-existent son independent of his Davidic and resurrected identities, Paul knows the Son of God’s the gospel only as both Davidide and the enthroned Son of God.

I want to then ask, does the Davidic identity of Jesus function determinatively in Paul’s argument in Romans? Does it force Paul’s argument in any certain directions? It is commonplace to think that Paul revised, reimagined, reconfigured, innovated his inherited traditions about the Davidic Messiah – and I see every reason to agree, to an extent;  but the question I think needs to be asked, additionally: what influence did the tradition itself press on Paul? To ask what Markus Bockmuehl asked Richard Hays (see the introduction to Hays’ Reading Backwards), does the influence go forwards as well as backwards? And if so, what influence did the tradition have on Paul’s gospel? And further would the argument or explanation turn out differently if this aspect was observed? I’m curious as to why Paul struck such a strong Davidic note? And given it’s a Davidic Messiah, what is lost? what is the gained?

The answer that Paul “chose” a Davidic messiah because he needed to in order to express what he somehow previously believed about the Son seems inadequate an answer to me.


I was somewhat surprised, and disappointed to be honest, at the direction that Josh went in discussing the Davidic flesh of Jesus (171-74).  Rather than pursing more fully its implication – which I think should be done more fully as I indicated in the previous point – Josh emphasized what at best is a minor note in the context of Romans 1:3-4: the Messiah’s humiliation and death. It seems to be approaching the totality transfer fallacy by emphasizing a meaning for the phrase what Paul does not. References to supposed parallel texts where Paul discusses the humanity of Jesus emphasizing his weakness (e.g. Gal 4:4) moves the focus away from Paul’s. Paul uses the term “flesh” in all kinds of ways. And Josh knows Paul is referring to Jesus’ family history, his storied existence you might say; and Josh roundly rejects interpretations that suggest Paul makes use of the term to paint Jesus’ Davidic nature in a negative light, whether that be ethical or cosmological (171). Weakness and humiliation do not seem remotely the point here; instead its royal identity and legitimacy.

David and Adam

Here I simply want to raise a point that Josh has neither developed nor has anyone I’m aware. That is the theory that the Adam story was  framed  to reflect the David story by the reactors of the Pentateuch. We generally recognize today that the Pentateuch was put into its final form sometime in the 6th century BCE. It was during the time when Israel was in great need of strengthening its identity. The Pentateuch contains earlier material, some perhaps even from Moses, but it was shaped to address the needs of an exilic and post-exilic community in shambles after the lost of the Davidic Kingdom. The royal reflection on Adam and the echoes of Adam in David may then have more to do with the shaping of the Adam story by David’s than we have recognized. I can put the proposal this way: Adam’s story – and this would be true for the whole of the story of Israel as well – was shaped consciously or unconsciously to mirror David’s, rather than the other way around. Jewish Scripture is shaped by David’s story; it are a Davidic  story – and the shape of Chronicles corroborates this hypothesis.

Perhaps we can see something of this same kind of thing with Josephus’ presentation of Solomon in Jewish Antiquities. Adam Kolman Marshak in his recent book The Many Faces of Herod the Great observes that Josephus’ characterization of Solomon may reflect Herod’s kingship, although Josephus wrote his history 80 years after Herod. He writes, “As Samuel Rocca has observed, although at first glance Josephus’s Solomon looks similar to his biblical counterpart in 1 Kings, some of the modified passages might reflect a created Solomon whose narrative was inspired by Herod and his kingship . . . Josephus’ narrative . . . could have been influenced by the king’s propaganda without Josephus even being conscious of it” (284).

What then would this kind of influence do to the analysis of Paul’s connection between David and Adam? Not only does it appear that for Paul in Romans 5 Jesus the Messiah determined his use and presentation of Adam – the proverbial “Solution to Problem”, but perhaps also this tendency to read Adam through David was latent in the Jewish Scriptures itself? As far as I know this is a new proposal and something I intend to pursue in a later volume on Davidic Christology. But I’d like to hear Josh’s response to this idea.

Qumran’s Davidic Messianism

This is simply an observation about the nature of Davidic messinaism contemporaneous with the NT. In an article published in JJS on a Qumran cave 4 Pesher on Isaiah (4Q161), I argued that the community of the Scrolls expected to participate in the judging activity of the Messiah when he judged Israel and pagans. Sharing in the Davidic Messiah’s rule was part of the Davidic Messianic expectation at least at Qumran. Another interesting conclusion I drew from that study was for the author of the scroll, the Davidic Messiah was a member of the community and under the authority of the priests. This is quite different from Paul’s understanding of Jesus, where the priestly and royal elements are united and not separated as apparently is the case in the Scrolls – at least in the consensus interpretation.

Gentile Audience

My final question has to do with the audience of Paul’s rhetoric/discourse. This has been a question I’ve had on my mind since the beginning. It seems right to ask it now since Josh strongly argued for Paul’s use of kingship discourse to “socialize his churches into a realm where Christ alone is supremely sovereign and invested with divine lordship over the cosmos” (148) – and I agree fully with this. Does the ethnic composition of his audience matter the interpretation of Paul’s King Jesus in his letters? Does Paul’s audience of Gentile followers of Jesus play a determinative role in making sense of his innovation and use of Davidic ideology? Does this matter? Should it be taken into consideration? Josh either consciously or unconsciously does not. One of the important contributions of the recent movement with Pauline studies – going by the name “Paul within Judaism” – is the practice of taking hermeneutical account of this fact. I think a more ethnically oriented explanation for Paul’s innovation of Davidic traditions is needed than Josh provides. If Paul were writing to ethnically Jewish followers in Jesus, how much different, if at all, would his social formation work through kingship discourse look? It would seem on the surface at least that he would do something different. It seems obvious enough that a Jew who harbored Davidic eschatological expectations, and who also trusted upon Jesus, would need little exhortation to consider Jesus “supremely sovereign and invested with divine lordship over the cosmos”. Isn’t Paul primarily shaping Gentile social identities in his attempt to reconstruct their social imaginary? What is the significance of this? What does the ethnic particularity mean for the argument?

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