Sunday, April 5, 2009

Jesus, Son of David

by John D Ramsey

Jesus began his public ministry in his home town of Nazareth. In the synagogue he read from Isaiah 61, saying,

1)Spirit of the LORD is upon me,
2)because of which he anointed me to announce good news to the poor;
3)he has sent me to heal the ones being broken in heart;
4)to proclaim to captives a release,
5)and to blind recovery of sight;
6)to send a release to the ones being devastated;
7)to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.
Luke 4:18-19 (Apostolic Bible Polyglot)

When we read from Isaiah ourselves, there are slight differences in the Septuagint, but major differences in modern English translations from the Masoretic Text.

1)Spirit of the LORD is upon me,
2)because he anointed me to announce good news to the poor.
3)He has sent me to heal the ones being broken in the heart;
4)to proclaim a release to captives,
5)and recovery of sight to the blind;
7)to call the acceptable year of the LORD,
8)and day of recompense,
9)to comfort all the ones mourning.
Isaiah 61:1-2 (Apostolic Bible Polyglot)

1)The Spirit of the LORD GOD is upon me,
2)Because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted;
3)He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted;
4)To proclaim liberty to captives
6)And freedom to prisoners;
7)To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD
8)And the day of vengeance of Our God;
9)To comfort all who mourn.
Isaiah 61:1-2 (NASB)

In both Luke 4, and Isaiah 61 from the Septuagint, Jesus declares a recovery of sight to the blind. Not so surprisingly, this is absent from the more modern Masoretic Hebrew text, and consequently, yet sadly, missing from English Translations of the Bible. Apparently, the text from which Jesus read, and Luke recorded in Luke 4, was more complete than the Septuagint in the Apostolic Bible Polyglot and the Masoretic Hebrew from which the New American Standard derives. Jesus’ quotation of Isaiah contains both the phrase “to blind recovery of sight,” which the Septuagint includes and “freedom for prisoners” or “release to the ones being devastated,” which are found their respective forms in the Hebrew and Greek.

The scroll from which Jesus read, validates both the Hebrew and Greek renditions of Isaiah 61:1-2 inclusively! This example illustrates why the Christian Bible student must incorporate the Septuagint in any serious study of the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament, blind recovering sight was a promise associated with Messiah. Elisha saw the Shunammite woman’s son raised from the dead, but he never witnessed a blind man receiving his sight. Among the miracles of the Old Testament, recovery of sight is absent. Nevertheless, Isaiah the prophet promised sight for the blind as did the psalmist in Psalm 146:8. From the psalmist’s perspective, sight for the blind may have been metaphorical. Indeed, in Mark 8, Jesus rebuked the Jews saying, “Having eyes, do you not see?” Mark follows this with an account of Jesus healing a blind man in Bethsaida. Jesus used physical blindness as a metaphor for spiritual darkness.

Each of the four Gospels record accounts of Jesus healing the blind:
• Matthew 9:27-31
• Matthew 12:22-23
• Mathew 15:30
• Matthew 20:29-34*
• Matthew 21:14*
• Mark 8:22-26
• Mark 10:46-52*
• Luke 7:21
• Luke 18:35-43*
• John 9:1-41

Many Bible scholars believe that Matthew 20:29-34, Mark 10:46-52, and Luke 18:35-43 all record the same event. In fact, Mark and Luke’s account may be the same event. Mark says the Jesus healed Bartimaeus as he was leaving Jericho. Luke says that Jesus healed an unnamed blind man was he was approaching Jericho. The accounts are very similar. The blind call out to Jesus, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The crowd rebukes the blind, because the title “Son of David” indicated that Jesus was the Messiah. Most of the crowd that followed Jesus were fanatics, but they were not disciples.

In both Mark and Luke’s accounts Jesus asked the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?”

The blind answer, “Restore my sight.” Jesus speaks and the blind see.

There is an easy resolution for the apparent discrepancy between Jesus approaching and leaving Jericho. Israel under Joshua destroyed the city of Jericho. Nevertheless, the ruins of the city remained even in David’s kingdom (2 Samuel 10:5). “In Ahab's time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho.” 1 Kings 16:34. According to Josephus, Herod the Great also built a palace at Jericho. We can easily imagine that two writers might call the transition from an older section of Jericho to a newer section of Jericho either “leaving Jericho” or “approaching Jericho.”

Because only Mark identifies the blind man as Bartimaeus, it may be just as reasonable to believe that Jesus healed one blind man as he approached Jericho and another as he departed. When we read Matthew’s account in chapter 20, we realize that Bartimaeus was not the only blind man Jesus healed near Jericho. According to Matthew Jesus healed two blind men neither of which could have been Bartimaeus.

According to Mark, Jesus healed Bartimaeus by speaking to him. According to Matthew, Jesus healed the two blind men by touching their eyes. Rather than trying to correlate the healing of the blind in Jericho as if they were the same event, perhaps we should be asking why these three or four blind men all called Jesus, “Son of David.”

In the New Testament, the phrase “Son of David” appears 16 times. Three references occur in the genealogy of Jesus. Once in the Mark 10 (and Matthew 22), Jesus asks the Pharisees,
“How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet.”’

David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”

Other references to “Son of David” are closely associated with Jesus healing people, and especially healing the blind.

As Jesus began his ascent from Jericho to Jerusalem, the voices of the blind men begin to echo and crescendo. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” At the Triumphal entry, Jesus sat in the outer courts of the temple healing the blind and the lame while the children all sang, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

As the blind gained their sight, the seeing plunged into spiritual blindness. The message to the metaphor is clear: those who see will recognize Jesus as the “Son of David,” the Christ, those who having eyes do not see will reject Jesus as the Christ.

1 comment:

  1. I interviewed the Editor-in-Chief in 2006 and again on March 21, 2010 --