Is Jesus the Son of David? – Romans 1:3

star-of-davidPaul contrasts Jesus’ physical descent from David and the spiritual declaration he was the Son of God. Although some detect a reference to Jesus’s human and divine nature in this verse, it is more likely Paul has in mind Jesus’s life prior to the resurrection and his life as a result of the resurrection (Kruse, Romans, 42).

As with the claim Jesus is the Son of God, Paul’s claim that Jesus was “descended from David according to the flesh” underscores his messianic claim. If Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God, then he must be from the line of David. Both Matthew and Luke include genealogies in their gospels to connect Jesus to the line of David through Joseph. Based on 2 Samuel 7:14, Davidic origin of the messiah is found in several texts in the Hebrew Bible and the literature of the Second Temple period. For example:

Jeremiah 23:5 (ESV)  “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

Psalm 89:3–4 (ESV) You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant: 4 ‘I will establish your offspring forever, and build your throne for all generations.’”

4QFlor 1:10-14 [And] YHWH [de]clares to you that 2 Sam 7:12–14 «he will build you a house. I will raise up your seed after you and establish the throne of his kingdom 11 [for ev]er. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to me.» This (refers to the) «branch of David», who will arise with the Interpreter of the law who 12 [will rise up] in Zi[on in] the [l]ast days, as it is written: Amos 9:11 «I will raise up the hut of David which has fallen», This (refers to) «the hut of  13 David which has fall[en», w]hich he will raise up to save Israel. Martı́nez and Tigchelaar, The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (Translations) (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 353.

4 Ezra 12:31-32 “And as for the lion that you saw rousing up out of the forest and roaring and speaking to the eagle and reproving him for his unrighteousness, and as for all his words that you have heard, 32 this is the Messiah whom the Most High has kept until the end of days, who will arise from the posterity of David, and will come and speak to them; he will denounce them for their ungodliness and for their wickedness, and will cast up before them their contemptuous dealings.

In each of these examples the messiah is related to David (the seed of David, a branch out of David, etc.)  Psalm 89:3-4 and the fragmentary Dead Sea Scroll both allude to 2 Sam 7:14, a text which anticipates a son of David will rule in Jerusalem (Solomon), but also that a son of David will rule forever (Jesus). This future messiah in some way restores the broken line of David.

As Richard Longenecker points out, unlike the Synoptic Gospels, Paul does not usually connect the idea of Jesus as the messiah and his physical descent from David (Romans, 65). So why does he make the connection at the beginning of the book of Romans? Longenecker (and many others) suggest Paul is using an early Christian confessional statement in these verses. In order to connect with congregations he does not know, Paul alludes to a familiar confessional statement used in their worship.

Going a step beyond Longenecker, if this is a confessional statement, I would suggest this tells us something about the congregations in Rome. The language in the introduction is thoroughly Jewish and messianic. The gospel Paul preaches is about Jesus the Messiah, who is the son of God (a messianic title) and the fulfillment of the line of David (a messianic expectation). We know Jewish-Christian congregations in Rome were persecuted because they were rioting over Chrestus, likely an indication of intense debate within the synagogues over Jesus as the Christ.

Since Paul is the apostle to the Gentiles and has a well-deserved reputation for preaching a Law-free gospel to the Gentiles, it is important for Paul to begin his letter to messianic Jewish congregations with a clear affirmation that he believes Jesus is the Messiah and fulfills Jewish expectations about the Messiah.

4 thoughts on “Is Jesus the Son of David? – Romans 1:3

  1. While reading through this the title stood out to me. I have never put too much thought into looking at the actual genealogy of Jesus beyond what I already know about Him such as he is in David’s line as well as that He obviously is the son of God. It is interesting that Paul never connects Jesus being a descendant of David who I assume would be a well known person among the culture of that time based on the Jews knowledge of the Psalms and their knowledge of Jesus as well. It is interesting to me that Paul never mentions where Jesus has descended from as much as he discusses the ministry and who Jesus was. It is interesting that Paul discusses that Jesus is the Son of God but does not discuss the prophecy that confirms who Jesus is. I would assume that it was easier for Paul to get his point across talking about Jesus as the messiah and the Son of God than to try to explain how he was descended and in the line of David. I would however still make the conclusion because the prophecy says that Jesus is the messiah and the son of David that is supposed to reign forever.

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  2. This post really opened my eyes, not because I was worried that Jesus did not fulfill the Scriptures and prophecies about being the Son of David. Rather, I thought that the genealogy in Matthew was for Mary, and thought that Luke’s genealogy was about Joseph. I thought that it was proving that Jesus was the Son of David through both earthly parental figures. I upon looking up both genealogies, I realized that for the majority of my life I had been thinking of these genealogies based off of a misunderstanding. It does make sense though, that Jesus’ genealogy would be tracing back to David through Joseph’s line since he was the assumed father of Jesus, since he was Mary’s husband and the father of Jesus’ earthly siblings. Now that I have filled you in on my realization in regards to Jesus’ genealogies, I will get back to what I think about Paul including Jesus’ earthly, physical descent. I think Paul did a good job including Jesus’s descent from David and that He was also God’s son, because the Jews would have understood the importance of that declaration. Paul could have just explained in a way that only mattered to the Gentiles, or he could have skipped that part and just continued on with the rest of what he had recorded to the Romans. It was a logical move for Paul to write that in the title here, especially since he hadn’t yet met any of the Christians living in Rome at the time. All in all, God knew what the Romans needed to hear and I think it is that influence that caused the proper order of writing Romans. Just like how Douglas Moo mentions in “Encountering Romans, chapter 4,” that Paul needed to discuss God’s wrath and sin, before Paul could talk about God’s righteousness for the Church there to truly understand; so too the fact that Jesus descended from David and is also Christ, the Son of God, is important.

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  3. This article mentions the fact of how in-tune Paul was to his impact on the Christian community and how to be a Jew to the Jewish audience as well as reaching the Gentiles with their language and literature. Paul is sure to use references that both audiences can grab a hold of but draw the same conclusion from. Romans is such an interesting read because it is unlike any other letters Paul wrote to a church. I never understood the differences until actually studying little things such as the claim of Jesus being and fulfilling the messianic prophecies. When we read many of us overlook the details of statements such as “Jesus being from the line of David” in reference to Romans 1:3 and draw whatever conclusion we want from that- whether it be right or not. In doing that we lose a lot of important insight to what scripture is actually implying for the readers than and for us now. I know I overlooked areas like this and never drew out this type of information before which has hurt my perception of this letter.

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