In Mark 12, Jesus is questioned by the various parties and is shown to answer wisely such that no one dares to ask him any more questions. And then he asks his own:

While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, "Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah 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?"

Mark 12:35-36 NIV

What is Jesus' purpose in asking this question? He seems to be making some statement about the Messiah and his relation to David. But what is it in particular that he is trying to draw out and why?

  • Ha! Can't imagine why you asked this question today? 😊. A solid question though. I like that. +1 Mar 1, 2015 at 0:32
  • I'd been reading a couple books on Mark lately that assume a low Christology, indeed saw your recent question and it reminded me that I had wanted to ask about this. :)
    – Soldarnal
    Mar 1, 2015 at 0:35
  • Have you read Simon Gathercole's The Preexistent Son? I heard him make his case for Mark's high Christology while I was teaching through Mark. It caused me to consider Christ's preexistence and Mark which lead me to look at this passage with new eyes. I haven't read anyone who's argued that Mark was making an intentional connection between the Shema and Psalms 110. I wrote to Gathercole and he thought it was interesting connection. I also wrote to Larry Hurtado. And even he hadn't heard of this idea before. I just don't know. It's an interesting connection I just don't know the point. Mar 1, 2015 at 0:52

1 Answer 1


In Mark 12:35-37, Jesus has not yet declared himself to be the Messiah, in fact he never really does in this gospel. The important thing is that the audience of Mark's Gospel has already been told that Jesus is the Messiah, or Christ. So, when Jesus talks about the Messiah, the audience knows that he is talking about himself, but the scribe does not. The audience has also learnt from blind Bartimaemus that Jesus is the son of David (Mark 10:47-48).

Traditionally Jews believed that the Messiah had to be a son of David. Jesus, however, appears to be arguing that this makes no sense because the scriptures describe David as referring to the Messiah as Lord rather than son. Although those around him would not have understood, the reader has inside knowledge and sees that Jesus is really telling them that he (the Lord) will be greater than David.

At another level, Jesus' purpose here was simply to turn the tables on the scribes who had been testing him. They had sought to trap Jesus with questions that he answered with ease, so now Jesus asks them a question that they are unable to answer. For the benefit of the reader, Jesus then says (verse 38) to beware of the scribes.

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