An Ancient Israelite Pattern Of Kingly Accession In The Life Of Christ -- By: W. Brian Shelton

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 25:1 (Spring 2004)
Article: An Ancient Israelite Pattern Of Kingly Accession In The Life Of Christ
Author: W. Brian Shelton


An Ancient Israelite Pattern Of
Kingly Accession In The Life Of Christ

W. Brian Shelton

W. Brian Shelton is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at Toccoa Falls College in Toccoa Falls, Georgia.

In ancient Judaism, there is evidence that would-be kings engaged in a three-part pattern of accession before they ascended to the throne. These royal candidates would be anointed by a prophet, prove themselves through a feat, and then finally receive an official coronation. This particular Jewish ideal, deeply rooted in its OT narratives and in ancient Near Eastern thought, is evident in the gospel narratives of Christ’s life. As the Jewish Messiah, Jesus can be expected to fulfill many of the ideals of the office, and certainly his teaching reflects notions of divine kingship. Evidence of this phenomenon offers insights into Christ’s mission as Jewish Messiah by heightening the royal nature of his identity and undertaking.

This article examines the presence of this ancient ideal of a tripartite pattern for kingly accession in the life of Christ. After presenting the pattern in its OT context, it finds the same pattern in the NT record of Christ’s life. Then it considers whether the ideal may have structured Christ’s own vision. It concludes by proposing that this ideal can be an interpretive tool for Christ’s mission because of the royal dimensions it offers his messianic purpose.

I. Ancient Israel’s Tripartite Pattern of Kingly Accession

In 1981 Baruch Halpern introduced evidence of an ancient Jewish expectation that its leaders were to engage in distinct stages of progress as they accessed their positions of kingship.1 First, there was to be an anointing or designation of the potential leader to inaugurate his period of accession. Second, there was to be a demonstration of his ability as a warrior and ruler—a proof of his worthiness to be king. Finally, there was to be a coronation following this demonstration, permanently and charismatically confirming him as the rightful ruler. While Halpern exhibited two stages of the

accession process—anointing and coronation—V. Philips Long contends that Halpern interacts with three stages, as his discussion normalizes a victory after the designation event as proof of the upcoming confirmation.2 The clearest extra-biblical example evidencing Long’s preferred three stage pattern is the Enumah Elish, where the anointed Marduk can ascend the throne only after winning the victory over Tiamat and rescuing his subjects. Dianna Edelman v...

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