King David History Symbolism and Term Paper

  • Length: 10 pages
  • Subject: Mythology - Religion
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #27887016

Excerpt from Term Paper :

" Further, as previously stated, in the Jewish tradition, it is believed that the Messiah (whom Christians believe is Jesus), must be a descendent of David's line.

The New Testament in fact introduces Jesus as the son of David and of Abraham (Mt. 1:1). Further, in the Gospel of Luke, he describes how Mary, the mother of Jesus, was descended from King David through one of his sons, Nathan. This leads contemporary Christians to believe that Jesus is the prophesied messiah, as well as the rightful king of Israel.

It is interesting that Jesus, despite the fact of David's obviously sinful nature, follows him in matters of conduct. Indeed, the reader notes that Christ used the actions of the pre-descent David as justification for his own (Luke 6:1-5) concerning the eating of wheat from the fields on the Sabbath. (McCall, 1999). However, even more interesting than David's use as a kind of Biblical "precedent setter" is his most pivotal role with regard to Christianity and the New Testament -- and that is David as prophet (Corbett, 2003).

According to Christians, David was not merely regulated to the role of ruler, or even as a symbol of the people and land of Israel. According to his Catholic Encyclopedia article, John Corbett writes, " 'The spirit of the Lord hath spoken by me and his word by my tongue' (II Kings, xxiii, 2) is a direct statement of prophetic inspiration in the poem there recorded. (2003). Thus, David is clearly set up as an authority on which the divinity and messianic nature of Jesus will be established. Indeed, the reader of the New Testament can note how this same theme, once begun in the Old Testament, is duly picked up in the second. Consider, for example, that in Acts ii, verse 30, Saint Peter relates that David was clearly a prophet, "...Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his -- , according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne tells us that he was a prophet." Further, many point to the Psalms attributed to David as further irreproachable truth that Jesus would come as the Messiah.

Interestingly, it also within the life story of David, himself, that many view some of the most striking symbolism of the Old Testament, in itself a type of prophecy, running under the surface of the text. For example, many cite the shared birthplace (Bethlehem), young David's early profession as shepherd, the five stones hurled against Goliath as a symbol of the "five wounds" of Christ's crucifixion, and the ultimate betrayal that David suffered at the hands of Achitophel to allude to Jesus' Passion (2003).

Be that as it may, for all of the symbolism (according to some -- especially Jewish sources -- extremely far fetched) of David representing Christ (when coupled with New Testament theology), it remains clear that the main emphasis of the King David story in relation to Christianity is rooted mainly in a motivation to authenticate the position of Jesus as the Messiah. This seems even more clear when one considers the rather shaky (and hastily reasoned) arguments that David definitively "repented" of his grave sin -- the punishment for both, according to God in the Old Testament, was no less than death -- and was thus still a positive example of righteousness, worthy of trust. Given, then, the rather clear significance of David as a legitimizing force for the divinity (or at least, messianic nature) of Jesus, one must also consider the very real controversy that exists around David as a historical figure.

In the 2000 work, written by Biblical scholar Stephen McKenzie, the author legitimately asks the question (boundlessly important in its implications), "Was there a King David?" Within the work, he points out that, historically, there has been (and still remains) a significant doubt in historical and archaeological circles as to whether King David was a single, real historical figure, or a composite (or even fictional) creation of the Bible authors.

After noting the various religious, social, and even political arguments against the question (for example, many view the question as a thinly veiled assault on the legitimacy of the modern State of Israel), McKenzie describes the, "...two major questions that must be answered before a biography of David can begin..." Namely, do outside, non-Biblical sources exist to historically support or substantiate the life and rule of King David? Further, is it a legitimate enterprise to use the Bible as a text to reconstruct David's life, or could he have been constructed as an allegorical, or even symbolic character?

Biblical scholar P. Kyle McCarter famously stated, "The Bible is our only source of information about David. No ancient inscription mentions him. No archaeological discovery can be securely linked to him...(Miles, 2000)." Surely, this assertion is more than a little troubling -- even for the most secure Christian or Jewish believer. After all, even if one were to take such a statement with a grain of salt -- and perhaps feel quite comfortable with using the Bible as a historical text in itself whereby David's life may be legitimately reconstructed, such a realization can cause one doubts.

Consider, for example, McKenzie's observation that:

You would think that a person as famous and active as David is in the Bible would have left plenty of indications of his historical existence for archaeologists to dig up. You would also expect to find him mentioned frequently in the records of the ancient countries he conquered or had dealings with.

Again, such a lack of "outside evidence" is troubling on many levels. However, McKenzie goes on to offer a possible cravat. He points out the fact that, although there are thousands of ancient documents not related to Biblical texts that have been unearthed throughout the Middle East, providing information concerning historical, political, cultural, military, and other events during the time of David's reign, they are mostly confined to a region that was highly isolated from the rest of the world, including the Holy Land where David is supposed to have existed. He writes, "...the vast majority of these documents have come from Egypt and Iraq (ancient Mesopotamia), both of which were in stages of rebuilding in 1000 B.C.E." According to the author, this means that, although there may be an abundance of historical records from within these societies, their respective "Dark Ages" during this time may have prevented them from interacting freely with other political entities and geographical areas -- even ones close to home.

Although this may be a plausible explanation for the "paucity of documents" concerning the Holy Land during the time of David's supposed rule, few have been convinced of this line of reasoning. However, the relatively recent archeological discovery of an artifact that possibly mentions David and his "House" is shining new light on the possibility of the existence of non-Biblical evidence corroborating David's existence.

In 1993 Israeli archaeologists discovered a fragment in a dig in the Israeli town of Dan. Relatively small and insignificant in appearance, the fragment is described as a "stele," or an inscribed memorial or monument to an event or person (Biran, Naveh, 1993). This fragment, measuring a mere 22 by 32 cm, was a broken piece of basalt stone, was dated between the seventh and ninth centuries BCE.. On the stone, written in Aramaic and believed to have been erected for a leader of the Aramaean nation, which was a strident foe of the nation of Israel, the remaining parts of the inscription mention what could be constructed as the "House of David." Although Aramaeic and Hebrew naturally contain some ambiguity in written form due the custom omitting vowels from words (thus "David," signified by "D WD" could also represent alternate meanings, including "Dod," which is Hebrew for "Beloved"), many believe that the odds are with the "David" translation (Wikipedia, 2005).

If this interpretation of the Tel Dan Stele is true, then many certainly consider the claim of David as a real historical figure to be buoyed. Whether this is warranted or not, however, is up for significant discussion. However, if one were to ignore the secular/historical questions and implications of the scarcity of "hard evidence" in support of David as a real figure, there still remains the question of the relationship of the Biblical David to the idea of the divine messiah that (according to Christians) is Jesus.

Clearly the Old Testament account of King David's life is a striking one. Especially in the early years, the reader notes several themes of goodness, nobility, and moral lessons quite in keeping with Jewish and Christian standards of faith and Godliness. However, when one moves into the infamous "decline years" of King David, one cannot help but wonder at the dichotomy between orthodox belief concerning adultery and murder, and the supposed status of David as "loved…

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