Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, (Luke 2:4 NASB)
So David lived in the stronghold and called it the city of David. And David built all around from the Millo and inward. (2 Samuel 5:9 NASB)
One quirky thing I ran across here was the reference to the City of David. I stumbled on it because I have just finished studying 2 Samuel, and there the ‘City of David’ is Jerusalem. I checked, and the reference is in the Greek text of the Hebrew Scriptures which Luke would have used as well. I have a few commentaries for Luke, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of ink used on this issue. But it’s definitely odd to me, and I believe it would have been somewhat odd for Luke’s audience as well.
Luke’s point is very clear, David is from Bethlehem, and Joseph is in the line of David, therefore Jesus is a descendant of David. To modern readers, we’d like to know Mary is also a descendant of David, but we don’t find that here. Even so, Luke’s point is clear enough. But why use a reference that usually belongs to another city? I have a few theories (you had to know that was coming).
Destruction of the ‘Old’ City of David?
It’s possible that Luke’s audience also knew that Jerusalem was about to be or had already been destroyed. The writing of Luke is possibly late, after Paul’s death. But also possibly before, in partial defense of his appeal to Caesar. Either way, the Jewish people have this persistent tendency to revolt every so often, usually centered on Jerusalem. If Jerusalem is in peril or already gone, then ‘The City of David’ may need a new reference point rather than be lost. Bethlehem isn’t as likely to be treated the same by the Roman Legions. This option is possible, but unlikely, even with a better explanation.
Can’t Call It That Then?
The use of the term ‘City of David’ may have fallen out of favor, or been restricted by the Romans since it could fuel revolutionary mindsets. I’m not sure that the Romans would have all that much influence on the wording of Luke’s gospel, nor on the understanding of the term in the ‘Diaspora’ regions of Christianity and Judaism. But maybe it was an agreed upon usage by the time Luke wrote. Again, this one is pretty thin as an explanation.
Literary Trip Wire?
I wonder if Luke intentionally misused the term to draw his reader’s attention to the origins of Jesus. Such a literary device could accomplish this additional emphasis rather easily. To substantiate such an idea, I would need another example of a writer of that era or earlier using the same technique. As you may imagine, I don’t have one. And it might make more sense if Luke knew his readers would trip over the term, but I wonder how familiar his Gentile readers would have been with the references; but that’s hard to know as well.
Okay, so I don’t know. I see that some translations try to obscure the issue by using ‘town of David’ instead of ‘city of David’ but the word used is the same Greek word regardless. We can surmise one possibility over another, yet without even some obscure example of a literary device, or legal declaration about referring to Jerusalem, or more clarity on the timing of writing, we’re left with very few plausible explanations.
I vote for option three though, and I suspect the familiarity of most Gentile readers with the term was substantial enough to get their attention. Not everyone will read a ‘genealogy’, and Luke’s ancestor list blows right past David, so maybe this made good literary sense. Even if it didn’t or doesn’t, I still think it’s a better explanation than simply that Luke didn’t know any better. He seems a bit too precise for such glaring ignorance. Instead, I suspect we too should trip over the term as we read, and take that moment to reflect again on the Messianic progression of God’s salvation through His people to His creation.
What’s your view through the knothole?
(I know this is the most inappropriate means of connecting with you…but this is the avenue I could find. Please forgive me).
Calvary greetings to you in the mighty name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Awesome work you are doing on your blog.
God be praised forever!
My name (in short) is Tim and I am the administrator of the newly unveiled Christian Social Community: Rhemalog.
Craving your indulgence, I will quickly like to intimate you on our purpose, goals and objectives.
Rhemalog is a compound word, coined from both “Rhema” and “Log”.
It means, putting into writing(Log), your encounters in the Word of God(Rhema).
That is, sharing with the beloved, the things that God has shown unto you in His Word.
Rhemalog is established by the leading of the Holy Spirit, as a platform to enrich and impact the body of Christ all over the World!
You will agree that there is a lot of degradation going on.
Abuse, spiritual contaminations and pollutions.
All you need is to refresh your social-media pages long enough…then boom!
There you have it, in your face!
Wouldnt it be awesome to have a sanctified environment?
A platform built solely for the Children of God.
Devoid of negativity around us, but filled with inspirations, encouragements and above all, the WORD OF GOD!
This is our driving force.
The clarion call that moved us to put Rhemalog in place.
And this is our call to you: Would you like to join us?
As one of the major (Christian) thinkers and opinion-makers out there, logically, it is a no-brainer that we need you, especially since our main goal is to ensure that the people are well fed.
We need your insightful thoughts. Inspirational ideas. Well written pieces. We need YOU!
We need you, not only as a member, but also as an A-List contributor.
And we already have all the tools required.
– Personal Blogging feature
– Video sharing
– Community pages (think facebook pages)
– Timelines and profiles
– Pictures, etc
Together, we can build one of the most vibrant and impactful communities out there.
Should you decide to join us now:
– Your personal blog and info will be shared on our social media pages (with over 59,000 members)
– Your community page will be featured, if you create one. Meaning, it will come up first in searches and views (with its own cute ribbon)
– You can host all your youtube and vimeo videos, thereby increasing your viewer-ship and enhancing your reach.
– As an early adopter, you will be a part of a huge and influential community at its infant stage.
Well, “gold and silver” we have not.
But can you help us be a blessing to the children of God out there?
It will be a huge honour and we will be waiting for you.
rhemalog.com is the address.
The first step is to be registered. Duration of your submissions will be totally up to you. To keep up though, we would suggest you begin by sharing the links to your blog posts, later on, you can start doing reblogs or creating unique postings using our blog feature.
However, in-between, we would love your quips, wits, quotes and words of wisdom, posted on your timelines. We consider these to be quick tonic for the soul. Snacks for those in a hurried need of inspiration and motivations.
Whichever option you choose, we cannot wait to have a drink from the fountain of your God-given wisdom.
Thanks and may God keep His face shining on you.