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Jesus is named the "King of the Jews" both at his birth and at the end.

It seems to me that this term has meaning, and I would like to ask what do you think is its meaning ? Does it mean any particular role for the Jewish people in Christianity, and if so, then why the Jews were rejected and blamed in Christian history?

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  • These are three quite distinct questions that all deserve to be asked by themselves. Please choose one of them and edit this to focus on it, and the others can be asked later
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 25 at 8:31
  • I think all these questions are circling around the same subject, and diving them to different questions is not natural. Anyway, I can delete the question if it is not welcomed. which is what seems to be the case.
    – ransh
    Apr 25 at 9:02
  • The question definitely isn't unwelcome! Feel free to edit it to show more how the subquestions relate together.
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 25 at 9:46
  • It would be helpful if you would quote the Bible verse where it says Jesus was named 'King of the Jews' at his birth. The Bible says Pilate had an inscription to that effect placed above Jesus' head as he was being crucified but where does it say he was given that title at his birth?
    – Lesley
    Apr 25 at 11:59
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    @Lesley In a nice parallel with what the Gentile Roman soldiers said (under the implied order of Pilate) (Matt 27:27-44), Matthew put the words in the mouth of the Gentile Magi also (Matt 2:1-2), sandwiching the acclamation of pious non-ruling Jewish populace (Matt 21:1-11), showing how everyone at least heard the attribution, even though not all believed. Apr 25 at 14:43

3 Answers 3

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What is the purpose of the title "King of the Jews"?

Earthly meaning

For the Bible-believing Protestant it means Joseph, Jesus's adoptive father was the direct line descendant of King David. If the royal house of David was still ruling then Joseph would have been King. When he adopted Jesus as his own son then all the rights of a true son were automatically given to Jesus as well.

Our Lord Jesus, being the oldest son of Joseph, therefore became the heir to the throne while Joseph was alive and became "King of the Jews" upon Joseph's death.

This was in fulfilment of the prophecy given to King David that one of his descendants would be King forever (2 Samuel 7:12-13).

But for this to be properly fulfilled Jesus had to be a biological descendant of David. This he was through his mother Mary, who was also a descendant of King David.

Spiritual meaning

The New Testament is proclaiming that Jesus of Nazareth is this descendant of David who would be a king forever. To be a king forever, in the context of the whole of Scripture, must surely mean he would be a king in Heaven also. And seeing as there can only be one true king in Heaven then this descendant of David would be divine, the Son of God.

Any consequence for the Jews today?

In the United States of America, I believe I recently read about 1.7 million ethnic Jews profess to be Christian today. This is the consequence.. Jews can turn back to God by believing in our Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour just as the Gentiles are doing.

There is no special role for Jews in the Church of Jesus Christ over and above the role that a Gentile might have. ALL who repent and believe in Jesus are exceedingly special! All who believe are the children of God, the Bride of Christ, a Royal Priesthood, a holy nation.

But there is only one body, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father who is above all, and .. in you all. (Ephesians 4:4-6) There is only one way back to God for all peoples, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

But, just as a Gentile believer has certain gifts from God, so every Jewish believer will be given gifts also to build up the Church of Jesus Christ.

Why were the Jews persecuted?

This was by men with evil designs to gain for the Church a power over the lives of men in this world. It is and always has been based on a failure to understand that the Church of Jesus Christ is not to try to reign over others in this world. The role of the Church is to try to persuade others with the Word of God and the Gospel, not wield a sword to force a hypocritical submission to the authority of "the Church". And because Jews in the past would not submit to the bullying of "the Church" and become outwardly Christian they were persecuted.

Of course, it wasn't the true Church, or if it was the true Church, it certainly wasn't following the instructions of our Lord Jesus Christ or the example of the New Testament where the preaching of the Gospel was the Church's task.

The truth is, no one ever became a true Christian by being forced. True religion is in the heart, a real change of heart, and is towards God. It is not to be seen by men or simply to avoid persecution.

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What is the purpose of the title: "King of the Jews"?

A week before Christ’s Passion he rode into Jerusalem while riding on a donkey. This definitely had meaning to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Jesus Rides Into Jerusalem On a Donkey To Shouts of Hosanna

11 And when they draw-near to Jerusalem— to Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives— He sends-forth two of His disciples, 2 and says to them, “Go to the village before you. And immediately while proceeding into it, you will find a colt having been tied, on which none of mankind[a] yet sat. Untie it, and be bringing it. 3 And if someone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’, say, ‘The Lord has need of it, and immediately He sends it back here’”. 4 And they went and found a colt having been tied at a door, outside on the street. And they untie it. 5 And some of the ones standing there were saying to them, “What are you doing untying the colt?” 6 But the ones spoke to them just as Jesus spoke, and they permitted them. And they bring the colt to Jesus. 7 And they throw their cloaks on it, and He sat on it. 8 And many spread their cloaks on the road. And others spread leafy-branches, having cut them from the fields. 9 And the ones going ahead and the ones following were crying-out “Hosanna! Blessed is the One coming in the name of the Lord. 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David. Hosanna in the highest [heavens]!” - Mark 11:1-10

What could this possibly signify? Jesus became their King!

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the Jews knew it meant.

When King David was very old, he wanted to establish his favored son Solomon as his successor. So he arranged for Solomon to ride on David's own mule, in the company of Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet. 1 Kings 1:38 reports, "And Zadok the priest took an horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the trumpet; and all the people said, God save king Solomon.'"

Later it is prophesied in Zechariah 9:9, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: Behold thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass."

Note that both in Solomon's case and Zechariah's prophecies, the man who is being proclaimed as the new king rides on a mule or ass's colt. The Jews knew the pattern.

At the end of Jesus' life, just before Passover, when he and his disciples were approaching Jerusalem, he sent two of them to borrow an ass and colt from a nearby village. People spread garments and branches along the way Jesus rode, saying "Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord;' And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying Who is this?'" (Matthew 21:2).

In other words, all of nature understood the significance of the entry of the son of God into Jerusalem.

Matthew 21:15: "And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David'; they were sore displeased." To proclaim Jesus as the son of David was to suggest that he was the kingly successor.

In Matthew 21, when the chief priests and the elders asked him what authority he had, Jesus replied with parables that implied he was the king's son and that those who rejected him would be destroyed.

John 11:47-53: "Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? For this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.' The group took counsel together for to put him to death."

Thus the high priest prophesied that Jesus should die for the benefit of the people, and then the final events of Jesus' life began to come together.

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the Jews knew it meant.

As fate would have it, when Pilate wrote Christ’s title and meaning for his execution, he wrote the truth!

The use of the term "King of the Jews" by the early Church after the death of Jesus was thus not without risk, for this term could have opened them to prosecution as followers of Jesus, who was accused of possible rebellion against Rome.

The final use of the title only appears in Luke 23:36–37. Here, after Jesus has carried the cross to Calvary and has been nailed to the cross, the soldiers look up on him on the cross, mock him, offer him vinegar and say: "If thou art the King of the Jews, save thyself." In the parallel account in Matthew 27:42, the Jewish priests mock Jesus as "King of Israel", saying: "He is the King of Israel; let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in him.

Regardless if Pilate believe Jesus was the King of the Jews, he wrote what he wrote: Quod scripsi, scripsi.

The Latin title, being the official indictment, would undoubtedly have been written first on the board. This then would have determined the length of the board and/or the size of the letters required to fit the inscription into one line and for it still to be readable by the crowd from a distance (John 19:20).

In those days they did not use spaces between the words in any of the languages as we do now, and so John's Latin “title” contained just 26 letters and no spaces.

Luke's Greek “superscription” contained 30 letters, and so must have been written in slightly smaller letters than was the Latin. It is easy to see that there would not have been room for 16 more letters for the words “Jesus of Nazareth” (i.e. “Jesus the Nazarene”) in Greek.

Matthew's “accusation” in Hebrew contained just 19 letters, which is rather fewer than the two other languages, because the Jews did not write vowels in Hebrew. Whoever translated the title into Hebrew apparently did not think it worth adding “of Nazareth.” Perhaps he thought that to have lived in Nazareth was not an indictable offense!

If we put all of this together, it is highly probable that the board with the inscriptions looked as shown below, with the Latin written first, probably at the top, and then either the Greek or the Hebrew. - Why do all four Gospels contain different versions of the inscription on the Cross?

enter image description here

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  • Thanks, but does it mean that this attribute is a true attribute of jeshua ?
    – ransh
    Apr 25 at 13:50
  • @ransh Obviously many Jews believed so.
    – Ken Graham
    Apr 25 at 13:55
  • Do you mean that Christian don't believe it is a true attribute (and only many jews did in the past) ?
    – ransh
    Apr 25 at 15:16
  • Thanks a lot for the answer, but it still does not fully answer the question
    – ransh
    Apr 25 at 15:17
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To Christians then and today, Jesus was a descendant of King David, the fulfillment of Israel God's covenant with David who now rules forever from heaven, not only over Israel (the Jews) but also over all Christians (Jews and Gentiles). This is the meaning when the gospels use the term "King of the Jews". For example, Matthew mentions this at least 3 times:

  • In the birth narrative, putting the words in the mouth of the Gentile Magi (cf. Matt 2:1-2)
  • When Jesus rode on the donkey entering Jerusalem, as acclaimed by pious Jewish populace with the notable exception of many of Jerusalem's leaders (cf. Matt 21:1-11)
  • In the crucifixion narrative, putting the words in the mouth of the Gentile Roman soldiers on the authority of Pilate (cf. Matt 27:27-44, John 19:19-22)

But to the Jews then and today, Jesus was a false messiah and a false teacher. Of course Jews then and today also deny that Jesus is their king, hence the protest of Jerusalem's religious leaders to Pilate who put the sign on the cross. To my knowledge, they are still waiting for the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant.

The unfortunate persecution of the Jews in Christian history shouldn't have happened, and in the past 70 years there have been much different view of the Jews by Christians of all denominations. Most Christians now don't blame the Jews for not accepting Jesus as their king, trusting that the God of Israel (as portrayed in the Hebrew Bible), which is also the God of Christians, will deal with the Jews as He sees fit. Some Christians (like the Catholic Church) leave open whether God continues to honor the covenants that He had with Israel before Jesus (see First Things 2005 article by Catholic theologian Avery Dulles The Covenant with Israel).

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  • What "continuing covenants" are you referring to? There is only one covenant now, the covenant of grace, to which Jews are equally welcome as well as Gentiles. Any other view is a contradiction of Ephesians chapters 3 and 4; and a denial of the whole of the letter to the Hebrews. Apr 25 at 18:50
  • @AndrewShanks I updated the answer by weakening the assertion and qualifying it by saying "Some Christians" plus supporting reference. Apr 25 at 18:55
  • The Catholic view seems to me a very sad rejection of the letter to the Hebrews and Ephesians chapters 3 and 4. In that he (God) says "a new covenant", he has made the first old. Now that which decays and waxes old is ready to vanish away." Hebrews 8:13. The covenant with the Jews was genealogically based. Every one who wants to "enjoy" its benefits must prove he is a descendant of Jacob. Some in the days of Ezra after just 70 years captivity in Babylon could not prove they were Jews (Ezra 2:59). There is no chance any Jew today could prove their descent. Apr 25 at 19:59

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