The Greek word Χριστός is being translated to "Christ" here, but it also can be translated to "Messiah." This is important, because the Jewish Pharisees and High Priests at the time were teaching about the coming "Messiah," as they still do to this day. And they did not refer to Jesus as the "Christ" or "Messiah."
Note that Jesus is speaking of the Christ or Messiah in the third person. While many have assumed that Jesus is speaking of himself; his question is not a first-person question. Why would a person speak of themselves in this way?
For example, let’s say Mr. Smith wants to know what people think of him. Will he say “what do you think about Mr. Smith?" Rather, he will say, “what do you think about me?”
We should also note that the word “Messiah” or “Christ” had been used for thousands of years among the Jewish tradition and teachings, and Jesus was speaking to ecclesiastical (appointed) Jewish teachers. The Books of the Old Testament, and those former prophets spoke of the Messiah in so many instances, referring this person as "Savior" or "Anointed one." In fact, the Greek word Χριστός can be translated to any of these: "Messiah," "Christ," "Savior," or "Anointed one."
So was Jesus trying to insert himself into the position as this "Messiah" that the Jewish traditions had spoken of for thousands of years? There is no evidence of this in this exchange with the Pharisees. There is also a quite different conclusion to the discussion than assumed by many of today's ecclesiastical Christians.
One of the key issues in this exchange is the use of the word "son." The Greek word used is υἱός (huios). While υἱός can indicate a relationship of offspring in the context of a physical family, within the context Jesus is speaking of - that of an exchange between David and God, and the relationship between David and the Messiah - we must use the alternate definition of the word, according to the Greek lexicon: "one who depends on another or is his follower."
Therefore, the more appropriate translation of υἱός in this context is "follower" or "servant." Since David physically passed away over a thousand years before this conversation, we can hardly assume that Jesus or the pharisees were referring to David's physical son. The only logical translation is to follower or servant. For this discussion, we will use follower. Once we make this appropriate translation, we have a significantly clearer statement by Jesus:
What do you think about the Christ [Messiah]? Whose follower is he?" ["The follower of David," they replied.] "How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him 'Lord'? For he says, 'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet."' If then David calls him 'Lord,' how can he be his follower?"This exchange between Jesus and the pharisees is a debate of logic. Jesus is showing the pharisees that the Messiah they are waiting for cannot logically be a follower of David. This is because David is referring to the Messiah as "my Lord," and referring to God as ("The LORD"). David must therefore be the follower of the Messiah, not the reverse. Furthermore, according to David, God tells the Messiah that He will protect him ("Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.")
Who, then, is the "my Lord" that David is referring to, who sits at the right hand of God and is protected by God? It is not a follower (or even son) of David, as Jesus proves.
We should note that Jesus' statements here stunned his disciples and the pharisees:
No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Matt. 22:46)Since Jesus is challenging the position of the Jewish pharisees that one day a "Messiah" - a follower of David - will come, when David himself refers to this person as "my Lord," we can logically conclude that Jesus does not agree with the assumption of the Jewish teachers that the "Messiah" David is speaking of will come one day in the future. This is the purpose of Jesus' challenge.
Thus, why - as proposed by ecclesiastical Christian teachers today - would Jesus be indicating that he was the Messiah that David refers to as "my Lord," since Jesus was disproving that the Messiah was in fact a follower of David (noting also that Jesus was a follower of David).
The answer to the puzzle is that the word Χριστός ("Messiah," "Christ," "Anointed One," or "Savior") can refer to a particular individual, as well as refer to a particular role or position - specifically, one who is "anointed by God."
We might compare this to the position of Lieutenant: Let's say a person has received the title of Lieutenant, and that puts him in charge of a legion of the military. When a Sergeant approaches the Lieutenant, he will salute, and call him "Lieutenant." Here the Sergeant is referring to a single, individual person when he says the word, "Lieutenant." However, we also know that there are many others who have also had this title. And if there were a room of Lieutenants, calling out "Lieutenant" would create confusion. Therefore, "Lieutenant" can be used to refer to an individual within a conversation, as well as considered a title that has been assumed by many over the years.
The pure meaning of "Messiah," as indicated by both David in his Psalm, and Jesus, with this debate, is "God's representative." Consider this
God does not have only one representative. God has been sending His representatives (His loving servants) to the physical world for thousands of years. Each generation, in fact, has maintained at least one representative of God. This is evidenced by the history of the Bible and so many other scriptures.
Remember that Χριστός can also be translated to 'Savior.' God's representatives are sent to the physical world to save us. They are sent to bring us back to God. Thus they spend their lives teaching and trying to convince us to love God, and serve God.
Indeed, David followed such a representative of God. Like any devoted disciple, David was dedicated to his teacher, and referred to him as "my Lord," and one who "sits at the right hand" of God.
A person who sits at the right hand of someone is that person's confidential loving servant. That person sitting at the right hand is the emissary of the person. God's representatives each "sit at God's right hand." They are each God's emissaries and loving servants.
This is confirmed by the Supreme Being personally in the Old Testament, as he stated this about His "Anointed" - translated from the Hebrew word מָשַׁח (mashach) - which can also translate to "Messiah:"
"Anoint them just as you anointed their father, so they may serve me as priests. Their anointing will be to a priesthood that will continue throughout their generations." (Exodus 40:15)What, do we think that God can only have one representative? One loving servant? Or even one "son"? Is this the same God Who has created the gigantic universes we see around us? Is this the same God Who, even with His dominance of this gigantic universe, still can exchange a personal relationship with each of us? The answer is quite certainly that God has many loving servants, and any one of them can be empowered by God to come to the physical world and save people of any particular generation - acting as a "priesthood that will continue throughout their generations."
And yes, within the context of this meaning, Jesus was trying to also indicate that David indeed worshiped his teacher, who on a practical basis, saved him. In other words, we are speaking of David's spiritual teacher.
So who was David's spiritual teacher and personal savior ("my Lord")?
To understand this better, let's consider more of Psalm 110 (which Jesus was quoting from):
The LORD says to my lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."Notice that there are two “Lords,” one “LORD” (God) - translated from God's Name יְהֹוָה (Yĕhovah) or Jehovah - and then one “lord” - translated from the Hebrew word אֲדֹנָי ('Adonay) which refers to a superior. First David discloses that his lord was asked by God to sit at His right hand. Then later it states that God will be at his right hand. This indicates a relationship of service between the two - the lord is serving the LORD (being at His right hand) and the LORD is empowering David's lord by giving him strength.
The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies. Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn you will receive the dew of your youth. The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind: "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."
The LORD is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of His wrath. He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth. He will drink from a brook beside the way; therefore He will lift up His head. (Psalm 110:1-7)
Then he continues to describe him. David says that his “lord” was made a priest by God: "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." Then David also describes that his “lord” is also a king. A king who will fight on behalf of God:
“The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies. Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn you will receive the dew of your youth.”So who was David referring to as "you" and "lord"? Was he referring to some person who would appear many centuries or even thousands of years into the future? Was he talking about Jesus? And what troops did Jesus have? What “scepter” did Jesus have? David is obviously not speaking of Jesus here.
The “my lord” David is speaking of in this Psalm is Saul who was appointed as king by Samuel, his spiritual teacher. Saul was the king of Israel, and David was referring to Saul as his superior, but also because Saul was anointed by Samuel - so David was humbly deferring to him as a priest in the order of Melchizedek, and thus also referencing the guidance of Samuel.
David at that time was an armor-bearer of Saul. He was in Saul's court - making him an inferior of Saul. And since Samuel had the authority of appointing Saul as king, David was also referring to the authority of Samuel as well.
David would play on his harp and sing his Psalms to Saul and Samuel - often to Saul alone, and this confirms why "you" is used.
Samuel, their teacher, was an anointed priest and spiritual leader of Israel. This is why Samuel had the authority to appoint Saul as king. Samuel took study under his teacher (and God's representative) Eli. He is thus a great prophet and servant of God. As for the order of Melchizedek - who as Abraham's teacher. Melchizedek is described in Genesis: "He was priest of God Most High" (Genesis 14:18)
How do we know that Abraham accepted Melchizedek as his spiritual teacher?
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. (Genesis 14:18-20)We see here that Melchizedek blessed Abraham. And then we see that Abraham gave him a tenth of everything - in the service of his teacher. This "blessing" is the same as "anointing" or "baptizing" - it is the process of initiation of a student by God's representative.
We also know, as we’ll see below, that Samuel anointed David. This would be equivalent to initiating or baptizing David. Later he also appointed David as king.
This Melchizedek (et al)-Eli-Samuel-David-(et al) succession indicates a lineage of students and their teachers, with each student following their teacher and considering their teacher God's representative and their personal savior. It is a teacher-to-student succession. Let’s consider Samuel's relationship with his spiritual teacher, Eli:
The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. (1 Samuel 3:1)
This is very clear, and the next verses illustrate how Samuel loved and respected his teacher, Eli. It also illustrates that Eli instructed Samuel to establish his own personal relationship with God, after Samuel was hearing God speak to him:
So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if He calls you, say, 'Speak, LORD, for Your servant is listening.'" So Samuel went and lay down in his place. (1 Samuel 3:9)Once Samuel re-established his loving relationship with God, he became God's representative. This is confirmed by Samuel’s teachings later in his life:
The people all said to Samuel, "Pray to the LORD your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king."So we can see here that Samuel was guided by Eli, and then became empowered to also take on the role of spiritual teacher to these people. And both Samuel and Eli taught the very same things that Moses, Joshua, Abraham, Jacob, Job, John the Baptist and Jesus taught: To love, honor, and serve God. In other words, Samuel was presenting God's message to his people. He was, therefore, representing God, and thus was their savior, and "Messiah."
"Do not be afraid," Samuel replied. "You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. For the sake of His great Name the LORD will not reject His people, because the LORD was pleased to make you His own. As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear [honor] the LORD and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you." (I Samuel 12:19-24)
Now let’s investigate David’s relationship with Samuel:
Samuel did what the LORD said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, "Do you come in peace?"We can see here that David became the student and servant of Samuel, and Samuel anointed him (same as baptism, or initiation). While Samuel may have physically selected David, it was God Who ultimately made the selection. In essence, Samuel became David's spiritual teacher. David thus worshiped his spiritual teacher Samuel as God's representative and his personal savior ("Messiah").
Samuel replied, "Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me." Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed stands here before the LORD."
But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, "The LORD has not chosen this one either." Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, "Nor has the LORD chosen this one." Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, "The LORD has not chosen these." So he asked Jesse, "Are these all the sons you have?"
"There is still the youngest," Jesse answered, "but he is tending the sheep."
Samuel said, "Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives."
So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features.
Then the LORD said, "Rise and anoint him; he is the one."
So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah. (1 Samuel 16:4-13)
In the same way, David also became empowered by God to represent Him. And we see later that Solomon became David’s confidential student. In this case, because of the familial relationship, David sent his priests to anoint Solomon:
So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites went down and put Solomon on King David's mule and escorted him to Gihon. Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the sacred tent and anointed Solomon. (1 Kings 1:38-39)While this also made Solomon king, we cannot ignore that the anointing was made by priests, and this made the anointment of Solomon a spiritual initiation. Remember anointing (same as baptizing) according to God's own instructions in Exodus 40:15 (above). These anointings continue that tradition as instructed by God.
We also see that David was Solomon's teacher, and instructed Solomon in spiritual affairs:
When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son. "I am about to go the way of all the earth," he said. "So be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements..." (1 Kings 2:1-3)So here we see a lineage of God's loving servants and representatives, each of whom were the saviors of their students. Each was selected by God to pass on His message to those generations, and each was empowered by God to teach and save those who heard from them and became their students. In other words, they each assumed the role of "Messiah" to those they taught.
This tradition was continued by Jesus, and he also baptized (anointed) disciples who then passed on those teachings to the next generation. This is the process.
With this exchange with the Pharisees, Jesus is indicating the error in their interpretation regarding a single coming Messiah in the future. Ironically, now ecclesiastical sectarian institutions and their teachers who claim to be following Jesus also misinterpret Jesus' statement - claiming that Jesus is the only Messiah.
The reality is that the real Messiah - or Savior - is the Supreme Being. God's representative allows the Supreme Being to speak through them. This is confirmed by Jesus:
“My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me." (John 7:16)Jesus also instructs his disciples to let the Supreme Being speak through them:
"But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." (Matt. 10:19-20)Thus we find that Jesus is teaching his disciples on the mechanics of being God's representative as they allow God to speak through them.
"Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit." (Mark 3:11)
We see this same succession of teachers before Jesus. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, who was the student of the priest Zechariah, in disciplic line with the students and teachers that followed David. David of course followed Samuel, Samuel followed Eli, and this succession of teachers went back to Moses and Abraham. So what we see in the Bible is a history and lineage of God's representatives ("Messiahs"), which included Jesus - who each taught substantially the same teaching, which, by following, will essentially save us because this is what God is trying to teach us:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:36-38)
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Book of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)