This Christmas Eve our Anglican lectionary provided morning readings from Ps. 89 and Isa. 9– the Advent season culminating in the Promise for Messianic Kingship. Among my favorite commentators, Bishop Titcomb’s opinon regarding the British Throne was quickly consulted. I was shocked to find Titcomb’s skepticism about the Davidic seat belonging to Queen Victoria and her progeny. This is surprising since the Pillar of Jacob tends to be a central BI belief– a key argument for the primacy of the British Crown over Christendom. My question remains, after examining the best commentary on Christmas Eve readings (Ps. 89 & Isa. 9), if the British Throne as part of the Davidic Promise needs to be entirely dispensed?
In his Appendix (F) respecting the ‘theory that Queen Victoria sits in succession upon the Throne of David’, Titcomb makes the cautious disclaimer,
“I have never committed myself to this opinion; and the more I contemplate it the more objectionable it appears; being not only unscriptural, but calculated to bring the whole subject upon which I have been writing into public discredit.”
This is much like a caution found in the first chapter of his book, A Message to the Church, p. 14
“The Bible is, undoubtedly, not a book which we are at liberty to treat in a rough and slipshod manner. We have no right to select a passage here, and another there, applying them with superficial lightness to the current topics of the day, or to the past events of history, according to our own capricious judgment. Such a method of interpretation is childish, and may lead to opinions which are extravagant and absurd.”
Titcomb then recommends more sober criticism by the following means, “All true exegesis of Scripture should be based upon a reverent consideration of the context, and be treated according the the analogy of faith”. The analogy of faith means the sum or substance of scripture, as well as those common scriptural teachings; such as the unity of Godhead, the universal curse by Adam’s fall, Christ’s atonement for man, etc..
The Bishop’s basic criticism to the theory are 1) the Throne of David is prophecised to rule all Twelve Tribes, 2) David should never want a MAN to sit upon the throne, 3) this Throne was received by Christ upon his Ascension (sitting at the right-hand of the Father). For starters, I’d like to compare Titcomb’s third point with some notable commentators, first, on Psalm 89.
The Rev. Thomas Scott, here quoting Bishop Horne, lays out a pretty convention point for Ps. 89:3-4
“These emphatical expressions are literally verified in the kingdom of Christ, the promised See of David, whose throne is established in heaven, and whose true subjects will all be exalted thither– The Psalmist then introduces Jehovah himself declaring the purport of this covenant made with his chosen servant David and his posterity– ‘The covenant relates to David’s seed; and to the establishment of his throne in that seed, literally in Solomon for a time; spiritually in Christ, for ever. “
But, Scott continues and in verses 35-36 & v. 38, saying,
“The promises of the covenant to the posterity of David were in some measure performed to Solomon, and to the long succession of kings which reigned over Judah till the captivity: yet in Christ, and in his spiritual seed, they have their only full accomplishment... And as the Lord by various corrections visited upon the posterity of David their transgressions of his law, but did not utterly cut them off; continuing them in regal authority over Judah till the captivity, and afterwards, preserving the family till Christ descended from it, and received the kingdom, so he will correct his people, but never finally cast them off.”
Scott makes frequent reference of two Anglican divines, one being the Rt. Rev. Simon Patrick who wrote a good seventy-five years before Scott. Not surprisingly, Patrick makes similar points. Regarding v. 4, Patrick says,
“That not only he, but his children after him, shall be settled in the throne; which, though it totter sometime, or be thrown down, shall be raised again, and continued throughout all succeeding generations“.
Also, here’s Patrick on verse 29:
“Which is, that his family shall never be extinct; but, not withstanding the changes which all things are subject unto here below, have the royal power continued in it, as long as the heavens endure.”
Patrick’s remark above appears contrary to Dr. Adam Clarke’s opinion. Regarding the Psalm, Clarke holds to nothing new. But, Clarke seems to think the purity of the Davidic line has vanished. Clarke, like Scott, was very familiar with Patrick’s commentary. For Patrick, the holy family’s genealogy is essentially complete by the birth of Christ. Yet, Clarke speaks of more recent times, saying about verse 4:
“And this covenant had most incontestably Jesus Christ in view. This is the seed, or posterity, that should sit on the throne, and reign for ever and ever. David and his family are long since become extinct; none of his race has sat on the Jewish throne for more than two thousand years: but the Christ has reigned invariably since that time, and will reign till all his enemies are put under his feet”
So, commentators’ attention to the Davidic throne as it pertains to natural successors is generally optimistic until Christ’s ascension– at best, David’s posterity gradually becoming ‘extinct’ thereafter. Our last source, the Rt. Rev. George Horne– whom Scott quotes liberally– gives a needed, though probably obvious, admission so far lacking among above scholars. Though Horne believes David’s posterity is surely accomplished in Christ glorification (cf. Heb. 1.5, 2Sam 7.12), he concedes:
“Yet, that the whole passage [Heb. 1.5] does in the letter, relate to Solomon, can admit of no doubt, he being the ‘seed’ and immediate successor of David, and the person appointed to build an house for God’s name. Here then we have an incontestable proof, that the covenant with David had Messiah for its object; that Solomon was a figure of him; and that the Scripture hath sometimes a double sense.”
Unsurprisingly, Horne applies this “double-sense” to Solomon and his posterity, including Christ’s birth (see the Table listed in scripture in Matt 1). But a “double-sense” can occur in other ways tolerant to a latter-day succession. Interestingly, the Rt. Rev. Titcomb is willing to leave the question of Zedekiah’s lineage somewhat open when he says “whether [Queen Victoria is] lineally descended from Zedekiah’s daughter or not“. Nonetheless, Titcomb remains ambivalent about the overall question, siding with the consensus of prominent colleagues.
Another possibility, in harmony with above commentators, is the Davidic line is indeed extinct, continuing in the seed of Christ who sits in heaven. Meanwhile, Christ-incarnate will come again to personally rule the nations, and he will– as fully man– have use for physical furniture, say, a throne. If Jacobs pillar (aka. Stone of Scone, inset within the British coronation throne) be authentic, we might fancy it a Holy ornament convenient for Christ’s reclining upon at His second coming. Says Titcomb, “Then only will the throne of David be again established on the earth; but then, in all the resplendent glory of a new and millennial dispensation.”
However, we might be careful not to make any artifact of greater import than what’s permitted by scripture, the identification of the Stone of Scone with Jacob’s Pillar having more to do with custom and legend despite a dignified mystery behind it. Like other biblical material objects, e.g., the Garden Tomb, the site of Jerusalem, or the Crucifixion itself, these can be cherished for stirring faith whether they are factually accurate or not. Quoting Chr. 29:33, “Then Solomon sat on the Throne of the Lord as King instead of David his Father”, W. H. Bennett notes “somewhere the Throne of David must still be in existence today, and a descendant of King David must still be reigning from it over the people and nation”.
A second line of reasoning enlists the immediate family of Jesus. According to this history, Joseph of Arimethea had a daughter named Anna. The Rev. Richard Morgan in his 1860 book, St. Paul in Britain, said “Joseph of Arimathea is by Eastern [Orthodox] tradition said to have been the younger brother of the father of the Virgin Mary”, thereby, making him of the line of Nathan or David’s second son. Welsh tradition claims Joseph brought his daughter along with Twelve Missionaries commissioned by St. Philip; whereupon, the Welsh kings married into the Davidic house. This argument has its attraction, especially for those who believe Holy Family included cousins and continued producing seed.
Furthermore, if legend be correct the line of Pherez– or Zedekiah’s children– not only brought David’s Throne to Ireland but ultimately married into Joseph’s of Arimathea’s family , thereupon uniting the two half-tribes of Judah (Pharez and Zerah). But, this combines too many uncertainties together, leaving a thin branch to hang on.
Lastly, we might consider an alternative to either ‘extinction’ or any fantastic lineage. There is a sense the House of David indeed became extinct by intermarriage but not in a way that undermines the widely BI-held opinion. Referring to Dr. Clarke’s earlier observation about David’s descendants, Clarke says at v. 29:
“The posterity of David are long since extinct, or so blended with the remaining Jews as to be utterly indiscernible; but Jesus ever liveth, and his seed (Christians) are spread, and are spreading over all nations; and his throne is eternal”
Rather than depend upon an extravagant or precise lineage, there is a very probable chance the Royals have picked up some Jewish or Judahite blood over the centuries. We might speculate about Prince Albert’s rumored parentage. Nonetheless, Jewish blood from any part of northern Europe’s intermarried aristocracy may have found its way to the British Crown– whether German or even Spanish nobility– thereby making the case. In the final analysis, Titcomb takes the safest route, avoiding any particular here-say or legend, finally advising
“But why strain after an unscriptural position? Is it not enough that Queen Victoria– whether lineally descended form Zedekiah’s daughter or not– is Queen over the regenerated kingdom of Ephraim? Is it not enough that she rules over a nation which, in full allegiance to the throne of David, is expressly preserved and appointed of God to bring back our brethren of the House of Judah to Palestine in her ‘ships of Tarshish’, and to present to them an ‘offering to the Lord of hosts?'” p. 141
Surprisingly, Titcomb’s skepticism was recently echoed in the April 2018 issue, Thy Kingdom Come (Vol. 30, #4), a newsletter belonging to the ACP. Inside, Pastor Jory Brooks (CBIA) countered Rev. David Pawson’s (and similar critics) hasty rejection of British Israel on grounds rather secondary to the message. Mr. Brooks, perhaps vocalizing a more “American” point of view, says, p. 28:
“It is also important to point out that our critic’s main focus is not on the central core of our beliefs, but on peripheral issues not essential to our message, including the Stone of Scone, the Great Pyramid, and the Queen’s royal descent. He [Pawson] does not address a single one of our core scripture passages precisely because they are unanswerable.”
I am willing to live under a wise silence on the question of the Throne of David in Britain. If God has chosen to keep his Promises in this manner (in the ‘double sense’), Yehovah will find a way to put a Monarch of Davidic descent (however minuscule or ‘extinct’) over Ephraim. However, I suspect Almighty Jehovah has chosen to somewhat conceal the answer until all things are revealed on the Last Day. In future posts I will examine the Anna myth, perhaps from the point of view of both Rev. Morgan’s St. Paul in Britain and also Bp. Harvey’s book, To the Isles Far Off.
Whether or not we accept the British royal household as Davidic– or having an important part in God’s millennial Kingdom– we can at least walk away recalling all monarchies and governments– especially the Christian sort– share an attribute to Christ’s Kingship. Not surprisingly, certain beliefs can grow about the splendor of a Crown. However, this splendor is not really natural or their own, but belongs to Christ. About this kind of Throne, Scott says in verses 13-14 of the same Psalm.
“Jehovah’s Throne is established in justice and judgment: his almighty power and sovereign authority are always exercised in perfect justice and wisdom, and in entire consistency with his mercy and truth; and these mark out the path in which he walks with his people.” Horne says, “After this model should the thrones of princes, and the tribunals of magistrates be constituted in justice and judgement, adorned with mercy and truth’.”
Next, I’ll try to round up notable commentaries on Isa. 9 and Ez. 17.22 (and others mentioned by the revered Titcomb) before discussing Harvey or Morgan’s book.