Saturday, December 25, 2010

Psalm 110 and the Divine Son

Kidner (1975: 392): "Those who deny David's authorship of the psalm on the ground that the psalm reads like an enthronement oracle curiously miss the point. It is just an oracle. What is unique is the royal speaker, addressing this more - than - royal person." No king of Israel was ever so close to God that he could normally be described, even metaphorically, as sitting at God's right hand. Terrien (2003: 752) terms this "stupendous for the Hebrew mind," suggesting an "exceptional degree of intimacy between God and the new monarch." The triumph over the king's enemies as he is arrayed in holy majesty (110:2-3) can possibly be taken of an earthly Davidic king, but 110:4 returns to language that seems highly inappropriate even for one as exalted as David (so also Carson 1984: 467). This "king" embodies an eternal priesthood (110:4), whereas legitimate Israelite kings in the line of David came from the tribe of Judah, not the tribe of Levi, from whom priests had to descend. And in 110:5 Yahweh is said to be at this king's right hand, rather than vice versa, as if God and king were interchangeable! Finally, this monarch will do what God alone is described elsewhere as doing: judging the nations and crushing the rulers of the whole earth (110:6) For all these reasons, B. C. Davis (2000) concludes that the psalm is purely messianic.

...The earliest rabbinic reference, in the name of Rabbi Ishmael (ca. AD 100) applies the psalm to Abraham. However, Ishmael was an anti-Christian zealot who probably introduced this distinctive interpretation to counter Christian use of the text (see Hengel 1995: 178-79). The older, messianic interpretation, hinted at in pre-Christian texts, became dominant again after AD 250. It almost certainly would not have been invented at that late date, given the then-regnant Christian interpretation (France 1971: 164-65).

...God speaks to the Messiah, telling him to remain in the honored position of presence at his right hand until some future date when all his enemies will be destroyed. The rest of the psalm unpacks the events that will surround this coming ultimate vengeance. Jesus fulfilled part of God's promises with his first advent as the legitimate Messiah, coming from and returning to Yahweh's right hand. He will fulfill the rest of God's promises when he returns and institutes the final judgment of all the earth's inhabitants.

...Clearly, Christology is central. The Messiah is no mere mortal, not even the most exalted of human kings. He is divine. God in his sovereignty has planned things this way. God's plan also includes the future implementation of perfect justice throughout the universe, at the end of time, through this Messiah, who is both priest and king. Then God's enemies will be destroyed and God's people rewarded. The rest of the NT likewise speaks of God putting his enemies under Jesus' feet (1 Cor. 15:25-28; Eph. 1:22; Heb. 10:13).

-taken from Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament by G.K Beale and D.A. Carson, section on Matthew 22.

There are good reasons to believe that Jesus, the son of David, saw himself as the Lord destined to be at God's right hand. first, we note the Aramaism, Maranatha, "Our Lord, come," in the invocation Paul quotes to the Corinthians (1 Cor 16:22). Most probably this is an echo of a liturgy from the earliest, Aramaic-speaking church, addressing Jesus as "Lord." The early recognition of Jesus as "Lord" most probably derived from Jesus himself, based on his interpretation of Psalm 110:1.

Second, Peter's speech in Acts 2 cites Psalm 110 as the Scripture that Jesus fulfilled when he was resurrected and exalted (Acts 2:33-36). In turn, the historicity of the Acts references is supported by the frequent, early and broad-based allusions to Jesus as the "Lord" who is at the "right hand" of God throughout the letters of the New Testament (Rom 8:34; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3; 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pet 3:22). It is a solid probability that the widespread use of this psalm arose from Jesus' own interpretation of it.

Further, it is likely that Jesus connected in his mind the Son of man ruling the nations in the presence of the Ancient of Days (Dan 7:13-14) with the Lord at God's right hand whose enemies are a footstool for his feet (Ps 110:1). The similarity of Son of man and Lord in the two passages is striking. Most probably, Jesus established the concept of the Son of man with the disciples first.

-taken from Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of New Testament Times by Paul Bennet, p. 168.

A careful examination of Psalm 110:1, and Jesus' application of it (in conjunction with Daniel 7:13) to himself, reveals how remarkable Jesus' claim [in Mat. 26:64] was and why it seemed to the Sanhedrin to be blasphemous. It was one thing to enter God's presence and yet another to sit in it. But to sit at God's right side was another matter altogether. In the religious and cultural milieu of Jesus' day, to claim to sit at God's right hand was tantamount to claiming equality with god.

...Jesus, then, was claiming the right to go directly into God's "throne room" and sit at his side. The temerity of such a claim for any mere human would be astonishing to the Jews of Jesus' day. The priests of the Sanhedrin, to whom Jesus made this claim, could not, as a rule, even go into the inner sanctum of the temple, known as the Holy of Holies. Many of them probably had never been inside it. The Holy of Holies could be entered only on a specific day in a specific way by one specific person. Failure to follow the instructions exactly resulted in death. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest entered the Holy oh Holies, carrying the blood of a bull as offering for personal purification and the blood of a ram as offering for atonement for the people. This was followed by a change of garments and ritual washings (Lev. 16). In other words, one entered into God's presence in the temple cautiously.

If entrance requirements to the earthly Holy of Holies were so strict, we can imagine what the Sanhedrin priests would have thought about Jesus claiming to have the right to enter God's heavenly presence. After all, the earthly temple was, according to Josephus, viewed as a model of the heavenly one. Worse still, though, Jesus was claiming that he was going to enter permanently into the heavenly Holies of Holies and sit down. Jesus might as well have claimed that he owned the place! Indeed, that is what his statement amounted to. As Darrell Bock has put it, Jesus' claim "would be worse, in the leadership's view, than claiming the right to be able to walk into the Holy of Holies in the temple and live there!"

...when Jesus alluded to Daniel 7:13 and Psalm 110:1 in his response to Caiaphas's question...Jesus was claiming to be a heavenly, divine figure who would be seated at God's right hand, exercising divine rule forever over all people everywhere.

What Jesus does in fusing Psalm 110:1 with Daniel 7:13 is unique and results in a claim that goes far beyond anything said about the Son of Man in Enoch.

-taken from Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ by Robert M. Bowman Jr. and J. Ed Komoszewski, p. 243-45, 252

Notice carefully Singer's words: "No Jew who had even a superficial knowledge of the Jewish scriptures would have ever found Jesus' argument [about Psalm 110:1] compelling, let alone a conversation stopper." To the contrary, it is because Jesus knew that his hearers were so familiar with the Scriptures that he raised this compelling argument. Of course, they had no answer. You see, some of the earliest Rabbinic interpretation of Psalm 110 understood the psalm to be speaking of the Messiah, and if David in fact wrote the psalm, then Yeshua's question is well taken: If the Messiah is merely David's son - and it was universally agreed that the Messiah was the son of David - how can David call him his lord?

"But that's the whole problem," you object. "The Christian translations claim that the Messiah is Lord - meaning God himself - whereas the Hebrew Bible says no such thing." This, in fact, is another of Rabbi Singer's points, and he argues that the second "Lord" in the text "never refers to God anywhere in the Bible. It is only used for the profane, never the sacred."

But where did Jesus say "Lord" was referring to God? He simply stated that the text indicated David called the Messiah his lord...

Unfortunately, Singer has gotten his information completely wrong, failing to read correctly the Christian translation he cites and completely ignoring well-known Jewish translation customs. Simply stated, a tradition developed among the Jewish people that the Hebrew name for God, vlwh, was too sacred to pronounce. Thus, whenever a Jew would read this name in the Bible, he would not say Yahweh (which is the most likely original pronunciation; the more common Jehovah is not correct). Rather, he would say, 'adonai, meaning "Lord." Thus, the opening verse of Psalm 110 would have been recited out loud as "'adonay (or 'adonai) said to 'adoni" ('adoni meaning "my lord" OR "my Lord").

When Jesus quoted this verse to the Pharisees [in Mat. 22:41-46], this would have been the way he said it, referring to Yahweh as 'adonai. There were no tricks here, no sleight of hand, no cover-up, no deception, no mistranslation. Just a straightforward recitation of the Hebrew text.

How then does Singer claim that the New Testament and later Christian translations of Psalm 110 are guilty of intentional mistranslation? It is simply because (1) he has not handled the Christian translations fairly, and (2) he has not realized how the very first Jewish translation of the Tanakh into Greek rendered Psalm 110:1.

Virtually all modern Christian translations follow a similar translation pattern, rendering the opening Hebrew word yhwh as "LORD" and then rendering the second Hebrew word 'adoni as "my Lord" or "my lord." As we have seen the custom of translating the Hebrew yhwh as "LORD" goes back to Jewish practice, not Christian practice. And Just as Jewish readers distinguished between 'adonai and 'adon (meaning Yahweh, as opposed to any lord or the Lord), so also Christian translations into English distinguished between LORD (Hebrew, yhwh) and Lord (Hebrew, 'adon).

Amazingly, Singer claims that the NASB...fails to distinguish between the two words, inviting the readers to "look at the first word 'Lord' in the verse. Now look at the second word 'Lord' (they are only three words apart). Did you notice any difference between them? You didn't because the Christian translator CAREFULLY MASKED what it ACTUALLY says in the text of the original Hebrew." Thus, he claims, "the two English words in the NASB translation are carefully made to appear identical, in the original Hebrew text they are entirely different." Absolutely not! These two words are not the same, as you would immediately see even at first glance: The first is ALL uppercase letters...the second is lowercase after the initial capital L.

Rabbi Singer, however, takes serious issue with the fact that many Christian versions translate the second 'adon ('adoni, representing the noun followed by the first-person pronominal suffix) as "my Lord" instead of "my lord," arguing that every single time 'adoni is found in the Tanakh, it is speaking of a human being, not God (who would always be referred to as 'adonni rather than 'adoni) He states: "...There are many words reserved for God in the Bible, adonee, however, is not one of them.

There are at least three problems with this argument:

First, he is INCORRECT in stating that "my Lord" is reserved "for the profane, never the sacred." Just look in Joshua 5:14, where Joshua addresses the angel of the Lord as "my lord" ('adoni). Yet this divine messenger is so holy that Joshua is commanded to remove the shoes from his feet because he is standing on holy ground, just as Moses was commanded when the angel of the Lord - representing Yahweh himself - appeared to him (Exod. 3:1-6). This is hardly a "profane" rather than "sacred" usage! Similar examples can be found in Judges 6:13 and Zechariah 1:9, among other places...

...Second, Singer's WHOLE ARGUMENT HINGES ON THE MASORETIC VOCALIZATION, which did not reach its final form until the Middle Ages. As every student of Hebrew knows, BIBLICAL HEBREW WAS WRITTEN WITH CONSONANTS AND "VOWEL LETTERS" ONLY; the VOWEL SIGNS were added hundreds of years later. Yet both 'adonai (used only for Yahweh) and 'adoni (used for men and angels, as we just noted) are SPELLED IDENTICALLY IN HEBREW, consisting of the four consonants '-d-n-y. How then can Rabbi Singer make such a dogmatic statement about the differences between these two forms in the Bible? His argument stands only if we accept the absolute authority of the Masoretic vocalization, which in some cases follows the original Hebrew by almost two thousand years [footnote] 277.

Third, it is not really important whether we translate with "my Lord" or "my lord", since Yeshua's whole argument was simply that David called the Messiah "lord", meaning that the Messiah had to be more than David's son.

"But," you say, "I understand that the New Testament is written in Greek. Are you telling me that the writers of the New Testament followed Jewish practice and spelled the two words differently? That was not the custom in Greek, and therefore readers of the Gospels would be misled into thinking that the two 'Lords' were the same person, both referring to God."

That's a good observation. But once again, this is not a "Christian" problem but rather a "Jewish" problem dating back to the Septuagint, which was completed more than two hundred years before the writing of the New Testament. The New Testament only follows the practice of the Jewish Septuagint. It is the Greek Septuagint that first rendered yhwh with the Greek word kyrios [footnote] 278, "Lord" or "lord." Thus, Psalm 110:1 is rendered by the Septuagint as, "The kyrios said to my kyrios," and the writers of the New Testament - themselves almost all Jews - merely quoted the Jewish translation of their day into Greek. It's that simple!

[Footnote] 277: Genesis 18 provides the classic example of interpretive issues arising because of the varying Masoretic vocalizations for the two words 'adonai (with the short vowel patah, which could mean "my lords") and 'adoni (with the long vowel qametz, which refers to Yahweh), both of which are spelled with the identical consonants (see vol. 2, 3.1). Interestingly, 'adonai (with qametz) in Judg. 6:15 is rendered with "my lord" in the LXX (kyrie mou) as opposed to simply Lord (kyrie, as it is usually rendered with reference to Yahweh), a rendering possibly reinforced by Judg. 6:13, with 'adoni. This, then, could point to a change in the Masoretic vocalization of 'adoni.

[Footnote] 278: To repeat, there is no such ambiguity in the English translations, since the English custom for more than five hundred years has been to render yhwh with LORD (all uppercase) and 'adon with lord or Lord.

...if those who were interrogated [meaning the Pharisees and other Jewish teachers in Mat. 22] had been able to reply that David does not speak of the future Messiah, but puts into the mouth of the people words concerning himself, or...concerning the Davidic king in a general way, then the question would lack the background of cogency as an argument. Since, however, the prophetico - Messianic character of the Psalm was acknowledged at that time (even as the later synagogue, in spite of the dilemma into which this Psalm brought it in opposition to the church, has never been able entirely to avoid this confession), the conclusion to be drawn from this Psalm must have been felt by the Pharisees themselves, that the Messiah, because the Son of David and Lord at the same time, was of human and at the same time superhuman nature: that it was therefore in accordance with Scripture if this Jesus, who represented Himself to be the predicted Christ [Messiah], should as such profess to be the Son of God and of divine nature.

In support of this Messianic interpretation we can also point to the comments on Daniel 7:13 attributed to the influential medieval Jewish leader, Rabbi Sa'adiah Gaon. Explaining the words "And behold, [coming] with the clouds of heaven, one like a son of man," he stated, "This is Messiah our righteousness," contrasting this description with the Messianic prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9, where it is written that the Messiah will come meek and lowly, riding on a donkey. He interpreted the clouds of heaven to mean the host of heavenly angels, noting that this is the glorious splendor that the Creator will grant to the Messiah. And how does Gaon explain the end of verse 13, where it is stated that they will bring the Messiah to the Ancient of Days (a title for the Lord)? He simply quotes the opening line of Psalm 110, "The utterance of the LORD to my lord, 'Sit at My right hand'" (translated literally). He got that exactly right!

-taken from Michael L. Brown's, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 3, Messianic Prophecy, section 4.29. Emphasis mine.

Like Psalms 2 and 72, this psalm goes well beyond the achievements of any merely human heir of David and thus looks forward to the Messiah; in fact, unlike those two psalms, it is almost entirely future in its orientation...When the people of God would sing this in faith, they would celebrate God's promises to David, yearn for the day in which the Gentiles receive the light (the coming of the Messiah), and seek to be faithful to their calling until that great day...Christians sing this psalm to celebrate that Jesus has taken his Davidic kingship by his resurrection...and that God is busy now subduing the Gentiles into the empire of Jesus.

-taken from the English Standard Version Study Bible by Crossway publishing.

Ps. 110 There can be no doubt that this psalm looks forward to Christ. Jesus Himself cites it to show that David knew that its ultimate fulfillment would come with One who is greater than he (Mark 12:35-37 and parallels). Even before Christ's coming, a prophetic-messianic interpretation of the psalm was well known among Jewish interpreters.

...Focusing on two divine oracles, the first (v. 1) shows the close, but subordinate, relationship that the human king bears to the divine king. The New Testament writers cite this oracle to demonstrate Jesus' post-resurrection glory and to point to the struggle between God and the spiritual powers of evil (Acts 2:34; 1 Cor. 15:25; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:13; 1 Pet. 3:22).

The second oracle appointed the king as priest, but as a special type of priest. As opposed to the hereditary Aaronic priesthood, this priesthood is descended from Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18-23), whose mysterious origins are related to Jesus Christ, the great High Priest (Heb. 5:6; 7:17; 8:1; 10:12-14).

Lord. This title is often used for God but can also be addressed to a king or other respected person. The New Testament makes it clear that King David refers to his Son as his "Lord" (Mark 12:35-37). The promised Messiah descended from David but is greater than David. See "Jesus' Heavenly Reign" at Acts 7:55.

- taken from the English Standard Version of the The Reformation Study Bible by Ligonier Ministries

1. The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at My right hand. Mystically these are the words of the flesh subjected by the spirit ruling over it. For the spirit is made a son of God and lord of all by faith. And he who formerly was a slave of sin now sits in peace of conscience. He sits as king over the members of sin. He sits as judge over the vices of the flesh, punishing them in the subjected flesh. For he sits with Christ at the right hand, that is, in spiritual things, as the apostle says (Eph. 2:6):"He made us sit with Christ in heavenly places."

...To those who desire to live piously and suffer persecution (2 Tim 3:12), this is the rod of strength for the purpose of ruling. For those who are unwilling are already conquered, and the Word of God is to them a reed of weakness, it is folly, impotence, and vanity. But through the Lord it will come about among the enemies that His people are "princess".

-Martin Luther, Luther's Works vol. 11, on Psalm 110.