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This phrase has perplexed me a little bit. It's a psalm that was quoted by both Jesus (Matt 22:44, Mark 12:36, Luke 20:42) and Peter (Acts 2:34).

Psalm 110:1 ESV The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

What does the statement "The LORD says to my Lord" mean? Why is one "The LORD" and the other "My Lord"? Please explain the meaning of this passage in its original context.

In addition to this, I would like to hear about the context of this passage being quoted in the New Testament (Matt 22:44, Mark 12:36, Luke 20:42, Acts 2:34). Do these NT quotations change the meaning it would have had for its original hearers? How so?

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  • I've edited the question to focus it on the Psalm being asked about. Here on BH.SE we ask about the meaning of specific texts in their original context, language, etc. I've retained the NT portion of the question, but made it secondary to understanding the Psalm itself on its own grounds (i.e. when it was originally written, before the NT was written). Keep in mind that here on BH.SE we welcome all perspectives that take the text seriously, not just Christian ones. – Dan Jun 30 '14 at 14:55

10 Answers 10

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This is a messianic vision, and David is primarily concerned here with Christ and his place with God, and his Priesthood Authority.

I see the first part of your question as having two elements. Element 1, "The Lord says to My Lord" is a conversation between God The Father (Elohim) and Christ The Son (Jesus Christ). Element 2, it was necessary to distinguish a conversation between two who could both be described as God, or Lord. The reason one is "The Lord" and the other "My Lord" is because though God The Father is creator of all, David knew that there would be a more direct relationship with The Christ as a personal savior and redeemer of his house, and Israel as a whole. Hence Christ being David's Lord, or "My Lord."

As for the NT portion of your question, I can point to Matthew 22:41-46, as a clearer reference that this meaning as I explained was understood NT times, Jesus Christ was the Lord of Psalm 110, of David, and of the House of Israel, and "The Lord" was God The Father.

41 ¶While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,

42 Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David.

43 He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying,

44 The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?

45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?

46 And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.

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In the original Hebrew we find the LORD (yud-hey-vahv-hey) says to my Lord (Adonee). The second lord, being in the singular, is referring to a human king or nobleman. In historical context it becomes clear that this psalm, written by David, was meant to be sung by the kohenim during temple liturgy. The kohenim would sing "The LORD says to my lord (king solomon, David, etc) etc"

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I would like to also contribute a bit more thought to this passage. In the original Hebrew Psalm 110 reads like this:

Yĕhovah nĕ'um Adonay (transliterated)

The Yēhovah here is usually shown to be distinct by capitalization like this: LORD. And Adonay is rendered in lowercase as: Lord.

The Septuagint is translated from the Hebrew to the Greek like this:

ὁ - κύριος - τῷ - κυρίῳ - μου The - LORD - to - Lord - of me

I think by adding this it generates more insight into the passage as it is originally stated.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites. This doesn't show its work, which is a requirement on this site. Don't just tell us what you know, tell us how you know it. Please connect the dots for us, especially since the original text didn't contain upper and lowercase letters. – Dan Jul 7 '14 at 8:56
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Psalm 110:1 (LXX) does not differentiate between God and Christ. Both are called κύριος.

However, the Hebrew differentiates between God and Christ as two distinct lords (source):

God = Yahweh (the LORD)

Christ = adoni (My Lord)

Note that in Psalm 110:5 (Hebrew), Christ is said to be Adonai (= the LORD).Thus, the rendering of the LXX is justified by the Hebrew context per se.

This is interesting because in the days of Christ and the apostles (1st century A.D./ C.E.), the Septuagint usage is prevalent (source). The NT itself is written in (koine) Greek (source).

Psalm 110:3 is quoted in the Matt 22:44, Mark 12:36, Luke 20:42, Acts 2:34.

28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.35 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.”’ 37 David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.

Mark 12:28-37 (ESV)

The son of David = The Messiah (Mark 12:35)

The Messiah = David's Lord (Mark 12:36)

The Lord = [only] one (Mark 12:29)

How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?

Jesus is 'the Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness' (Romans 1:4). Jesus is 'God over all' (Romans 9:5). Jesus himself is 'the root of David' (Revelation 22:16).

David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?

Jesus 'was descended from David according to the flesh' (Romans 1:3).

Bottom line:

Jesus' twofold question reveals that he is identifying himself as Lord the same way God is.

NOTE

In 1 Corinthians 8:6, Paul explicitly called Jesus Christ by the name 'one Lord'(Greek: eis kurios).

In first century Second-Temple [hellenistic] Judaism, only God is known as the 'one Lord' (Greek: eis kurios) as read in the Shema from the Septuagint but Christians ascribed this same Lordship to Jesus their Messiah which shows devotion to Jesus as God (source).

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Daniel Whedon's Commentary on the Bible (first published 1874-1909):

Psalm 110:1

The Lord said unto my Lord—Jehovah said to Adonee, or, the oracle of Jehovah to Adonee. This is the usual formula for announcing an oracle, “Jehovah said,” or, “thus saith the Lord.” Jehovah speaks to Adon, whom David calls Lord, the Lord, or my Lord, that is, Christ. This is clear from Jewish and Christian commentators, but above all by the frequent and important quotations of the New Testament. “In later Jewish writings nearly every verse of the psalm is quoted as referring to the Messiah. In the Talmud it is said: ‘God placed King Messiah at his right hand, according to Psa 110:2,’ etc. In the Midrash Tehillim, on the same passage it is said, ‘God spake thus to Messiah.’ In the same Midrash, on Psa 18:36, we read, ‘R. Judah, in the name of R. Channa, the son of Chanina, says: In the age to come [that is, the Messianic dispensation,] will the Holy One (blessed be He) set the Messiah at his right hand, as it is written in Psalms 110, and Abraham on his left.’ In the book Zohar it is said, ‘The higher degree spake unto the lower, Sit thou on my right hand.’ And again, ‘The righteous (Jacob) spake to the Messiah, the son of Joseph, Sit thou at my right hand.’ According to the same authority, R. Simeon explains the words ‘Jehovah said unto my Lord,’ of the union of the Jews and the heathen in one kingdom by the Messiah. R. Saadis Gaon, commenting on Dan 7:13, writes: ‘This is the Messiah our Righteousness, as it is written in Psalms 110, Jehovah said unto my Lord,’” etc., etc.—Perowne. That the Jews of our Saviour’s time, admitted the application of this passage to Christ is proved from his quotation of it, (Mat 22:41-45,) where the whole weight of the argument depended on their admitting and believing the legitimacy of such application, the only question being whether Jesus was the Christ. In using the suffix form, Adonee, my Lord, (which is the form in which the Septuagint and our Saviour, τω Κυριω μου, use the passage,) David clearly distinguishes himself from Messiah, whom he causes to stand forth in his person and Lordship in clear objective vision, which is in advance of the phraseology of Psa 2:7, “Jehovah hath said to me,” etc. The same view is strongly carried out in Mar 12:35-37; Act 2:34-35.

The word adonee like kyrios (Lord) is very often used for YHWH, it is a matter of context- It may or may not refer to deity. If in any case the Unitarians or cult leaders such as Anthony Buzzard wants to repeat this argument then I'd like to remind them that James White and Michael Brown answered and refuted him in detail in a debate on Jewish Voice. Here is the relevant part of debate on Psalm 110:1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RN2rlpaRE0

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Psalm 110 (DRB) A psalm for David.

The Lord said to my Lord: Sit thou at my right hand: Until I make thy enemies thy footstool. 2 The Lord will send forth the sceptre of thy power out of Sion: rule thou in the midst of thy enemies. 3 With thee is the principality in the day of thy strength: in the brightness of the saints: from the womb before the day star I begot thee. 4 The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent: Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech. 5 The Lord at thy right hand hath broken kings in the day of his wrath. 6 He shall judge among nations, he shall fill ruins: he shall crush the heads in the land of many. 7 He shall drink of the torrent in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.

In the Hebrew, the beginning portion reads, נאם יהוה לאדני (Yahweh said to my lord). Therefore, in all translations, the referent of the first word 'Lord' is יהוה (Yahweh), and the second instance of the word Lord in English corresponds to אדני (my lord) and means simply my lord.

Matthew 22:41-47 (DRB)

And the Pharisees being gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 Saying: What think you of Christ? whose son is he? They say to him: David's. 43 He saith to them: How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying: 44 The Lord said to my Lord, Sit on my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool? 45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? 46 And no man was able to answer him a word; neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.

Clearly, this is the passage which most clearly deals with this issue—the nature of the Lordship of the Messiah figure of Psalm 110. The reason they cannot understand is because they do not understand the hypostatic union—that by merit of having created David, the Son is His Lord, but He is also, as to His flesh, descended from David" (Rom 1:3).

This is what Jesus means by "how [i.e. in what sense] is he his son?" Not that He isn't, only that He wants them to consider that David, the King, calls his son Lord. This is the significance He wants them to grasp.

This use of Yahweh along with Lord no more implies that the Son is not Yahweh Himself than the fact that someone else, and not the Father, was called Lord implied He is not our Lord also! The point here is about Lordship, not the particular Lordship or anything of the sort.

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Jesus in 22:41-46 is giving a more clear and logically honed/crystalized exegesis of the Psalmic verse, for David was believed to speak of Messiah here, who must have come from his genetic line and be, thus, his descendant or "son". But Jesus says that since this Messiah is called "Lord" by David, then David already worships Him and regards Him as Lord, and how can one worship someone who does not yet exist and has to come to being in the future? Therefore, it is impossible for "my Lord" whom the Lord addresses "sit on the right hand of me" (that is to say, on my parallel/equal standing and dimension), not to exist at the moment the psalm is pronounced. And the Messiah venerated and worshiped as Lord by David some 1000 years before His incarnation is God Father's co-eternal Logos, God Son, through whom universe is created. Thus, Jesus rises the minds of His listeners to a loftier and more logically consistent understanding of Messiah, as not only a genetic descendant of David, but as Lord on equal standing with the Lord Father, His co-eternal Son, who pre-existed David and the entire created universe.

Without this it would be completely illogical why David would call the Messiah "my Lord" in a weaker sense of "Lord" not regarded as God but as somebody superior. Just imagine: had David - let's make a fancy - survived himself the birth of Messiah who would be just a plain man, a successful and God-aided Jewish politician who would have restored a Jewish Kingdom and make it a universal super-power. Why on earth could the great Prophet David venerate him as "my Lord"? Rather on the contrary, this Messiah-king would have venerated David calling him "my Lord and father", for David would have had an upper hand over him with regard of dignity and popularity, due to his more ancient years, fatherhood, and greatness in God-inspired poetic exploits. Thus Jesus cleanses the minds of His listeners from suchlike inconsistencies. This New Testamental lead is taken by all the apologists to the effect of demonstrating that Christianity is not something new and adventitious to the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, but a better and more sound, both grammatically and logically, interpretation of those divinely inspired texts than that provided by those who failed to or refused to recognise in Jesus their Messiah and the Lord God in the same Person of the Incarnated Logos.

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I've heard a preacher say that Psalm 110 is the most quoted passage in the NT. I've never verified that but I know that the passage is frequently cited.

The Protestant Bibles use a Hebrew text for the OT however, the "OT" of the authors of the NT appears to be the Greek version aka the LXX. In the Hebrew text it reads:

YHVH said to my ADONAI] sit at my right hand...

This has God addressing the messiah upon his ascension telling him to sit at his right hand. This indicates that the messiah was to have the second place of heaven operating as, if you please, God's own right hand.

However in the LXX both YHVH and ADONAI are represented by KURIOS so it obscures the relationship. Some take the LXX "Lord" as suggesting that Jesus is equal to God. IE: that this is a divine title. However, as we see, the Masoretic (Hebrew) makes it clear that this is not the case. Jesus says that all authority in heaven and in earth has been given to him. The title "Lord" with its authority was given temporarily for the purpose of subduing God's enemies in preparation for his personal arrival to rule the world himself:

1Co 15:24  Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.  1Co 15:25  For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.  1Co 15:26  The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.  1Co 15:27  For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.  1Co 15:28  And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

So the first verse has Jesus being temporarily enthroned as Lord for his obedience to God:

Php 2:8  And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.  Php 2:9  Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:  Php 2:10  That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;  Php 2:11  And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Act_2:36  Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

1Co_8:6  But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

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What does “The LORD said to my Lord” mean in Psalm 110?

In the OT the tetragramon which stands for Jehovah has been sustituted by the word LORD. In the KJV Bible,"LORD " refers to GOD and " Lord " in lower caps refers to JESUS.

Please note two different translations below,you may have noticed some translations "the LORD said to my LORD" or the " Lord said to my Lord", such bibles do not make sense , this is due to theological bias that has filtered in these translations.

The word "Jesus" in bold has been added to the verse by me for clarification.

Psalm 110:1 King James Version (KJV)

110 "The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool."

Psalm 110:1 Darby Translation (DARBY)

110 "Jehovah said unto my Lord/ Jesus, Sit at my right hand, until I put thine enemies [as] footstool of thy feet."

Jesus sits at the right hand of God.

God fulfils his promise to his King, Stephen was the first,in a vision he sees the returned Jesus at the right hand of God as prophesied in Psalm 110:1

Acts 7:55-56 (NASB)

55 "But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

Luke also writes in Acts 2:24 (NASB)

24 "But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held [c]in its power."

The psalmist, David inspired by God made the prophecy ,he may not have fully understood it, however with the fulfilment of the prophecy after Jesus returned to heaven as a spiritual being, the apostles and his followers understood it and so they mentioned it in the scriptures as noted by you.

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The accurate rendering goes thus:-

NWT Psalm 110:1 "Jehovah (Heb. YHWH) declared to my Lord (Heb. "Adoni"): “Sit at my right hand Until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.”

See:

"Jehovah ... the Lord God. XVI (Tindale, Exod. vi 3, 1530). alt. of the sacred Tetragrammaton יהוה JHVH of the Hebrews, the ineffable name of the Almighty, produced by the insertion of the vowel - points repr. the vowels ' (a), o, a of Adonai as a direction to substitute this for the ineffable name (as is done by Jerome in Exod. vi 3). It is held that the orig. name was Jahve(h), Yahwe(h)."-'The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology.'

Thus it is Jehovah addressing Jesus the "Lord" of David and Jesus is waiting to be given power to put an end to all Jehovah God's enemies during Armageddon.

In the NT it reads:-

NWT Matthew 22:44 "‘Jehovah said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies beneath your feet”’"

NWT Mark 12:36 "By the holy spirit, David himself said, ‘Jehovah said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies beneath your feet.”’

NWT Luke 20:42, 43 "For David himself says in the book of Psalms, ‘Jehovah said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 43 until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.”’

NWT Acts 2:34-36 "For David did not ascend to the heavens, but he himself says, ‘Jehovah said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 35 until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.”’ 36 Therefore, let all the house of Israel know for a certainty that God made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you executed on a stake.”

The above text give the scriptrual authority for Jesus Christ to be "Lord" over King David and mankind as it was bestowed upon him by Jehovah God his Father and Lord:-

NWT Matthew 28:18 [] Added "Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying: “All authority has been given me [by Jehovah] in heaven and on the earth.

"LORD" (in Capitals) in the .Englis text of The O.T. is a miss rendering of God's personal name, Heb. "YHWH", it should read "Jehovah" (or "Yahweh") in English. This helps us to see the true identity of Almighty God and how he relates to his appointed "Lord," his son Jesus.

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