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In Psalm 110:1, the Psalmist states (roughly):

Yahweh said to my master,

“Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.

This indicates God spoke to the Psalmist's master, and this Psalm bears the heading,

Of David. A psalm.

Thus this Psalm provides two possibilities:

  1. God is speaking to David, the master of the Psalmist or
  2. God is speaking David's master (and David himself is the Psalmist)

In either event, in Matthew 22:41-46 it seems like Jesus does not understand the passage this manner, saying:

He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? ... If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?”

So this is the other way around from the Hebrew version of the text: Instead of God speaking to David, David seems to be speaking to God in Jesus' interpretation of the text.

Is this caused by some sort of ambiguity in the septuigental translation of the Hebrew text? Is Jesus misquoting the text, and if so doesn't this undermine his argument to the phraisees?

  • That is perhaps one interpretation, but that still doesn't solve the problem: That's clearly not the way Jesus interprets the passage. Also, in the context of the Old Testament, wouldn't Yahweh be David's Adonai? – James Shewey Nov 10 '17 at 4:23
  • If David is the author of the psalm, then YHWH is speaking to David's adoni (not Adonai, a substitute for YHWH). Jesus understands that the adoni (master, lord) is the Messiah, hence the Messiah is over David and is greater than David. – Pilgrim Nov 10 '17 at 15:58
  • Sure, but according to Jesus it is David speaking to the adoni, not Yahweh. – James Shewey Nov 10 '17 at 16:35
  • I think you are being thrown off by the words "David, speaking by the Spirit", creating a blind spot. The referents are clear in the Hebrew. In fact, once you see it you can't un-see it. David is the one being quoted in the Psalm and by Jesus but David is quoting YHVH within the Psalm as addressing David's Adonai. "Sit at my right hand" are the words of YHVH to the messiah. David calls the messiah "my Adonai" in the psalm indicating that his descendant would be his superior thus making Jesus' point. – Ruminator Nov 10 '17 at 18:40
  • "Sit at my right hand" are the words of YHVH to the messiah. - if this is the case, then would it not be YHVH calling Adoni "Lord"? How can David "speak by the spirit" and "call" anyone "Lord" if David never actually speaks in the Psalm? – James Shewey Nov 10 '17 at 19:12
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Jesus says that David speaks through Holy Spirit the phrase "Lord spoke to my Lord: seat at the right hand of me"; thus, David asserts that the one to whom Lord spoke those words is his, David's Lord and therefore, Jesus says that David called Messiah his (David's) Lord. An analogy: for example if David were a schoolboy and his math teacher would say to his literature teacher: "this guy is not good in math, so perhaps you make a poet out of him", and David would have said: "Teacher (of math) told my teacher (of literature): 'make this boy a poet, for he has no perspective in math".

Thus, I do not see what is your problem in this? It is as clear as a sunny day: David, in Jesus' words, addresses to his Lord (the messiah) to whom Lord (God) has spoken. By this, Jesus simply underscores His divinity, for if a prophet-King speaks of Him as "Lord", He cannot be just another king of Israel like David, even if He were an eschatological king-messiah who would have restored the Jewish kingdom, because even such an eschatological king would not posit himself higher than David, but respect the latter as the great ancestral prophet-king putting him even higher than himself, as a son (descendent) would put a father (ancestor), for this is what Jews thought about the Messiah - "the son (i.e. descendant) of David" only in a physical sense. And even if - let's hypothesize - such an eschatological Messiah-king would not posit David above himself, then at least would not posit him below himself either, to be sure.

On the contrary, Jesus clearly and unequivocally posits Himself not only just higher than David, but proclaims that He is no lesser Lord for David than Jahve Himself, and this David said being educated by the Holy Spirit, for it is only through the Holy Spirit that someone can discern the divinity, the Jahve-hood of Jesus, as Paul says (1 Cor. 12:3).

Thus, Jesus deconstructs the basic expectation of Jews, that Messianic king will be somebody like David, fulfilling the desire of a political grandeur of Jewish nation, but Jesus' and the Father's Kingdom is not of this earth (John 18:36), not of political dimension, but within human hearts (Luke 17:21) that are cleansed from the infection of sins through the action of divine grace working through faith (Eph. 2:8).

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Jesus sees "my lord"1 as an appelation for the Messiah; namely, as signifying His being above David himself in authority, or, "greater than" David.2 Not necessarily that He is divine (for the purposes of Jesus' argument).

Jesus is not denying His divinity, but isn't His main argument here—for now He is confouding the Pharisees as to His two natures as, yes, a human lord, and even a son of David, as well as being the divine Son of God—the Lord of Lords; a mystery they are too spiritually blind as to be open to).

Only that He is greater in some way to his own father David (for the Messiah was to be a son of David, which is why He cites this as a messianic Pslam. Of course, Jesus is the Son of David).3 This is the only way we can understand Jesus' argument. A son is lesser than his father in authority. But Jesus uses a Scriptural argument (similar in nature to Mk 12:26-27) to prove that the Messiah is superior to David—a higher authority than David—without reference to divinity—even though he is his son. He is confounding the Pharisees with this mystery.

His question "How is he his son?" is not a denial that He is the son of David ('how can he be his son'), but has the meaning: 'In what manner (πῶς) is he his son?'—if He is Davids son, why is David deferring to him or showing him reverence of calling him 'lord'? 'What sort of son is he, that his father calls him 'my lord'?'

Thus, it is God the Father (Heb 1:6,13), speaking to the Messiah (Mt 22:42,45). David is, ἐν Πνεύματι, privy to the divine counsel with regard to the Messiah, according to Jesus.


Footnotes

1 Both the Masoretic לַֽאדֹנִ֗י (to-mylord) and the Septuagintal τῷ κυρίῳ μου (to my lord) are in agreement that the simple 'my lord' is meant, and not strictly (but not excluding altogether) a divine Lord.

2 cf. Mt 12:42; Lk 11:31

3 cf. Mt 1:1; cf. Mt 21:29

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The Septuagint version of Psalm 110 reads:

Εἶπεν ὁ κύριος τῷ κυρίῳ μου Κάθου ἐκ δεξιῶν μου ἕως ἂν θῶ τοὺς ἐχθρούς σου ὑποπόδιον τῶν ποδῶν σου

With the exception of some manuscripts substituting λέγει for εἶπεν, this is exactly how Jesus' quote appears in the Gospel accounts (Matthew 22:44; Luke 20:42-43; Mark 12:36).

This is admittedly a little convoluted, since Jesus likely spoke the quote in Aramaic. Either the Evangelists translated what Jesus said in Aramaic into Greek and ended up with what was in the Septuagint or the Evangelists simply "cut and pasted" the Septuagint version of Psalm 110 (Psalm 109 in the LXX), knowing that it was what Jesus was referring to.

So the real question is whether The Lord said to my Lord ... really represents the Hebrew accurately. Perhaps one could take issue with κύριος being used to translate both yhwh and ʾā·ḏôn, but the latter is used elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures to mean more than simply an earthly master (e.g. Psalm 114:7).

The Jewish Publishing Society Tanakh (which translates verse 1, The Lord said to my lord ...) offers the following commentary on the Psalm:

It is quite difficult because v.3 is totally obscure, and the psalm changes speakers often ... Here God is speaking to the king, called my lord; perhaps these are the words spoken by a prophet. The king is very proximate to God, in a position of privilege, imagined as being on His right in the divine council.1


1. Oxford Jewish Study Bible (1st ed.), p.1408

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    "Perhaps one could take issue with κύριος being used to translate both yhwh and ʾā·ḏôn" Then again (εἶπεν) ὁ κύριος τῷ κυρίῳ μου does differentiate the Lord (automatically assumed to be YHVH) from the subsequent κύριος, does it not? – Sola Gratia Nov 10 '17 at 23:16
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In the Psalm the Father is addressing the Son, that is, the Messiah promised to David in 2 Samuel 7:12-13, and David, having witnessed this dialogue, references each of these, the former by using the tetragrammaton, and the latter by using the phrase 'my adonai', without directly addressing himself either one. Jesus then uses David's reference to the Messiah(i.e. "my adonai") to show that their answer 'of David' to his question concerning whose son the Messiah was, was insufficient, since it could not be that the Messiah should be only considered his son, if it were accepted that David's naming of him as Master were true.

  • Ah. Thank you. So David's reference to Jesus was alternatively, not verbally. I had not considered that angle and this is helpful. – James Shewey Nov 11 '17 at 17:27

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