My God My God - אֵלִי אֵלִי
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
(Matthew 27:46 ESV)
Jesus says something found only in the Hebrew text of Psalm 22, which Matthew reports first by transliteration of the Hebrew; then by providing the interpretation in Greek.
1When compared to the Psalm, it is apparent Matthew is giving the report based on the Hebrew text:
ηλι ηλι λεμα σαβαχθανι... (Jesus, Matthew 27:46a)
Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani
θεέ μου θεέ μου ἱνατί με ἐγκατέλιπες (Interpretation, Matthew 27:46b)
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me...
אֵלִי אֵלִי לָמָה עֲזַבְתָּנִי
My God my God why have you forsaken me... (Hebrew Psalm 22:1a)
LXX: ὁ θεὸς ὁ θεός μου πρόσχες μοι ἵνατί ἐγκατέλιπές με (LXX, Psalm 22:1a)
God my God, attend to me, why did you forsake me?
First, Matthew reports Jesus as repeating ηλι which is the transliteration of אֵלִי. Then he correctly provides the interpretation as θεέ μου, the vocative, not ὁ θεός μου which is found in the LXX. Finally, Matthew makes no mention of πρόσχες μοι, attend to me which the LXX added.
In the Hebrew text of the Psalm, the transliterated ηλι contrasts with אֱֽלֹהַי of the next verse:
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer... (Psalm 22:2)
אֱֽלֹהַי אֶקְרָא יוֹמָם וְלֹא תַעֲנֶה
O my God, I will cry by day, and you will not listen... (LXX-Psalm 21:3[22:2])
ὁ θεός μου κεκράξομαι ἡμέρας καὶ οὐκ εἰσακούσῃ...
Since the LXX renders both אֵלִ and אֱלֹהִים as ὁ θεός, the distinction between God, El and God Elohim in the Hebrew is eliminated in the Greek, as it is in English translations. Matthew's treatment of reporting both the transliterated Hebrew and the proper Greek interpretation, demonstrates Jesus means My God, אֵלִי, not אֱֽלֹהַי.
If Jesus understood Himself as God in a Trinitarian sense where each of the three are equal, then the only correct way for Him to cry out to God would be by repeating My God My God where it is clear He means אֵלִ not אֱלֹהִים. If Jesus understood Himself as one of the three in the tripleness of God, He would have to say ηλι ηλι λεμα σαβαχθανι, My God [Father] My God [Spirit] why have you forsaken me (or ...left me). This is the only way the Son could correctly cry out to God as Father and God as Spirit, and is is accurate for Jesus to say God the Father had forsaken Him and God the Spirit had left Him.
Punctuation was lacking in the original text and Greek translation. Similarly, parsing with numbers is a later feature. Most English translations consider the first verse to include the subscription:
Subscription: 1 To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David...
Words of David: 1...My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
A few translations like the NJPS, consider the first verse to be only the subscription and My God My God... begins verse 2. If the words of Jesus are taken into account when separating subscription and Psalm, they could be considered as part of the subscription:
Subscription: 1 To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Words of David: 2 Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
When the phrase My God My God why have you forsaken me is included in the subscription, they become the title to this Psalm. David not only gave a melody to which the Psalm is played, he gave it a name, My God My God why have you forsaken me?
David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, named this particular composition
2and then continued with the song itself:
Name of Psalm - My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
אֵלִי אֵלִי לָמָה עֲזַבְתָּנִי
Psalm Begins - Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
רָחוֹק מִֽישׁוּעָתִי דִּבְרֵי שַׁאֲגָתִֽי
What follows the title are four words:
- רָח֥וֹק so far
- מִֽ֝ישׁוּעָתִ֗י saving me
- דִּבְרֵ֥י the word
- שַׁאֲגָתִֽי my groaning
The Psalm begins רָחוֹק מִֽישׁוּעָתִי so far from saving me. The second word מִֽ֝ישׁוּעָתִ֗י can be broken down into three parts, the preposition מִֽ, the word ישועת, and the pronominal suffix, י. So, of-saving-me.
Salvation is how ישועת, yᵊšûʿâ is most frequently translated, and Yᵊšûʿâ is Jesus' name in Hebrew.
After naming the Psalm David begins to sing:
So far from my Yᵊšûʿâ from the words of my groaning. O my God, Elohim, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
Jesus cried out to God in the only accurate manner as one who understands God as the equality of Father, Son, Spirit. His words point to the title of Psalm 22, a song from David which begins by using Jesus' Hebrew name, and continues by giving a detailed description of His crucifixion before ending with thanksgiving and the description of His future exaltation.
1. Mark's account is similar, in particular with what Jesus says ελωι ελωι λαμμᾶ σαβαχθανι. However, Mark's translation of "ελωι ελωι" My God My God, is closer to the LXX, "ὁ θεός μου ὁ θεός μου" [the] God of Me [the] God of Me. Matthew gives a literal rendering using the vocative θεέ μου where Mark gives an explanative rendering using ὁ θεός μου.
2. Considering the phrase which begins אֵלִי אֵלִי as a title may be justified on two grounds: 1) אֵלִי אֵלִי is unique and considering it a title demonstrates the unique nature; 2) Jesus recited these only words and they should be set apart from what follows.