From:  A Torah Commentary on First  Corinthians 15                    Return to Home

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.                               © 2012

 

 

 [Page 51]

 

 

 

Chapter 2:

Explicit Quotations:

Psalms 110:1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Invoking of Explicit Old Testament

Quotations to Justify His Teaching

 

 

 

 

Because several of the proof texts quoted in this section are among the most important in the book so far as their impact upon Jesus’ messianic status and upon how Christians have traditionally interpreted the promise of “resurrection,” it is appropriate that we provide them an unusually “in-depth” analysis beyond that which we have typically given other Old Testament quotes in this epistle of Paul. 

It will also provide insight into how the apostle takes such passages and applies them in a direction not always what one would expect from their original contexts.  Assuming that his “inspiration” was a truly external guiding force, then the particular “bend” he puts on them was infallible and to be laid aside at our peril.  Rejecting that premise, one has to conclude that, however well meaning he clearly was, he fell into the non - uncommon rabbinical habit of taking texts far beyond what they properly can mean. 

On the other hand, since these passages sometimes had rabbinic interpreters who agreed that they had a meaning for later ages beyond their original context, it argues that his habit of finding such was within the typical boundaries and role of first century Jewish exegetes.  Then the question becomes, was he right where they were wrong in regard to any text they both treat.  In such cases our decision ultimately rests upon a judgment of the validity of his apostolic credentials and of the nature and extent of the supernatural guidance of his teaching.   

Yet if the true meaning of these texts—and Paul’s use of them—are to be battlegrounds in regard to the resurrection, it is only fair that those on both sides ground themselves in the wide variety of discussion that has occurred in regard to their original setting and how they have been interpreted.  Far more could be presented—even here--but we will reserve that material for a separate book on the meaning of chapter 15.  Here [Page 52]   we will dwell more on “the scholarly side of the matter” and there we will deal more under that delightful Dewey decimal system heading, “Works—doctrinal and controversial.”

             

           

 

 

 

15:25-27:

Psalms 110:1 as prophetic of the

Messiah’s reign

 

 

 

Although 15:25-27 refer to the messianic triumph, there is a major difference that argues that two different Psalms texts are in mind:

            Verse 25:  “all enemies under his feet.”
            Verse 27:  “all things under his feet.”

            “Enemies” and “things” could be taken as synonymous for the natural reference in both cases is conquering triumph.  Yet there are friends and allies who are subject voluntarily; not everyone a ruler deals with is an outright enemy.  Hence the “all things” of verse 27 (citing Psalms 8:6), allows an even broader frame of reference.  And “things” is especially appropriate to a discussion of the conquest of death; though it is our “enemy,” it is also a kind of enemy that lacks the tangible bodily form we normally associate with the term.  

            The triumphantalism of verse 25 best fits the promise in Psalms 110:1 for that text puts the specific emphasis on “enemies” being conquered.[1] “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’ ”  A variety of scholars point out that this is the pre-eminent psalm so far as the number of times it is quoted or its teaching alluded to in the New Testament.[2]  Technically it may not be quoted in the present case; it might only be alluded or referred to—but since it would be hard to find anyone who will not concede it is under discussion, it is proper to treat it as if a direct quotation even in that case.

Paul adds a single word to make the totality of victory more complete:  all enemies under his feet.”[3]  In one sense entirety is implied in the Psalms text itself:  Was God only going to subjugate some enemies?  And his role as “priest forever” easily yields a literalistic meaning, especially when attached to the name Melchizedek—that mysterious figure to whom death is not even attributed.  So when Paul adds that simple word “all” to “enemies” he is building on the image of a king who was unlike any other.  For a greater than mortal king, what would one expect but the conquest over foes (such as death) that are greater than mortals themselves?      

            In contrast, the universal “all” is present in verse 27’s text, Psalms 8:6:  “You have put all things under his feet.”  Paul is clearly working from the twin assumptions:  (1)  that the same messianic figure is being (at least ultimately) the proper reference point for both Psalms passages and (2) therefore the universal triumph over “all” is a proper interpretation for Psalms 110 as well—not to mention that complete triumph was the [Page 53]    intent of the latter even if the word “all” was not explicitly included. 

            The “enemies,” in its Old Testament context, would naturally have been thought of in terms of Gentile foes; in its New Testament usage it broadens to include even depersonalized evil and hostile forces[4]--though, obviously, not excluding those humans yielding and working to execute their unscrupulous and dishonorable goals on those forces’ behalf.  In the current chapter these forces even include death itself. 

            The image stroven for throughout is that of victory—with Yahweh’s intervention assuring it (Psalms 110:1).[5]  The emphasis is not on the King’s skill or astute actions to bring it about but on God’s full-bodied determination to secure the King’s triumph.[6]  Other texts picture the triumph of the Messiah, emphasizing His own role; this one wishes to stress that, in triumphing, it is Yahweh acting for and on His behalf that makes it possible.  In other words, the conquering Messiah is not independent of Yahweh for the victory; instead it is Yahweh assuring it.

            The image of victory is depicted, among other things, by God “making Your enemies Your footstool” (110:1).  “The Psalm pictures the sovereignty in terms of the Middle Eastern culture from which it springs; in language the reader and singer of the text would immediate grasp.  “Making one’s enemies a footstool was a poetic expression for defeat and subjugation (Joshua 10:24; 1 Kings 5:3; Isaiah 51:23).”[7]  The subordinates of a ruler—in both conquered territories and the domestic regime—would also utilize such language in their correspondence with the monarch.[8]  It would be a way of stressing obligation, continued loyalty, and the  determination to do whatever was ordered.           

            In a different direction, the Psalm provides us with a unique insight into the nature of the coming king-Messiah.  As Kidner Derek words it, “While other psalms share with this one the exalted language which points beyond the reigning king to the Messiah, here alone the king himself does homage to this personage—thereby settling two important questions:  whether the perfect king was someone to come, or simply the present ruler idealized; and whether the one to come would be merely man at his best, or more than this.”[9]       

 

            Non-Jesus interpretations of the text:  Making “my Lord” Abraham.  At least one first or second century rabbinic explanation takes this approach and considers the “Lord” who gives to him as Melchizedek personally (Genesis 14).[10]  A yet future messianic interpretation did not become common in rabbinic writings until the third century.[11]  And it did not remain prevalent.  In the eleventh century, Rashi speaks of the older view being the dominant interpretation handed down to his own age, “Our rabbis interpreted [my lord] as a reference to Abraham our father. . . .”[12] 

            The choice of Abraham was useful in that it put the fulfillment safely in the distant past and could not be applied to Jesus or anyone else claiming to be Messiah.  One could see Abraham being addressed as superior to David because he was the father of the Jewish people and the Israelite nation.  That far the approach works.

However fitting Abraham into the motif of ruler (Psalm 110:2) is a major interpretive “stretch,” requiring that the imagery/terminology be broadened in directions one would not normally anticipate.  His fighting to rescue Lot in Genesis 14:14-20 certainly qualifies him for labels such as “soldier” and “warrior” and, since his forces won, victor—but that still doesn’t really move him up to the level of a ruler.  Even a general only wins battles; but it is a ruler who does the actual ruling. 

[Page 54]            And Abraham’s victory would hardly be considered as over anything approximating the “nations” of 110:6.  Genesis 14 describes it as a pursuit gained at regaining property and relatives; the ability to pull it off with only 318 troops (14:14) argues that it was only against a small fragment of the original attacking coalition (14:1-9). 

Furthermore, at least some of the group of “kings” in that original force are clearly identified as city rulers; those cases convey, at most, ruling a specific city and a certain limited area around it.  In such cases one can only suspect that “king” is more a courtesy title than one representing real military clout.  In short, Abraham wasn’t up against, it seems, the kind of “real” kings assumed in Psalms 110 and, at most, only a fraction of the original attacking force.              

            The  bestowing upon Abraham the status of “priest” seems even more far fetched.  He offered sacrifices, of course, as the other patriarchs did—but as priest?  It is hard to see how the term fits him unless we are to define everyone who offered sacrifice in the patriarchical age as a priest.  Nor if one does so, does there seem any reason to depict him in that role in any differing sense after encountering Melchizedek than before doing so.  So far as we can tell, nothing changed in his religious conduct.  Hence giving him the title—if it was done--seems to have had no real significance.  And without a real meaning/change occurring in behavior, there is no reason to assume the event actually happened.

           

            Non-Jesus interpretations of the text:  Making “my Lord” Hezekiah.  Trypho the Jew, in his discussion with Justin Martyr in the second century, made this connection.[13]  We could take this argument two ways.

            The first would be David being the “lord” who makes the promise to the future ruler.  However David was long dead.  How would Hezekiah know the promise applied to him?  Even if alive, how would David have the authority to tell a distant successor, “Rule in the midst of Your enemies” (verse 2)?  And where do we find the slightest hint that Hezekiah was “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (verse 4)?  That certainly was not a position David had any right to bestow or to promise.  (The one giving the promise does not present himself as speaking “in the name of the Lord,” which would have been something different.)   

            Taking Psalms 110 from the standpoint of David as hearing the exchange between the two superior “lords,” if the one being granted triumphant power is Hezekiah, that represents a startling slap in the face.  Was such a special promise made to David upon any occasion?  Was David ever promised the Melchizedek priesthood? 

After being so fervent to serve the Lord, David gets slapped down?  Without any reference to some sin of his to justify it?  In contrast, if the predicted ruler is supernatural—as Paul takes for granted—no offense would be aimed at David for no king of Israel could, by their very nature, overcome their limitation of being a mere human being.

            In either approach, to return to an earlier observation, on what basis do we believe that Hezekiah was ever granted and exercised the Melchizedek priesthood; could it possibly have gone unrecorded if it happened?  He would have been the only Jewish king to have received it!  And claiming priesthood rights even of an Aaronic nature had been known to get monarchs in trouble—think Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:16).  A king who [Page 55]    claimed priesthood rights without getting in trouble; can we imagine such an unprecedented situation going unmentioned in the historical chronicles of the period?

 

            Non-Jesus interpretations of the text:  Making “my Lord” David himself.  Some later rabbinic texts opt for invoking this non-Jesus interpretation.[14]

            Those who asserted that David was being spoken to obviously had a problem if one accepts the traditional Davidic authorship of the bulk of the Psalms.  Accept that and you have David referring to two “lords:”  the Lord” and “my Lord,” the terminology most naturally meaning “lords” in distinction from his own lordship position and the terminology of subordination also implying that they are both superior to the speaker, David.  Who is going to be superior to David unless someone supernatural? 

Is David the speaker, though?  James L. Mays notes that two Psalms are attributed to Solomon (72, 127), one to Moses (90) and specific historical incidents of David’s life are attributed to 13 (3, 7, 18, 34, 51, 52, 54, 56, 57, 59, 60, 63, 142).  He assumes the attributions grew out of the study of the scriptural texts and the attempt to interlock psalms with specific passages that could reasonably be assumed to reflect their background and the events leading to their composition.  Also involved was the assumption that David’s role as founder of temple music (1 Chronicles 15-16) made him the logical person to designate.[15]  

            Although the argument that specific texts are attributed because scriptural precedents seem identifiable may be true, the lack of arbitrarily “finding” one for most or all—even when their generation assumed they were generally by David—argues for a policy of extreme restraint in making the connection.  Hence, the many omissions are a powerful indication that they erred on the side of caution, not imagination. 

            Even if specific events could not, in their view, be safely tied-in with specific Psalms, a conviction of their general Davidic authorship aroused no doubts.  Indeed, the blunt fact is that roughly half of the Psalms have superscriptions attributing them to David:  74 in the Hebrew (14 additional in the LXX), one to Jeduthun (Psalms 39), one to Heman the Exrahite (Psalms 88), one to Ethan the Ezrahite (Psalms 89).[16]  Here too, the omissions of so many is surely significant:  they did not arbitrarily assign “everything that moves” to that source; there was a major element of restraint even here—of the desire to err on the safe side.   

            Psalms 110 is one of those Davidically attributed works.  Indeed Jesus Himself raised this text in a challenge to His contemporaries urging them to rethink their concept of the Messiah,

 

“What do you think about the Christ?  Whose Son is He?”  They said to Him, “The Son of David.”  He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying, ‘The Lord said to my lord, sit at My right hand, till I make your enemies Your footstool’?  If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?”  And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore (Matthew 22:42-46). 

 

            He had them between a rock and a hard place:  Admit that David is the author and you admit that he is describing a “Lord” who is somehow both “higher” than himself and, in some sense, “lower” than Yahweh.  Accept the person being described as the Messiah [Page 56]    as both Jesus and His adversaries clearly did—for why interject with a text you know they will dismiss out of hand?--then the Messiah took on supernatural overtones far beyond what Jesus’ critics were  willing to accept.

            The problem for those denying Davidic authorship today lies not just in repudiating the traditional attribution line.  There is also the major difficulty of how Jesus made such a glaring blunder—misattributing the psalm and even claiming the text had been inspired by the Spirit.  G. Broyles Craig believes it is a case of “where an Old Testament passage is reinterpreted in the New Testament with divergent meanings. . . .”[17] 

This doesn’t work well because Craig admits the surviving psalms text argues for a Davidic authorship.[18]  So Jesus wasn’t “reinterpreting;” he was working on what the available text version itself indicated.  However much the issue can arise in other passages, here the real issue is not “reinterpretation” (i.e., deciding what the text means or what else it might apply to) but authorship, something distinctly different.

 

            If messianic intent is denied and Psalms 110 is not actually the report of what David heard (or saw in a vision), an alternative setting for the Psalm is essential:  Hence the theory that the text is actually part of a regular kingship ritual must be examined.  This only deals with origin, however, and, even if granted, does not rule out an appropriate application of the text being to the Messiah, especially since it would be even more emphatically true of Him than it would be of any mortal earthly monarch. Indeed, if you accept the text—as written—such a figure is the only person it could properly apply to.  

            Several possible cultic contexts have been suggested for the proposed use of the text in Hebrew kingship ritual. 

(1)  At enthronement of a new ruler.  G. Broyles Craig readily concedes that the messianic reading is a natural one if one accepts the attribution of Psalm found before the text.  Natural though this is, the original context was, he is confident, very, very different.[19]  This “may (our emphasis, RW) have been sung at the king’s enthronement (implied by ‘sit at my right hand’). . . . ”[20]  That appropriate psalms were sung at a new ruler’s official proclamation as king is not, by any means, an absurd assumption.  It would serve to signifying continuity of the regime and a legitimate passing on of the responsibility of governorship between one generation and the next. 

On the other hand, who is this new ruler sitting next to?  “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’ ”  If it’s a king yielding to a son because of imminent death, that would make the reference to a superior “Lord” relevant, but was hardly likely to occur often in the real world.  That being the case, there is then the reference to “mak[ing] Your enemies Your footstool.”  That makes sense best if coming from a military type figure—since we’ve ruled out a king--but what newly installed human monarch would want to admit the superiority of such a “lord”—or that the term was even applicable to one who should actually be a subordinate?  

One can grasp the language being used accommodatively:  A king does (far more often than not) rule among enemies and if he is God’s faithful servant, then it is natural to attribute to God providing the ultimate victory.  Yet that is not what the text is referring to, even on the most superficial of readings.  The original setting was still the ruler listening to one of his superior “lords” addressing yet a different superior “lord” and that puts the earthly king down at the bottom of that particular totem pole—involved only as a [Page 57]    listener, not a participant.  Hence if this passage was going to be used, it would have had to be rewritten drastically to fit the kingly reservations we have noted and to remove the utter incongruity between text and ceremony that would otherwise exist.  

(2)  As ceremony for beginning a new war making season.  Craig’s alternative time setting is that it was part of an annual observance at the time when kings would typically launch their wars in the spring, citing 2 Samuel 11:1 for the season, and notably no evidence at all beyond that.[21] 

But would any ruler willingly wage war yearly if he could avoid it?  Petty ante rounding up of trouble makers, crushing random bandits, shows of force to towns slow on their taxes—yes.  But genuine wars?  They were expensive and you always ran the danger of losing them.  Hence the annual inauguration of war celebration, apparently assumed, seems improbable. 

If one limits it only to those years in which there really was a war, there remain significant problems as well.  As in the previous scenario, who is the superior lord addressing the king?  Furthermore, why is the king being addressed as if only now he is coming into power?         

(3)  As part of “a sacred drama . . . repeated in commemorations, perhaps annually in conjunction with the celebration of God’s kingship, for which the Davidic ruler was chief servant.”[22] 

Although this is a pleasant enough idea—honoring God--most readers of the Old Testament are likely to come away from that work with the impression that most people, most of the time, simply had no great desire to keep God’s power and authority at the forefront of their mind.  Today we would call it too great an inhibiting factor to their desired lifestyles.  Nor would the majority of the rulers.  In their case the problem could, even more, be acknowledging their subordination to anyone—supernatural or not. 

Finally, since such an annual celebration was not ordained by scripture it is hard to see how the priestly class would back it or (if they were as unethical in rewriting scripture as much of “biblical criticism” assumes) why there isn’t any such explicit endorsement if they had decided such represented a desirable practice.   

Finally, there is really nothing in the text to suggest a ceremonial “enthronement of Yahweh.”[23]  Of a king, yes, one who is being given power by Yahweh, not Yahweh Himself being enthroned.    

 

Other difficulties in a kingship ritual scenario:  How many speakers?  As we read Psalms 110, there are two speakers and three individuals involved:   first is a speaker/writer who is repeating what the second speaker, the Lord Yahweh, is saying to an unidentified non-speaker identified as the  “Lord.”  Hence we have three parties present, one speaking and two hearing.  Yahweh is the primary speaker with the psalm writer presented as the mere recorder/repeater of what is happening. 

That is certainly true in the written version, but if this is a “performance text,” so to speak, this situation changes.  The ceremonial text use reduces participants to either one or two.  If one, that individual is reading/reciting the entire text to the king.  If there are two participants, then the king is addressing the priest in verses 4-7 (“You are a priest forever”), implicitly making the speaker in verses 1-3 that same priest or high priest.[24]  Although this seems the more text-friendly version of a two speaker scenarios, Leslie C. [Page 58]    Allen notes that because there are two separate “divine oracles” referred to in this short chapter, “it is commonly held that it was uttered by a court prophet.”[25]  And that is, indeed, a good one speaker reconstruction. 

Neither approach seems to do justice to the situation described in the text itself, however.  Allen himself opts for it being “a court poet whose tongue, like that of Psalms 45, was as fluent as the pen of an expert scribe.”[26]  Unless one is prepared to totally junk the traditional (and Biblical) portrait of David as psalmist wouldn’t that open the door for the speaker (as Jesus Himself claimed) being David personally?  For that matter wouldn’t David qualify under the “prophet” label as well?  It says much of the anti-supernatural bias of contemporary religious scholarship that such scenarios can be discussed without an admission that they fit David at least as much as some anonymous and unidentifiable individual whose work just happened to be passed down as the work of the famous king.   
 

            Explaining the reference to Melchizedek in a non-prophetic context:  “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”   Jesus is described as priest after the order of Melchizedek repeatedly in the book of Hebrews, the author citing Psalms 110 (Hebrews 5:6; 7:17; 7:21) and also using the language without citing its source (Hebrews 6:20).  Jesus is depicted in such terms because “He continues forever [and] has an unchangeable priesthood” (7:24).

Likewise Melchizedek personally is described as one who “remains a priest continually” because he was “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life” (7:3).  Literally such?  It is unlikely that the Hebrews author had any such notion.  He did know (as we do) that Melchizedek appears out of nowhere without any reference being made to parentage or ancestors and without any reference to birth or death.  He appears and then disappears from the pages of human history.  What better precedent for an unending priesthood, for one that is “forever”?

            Psalms 110’s usage of these words certainly fits an intended “prophetic context” in which the speaker is describing someone in the future—and is so utilized in the New Testament—but those hostile to such an approach must redirect the reference in another direction.  They must explain the existence of a person or persons identifiable as having the priesthood of Melchizedek at some point either in David’s own era or afterward, but unquestionably before Jesus.

            (1)  There is no real need for concrete evidence that Israelite kings could be described as having the priesthood.  In essence, Craig argues it doesn’t matter.[27]  In short, there’s not really anything specific and explicit, but don’t worry about it.

Wise Israelite monarchs might well try to control the priesthood (power likes to control things) but to usurp its actual functions was guaranteed to introduce needless friction at the least. 

At the worst, you had a situation such as when King Uzziah insisted upon burning incense on the altar.  The priests warned him  that it was “the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense” (2 Chronicles 26:18) and leprosy broke out on his forehead as punishment (26:19).  Even if one considers the disease mythical or exaggerated, can any deny that the text was surely written to warn rulers against seizing priestly prerogatives that was not theirs in the first place? 

            (2)  The evidence of such a role has been suppressed.  Providing a conspiratorial note, Elton claims that, “There are indications in the historical sources that [Page 59]     the role was indeed held by David and his successors, though opposed and obscured in the records by priestly clans after the end of the monarchy.”[28]  The evidence he does not see any need to present. 

If we are to argue undocumentable hypotheses from the assumption of an ethically challenged priesthood ready to alter the text of their sacred works, it would make more sense for the ruler to have gained his priestly status via the actions of the Aaronic priesthood itself.  By providing at least limited concurrence and making it explicit in their sacred works, there would be a nice “check” on regal power.  It would also permit them—and not the king—to define what were the limits of that power so that the king could not utilize his “own priesthood” to subvert their position of influence and control over such matters.

            It should be noted that there is a conceptual jump in both of these first two scenarios between arguing that the king had a “priesthood” and that he had a “Melchizedek” one.  Even if one could somehow prove the first, that provides no real evidence of having a Melchizedek one as well.  One could construct an argument, however, that to avoid conflict with the Aaronic priesthood that the king would root his own role in a different origin.  What he could possibly do in such a priesthood without explicitly or implicitly being in competition with the Aaronic system seems hard to imagine, however.   

            (3)  Other societies merged the roles of king and priest.    John Elton argues that other ancient societies in “Egypt and Mesopotamia” blended the roles of priest and king so it would not be an outrageous claim for an Israelite king to make.  He explains the link of the priesthood to Melchizedek as being the product of both ruling in Jerusalem.[29]  Even the ceremonial bestowing of a now non-existing priesthood on an Israelite king would seem to be a guaranteed conflict producer with the existing Aaronic based priesthood, especially if the ruler were to actually act in such a role.

            (4)  David appointed what was, in effect, a Melchizedek priesthood during his reign.  Craig argues that the reference to the order of Melchizedek “may point to David’s appointment of the line of ‘Zadok,’ a name that derives from the same Hebrew root.  It is perhaps significant that ‘the priests who have charge of the altar’ are designated as ‘the sons of Zadok’ in Ezekiel 40:46, etc.  It names the order of Zadok, not the order of Aaron, as the priestly line.”[30]

            “From the same Hebrew root” is a major leap from having the same Hebrew name!  Zadok the priest along with Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon king (1 Kings 1:34, 39, 45).  Solomon, in turn, appointed Zadok to head the priests (1 Kings 2:35).  The high priesthood was then passed down through his descendants (2 Chronicles 31:10). 

He had served in at least some important functions during David’s reign, such as helping carry the ark both out of (1 Samuel 15:14) and back into the city of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 15:29) during Absalom’s effort to overthrow David.  David recognized him as “a seer” (2 Samuel 15:27) and used his sons to keep him up-to-date with the latest happenings in Jerusalem during the insurrection (2 Samuel 15:28, 36-37).  So toward the end of his reign he became an important figure, but it was only under Solomon that he moved into the post of ranking priest—not under David.  The wished for appointment to priestly leadership gives every indication of being placed under the wrong monarch!

            Furthermore Zadok was a descendant of Aaron (1 Chronicles 6:1-15).  Hence to claim that Ezekiel “names the order of Zadok, not the order of Aaron, as the priestly line” [Page 60]    overlooks his vital Aaronic ancestry.  To be of Zadok descent was to be of the Aaronic line.

            The passages about “ ‘the sons of Zadok’ in Ezekiel 40:46, etc” repeatedly refer to them as both Levites and as priests.  However, Aaron was part of the house of Levi, “And you shall write Aaron’s name on the rod of Levi.  For there shall be one rod for the head of each father’s house.”  Or as the GW puts it in more contemporary language, “Write Aaron’s name on the staff for Levi because there must be one staff for the head of each tribe.  In short, Levites and priests were both descendants of Aaron. 

Why the priestly lineage within the descendants of the Levi tribe was given to Zadok in particular (in addition to the Aaronic linkage) is explained in Ezekiel 48:11:  “who did not go astray when the children of Israel went astray” and is probably implied in 44:15 as well.  In short, those eligible to serve in the function had discredited themselves and the right to serve in the Temple was assigned to this faithful remnant, descendents of Aaron.

 To briefly sum up, those who come up with these various alternatives to what  Psalms 110 actually says are intelligent, scholarly, have given the subject much intensive thought and work—and are dead wrong.  In their minds, they have even provided “scriptural evidence” in behalf of their general point if not always the specificity.  Their evaluation, however, is deeply flawed for the reasons we have observed.

 

            The tie-in between Psalms 110:1 and 8:6 as proof texts.    Paul supplements his appeal to Psalms 110:1 in verse 25 with an appeal to Psalms 8:6 in verse 27.  Scott M. Lewis notes that this follows a traditional method of interpreting the texts in light of each other,[31]

 

Paul utilizes a form of rabbinic exegesis called gezerah shawah or analogy.  In this type of exegesis, one OT passage is explained by comparison with another in which identical terminology and analogous traits are found.

This type of exegesis is expressed in the combination of Psalms 110:1 and 8:6, which is [also] found in Ephesians 1:20-2:10; 1 Peter 3:21-22; Hebrews 1 and 2, Philippians 3:20-21 and Romans 8:34.  The point of interest in these instances is consistent:  “the present status or lordly function of the ascended and glorified Christ.”  These two jointed passages, containing similar terms, convey the same meaning:  subjection.  This is the basic image and term to which Paul or the author of the tradition made additions to express the particular message. . . .

The analogous traits under consideration here are 1)  the subjection of all enemies, 2) the continuing reign of God’s messianic agent while this is taking place, 3) the subjugation being accomplished by the power of God.      

           

Today we would recognize this as a variant version of “interpreting one text in light of another on the same subject” or, at least, tying together verses that have a certain key similarity to each other.  Raymond C. Collins provides additional information on the rabbinic use of the Hebrew approach that usefully supplements what we saw from Lewis,[32]

[Page 61]

By using the expression “under his feet” in both psalm verses (hypo tous podas autou in place of two different Greek and Hebrew expressions) Paul relates Psalms 110:1 to Psalms 8:7.  The use of such a “hook-word” technique to link individual scriptures together is commonplace in Paul’s letters (cf. 9:9-10).  The hermeneutical principle known as gezerah shawah, the comparison of similar expressions, legitimized the use of one Biblical passage to clarify another if the same expression occurs in both passages.  Reformulating the texts as he does, Paul is able to use Psalm 8 to elucidate the meaning of Psalm 110.

 

            In a different comment he provides a more extended list of parallels in Paul’s usage, “The use of the ‘hook-word’ technique to link individual scriptures together is commonplace in Paul’s letters:  cf. 15:54-55; Romans 2:27-29; 3:10-18; 9:33; 11:8-10; 2 Corinthians 6:16-18, etc.”[33] 

 

 

 

Notes

 



[1] Cf. John Paul Heil, The Rhetorical Role of Scripture in 1 Corinthians (Atlanta:  Society of Biblical Literature, 2005), 205-206.

 

[2] For example, J. Ross Wagner, “Ascension of the Lord,” in Psalms for Preaching and Worship:  A Lectionary Commentary, edited by Roger E. Van Harn and Brent A. Strawn (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 290.

 

[3] Gordon D. Fee, Pauline Christology:  An Exegetical-Theological Study (Peabody, Massachusetts:  Hendrickson Publishers, 2007), 111.

 

[4] Wagner, 290.

 

[5] Polytheistic enthronement rituals also stressed the role of some particular god making possible the new ruler’s triumphs:  for quotations and references see Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150:  A Commentary, translated from the German by Hilton C. Oswald (Minneapolis, Minnesota:  Augsburg, 1989), 349.

 

[6] Leslie C. Allen, Psalms 101-150 (Revised), in the Word Biblical Commentary series (Nashville, Tennessee:  Thomas Nelson, 2002), 115.

 

[7] Allen P. Ross, “Psalms,” in The Apologetics Study Bible (Nashville, Tennessee:  Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 885.

 

[8] Cf. Kraus, 349, and A. A. Anderson, The Book of Psalms; volume 2:  Psalms 73-150, in the New Century Bible series (London:  Oliphants, 1972), 768.

 

[Page 62]    [9] Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150, in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries series (Leicester, England:  Inter-Varsity Press, 1975), 392.

 

[10] For quotations of one source claiming to be passing on first/second century rabbinic opinion as well as one whose date is uncertain, see Gard Granerod,  Abraham and Melchizedek:  Scribal Activity of Second Temple Times in Genesis 14 and Psalms 110 (Berlin:  Walter D. Gruyter, 2010), 218-219.

 

[11] Scott M. Lewis, “So that God May Be All in All:”  The Apocalyptic Message of 1 Corinthians 15:12-34 (Rome:  Editrice Pontificia Universita Gregoriana, 1998), 59.

 

[12] As quoted by Granerod, 218.

 

[13] Ibid.

 

[14] Ibid.

 

[15] James L. Mays, Psalms, in the series Interpretation:  A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville Kentucky:  John Knox Press, 1994), 12-13.

 

[16] William L. Holladay, The Psalms through Three Thousand Years:  Prayerbook of a Cloud of Witnesses (Minneapolis, Minnesota:  Augsburg Fortress, 1996), 71-72.

 

[17] G. Broyles Craig, Psalms, in the New International Biblical Commentary series (Peabody, Massachusetts:  Hendrickson Publishers, 1999), 416.

 

[18] Ibid.

 

[19] Ibid.

 

[20] Ibid., 414. 

 

[21] Ibid.

 

[22] John Eaton, The Psalms:  A Historical and Spiritual Commentary with an Introduction and New Translation (London:  T. & T. Clark International/A Continuum Imprint, 2003), 385.  

 

[23] Kraus, 347.

 

[24] G. Broyles Craig, Psalms, 415.

 

[25] Leslie C. Allen, 111.

 

[26] Ibid., 114; cf. 115.

 

[Page 63]   [27] G. Broyles, Craig, 415.

 

[28] John Eaton, 385.

 

[29] Ibid.

 

[30] G. Broyles Craig, 415.

 

[31] Scott M. Lewis, 60-62.

 

[32] Raymond F. Collins, First Corinthians, 550.

 

[33] Ibid., 554.