Psalm 110:1 And The Epiphany Of NT Theology.
Updated: Jan 16
A Psalm of David. Jehovah saith unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, Until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
This verse depicts God placing a human king (which has the connotation of a genetic fulfillment that points to Christ) at his right hand. We know this because the first LORD is יְהוָה [YHWH] in the underlined Hebrew text (signaled by capital letters in many English translations), while the second Lord is לַאדֹנִי [Adonai/to my Lord], which is used exclusively of non-divine beings throughout the OT (e.g. Gen. 44:7, Num. 32:25, & 2 Kings 2:19). I imagine while this text is overused by the Jesus is God camps, it also acknowledges that there is no textual basis to read אֲדֹנַי for אדֹנִי in the verse. It's obvious, אדני can be read both ways before you vocalize it, but the interpretive shift in meaning is uniquely evident. There is another example of this that I always find interesting is john 1:51, where בו from gen. 28:12 as being "on it (בּוֹ / ἐπ' αὐτῆς)," that is 'on the ladder,' becomes 'on him' or specifically "on the son of man (ἐπὶ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου)", same consonances, and in this instance the same vocalization, but very different meaning.
Unfortunately, the Hebrew of this text doesn't at all support the Trinitarian interpretation, and even the LXX is pretty clear, where יְהוָה is only represented by the formulaic translation ὁ κύριος, and אדֹנִי is supported by κυρίῳ μου. So, "thus saith the Lord to my lord, 'sit at my right (hand), until I make your enemies your footstool."
A Masoretic corruption?
There's a subtle counter-argument to falsify the vowel pointing system that the Ancient Hebrews established in the early medieval period. That there are no accent marks in the original Hebrew (Christian and pre-Christian era) so there is nothing to say it is Adoni instead of Adonai in the Psalm. Yes, consonants only in original text do not discredit the Masorete’s pointing the same consonants “adoni” in 110:1 but “Adonai” in 110:5. I contend the Hebrew made a clear distinction between “YHWH” and David’s “Lord”.
The difference between YHVH & l’adoni (my [human] lord) is confirmed by the LXX when it translates YHVH as kurios & l’adoni as kurios mou. Scores of times this distinction is found in the LXX.
James White, a leading antagonist against the original Unitarian understanding biasedly found 3 exceptions to the rule that YHVH/Adonai is kurios (the Lord) & not kurios mou (my lord). What he did not notice is that the 3 exceptions (exceptions do not make the rule) occur when GOD, one Person (unlike Ps. 110:1 where God speaks to another), is given a double address as Lord & God. In these unusual & exceptional cases the Greek adds a possesive pronoun “mou (my) to Lord” to address God. The 2 main examples are found in Psalm 16:2; 35:23. You will see at a glance that neither is in any way parallel to Psalm 110:1 & the scores of examples like it. In this case, one must not compare apples with oranges.
The implication that your Bible is corrupted with unnecessary commentary in its original Hebrew in Psalm 110:1 is not true (except for the translators’ false capital on the second lord). The Hebrew word is entirely secure. Furthermore, the LXX and the Syriac TaNaKH gives us every reason why the Masoretic Text is pointed correctly.
Several problems with White's attempts and those who follow his objections.
A) There is no proof of Masoretic tampering
B) the Hebrew shows a distinction between YHWH and LADNI.
C) The exceptions Trinitarian apologists perpetuate are no true parallels with the text (one referent vs two referents)
D) James White's exceptions are three Sopheric emendations which were subsequently translated as κυρίῳ μου in the LXX, always in direct address. White and other Trinitarian apologist has to show that the second lord in Ps. 110:1 was one of those emendations to warrant his ADONAI assertion.
E) the possessive in the Greek reflects the possessive in the Hebrew.
F) in apocryphal and pseudepigraphical literature the Psalm was always used to vindicate ancient worthies, such as Enoch, Job, Elijah, the Davidic king, etc.
G) in the NT the Psalm reflects this usage of granting dignity to a second, non-divine person, this time it is Jesus. No change interpretive process is seen.
H) in this Psalm the recipient of authority would rule for a limited period of time, which is repeated in 1 Cor 15:28 and which can hardly be expected from the Almighty.
Interestingly, Rabbis such as Rabbi Ovadiah ben Yaacov argues that the Psalm is dedicated to a Kingly Messiah and that he is the one at God's right hand. The more modern rabbinic commentary, The Artscroll Tanach Series, in reference to verse 110:3 states that the Messiah will also enlighten His followers. [see also The Midrash on Psalms: Book One, 18, 29, Midrash Rabbah, Genesis LXXXV, the Midrash Rabbah, Numbers XVIII, 23 , Midrash Yelamde,, and Yalkut]. A portion of ancient Jewish commentaries sees David as the addressee. [Ibn Ezra, Radak, see Malbim).
The authentic meaning located in a footnote in Smith’s Bible Dictionary
The footnote states:
In ascribing to St. Peter the remarkable proposition that “God hath made Jesus JEHOVAH,” the writer of the article appears to have overlooked the fact that kurion (“Lord”) in Acts 2:36 refers to kurio mou (“my Lord”) in verse 34, quoted from Ps 110:1, where the Hebrew correspondent is not Jehovah but adon, the common word for “lord” or “master.” St. Peters meaning here may be illustrated by his language elsewhere; see Acts 5:31 [where Peter calls Jesus a “prince,” etc.]
If we conduct a simple word study of κύριος it will be revealed that it is not always a translation of the Tetragram. For example, Abraham was called Κύριος with the genitive pronoun by Sarah in Gen 18:12 (it says κύριος μου in the LXX). Peter even quotes it in 1 Peter 3:5,6 where he says "as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord (Κύριος)”.
We must come to the realization that Κύριος isn't literally what YHWH means. Κύριος (Lord) is a circumlocution. Even Ba'al can mean 'Lord in a certain context. YHWH means so much more than 'Lord.' When it comes to the tetragram-YHWH, It's pretty much a proper name. Names don't necessarily translate because names refer to individuals rather than denoting properties.
No early evidence of Κύριος =YHWH
In an absolute sense, no early manuscripts convey the two as definite synonymous terms. The theory has been completely disproved by the discovery of a papyrus roll of LXX that contains the second half of the book of Deuteronomy. Also, see the Qumran Psalms (4QLXXLevb;Göttingen 802). Not one of these fragments shows an example of Κύριος or θεός being used instead of the divine name, but in each instance, the Tetragrammaton is written in square Hebrew characters.
- Deut 25:15-17 Papyrus 266 1st century-
-Pre-Christian Greek Papyrus with the tetragrammaton in Hebrew. Deuteronomy 20:12-13.... παραδώσει αὐτὴν יהוה ὁ θεός σου εἰς τὰς χεῖράς σου καὶ πατάξεις ...
The Lord your God will deliver it into your hand and you will smite...-
What do some of the scholars say?
“We see an astonishing parallel in 1 king 1:37, where David is called κυρίου μου, which is a proxy for the Hebrew word אֲדֹנִי (adoni). OT scholar John Goldingay insightful notes concerning the Psalm passage in question; “The psalm is the twin of Ps. 2, which speaks similarly of what Yhwh will do for and through the king. It is also very similar to Akkadian prophecies to the king.” Excerpt from: "Psalms : Volume 3 (Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms): Psalms 90-150" by John Goldingay.
Dr. Claude Mariottini notes of Ps. 110:1 that “[t]he word translated ‘lord’ is ‘adoni’ and should be translated ‘my lord.’ The word is not ‘Adonai’ which, if it had been used, would be a reference to God.”
Moreover, the NET Bible commentary says of this verse: ‘In the psalm’s original context the speaker is an unidentified prophetic voice in the royal court. In the course of time the psalm is applied to each successive king in the dynasty and ultimately to the ideal Davidic king. NT references to the psalm understand David to be speaking about his “lord,” the Messiah. (See Matt 22:43-45; Mark 12:36-37; Luke 20:42-44; Acts 2:34-35).’
James Dunn (who was a NT Greek scholar heavyweight) says in his famous work "Did The First Christians Worship Jesus?” was being candid about the flexibility of the word Κύριος in the NT. He says quote. “In various passages, Paul uses the Formula, “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. The striking feature is that Paul speaks of God not simply as the God of Christ, but as ‘the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. Even as Lord, Jesus acknowledges God not only as his Father but so as his God. Here it becomes plain that the kyrios title [Lord] is not so much a way of identifying Jesus with God but as a way of distinguishing Jesus from God” [pg 110]
How we should see the Psalm as a prophetico-messianic typology in relation to Jesus?
If one was to see this text as a strictly prohetico-messianic prophecy, that has the sense of a generic fulfillment it certainly has some support in the GNT. One of the earliest gospels (Mathew) wrote that Jesus said, “εἶπεν ὁ Κύριος τῷ Κυρίῳ μου” [The Lord said unto my Lord].
In first century Jewish Aramaic /Hebrew, it would read, “אדֹנִי declared לַאדֹנִי”. Some suggest “ADONAIY declared LaADONAIY.”
Jesus announced that David “calls him Lord”; Matthew wrote the accusative “Κύριον” or “Kurion”. In Greek it is singular (whether in lower or upper case). YHWH / ADONAIY spoke to David’s king in the context of Psalm 110 and Matthew 22.
Jews understandably replaced “YHWH” with “ADONAIY” an Intesive Plural which exalted “my Lord” to MY LORD” - the single Almighty God of Israel (as Isaiah stated many times of YHWH) and David wrote of YHWH and YHWH’s King in Psalm 45.
We know that David’s “Lord” is “YHWH’s anointed” and “King” as written in Psalm 2 and 89.
Debates over which pointing is accurate really becomes moot when the rules of the Hebrew language are applied in all aspects. “לַאדֹנִי” in Psalm 110:1 may have pointed ADNY by the Masoretes either “LaDoNiY” or “LADONAIY”. That is, it could be as the Hebrew language allowed to describe a single King: “my Lord” or intensive “my Lords” - both singular uses in Hebrew.
The context of Psalm 110 clearly distinguished between YHWH and David’s Lord, the King of the Jews. When Jesus asked, “the Christ, whose son is he? The intent was to teach that Messiah is both the son of David and God’s son to whom YHWH said, “Sit at My right hand until I make your foes your footstool.”
A Targum’s paraphrase
The Targums interestingly reads: "Composed by David, a psalm. The LORD said in his decree to make me lord of all Israel, but he said to me, "Wait still for Saul of the tribe of Benjamin to die, for one reign must not encroach on another; and afterwards I will make your enemies a prop for your feet."
Psalms 110: 5 (ADONAI) is said to be at the right hand of Jesus. The meaning is that YHWH will be with Jesus "IN THE DAY OF HIS WRATH" which is YHWH's wrath, not Jesus' wrath. This can only be referring to Jesus as ADONAI's Agent because it is ADONAI's wrath, not Jesus' wrath.
One may inquire, how does the covenant God of Israel be placed at someones right hand. Well consider Isaiah 41:13.
“For I, Yahweh your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Do not be afraid. I will help you.’
Metaphorically, this is precisely what YHWH is foretelling about with the Lord Messiah in Psalms 110:5. For YHWH to take anyone's right hand, He has to somewhat be placed or stand on their right.
This could possibly be how YHWH can ask the Jesus to sit at His right in verse 1, and then say He will be at Jesus right on the Day of His Wrath.
A literal Parsing and why it is imperative to look beneath the English translation
יְהוָ֨ה Verb root (היה) “be, become, exist, fall out, happen”; Hiphil 3rd masculine singular imperfect; Rendered – “he shall cause to exist”
– לַֽאדֹנִ֗י Inseparable preposition (ל) “to, for”; noun masculine construct of (אדון) “lord, master” with 1st person common pronominal suffix (י) “I, me, my”; Rendered – “to my master”