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Trinity and Divinity of Jesus

The debate over the Trinity started relatively late in Christian history. It was not until the fourth century that many theologia...

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Confusing the Two Lords of Psalm 110:1: A Way to Guarantee a Misunderstanding of the Bible

This magazine deliberately urges believers to think deeply about the identities of the Son of God,  Jesus, and of God, who is the God and Father of Jesus . We encourage a complete rethinking of traditional Christology in the light of the all-important oracle provided by Psalm 110:1. This verse is precious to New Testament writers. It is a star witness, summoned over and over again in the New Testament. New Testament writers of Scripture quote it or allude to it more than any other text of the Hebrew Scriptures, by far . They wanted the voice of Jesus to be heard, since it was Jesus who silenced all objectors by citing the divine oracle of Psalm 110:1. Jesus loved this Psalm because his Father’s amazing immortality plan was revealed in it. The importance of Psalm 110:1 lies in its simple description of two exalted Persons. One, Yahweh, addresses the other, giving a prophetic oracle about the career of the Messiah. Yahweh makes a solemn prophetic utterance to David’s lord, adoni (pronounced “adonee”).

Adoni is the Lord Messiah (cp. Luke 2:11). This word adoni needs to be part of every Christian’s vocabulary. The second lord (adoni , “my lord”) designates the one destined to remain at the Father ’s right hand until he comes as conquering Messiah to subdue his enemies and inaugurate the Kingdom of God on a renewed earth. Jesus knew that he was the promised Messiah so addressed, and his whole career was summed up in this astonishing oracle.

The scheme thus revealed is the framework of the entire New Testament outlook on the present session of Jesus in heaven and his expected return to establish the Messianic Kingdom of prophecy on earth. Paul reflected the simple beauty of Psalm 110:1 when he declared:

“There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the human being Messiah Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

Yahweh and David’s “lord” are clearly and obviously two distinct persons, in the modern psychological sense of that term. There is no possible route from the Psalm to the complex, unnatural definition of “person” which created in later Trinitarian, Nicene theology so many intractable problems. The Messianic Christology of Psalm 110:1 places the Messiah in a subordinate, yet highly exalted position relative to Yahweh, who remains a distinct Person in a class of His own. There is no question of compromising the unrestricted monotheism of the Hebrew Bible. The One God of Israel commands the Messiah to wait until the time comes for his final vindication. As Yahweh’s agent the Messiah is David ’s adon or “lord.” The form of the word as it appears in the Hebrew of Psalm 110:1 is adoni (= “my lord”). It is a  striking fact that the Lord God is nowhere ever addressed as adoni. This title is reserved for kings, prophets, human superiors in general, and occasionally angels. You will find it 195 times in the Hebrew Bible. Each sample is worth investigation. Under the strain of having to ascribe coequality and coeternity to the Messiah, some commentators have shown a curious tendency to declare, against the facts of the Hebrew text, that in Psalm 110:1 Yahweh speaks to Adonai. The latter title is, of course, some 450 times, an alternative for the divine name and is used exclusively of Yahweh. Now if David’s oracle had indeed stated that Yahweh spoke to Adonai, there would be a basis for the development of belief in a Godhead of more than one person! The text as it stands, however, provides not a hint of support for the Deity of the Messiah in a Trinitarian sense.

Striking examples of an unconscious reading of Trinitarian theology into Psalm 110:1 are found in commentators of the present and the last centuries. A.R. Fausset (known for his part in the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary), writing in 1866,  comments on Psalm 110:1: “Jehovah said to Adonai or ‘my Lord’... Jehovah in verse one represents God the Father, and Adonai, God the Son.” But this is to create a potential Trinitarianism which is not in the text at all, since the Messiah is called adoni (my lord), not Adonai (the Lord God).

Reginald Fuller states that “in the Hebrew [of Psalm 110:1] the first ‘Lord’ is the tetragrammaton [the four- letter word YHVH], the second [the king] is Adonai. ”
Fuller goes on to say that Adonai may be used of an earthly ruler. But examples are not cited. In a subsequent chapter he reads the Hebrew correctly and says that the second “lord” of our text is adoni. The confusion of Adonai with adoni is compounded when Fuller questions whether the New Testament church would have conceded to Jesus a title which was reserved for Deity. But adoni was not a title for Deity! It referred to the king, and supremely to the Messiah, as God’s legal agent.

The writer of the world-famous International Critical Commentary on Luke reports the second lord of Psalm 110:1 as Adonai. This, if true, would inform us that God speaks to God. The error is quite obvious because the Hebrew adoni, my lord, is never in all of its 195 occurrences a title of Deity!

Dr. V.A. Spence Little misreads the Hebrew of Psalm 110:1, explaining the verse: “The Lord [Jehovah] saith unto My Lord (Adonai), Sit thou at My right hand.” He argues for the Deity of the Messiah when he states that Jesus “definitely implied that this divine Name, Adonai, indicated Himself (Matt. 22:43-45).” The argument is based, however, on an inaccurate reporting of the Hebrew text. The precise opposite is given by Psalm 110:1. God speaks not to a second Deity, but to the man Messiah.

John Stott defends Chalcedonian Christology when he maintains that because early Christians addressed Jesus as  kurios they meant that he was God, since kurios was the LXX translation of the divine name. However, this  is to overlook the fact that kurios was also the translation of Psalm 110:1’s adoni which was never a title for Deity. Kurios (lord), as used of Jesus, could most appropriately designate the lord Messiah as distinct from the Lord God (see Luke 2:11; Rom. 16:18; Col. 3:24).

The celebrated Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible
shows how pervasive is this fundamental confusion of the two Lords. The dictionary makes the claim that Peter’s use of the title “Lord” for Jesus in Acts 2:36 establishes his Deity. “After the ascension the Apostles labored to bring the Jews to the knowledge that Jesus was not only the Christ, but was also a Divine person, even the Lord Jehovah.” Psalm 110:1 is then quoted as proof of this amazing assertion: “St. Peter, after the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the Day of Pentecost by Christ, says, ‘Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord (kurios, Jehovah) and Christ.’” It is only in a footnote that a later editor corrects the obvious and amazing flaw in the argument: “In ascribing to St. Peter the remarkable proposition that ‘God hath made Jesus Jehovah,’ the writer of this article appears to have overlooked the fact that kurios (‘Lord’) in Acts 2:36 refers to to kurio mou (‘to my Lord’) in verse 34, quoted from Psalm 110:1, where the Hebrew correspondent is not Jehovah but adon [actually adoni], the common word
for ‘lord’ or ‘master.’”

The recovery of the Old Testament as the basis of apostolic Christianity will put an end to the age-old desire of commentators to find in the text of Scripture cheri shed beliefs dating from the post-biblical councils. The misreading of Psalm 110:1 as support for the Deity of Jesus is the symptom of a widespread confusion over the identity of the two Lords. The vice-like grip of tradition causes even scholars to read into the Bible what they expect to find there! It is a mistake to claim that Jesus is Jehovah when in fact he is the Messiah appointed to that supreme office by Yahweh. The Smith’s Bible Dictionary footnote deserves to become a headline summoning us to belief in Jesus as the Messiah, not God. And in the Jesus who as a Jew faithful to his heritage did not budge one inch from his conviction that “the Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4, affirmed by Jesus in Mark 12:29).

A current discussion of Jesus in relation to the One God has persisted. “Giants” of Christology battle over 1Corinthians 8:4-6 here it has been alleged that Paul “expands” the Shema (“Hear, O Israel”) by including Jesus in it. The argument is put this way: God is the Father but the Lord in the “one Lord” of the Shema is Jesus! This is an astonishing attempt to derail the strict monotheism of Scripture. It could never have been advanced if the careful distinction between the “lords” of Psalm 110:1 had been given the weight it deserves.
Where scholars normally busy themselves with the exact meaning of the words of Scripture in the original languages, discussion of Psalm 110:1 has turned a blind eye to the Yahweh/adoni distinction. In many cases the second lord has been carelessly reported as Adonai ! Is this a subconscious desire to hold to a traditional Trinitarian belief in God as three Persons? Surely the time must have arrived for the massive influence of Psalm 110:1 on New Testament Christology to be fully acknowledged, and necessary corrections to false arguments based on the failure to distinguish Deity titles from non-Deity titles be made. Jesus is called “our Lord” scores of times in the New Testament. He is officially the Christ and thus the “Lord Christ” some 550 times. When in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 Paul places Jesus next to God, Paul carefully distinguishes the Father as the One God of the Shema (Deut. 6:4) from the Lord Jesus Christ, i.e. our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Messiah.
“Our lord Jesus Christ” is the constant echo of the “ my lord [Christ]” of Psalm 110:1. “Our lord Jesus Christ” could not possibly be Yahweh Himself, since no one speaks of “our Yahweh” or “my Yahweh.”
The New Testament is not a Trinitarian document. It is a strictly a unitarian document reflecting the central creed of Jesus who acknowledged the One Lord (Yahweh) of the biblical creed (Mark 12:29) in complete agreement and with the full approval of a Jewish scribe! Paul affirms the Shema with equal conviction, realizing too the amazing exaltation of the man Messiah Jesus, the unique mediator between the One God and mankind.
Over the years I have accumulated a lot of very candid comments from Trinitarian and other writers. They must demonstrate to the open-minded that the ancient creeds, which were based on philosophical and not biblical terminology, need to be replaced by the straightforward creedal statements of Jesus and Paul. Here are some of those telling quotations. Your friends should be encouraged to think about them:

International Critical Commentary (John 1-4), 2009, p. 51:
“Since most readers of the gospel of John approach the gospel with a firm belief in the Nicene dogma of the Holy Trinity, a plea for caution is here imperative. Those who listened to Jesus during his life-time [and the warning should apply to those who desire to listen to him today] did not come already endowed with faith in a Trinitarian Godhead, nor did those who heard the preaching of the Apostles; it was not a matter of teaching people who already believed in a Holy Trinity that one March, 2012 those divine persons had become a human being. Neither in Judaism nor elsewhere is there any trace of such a belief.”
Nor is there a trace of such teaching in Jesus, who stood solidly on the creed of Israel, Mark 12:28-34.

Hugh Anderson, New Century Bible Commentary on Mark, p. 280. Mark 12:29:
“We must suppose that the Markan form goes back to oral tradition passed on by a Church that did not any longer recite the Shema [they gave up on Jesus’ creed !]. But here at least in his statement of the first commandment Jesus stands foursquare within the orbit of Jewish piety. [Why do we not follow him?] Jesus’ statement consists entirely of an almost word for word
citation of two Old Testament texts Deuteronomy 6:4 and Leviticus 19, the former at the heart of Jewish piety and both much canvassed by the rabbis.”

Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Vol. 4, pp. 133, 134) on Logos (word):
“Jesus Christ is the incarnate form [embodiment] of the Logos... Grace and truth are the nature of the logos [Paul speaks of grace and truth and logos]. They are the content of the revelation [it , the logos] given in Jesus Christ (v. 17b) which replaces the Mosaic nomos , the Torah [David calls the Torah logos also]... The terms logos (word) and nomos (law) are interchangeable in
Psalm 119. The statements concerning the pre-existence and majesty of the Torah are now intentionally heaped upon the logos (John 1:1).
It was in the beginning with God. It was with God and was God, or divine. All things were made by [through] it . In it was life. It was the light of man. In the rabbis’ theses are sayings about the Torah. But they are now statements about Christ. In him the eternal word of God and the word of creation, the word of the Law is not just passed on (‘given’) but enacted (egento ).”

Dr. John A.T. Robinson on John 17:3:
 “In the first place it should be noted that John is as undeviating a witness as any in the New Testament to the fundamental tenet of Judaism, of unitary monotheism (Rom. 3:30; James 2:19). There is one true and only God (John 5:44; 17:3). Everything else is idols (1 John 5:21). In fact nowhere is the Jewishness of John [and of Jesus] , which has emerged in all recent study, more clear. The only possible exception is in 1 John 5:20, where ‘this is the true God’ could grammatically relate not to the Father, but to the immediately preceding words ‘His Son Jesus Christ,’ though the ‘his’ in ‘His Son’ must refer to ‘the one who is true,’ that is God the Father, as everywhere else [including Malachi 2:10: ‘Do we not all have one Father? Has not one God created us?’].
“The ambiguities of phrasing in the Johannine epistles are notorious, but I find it very difficult to be persuaded by such as Schnackenburg, Bultmann and Brown that it is Christ who is being designated as ‘ the true God’ [contradicting John 17:3 and the rest of the Bible!]. I am convinced with Westcott, Brooke and Do dd that the remaining Johannine usage, particularly ‘This is the true God, this is eternal life’ (1 John 5:20) and ‘This is eternal life, to know You who alone are true God’ (John 17:3) which I believe the former deliberately echoes, requires the reference to be to the Fathe. There is also the parallel in 2 John 7 where ‘this is the deceiver and the Antichrist’ must refer to the secessionists and not to the immediately preceding words ‘Jesus Christ coming in the flesh.’”

Courtesy: http://focusonthekingdom.org/146.pdf