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It gets even worse…

Here's Tremper Longman III on why "son" is not capitalized in the new NIV translation of Psalm 2.

Question: What difference does it make if we capitalize ‘son’ in Psalm 2?

Well, the difference that it makes is that if you capitalize son in Psalm 2 it shows you don’t understand the psalm. The son in Psalm 2 is the Davidic descendant who assumes the throne. [The psalm] was likely sung at inauguration services and other royal ceremonies. We can see this by the allusions to 2 Samuel 7, which speaks of David having a son on the throne forever.

Of course, as readers of the New Testament we know that Psalm 2 has a deeper significance that probably wasn’t known by its original composer or audience. After the monarchy failed, the faithful realized that the fulfillment of 2 Samuel 7 was not found in the line of Davidic descendants whose rule came to an end in 586 BC. Thus, particularly in the late Old Testament time period and into the Intertestamental period, the eschatological significance of the Davidic covenant and the royal psalms were emphasized. Jesus is the greater son of David who is the ultimate fulfillment of the Davidic covenant and also of course of Psalm 2 as the numerous references to the psalm in the New Testament indicates. However, Psalm 2 is not a messianic prophecy, which would be the only reason to capitalize son in this psalm.

 

I am utterly speechless!

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13 thoughts on “It gets even worse…

  1. Glen

    I know. He's co-authored a very good book on marriage though! (Intimate Allies, with Dan Allender). Sigh.

    Btw that's not snow. It's the Ashes, falling back Down Under

    :)

  2. Paul Huxley

    It always happens. Everything looking peachy, then I tease you about Cricket, then everything goes wrong. (well, not everything... as we know, things change fast).

  3. Ed Eubanks

    Here's what I'll buy in that: the original writers and audience would not have known or understood the messianic significance of Psalm 2. In fact, I would bet that its direct association with messianic prophecy would only have derived generations later, when this psalm would have become something more like the "inauguration song" that it apparently was, and scholars would have considered that this psalm would one day be sung about the messiah (though even then they would have thought of him as a political, military, and civic king, as the reaction to Jesus shows).

    So, here's the question I would ask: assuming that Davidic-era Hebrews would have used a convention such as capitalizing "Son" to represent a reference to God in some way (owning that their recognition and understanding of trinitarian theology was vague as well); and assuming that there was a straightforward way to capitalize words like "Son" in biblical Hebrew; therefore, would David have capitalized Son in his own psalm, in Hebrew?

  4. Si

    Just as I point you in that direction, you've found it.

    This is what I just don't follow - how is Ps 2, with it's allusions to 2Sam 7 and it's eschatological significance - as picked up by Longman - not messianic? How can it speak of the Lord's Anointed and not be messianic?

  5. Glen

    Hi Ed,

    I think the answer to your last question is 'Yes'. But I like that you ask *that* question.

    My argument is not so much that we have apostolic warrant to re-read Psalm 2 with a capital "S". I think you point us to the real issue - what did David mean? But I think David meant *The Son*.

    The significance of the kings / David / son of David etc trace back *long* before 2 Samuel 7. Genesis 49 explicitly places the line of kings in a Messianic context. All earthly rulers will be throne-warmers for the universal King.

    There is a story commonly told in pop-biblical-theology with which I fundamentally disagree. (It's NOT told by the apostles, NOT by the early church and NOT by the reformers and puritans - but nonetheless it's very popular today). Essentially these schemas presume that Israel set her hope in earthly signs (eg kings) that then, unexpectedly, turned out out to be pointing to Christ. Genesis 49:10 is a great place to show that, yes, there is progress, but it is pre-emptively and explicitly taught within the OT.

    When we come to Psalm 2 we see plainly that the Son spoken of will rule the nations. And that He is the one in whom all peoples must hide themselves. As Martin has said on another thread, Ahaz or Manasseh would be terrible kings to take refuge in! Either David is speaking of the Ideal King or he's speaking heresy.

    When we come to the new testament, is it really the case that we have all these verses about people expecting a military messiah? I can't say that any verses are readily springing to mind. But at Christmas I do remember Simeon holding a tiny baby and confessing that he'd seen Israel's salvation. Kings bowing to a manger and songs about the very upside down nature of *this* king (eg Magnificat).

    When we come to the apostles we don't find any of them teaching what Longman etc claim. Nowhere does anyone say "The Moses/the prophet/the Psalmist intended X, but we now re-interpret it to be Messianic." They simply say straightforwardly that Psalm 2 is about the Son.

    An exponent of progressive revelation may claim to be making explicit a whole pile of assumptions which the apostles kept implicit - but the silence of Scripture is deafening. And I for one am not convinced.

  6. Bobby Grow

    Glen,

    This is frustrating. Maybe I'll just do my own editing with a black ink pen and magically make the little "s" a big "S" and then all will be well :-)!

  7. Paul Blackham

    I remember, more than 20 years ago, when I was attending the lectures at King's College on the Psalms. I was introduced to Mowinckel and I was completely amazed by the talk of how each psalm had been used in an enthronement festival or a harvest celebration or a Passover pilgimage etc. etc. Up to that point I had only been able to read the psalms and take them at face value, but suddenly I was presneted with this incredible vista of very detailed and fascinating liturgical practice. It was genuinely very disappointing to me when I quickly discovered that there was nothing in all this! The whole edifice was as imaginateively conceived as the world of Narnia or Middle Earth [though not quite so believable or theologically sophisticated].

    I've never forgotten that lesson. A particular creative vision of anciet Israel was constructed by the academy with shared assumptions and shared imaginative furniture. Out of that emerged a world of speculation, the products of which are still with us today. Another great example fo it was the whole documentary hypothesis. I doubt that it is still taught anywhere today, but it was still being taught quite commonly 20 years ago [believe that if you can]. Now as we look back on it, we all shuffle away with embarassed silence that anything like that could have seemed plausible for even a moment... and yet these imaginative paradigms take a hold in every academic discipline from time to time. Think of the ideas that have gripped philosophy from over the ages [logical positivism... Cartesianism... scholasticism... etc.] or the bizaare theories that archeologists have tried out or the esoteric paradigms in economics etc.

    The point is that when we go back to the imaginative settings that Mowinckel and all his disciples have created for the psalms, we can see how it is a huge a priori theological enterprise loaded with philosophical baggage. In one sense... why not imagine that the prophesies of Christ the King were sung when every 'place-holder' or 'throne-warmer' [to use Glen's great phrase] was installed? Yes, that is fine so long as we remember we are only speculating and we are careful that we are not shunted into some absurd dead end where we end up saying things like "if you capitalize son in Psalm 2 it shows you don’t understand the psalm. The son in Psalm 2 is the Davidic descendant who assumes the throne. [The psalm] was likely sung at inauguration services and other royal ceremonies. We can see this by the allusions to 2 Samuel 7, which speaks of David having a son on the throne forever." [Tremper Longman].

    If the Psalms [and the Law & Prophets] did not have an original Messianic intention and if this eisegetical new interpretation of the Messiah was imposed hundreds of years later after further religious/political development by human thinkers, then why is Jesus so upset about the fact that the Pharisees did not accept it? Why was Jesus getting on His high horse that certain people did not accept this later eisegetical tradition? From an academic point of view, wouldn't His opponents be mroe true to the original meaning [if Longman is correct]? Why on earth did He think that Moses or David were writing about Him when they were actually writing about localised political/religious issues of the day? If we are being honest, if the Longman hypothesis is right, Jesus is pushing forward an academic agenda that was of reletively recent origin and although He might have strongly believed in it, for personal reasons, yet He could hardly expect or even demand universal approval for reading texts in a way that was never intended.

    As soon as we imagine that the ancient church did not consciously believe in Jesus Christ... as soon as we imagine that there was a different conscious object of saving faith... then we are driven into a way of reading the Hebrew Scriptures that will never arrive at the natural reading that Jesus and His apostles argue for.

  8. Dan Hames

    'It was genuinely very disappointing to me when I quickly discovered that there was nothing in all this! The whole edifice was as imaginateively conceived as the world of Narnia or Middle Earth [though not quite so believable or theologically sophisticated].'

    LOL!!!

    Form criticism and the documentary hypothesis are still strong here in Oxford, though I think the theology department here is rather behind the times. I've had a number of conversations with naive undergraduate students who drink this stuff in in their first term at university and are pretty shocked when they hear there's any other way of understanding the OT.

    As has once been said, evangelicalism is 'not evangelical enough'.

  9. Dan Hames

    OT studies at Sheffield is supposed to be pretty up to the minute. But then again, that's what they're saying here in Oxford which is 'behind the times' haha! In Oxford, the edgy, provocative, badboy new voice is Sheffield's Norman Whybray– because he dares to question JEDP! But I don't even know if he's still there... I think he really is pretty old news.

    Fact of the matter is they're all pretty terrible in their own ways.

  10. Pingback: Christ no longer sinful or condemning, but men are still the problem « Christ the Truth

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