Continued from Chapter 41a

God cannot be separate from Himself

The privilege of sitting at the right hand is a mark of distinction (1 Kings 2:19). The terminology “sit at My right hand” is used here as an idiomatic expression showing God’s favoritism toward David.

When God invites David to “sit at My right hand,” it is to show the privileged position enjoyed by David in his relationship with God. It is not to be taken as literally indicating anyone actually sitting at God’s right hand. Similarly, in “until I make your enemies your footstool,” the description is of the subjection of David’s enemies as an expression of God’s will. The use of the term “footstool” is clearly a metaphoric expression of subjection. It is a hyperbolic statement not inclusive of all David’s enemies. This poetic style never intends its meaning to be in absolutes; rather it shows the overall triumph experienced by David in subduing his enemies with the help of God.

Role confusion

In the Christian sources, does the name of God (Y-H-V-H), translated as “the Lord” in many English versions of Psalms 110:1, refer to “God the Father” or to “God the Son’ or does it refer inclusively to all three members of the Trinity? Christians are divided on the answer. But, let us examine this Christian controversy in more detail. Concerning the word ’Eloheinu (“our God”), which appears in the Shem‘a, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord [Y-H-V-H] our God, the Lord [Y-H-V-H] is One [’Echad]” (Deuteronomy 6:4), most Christians maintain that it connotes a plurality and should be understood in its literal sense as “our Gods,” but in the sense of a “triunity.” For this reason, they often interpret the verse as: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our Gods, the Lord is a compound unity.

From this Christian interpretation of the Shem‘a, it follows that “the Lord” (Y-H-V-H) could not refer to either “God the Father” or “God the Son” alone, but must refer to all three members of the Trinity as a whole. This being the case, how is it possible for Christians to maintain that the phrase “to my lord” in the verse: “The Lord [Y-H-V-H] says to my lord [’adoni]: ‘Sit at My right hand’” (Psalms 110:1) refers to Jesus? If “my lord” refers to the second member of the supposed Trinity, Jesus, then who is the first “Lord,” mentioned in the verse? If “the Lord” (Y-H-V-H) in the Shem‘a is a “triunity” united in the divine name, that is, “the Lord [Y-H-V-H] is our Gods,” the first “Lord” in Psalms 110:1 must also refer to the united Trinity. If this is so, then the phrase “to my lord” automatically excludes Jesus, who allegedly is already included in the first part of the verse, “the Lord.”

Some Christians in desperation attempt to evade this problem by insisting that Y-H-V-H can refer to any part of their three-fold deity. But, then how does one identify “the Father” as differentiated from “the Son” or “the Holy Spirit”? In any case, if the second “lord,” supposedly Jesus, is sitting next to the first “Lord,” the triune godhead or two-thirds of it, or any aggregate of it, he cannot be part of it. That which exists outside of God cannot be God. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews takes the term “sitting” literally when he says, “When he [Jesus] had made purification of sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:3); “We have such a high priest, who has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (8:1). This remains an unsubstantiated claim.

The implied answer

Mark’s Jesus is not citing Scripture for the view that the Messiah is the son of David, but is said to refer to the unanimous view of “the scribes” that this is the teaching of Scripture. Is he rejecting this view of the “scribes” (Mark 12:35), when he poses the question: in what sense is the Messiah the son of David if he is also, as Psalms 110:1 shows, David’s lord? Is he indirectly and allusively intimating his own messianic claims? Whether Jesus actually had this discussion with the scribes is a matter of conjecture. However, this episode is used by Mark to further disassociate Jesus from any connection with the House of David. In any case, the implied answer need not be that the Messiah’s real origin is heavenly and divine. It need be only that the Messiah is not simply another king in succession to David, like the rest of the kings of Judah, but a greater figure, through whom the kingdom of God will come.

© Gerald Sigal