Psalm 110:1 and Hebrew Vowels

Here is a helpful postscript by Professor James McGrath to a video I posted yesterday ‘Anthony Buzzard hosts Dr James McGrath’ which discussed Christology, monotheism, and related subjects. It concerns Psalm 110:1 and Hebrew Vowels.

December 3, 2016 by James F. McGrath

I thought I would try to clarify the point I was making when the webinar last Friday got interrupted. I don’t at all dispute the interpretation of Psalm 110 as involving Yahweh saying to another distinct figure, whom the author of the Psalm refers to as his lord, that he bestows upon that individual an exalted status, that of being enthroned at God’s right hand. Indeed, I think that this is the strongest way to make the case – by pointing to what the Psalm explicitly says and its inner logic.

What I was trying to advise against was an attempt to make the point hinge primarily on how the Masoretes added vowels to the consonantal text. The Masoretes, in rendering the same consonants in some places as adonai and in others as adoni, may or may not have been indicating pronunciation differences already in existence in their time.

Their understanding that the one who is called “my lord” in Psalm 110:1 is not being referred to as though he were in some sense the one God of Israel is undoubtedly correct. My point is simply that we should base our view on the textual evidence that led them to understand the Psalm in this way, and not merely defer to them as though they were infallible authorities.


Categories: Bible, Biblical scholarship

1 reply

  1. Anthony Buzzarad quotes Murry Harris who said it is vital to distinguish between adonai and adoni. and questions how it could have been possible that the Jews and early Christians were supposedly unable distinguish between God and Man 645 times in the Bible.

    Buzzard related that Jesus made clear that 110:1 is a messianic psalm about the Lord Yaweh (the one God) giving an oracle about the lord messiah. The subtle difference in meaning between the Hebrew words adonai and adoni is what distinguishes between God and man.

    Liked by 1 person

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