Among the various disputes in Messianic prophecy, Psalm 110 remains a fixture in the whirlwind of debate. Various questions may be raised in reading this text: Who is the "Lord" next to YHVH's right hand? Was the text of Psalm 110 tampered with, and if so who tampered with the text? Was Psalm 110 understood as a Messianic Psalm? Lets review the Psalm itself:
Psalm 110 (NIV)Quoting from the New American Standard Bible, Rabbi Tovia Singer, of Outreach Judaism, claims that Christians deliberately mistranslated Psalm 110:1 as,
1Of David. A psalm.
2The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."
3The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies.
4Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn you will receive the dew of your youth. The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."
5The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.
6He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.
7He will drink from a brook beside the way; therefore he will lift up his head.
"The Lord said to my Lord. . ."He notes that the two "Lords" here look identical in this English translation, although in my online reading of the NASB, the text appears as,
"The LORD said to my Lord. . ."Assuming that Singer is reading from a different edition of the NASB, we'll take his word at face value. Although, he asserts that the "Christian translator carefully masked what it says in the text of the actual Hebrew,"1 (emphasis mine), we will not be so quick to charge anyone with deceit here.
Psalm 110:1, Online NASB
Singer is correct in his statement that the "LORD" and "Lord" are two different words in the Hebrew, and that the second "Lord" can, and is applied to humans in the Tanakh. Here are some powerful words that Singer uses to describe the "Christian" translation of this verse:
1. Stunning and clever mistranslationThese are VERY serious charges. In my CD ROM version of the Soncino Talmud, created by the Davka Corporation, the English translation of Nedarim 32b doesn't distinguish between the LORD and Lord of Psalm 110:1,
2. The Church tampered with it
3. Complete and deliberate mistranslation
6. Rampant Christian tampering
" . . . [the priesthood] was given to Abraham, as it is written, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool; which is followed by, The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek,’ meaning, ‘because of the words of Melchizedek.’"Now, it is possible that the English translation of the tractate Nedarim is incorrect from the original language of this Talmudic reference, or even possible that when the text was being digitized, that someone made an error. However, according to Rabbi Singer's logic, this English CD version of the Talmud, which was made by a Jewish Software company, was "altered, tampered, stunningly mistranslated, Christianized, carefully masked, appalling, deliberate mistranslation, doctored, manipulated, and altered." It would seem that this conspiracy of the "rampant Christian tampering" has even influenced and infiltrated the Jewish community, or on the other hand, we could accept a much more probable possibility, that a mistake was made. A mistake and a "deliberate mistranslation" are two very different things, and we must be careful not to make incorrect accusations. It is one thing to call to attention a mistranslation, it is another to accuse of "deliberate tampering."
Nedarim 32b, Soncino Press Edition
There was admittedly some "tampering" that has occurred, however. In the Massorah, there are one hundred and thirty-four places in the Hebrew text that Masoretic scribes changed YHVH, the Tetragrammaton, to Adonai! Singer sure is adamant about "Christian tampering," but can he apply the same rules to himself, as he does his opponents? According to James Trimm of the Society of the Advancement of Nazarene Judaism, in his tape series Let's Get Truthful, the scribes changed the Tetragrammaton in 134 places because, "they didn't want you to get confused." An article from the TheRain.org7 notes,
"The official list given in the Massorah (§§ 107-15, Ginsburg's edition) contains the 134.8"The article gives the locations where the Tetragrammaton is changed,
The article also notes,
"To these may be added the following, where "Elohim" was treated in the same way:A Song of David
6:9-17} Where the Authorized Version has "LORD."
53:1,2,4,5.} Where in Authorized Version and Revised Version it still appears as "God". It is printed "GOD" in the Companion Bible.10"
Who's At the Right Hand of God?
So just who is this "Lord" at God's right hand? Ibn Ezra thinks it's David. However, some Talmudic references tell us that it is Avraham (Nedarim 32b, Sanhedrin 108.)2 Now that certainly wouldn't fit with Rabbi Singer's interpretation here!
R. Hana b. Liwai said: Shem, [Noah's] eldest son, said to Eliezer [Abraham's servant], 'When the kings of the east and west attacked you, what did you do?' - He replied, 'The Holy One, blessed be He, took Abraham and placed him at His right hand, and they [God and Abraham] threw dust which turned to swords and chaff which turned to arrows, as it is written, A Psalm of David. The Lord said unto my master, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool;aAccording to the Midrash Rabbah,
a. Ps. CX, 1: supposed to be said by Eliezer, 'my master' referring to Abraham.
Sanhedrin 108b, Soncino Press Edition
R. Ishmael and R. Akiba [reasoned as follows]. R. Ishmael said: Abraham was a High Priest, as it says, The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent: Thou art a priest for ever after the manner of Melchizedek (Ps. CX, 4).One thing we know for sure, is that whoever the speaker is in this psalm, the second "Lord" is greater than the speaker. Singer recognizes this, and that's why he says the psalm is for the Levites. While the above passages speak of Abraham as the one at God's Right hand, the Midrash on Psalms places the Messiah there,
Genesis Rabbah 46:5, Soncino Press Editon, Cf. Gen. Rabbah 55:6, 55:7, Lev. Rabbah 25:6, Deut. Rabbah 2:7
R. Yudan said in the name of R. Hama: In the time-to-come, when the Holy One, blessed be He, seats the lord Messiah at His right hand, as is said The Lord saith unto my lord: "Sit thou at My right hand" (Ps. 110:1), and seats Abraham at His left, Abraham's face will pale, and he will say to the Lord: "My son's son sits at the right, and I at the left!" Thereupon the Holy One, blessed be He, will comfort Abraham, saying: "Thy son's son is at My right, but I, in a manner of speaking, am at thy right": The Lord [is] at thy right hand (Ps. 110:5).Genesis Rabbah seems to allude to the Messianic status of this passage,
Midrash on Psalms, translated by William G. Braude, Yale University Press Edition
AND HE SAID: WHAT PLEDGE SHALL I GIVE THEE? AND SHE SAID: THY SIGNET AND THY CORD, AND THY STAFF THAT IS IN THY HAND (Genesis XXXVIII, 18). R. Hunia said: A holy spirit was enkindled within her. THY SIGNET alludes to royalty, as in the verse, Though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon My right hand, etc. (Jer. XXII, 24); AND THY CORD (PETHIL - EKA) alludes to the Sanhedrin, as in the verse, And that they put with the fringe of each corner a thread (pethil) of blue, etc. (Num. XV, 38)1 AND THY STAFF alludes to the royal Messiah, as in the verse, The staff of thy strength the Lord will send out of Zion (Ps. CX, 2).Numbers Rabbah says,
Genesis Rabbah 85:9, Soncino Press Edition
[Aaron's] staff was held in the hand of every king until the Temple was destroyed, and then it was [divinely] hidden away. That same staff also is destined to be held in the hand of the King Messiah (may it be speedily in our days!); as it says, The staff of thy strength the Lord will send out of Zion: Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies (Ps. CX, 2).Edersheim summarizes the messianic applications to Psalm 110,
Numbers Rabbah 28:23, Soncino Press Edition
Ps. 110, is throughout applied to the Messiah. To begin with, it evidently underlies the Targumic of ver. 4. Similarly, it is propounded in the Midr. on Ps. 2. (although there the chief application of it is to Abraham). But in the Midrash on Ps. 18:36 (35 in our A. V.), Ps. 110. verse 1, 'Sit thou at My right hand' is specially applied to the Messiah, while Abraham is said to be seated at the left.Other references cited in The Messiah Texts, an awesome book by Raphael Patai, state:
Verse 2, 'The rod of Thy strength.' In a very curious mystic interpretation of the pledges which Tamar had, by the Holy Ghost, asked of Judah, the seal is interpreted as signifying the Kingdom, the bracelet as the Sanhedrin, and the staff as the King Messiah, with special reference to Is. 11. and Ps. 110:2 (Beresh. R. 85, ed. Warsh. p. 153 a) Similarly in Bemid. R. 18, last line, the staff of Aaron, which is said to have been in the hands of every king till the Temple was destroyed, and since then to have been hid, is to be restored to King Messiah, according to this verse; and in Yalkut on this Psalm (vol. ii. Par. 869, p. 124 c) this staff is supposed to be the same as that of Jacob with which he crossed Jordan, and of Judah, and of Moses, and of Aaron, and the same which David had in his hand when he slew Goliath, it being also the same which will be restored to the Messiah. 4
[God says:] "Ephraim, My firstborn, you sit on My right until I subdue the army of the hosts of God and Magog, your enemies, under your footstool . . ."It should be noted, however, that the various interpretations in Rabbinic literature, especially in the Midrashim, are allegorical, and do not necessarily mean that Psalm 110 literally refers to the Messiah.
Mid. Alpha Betot, 2:438-425
" . . .the Holy One, blessed be He, will fight for Israel and will say to the Messiah : "Sit at my right." And the Messiah will say to Israel:"Gather together and stand and see the salvation of the Lord." And instantly the Holy One, blessed be He, will go forth and fight against them . . .May that time and that period be near!"
T'fillat R. Shim'on ben Yochai, BhM 4:124-266
Whose Son is He?
While the P'rushim were gathered together, Yeshua asked them,
Saying, "What do you think of Mashiach? Whose son is he?"
They say unto him, "The son of David."
He replied, "How then does David in spirit call him Lord, saying,
"The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit on my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool?
If David then calls him Lord, how is he his son?"
And no man was able to answer him a word, neither did any man from that day forward ask him any more questions.
When did David sit at God's right hand? How can David be a 'priest forever in the order of Malki-Tzaddik' if David is dead? Could it refer to a resurrected David? Regardless, even if it were to refer to David, it would then automatically refer to the Messiah, as Messiah will be just like David. David is a prophetic prototype of Mashiach. Both Singer and Gerald Sigal admit that David is the author of this Psalm, while Singer holds that it is to be sung by the Levites, Sigal doesn't mention the Levitical singers, however his reasoning in along the same line of thinking, saying, "David is writing this psalm from the perspective of the individual who is going to recite it."11 Yet in the Rabbinical writings, this is mainly applied to Abraham, and then the Messiah. So, if the application of the Messiah were to be understood as the literal meaning of the text, then how can David, the author of the Psalm, call Messiah "Lord"? Apparently, the Messiah is greater than David.
Rabbi Singer confidently states that since Psalm 110 speaks of David, not the Messiah, he is sure that the dispute between Yeshua and the Pharisees about the status of David's son never occurred because,
Indeed, the Pharisees did have a great depth of knowledge about the Tanakh:"No Jew who had even a superficial knowledge of the Jewish scriptures would have ever found Jesus’ argument compelling, let alone a conversation stopper. The depth of knowledge that the Pharisees possessed of Tanach was astounding."
- Rabbi Tovia Singer, Outreach Judaism, The Lord said to my Lord
"These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth (Zech. 4:14). This is a reference to Aaron and the Messiah, but I cannot tell which is the more beloved. However, from the verse, The Lord hath sworn and will not repent: Thou art a priest for ever after the manner of Mechizedek (Psalm 110:4), one can tell that the Messianic King is more beloved that the righteous priest."
- The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan, Translated by Judah Goldin, Chapter 34, Yale University Press, pg. 137-138.
Footnote:This psalm has been taken to refer to the Messiah. Cf. Epistle to the Hebrews, Chs 5-7
In the end, it is obvious to anyone with a superficial knowledge of the scriptures that it is Singer's argument that is not at all compelling, and certainly not a conversation stopper.
1. "The Lord Said To My Lord . . . ." To Whom Was the Lord Speaking in Psalm 110:1?", Outreach Judaism, Rabbi Tovia Singer.
2. "Messiah After the Order of Melchizedek," What the Rabbis Know About the Messiah, Rachmiel Frydland, Menorah Ministries. URL: http://www.menorah.org/maoom12.html
3. Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Eerdmans 1977) p. 721, cited in Frydland.
4. Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, http://philologos.org/__eb-lat/appen09.htm
5. Raphael Patai, The Messiah Texts (Wayne State University Press 1988), p. 153
6. Ibid., pg. 159
8. "The 134 Passages Where The Sopherim Altered "Jehovah" to "Adonai", TheRain.org, URL: http://www.therain.org/appendixes/app32.html
11. Gerald Sigal, The Trinity Item: 60, Jews for Judaism