Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Lord said to my Lord

I saw a video clip by unitarian apologist Anthony Buzzard: 

He says Jews very carefully distinguish between the Lord God (i.e. Adonai, divine name, alternative for Yahweh) and human lords (i.e. Adoni, non-deity lord).

This raises a raft of issues:

1. Unitarians like Buzzard grant that Ps 110 is a Davidic psalm and a messianic psalm. So I can take that for granted in my post.

2. His argument in v1 relies on the MT. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that. However, the vowel points are editorial additions. So we need to distinguish between the original consonantal text and the MT. In both v1 and v5, the same root word is used. 

If, moreover, the MT is reliable in v1, then it's reliable in v5. 

3. Buzzard commits a common semantic fallacy by failing to distinguish between sense and reference. Even if Adoni generally refers to human masters, it doesn't mean human master. It simply denotes someone in authority over another or others. 

4. The term is used in Josh 5:14 and Judg 6:13 for the Angel of the Lord. In context, that's arguably a theophany. So it can be applied to the Deity.

5. The fact that a human or neutral descriptor is used does not imply that the individual so designated is not the Deity. The Bible uses human or neutral descriptors for Yahweh. It describes Yahweh a husband, father, potter, farmer, and shepherd. Those aren't divine descriptors. To the contrary, they are customarily and primarily human descriptors. They derive their meaning from their use in human roles and occupations. 

There's a logical difference between:

i) Not saying X is the case 


ii) Saying X is not the case

If v1 refrains from saying the messiah is deity, that's not equivalent to saying the messiah is not deity. It just means v1 doesn't speak to the question of his deity one way or the other.

6. In v5, Adonai is used, which Buzzard himself says is an alternate divine name for Yahweh. Who's the referent of Adonai in v5? The messiah, or Yahweh is distinction to the messiah? On the face of it, there are multiple reasons to think v5 designates messiah as Adonai:

i) There's the parallel between v1 and v5. Both passages use the righthand imagery, and both passages use the same root word. So it's logical to construe their interrelationship this way:

v1: Yahweh's oracle to my [David's] master [i.e. messiah]: Sit at my right hand

v5 Adonai [i.e. messiah] by your [i.e. Yahweh's] right hand

ii) In addition, that would preserve a consistent subject throughout the psalm. In vv2-4, messiah is the military conquer. Messiah is evidently the military conqueror in v7. And there's no textual clue that the subject changes from v6 to v7. 

To say that Adonai in v5 refers to Yahweh in v1 rather than messiah represents an abrupt shift. That interrupts the flow of thought, the corollary metaphor (to the right of), and the same root word. 

7. Whether Ps 110 predicts a divine messiah doesn't solely turn on who Adonai is in v5, but on the threefold comparison and contrast between Yahweh, David, and messiah. There's only so much metaphysical furniture in the OT worldview. You have God, angels, humans, and the subhuman order. In what sense is messiah David's master? Unless he's an angel, he must be on the divine side of the categorical divide, rather than the mundane side. And he's not an angel. So, by process of elimination, he must be the Deity.


  1. GREAT POST!!!!

    In one of my blogposts I wrote:

    5 The Lord is at Your right hand;
    He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.- Ps. 110:5 NASB

    5 The Lord is at Your right hand;
    He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath.- Ps. 110:5 NKJV

    Both the NASB and the NKJV capitalize the "y" in "Your" to indicate that the pronoun refers to Almighty God. Yet the underlying Hebrew word for "Lord" is "adonai" (which is only used of the one true Lord, Almighty God Himself). This might suggest two divine persons are being described here.

    John Gill states in his commentary regarding this verse:

    These words are either directed to Christ, at whose right hand the Lord was to help and assist him, Psa_16:8 or to the church, consisting of the Lord's willing people, at whose right hand he is to save them; is ready to help them, and is a present help to them in time of need, Psa_109:31 or rather to Jehovah the Father, at whose right hand the "Adonai", or Lord, even David's Lord, and every believer's Lord, is, as in Psa_110:1, and who is spoken of in all the following clauses; and to whom the things mentioned are ascribed...

    Though, this is not the only possible interpretation as the NET Bible points out in a footnote on this verse:

    As pointed in the Hebrew text, this title refers to God (many medieval Hebrew mss read יְהוָה, yehveh, “Lord” here). The present translation assumes that the psalmist here addresses the Lord as he celebrates what the king is able to accomplish while positioned at God’s “right hand.” According to this view the king is the subject of the third person verb forms in vv. 5b-7. (2) Another option is to understand the king as the addressee (as in vv. 2-3). In this case “the Lord” is the subject of the third person verbs throughout vv. 5-7 and is depicted as a warrior in a very anthropomorphic manner. In this case the Lord is pictured as being at the psalmist’s right hand (just the opposite of v. 1). See Pss 16:8; 121:5. (3) A third option is to revocalize אֲדֹנָי (’adonay, “Lord”) as אֲדֹנִי (’adoniy, “my lord”; see v. 1). In this case one may translate, “My lord, at his [God’s] right hand, strikes down.” In this case the king is the subject of the third person verbs in vv. 5b-7.


    1. It should also be pointed out that the second "Lord" in the famous first verse of this chapter (which the New Testament quotes repeatedly) could be pointed as "adoni" or "adonai". The vowel pointings we have received from the Masoretes are a standardization that goes back only to after the beginning of Christian era. Depending on the passage, we don't know for certain which pointings ante-date the beginning of the Christian era. Often we can only infer pointings based on the interpretations of other Rabbinic literature. Which themselves are often a compilation of teachings/saying with uncertain dates of origin (sometimes ante-dating and other times post-dating the coming of Christ). Therefore, "adoni" is not necessarily the only and correct way to interpret the verse.

      Psychologically speaking, it's not impossible that some early post Christian Era Jewish scribe(s) intentionally changed the pointing from "adonai" to "adoni", or erased evidence for a dual tradition of both pointings so that only the "adoni" pointing was preserved for posterity. While scholars disagree on what the correct vowel pointing of the tetragrammaton was/is, all agree that the Masoretes tried to hide it out of reverence for the Name. If they were willing to do that with the Divine Name, how much more might they be willing to "correct" and/or eliminate what they (honestly) thought to be an errant vowel pointing tradition? Especially so as not to encourage or lend support to what they considered to be the heretical position of Christianity which elevated the purported Messiah to Deity.

      See also Steve Hays' great blogpost:

      The Lord said to my Lord [[That is, THIS blogpost - AP]]