Did Jesus Reinterpret Psalm 110:1? Matthew 22:41–46 and the Original Context of Psalm 110

In Matt 22:41–46, Jesus asserts that the Messiah, the son of David, is ultimately David’s Lord. The majority of New Testament scholars do not question that Jesus taught that the Messiah is both the Son of David and the Son of God. However, scholars disagree about the nature of Jesus’ quotation of Psalm 110:1 concerning its original context. Is Ps 110 messianic? Additionally, is David the speaker in Ps 110? Luz states that Matthew’s Christian readers would have been able to answer Jesus’s question in Matt 22:45 but seems less confident that the Pharisees could have done so. Moreover, most evangelical OT scholars do not understand Ps 110 to be messianic, nor do they see David as the author/speaker. Longman asserts that Jesus uses contemporary hermeneutical principles to make his point since the original audience would understand this passage as an oracle of God to David. Herbert Bateman understands David to be the speaker but argues that David’s lord is Solomon and that the Psalm finds typological fulfillment in Jesus. Did Jesus reinterpret the Psalm for his own purposes? I will argue that Jesus did not reinterpret Psalm 110. Rather, he correctly understands Psalm 110:1 to be predictive, messianic prophecy in its original context.

After briefly introducing the context of Jesus’s quotation of Ps 110 in Matt 22:41–46, I will offer a history of the messianic interpretation of Ps 110:1, dealing with the Patristic era, Jewish literature (especially after Christ), and then the modern period. In the second part, I will investigate exegetical issues related to Ps 110 in its context, beginning with the superscription. Is this a Psalm of David, for David, or about David? Matthew Emadi has recently argued for a messianic understanding of Psalm 110, but he has not brought clarity to the interpretive issues involved with the heading. Moreover, what authoritative weight should be assigned to the headings in the Psalter?

While some scholars have noted a relationship between Ps 2:7 and Ps 110, I will examine Gen 3:15 and Num 24:17, which I understand to be messianic, as important intertextual links to Ps 110. This second section will also study the LXX version of Ps 110:1, including textual variants. Furthermore, while Rydelnik claims that the LXX reading of Ps 110:3 is to be preferred, it will be shown that there are good reasons to accept the MT reading of 110:3 as original and that this does not undermine a Messianic interpretation of Ps 110.

I will then return to Matt 22:41–46 through the lens of the exegetical work accomplished in the previous section of the paper. In circling back to Matt 22:41–46, it is essential to understand Davidic messianism and its impact on Matthew’s gospel, including the emergence of the phrase “Son of David” in the Second Temple period. In the end, it will be demonstrated that Jesus’s use of Ps 110:1 is indeed consistent with the messianic expectation of the OT, and more specifically, Ps 110.

2 thoughts on “Did Jesus Reinterpret Psalm 110:1? Matthew 22:41–46 and the Original Context of Psalm 110”

Leave a Comment