November 1, 2012 by Jason Hood
One of the themes of my current research is the role humanity plays in the Kingdom of God. It’s a theme that first arises in Genesis 1 and appears throughout the Bible. (You can see an older post on this theme here.)
As Chris Wright notes, “Only when we link the kingship of David and his successors to the kingship of God can we make sense of texts that envision the reign of David over the nations or even over the earth.” (Mission of God, 345). Wright particularly cites the Psalms as the source of this emphasis.
In the introduction to his commentary on Psalms, James Mays explains the significance of this theme for the Psalter’s approach to Messianic Psalms. Psalm 2 has a central role to play in the Psalter’s overall message. This Psalm shows that the establishment of God’s anointed human king is
the response by the kingdom of God to the kings and rulers of earth. The king represents the kingdom of heaven on earth and will extend the reign of God over the unruly, rebellious kings of the world.
Despite the devastating failure of this mission, highlighted especially at the conclusion of Book III in Psalm 89, the Psalms continue to develop the theme, and in such a way that these psalms function as messianic prophecy.
[I]n Psalm 110, the promise that the king will represent the kingdom of God the nations of earth is renewed.
In these psalms . . . the entire history of kingship in Judah has been collapsed into the question of God’s steadfast love to David as the secret of God’s coming rule in the world.
Mays goes on to cite the way in which the assocation of Psalms with David adds one more important Christological piece. Citing Psalm 22 in particular, these psalms produce a surprising shift in the view of the Messiah; he is not just the king who bears God’s kingdom, he is
one of the lowly, beset by all of the predicaments that belong to common humanity, vulnerable and needy. . . . The prayers even imply that it is in the travail of his human nature that this David mysteriously will carry out his vocation . . .
October 30, 2012 by Jason Hood
While B. B. Warfield was relatively open to science and evolution, he and others at Old Princeton were deeply suspicious of historical reconstructions of texts, which were endlessly dissected based on tenuous reconstructions on the basis of presuppositions about religious history en vogue in 19th century Germany. The same world that produced multiple editions of Q (keep in mind no one has ever seen one edition, let alone two or more) produced endless opportunities for scholarly creativity.
During the same era, Charles Briggs was an opponent of conservative scholarship and principles, especially inerrancy and Warfield. Defrocked by the Presbyterians in 1893, he cuts the figure of a martyr for the sake of historical critical methodology. Of course, we have to take “martyr” with a grain of salt; Briggs was given honorary doctorates by Oxford, Glasgow, and Edinburgh, and the Episcopalians welcomed him with open arms.
But regardless of acclaim–and notwithstanding the fact that Briggs was in some instances asking important questions that conservatives needed to address–there are grave costs to bear for one’s commitment to scholarship with shoddy presuppositions. One might even call them burial expenses.
Earlier this month while researching the Enthronement/Royal Psalms, I happened across the following sentence in an essay by Leo Perdue.
Efforts to reconstruct possible historical situations reflected in ‘Enthronement Hymns’ have generally met with little acceptance.
A great deal of literature could have been cited, but the footnote for that sentence consists only of Briggs’s Psalms (International Critical Commentary, 1906).
We can grant the Qoheleth-esque point that all our work fades away. Many of Warfield’s points haven’t stood the test of time. But here we have not a severed finger or discarded organ, but the corpse of an entire commentary: Briggs’s “state-of-the-art-in-1900″ scholarship has entered its reward, a cave as wide as history, with the word “dustbin” carved over the entrance.0 Comments
October 26, 2012 by Jason Hood
The perimeters of the collection thus are obedience (Psalm 1) and praise (Psalm 150).
In this way, the Psalter makes an assertion about the shape of life lived in Israel’s covenant by means of the canonical shape of the collection of the Psalms. Like the Psalter, life derived from and ceded back to Yahweh begins in obedience and ends in praise.
From outside of these faith claims, it may be argued that life in fact never is lived this way and never turns out this way. Inside the claims of this faith, however, Israel is relentless in its insistence that life works this way.
Life works this way inside the covenant because  God’s demands are non-negotiable and  because God’s fidelity is found reliable.
Walter Brueggemann, “Bounded by Obedience and Praise: The Psalms as Canon”0 Comments
November 10, 2011 by Matthew Mason
The following are somewhat tentative thoughts on a biblical definition of lying and telling the truth.
Psalm 52 challenges our usual notions of truth and falsehood. The superscription tells us that Psalm 52 comes from the time when Doeg the Edomite told Saul “David has come to the house of Ahimelech.” (cf. 1 Sam 21:7; 22:9-10). The evil of which the first stanza of the psalm repeatedly accuses Doeg is lying (vv. 2b, 3b, 4b). The problem is, he didn’t. Doeg was an eyewitness of David’s visit, and his report to Saul was factually accurate.
But Psalm 52 tells us that he was lying. He was a doer of deceit (v. 2). And the reason is the intent of his words—he spoke this way because he wanted to destroy David (more on why in another post).
Note how the parallelisms work:
2a Your tongue plots destruction
2b like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit
3a you love evil more than good
3b and lying more than speaking what is right
4a You love all words that devour,
4b O deceitful tongue.
To deceive is to plot destruction (v. 2); to lie is to love evil (v. 3); to deceive is to speak words that devour (v. 4). In other words, the context in which Doeg offers his true proposition was one in which his intent was destruction and evil. He wanted his (true) words to devour David. And so his true words were, in fact, a lie.
It’s the flip side of the story of the Hebrew midwives (Exod. 1:15-22). Because they fear God, they lie to Pharaoh. And their lie was not a lie. Their “lie” was, in fact, the truth. And the reason is their intention; they intend to deceive the tyrant and preserve the life of the covenant seed, and so their lying is truthful. In contrast, Doeg tells the “truth” to the tyrant, because he intends to destroy the covenant seed, and so his “true” statement is a lie.
When Doeg came to Saul, the king was under a tamarisk tree with his spear in his hand. It’s an ominous scene, because it’s the same spear with which Saul had tried to stick David (18:11, twice; 19:10) and Jonathan (20:33). And Saul is whining about David, and about Jonathan’s covenant with David. Doeg’s words are designed to feed the beast; they’re words that devour. And so, even though they’re an accurate report, they’re a lie.
This suggests that, if we are thinking biblically, truth is less about propositional accuracy than about intent. Truth is about doing the truth. Psalm 52 contrasts Doeg’s actions with God’s. David condemns Doeg because he does (’sh) deceit (v. 2). He praises God because of what he does (’sh) (v. 9). And as he praises, David waits for God’s name, the name he proclaimed to Moses in Exodus 34:4-6. There, God told Moses that he is merciful, gracious, abounding in steadfast love (cf. Ps 52:1, 9) and faithfulness…but who will by no means clear the guilty [ie, in this case, Doeg]. God is the God whose name is “Abounding in Steadfast Love and Faithfulness,” or in John’s paraphrase, the God whose name is “Full of Grace and Truth (Jn 1:17; cf. 17:6). The God revealed in Christ is the God who is the Truth and who does the Truth. For God to be truthful is not just for him to speak true propositions, but for him to do faithfulness.
Truth is not so much speaking that which is factually accurate as about how you behave, and, in the case of your words, what you are doing with your words. To use the language of speech act theory, truth has less to do with locutions than it does with illocutions. Now, under normal circumstances, locutions and illocutions go together, and so propositional accuracy is an important part of truth telling. But if being truthful is primarily about doing the truth, then there will be occasions when an untrue proposition is, in fact, more truthful, than a true one. You have to ask, not simply, “What is she saying?” but also, “What does she intend to do with her words?”
So, take Genesis 3:5. “You will become like God, knowing good and evil.” True or false? At one level, true. God himself says, after the fact, “the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” (3:22). But, actually, although the locution is true, the serpent’s statement is a lie because of it’s illocutionary intent: “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Satan tells the “truth” in order to deceive. His “truth” is therefore untrue. (Of course, this example is further complicated by the fact that the first proposition is untrue as both locution and illocution.)
Or, take Jesus in the synagogue (Mark 1:21-28). When the unclean spirit identifies him (correctly!) as the Holy One of God, Jesus silences him. Why? I suggest that it’s at least in part because the spirit’s “truth” was a lie. It was a lie because the spirit did not intend to do the truth; he correctly identified Jesus, but was not going to worship.
Sometimes the truth is a lie and a lie is the truth.
So, imagine. You are in Berlin in 1940, and you have Jews hiding in your basement, waiting to be smuggled out of the country. The person who will escort them out of Germany knocks on your door and says, Do you have any Jews in your basement? The truthful answer is “Yes.” Now, imagine that instead your caller is an officer in the SS. He asks the same question. But this time, the truthful answer is “No”. To say yes, even as the Jews hide, would be a lie.
Or, more trivially, I wonder if this distinction can be applied to any number of socially acceptable “half truths”, and “white lies”. Truth telling, in other words, is as much about forming relationships as it is about conveying accurate information. So, how do you answer the question “Does my bum look big in this?”? Or, “Did you enjoy the poem I sent to you?” Or, “How was dinner?” There are times when a truthful answer to those questions might require some straight talking. Perhaps there are times when the truth requires a “little white lie.”0 Comments
September 20, 2011 by Jason Hood
Part of finding Jesus in the OT is noting the way in which his approach to God’s law reflects that found in the OT. Notice what’s happening in these verses quoted by Chris Wright (taken from Psalm 119:57-64):
You are my portion, O LORD; I have promised to obey your words.
I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.
I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes.
I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.
The earth is filled with your love, O LORD; teach me your decrees.
“[T]he Psalmist interweaves his wonder at the promise, the grace, the goodness, love and salvation of God with his determination to live according to God’s law. He delights in the law because it enables him to please the God he loves.
There is much in the life and teaching of Jesus which reflects the ethos of Psalm 119 - a Psalm which rejoices in the law, but rejoices more in the richness of relationship with God himself which is then expressed through diligent obedience.”
Christopher J. H. Wright, Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament, 194-5.1 Comment
August 18, 2011 by Jason Hood
Kidner’s commentary on the Psalms is very good, and not just in the exposition of the individual psalms. His introductory material is helpful and well-written. It’s been commended for my syllabus for an OT course this winter, since he treats the older history of scholarship as well as issues like Hebrew poetic parallelism and the messianic content in the Psalms. (Yes, I’m an NT guy, but I’ve taught OT before, and when one teaches for Baptists, it’s safer to go OT…)
Kidner warns against the academic tendency (one might even say fallacy) to stress the particular categories of the Psalter at the expense of recognizing their utility for the saints of Israel and beyond.
[T]he Psalter, taken on its own terms, is not so much a liturgical library, storing up standard literature for cultic requirements, (so much) as a hospitable house, well lived in, where most things can be found and borrowed after some searching, and whose first occupants have left on it everywhere the imprint of their experiences and the stamp of their characters.
This is not to reject wholesale what we might learn from comparative literature and form/genre studies; but Kidner does have strong words for the imaginative gone amuck. Noting the tendency of critical scholars to take a scientific to the Psalter (Gunkel himself alluded to Linnaeus) rather than an artistic and living spiritual approach, he concluded that
if we give ourselves too much to botanizing among the Psalms, we need not be surprised if we are left with little more than a row of specimens.