Category Archives: Psalms

Review of @fortresspress’s “The Vine and the Son of Man: Eschatological Interpretation of Psalm 80 in Early Judaism”

In the last few decades, academia has produced few, but great intertextual scholars. I suspect that soon we will add a name such as Andrew Streett to that list. His work, The Vine and the Son of Man traces the interpretation and reinterpretation of Psalm 80 in Early Judaism, ending with the Gospel of John. But, it does more than that. Indeed, Streett offers an interdisciplinary approach — Second Temple Judaism, rhetoric, canonical theism, and intertextuality — to understanding not just how the Fourth Evangelist used Psalm 80, but so too the inherited methodology allowing him, or requiring him, to employ the strategy. This volume is a richly rewarding experience whereby the reader is able to digest the complete context of Psalm 80.

And a very detailed introduction, Streett begins the work in earnest with an examination of Psalm 80 in its historical context. He presents his speculation that it was originally a response to the end of the Northern Kingdom, offered to call to God’s remembrance the covenant. Already, we can see why this particular psalm could become important to early apologists defending the messiahship of Jesus. It includes vine imagery, the request for a strong leader, and the restoration of the nation. Thus, the original context supplied the needed theology to develop John’s Son of Man imagery.

Following this, Streett examines the psalm within it’s setting of the psalter. This first use of the psalm allowed the receptive audience (the 6th century BCE) to see it pertaining to them. Further, by placing it within Book III of the psalter, Psalm 80’s already rich royal connection is magnified, assuming an eschatological presence that produces the connection to the Temple and Jerusalem. This is interesting in of itself because it allows the reader to see how portions of Scripture are shaped by their literary placement.

I a (not-as) convincing chapter on Daniel 7, the author argues that the natural imagery of Daniel’s Son of Man vision is supplemented by Psalm 80. He bases this on the beasts, primarily. I remain unconvinced, wishing he had devoted more time to intertextual clues — or included this chapter either in, or after, the following chapter in which he examines our psalm within Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism (chapter 4). In this portion, Streett investigates such works as pseudo-Philo and the Dead Sea Scrolls to understand how Psalm 80 figured into their works. It is during this time, and with the help of the developing eschatological hope, Psalm 80 is reworked to represent better what early Christians would have recognized as the “real” meaning. Had Street placed his chapter on Daniel within this framework, it would be more convincing.

Streett’s chapters on Mark are completely convincing — not simply because he delves deep into the concept of allusion and what this means when reading texts into, or out of, of another. In chapter 5, he stands out from the crowd(s) — the crowds arguing neither for Daniel 7 or Isaiah 53 as the genesis for the suffering Messiah — holding Psalm 80 as the theological instigator for seeing Jesus’s passion as necessary and “biblical.” Chapter 6 deals well with Mark 12.1-12 and its allusive connections to Psalm 80. Streett continues to build upon the idea of intertextuality, connecting Mark to his theological heritage — Second Temple Judaism. By doing so, he gives a literary depth to Mark rarely seen by a surface reading.

In his seventh chapter, Streett tackles Psalm 80 in John 15.1–8. He does not simply offer the psalm as the only intertext, but examines it next to the passages commonly associated with pericope such as Isaiah 5.1–7 and Sirach 24.17–21. He maintains that while other passages may contribute to John’s choice of words here, it is Psalm 80 supplying the spine of the passage.

How did we read the New Testament without the aid of Psalm 80 before? Sure, we did pretty well for ourselves, having rested easily enough on Psalm 110 — but, it seems we were lacking something. And if we ever believed christology suddenly sprang forth ex nihilo, we missed something there as well. Often times, we are told scholars live to find something new. Here, Streett brings back something old and gives us more things to consider in reading the New Testament. He helps us to understand just how Jewish, and continuous, New Testament theology really is. It is a rewarding experience for those seeking to understand the zygote of the New Testament as well as how previous texts were used, reused, and transformed by later writers.

Psalm 74 – Leviathan, Creation, and the Destruction of the Temple

The destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem.
The destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you haven’t read Psalm 74.1-23 go ahead and give it a read. I’ll wait.

Done?

(note, this is a quick post to get an idea down on paper)

In Psalm 74, labeled in the NAB “Prayer at the Destruction of the Temple,” we read in two parts. Part 1, v1-11, the destruction of Solomon’s Temple is in view. This should not be up for discussion since the psalm lays out a perfect lament for the fall of the House of the Lord/David.

In part II, v12-23, the Psalmist recounts God’s creative acts, including fighting the monster Leviathan. (Note, this account of creation is vastly different than either Genesis 1 or Genesis 2-3. By the end of the psalm, the author has turned back to asking God to defend Israel.

The Temple and God’s Creation is in view.

I have long maintained that this is the view in Isaiah as well. (I would say other scholars, but since I don’t have the time to list them, I’ll just claim this and hope others don’t mind). Likewise, I think this is the view in Mark 13 (as discussed in my book on the Gospel) and in Revelation.

Anyone else see God’s creative acts tied directly to the Temple?

 

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Books to Read NOW – Libya, Responses, Terror

This post was originally one of the spate coming out when Osama was killed. Now, in the midst of more turmoil directed towards the United States, I feel like they are needed once more.

Temper the Psalms with the Gospels, just saying, but when you are done with that, read this one:

Click to Order
Click to Order

And this one:

Click to Order
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Sunday School: Language of Science and Faith – Psalm 8: Creation of Political Victory?

This week, we are reading the introduction for the Sunday morning discussion. (I am using the Kindle app on my iPad 2) I’ve already read this book once, for review, so this time, I am reading it again for discussion points. One of those was the author’s use of Psalm 8 to showcase the ancient way of speaking about Creation. I think that there is a lot of things going on in this Psalm – and it doesn’t really have a lot to do with a physical Creation. Like Genesis 1, it is more polemical:

O LORD, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens.
You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength, silencing your enemies and all who oppose you.

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers — the moon and the stars you set in place — what are people that you should think about them, mere mortals that you should care for them?

Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.
You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority — the flocks and the herds and all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea, and everything that swims the ocean currents.
O LORD, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! (Psa 8:1-9 NLT)

That singular use of the Psalm is about Creation, but not about a scientific understanding of the act of creating. It doesn’t say how, but tells us why. First, I sense that it is polemical because of the mention of the enemies and of the ultimate victory of God. Second, the Psalm is dealing with the people of Israel, unless I read some of this wrong, being God’s ultimate vicars. Anyway, like Genesis 1, I find that this Psalm is less about the how, but more along the lines that Creation is God’s because He alone created and gave it to humanity. Because of this, this rule by humanity, God’s name will fill the earth.

Reflecting on Psalm 119

Yesterday evening, I was reading ahead in the lectionary, and the responsive reading came from Psalm 119:23-24, 26-27, 29-30.

This is the section of the acrostic in which the verses all start with dalet.  If you are familiar at all with Biblical Hebrew, you could look at the English translation and guess the word that repeats at the beginning of several verses.  It is derech, which the NAB and NRSV translate consistently as “way” in this text.

“I told of my ways …. Make me understand the way of your precepts … Put false ways far from me …. I have chosen the way of faithfulness.”  I think there is a helpful progression to see here from a devotional standpoint.  Getting to the way of faithfulness requires acknowledging one’s own way, asking for understanding and abandoning false ways.

Yet beyond this, the Psalm made me reflect back on my own religious experiences.  I have been a part of two very different religious communities that have had different dominant metaphors related to that of “the way.”  And I’m not entirely sure as to why, so I’m just thinking out loud.

For quite a number of years, I was a Southern Baptist, and I recall the idea of the “walk” being more prominent than in the Catholic community where I now make my spiritual home (e.g. “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” and “In the Garden” were important hymns).  In my current community, I think that the concept of “journey” is much more prominent.

I am not making any value judgments here.  I appreciate very deeply my experience in a Baptist community (though I do like to prod my Protestant friends, as they do me).  I think both of these metaphors are valuable.  And, I know my memory is also faulty.  Maybe these distinctions are all in my head.   Perhaps the distinctions are more perceived than real, i.e. you walk on a journey.

Yet if I had to try to pinpoint the uptake from this, I think with the concept of the walk my former community was more interested in where a believer was at the present moment.  In my current community, people seem more interested in the journey, i.e. where am I today in relation to where I was yesterday and where I want to be tomorrow or a year from now.

Of course, I think both of these perspectives are necessary.  I just find it interesting that certain aspects of metaphors related to the idea of “the way” have seemed more prominent in the two different communities.

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