Discovering Christ in Unexpected Places Lesson 3

Lesson 3 | September 18, 2016

Prepared by Daniel L. Segraves, PhD

Another Look at Psalm 22

A close reading of the messianic texts in Scripture often reveals the biblical witness to both the Messiah’s humanity and His deity. Neither must be minimized or denied. Jesus Christ is the central focus of Scripture, and the full-orbed testimony of these inspired words is that He is both God and man.

Since Psalm 22 was understood as a messianic text by the first century church, it is no surprise that the New Testament linked the psalm not only to the genuineness of Christ’s human existence as demonstrated by His suffering, but also to His identity as Lord and God as indicated by His resurrection. This lesson will briefly explore both themes as they are specifically connected with the New Testament.

The Humanity of the Messiah

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps 22:1).

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?’” (Matt 27:46).[1]

                The New Testament frequently mentions the prayers of Jesus. His were genuine prayers offered not in pretense or merely as an example for us. His prayers arose from his authentic humanity. Jesus prayed because He was human, and humans need to pray.

                “…who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear …. of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing (Heb 5:7, 11).

                There was no charade here. Jesus prayed to Him and was heard. Matters related to the humanity of Christ are hard to explain. Indeed, they cannot be understood apart from faith[2] because the Incarnation is a mystery.[3]

                “I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You” (Ps 22:22).

                “I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You” (Heb 2:12).

                Hebrews 2:12 quotes the final verse of the Messiah’s prayer. These words declare the Messiah’s solidarity with the human race even to the point of lifting up His voice in praise to God “in the midst of the assembly,” or in the same way that human beings lift up their voices as they assemble to praise God.

The Messiah’s conversation with God arises from His human nature, not from His deity. It is not a picture of one divine person speaking to another, but of a genuinely human Messiah speaking to God just as surely as any human being would.

The point in quoting Psalm 22:22 is to reinforce and demonstrate the identification of the Messiah with His human peers (“My brethren”), a theme that continues from Hebrews 1:9. The Messiah’s declaration of God’s name to His brethren (human beings) is best understood in the context of the Hebrew idea of “name,” sometimes called “name theology.” The Jewish readers of this letter understood the statement that the Messiah declared God’s “name” to His brethren to mean that the Messiah declared God Himself. There is no idea in Hebrew thought of a name being a mere appellation or label by which one is known. A person is his name. This idea lingers somewhat today in statements like “He has a good name.” In prayer, Jesus said, “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given me out of the world” (John 17:6). This was another way of saying Jesus manifested God Himself.[4]

The Deity of the Messiah

“They pierced My hands and My feet” (Ps 22:16).[5]

“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10).

“But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, ‘Not one of His bones shall be broken.’ And again another Scripture says, ‘They shall look on Him whom they pierced’” (John 19:34-37).

“Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. … Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’ And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (John 20:19-20, 24-29).

                It is significant that a text from Psalms that seems at first only to underscore the genuineness of the Messiah’s humanity – He had an authentic human body that could be pierced – becomes through the eyes of faith in the New Testament a powerfully convincing sign of Jesus’ deity: He is not only human; He is also Lord and God!

Some deny that Thomas’ response to Jesus’ invitation to move from doubt to faith is a proclamation of the deity of Christ. This denial fails on the facts of Greek grammar. Here is the Greek text of John 20:28:

Καὶ ἀπεκρίθη Θωμᾶς, καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου.[6]

            Notice first the word αὐτῷ (autō). This masculine singular personal pronoun is in the dative case and means that Thomas was speaking directly to Jesus. That is why it is translated “to him.” Thus, Thomas’ statement was not merely an exclamation or an expletive. Devout Jews in the first century would not have used the language of deity to express shock, astonishment, or joy. To do so would have been to take the name of God in vain.

Next, κύριός (kyrios [Lord]) and θεός (theos [God]) are both preceded by the article (i.e., the) and in the nominative case. This means these nouns function as vocative, the case of address. The point of this is that Thomas addressed Jesus as his Lord and God. The structure of the Greek text allows no other possibility.[7]

Thomas’ confession of Jesus as his Lord and God evokes the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” (Deut 6:4). We can be certain that this was in the mind of this Jewish disciple who had previously declared that he would not believe in the resurrection of Christ unless he had visible and tangible evidence. In one moment of time, however, he moved beyond doubt and beyond belief in the resurrection alone; he identified the risen Christ as the God (Yahweh) of Israel and as his Lord and God.[8]

Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for his confession. Had Jesus been anyone less than Lord and God, He could not have neglected this rebuke.[9] Not only did Jesus not rebuke Thomas; He commended him for the faith Thomas had just expressed and pronounced a blessing on all who come to the same faith even though they have not seen Him in His resurrection.

There is no reason to doubt that Thomas remembered Jesus’ words, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 3:19; see also verses 18-22). His confession indicates that he realized only the Lord God could raise Himself from the dead.

None of the other disciples rebuked Thomas or expressed disagreement with his confession. Their frequent arguments before this time suggest they would not have hesitated to reprove him if they thought he was wrong. Their silence is mute testimony of their agreement.

In uttering this confessional cry Thomas recognized the lordship of Jesus in the physical and spiritual realms as well as over his own life … and the essential oneness of Jesus with the Father which made his worship of Jesus legitimate …. As used in this verse, κύριός and θεός are titles, not proper names, the first implying and the second explicitly affirming the substantial deity of the risen Jesus.[10]

The videos and study guides for this class can be accessed at www.danielsegraves.com/blog.

[1] See also Mark 15:34.

[2] See Hebrews 6:1.

[3] I Timothy 3:16. Some recent translations have readings like “He,” “Who,” or “He who” instead of “God” in this verse. It has been pointed out, however, that “over 300 Greek MSS read ‘God’ while only eleven read something else. Of those eleven, two have private readings, two have a third reading, and seven agree in reading ‘who.’ So we have to judge between 97% and 2% , ‘God’ versus ‘who’” (Wilbur N. Pickering, The Identity of the New Testament Text, rev. ed. [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1980], 118).

[4] See John 1:18; I Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:3. Also see Daniel L. Segraves, Hebrews: Better Things (Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 1997), 75-77 and R. Youngblood, “Significance of Names in Bible Times” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Walter A. Elwell, ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 750.

[5] The Masoretic text reads “like a lion” rather than “they pierced.” But “[a]ll the external evidence, the manuscripts and versions, supports the presence of a verb in the verse, probably with the meaning ‘they pierced’” (Allen P. Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms, vol. 1 [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2011], 524). See also Daniel L. Segraves, The Messiah in the Psalms (Hazelwood, MO: WAP Academic, 2007), 353, n. 46.

[6] There are no textual variants for this phrase.

[7] See Walter Bauer et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 357 and Ray Summers, Essentials of New Testament Greek (Thomas Sawyer, rev.; Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1995), 17.

[8] In at least thirty places where the New Testament uses the words Lord and God in the same verse, there is no question that both words refer to the same Person: The Lord is God and God is the Lord. This is in keeping with the Shema.

[9] See Revelation 22:8-9.

[10] Murray J. Harris, Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1992), 129.