You are right when you say: "It just seems like you are creating problems for your mind."
having heard from the Church that the Psalms prophecy Christ, I then created the problems in my mind of trying to find out whether and how this is so. But despite this, in discussing the topic, I think I am also creating at least a partial answer to the problems, namely I gain a better understanding of how it may be so.You are right that: "There are layers to prophecies."
For example, when Daniel and Joseph had their visions, they saw certain things, and that was the first layer. But another layer was the predictive meaning of those things. For example, in a dream an image of a person getting out of a pit could have another layer of meaning: that the person would be freed.Plus, of course "the events of the OT were events in and of themselves."
So for example, the story of Jonah is a narrative story in and of itself, even if Nineveh didn't really convert to the Israelite religion, and even if it has a second layer of meaning as an allegory about how a prophet should act. I think you are basically right that "Not every verse of the Psalms refers to Christ explicitly."
For example, Psalm 3 has the title "A Psalm of David when he fled from Absalom his son." It begins:LORD, how they have increased who trouble me!
Many are they who rise up against me.
So the explicit sense of this verse, indeed the chapter, appears to be David fleeing from Absalom and commenting about the large number of his enemies. The explicit sense here doesn't appear to be about the Messiah. Still, it seems possible to me that it could explicitly be about the Messiah, since the preceding chapter includes verse 2:7, which says:I will declare the decree:
The LORD has said to Me,
‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
I think Psalm 2:7 could introduce Psalms 2-3 as explicit Psalms about the Messiah.
So a clearer example showing that "Not every verse of the Psalms refers to Christ explicitly" is Psalm 90, which begins:A Prayer of Moses the man of God.
1 Lord, You have been our dwelling place[a] in all generations.
So this Psalm's first verse appears explicitly to refer to Moses, God, and His followers, rather than explicilty about the Messiah in particular, although still, God here would include the Messiah according to Christianity. In fact, since all the Bible is God's word, and Chirst is also God's word, it seems one can say that all the Bible is about the Messiah. In any case, I am not sure that "The Psalms do not contradict this dogma"
that "Obviously, Christ is sinless."
Father Hopko once challenged his students to find a Psalm and told them he could tell them how it was about Christ. The problem for me is that if we presume David in the Psalms is a prefigurement of Christ, then the image in Psalm 51 of David saying he has sinned contradicts the idea that Christ is sinless. Perhaps there is a way to reconcile the conflict, but in any case on the face of it, it appears contradictory to me.You asked: "Have you looked at patristic commentaries?"
I don't remember whether I looked at Patristic commentaries while researching the scriptural prophecies. I may have read from St John Chrysostom's commentaries, but don't remember. I agree with and thank you for your mention about St Theodoret: "Blessed Theodoret of Cyrus has commentaries on all the Psalms published by Catholic University of America Press. The translator Hill is what I would call hostile, but the commentaries of Blessed Theodoret are good, down-to-earth Antiochian commentaries."
Except that I somewhat disagree about calling translator Hill "hostile". You explained on another thread about St Theodoret's commentaries why you consider him hostile (http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php?topic=30065.0
"I have them, translated by Robert Hill of Catholic University of America press. He's what I would call a "hostile" translator, in that his intros don't really respect, IMHO, patristic commentary, often charging them with inaccuracy since they were not as enlightened by modern knowledge as he is, but the translations are good. Blessed Theodoret's commentaries on each psalm are substantial, so you should be able to learn a lot."
Charging the commentaries often with inaccurary doesn't necessarily mean the translator is hostile or attacking, as he makes an excuse for St Theodoret, ascribing the inaccuracy to a lack of modern knowledge, rather than to dishonesty.
In fact, I found a preview version of St Theodoret's commentary on the Psalms, by the translator and publisher you mentioned. They appear good and are written in a comprehensible manner:http://books.google.com/books?id=eWK0293jVFkC&pg=PA294&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=3#v=onepage&q&f=false
Although a few pages are missing in the preview version, it appears St Theodoret doesn't address the issue of whether Psalm 51 could be using David as a prophetic image of the Messiah. Rather, St Theodoret simply applies the ideas in the Psalm to David, although in passing he mentions things about the Messiah. For example, when Psalm 51:6 says "For lo, you loved truth", St Theodoret comments that God revealed to David about the Messiah.
St. Theodoret comments on Psalm 2:8 ("Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession.") that this is about Christ because other Jewish kings didn't own the ends of the earth. From this one can conclude that when a Psalm says something that doesn't apply to any Jewish kings, but to Christ, then it is about Christ.
That makes sense, although perhaps no righteous kings had asked God for the whole world, or it could apply to a later non-Messianic king.
I read about a third of his commentaries concerning Christ, and read a big majority of the others, but they didn't seem to explain how it is that some prophecies spoken in the person of David are prophetic images of the Messiah speaking.I trust you as simple facts that "St. John Chrysostom also has commentaries on the Psalms, but some have been lost. What is available is by the same and other publishers as those of Blessed Theodoret. I don't know of any Alexandrian Psalm commentaries. I know St. Cyril wrote commentaries on some of the Gospels, which we have still. And I don't know about the Venerable Bede--he does have commentaries on the Temple and its meaning."
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find St Chrysostom's commentaries on the Psalms available online, and I don't know of Alexandrian Psalm commentaries either. The Venerable Bede made an abbreviated collection of the Psalms, which it seems included some commentary, and since he made a sermon on Psalm 81, I assume he made sermons on other Psalms, but I wasn't able to find any online commentaries of his on the Psalms. While I found some commentaries by St Cyril on the Old Testament, I didn't see anything on the Psalms by him.
At this point, my guess is that the asumption is: everything in the Psalms spoken by David about himself is about Christ, unless it contradicts other prophecies about Christ, at which point it isn't clear whether it applies.
For example, if a grandmother says her grandson will be like his father- her son, and that the grandson will be extremely kind and just, then there is a contradiction if in fact the father also did something very bad. So for example, if in describing her son elsewhere she writes that he did an injustice in sending someone to die in battle to get the person's wife, then it isn't clear if she expects her son to be like this too, because the act is extremely unkind and unjust, in contrast to her description of her son. If confronted with the contradiction, she might say that she was comparing the grandson to her son after the son repented of killing the person. So when 2 Samuel 12 and Psalm 51 describe David as having sinned terribly, this contradicts the Messiah being extremely just and therefore might not apply to him.
Another guess is that it doesn't have to mean literally that the Messiah would commit a sin like David. Rather, just as David in Psalm 22 might not have really been forsaken by God and meant this as an emotional expression- or else an expression of Christ's separation from God, so Psalm 51 might be an emotional expression of Christ's condition of bearing others' sins, even though Christ didn't literally commit sins Himself.Kind Regards.
Thank you for recommending Fr. Patrick Reardon's book "Christ in the Psalms."
Unfortunately it isn't available online, but I read his writing on Psalm 22 from the book, published in an Antiochian newsletter: http://stgregoryoc.org/Archive/april2011newsletter.pdf
Unfortunately it didn't explain the mechanics of how it is that David in the Psalms is a Messianic image.But if you happen to know whether the book lays out and shows those mechanics and why it is that sometimes David would be a Messianic image and othertimes not in his prophecies, I might get it.I asked: "So here again [in Psalm 51], the description of David as one who has done what is evil goes against the image of the Messiah. Can this contradiction be resolved?"
I am not sure what you meant when you responded "For He made Him Who knew no sinn to be sin for us, the we might become the righteousness of God in Him. II Cor. 5:21"
I think you mean by pointing to II Cor 5:21 that although Christ was sinless, He was made sin for us, that is, He was practically sinful in that He served as one who carried our sins and was treated as sinful for purposes of his suffering in our place. This seems like one of the best explanations to me, as I explained in the two-sentence paragraph near the end of my response above to Shanghaiski. Psalm 51 seems problematic, because here David clearly says he did commit sin, whereas instead of committing sin like David, the Messiah bore sin. These acts are quite different. But still, just as Psalm 22 doesn't appear to necessarily mean David was actually forsaken, Psalm 51 doesn't seem to have to mean that the Messiah would actually commit sin. Health and Happiness to you, Ialmisry!
You asked: "What Psalms translation are you using?" As I understand it most of the Protestant versions are based off the Masoretic texts which take a lot of the references to Christ and changes or obscures them.
My quotes from 2 Samuel 12 and Psalm 51 were from Judaica Press Tanakh, a rabbinical translation. The rabbinical translation here is important because it clearly says David sinned, while a major rabbinical view, if not the one accepted rabbinical view, is that David did not commit adultery or murder. See for example the "Ask Moses" site: http://www.askmoses.com/en/article/182,1972311/Was-King-David-guilty-of-murder-and-adultery.html#articlepage
So if even the rabbinical translations of 2 Samuel 12 and Psalm 51 consider David to have sinned, then it is harder to say that Psalm 51 isn't describing David as sinful, which is what I find problematic.
You are right that most of the Protestant versions, like the King James Version, are based off the Masoretic texts, as is the Judaica press Tanakh version I cited here.
I also agree that the Masoretic texts "take a lot of the references to Christ and changes or obscures them." However, it is not strongly clear that this is the case. In my opinion, Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, Zechariah 12, and Daniel 9 refer to Christ. Yet the places where the Masoretic text change or obscure the specific rferences in those chapters are not so clear as to the best translation. For example, based on the LXX, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and a few Masoretic texts, it appears Psalm 22 says David's hands and feet were "Kaaru", apparently meaning dug into. But Kaaru is a very rare word, so it isn't strongly clear what it really means. The Christian translations I think generally translate this as "pierced", which makes the connection to Christ's limbs' piercing with nails clearer. The Masoretic translations instead mainly say "Karu", meaning "like a lion." From the standpoint that it actually says "dug into" like the nails in Christ, most copies of the Masoretic version changes or obscures this meaning. Kind Regards.
Peter the Aleut,
You had responded: "The Scriptures (OT) all speak of Christ, but that doesn't mean that all the OT Scriptures are prophecies of Christ."
I had responded: "good point", but now I don't remember why your sentence made sense to me, because I am not sure I understand it now.
I think you might have meant that although each book in the OT speaks of Christ, not every verse in them speaks of Him. But that doesn't sound like what you wrote, because saying "the scriptures all" speak of Christ, that is the same as saying "all the OT Scriptures" speak of Him.
Or maybe you meant that although all the scriptures "speak of Christ"- that is, relate to Him, that doesn't mean all of them are "prophecies of Christ." That would make some sense. For example, a passage whose content had nothing to do with Christ would still speak of Him, in that it is part of God's word, and Christ is the Word of God. Even such a passage would relate to, or speak about the Word of God, since it is part of that Word. Still, this seems like an indirect way to explain how all the scriptures speak of him. Because there are some "scriptures," or "writings" in the Bible that don't appear to have any direct relation to Christ, like, say, the place where it says God's spirit was over the water in Genesis 1:2. This verse appears to deal with one part of the trinity, the Holy Spirit. Wishing you sucess in your good work.
Dear Benjamin the Red,
I agree with you when you say:
Orthodox aren't fundamentalists. When the Genesis creation narrative says "day," it doesn't have to be a literal day. When Isaiah writes, "For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." (55:12) Are the trees really clapping their hands? Are mountains singing? No. This is anthropomorphic.
When you say "fundamentalist," you are referring to their idea of "literal" reading of the Bible, as you emphasize with the word "literal". In fact, fundamentalists don't really always take the literal meaning either, since they interpret Revelations symbolically and consider the Eucharist to be merely symbolic. Anyway, you are right that we Orthodox don't take everything literally either. After all, we don't say David literally "is" the Christ, but rather that places like Isaiah 55 describe David in both a Messianic and metaphoric way.
For the examples you gave, it is worth pointing out that I think some Orthodox do see the 6 day creation as literal days. And it is possible that if hills are creaking from an earthquake or other natural disaster, they could be described as singing. Like a voicebox, they would metaphorically emit sounds when vibrating. Furthermore, the trees' leaves are metaphorically their hands, and the trees would clap when the leaves hit eachother as the trees swayed in the wind. But as you said, this is anthropomorphic.I think you are right that "the Psalms are sometimes prophetic, and sometimes not" in "the same way"
as the Bible is sometimes literal and sometimes metaphoric. My assumption on reading things is that it is literal and plain, unless something contradicts that literal reading. So for example I would assume the trees were literally clapping their hands except that I know that trees lack literal hands and know that their leaves are like hands. Similarly, with the Bible, I assume that passages aren't prophetic, unless they are in the future tense or something else shows the passage is predictive.
With the Psalms on the other hand, my assumption is that they are prophetic about the Messiah because the Bible uses David as a Messianic image and says David, who sang the Psalms, had God's spirit. The Psalms have a visionary, poetic quality, so in this context, I have a sense that when David describes himself in poetic visions of himself, he is presumably describing the Messiah too.You are right that "David is a type of Christ,"
since Isaiah 55 mentions David this way, calling him a commander of nations.I am doubtful about your next ideas: "But so is Moses, Abraham, etc. But not always. The Church Fathers speak of this often..."
I see Israel's leaders Moses and Abraham "pre-figuring" Israel's King Messiah like the first manager of a new store "prefigures" later ones that are hired. But I don't see Moses and Abraham depicted as metaphoric images of the Messiah in the Bible, which David was. To give an example, Jeremiah 23:5 predicts God will raise up David as a king. But I don't see a similar prediction about Moses or Abraham being raised up to rule people. That being the case, I am doubtful that the Church fathers often speak of Moses and Abraham as types of Christ.
But perhaps you mean that the Church fathers often speak of the idea that sometimes David, Moses, or Abraham are types of Christ and not other times. While I can see the fathers sometimes considering those figures types of Christ, as in similar leader-figures, I am even more doubtful that the fathers often explain that sometimes those figures are not a type of Christ. It seems extra for them to explain why a metaphorical meaning does not apply, since if it doesn't apply, the person would naturally just take the passage's simple plain meaning.
On another note, while it seems to me that David isn't always a type of Christ, like when he slew Goliath or sinned by sending Uriah to die, I am not sure about this either. For example, slaying Goliath could be like replacing the stronger Roman empire's paganism with Christianity, and sinning by sending Uriah to die could be like taking on the guilt of these kinds of sins, as if He had done them Himself.I believe you as a simple fact- and it shows you have stong knowledge of the fathers when you say- that: "The Church Fathers... sometimes see different things in the same text. The burning bush passage in Exodus, for example. Many Fathers see the Theotokos as the bush, taken divinity within her without being consumed. Some see Christ, his human nature (the bush) and divine nature (the fire), but they co-exist as one person."
It's true that the Theotokos was like the burning bush in that she had divinity inside of her- Christ as a fetus- without being consumed by it. And being on fire means having close contact with fire, like the Theotokos had close contact with Christ while pregnant. Exodus 33:20 says no one had seen God and lived, so it is a real concern about whether someone could have a divine being inside herself and live, because of the close contact. I also see a parallel of the burning bush to Christ, because just as Christ was human and physical, like a bush, He was also divine like the fire, yet like the fire his divinity was not consuming or burning up his body. However, I am not sure that "These are both valid spiritual understandings of the passage. Neither are wrong."
While the bush was on fire, meaning the fire was touching all over and inside the bush, Christ's divinity was part of Christ's body. That is, while the bush itself was on fire, the Theotokos' own body was not. Christ's body had partly come from a cell of the Theotokos, but it was a separate cell from the rest of her body. So I am not sure the analogy is correct.
Similarly, I am not sure that it is a correct analogy to compare Christ's person to the bush, because since the bush was not being consumed, it seems that perhaps the fire was around the outside of the bush without interacting with the bush's skin. Christ's divinity, on the other hand, was inside Him.
Furthermore, I am not sure that those understandings of the text are valid and "not wrong", since the text doesn't state or clearly indicate that it is prophetic. Simply because one sees a parallel between two things does not necessarily mean that that the text equates the two things. For example, Deuteronomy 32:13 says that God is a rock, but that does not mean every time a rock is described in a way that one can see a parallel to God means that God is being equated with the rock there too. It could be in such cases that God and the rock aren't really being equated in some places and thus in those places it is wrong to equate the two. For example, Judges 1:36 appears to lack a reference to God when it says: "And the border of the Amorites was from the going up to Akrabbim, from the rock and upward."
Yet one could imagine a parallel because a rock, like God, is something strong, and here it is talking about a rock, so it is indirectly making a statement about God.So I am not sure you are right when you say: "In the same way, David does not always have to be Christ."
A big difference between God being a rock and David being Christ is that God is not being compared to any exact physical rock, so the parallel doesn't necessarily work. But Christ is being compared to a specific David. To use your examples, just because the parallels between the burning bush and the Theotokos- or the burning bush and Christ- may or may not work doesn't mean that David is always or not always being compared to Christ, since these are different sets of proposed parallels.You are right that "Even some passages can be interpreted multiple ways about Christ".
For example, Psalm 22 begins by saying that it should be played on "ayyeleth hashachar". Now "ayyeleth hashachar" can be translated as the "doe of the morning", the "morning star," or "the strength of the morning." In the Song of Solomon, there is a song about a doe being freed from a cage or prison. And Revelations 22:16 refers to Jesus as the morning star. So the "ayyeleth hashachar" can be interpreted multiple ways about Christ: as referring to his resurrection as being freed or as strength, or to his being a morning star. But I am not sure "that's perfectly valid. The Fathers do this all the time."
Given our limited knowledge of the scriptures, at this point it seems valid to propose different interpretations of the same passage, as I did above, but I am not sure all the interpretations are valid. The composer of the Psalms may have merely had in mind an instrument thought of as "the doe of the morning" that had no connection to a song of freedom, to the "morning star", or to the "morning's strength." Even in that case though, I allow that there could be a divine planning that put this word with its multiple meanings into the text, intending the multiple meanings. I doubt that the Fathers "all the time" interpret some passages multiple ways about Christ, since I don't remember them doing this so many times, and I don't remember a passage that they would. That is, I doubt that there are certain passages the fathers interpret multiple ways every time they discuss them. But perhaps the fathers do this often after all.Health and Happiness to you, Benjamin the Red.