Piercing the Ambiguities of Psalm 22:16 and the Messiah's Mission -- By: Conrad R. Gren

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 48:2 (Jun 2005)
Article: Piercing the Ambiguities of Psalm 22:16 and the Messiah's Mission
Author: Conrad R. Gren


Piercing the Ambiguities of Psalm 22:16
and the Messiah's Mission

Conrad R. Gren

Conrad Gren resides at 21601 SE Edward Dr., Clackamas, OR 97015.

I. Introduction

For centuries, the Psalms have comforted, blessed, and warned God's people. A primary theme in the Psalms is the promised arrival of God's Messiah or Anointed One. Understandings, Jewish and Christian, have changed over the centuries. When Jesus lived on earth, the Jews believed that the Messiah would be a conqueror who would remove the yoke of the hated Roman oppressor. After his death, Christians pointed to many OT passages, notably Psalm 22, Psalm 69, and Isaiah 52–53, where God's Servant was made to suffer intensely and even die. Today, many Jews understand themselves as a people being God's Suffering Servant in these and other passages. However, following a hermeneutic Jesus applied to himself, Christians see these passages as applying to Jesus' death, achieving salvation.

We will focus on Psalm 22, a psalm Christians recognize as fitting this Suffering Servant/Messiah genre. Many aspects of Jesus' suffering and death on the cross find parallels in this psalm. We will survey these, but we will focus on verse 16. It is "the one that got away." Several textual traditions for verse 16 describe a piercing of the hands and feet. This text could have readily been applied to Jesus' situation, but no NT writer appears to quote or allude to this.

We need to outline the nature of this data. Today's traditional Hebrew (Masoretic) text does not say anything about piercing the hands and feet. Rather, it says, "like a lion my hands and my feet." This is, of course, a very difficult reading to explain. English translations demonstrate that there is no consensus as to how it should be rendered. Our readings of "piercing" the hands and feet come to us from the Greek Septuagint (LXX) of around 150 bc, and from the Latin Vulgate translated by Jerome around AD 400. Since both works were translated from the Hebrew, scholars have speculated that the original Hebrew manuscript or Vorlage once had the "pierced" reading. Such an ancient Hebrew manuscript from the Dead Sea area has now been identified and translated. The difference between "like a lion" and "they pierced" is just one letter.

II. New Testament Context

Again, we cannot point to a specific text in the NT that quotes or directly alludes to Ps 16:22's "piercing." ...

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