Monday, December 08, 2008

Doug Green on a Messianic Reading of Psalm 23

I spent all of last night beside my 3 year old daughter Alyssa, helping her be sick into a bucket about every hour or so. Even worse, I now feel in my own body the same symptoms beginning to take effect and the same stomach bug getting ready to afflict me with the same horrid effects. Illness naturally lends one to the reading of Scripture and blogging about it. Before the stomach bug leaves me incapacitated, delirious, wrestling with theodicy, and wallowing in self-pity, let me offer some thoughts on Psalm 23 via Doug Green.

Doug Green is Professor of OT at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. In 2005 he gave a paper at ETS entitle, "The Lord is Christ's Shepherd: An Alternative Christological Interpretation of Psalm 23". Green notes how contemporary preaching of the Psalm gives it a christological spin by seeing Jesus as the Lord/Shepherd. Yet if, as the superscript states, Psalm 23 is a Psalm from/about David, then would a real "christological" reading of Psalm 23 make Jesus the narrator or subject of the Psalm, i.e. Jesus is the one who looks to the Lord to be his Shepherd. Green states: "My point here is that the New Testament's interpretation of Jesus as a Second or Greater David figure encourages a re-reading of this 'Psalm of David' in which Jesus becomes the speaker of the Psalm, so that the words 'The Lord is my shepherd' are his words that describe his relationship with his divine Father." That is not opposed to a reading of Jesus as "Lord", but it shows the possibility of another reading arising from his humanity as he takes the role of David, the sheep.

For Green this reading is possible due to the canonical shaping of the Psalter which provides (or I would say enables) eschatological and messianic readings of the Psalms. Green encourages three separate readings of the psalm: grammatical-historical, literary-canonical, and christological. He states, "Read prophetically, Psalm 23 becomes a Psalm of Eschatological David - a psalm he speaks, a psalm about his life. The mini-narrative of the psalmist's pilgrimage to the house of the Lord can be read as prophecy of Christ's pilgrimage through life and death, not to the earthly temple in Jerusalem, but to the true and greater heavenly temple. For Christian leaders, Jesus is the eschtological David, the one in whom the ideals and hopes of Davidic kingship are fulfilled and (I would argue) 'hyper-fulfilled,' that is, fulfilled in a way that goes beyond the grammatical-historical and even the literary-canonical meaning of the Old Testament text". In which case, Ps. 23.4-5 could constitute a proto-resurrection story as well. The Messiah himself undergoes the journey of suffering and fears give way to hope of the blessed life with God. Of cousre, and as Green admits, there is a certain hermeneutical presumption here. As he says: "For me, Christological exegesis is Christotelic exegesis: it is interpreting the Old Testament in ligyt of the Christian affirmation that the story of Jesus Christ has been revealed as the telos, the goal, of the story of redemption."

Must go! Stomach clenching, head spinning, bowels bursting, ... oh dear, I can smell bread!


Dunc and Als said...

remember to worship when kneeling before the great white throne.

But I can relate. I'm reading your blog at 2:45 am in Java with a 4 month old with breathing difficulties.

Mike Beidler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Beidler said...

Thanks for this post. I came across it while I was brushing up on reading the Psalms from a canonical vs. grammatical-historical perspective.

As for smelling bread, I can't say that happens to me. For me, it's a sudden watering of the mouth without the sight of good food being responsible. ;-)