Saturday, September 07, 2013

Psalm 45 and PROSKUNEW (From "Christology and the Trinity"-Volume 1)

In the unparalleled and beautiful Messianic Psalm 45 (44 LXX), the Hebrew lyricist treats his readers to one of the greatest literary and spiritual accomplishments in human history. The psalmist proclaims that his words are heartfelt utterances about a king. His tongue consequently becomes like a writing instrument as he pictorially relates the beauty and glory of the Potentate that God supremely blesses (Ps 45:1, 2) for all eternity. This King is indeed mighty, prosperous and most capable of utterly annihilating his enemies in truth and righteousness as his weapons accurately penetrate the heart of his adversaries with incomprehensible precision (Ps 45:3-5).

As the psalmist continues delineating the royal activities of Yahweh's King, he goes into some detail describing the profuse and aromatic oils that emanate from the King's garments as his queenly consort stands at his right hand, while she too appears arrayed in exquisite and aromatic garments (Ps 45:10). Though this entire psalm is dramatic and quite telling, we must stop now in order to focus on Ps 45:11-12 (44:12, 13 LXX). This verse in the LXX reads: kai proskunesousin autos thugateres Tyrou en dorois to prosopon sou litaneusousin hoi plousioi tou laou.

The Hebrew text indicates that it is the queenly consort herself who should bow down to the King. Originally, the psalm evidently had reference to an anointed Judean king who sat upon the throne of Jehovah (1 Chron 29:23). It is a nuptial ode that scholars have associated with Solomon or with the wedding of Ahab (Buttenwieser 84-85). The psalm most certainly does not apply to a pagan king in its initial fulfillment, however, since it is YHWH who anoints the mighty King (Ps 45:8, 9). Knowing the possible identity of the King in the song's initial application is important, for this insight helps us to understand in what sense either the Maiden of Tyre or the queenly consort of the King is to render proskuneo to him.

While proskuneo in Ps 45:11-12 could certainly mean that the Maiden of Tyre or the queen worships the King, it is more likely the case that the song depicts the queen or the Maiden of Tyre simply bowing down to the King with great deference or respect. This point is especially clear in the LXX where the Maiden of Tyre seeks the King’s favor by means of expensive and very precious gifts (Buttenwieser 86). Thus, the psalmist's use of proskuneo does not seem to denote “worship,” but simply refers to a display of respect for a superior (God's royal Messiah whom He has anointed and blessed). The usage of proskuneo in Ps 45:11-12 appears to reflect that found in Mk 5:6 and other texts that involve Jesus (Jn 9:38). Compare Ralph Earle’s comments concerning Mk 5:6 in his Word Meanings in the New Testament.


Tim said...


Glad to have found your blog. I think Psalm 45 is really important for explaining Thomas' words at John 20:28. The NIV footnote says that when the Psalmist says "thy throne O God", the king is being addressed as God's representative. Therefore, Jesus is God's representative at Jn 20:28, which is why, IMO, Thomas addresses Jesus as "my Lord" first, then recognises that he acts as his "God" second.

What do you think?

Also, what are your thoughts on the Church Father's views of the punishment of the wicked? Many say that they were conditionalists, but others disagree. Would love to hear your thoughts.

I am JW BTW.

JimSpace said...

Hi Tim, you may enjoy my blog post "The Throne of God" regarding the vocative translation of Ps 45:6 and Hebrews 1:8. I also connected this with Thomas' exclamation.

T. Scott Lawson said...

προσκυνήσουσιν verb 3rd pl aor subj act

It is interesting to me that the verb is aorist.

T. Scott Lawson

Βασίλειος said...

The record shows that during the 2nd century there was a variety of views as regards death: at least four! The majority seems to expect the Millennium on Earth. Yet, some, as Justin, Ireneaus and Tertullian, believed in a middle state of the souls in Hades, before the resurrection. They emphatically deny that this place is in heaven, but some believe that martyrs are excluded and may go to heaven immediately after their death. Such a view may be a distortion of the “two hopes” (heavenly and earthly) clearly found in Romans and Revelation. Justin and Ireneaus explicitly say that wicked souls will be perished (at the end of the Millennium), and that immortality is a gift bestowed on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice. On the contrary, Tertullian considers immortality a natural characteristic of the soul, and thus he believes in the eternal torments. Tatian also believes in the eternal torments, but he doesn’t accept the middle state of the souls. He explicitly says that soul is perished at death, yet the wicked will be resurrected to be tormented eternally. Clement of Rome and Papias strongly believe in the Millennium and to the fact that immortality is a gift to the faithful ones. The latter seems to refer to an earthly and a heavenly class, but his testimony is fragmentary. They say nothing explicit for a middle state or eternal torments, but they use biblical language for the destruction of the wicked. Finally, there is an increasing dualistic tendency in Egypt. Gnosticism prepares the ground for platonic Christianity, as it is found in Clement of Alexandria and Origen. They believe in the preexistence of the souls and, thus, strongly deny earthy restitution (=eathly life for them is a result of sin) and, on the contrary, they propose a universal hope of a heavenly life, which is achieved by a fiery purification of the souls (and possibly by reincarnation). This Clement, following Plato, speaks of "a thousand years” of purification, which seems to me to be a platonic distortion of the “healing of the nations” (Revelation 2:2). Both don’t believe in eternal torments.

Tim said...

The following page has some very interesting information about Irenaeus:

The trouble with the "Church Fathers" is that as uninspired men, they are not above contradicting themselves and each other. For example, Justin Martyr will say on the one hand that the wicked exist only as long as God wills them to be punished, but on the other hand they will suffer forever. Irenaeus seems to state emphatically that the wicked will not have everlasting existence, but on the other hand he elsewhere suggests that the wicked will be everlastingly bereft of all that is good in hell.

Do you have any citations for the quotes you gave, so that I can look them up?

It's interesting to study the works of these early Christians as we can see how various doctrines, like the Trinity, developed. There is so much Platonism in them though that it is hard to tell exactly what they believed about the consciousness of the dead and the punishment of the wicked.

Any more thoughts?

Edgar Foster said...

Hi Tim,

In answer to your question about Ps 45 and John 20:28, it's quite possible that Thomas was viewing Jesus as God's representative much like Moses was Elohim in this sense.

Tim said...

Yes I think it's more plausible than that Thomas viewed Jesus as the object of his worship or Almighty God.

Thomas refers to Jesus as THE God of me...well according to Trinitarians, THE God of Thomas was the Trinity, which would mean that Thomas' statement would make Jesus the Trinity.

On the other hand, we can see that the Davidic King was both referred to as "God" and indeed renderred obeisance as God's representative by looking at Psalm 45:6 and comparing it with 1 Chronicles 29:20:;%201%20chronicles%2029:20&version=NIV

The KJV at 1 Chr 29:20 explicitly states that the people worshipped God AND the King. Obviously he was not literally worshipped, showing that when Jesus is renderred "proskuneo" it does not necessarily mean that he is worshipped as Almighty God.

Tim said...

Origen also makes an interesting point about "proskuneo" in "On Prayer":

"Should anyone, however who believes that prayer ought to be made to Christ himself, confused by the sense of the expression make obeisance, confront us with that acknowledged reference to Christ in Deuteronomy, “Let all God’s angels make obeisance to Him,” we may reply to him that the church, called Jerusalem by the prophet, is also said to have obeisance made to her by kings and queens who become her foster sires and nurses, in the words, “Behold, I lift up my hand upon the nations, and upon the isles will I lift up my sign: and they shall bring your sons in their bosom and your daughters they shall lift up on their shoulders; and kings shall be your foster sires, their queens, their nurses: to the face of the earth shall they make obeisance to you, and the dust of your feet shall they lick: and you shall know that I am the Lord and shall not be ashamed.”"

Edgar Foster said...


You make good points based on Jn 20:28 and 1 Chronicles 29:20. Here is something I wrote sometime ago that might contribute meaningfully to this discussion.

Maybe Jesus did not refuse worship from Thomas because the apostle did not render it to him in the first place. While it is possible that John used a nominative hO QEOS and hO KURIOS for the vocative
forms QEE and KURIE, Max Zerwick observes that the construction hO KURIOS . . . hO QEOS is "nom. w. art. for voc. sec. 34; if not rather an exclamation."

So it's possible the the construction in Jn 20:28 is a nominative of exclamation. While I have traditionally viewed hO KURIOS . . . hO QEOS [etc] as an example of a NT writer employing
nominatives for vocatives, I now think that there is good evidence for interpreting this construction as a nominative of exclamation. First, out of the 88 times or so that Jesus is addressed as "Lord" in Scripture, the vocative form KURIE is normally utilized. Never is KURIOS used when Jesus is addressed. Jn 20:28 would be the
only exception.

Furthermore, the papyrological
evidence also tends to favor the nominative of exclamation idea. KURIOS (as a nominative of address) is not used in the papyri, as far as I know, when one person is addressing another. Even if Thomas called Jesus "my God and Lord" though, the text still does not present a genuine problem for Witnesses in view of how ELOHIM/QEOS is used elsewhere in Scripture and extra-biblical writings.

Edgar Foster said...

Good quote also from Origen. The East has long made a distinction between prokunew and latreia which should only be given to God.

Tim said...

Maybe not strictly the same sort of thing, but I was thinking the other day of how Jesus addressed Peter as "Satan", without literally meaning that Peter WAS Satan. Likewise David and Jesus were both called "God", because they represented him, as Peter unintentionally represented Satan at Mt 16:23.