"O L-RD, Who are my power and my strength and my refuge in the day of trouble, to You nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, 'Only lies have our fathers handed down to us, emptiness in which there is nothing of any avail! Can a man make gods for himself, and they are no gods? 'Therefore, behold I let them know; at this time I will let them know My power and My might, and they shall know that My Name is the L-RD".
Jeremiah 16:19-21

Question: Dear Rabbi Singer, 

A co-worker and friend of mine, who I know is a fundamentalist Christian, recently asked me what Jews think about the Trinity.  I told him that the concept is not part of our religion and that Jews believe in only one God.  He went on to ask me to explain Psalm 110 to him, which starts in English, “The Lord said unto my Lord . . . .”  To him this is yet another proof of the trinity.  I could   not give him an answer to his question.  Would you please explain   the meaning of this.

Thank You.

Answer:

Psalm 110 represents one of the New Testament’s most stunning, yet clever mistranslations of the Jewish scriptures.  Moreover, the confusion created by the Christianization of this verse was further perpetuated and promulgated by numerous Christian translators of the Bible as well.  As you will soon see, some Christian translators, to their credit, refrain from rewriting this text in Psalm 110.

The story of the church’s tampering with Psalm 110 is so old that it begins in the Christian canon itself.  In the Gospels we find the church’s first use of Psalm 110, and it begins with a question.  In Matthew 22:41-44 Matthew’s Jesus turns to the Pharisees and asks them,

What do you think about the Christ?  Whose son    is he?

The question in laymen’s terms is, “Of whom is the messiah supposed to be a descendant?”

They said to him, “The son of David.”  He said to them, “How then does David in the spirit call him ‘Lord,’ saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool”?’  If David then called him Lord, how is he his son?”  No one was able to answer him a word, neither did any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.

Although the above conversation could never have occurred, I am certain this narrative has been replayed over and over again in the imagination of countless Christians for nearly 1,900 years.

It’s an inspiring story to the Christian believer.  Jesus really showed those Pharisees how little they knew!  Yet, this is precisely why this story could never have transpired.  No Jew who had even a superficial knowledge of the Jewish scriptures would have ever found Jesus’ argument compelling, let alone a conversation stopper.  The depth of knowledge that the Pharisees possessed of Tanach was astounding.

Let’s take a closer look at the original verse from which Matthew’s Jesus quoted so that you have a sense of how the original Hebrew text was masked.  The New American Standard Bible (NASB), one of the most widely read Christian Bibles in use today, translates Psalm 110:1 in the following manner,

The Lord said unto my Lord, “Sit thou on my right hand, till I put thine enemies underneath thy feet.”

It appears from the NASB translation that the “Lord,” which is God, “said unto to my Lord” — who missionaries would have you believe is Jesus (David’s “Lord”) — “Sit thou on my right hand, till I put thine enemies underneath thy feet.”

Is the above verse speaking about Jesus?  Not at all, yet look at the first word “Lord” in the verse.  Now look at the second word “Lord” (they are only three words apart).  Did you notice any difference between them?  You didn’t because the Christian translator carefully masked what it actually says in the text of the original Hebrew.

Although the two English words in the NASB translation are carefully made to appear identical, in the original Hebrew text they are entirely different.  Whereas the first word “Lord” in the Hebrew is a correct translation of ,1, which is the Tetragrammaton (YHWH), the ineffable name of God, the second word “Lord” is a complete and deliberate mistranslation of the text.  The second word “Lord” in the verse is an appalling translation of the Hebrew word (pronounced ladonee).  The correct translation of ladonee is “to my master” or “to my lord.”  The Hebrew word adonee never refers to God anywhere in the Bible.  It is only used for the profane, never the sacred.  That is to say, God, the Creator of the universe, is never called adonee in the Bible.  There are many words reserved for God in the Bible; adonee, however, is not one of them.

To illustrate this, let’s look for a completely different place in the Bible where the exact same Hebrew word appears and find out how the same New American Standard Bible translates it there.

For example, we find the same word,  (ladonee), used in the following two verses which have been translated by the same New American Standard Bible where the identical word is used as in Psalm 110:

Then he and the men who were with him ate and drank and spent the night.  When they arose in the morning, he said, “Send me away to my master
(ladonee: ).” (Genesis 24:54, New American Standard Bible)

He also commanded them saying, “Thus you shall say to my lord (ladonee) Esau, ‘Thus says your servant Jacob, “I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now.” ‘ ” (Genesis 32:4, New American Standard Bible)

The Hebrew word ladonee used in the above two verses is referring to Abraham and Esau, respectively.  Notice that the Hebrew word used in both verses is identical to the Hebrew word in Psalm 110:1.  Why did the New American Standard Bible translate ladonee correctly in Genesis 24:54 as “to my master,” or in Genesis 32:4 as “to my lord,” yet, for some reason, in Psalm 110:1 mistranslate it as “Lord”?

The answer is obvious.  Both Genesis 24:54 and Genesis 32:4 are not texts used by the church to “prove” Jesus from the Jewish scriptures and therefore they had no reason to tamper with them.  Psalm 110:1, on the other hand, is a verse that is flaunted by the New Testament and its missionaries as a verse that evangelicals insist “unquestionably points only to Jesus,” and it therefore was deliberately mistranslated.

Some Christian translations are more transparent in their rendering of Psalm 110 than the New American Standard Bible.  For example, the King James Version and a few other Bibles still render the second “Lord” as if it were sacred; however, they translate the first “LORD” in upper case.  This is a helpful hint to the keen observer that there is a distinction between them.  Of course, it’s up to the curious Bible student to then look up the second “Lord” in a Hebrew Bible.  Only such a deliberate and thorough investigation would uncover how the text was doctored.

It should be noted that while many Christian translators indulge in this manipulation of Psalm 110:1, some do not.  Numerous modern Christian Bibles have corrected Matthew’s mistranslation.  For example, the Revised Standard Version and the New English Bible correctly render the Hebrew word ladonee as ” to my lord,” in Psalm 110:1, indicating that it is not speaking of God.

As mentioned above, this tampering with Psalm 110:1 began long ago in the Christian Bible itself.  The Christian translators, who would later also mistranslate this verse, simply followed in the footsteps of the author of the first Gospel.  If we look at the original Greek of Matthew 22:44 we find the same doctoring of the text in later Christian translations of the Book of Psalms.  When Matthew has Jesus quote Psalm 110:1 to the Pharisees, the identical Greek word kurios2 (pronounced koo-re-os) is used both times the word “Lord” appears in Matthew 22:44.

Finally, it is essential that I explain the meaning of Psalm 110:1.  Of whom is this Psalm really speaking?  To whom are the words “my master” or “my lord” referring?

The Psalm begins with the opening Hebrew words “Mizmor l’David.”  The word “Mizmor” means “a song,” and thus the opening phrase of this Psalm is, “A Song of David.”  In fact, the word Psalms comes from the Greek word psalmos, which means “a song.”  This is unknown to many Bible readers.

Why would King David be writing these songs?  For whom was he writing them?  By whom were they to be sung?  With these questions in mind, we can begin to understand the intent of Psalm 110.

One of the great disappointments in King David’s illustrious life occurred when God refused his request to build the first Temple in Jerusalem.  Although David’s son Solomon undertook that task and eventually constructed the first Temple, David’s connection to it was significant.

For example, David founded the city of Jerusalem, the city where the Temple was built.  In fact, both the city and the Temple were called after him, the City and Temple of David.  Moreover, he made preparations for the building of the Temple, and even arranged for the Temple service (II Samuel 7; I Chronicles 14-17, 22-26).  This is where the Book of Psalms played its central role.  King David was a faithful servant of God who possessed extraordinary skills as a teacher, musician, and poet.  In fact, King David authored most of the Book of Psalms.  The original purpose for which King David composed the Book of Psalms was for the Levites to sing them in the Temple.  The Levites would stand on a platform and joyfully chant these spiritually exhilarating Psalms to an inspired people.  King David composed Psalm 110 for liturgical recitation by the Levites in the Temple years after his death.  Therefore, the Levites would read this lyric,

The Lord [God] said to my master [King David] “Sit thou at my right hand . . . .”

For the church, however, the Psalmist’s original intent was superseded by its interest in Christianizing this verse.  Thus, the opening verse in Psalm 110 was altered in order to paint Jesus into the Jewish scriptures.

Here is some advice.  The only way to recognize such rampant Christian tampering of the Bible is to be able to read it in the original, without the aid of the Christian translator.  Therefore, give your children a good Jewish education.  Remember, the success of the missionaries who target us represents the unpaid bills of the Jewish people.

Sincerely yours,

Rabbi Tovia Singer

Footnotes:

Click on the footnote to return to the article
1The hyphens which appear between the last two Hebrew letters, the vav and the hey, were inserted by the author for the purpose of not inappropriately placing the sacred name of God on a web site where it might be printed out and then eventually discarded.

2 Although the two Greek words kurios in this verse are the same, they are written with a slightly different syntax.  Whereas the Greek word for the first word “Lord” in Matthew 22:44 is kurios, the Greek word for the second word “Lord” is kurio, because the latter is in the dative case, indicating “to” or “for” which an action occurs.  This Greek syntax functions similarly to how the lameddoes as a prefix in the Hebrew language.

 

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