Psalm 22

The Anti-Missionary’s Charge:

A common objection voiced by the anti-missionary runs along these lines:

The gospel writers do address the prophecy about dividing the garments and casting lots, but if the “pierced my hands and feet” was truly in the Septuagint, why would the gospel writers fail to include the prophecy that is vastly more evident and more specific?

HaDavar’s Response:

No one can answer the question regarding why or why not the Gospel writers included or excluded material from the New Testament. That is a totally inappropriate question to ask. That question can only be asked to the Gospel author. We cannot know why God moved them to select the material they selected. We know that the Gospel writers were deliberately selective, but we are not told why they made their selections. We get a little taste of their decision making in the books of John and Luke.

  • John 20:30
  • Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

  • John 21:25
  • And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written.

  • Luke 1:1
  • Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word have handed them down to us, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

In his classic work The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Dr. Alfred Edersheim lists 456 passages from the Hebrew Scriptures that the rabbis referred to as Messianic or said referred to Messianic times (Appendix 9). All the “classic” Messianic references are listed there and a whole lot more. We could just as easily ask why the Gospel writers did not use all of those references as well. No one can answer that question either, even though we know that there is a massive amount of material available to be used.

On the human plane, we know that scrolls were only so long. Luke’s two works, for example, fills the longest scrolls available in the day. So, they had to edit because they had limited room or because they did not want their account to become to unwieldy. Any good author makes those kinds of decisions.

We know all this, but why chose this reference over that one – only the author and God know the answer to that question. The point is not to focus in on what we cannot know. The anti-missionary is trying to direct our attention away from what we do know. If we stick with Scripture, we will receive a more than satisfactory answer to all our questions. The rabbis know that and so they use other tactics to throw us off course and cause doubt. They use shame, intimidation, scorn, arguments from silence, straw-man arguments, etc., anything to divert attention away from the text itself.

That is what is happening here. This is a diversionary question. Stick with the text and do not allow yourself to be diverted to confusing rabbit trails such as this question that no one except the author himself can answer.

A second aspect of the answer lies in the fact that there were no chapter and verse divisions in use in those days. In the first century you referred to a section of Scripture by quoting a passage from it. You had no precise chapter and verse notations to use. As recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus is directing the reader to Psalm 22 when he quotes Psalm 22:1 upon the cross. The first-century reader would know that he is being directed to the entire psalm. He would understand that he should read and study the Psalm in its entirety to try and ascertain the impact and importance. He would understand that he is not to read only verse one and stop there. If the first century reader did that, as would be expected, then he would have read verse 16, and a lot more verses as well. Psalm 22 contains a lot of Messianic data. So, it is very possible that Jesus, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, were all directing the first century reader (and us, some 21 centuries later) to read the entire psalm. This would be the normal expectation in the first century.

Today we tend to chop the Scripture up into out of context bits and pieces. Sometimes this is due, unfortunately, to the traditional chapter and verse breakdowns. Since we do not have a Scripture verse where Jesus states, “Oh by the way, please read the entire Psalm when I quote the first verse,” we cannot be dogmatic in this assertion. However, the likelihood is that this is His intent.

Thirdly, what do the rabbis say about Psalm 22? Let me paste in Dr. Edersheim’s comments.

On Ps. 22:7 (8 in the Hebrew) a remarkable comment appears in Yalkut on Is. 60, applying this passage to the Messiah (the second, or son of Ephraim), and using almost the same words in which the Evangelists describe the mocking behaviour of the Jews at the Cross-Ps. 22:15 (16 in the Hebrew). There is a similarly remarkable application to the Messiah of this verse in Yalkut.[1]

Dr. Edersheim shows us that the Rabbis themselves saw this as a Messianic psalm which is quite in keeping with its use in the New Testament. Jesus was directing us to a psalm that was interpreted as Messianic by the Jewish community.

Finally, the question seems to doubt that Psalm 22 is in the Septuagint. Let me assure you it is most certainly there and translated by Jewish rabbis 200 years before Jesus ever came on the scene.

  1. ^ Edersheim, A. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (electronic ed.)