Objections to "Messianic Consciousness" position on the Psalms

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PointingToChrist

Puritan Board Freshman
I don't say he speaks those words AS as sinner, himself. He speaks them in my place. Christ is a "publick" person, he's a Representative.

Do you think that for him to say those words would make him a liar; he can't lie; ergo, he cannot say them? In that case, how can he even go to the cross? What is the division between words and actions?

That is an interesting thought; I shall have to ponder it.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
I don't know about the Messianic Consciousness idea i.e. that all the Psalms are about Christ in different ways, or that Christ is talking. It's true that Christ is talking in all of Scripture, but are all the Psalms in particular about the Messiah thinking and talking?

Maybe I need a short definition of the Messianic Consciousness idea to get a better handle on it.

What is true is that although we are not told that Christ penned or sang any non-Psalmodic songs, to remember that our Lord in His humanity, was and is, intimately familiar with all of the Psalms, and made use of them in a way that no other covenant man has, and that in that sense we are singing them with Him, does greatly transform one's spiritual appreciation of the Psalms.

These things, and others, should be more widely pointed out to those evangelicals and Reformed that don't understand the central place that the Psalms have in the RPW, and should have in all Christian churches.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Maybe I need a short definition of the Messianic Consciousness idea to get a better handle on it.

In all modesty, I coined the phrase in order to make a clear statement about the Psalms as a whole which was distinct from the "Messianic Psalms" approach. I didn't think it would be picked up and used as the default name of a unique position. The name applies to the question, How do the Psalms point to Christ? In short, Christ and the apostles were not selective in the use of particular Psalms but saw all the Psalms as (1) speaking of Christ, and (2) Christ speaking. The former is common with prophecy while the latter is a distinctive quality which arises from the Anointed (Messianic or Christic) element so apparent throughout the Psalter. See especially the reference to Psalm 16 in Acts 2, where the apostle Peter draws attention to the relevance of both facts. While, therefore, the whole Old Testament points to Christ, the Psalms are unique in setting forth the Messianic consciousness of His sufferings and glory. On this basis the Psalms would have served a special role in the maturing of Christ's own Messianic consciousness, which explains why He was able to give expression to the Psalms from the perspective of a first person speaker.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
That's an excellent statement, Mr. Winzer. Thank you for summarizing so succinctly.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Hello, I just have two quick questions that have popped up in my mind since we last discussed this here. Big thanks to VictorBravo for re-opening the thread!

armourbearer said:
In short, Christ and the apostles were not selective in the use of particular Psalms but saw all the Psalms as (1) speaking of Christ, and (2) Christ speaking. The former is common with prophecy while the latter is a distinctive quality which arises from the Anointed (Messianic or Christic) element so apparent throughout the Psalter.
As I've been paying more attention to the use of the Psalms in the NT, I'm not sure if **all** of them have both those elements. It seems they all have (1), but not all have (2). Perhaps there's a use in the NT where both (1) and (2) are present for a psalm that speaks of Christ in the third or second person? Couldn't another way to view the NT interpretation of the Psalms be that they were all about Christ, and (with perhaps a therefore but perhaps as a distinct principle) the parts spoken of in the first person were Christ speaking too (which is why the reference in Hebrews could be used persuasively for its audience)? Well, except Psalm 110, I guess, but the internal markers of the Psalm are enough to show it as an exception, I think. Perhaps there's an interpretive reason such that consistency requires one to apply (1) and (2) to all the Psalms nevertheless?


As a separate question, it seems to me that in Psalm 45, Christ is being addressed, not merely spoken of. So according to this view, Christ would be addressing Himself in the second person? I notice that Christ speaks of Himself in the third person even in the gospels, but I don't know of where He addresses Himself in the second person.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Raymond,
How else would the incarnate Christ sing the Psalms, if he didn't become the speaker of them in a very real sense. As we sing these things, the expressions become ours. With Christ, they perfectly became his, who inspired them in the prophet to begin with. So, coming and going, the sentiments begin and end in the mind of Christ. He is either teaching the hearer with his own words, or else he's expressing his interior life--even when he's taking our sins and griefs upon himself, and expressing our misery. He really bore those things, and felt those things, on our behalf.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Couldn't another way to view the NT interpretation of the Psalms be that they were all about Christ

I have cut you off mid sentence because whatever you say from this point is merely a matter of ironing out the details. Once you allow that they are "all" about Christ then it must be accepted that Christ Himself would have appropriated them all to Himself, which is all that I am concerned to show. Certainly, we must be sensitive to the difference between I, Thou, and He. In saying that the Psalms are all about Christ we should not be taken to mean that they are not about anything else.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Thank you both!

Contra_Mundum said:
How else would the incarnate Christ sing the Psalms, if he didn't become the speaker of them in a very real sense.
Very true! I guess that gets rid of that class of objections.

armourbearer said:
I have cut you off mid sentence because whatever you say from this point is merely a matter of ironing out the details. Once you allow that they are "all" about Christ then it must be accepted that Christ Himself would have appropriated them all to Himself, which is all that I am concerned to show. Certainly, we must be sensitive to the difference between I, Thou, and He. In saying that the Psalms are all about Christ we should not be taken to mean that they are not about anything else.
Apologies for being dull, but for some reason, I'm having trouble following this; perhaps I'm making things more difficult than they actually are? I can accept that if all the Psalms are about Christ, that He would have appropriated them all to Himself--well, the parts that referred to Him anyway--, and if that's all you're trying to show, I guess I have nothing I can object to. But I thought your position went further by making Christ the speaker in each psalm? If so, couldn't He have appropriated them in such a way that in some cases He was only the object of the psalm rather than the speaker of the Psalm (like Psalm 45, possibly, and other Psalms that refer to Him as an object, while the speaker is the merely human prophet)? Though thanks to the above posts, I will have to acknowledge that it is certainly quite possible for Christ to be the speaker in such psalms, and indeed, that while on earth, He spoke them in that perfect sense mentioned by Rev. Buchanan when He sang them.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
But I thought your position went further by making Christ the speaker in each psalm?

I am happy to say He is the speaker as a matter of pre-eminence, but not in such a way that the I, Thou, and He, are all referential to Him. We must still be subject to the rules of grammatical interpretation. In Ps. 109:8, for example, "let another take his office," has a referent which is obviously distinct from Christ. If, after sound principles of interpretation are applied, we end up with specific conclusions which seem difficult to understand, then that is a matter of ironing out the details. The uniqueness of the Psalms and the plenitude of Christ's office as prophet, priest, and king, will provide important considerations for working out such details. But I fail to see how this is pertinent to an examination of the approach itself. Every approach has such details and difficulties that it must work with.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
armourbearer said:
I am happy to say He is the speaker as a matter of pre-eminence, but not in such a way that the I, Thou, and He, are all referential to Him. We must still be subject to the rules of grammatical interpretation. In Ps. 109:8, for example, "let another take his office," has a referent which is obviously distinct from Christ. If, after sound principles of interpretation are applied, we end up with specific conclusions which seem difficult to understand, then that is a matter of ironing out the details. The uniqueness of the Psalms and the plenitude of Christ's office as prophet, priest, and king, will provide important considerations for working out such details. But I fail to see how this is pertinent to an examination of the approach itself. Every approach has such details and difficulties that it must work with.
Thank you! That clears up quite a few things, e.g., where the Father speaks to the Son in some psalms.

As for your argument for your interpretative method that I was originally interacting with when the thread was re-opened, it appears that you are saying that (1) all the psalms are about Christ, as seen from the NT, (2) so Christ would have appropriated them to Himself, (3) so Christ is the pre-eminent speaker in all of them, having appropriated them to Himself. I guess the issue I'm having trouble with is moving from (2) to (3). It actually appears to be one of the objections I listed in the OP! I'm having trouble seeing how all the psalms being about Christ implies that Christ is the pre-eminent speaker, the fulfillment of the Psalmist's role. I can follow that Christ would have appropriated the psalms to Himself, but I'm not sure how that means we see Christ as the pre-eminent speaker in psalms where Christ is spoken about by a distinct prophet Psalmist. I don't know if I'm phrasing that properly, but I'm now trying to ask a question about how the interpretive method is arrived at. Is the issue one of maintaining a consistent interpretative method, and I'm just having difficulty applying it consistently after accepting (2)? Or maybe I'm unintentionally making an argument about details?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Raymond, I will be away for a few days, so this may be my last response for the time being.

If we are going to accept the Psalms as a part of the Christian canon, and if we are going to sing the Psalms as appropriate in NT worship, we have to exercise some understanding of their Messianic nature. So we have to arrive at some conclusion regarding the NT use of the Psalms.

I begin with the point that the old Messianic Psalms approach does not suffice. It is not just statements about the Messiah which are referred to the Messiah in the NT. We have first person statements from the Psalmist being appropriated by Christ and assumed by the apostles to be appropriate to Christ. Sometimes the Psalmist himself is excluded from being the ultimate referent of these statements. It is only on the basis that the Psalmist is more than a prophet that this could be possible. He is also a type. As a type he appears in all the Psalms, not merely some of them. Once we accept this fact we must look for something fuller than the Messianic Psalms approach.

Now, if "Messianic consciousness" is an unhappy name for expressing the idea that the Spirit of Christ speaks through His type in all of the Psalms, or that Christ Himself appropriated these Psalms in His own conception of His Messianic character, then discard the term. It was a term that was used in an occasional manner to draw attention to something more adequate than the Messianic Psalms approach. I am only concerned for the substance which lies behind the use of the term. I desire to hear Christ singing in the midst of the church in the same way the apostolic church heard Him. That is all. I am not interested in anything unique or novel. Blessings!
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
armourbearer said:
Raymond, I will be away for a few days, so this may be my last response for the time being.
Thanks so much for your patience! I think I finally got it now! I'll have to give it a think overnight and a day to be sure, but I'm quite certain I get it now. (My goal was to not only see if the position could be shown from Scripture but also to understand the position well enough that I could share it with others and to be able to make the case for it from Scripture on my own--within a layman's limitations, of course.) And if not, I'll just have to wait until you return (unless someone else answers!). I hope all goes well. :)

armourbearer said:
I begin with the point that the old Messianic Psalms approach does not suffice. It is not just statements about the Messiah which are referred to the Messiah in the NT. We have first person statements from the Psalmist being appropriated by Christ and assumed by the apostles to be appropriate to Christ. Sometimes the Psalmist himself is excluded from being the ultimate referent of these statements. It is only on the basis that the Psalmist is more than a prophet that this could be possible. He is also a type. As a type he appears in all the Psalms, not merely some of them. Once we accept this fact we must look for something fuller than the Messianic Psalms approach.
Thanks a bunch! There's the important logical step I was missing in my mind! I can see much, much better all the things you and others were pointing out again and again in this thread and in others.

armourbearer said:
Now, if "Messianic consciousness" is an unhappy name for expressing the idea that the Spirit of Christ speaks through His type in all of the Psalms, or that Christ Himself appropriated these Psalms in His own conception of His Messianic character, then discard the term. It was a term that was used in an occasional manner to draw attention to something more adequate than the Messianic Psalms approach. I am only concerned for the substance which lies behind the use of the term. I desire to hear Christ singing in the midst of the church in the same way the apostolic church heard Him. That is all. I am not interested in anything unique or novel. Blessings!
Well honestly, I just borrowed the label because it looked like a convenient way to refer to this position at the time I posted the thread, and I'm not very good at coming up with names for things. :) But words do mean things; whether there could be a more helpful label, if any, I'm not sure. And I desire that too!
 

J. Dean

Puritan Board Junior
Does Christ feel the crushing weight of David's guilt and shame? If he does, how do those first-person words not pass his lips--for David's sake? For mine?

While I see where you are going with this, doesn't that overreach the Messianic consciousness? Can't we say that some of the Psalms are David speaking as David?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
J.D.,
In his incarnate flesh, did Christ sing all the Psalms, like 32 & 51, or just the "righteous" ones? And if he did sing them, in what sense did he identify with the sentiments?
 
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