Messiah in the Old Testament (W. Kaiser) – Psalm 22, 16
Walter Kaiser cites several Psalms in his effort to draw the line from the Old Testament idea of Messiah to identification of Jesus as the fulfillment of messianic prophecy. Included in his work are comments on Psalms 40, 45, 68 & 72. The reader can refer to his book The Messiah in the Old Testament (http://www.christianbook.com/the-messiah-in-the-old-testament/walter-kaiser/9780310200307/pd/0030X?product_redirect=1&Ntt=0030X&item_code=&Ntk=keywords&event=ESRCP) for his comments on those Psalms. Here, I will summarize Kaiser’s writing on Psalm 22 & Psalm 16 as each one points to Jesus as messiah.
Kaiser cites five scholars dating back to Calvin who, in different ways, believe that the sufferer in Psalm 22 is King David, but also that the experience described in the Psalm transcends the experiences of David. So, the Psalm definitely ties to David, but also must be fulfilled by someone (a) who comes after David, and (b) whose experiences are expressed in the Psalm in a way that goes beyond David’s experiences of suffering. One of the scholars cited by Kaiser, Charles Briggs, writing in 1889, says, “The sufferings [described in Psalm 22] transcend those any historical sufferer with the single exception of Jesus Christ.”[i] In other words, only Jesus could fulfill what’s said in the Psalm.
Kaiser agrees, with his pointing to New Testament quotations of the Psalm as being among the strongest of the points in his argument. Two of the supposed 7 last words of Christ, the 4th & 6th, come from this Psalm. The fourth word is “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:45-49; Mark 15:33-37). Kaiser observes that the Psalms were titled by the first line of the Psalm when the New Testament was written. Matthew and Mark present Jesus as having the entire Psalm on his mind in those moments on the cross. Also, the point of emphasis is on the word “my,” emphasizing the relationship of the speaker to God as his father.[ii]
The 6th word, “it is finished,” signifies the completion of God’s redeeming work (Psalm 22:31; John 19:30). That Jesus’ final cry of accomplishment is a quote of the final words of the Psalm further demonstrates his identification with the one singing the lament. From these observations as well as the other points he raises, it is clear that Walter Kaiser sees the Messiah Jesus in the words of Psalm 22.
Psalm 16 points to the resurrection. “My body lies secure; for you do not give me up to Sheol” (16:9b-10a). Peter quoted this Psalm in his Pentecost sermon in Acts 2:27 as he discussed the resurrection. Kaiser feels the hinge that keys the messianic interpretation is in the middle verse 9. The NRSV translates the subject there “my body,” but the actual Hebrew word is plural and means “Holy ones.” Kaiser’s reputation believes this must be translated in the singular, that it refers to Messiah, and that the Messiah is the one who will not be given up to Sheol.
How does one avoid eternal death? Resurrection. Kaiser believes David, the author/singer of Psalm 16, knew one of his descendants would surpass him and would overcome death. He thinks this is all David knew. He didn’t know it would be Jesus, a carpenter’s son from Nazareth. But, he knew one of his descendants would be the one and he conveys that in Psalm 16:9-11. Kaiser also speculates that Psalm 16 could have been one of the passages the resurrected Christ shared with the Emmaus Road disciples (Luke 24).
Kaiser offers much more material demonstrating the presence of the messiah in the Psalms. He says more about the two I’ve discussed as well the ones I mentioned earlier and in the previous post on this topic. In the next post I will review his identification of the messiah in passages from some of the Minor Prophets.