Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1, “Eli, Eli lama sabactani!!” (As “seen from the cross…”)
Welcome to DORScribe, a blog about reading the Bible with an open mind…
In other words, this blog is different. It’s different because it says that you can get more out of the Bible by reading it with an open mind, and that it was written to liberate people, not shackle them into some kind of “spiritual straitjacket.”
Such ideas run contrary to some common perceptions these days.
Money. Power. Rules. Politics. Those seem to be the reasons why too many Americans are turning away from the Christian religion, along with the general perception that too many Christians are way too negative. But Jesus was anything but “negative.”
For more on these thoughts and others see About this Blog, which talks instead about the Three Great Promises of Jesus, and about how through those promises we can live full, rich lives of spiritual abundance and do greater miracles than Jesus, if only we open our minds…
In the meantime:
This regular feature focuses on next Sunday’s psalm, and on highlights from the psalms in the Daily Office Readings (DORs) during the week leading up to that upcoming Sunday. Usually I’ll review the next Sunday’s readings on the Wednesday before, and also review the psalms from the DORs for the week ending on the Tuesday just before that “prior Wednesday.”
The Lectionary psalm for Sunday, October 26, is Psalm 90, discussed below. The Daily Office psalms are from the readings for Wednesday October 15 up to Tuesday October 21.
Here are some highlights from last week.
The DORs for Wednesday, October 15 included Psalm 119:19, “I am a stranger here on earth.” That verse goes along with one of the psalms for Tuesday October 21, Psalm 39:14; “For I am but a sojourner with you, a wayfarer, as all my forebears were.” (Both psalm-verses remind us that that our stay here on Earth is temporary…)
The DORs for Friday, October 17, include Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” In the original Hebrew or Aramaic (there’s some debate), it’s “Eli, Eli lama sabactani:”
It is the only saying that appears in more than one Gospel [Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34], and is a quote from King David in Psalm 22:1. This saying is taken by some as an abandonment of the Son by the Father. Other theologians understand the cry as that of one who was truly human and who felt forsaken. Put to death by his foes, very largely deserted by his friends, he may have felt also deserted by God.
See Sayings of Jesus on the cross – Wikipedia. See also Sabachthani, which explores the Hermeneutic meaning of the word, including possible Hebrew and Aramaic variations. The site further explores whether that key word means “sacrificed” or “forsaken:”
Does it matter whether one interprets sabachthani as forsaken or as sacrificed? The phrase, “Why have you sacrificed me?” avoids the escape route of explaining Jesus’ vital question by means of rare Aramaic words. It keeps us tied to Hebrew Scripture, and at the same time gives a deeper meaning to an Old Testament prophecy. It also changes the nature of Christ’s cry. It is not the complaint of a desperate victim, David, but the shout of our victorious Savior, Jesus. When Christ asks with a loud voice, “Why have you sacrificed me?” He wants all believers to shout, “To reconcile us with God, and to give us eternal life!”
Psalm 22:16-18 also applied to Jesus; “they have pierced my hands and feet – they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots.”
The DORs for Saturday, October 18, included Psalm 110. For more on that, and especially verses 1 and 4, see On the Psalms up to September 7 (on “Melchiz′edek”). The DORs for Monday, October 20, included Psalm 9:10, “You never forsake those who seek you, O Lord,” and as noted, Tuesday (10/21) includes Psalm 39:14, “For I am but a sojourner with you…”
Getting back to Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17 (for Sunday October 26), it’s a prayer on “God’s Eternity and Human Frailty.” This reading leaves out verses 7 through 12, including verse 10 (in the ERV), “We live about 70 years or, if we are strong, 80 years. But most of them are filled with hard work and pain. Then, suddenly, the years are gone, and we fly away.” (Which is of course all too true…)
The International Bible Commentary (IBC) said the psalm is about “life’s either-or” (poor choices), a reflection after a period of calamity and of hoping “prayerfully for better things.”
Verses 1 and 2 are thus an affirmation of faith, while verses 3 to 6 are a “meditation on man’s finiteness[;] The somber fact of human mortality stands out all the starker against the background of divine infinity.” That leads to verses 13 to 17, a “prayer for blessed lives” and an appeal to God for mitigation; “God’s servants cannot live aright without God’s gracious help.”
And a BTW: The IBC noted – about verse 10 – that “In the light of anthropological archaeology seventy years was not the average age but a standard limit that some might reach.”
The psalm begins “Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to another” and ends, “May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us; prosper the work of our hands…”
The upper image is courtesy of Sayings of Jesus on the cross – Wikipedia, with the caption,
“Crucifixion, seen from the Cross by James Tissot, c. 1890.” For another view see My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? – Brooklyn Museum, referring to the work in “Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper,” by the same French artist, James Tissot (1836-1902):
In the ninth hour of the Passion (three o’clock in the afternoon), Jesus “gives utterance to that cry of anguish, the most heartrending which ever resounded upon this earth,” Tissot writes. In his commentary, Tissot indicates that Christ’s words – the title of this work – are derived from the opening verse of the 22nd Psalm, a text that begins with a lamentation on God’s seeming absence or desertion.
The full “Hermeneutic” citation is Hermeneutics – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Note also that Psalm 22 includes verses 7-8, “All who see me mock at me, they make mouths at me, they wag their heads; ‘He committed his cause to the Lord; let him deliver him, let him rescue him, for he delights in him!'” Compare that with Matthew 27:39-43:
And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
The lower image is courtesy of Psaltery – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the full caption: “A woman playing a psalterion. Ancient Greek red-figured pelike from Anzi, Apulia, circa 320–310 BCE.”