Many psalms contain references that are considered to be messianic, but none more than Psalm 22. Modern readers may read this passage and consider it as prophecy pertaining to Jesus. This is a logical conclusion considering that it is referenced in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament passage and contains imagery incredibly similar to what is found at Jesus’ crucifixion. The purpose of this paper is not to prove that Psalm 22 is prophetic and thus, predictive of Jesus, but to examine Psalm 22 in its historical context and its value to future interpretation of this psalm. Approach
The temptation for the lay reader is to read this passage in light of the New Testament and read Jesus back into the words of the psalm. This is very easy to do because of the striking similarity between the words of the psalmist and the events that transpired during the passion of Jesus. However, to do this is to build a house without first building a proper foundation. The proper approach is to lay the foundation by examining the passage in its grammatical-historical context while acknowledging that there is more to responsible interpretation of the Bible. It is only then, that the rest of the house may be constructed. Walter Kaiser warns against using the New Testament to reinterpret passages of the Old Testament while discounting the meaning of the original author. Kaiser states that the meaning established by the original author is important and to ignore it “is to make nonsense out of the revelation…” He does acknowledge, however, that while the author may not have a sense of writing prophetically, the Holy Spirit promulgates the underlying theme of the “Promise”. This approach provides a basic framework with which this passage may be viewed. Liturgical Use
Psalm 22 is similar to other prayers found in the psalms. This psalm is a petition for help. It begins with a lament and then moves to requests for deliverance as the psalmist describes what he fears will take his life, before moving to statements of trust and then the psalmist’s response to his prayers being answered. The psalm ends with thanksgiving being voiced by the psalmist and then by the congregation. While tradition has credited David with authoring this psalm, there is no historical record of his circumstances that would fit the despair found in this text. Even though the words of this psalm describe the trials of a particular person, those who were sick and facing death would probably have used this psalm. By taking the words of the psalmist as their own words, they would have been able to voice their distress and petition to God, while being reassured of His faithfulness and ability to redeem them. By using this psalm the reader was able to place himself within its text and identify with the suffering king and as a result, also share in his redemption and subsequent praise of God. Type of the Messiah
In the Old Testament, messiah denotes a person who has been anointed by God to do His work. Anointing is associated with the beginning of the work of a prophet or king and marked them for the service of the Lord. It is not until David that messiah is associated with the prospect of a coming king based on 2 Samuel 7:16. It is interesting to note that none of the prophets employ the word messiah in reference to the anticipated king. The use of the term messiah is typically anarthrous until the rabbinic writings and the New Testament authors use the phrase “the Messiah.” While the articular phrase is not specifically used, the theme of the Messiah of Israel coming from the line of David is found in the Psalm of Solomon 17, which is dated in the first century BC. Much of David’s life is seen as a type of the coming messiah. This is grounded in the belief that the coming Kingdom would be like that of David’s and that it would be ruled by his direct descendant, a “Son of David.” David was God’s anointed leader over...