Full Text for The Cry of Dereliction (Text)

THE SPRINGFIELDER July 1974 Volume 38, Number 3 The "Cry of DerelictionH-- Some Further Observations I N HIS II~ITICLE, "The 'Cry of I>ereliction'-Another Point of Vicw," Professor Robert 13oIst renciercd the readers of this journal a good service by his lucid and timely reminder that our Lord's words from the cross, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaltell me?" must be read, not as corning from one defeated and frustr;ttecI, but, rather, within the context of Psalm 22 as a whole, as thc confident prayer of one who did not lose faith evcn in the midst of his aloneness.' hly purpose in this brief paper is to make some further observations in support of this viewpoint and, in particular, to underscore some sel- doll1 discussed insights of a profound and thorough evangelical scholar, the late Professor Karl Hornhauser, of Marburg.? \Vhile it is true that Psalm 22 comes to its conclusion in a inood of and hope, let me suggest that we do not need to go to the later sections of the psalm to find the context of faith and hope. The psalm is set from its very beginning within the context of victory ancl expectation of deliverance. Lof thouse is not strictly correct when he states that the. psalm "hcgins with a poignant complaint, 'My God, my God, why liast Thou forsalten me.' "" 'Tile psalm begins with its title, which sets the stage often for ivllat is to come. 'The title in I-Iebte\\- js notoriousl~~ difficult to translate. Luther rerldcrs it thus : i\ l'sain~ of David to be chantcd by the precentor ahont the doe which -9 ' is hunted in the early dawn. The Iiing James Version translators did not attempt to give meaning to the nlords which Lutller construes as "doe" and "dawn" and just left the Hebrcn. as it stood. hloffatt niade the suggestion that "Doe of the Dawn" was a pol7ular tune of the time to which the psalm was to be sung. Fantastic!' If the setting of the psalm had to do with a l~unted deer in the early dawn, the11 the mood woulil inc.iced be one of desperation. The psalnl ~17ould ccho the feel- ings of one driven into sore straits by his enemies. Have -eve rightl!. understood the ineaning of the psalm's title, ho\vc.i1cr? The Hcbren. word translated as 'precentor' or 'choirmaster' is a participle from the verb "to concjuer" (nntsach) and, being in the causative nlood of the I'i'el, means "to the one who 'brings about victory.'' To this ~neaning some of the earliest translations attest. Aquila has "To the rictory- maker"; Symmachus has the titlc "A Song of victory"; Theodotion has the heading, "To the victory," aid Jerome has victori, that is "To the victor." Bornhiuser points to the similarity between this ascription ill tlle psalm title and the words of St. Paul in 1 Cor. 15 : 57, "Thanks be to God ii~ho giveth us the victory!" When we look at the Septuagiilt we again find no reference to a precentor or to musical terminology, but the opening words of the title ae: "To the end (telos)." This compares very closely with Theodotion's "1'0 the victory" and indi- cates that "the end" here signifies "the end-time," the beginning of Messiah's reign. Again, In confirmation of this interpretation of "the end," we have St. Paul's quotations from Isaiah 25: 8 in the same resurrection chapter that we hare just quoted : "Death is sv~allowed up in victory!" (1 Cor. IS : 55). Symmachus translates Isaiah's words: "Death is swallowed up at the end!" The full title in the Septuagint: reads: "To the end, concerning tl~e succour of the day- break." The later shift from "succour" or "help" to "doe" came about through n change in the pointing of the vowels; eyaluth, ("help") was rendered as ayyelcth ("a cloe"), the Hebrew radicals being the sanle. The title thus indicates that: the psalm is a song of praise to God, the giver of victory, for help he gave at the break of day! It is in this setting that we must read the words, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" IYith the difference between the text of the Septuagint and the standard translations of the 34assoretic text as great as we have shown in the psalm's superscription, we ought perhaps to be on our guard againt further misunderstandings due to different pointing. We shall do well, at least, to check with the Septuagint and with other early translations of the Hebrew text as we proceed with the psalm's verses. Again, Bornhauser believes we should see more in "Eli, Eli . . ." Than just "My God, my God . . . ," for El is a name for God which already had been invested with deeper meaning by the Hebrew people. He quotes the juridical inidrash on Exodus 15 : 1 (the Mekilta) as asking, ". . . and where do I find that Eli means no other I thing than the quality of compnssion? Because it says (Psalm XXII: 2) 'My El, My El . . .' " He also suggests that central to the meaning of El is the idea of "strei~gth." Thus Aquila renders "Eli, Eli . . ." as "My Stro.ng One, My Strong One . . ." This is probably what is re- flected in the oft-quoted variant found in the pseudepigraphal Gospel I of Peter: "hay strength, my strength, why have you left me?" though the use to which some critics have put this latter variant by way of explaining our Lord's cry is far off the mark! The next words in the Septuagint are the prayer, "Rescue me!" These words occur again at v. 20, both in the Septagint and in the Massoretic text. The words were apparently there in v. 2 in the text that the Septuagint trans- lators had before them. Jesus does not pray this prayer fbr rescue, and we are reminded of His words recorded by John ( 12 : 27) : "And what shall I say, 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, for this pur- pose I have come to this hour!" Bornhauser insists that we should read the interrogative adverb as Zemah ("to what?") and not as Zamah ("why?"). The most reliabIe manuscripts of Matthew and Mark have the Hebrew transliterated in Greek as lema, and the translations given in the Greek, namely him ti (Matthew) and eis ti (Mark) reflect the shades of meaning "for what?" and "To what?" rather than a simple "~7hy?" This subtle dis- tinction is important in view of the fact that the Aralllaic verb sabachthani renders the Hebrew verb azab, which means "to leave alonc" or "to hand over." The cry, "To what have you handed me over?" is significantly different from "Why have you forsaken me?" Our 1,ord's cry thus reflects his consciousness of the ,role to which God has committed him. In the deep words of St. Paul, "He made him to be sin for us, who ]