May 28, 2010

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

The psalms quoted in the New Testament

John F. Fink(Last in a series of columns)

It has been said that the Book of Psalms is the most valuable Old Testament book for the New Testament—with the Book of Isaiah coming in second.

The early Christians saw in the psalms important statements of faith.

In the last chapter of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus said to his Apostles, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled” (Lk 24:44).

The New Testament cites many of the psalms, particularly the messianic psalms, Psalm 2 and Psalm 110, which I wrote about in my column about the psalms the Church assigns for Christmas, and Psalm 22 and Psalm 69.

Psalm 118 includes the verse, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Ps 118:22), which Jesus quotes in his parable of the tenants (Mt 21:42 and Mk 12:10). The Letter to the Ephesians says that the household of God has “Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone” (Eph 2:20).

In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter, when brought before the members of the Sanhedrin, told them, “He [Jesus] is ‘the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone’ ” (Acts 4:11). This is repeated in the First Letter of Peter (1 Pt 2:7).

Psalm 118 also says, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Ps 118: 26), which the crowd yelled during Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (Mk 11:9).

Psalm 2 is one of the psalms that have a messianic meaning for the Church. In the Acts of the Apostles, after Peter and John are released by the Sanhedrin and return to their community, the people pray to God, “You said by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of our father David, your servant: ‘Why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples entertain folly? The kings of the Earth took their stand and the princes gathered together against the Lord and against his anointed’ ” (Acts 4:25-26). These are the first two verses of Psalm 2.

Similarly, in Paul’s address in a synagogue, he preached that “what God promised our ancestors he has brought to fulfillment for us, their children, by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my son; this day I have begotten you’” (Acts 13:33).

The quotation from Psalm 2 is verse 7.

The Letter to the Hebrews also quotes this verse when it asks, “To which of the angels did God ever say: ‘You are my son; this day I have begotten you’?” (Heb 1:5).

The Letter to the Hebrews also quotes Psalm 110 in Chapter 7, which says that Melchizedek, the ancient king and priest of Salem who blessed Abraham (Gn 14:18-20), is a type of Christ: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Ps 110:4).

The psalms were vitally important for the authors of the New Testament. †

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