Charles Spurgeon once recommended a commentary on the Bible with an interesting caveat. The strength of the commentary, by author Robert Hawker, was that “he sees Jesus—and that is a sacred gift.” However, in Spurgeon’s eyes, one weakness in the work was that the author took this sight too far, occasionally seeing Jesus “where Jesus is not legitimately to be seen.” In particular, said Spurgeon, Hawker had the “peculiar idea that Christ is in every Psalm.”

Spurgeon’s view of the psalms is certainly the prevailing one today. Interpreters tend to categorize only a small selection of Psalms as “Messianic,” usually those explicitly quoted in the New Testament and applied to Jesus. Excellent Old Testament commentator Dale Ralph Davis begins his commentary on the first eight psalms by saying,

I do not take a “Christological” approach to explain these Psalms as speaking of Jesus (unless they do, eg Pss. 2 and 8).

It was not always thus. As Christopher Ash highlighted in a recent lecture at Southern Seminary, if we take Psalm 1 as an example, we can draw a fairly direct line from St Augustine to Martin Luther and trace over a millennium of Christian interpretation which understood Psalm 1 to be speaking primarily of Jesus.

What changed? Quite simply, and somewhat surprisingly, John Calvin came along…

The above is an excerpt from an article written by Rev Stephen Steele (Stranraer RPC) for the Logos Word by Word blog. You can read the full article here.

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