Perspectives in Translation

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Bible Gateway and The Gospel Coalition have teamed up to host a discussion of English Bible translation. We have convened a team of world-class scholars representing different versions of the English Bible who will address specific passages from the Old and New Testaments and answer questions about the translation process.

We hope that by pulling back the curtain on translation, this discussion will help readers understand their Bibles more clearly and learn to love God's Word more deeply. And we pray that careful attention to Scripture will excite readers to behold God's glory as he has revealed himself to us in our own language.

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What Difference Does It Make if We Capitalize ‘Son’ in Psalm 2? James M. Hamilton Jr.

Posted in Old Testament by James M. Hamilton Jr. on December 16th, 2010

Moderator’s note: The relationship between Jesus Christ and the Old Testament raises a host of interpretive questions. Preachers must decide how or even if Old Testament passages point forward to the new covenant. Translators face a similar challenge, but they can’t explain or equivocate. They must decide and stand behind their choice with the confidence of speaking authoritatively through God’s Word. When, for example, translators capitalize pronouns in the Old Testament, they identify the referent as God. The case of Psalm 2 proves particularly vexing. New Testament writers quote Psalm 2:7 several times (Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5, 5:5) with explicit reference to Jesus. Does that mean, then, that translators should capitalize ‘son’ to solidify the connection to Jesus for readers? Let’s hear from the panel of scholars.

Question: What difference does it make if we capitalize son in Psalm 2?

The promises to David from 2 Samuel 7:4–17 are clearly in view in Psalm 2, especially in verses 5–12. In 1 Kings 2:1–4 and several other passages these promises are specifically applied to Solomon. These promises are also significant in the accounts of kings such as Hezekiah and Josiah. There is a sense, then, in which the promises apply to the line of kings that descends from David. This line culminates in Jesus, in whom the promises are ultimately fulfilled.

The problem with capitalizing son in Psalm 2:7 is that it cuts straight from from 2 Samuel 7 to Jesus. It’s great to get to Jesus, but the short cut keeps readers from seeing the typological development that grows and deepens through the accounts of the sons of David. This can keep us from understanding what Jesus meant when he declared that one greater than Solomon had arrived (cf. Matt 12:42).

So capitalizing son in Psalm 2:7 gets the termination point right, but it can keep us from feeling the buildup of the development that swells and plunges between David and Jesus.

James M. Hamilton Jr. is associate professor of biblical theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He also serves as preaching pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church.

This entry was posted by James M. Hamilton Jr. and is filed under Old Testament.