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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? Tremper Longman III

Posted in Old Testament by Tremper Longman III on December 15th, 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?

Well, the difference that it makes is that if you capitalize son in Psalm 2 it shows you don’t understand the psalm. The son in Psalm 2 is the Davidic descendant who assumes the throne. [The psalm] was likely sung at inauguration services and other royal ceremonies. We can see this by the allusions to 2 Samuel 7, which speaks of David having a son on the throne forever.

Of course, as readers of the New Testament we know that Psalm 2 has a deeper significance that probably wasn’t known by its original composer or audience. After the monarchy failed, the faithful realized that the fulfillment of 2 Samuel 7 was not found in the line of Davidic descendants whose rule came to an end in 586 BC. Thus, particularly in the late Old Testament time period and into the Intertestamental period, the eschatological significance of the Davidic covenant and the royal psalms were emphasized. Jesus is the greater son of David who is the ultimate fulfillment of the Davidic covenant and also of course of Psalm 2 as the numerous references to the psalm in the New Testament indicates. However, Psalm 2 is not a messianic prophecy, which would be the only reason to capitalize son in this psalm.

Tremper Longman is the Robert H. Gundry professor of biblical studies at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. He has been active in the area of Bible translation by serving on the central committee that produced and now monitors the New Living Translation.

This entry was posted by Tremper Longman III and is filed under Old Testament.