The Fathers on Psalm 110

This post is part of an ongoing series offering translations of various early Church father’s commentaries on the Psalms.

Psalm 110

A psalm of David.

The Lord says to my lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
while I make your enemies your footstool.”
The scepter of your might:
the Lord extends your strong scepter from Zion.
Have dominion over your enemies!
Yours is princely power from the day of your birth.
In holy splendor before the daystar,
like dew I begot you.
The Lord has sworn and will not waver:
“You are a priest forever in the manner of Melchizedek.”
At your right hand is the Lord,
who crushes kings on the day of his wrath,
Who judges nations, heaps up corpses,
crushes heads across the wide earth,
Who drinks from the brook by the wayside
and thus holds high his head.

Athanasius: “When you want to sing something concerning the Savior, you find such references in nearly every psalm. But you have especially Psalms 45 and 110, which make known his actual generation from the Father and his coming in the flesh.”[1]

If then the Arians suppose that the Savior was not Lord and King, even before he became man and endured the cross, but then began to be Lord, let them know that they are openly reviving the statements of Paul of Samosata. But if—as we have quoted and declared—he is the everlasting Lord and King, seeing that Abraham worships him as Lord and Moses says, “Then the Lord rained on Sodom and on Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven”;[2] and David in the Psalms, The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit on my right hand”; and “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom”;[3] and “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom”;[4] it is plain that even before he became man, he was King and Lord everlasting, being Image and Word of the Father.[5]

Plainly, divine Scripture (which knows better than any the nature of everything) says through Moses, of the creatures, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”[6] But of the Son, the Scripture introduces not another, but the Father himself, saying I have begotten you from the womb before the morning star and again, “You are my Son, this day have I begotten you….”[7] If then he is a son, therefore he is not a creature; if a creature, he is not a son; for the difference between them is great, and son and creature cannot be the same, unless his essence is considered to be at once from God and external to God.[8]

Hilary of Poitiers

Meanwhile, I ask each one’s opinion about the interpretation of from him. Are we to understand these words in the sense of coming from another person (or from no one else) or are we to believe that he himself was the one to whom he was referring? They are not from another person, because they are from him, that is, in the sense that God does not come from anywhere else except from God. They are not from nothing, because they come from him, for a nature is revealed from which the birth is derived. He himself is not meant, because from him refers to the birth of the Son from the Father. Moreover, when it is pointed out that he is from the womb, I ask whether it is possible to believe that he was born from nothing, since the true nature of the birth is revealed by applying the terminology of bodily functions? God was not composed of bodily members when he spoke of the generation o the Son in these words: From the womb before the day star I begot you. He spoke in order to enlighten our understanding while he confirmed that ineffable birth of the only-begotten Son from himself with the true nature of the godhead, in order that he might impact to the faculties of our human nature the knowledge of the faith concerning his divine attributes in a manner adapted to our human nature, in order that he might teach us by the expression from the womb that the existence of his Only-Begotten was not a creation from nothing, but a natural birth from himself. Finally, has he left us any doubt whatsoever that his words I came forth from the Father and have come are to be understood in the sense that he is God, that his being does not come from anywhere else except the Father? When he came forth from the Father, he did not have a different nature or no nature, but he bears testimony to the fact that he is his author from whom, as he says, he has gone forth.[9]

Pseudo-Athanasius: Through this psalm David indicates the Lord’s ascension to heaven—The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand, while I make your enemies your footstool”—his sitting at the right hand of the Father, and the subjection of his enemies. The scepter of your might: the Lord extends your strong scepter from Zion. Have dominion over your enemies! Yours is princely power from the day of your birth. In holy splendor before the daystar, like dew I begot you. For even if he was sent as a rod of power, was revealed on earth in the flesh, was praised by the hosts and splendors of angels (in accordance with the birth which he has from the Father before all rational creation), and through the preaching of the gospel had dominion among his enemies (the Gentiles of the earth), yet the complete subjection of the enemies will take place in the end, when evil and death will cease and when life and God’s justice will reign. At your right hand is the Lord, who crushes kings on the day of his wrath:  when he will come, he will not offer himself and pardon our sins as before, but work vengeance in anger. Who judges nations, heaps up corpses, crushes heads across the wide earth. With eternal torments he will prostrate like foul corpses the demons who once ruled through deceit, for he came to our valley and to a life on earth, and he endured pains and the death of the cross. Who drinks from the brook by the wayside and thus holds high his head. He was again raised up to his glory befitting God, to be worshipped and praised by us.[10]

[1] Benjamin Wayman. Make the Words Your Own: An Early Christian Guide to the Psalms (Brewster, M.A.: Paraclete Press: 2014), 173.

[2] Genesis 19:24

[3] Psalm 45:6

[4] Psalm 145:13

[5] Discourse Against the Arians 2.15.13. NPNF 2 4:355. Εἰ μὲν οὖν νομίζουσιν ὅτι, καὶ πρὸ τοῦ γένηται ἄνθρωπος καὶ σταυρὸν ὑπομείνῃ, οὐκ ἦν κύριος καὶ βασιλεὺς ὁ σωτήρ, ἀλλὰ τότε ἀρχὴν εἶχε τοῦ εἶναι κύριος, γνώτωσαν, ὅτι τὰ τοῦ Σαμοσατέως ἐκ φανεροῦ πάλιν φθέγγονται ῥήματα· εἰ δέ, ὥσπερ ἀνέγνωμεν καὶ προείπομεν ἐν τοῖς προτέροις, κύριος καὶ βασιλεύς ἐστιν ἀίδιος τοῦ μὲν Ἀβραὰμ κύριον αὐτὸν προσκυνοῦντος, τοῦ δὲ Μωυσέως λέγοντος· «καὶ κύριος ἔβρεξεν ἐπὶ Σόδομα καὶ Γόμορρα θεῖον καὶ πῦρ παρὰ κυρίου ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ» καὶ τοῦ Δαβὶδ ψάλλοντος· «εἶπεν ὁ κύριος τῷ κυρίῳ μου· κάθου ἐκ δεξιῶν μου» καὶ «ὁ θρόνος σου, ὁ θεός, εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος· ῥάβδος εὐθύτητος ἡ ῥάβδος τῆς βασιλείας σου»· καὶ «ἡ βασιλεία σου βασιλεία πάντων τῶν αἰώνων», δῆλόν ἐστιν ὡς, καὶ πρὸ τοῦ γένηται ἄνθρωπος, βασιλεὺς καὶ κύριος ἦν ἀίδιος εἰκὼν καὶ λόγος τοῦ πατρὸς ὑπάρχων.

[6] Genesis 1:1

[7] Psalm 2:7

[8] Defense of the Nicene Definition 3.13. NPNF 2 4:158. ἀμέλει πάντων μᾶλλον ἡ θεία γραφὴ γινώσκουσα τὴν ἑκάστου φύσιν περὶ μὲν τῶν κτιζομένων διὰ Μωυσέος φησίν· «ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν»· περὶ δὲ τοῦ υἱοῦ οὐχ ἕτερον, ἀλλ’ αὐτὸν τὸν πατέρα σημαίνει λέγοντα· «ἐκ γαστρὸς πρὸ ἑωσφόρου ἐγέννησά σε»· καὶ πάλιν· «υἱός μου εἶ σύ, ἐγὼ σήμερον γεγέννηκά σε»· αὐτός τε περὶ ἑαυτοῦ ὁ κύριος ἐν Παροιμίαις λέγει· «πρὸ δὲ πάντων βουνῶν γεννᾷ με»· καὶ περὶ μὲν τῶν γενητῶν καὶ κτιστῶν ὁ Ἰωάννης φησί· «πάντα δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο»· περὶ δὲ τοῦ κυρίου εὐαγγελιζόμενος λέγει· «ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός, ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρός, ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο». εἰ τοίνυν υἱός, οὐ κτίσμα, εἰ δὲ κτίσμα, οὐχ υἱός· πολλὴ γὰρ ἐν αὐτοῖς ἡ διαφορά. καὶ οὐκ ἂν εἴη αὐτὸς υἱὸς καὶ κτίσμα, ἵνα μὴ καὶ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἔξωθεν τοῦ θεοῦ ἡ οὐσία αὐτοῦ νομίζηται.

[9] On the Trinity 6.16. FC 25:184-85. Interim tamen uniuscujusque intelligentiam consulo, quid existimet in eo, cum dictum sit ex ipso: utrumne ex altero intelligendum sit, an ne ex nullo, an vero ipse ille credendus sit? Ex altero non est: quia ex ipso est, id est (ita ut non), ne aliunde, praeter quam ex Deo Deus sit. Ex nihilo non est: quia ex ipso est; demonstratur enim natura unde nativitas est. Ipse non est: quia ubi ex ipso est, nativitas filii refertur ex patre. Deinde cum significatur ex utero, interrogo an credi possit esse natus ex nihilo, cum nativitatis veritas per corporalium efficientiarum nomina reveletur? Non enim membris corporalibus consistens Deus, cum generationem. Filii commemoraret, ait: Ex utero ante luciferum genui te (Ps. CIX, 3); sed inenarrabilem illam unigeniti ex se filii nativitatem ex divinitatis suae veritate confirmans, ad intelligentiae, fidem locutus est; ut de divinis suis rebus, secundum humanam naturam, humanae naturae sensum ad fidei scientiam erudiret: ut cum ait ex utero, non ex nihilo creatio substitisse, sed ex se Unigeniti sui naturalis nativitas doceretur. Postremo quod dixit: Ex Patre exivi, et veni (Job. XVI, 27), utrum ambiguitatem reliquerit, quin intelligeretur non aliunde quam ex Patre esse quod Deus est? Ex Patre enim exiens, neque aliam nativitatis habuit naturam, neque nullam: sed eum sibi testatur auctorem, ex quo se profitetur exisse. De his autem demonstrandis atque intelligendis posterior mihi sermo est.

[10] Syriac. CSCO 387, SYRi 168V, pg.73. For Greek and Latin, cx. PG 27: 461-464.


Published by Jacob J. Prahlow

Husband of Hayley. Dad of Bree and Judah. Lead pastor at Arise Church. MATS from Saint Louis University, MA from Wake Forest University, BA from Valparaiso University. Theologian and writer here and at Conciliar Post. Find me on social at @pastorjakestl

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