Nabeel Qureshi and Psalm 110:1

What is God Really Like: Tawhid or Trinity? Dr. Shabir Ally and Dr. Nabeel Qureshi Debate

I first saw this debate when it came out a couple weeks ago; I always find it interesting to see the arguments being brought up by Trinitarian Christians against Muslims and vice versa. Dr. Nabeel Qureshi (the Trinitarian) made many arguments, he also made many bad arguments, I want to concentrate on one of the worst ones.

Psalm 110:1, is the scripture most used in reference to Jesus, it’s one of the most quoted scriptures in the New Testament (my quotation is from the NRSV as are the rest of the scripture quotations).

The Lord says to my lord,     “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”

This is what Mr. Quereshi said about this text at about the 27 minute mark.

In that context, sitting at the right hand of God is like ruling the Universe with God, and it says the Lord said to my Lord, once again, we see that there’s almost as there are 2 gods, but we know there’s only one God, the Old Testament is very clear about that.

It was a very short argument, and it came along with a slide showing the text in English as well as in Hebrew, now in a sense him showing the Hebrew along with the English kind of ruined his argument. Here is the text in Hebrew (first with the vowel marks and then without).

נְאֻ֤ם יְהוָ֨ה ׀ לַֽאדֹנִ֗י שֵׁ֥ב לִֽימִינִ֑י

נאם יהוה ׀ לאדני שב לימיני

(The Lord said to my lord, sit at my right hand)

Even if you don’t read Hebrew, you might notice the divine name there, יהוה, YHWH. In the LXX the divine name is rendered as  κύριος, in English it’s generally rendered as LORD, whereas in the Hebrew it is written YHWH, but by most Jews today, and for centuries, it has been pronounced as Adonai. In the Masoretic text, the vowels included with YHWH are similar to the Vowels used for Adonai, so as to indicate that the reader should pronounce Adonai, which is the plural of Adon which means “lord.” Every place in the Old Testament, where the divine name is written it is pronounced by orthodox Jews as Adonai, and translated as Lord (rather than Yahweh, Jehovah or however one would translate YHWH). The word לאדני right after YHWH, is Adoni, my Lord, now this word is Actually Adoni, it isn’t YHWH pronounced as Adoni, it’s not the divine name, it’s simply Adoni, which means “my lord,” since David is talking David is talking about someone who is his lord. So let’s say instead of translating the divine name as Adonai, or Lord, or κύριος, we translated it as Jehovah, then the text would read.

“Jehovah said to my Lord”

No problem there, we don’t seem to have 2 gods speaking at all, we have one god, YHWH, speaking to the person who David calls lord. But Dr. Qureshi relies on a linguistic trick, he relies on the tradition of pronouncing translating the divine name as “Adonai” and translating it as “Lord” or “κύριος” a tradition which came long after Psalms was written, to pretend that it is the same as the Adoni, the word which was actually written as “my lord,” and is never used in reference to God and has no connection to the divine name. It’s a very sneaky and dishonest trick, and frankly Dr. Qureshi should know better.

But what of the claim that “sit at my right hand” is the same as saying “rule the universe with me?” Well, notice what it says directly after.

“Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”

Is this a statement of equal and shared authority? Not at all. The Lord of David is told to sit at YHWH’s right hand until YHWH conquers the enemies of the Lord of David and makes them his footstool, or submits them to him. YHWH isn’t saying “come and rule the universe with me,” also it’s “Sit at my right hand until,” meaning its temporary.

“Right hand” does not mean, ruling as equals. The phrase “right hand” a few times in Psalms, look how they are used. Psalm 16

8 I keep the Lord always before me;

Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Or 17

7 Wondrously show your steadfast love,

O saviour of those who seek refuge

From their adversaries at your right hand.

Now is King David ruling as an equal with God? Of course not. Or let’s take Mark 10

37 And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ 38 But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ 39 They replied, ‘We are able.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.’

Were the sons of Zebedee asking to be part of the trinity here? Of course not.

Thankfully, Shabir Ally in the debate (At around the 1:43 mark) addressed the issue of the difference between Adonai (the Orthodox Jewish liturgical pronunciation of YHWH) and Adoni (the royal human title meaning “my lord”), and Dr. Qureshi’s response was to hold up books by Richard Baukham and Rob Bowman / Ed. Komoszewski and then argue:

You do have in Psalm 110:1 Yahweh and Adoni, both those terms are used, but we should come at this with the background of understanding that the term Yahweh throughout the Old Testament whenever read even by Jews today is read “Adonai,” so these are analogous terms sometimes synonymous terms, they’re just not saying the word Yahweh out of respect for God, in fact that’s one of the things they could be killed for, is uttering the divine name. So they’re still synonymous in that sense.

Now notice what Dr. Quereshi does he … he repeats the linguistic trick, the spelling of Yahweh is pronounced Adonai, which is clearly God Yahweh (since the actual text is YHWH), and then he says that Adoni (my lord, a human royal term NEVER used for God) which is written as Adani, and pronounced Adoni, is the same as the written YHWH pronounced Adonai …. Again, just the same linguistic dishonest trick.

He goes on to say ….

But also one of the most powerful evidences for people that Jesus is claiming to be God is when he says that he can sit at the right hand of the power, that’s what Psalms 110:1 is saying, that Jesus can rule alongside the father. In second temple Jewish history no one was ever depicted sitting next to God, never, so when Jesus said I can sit next to the father, what he’s essentially saying is there is a throne upon which God is sovereign, God sits on his sovereign throne, he rules over the universe, I am the heir, I can sit next to him, rule over the universe with him.

So again, he’s assuming that sitting at the right hand of God MUST mean that Jesus is ruling with God as an equal, no argument for it, just assuming, despite the context of the rest of the verse showing otherwise.

Here’s another problem with Dr. Qureshi’s exegesis. Let’s say second temple Jews understood the claim of sitting at the right hand of God to mean being equal with God, how did they exegete Psalms 110:1? If Psalms 110:1 was a messianic verse and it also claimed that the messiah would be equal with God, then by simple deduction one would have to claim that the Jews were waiting for a messiah who would be equal to God? If that’s the case, then EVERYONE who claimed messiahship, would be properly understood to be claiming equality with God? Not only that, but if the Sanhedrin thought of the claim to sit at the right hand of God was blasphemy, yet they recognized that David wrote Psalm 110:1 (either referring to himself as Adoni, or as a future messiah), by simple deduction they would have to be condemning to future messiah who they were waiting for, OR King David himself of Blasphemy. Is Dr. Qureshi going to affirm that? Either he would have to say that Psalms 110:1 was NOT a messianic text, or he would have to argue that the Jews were waiting for a messiah who would claim to be God, in which case it would be very strange that it would be considered blasphemy. The argument breaks down once you start considering the implications.

But the fact is there were many messianic claimants at the time, and Psalms 110:1 was not understood as Yahweh talking to Yahweh, or some human sharing equality with Yahweh.

So what does it mean? If not that Jesus is ruling as an equal with God, well I think Paul answers the question in 1 Corinthians 15:

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.[f] 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.

So there we go, it’s not that difficult. God destroys all the enemies of Christ, who rules as God’s appointed king (just like the messiah was prophesied to), until Christ subjects himself to the Father and hands over the Kingdom to the father, so that God may be in all. This fits perfectly with what Psalms 110:1 says, and it fits perfectly with everything Jesus said as well as everything in the New Testament, and all the Messianic prophesies. No linguistic tricks needed, no Ad Hoc assumptions needed, just reading the plain text of scripture.

So then why did the Sanhedrin consider it blasphemy when Jesus said he would be at the right hand of “Power?” Well, there are many possibilities; maybe I’ll go over some in a later post. :).

Needless to say, there were many other arguments given by Dr. Qureshi that are at best flaky, and at worst dishonest, but it’s really sad to see that some Trinitarian apologists will be willing to use these kind of cheap tricks on scriptures to try and win debates.

Nabeel Qureshi and Psalm 110:1

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