Psalm 22, page three

An Implicit Theme in the Passion Narratives

To return to our musical analogy -- the presence of explicit citations of Psalm 22 is like the statement of the theme in a bold, clear fashion. But, musical genius manifests itself with particular skill when it weaves the traditional theme into the new composition in more intricate, less obvious ways, which may not be so obvious to the casual listener.

The example from John 19:24 aptly demonstrates the psalm's more subtle influence very well. The explicit citation in John associates Psalm 22:19 with the specific action of the soldiers gambling for the seamless robe of Jesus. Although Matthew, Mark and Luke also mention that the soldiers divided Jesus' garments among them by gambling, these Gospels make no reference to a seamless robe or to Psalm 22. Despite this silence, scholars detect a significant influence of Psalm 22 on this scene in all four Gospels. Research suggests early Christian preachers used Psalm 22 before any of the four Gospels were written.

Psalm 22: 8, 9,- 13, 14 sketches the mockery endured by the suffering just person from his enemies. The influence of these verses may be have affected the descriptions of the leaders who mock Jesus on Calvary, "Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, 'Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days!' " (Mark 15:29; Matt 27:39) Again we read in Matthew 27:43, "He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him. For he said, 'I am the Son of God.' "

A description of intense thirst in Psalm 22:15 may be intended when the Gospel of John relates another of Jesus' dying words. "After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, 'I thirst.' "(John 19:28) However, it is also possible that the evangelist is thinking of Psalm 69:21, another psalm used elsewhere in the Passion Narratives.

 

Psalm 22: a treasure

 

What do they say about Jesus? Variations on the theme of Psalm 22
New hope for Jewish-Christian dialog Compassion in art
Editor's Note

Sign of the Passion


send questions or comments to the editor
Copyright 2000 - all rights reserved - Passionist Missionaries of Union City, NJ, USA