Risto Santala and Psalm 110.
This next selection has a story to it. On an Internet email list there was a discussion of Psalms 110, and some claims were made about what some Rabbis and Rabbinic sources said. The person making this claim quoted from a book by Risto Santala who he claimed to be an authority on the subject. This is the text I have discussed below.
The work from which I am quoting is called "The Messiah in the Old Testament in the Light of the Rabbinical Writings.' To establish his credentials as a legitimate scholar he makes the following claim in the introduction:
'This ROOTS study is based upon two books of mine, originally written in Hebrew, "Christ in the Old Testament" and "Christ in the New Testament -- In the light of the Rabbinic Literature". They are the result of a special interest of over 35 years, born amidst practical work while in contact with Jewish scholars. This being so, one can rest assured that they will not contain mere armchair theology. In addition to the specialized Hebrew sources, approximately 300 works -- according to my files - in various languages, concerned solely with the Messianic idea, have left their mark on the creation of the background.'
Here he clearly states that he is using primary sources and claims to be a serious scholar.
Here is the text from page 124-125. My comments on each numbered issue is brought following the text so that you can read the text and draw your conclusions before I reveal the truth.
"The best known expositions which we have been following are comparatively late expressions of the Rabbinic perspective. To take two examples; RaSHI, Solomon Yarchi, died in 1105 AD and Ibn Ezra, the son of Abraham Meir died towards the end of the same century. If in them, despite all their opposition to Christianity, we still find some mention of the Messianic character of a certain passage, it will have particular weight as a witness to our case. (1) Psalm 110, they say, refers primarily to Abraham. RaSHI says of the psalm that it is right to interpret it as touching Abraham, "but there is a difficulty in the fact that it speaks of Zion, which was the city of David". (2)
The Midrash on the Psalms says of the verse 'Sit at my right hand', that "he says this to the Messiah; and his throne is prepared in grace and he will sit upon it". (3) The Talmud refers to psalm 110 when discussing Zechariah 4:14 -- "These are the two who are anointed to serve the LORD of all the earth" -- and states:
"By this meant Aaron and the Messiah, and I do not know which of them I should prefer. When it is written, 'The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: You are a priest for ever', we know that the Messiah-King is more agreeable than the Priest of Righteousness." (4)
Right up to the Middle Ages the Rabbis continued this discussion. Rabbi Shimon the Preacher (ha-Darshan), who lived towards the end of the 12th century and collected together the Talmud's old legends and preaching, summarizes the traditional understanding of the status of the Messiah as follows:
"Rabbi Yodan says in Rabbi Ahan Bar Haninan's name that 'The Holy One will set the coming Messiah-King at his right hand and Abraham at his left'; and so Abraham's face will become white with envy, and he will say, 'The son of my son sits on your right and I must sit on your left?' Then the Holy One will appease him by saying, 'Your son is on your right and I am on your right.' " (5) (Note #18 says that this is from Yalkut Shimoni Ps. 110, Nedarim 32b (6) and Sanhedrin 108b (7))
The Rabbis say in their discussions that, according to psalm 72:17, the Messiah was granted this position before the creation." (8)
1. 'If in them, despite all their opposition to Christianity, we still find some mention of the Messianic character of a certain passage, it will have particular weight as a witness to our case. ' The implication here is that they are saying things to aid his case: affirming the messianic meaning of the Psalm. Neither Rashi nor Ibn Ezra say that Psalm 110 refers to the Messiah. Rashi applies it to Avraham and Ibn Ezra to King David.
2. 'RaSHI says of the psalm that it is right to interpret it as touching Abraham, "but there is a difficulty in the fact that it speaks of Zion, which was the city of David".' Rashi does not say that. Here is what Rashi says: 'Our Rabbis interpret this Midrashically as applying to Avraham our father, and I will explain it according to their words.' And that is what he does. Not one word of a difficulty at all. With regards to 'Zion' Rashi says that refers to when Avraham came back from the war with the kings, and met MalkiTzedek who was king in Jerusalem, which is Zion. The question was actually asked by the Ibn Ezra, who explains the Psalm as referring to King David, there is no messianic discussion here at all.
3. 'The Midrash on the Psalms says of the verse 'Sit at my right hand', "he says this to the Messiah; and his throne is prepared in grace and he will sit upon it".' It would appear from here that the Midrash on Psalms is applying the verse of sitting on G-d's right hand to the Messiah. Let me translate directly from the Midrash on Psalms. (There are two versions. His source is probably the first, however there is a second one, by Buber, which is based on 6 handwritten copies. There are some minor differences, which in this case make little difference, but I will include the extra words from them between . I have added some short notes to help between (). This translation is from the standard version on Psalm 110 page 155b. The Buber version is from the same Psalm page 466 - 233b.) 'Who made all those wars? (I.e. the wars Avraham had with the kings) Is it possible for 318 men to fight against all of them? Rabbi Yochanan the son of Rabbi Yosi said, "Is it not the case that only his servant Eliezer was with him?" It is the case that (his name) has that same value. (I.e. the name Eliezer in Hebrew has the numerical value of 318) Who made all the wars? The Holy One Blessed is He, who said to him (Avraham) sit by my right side. Sit by my right side and I will make for you the war. Even though it was not written there (in Genesis) David explained it, as it says: "The words of HaShem to my master, sit at My right side." And also He says to the Messiah, "He prepares with chesed a throne, and he sits on it with truth [in the tent of David.]" (Isaiah 16:5) The Holy One Blessed is He says, "He (the Messiah) will sit and I will make war." Therefore and he sits on it with truth [in the tent of David.] And what is for us [for him] to do? To read and to study in the Torah that is called Truth. [As it says, "The judgments of HaShem are true" (Psalm 19:10) and it says] "Purchase truth and don't sell it."' (Proverbs 23:23) Does this Midrash apply Psalm 110 to the Messiah? NO, that is a false. It explicitly applies the verse of Psalm 110 to Avraham. Another verse applies to the Messiah sitting, but not next to G-d. If he had looked up the verse that the Buber edition completes, he would have seen that the verse clearly applies to someone sitting in this world. In fact both the teachings are brought together here because they refer to G-d telling someone to do nothing and He will fight a war for him. This is a clear case of editing a text in order to mislead.
4. '"By this meant Aaron and the Messiah, and I do not know which of them I should prefer. When it is written, 'The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: You are a priest for ever', we know that the Messiah-King is more agreeable than the Priest of Righteousness."' There is nothing here that says that the verse applies to the Messiah. In fact, the proof here is that the verse applies to Avraham who, being a king, was superior to the priest, Malkitzedek. And since the Messiah is his superior, we see that the King/Messiah is superior to the High Priest who will be in his time. (That Avraham is a king is explicitly stated in the Midrash Tanchuma on parshas Lech #13, where Psalm 110 is referenced.)
5. 'Your son is on your right and I am on your right.' The author here has left out a few things. The text in the Yalkut is based on the Midrash on Psalms, (Psalm 18 p. 58a) which adds a few words. These words are 'The son of your son is on my right side, and I am on your right side so to speak. "Hashem is at your right side." (Psalm 110:5) It is Avraham who is meant, according to the Midrash, by the verse Psalm 110:5.
6. Nedarim 32b does not have this particular passage, but there is a discussion about Avraham that quotes from Psalms 110. The issue there is that the priesthood of MalkiTzedek was taken from him and given to Avraham.
7. Sanhedrin 108b does not have this particular passage, however it associates Psalm 110 with Avraham and how G-d helped him in his wars. (The idea there is similar to what appears in the Midrash on Psalms in note 3)
8. 'The Rabbis say in their discussions that, according to psalm 72:17, the Messiah was granted this position before the creation.' This is actually false. The verse is used in various places by the Rabbis to indicate that the NAME of the Messiah 'Yanin', or the concept of the Messiah was known to G-d before he created the world. This has nothing to do with the Messiah sitting anywhere, nor do they say that it refers to a physical Messiah, as opposed to the idea of one. Here is what appears in the Talmud, Pesachim 54a 'Seven things where created before the world. And these are, Torah, repentance, Gan Eden (heaven), Gehenom (hell), the throne of glory, the holy temple, and the name of the Messiah.' The proof for the last is from the verse in Psalms that he has cited. The Midrash in Psalms has it slightly differently (but with the same idea.) It refers to these as the seven things that were in G-d's thought before he created the world. There it says the King Messiah instead of the 'name'. Both places mean the same thing, and certainly NOT what the author here would like them to.
I think this is enough to show that this author has no knowledge of what he is writing, nor an interest in the truth of the passages he quotes.
© Moshe Shulman 2003 http://www.judaismsanswer.com
For more information, questions answered, or help with missionaries you can reach Moshe Shulman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Since this passage deals with Midrash, I would suggest reading my paper: ‘What is Midrash’, before reading this.
 Page 12.
 This is a VERY unusual way to refer to Rashi. The usual way is to call him Rabbi Shlomoh Yitzchoki because his father’s name was Yitzchok.
 Good try, but not correct. His name was Avraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra. Ibn Ezra was the family name. This is clearly stated in the small poem he writes in his introduction to his commentary on the Torah. 'Please G-d of my father Avraham, do chesed to Your servant Avraham. It should be that Your words that shine (Heb. Meir) should be opened, to Your servant the son of Your servant Meir. And the salvation of Your face should bring help (Heb Ezra), to the son of Your maidservant who is called the son of Ezra (Ibn Ezra is Arabic for the son of Ezra).'
 The work here referred to is the Yalkut Shimoni and it is a collection of Midrashim organized by the verses in the Tenach. It is NOT a summary. Nor does it reflect years of disagreement and argument.
 The translation should read 'The son of your son is on your right side.'