PSALM 22
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

The theological significance of Psalm 22 commands the attention of any interpreter of the psalms. Not only is it in some ways the individual lament par excellence but it also provides the chief interpretive clue to the Passion of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels (see the conclusion of chap. 4). Psalm 22 is picked up over and over again by way of quotation, allusion, or indirect influence in the New Testament portrayal of the death of Jesus and the events surrounding that occasion. In line with the interpretive proposals of chapter 4, the Gospel narratives offer a context for making visible and concrete the cries and images of Psalm 22. In this case, however, the New Testament narratives offer more than illustration. The interaction of Psalm 22 and the passion narratives helps us understand what both are about in a way that might be less clear if we viewed the subject matter of each without reference to the other. Indeed, that has often been the case with regard to the story of Jesus' death and resurrection, and the theological results are very noticeable (see below). In these pages we want to hear the power and meaning of this lament as a psalm of one in trouble and then ask further what it tells us about the central event of the Christian revelation.1

If one may call any psalm a typical lament, this one would surely qual-

1. Some very helpful articles for understanding this psalm are provided in Interpretation
38 (January, 1974), particularly John Reumann, “Psalm 22 at the Cross: Lament and
Thanksgiving for Jesus Christ,” 39-58; and Claus Westermann, “The Role of the Lament
in the Theology of the Old Testament,” 20-38 (Praise and Lament in the Psalms [Atlanta:
John Knox Press, 1981], 259-280). My exposition is greatly influenced by both these stud-
ies. An important treatment of this psalm that appeared after this book was in press is
James L. Mays, “Prayer and Christology: Psalm 22 as Perspective on the Passion,” Theology
Today 42 (1985): 322-31.

-100-

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