Eschatology of the Psalter by Gerhard Vos


                                                                                                                           Geerhardus Vos

There are certain editions of the New Testament which

by way of appendix contain the Psalter, an arrangement

obviously intended to serve the convenience of devotion. It

has, however, the curious result of bringing the Apocalypse

and the Psalms into immediate proximity. On first thought

it might seem that scarcely two more diverse things could

be put together. The storm-ridden landscape of the Apoca-

lypse has little enough in common with the green pastures

and still waters of which the Psalmist sings. For us the

Psalter largely ministers to the needs of the devotional life

withdrawn into its privacy with God. Such a life is not

usually promotive of the tone and temper characteristic of

the eschatological reaction. This will explain why the ear

of both reader and interpreter has so often remained closed

to strains of a quite different nature in this favorite book.

            It requires something more strenuous than the even tenor

of our devotional life to shake us out of this habit and force

us to take a look at the Psalter’s second face. It has hap-

pened more than once in the history of the Church, that

some great conflict has carried the use of the Psalms out

from the prayer-closet into the open places of a tumultuous

world. The period of the Reformation affords a striking

example of this. We ourselves, who are just emerging

from a time of great world-upheaval, have perhaps dis-

covered, that the Psalter adapted itself to still other situa-

tions than we were accustomed to imagine. To be sure,

these last tremendous years have not detracted in the least

from its familiar usefulness as an instrument of devotion.

But we have also found that voices from the Psalter accom-

panied us, when forced into the open to face the world-



tempest, and that they sprang to our lips on occasions when

otherwise we should have had to remain dumb in the pres-

ence of God’s judgments. This experience sufficiently

proves that there is material in the Psalms which it requires

the large impact of history to bring to our consciousness in

its full significance. It goes without saying that what can

be prayed and sung now in theatro mundi was never meant

for exclusive use in the oratory of the pious soul. This

other aspect of the Psalter has not been produced by litur-

gical accommodation; it was in its very origin a part of the

life and prayer and song of the writers themselves.

            After all, these two uses, the devotional and the historical,

are not so divergent as one might imagine. We need only

to catch the devotional at its proper angle to perceive how

it forms part of a broader, more comprehensive piety uniting

in itself with perfect naturalness the two different attitudes

of withdrawal into the secrecy of God and of intense in-

terest in the unfolding of the world-drama. The deeper

fundamental character of the Psalter consists in this that

it voices the subjective response to the objective doings of

God for and among his people. Subjective responsiveness

is the specific quality of these songs. As prophecy is ob-

jective, being the address of Jehovah to Israel in word and

act, so the Psalter is subjective, being the answer of Israel

to that divine speech. If once this peculiarity is appre-

hended, it will follow that there must be place, and con-

siderable place, in the Psalms not merely for the historical

interest in general, but particularly for that heightened in-

terest which the normal religious mind brings to the last

goal and issue of redemption. To the vision of faith that

which Jehovah will do at the end, his conclusive, consum-

mate action, must surpass everything else in importance.

Faith will sing its supreme song when face to face, either

in anticipation or reality, with the supreme act of God.

Let Mary’s case be witness from whose heart the great

annunciation of Messianic fulfillment drew that Psalm

of all Psalms, the Magnificat. The time when God gathers


            ESCHATOLOGY OF THE PSALTER                     3

his fruit is the joyous vintage-feast of all high religion.

The value of a work lies in its ultimate product. Con-

sequently, where religion entwines itself around a progres-

sive work of God, such as redemption, its general respon-

siveness becomes prospective, cumulative, climacteric; it

gravitates with all its inherent weight toward the end. A

redemptive religion without eschatological interest would

be a contradiction in terms. The orthodox interpretation of

Scripture has always recognized this. To it redemption and

eschatology are co-eval in biblical history.1 The case stands

quite different with unorthodox criticism. By it the re-

demptive content and the teleological outlook of the ancient

religion of Israel are denied. The ancient, that is the pre-

prophetic, Israelite in this respect lived the life of a religious

animal. Hence for the older period the absence of es-

chatology is characteristic. Still, even from the standpoint

of this criticism, the eschatological aspect of the Psalms is

not affected. For the Psalter is now commonly considered

in these circles a product of the exilic and post-exilic times,

that is of a period when through the prophetic channel and

from foreign sources a flood of redemptive and eschato-

logical ideas had streamed in upon Israel, so that the Psalm-

singing Jew was bound to answer to its call in correspond-

ing notes. Besides, the great influx of eschatological ma-

terial is placed by many of these writers not in the early

period of written prophecy, but in the later exilic and post-

exilic times, most of the material of this kind now contained

in the older prophets being treated as spurious in its present

environment and brought down to a much later date. But

this late dating brings it into close proximity to the time fixed

by these same critics for the Psalter. Hence criticism has

a direct and powerful stimulus to search the Psalms for the

presence of that spirit with which the religious atmosphere

is supposed to have been charged in that period. And, since

under the control of God exegetical good not seldom comes

1 In so far as the covenant of works posited for mankind an absolute

goal and unchangeable future, the eschatological may be even said to

have preceded the soteric religion.



out of critical evil, it has happened here also, that a criticism

whose general methods and results we cannot but distrust,

has brought to light from the Psalter valuable facts, whose

existence had not been previously recognized with sufficient

clearness. It cannot be denied that unorthodox criticism

has done some valuable pioneer-work in exploring the

eschatological views of the Psalter.2  And what is true of

the Wellhausen school may in a different sense be applied

to its more modern competitor,—or shall we say successor?

—the school of Gunkel and Gressmann.3 Here it is not so

much the inclination to fit the Psalter into the post-exilic

world of thought, but rather the desire to assimilate it to

Babylonian religious ideas that predisposes for the wel-

coming of eschatological material. For our purpose this

is even better than the exegetical help received from the

other quarter. It yields not only acceptable exegesis stim-

ulated by perverse criticism, but has the additional advantage

of in certain instances drawing the criticism of the Psalter

back to a more conservative position from a chronological

point of view. For, since according to this recent school

there was an Oriental eschatology in very ancient times,

there remains no longer any reason for disputing its early

existence in Israel, nor for denying the pre-exilic date of

any piece on the sole ground of its occurrence therein. On

the contrary, other things being equal, the eschatalogical

complexion of a document speaks rather in favor of the

            Cfr. especially Stade, Die Messianische Hoffnung im Psalter in

Zeitschrift fur Theologie and Kirche, 1892, pp. 369-412.  The scope

of the article is wider than the antiquated use of the term “Messianic”

in the title would indicate. It covers the whole eschatological outlook

of the Psalter, whether the Messiah occupies a place in it or not.

Stade makes extensive use of a comparison between what he considers

the later material in the older prophecies and the Psalms.

            3 Gunkel, Schap und and Chaos, in Urzeit and Endzeit, 1895;

Ausgewahlte Psalmen, 1911; Gressmann, Der Ursprung der israelitisch-

judischen Eschatologie, 1go5; Cfr. Sellin, Der alttesta.mentliche

Prophetismus; Zweite Studie: Alter, Wesen and Ursprung der alt-

testamentlichen Eschatologie, 1912; Stark, Lyrik (Psalmen, Hoheslied

and Verwandtes) in Die Schriften des Alten Testaments edited by

Gressmann, Gunkel, a. o. III, 1, 2, 1911.


            ESCHATOLOGY OF THE PSALTER                     5

older date than otherwise. As a matter of fact some

Psalms have on this principle been again recognized as pre-

exilic possibilities.4

            As a third source, from which in recent criticism the

eschatological interpretation of the Psalter has received en-

couragement, we may mention the widely-spread opinion,

that the speaking subject in the Psalms is in many cases not

a single person, but the collective mind of the congregation

of Israel, into which the original composers have merged

their religious individuality, nay, that many of the Psalms

were written outright for liturgical use in the service of

the second temple.5  It is hard to tell whether this theory

            It should be remembered that critics of the type of Gunkel and

Gressmann remain, so far as the broad literary issue of Old Testa-

ment criticism is concerned, Wellhausenians. They do not revise the

verdict that the law is later than prophecy. In the reconstruction of

the pre-prophetic religion of Israel they pursue the same backward-

reasoning, divinatory method as the others. Only they apply this

method to a subject to which the Wellhausen school had, on the whole,

refrained from applying it, the question of pre-prophetic eschatology.

The general structure of Wellhausenianism implies that there was no

such early eschatology worth speaking of, that eschatology was a later

product. Consequently no inducement exists for it to trace its

origins in the ancient religion. Gunkel and Gressmann do not share in

this prejudice. Convinced that the thing must have existed they are on

the alert for every early indication of its presence.

            5 The more recent literature on this subject consists chiefly of:

Smend, Ueber das Ich der Psalmen, in Zeitschrift fur die alttesta-

mentliche Wissenschaft, 1888, pp. 49-147; Theol. Literaturzeitung

1889, p. 547; Beer, Individual-und Gemeindepsalmen, 1894; Roy, Die

Volksgemeinde and die Gemeinde der Frommen im Psalter, 1897;

Cobienz, Ueber das betende Ich in den Psalmen, 1897. The collective

view, however, is by no means a modern product. For its history in the

earliest and latest exegesis, cfr. Coblenz, pp. 2-15; Cheyne, The Origin

and Religious Contents of the Psalter, Bampton Lectures for 1889,

1891, pp. 259-266; Beer, pp. xiii-xvii. Early traces are found in lxx;

it was applied by Theodor of Mopsuestia, by Raschi, Aben-Ezra and

Kimchi among the mediaeval Jewish expositors, by Rudinger among

the old-Protestant exegetes. in more recent times by Rosenmiiller, de

Wette. especially Olshausen, Graetz. After Smend’s reintroduction of

the subject, and in part independently of him, the same position has

been taken by Cheyne, Stade, Baethgen. Criticising, and restricting

Smend’s ideas are Stekhoven in Zeitschrift far die Alttestamentliche

Wissenschaft vol. 89, pp. 131-135; Stark, ibid. vol. 92, p. 146; Sellin.



apart from its intrinsic merit or demerit, has in its actual

working out done more good or evil to the cause of Psalter-

exegesis. For one thing it is often too-closely bound up

with belief in the post-exilic origin of the Psalms, because

not until after the exile, it is believed, did a specifically

religious congregation of Israel, a church-Israel, in whose

name such songs could have been sung, exist. Of course,

the intermarriage of these two views is not beyond the pos-

sibility of divorce. For one who recognizes a church

nation of Israel in much earlier times, it would be critically

quite safe to assume early Psalms of a collective import.

In the next place the theory, when one-sidedly and radically

carried through, threatens to wipe out all the individual

coloring which renders many of the Psalms so attractive

to the Christian reader and so faithful a mirror of his own

individual experience. All the concrete, plastic, lifelike

self-portrayal by which the figure of David stands before

our eyes as the most real of realities, and which plays such

a role in the New Testament, is at one stroke swept aside,

and figures like Asaph and Ethan likewise lose for us their

value as sources of individual comfort and delight. The

individual application made by our Lord to Himself of

certain Psalter-passages has to be artifically justified, if it

is justified at all, on the ground that He was entitled to

make of what was originally meant for Israel a personal

application, since in Him Israel was summed up. Still

further, and this is perhaps the most serious element in

the situation, the collectivistic exegesis now threatens to

swallow up all the directly Messianic material hitherto found

in the Psalter. It is seriously proposed that “the Anointed

of Jehovah,” “the King” in several places, where these titles

occur, shall not be understood of an individual eschato-

logical figure, but of the people of Israel as the collective

heir of the Messianic promises, the writers of such Psalms

being even credited with the clear consciousness of the ab-

rogation of the hope of an individual, Davidic Messiah.

De Origine Carminum quae primus Psalterii liber continet, 1892, pp.

26 ff ; Rahlfs, ynf und vnf in den Psalmen, 1892, p. 82.


            ESCHATOLOGY OF THE PSALTER                     7

The nation of Israel then becomes the King set upon the

holy hill of Zion, receiving the nations for his inheritance,

the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession. Last of

all, the collectivistic view has contributed toward eliminating

from the Psalter the expectation of a life after death for the

individual, the passages where this used to be found being

now not infrequently interpreted of the immortality of the

people of Israel. While undoubtedly in all these respects the

view under consideration has wrought harm, it should be

remembered that the several errors enumerated represent

not necessary corollaries, but only abuses of an otherwise

not implausible theory. The later liturgical use of the

Psalms in the Jewish Church certainly supports it, for the

liturgical is from its very nature collective. The instance

where “I” and “we” alternate as the speaking subject, and

where the context puts a national interpretation upon the

“we,” show how easily the self-personification of the people

took place in the poet’s mind, or at least how naturally

the collective plural alternated with the individual singular.

The sudden, abrupt changes in many Psalms from utter

depression to the most jubilant assurance, which the in-

dividualizing exegesis has found it is so hard to explain,

are perhaps more easily accounted for, if the personified

genius of the people of God, with its indestructible, in-

exhaustible hope in Jehovah may be assumed to experience

them. Even what may be called the pathological termi-

nology of the Psalms, sometimes considered a serious ob-

stacle to the collectivistic view, may be turned into an argu-

ment in its favor, for this reason that the symptoms of

disease and distress enumerated could scarcely coexist in

the state of an individual, whilst metaphorically explained,

as details entering into the picture of the stricken nation,

they cease to be subject to the same rigid test of consistency.

That the nation of Israel should “water its couch with its

tears” Ps. vi. 6, may seem an overbold figure to our re-

strained Western imagination, but we must remember the

richer and different endowment of Israel’s mentality. The



prophets, especially Isaiah and other parts of the Old Testa-

ment, bear witness to the strongly developed habit of per-

sonification in the Hebrew mind and supply us with a suffi-

cient basis of analogy. It is not necessary here to enter

into the psychological aspect of the problem by enquiring,

whether conscious and purposeful self-projection into the

mind of Israel, or spontaneous lyrical expansion of the

personality, or typical generalization of what was first felt

as an individual experience, will best explain the phe-

nomena.6 Only one feature should be briefly touched upon:

in certain cases the collective speaker is not the external,

ethnical Israel, but the people conceived as to its ideal,

spiritual vocation, or its pious nucleus, the church within the

church, sharply distinguishing itself from the religiously

disloyal majority. Such a cleavage of spirits would of

itself facilitate the absorption of the individual into the

ideal body.7  Keeping these various reservations in mind,

we shall have to acknowledge, I think, that to a greater or

            6 Beer would find the explanation in the general law of lyrical

production deriving its themes from the common interests and feelings

of mankind, love, religion, nature, historical happenings affecting the

majority, pp. lxxix if. But the collective spirit and sentiment of the

Psalms are of too concrete and intimate a nature to rest on such a

general natural basis. If the phenomenon is spontaneous, it will have

to be explained from the unique cause of the special grace of God

drawing all its objects into the circle of an experience, which is at once

personal and alike in all individuals to whom it comes. The intenser

homogeneity of redemption should be taken into account. This seems

to us the truth underlying the early patristic efforts to account for the

facts: Christ was in the Psalms and back of their writers, Christ and

his mystical body are one, consequently the church spake in the

Psalter. In Christian hymnology we can trace the effect of the same

cause: hymns individual in their origin have become expressions of

communal feeling, and liturgically intended pieces have been appro-

priated by the individual. The theory of lyrical expansion has also been

brought to bear upon the problem of typical Messianism. Delitzsch

identified the mystery of the consciousness of David with the mystery

of all poetry: “The genuine lyric poet does not give a mere copy of

the impressions of his empirical ego.” Cheyne, The Origin, pp. 259, 260.

            7 Roy very carefully works out this side of the case. He, as well as

Cheyne, makes much of the analogy between the “servant” in the

Psalms and “the servant of Jehovah” in the second part of Isaiah.


            ESCHATOLOGY OF THE PSALTER                     9

lesser extent the mind of the congregation of Israel voices

itself in the Psalter.

            The sole purpose for which we are led to mention this

fact lies in its bearing upon the question of eschatology in

the Psalter. For, if the great change, the reversal of

destiny, the deliverance, the victory so often spoken of in

the Psalms, concern not individuals, but Israel, or even the

pious nucleus of Israel, is it not plain that this whole com-

plex of ideas moves on eschatological ground? What

else could such a crisis, such a marvelous turn for the better,

nay for the best, when predicated of Israel, mean but the

eschatological transformation? What in the case of the

individual could be kept within the limits of the present

order of things and interpreted as a relative change, when

understood of Israel, necessarily bursts through these bonds

and opens us a totally new prospect, a wholly different mode

of existence. It is true, the frequent description of the

content of the hope in earthly, temporal forms, so charac-

teristic of the Old Testament, might seem to imply a merely

relative difference between present and future. But this

is only apparently so. Notwithstanding the retention of

this form there are two points which clearly mark off the

one from the other. On the one hand, the truly eschato-

logical expectation contemplates the fulfilment of all the

promises of God. It has too large a sweep to be simply

coordinated with any single good turn in the fortunes of

Israel. And on the other hand, the coming state of affairs

bears the stamp of unchangeableness, everlastingness: it

is no longer, like the present, subject to the vicissitudes of

history. Paradoxical though it may seem, revelation has

not shunned here to wed the eternal in point of duration to

the temporal in point of make-up. The inheriting of the

earth, the eating and drinking before Jehovah, and what

there is more of this description, is to be forevermore.

            In the form of subjective responsiveness which the escha-

tological ideas assume in the Psalter lies for us the greater

part of their value. So far as the content objectively con-



sidered is concerned, the difference from prophecy is not

perhaps sufficiently pronounced to justify separate treat-

ment. The general scheme is in both essentially the same.

On the dynamic side we meet here as well as there such

ideas as that of Jehovah’s accession to the kingship, the

judgment, the conquest of the nations, the cup of wrath,

the recovery of territory, the vindication of Israel, the re-

pulsion of the last great assault by the nations. On the

static side we encounter the ideas of peace, universalism,

paradise restored, the dwelling of Jehovah’s presence in

the land, the vision of God, the enjoyment of glory, light,

satisfaction of all wants, the outlook beyond death towards

an uninterrupted contact with God and a resurrection.

Only in the Psalms all this is suffused with the genial

warmth of religious feeling. We have here a great prov-

ince of objectivity translated into terms of living religion,

and that religion at the very acme of its functioning. The

Psalter teaches us before all else what the proper, ideal

attitude of the religious mind ought to be with reference

to its vision of the absolute future. The trouble with

eschatology in the experience of the church has frequently

been that it was either dead or overmuch pathologically

alive. In the Psalter we can observe what is its normal

working. And through observing this we can learn the

even more principial lesson, what is the heart and essence

of all religion, because when eschatologically attuned the

religious mind responds to the highest inworking and

closest approach of God, and therefore operates up to the

full potentialities of its own nature. To this must be added

something else of almost equal value. Through the sub-

jective, practical spirit in which these things are treated

by the Psalter, we are most profoundly made aware of our

vital unity with the church of the old dispensation. It is

true, of course, that, just as we in the consciousness of the

fulfilment of prophecy, make our faith reach back into the

Old Testament, so the Old Testament, by means of pro-

phecy, in advance lays its hand upon us: we are sons of the


            ESCHATOLOGY OF THE PSALTER                     11

prophets and of the diatheke God made with Abraham.

But this is a purely objective bond; it is the bond between

a program and its execution; it does not directly enable us

to feel our oneness with the Old Covenant people of God.

No sooner, however, do we pass out from the region of

prophecy into that of psalmody, than we come into touch

with something that is internally akin to us, a preformation

of our own living religious embrace of the realities of re-

demption. This must be so all the more, because our

whole New Testament life and heritage was, from the Old

Testament point of view, an eschatological thing. Here,

therefore, we find ourselves and them occupied with iden-

tical fact; what they eschatologically contemplated we re-

trospectively enjoy, and the religious apprehension of it,

while formally different, is in essence the same. In the

eschatology of the Psalms we may trace the embryonic or-

ganism of our own full-grown state. We are enabled to

see how our faith was made in secret and curiously wrought,

when our substance was as yet imperfect and our members

continually fashioned before the eyes of God.

            When we say that the Psalter is more practically akin

to us than prophecy, we must not be led by this to overlook

another feature well worth our notice. Response to the

work of God of necessity leads to a more or less reflective

state of mind. There is a point where the devotional, the

contemplative and the doctrinal, in its simplest form, touch

one another. Underneath all the emotion that pulsates

through the Psalter, there lies a deep water of serious

thought and reflection. The feeling here is not the sub-

stitute for faith, it is the natural outcome of faith, the wave-

swell of the sea, when the wind of the Lord has blown

upon it. If one will only read and sing with the understand-

ing, he shall perceive that the Psalmists pray and sing out

of a rich knowledge of God. It is not for nothing that

they have “meditated” upon Him and his works. Nor can

it be accidental that so considerable a part of the New

Testament faith-fabric is derived from this source. Paul



over and over again quotes from the Psalter, and his appeal

to it is not less apt and convincing than that to the Torah

and the prophets.

            Let us now endeavor briefly to review the outstanding

characteristics of Psalter-eschatology. The first thing re-

quiring notice is the historical background in the past of

the Psalter’s treatment of the future. True, in this it only

proves itself a genuine Old Testament product, partaking

of the specific difference that marks off the biblical escha-

tology from that of the pagan nations. The pagan es-

chatological beliefs have a mythical or astronomic basis;

they bear no definite relation to any scheme of historical

progress, and, with the exception of Parsism, know of no

absolute final crisis, beyond which no further change is con-

templated. These two defects are closely connected. Be-

cause the ideas have their origin within the present world-

process, they cannot lead to anything beyond it. The world-

cycle runs its course, obeys its stars, absolves its round, and

then the end links on to a new beginning, ushering in a repe-

tition of the same sequence. The golden age is bound to

return, but it will be no more enduring than it was before.

Old Testament teaching concerning the end is not born

from myth and chaos and zodiacal “precession”. Its origin

lies in the realm of history, in the past creative and re-

demptive activity of God, ultimately in the theistic con-

ception of the character of Jehovah Himself, as an intel-

ligent, planning, building God, whose delight is ever in the

product of his freely shaping hands. And consequently,

what Israel expects is not a quasi-consummation, which

would bear on its face the Sisyphus-expression of endless

toil; it is an absolute goal, consisting in an age of more

than gold, made of a finer metal beyond all rust and de-


            8 It is true, the Old Testament, and also the Psalter, know the

thought of a correspondence of the end to the beginning, of the point

of arrival to the point of departure. The river that makes glad the city

of God is a reproduction of the streams of paradise. But this is not

intended as a mere equation of the two. The past paradise is viewed as a


            ESCHATOLOGY OF THE PSALTER                     13

            The Psalter is wide awake to the significance of history

as leading up to the eschatological act of God. It knows

that it deals with a God, who spake and speaks and shall

speak, who wrought and works and shall work, who came

and is coming and is about to come. To no small

extent it is the dignity of Jehovah as Creator and Re-

deemer from which the eschatological necessity springs.

As a Psalmist says, Jehovah cannot abandon the work of his

own hands (cxxxviii. 8); He will perfect that which con-

cerns his people. His work must appear unto his servants,

his glory unto their children (xc. 16). The Psalms that en-

gage in great historical retrospects were written with this

thought in mind. A more concise illustration is offered

by Ps. cxiv. Here we have first the retrospect: “When

Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people

of strange language, Judah was his sanctuary and Israel

his dominion. The sea saw it and fled; Jordan was driven

back,” and then, as a corresponding prospect, the vision of

the greater theophany at the end: “Tremble thou earth at

the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of

Jacob.” The references also to the flood, as bound to

repeat itself, must be interpreted on this principle. Je-

hovah’s control for his own purpose of the primeval world-

catastrophe is typical of his action in the final upheaval,

when out of the last judgment a last world will be born.

It is of importance to notice the sequence of the past and

future tense-forms in Psalms xciii. and xxix. “The floods

have (once) lifted up their voice . . . the floods will lift up

their waves. Jehovah on high is mightier than the noise of

many waters, the mighty breakers of the sea.” And again:

“Jehovah (once) sat (as King) at the flood, yea, Jehovah

will sit as King forever.

            There are certain phrases and figures in the Psalter,

which are connected with the idea of plan and continuity

in the work of God and of its destination to arrive at a final

beginning, that of the future stands in the sign of consummation; that it

will inaugurate a new process is never reflected upon, far less that what

it introduces will be a repetition of the ancient course of history.



goal. Most characteristic of these, because most Psalm-

like, is the phrase “a new song,” occurring five times.9  It

receives light from the idea of the “new things” found in

prophecy, especially in the latter part of Isaiah. There the

“new things” mean the great unparalleled events about to

introduce the future state of Israel. The “new things”

and the “new song” belong together, as may be clearly

seen from Isa. xlii. 9, 10: “Behold the former things are

come to pass and new things do I declare . . Sing unto

Jehovah a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth.”

This prediction of the “new things” culminates in the

promise of the “new heavens and a new earth.”10 Here

seems to lie the root of the later employment of the word

“new” in eschatological connections, the new name, the new

creature, the new diatheke, the new Jerusalem.11  Further,

the use made of the term “morning,” again both in the

prophets and in the Psalter, is significant. From Isaiah we

are familiar with the figure of the watchman peering into

the darkness of the world-night, to, whom the prophet ad-

dresses the question, “Watchman, what of the night?”, and

from whom he received the answer, “The morning cometh,

and also the night.”12 In the Psalter we find again this

idea of “the morning” signifying the dawn of the new

great day of Jehovah, and hence symbolic of all hope and

deliverance: “God is in the midst of her she shall not

be moved, God will hear her and that in the morning.”

“Death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall have

dominion over them in the morning.” “My soul waiteth

for Jehovah, more than watchmen for the morning: 0

Israel, hope in Jehovah.”13 It is perhaps worth while ask-

ing, whether the phrase “the day of Jehovah”‘ has not some

connection with this eschatological use of the phrase

            9 xxxiii. 3; xcvi. I ; xcviii. 1; cxliv. 9; cxlix. I,

            10 Isa. lxv. 17; lxvi. 22.

            11 Isa. lxii. 2; Jer. xxxi. 31; Mk. xiv. 24; 2 Cor. V.. 17; Gal. vi. 15;

Rev. ii. 17; iii, 12; V. 9; xiv. 3; xxi. 2, 5.

            12 Isa. xxi. 6 ff.

            13 Ps. xlvi. 6; xlix, 15; XC. 14; exxx. 6.  Cfr. also xvii. 15; xlviii. 15.


            ESCHATOLOGY OF THE PSALTER                     15

morning,” so that it would mean the great light-filled day

of the reign of Jehovah. It is hardly accidental that “the

day of Jehovah” appears in some passages associated with

the idea of light.14

            Owing to this vivid consciousness of the historically-

conditioned appointment of the end, the attitude of the

Psalmists towards it is, on the whole, one of serene con-

fidence and quiet expectation. Their soul is as a weaned

child within them. There are Psalms that have as their

keynote the question “How long?”, but they are few, and

even in them towards the end the trusting mood regains

the upper hand.15 There are only three Psalms which con-

tain nothing but complaint.16 Of the feverish impatience

that is so apt to inflame the eschatological state of mind and

of its usual correlate, the apocalyptic calculation of times

and seasons, there is no trace in the Psalter. “True, with

characteristic eschatological eagerness they continually

suppose the end nearer than it actually is, but they do not

attach their faith to a near parousia in such a way that

it would be imperilled by disillusionment. . . . When

doubting thoughts beset . . . they go into the sanc-


            The Psalmists know that the end is not flung upon the

world out of the lap of chance, but that it proceeds with

stately, unhastened, unretarded step from the council-

chamber of God. The phrase “a set time” marks this con-

viction.18 The connection between prophecy and the Psalms

in this point may be observed in the statement “to execute

the judgment written!”19  The “judgment written” is the

judgment announced in the prophets; precisely because

written it cannot fail to come. In a most striking way the

dependence of the last great hope of redemption upon what

            14 Am. v. 8, 18; Rom. xiii. II If. I Thess. v. 5.

            15 PS. Vi. 4 ; xiii. I ; Ixxiv. 10; lxxvii. 8; lxxix. 5; Ixxxv. 6; xxxix. 47;

  1. xc. 13;xciv. 3.

            16 Ps. xxxviii (but cfr. v. 16); xxxix. (but cfr. v. 8); lxxxviii.

            17 Cheyne, Origin, p. 373.

            18 Ps. cii. 31.

            19 Ps. cxlix. 9.



Jehovah has done before is expressed in Ps. lxxiv.: “God

is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the

earth; thou didst divide the sea by thy strength; thou break-

est the heads of the dragons in the waters: . . . . thou

didst cleave fountain and flood; . . . remember that the

enemy has reproached 0 Lord; 0 deliver not the soul of thy

turtle dove unto the multitude; forget not the congregation

of thy poor forever; have respect unto the covenant; . . .

arise 0 God.”

            A second striking feature of the eschatology of the

Psalter consists in the central, dominating position it assigns

to Jehovah in all that pertains to the coming change. The

prospect of the future is God-centered in the highest degree.

Of course, the Psalmists who could say “Whom have I in

heaven but thee, and none upon earth I desire besides thee”;

“God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever”

and “Thou art my Lord, my welfare is naught without

thee,” might be confidently expected to carry this feeling

with them, when projecting themselves into the future.20

What is more characteristic of the Psalter is this, that, be-

sides eschatology evoking worship, the opposite also takes

place: The elemental urge of worship summons the last

great realities to its aid, because it cannot be satisfied with

aught short of this for expressing itself. The eschatology

of the Psalter is in part begotten by the praises of Israel.

No doubt the Psalter contains much of what is most

humanly human in all religious occupation with God: the

need and desire and prayer for help in distress. In their

extremity of danger and affliction the Psalmists sustain and

reassure themselves by the thought of the great deliverance

which the end must bring. They lift up their heads, be-

cause their redemption draws nigh. They will not fear,

though the earth be removed and the mountains be cast in

the midst of the sea. The absoluteness of the assurance and

the suddenness of attainment unto it are in many instances

accounted for by the eschatological import. The appeal

            20 Pss. lxxiii. 25, 26; xvi. 2.


            ESCHATOLOGY OF THE PSALTER                     17

lies not to second causes or elements of hopefulness within

the fabric of the present world, but to the great, crowning

interposition of Jehovah ab extra. At this point especially

we have occasion to remember, that often not an individual

but Israel is the speaking subject. What within the limita-

tions of the Old Testament the individual could scarcely

hope for himself, that the people of God carried as a sure

faith in its bosom through the ages. Ploughers might

plough upon Israel’s back and make long their furrows, the

waters might overwhelm them, it could not extinguish the

conviction, that the future and the end belonged to the

chosen of Jehovah. Specifically the thirst for justice over

against enemy and avenger quenched itself in anticipation

at this deep fountain of judgment to be opened up at the

last. But in the midst of all this soteric motivation the

higher point of view of the subserviency of Israel’s salva-

tion to the glory of God is never lost sight of. When the

Psalmists make eschatology the anchor of salvation, this

is not done in a self-centered spirit. The very fact of the

anchor being cast into such deep water implies a com-

parative estimate of human and divine help, which in itself

cannot but be honoring to God.21 The prayer for salvation

inevitably embodies praise of the Saviour. That at least no

individual selfishness underlies it, appears from the way

in which clearly individualistic Psalms join together the

deliverance of the suppliant and the salvation of Israel.

The Psalmist succeeds in forgetting his own woes for the

woes or for the hopes of the people as a whole. But it is

even more important to notice that he is able to forget them

for the overwhelming thought of the glory of Jehovah.

The gloria in excelsis which the Psalter sings arises not

seldom from a veritable de profundis and, leaving behind the

storm-clouds of its own distress, mounts before Jehovah

in the serenity of a perfect praise.22 Nothing reveals more

clearly the innate nobility of the Psalter’s religion than this

quality of its praise. But even where this highest altitude

            21 Pss. xx. 7; xli . 6; xlix. 6; cxviii. 8, 7; cxlvi. 3, 4.

            22 Cfr. Roy, p. 25 note 2.



is not reached, where the thought of salvation remains con-

sciously present to the end, the closing note of praise is sel-

dom wanting.23 Praise and prayer are inseparable, because

God’s very divinity is in his saving habit.24 In the phrase

“for thy name’s sake” the recognition is expressed that the

ultimate purpose of salvation lies in the glory of God.25

Where the prayer assumes the form of a desire for vindica-

tion and deliverance through judgment and destruction of

the enemy, it might seem as if the center were shifted from

God to man. Still on closer examination this appears not

to be so. When the praying subject is Israel and the oppos-

ing party the hostile pagan world, the conflict between these

two, of course, coincides with that between Jehovah and the

world, between light and darkness. And when the two

parties belong both to Israel, their mutual opposition is

again due to the fact that the party praying represents the

cause of Jehovah and the true faith, whilst the party prayed

against has aligned itself with the other side and becomes

apostate from Jehovah and his people.26 So that in either

case the self-interest is identical with the interest of God.

Of personal rancor or party-animosity not religiously

motived there is no trace in the Psalter. While it is true,

therefore, that the eschatological pressure is heightened,

as it usually is, by fierce conflict and strife, this does not

detract in the present case from its purity and God-cen-

tered character.27

            Cheyne offers the suggestion that an unselfish religion

was easier for the Psalmists than it is for us, because the

sense of individuality was less developed at that time.28

            23 Pss. xxxii. 17; 1. 15; lXxx. i8, 19.

            24 Cheyne, Origin, P. 344.

            25 Roy, p. 42.

            26 Ps. lxxiii. 15, 27, 28.

            27 Cfr. Roy, pp. 28, 29, 73; not nations but two Weltanschauungen

stand over against each other; Cheyne, Origin, p. 293.

            28 Origin, p. 265; cfr. Cheyne’s own striking statement at a later

point: “that the people of Israel is to work out the divine purpose in

the earth and do this with such utter self-forgetfulness, that each of

its own successes shall but add a fresh jewel to Jehovah’s crown,”

  1. 340.


            ESCHATOLOGY OF THE PSALTER                     19

But this would apply only over against man and not over

against God. And it is hardly in accordance with his own

dating of the Psalms. The collectivism of the post-exilic Jews

was not of the naive, instinctive kind, a sort of primeval,

semi-physical sense of solidarity; it partakes far more of the

intelligent affectionate surrender to an ulterior object of de-

votion. Here collectivism is but another name for un-

selfishness. The awakening of the sense of individuality lies

not beyond but back of it. It is spiritual loyalty, not ethnic

coherence that binds the members of Israel together. The

same is true of the still closer bond uniting the pious Israel

within the larger body.

            The acknowledgment that in the future salvation all is

for the glory of God is not of the nature of a mere formal

acknowledgment. Owing to the character of psalmody

as the instrument of responsiveness, and owing to the

uniqueness of the eschatological situation upon which it

works, it develops a peculiar fervor and attains a degree

of sympathetic projection into the interest of God scarcely

equalled elsewhere. The Psalmists sometimes succeed in

transporting themselves into the midst of the joy and

blessedness, wherewith Jehovah himself contemplates the

consummate perfection of his work. This faculty for enter-

ing into the inner spirit of God’s own share in the religious

process represents the highest and finest in worship; it closes

the ring of religion, and in Scripture, as we might expect,

it is peculiarly the Psalter that illustrates it. If even the

Psalm of nature, after enumerating the wonders of crea-

tion, closes with the exquisite note, “The glory of Jehovah

shall endure forever, the Lord shall rejoice in his works.

. . . I will sing . . . as long as I live . . . my meditation

of Him shall be sweet, I will be glad in Jehovah,” could we

expect less where the Psalmist’s mind turns to the greater

wonders in redemption?29 “Sing unto Jehovah a new song,

his praise in the congregation of saints, for Jehovah takes

pleasure in his people, He will beautify the meek with sal-

            29 Ps. civ. 31-34.



vation.” And again, “Jehovah takes pleasure in them that

fear him, in them that hope in his mercy; Praise Jehovah,

0 Jerusalem, praise thy God, 0 Zion.”30 There is something

deeper in this than the spontaneous welling up of gratitude

from the heart that has received favor. It is the devotion

of a mind able to lose itself in the very inward grace of

God which is greater and more satisfying than even its

greatest and final gift.31

            The theocentric character of Psalter-eschatology appears

also in this that it is prevailingly kingdom-eschatology. By

this is meant a form of statement representing Jehovah as

becoming, or revealing, Himself in the last crisis the

victorious King of Israel. Certain Psalms may be called

specific kingdom-Psalms. Pss. xciii, xcvii, xcix, open with

the words “Jehovah is King.” The context shows that this

is declared from the standpoint of the eschatological future,

when, after the judgment, his universal dominion shall be

established. Into this future the Psalmist projects himself.

The situation is the same in Ps. xcvi. 10, “Say among the

nations, Jehovah is King; the world also is established, and

it cannot be moved.”32 It will be remembered that the shout

“Absalom is King” was the shout of acclaim at his assump-

tion of the kingship.33 Still in the Apocalypse this mode of

            30 Pss. cxlix. 1, 4; cxlvii. II, 12.

            31 Cfr. Cheyne, Origin, p. 343. “Precious as is the sympathy of

God for us, still higher is the ability put by Him into us to enter into

his thoughts and feelings.”

            32 Cfr. Ex. xv. 17; Isa. xxiv. 23; hi. 7.

            33 2 Sam. xv. 30. Cfr. Gunkel, Ausgewahlte Psalmen, pp. 186-192;

324; Gressmann, Ursprung, pp. 294-301. According to Gunkel such

accession-hymns might have been first sung for human rulers and

afterwards transferred to the eschatological enthronement of Jehovah.

Gressmann seeks to meet the difficulty that Jehovah’s kingship is rep-

resented as purely future, by the suggestion, that the background is

polytheistic, Jehovah’s universal dominion being conceived as beginning

with the conquest of the other gods, and that this mode of speaking

was retained in the (no longer) polytheistic Psalms. The simple

solution seems to, lie in this that “kingship” is in the O. T. more a

concept of action than of status. Jehovah becomes King=Jehovah

works acts of deliverance.


            ESCHATOLOGY OF THE PSALTER                     21

speaking is employed with eschatological reference, xix. 6

“Hallelujah, for the Lord God, the Almighty reigneth.”

In other cases the act of enthronement is described and the

accession is identified with an ascension. Thus Ps. xlvii.

5-8 “God is the King of all the earth . . . God reigneth

over the nations. God sitteth upon his holy throne.”34

The ascension-feature might be explained from the elevation

of the throne-seat, to which the king mounts by steps, or

from the going up to the height of Zion, after a victorious

return from war, in which Jehovah, as present in the ark,

would participate and lead. Pss. lxviii. 18 and xxiv. 7-10

suggest the possibility of another explanation. In the

former passage we read: “Thou hast ascended on high,

thou hast led away captives.” The Psalm is at its opening

escatologically-prospective, but vss. 7-20 seem to be his-

torically-retrospective, so that the statement about Jehovah’s

ascent is not directly eschatological. It does, however, de-

scribe a real ascent into heaven,, and not a mere going up

unto the earthly sanctuary.35 In Ps. xxiv the language

might more easily remind of the earthly dwelling-place of

Jehovah (cfr. vs. 3), but even here in the second part of

the Psalm the “everlasting doors” point to the higher

habitation.36 The idea of Jehovah’s glorious return into

heaven after accomplished victory, must have existed, and

if so, would influence directly-eschatological representa-

            34 Besides the shout of acclaim the blowing of the trumpet and the

clapping of hands accompanied the enthronement, Ps. xlvii. i; I Kings

  1. i. 34-45; 2 Kings ix. 13; xi. 12.

            35 Cfr. Baethgen, Die Psalmen, who observes that Mvrm is always

used of the height of heaven. The N. T. adaptation to the ascension

of Christ has, therefore, a good support, so far as the local concep-

tion is concerned. Gressmann also argues in favor of what he calls

the “mythical-eschatological” view of Ps. xlvii. 6 from the use of the

verb hlAfA, which according to him is not used of ordinary throne-

ascension, the proper term for this being  bwayA. But the two acts of

“ascending” and “sitting down” are obviously distinct, and the idea of

ascent, might, as stated above, have arisen from the elevation of the


            36 For the idea of the doors being opened by “lifting up” cfr. Gress-

mann, Ursprung, p, 295, note a.



tions, like that of Ps. xlvii. 5-8. In Ps. xxiv. this seems to

be actually the case.37

            It is obvious that a representation which thus throws the

emphasis on the future enthronement of Jehovah intends to

magnify what the end means for God and for Israel in

relation to its God. The core of the belief is that there must

come and will come a time, when God will visibly take his

place as the end and focus of all the glory of the world pro-

cess. As the antique idea makes the state subserve the glory

of the king, so the ripened ages will be made to yield their

accumulated fruit to Him who is their King. Although the

kingdom-idea has also its soteric aspect, the Psalter shows

that side by side with this, and as even in a sense superior,

the manifestation of the glory of Jehovah is expressed by it.

The thought is not merely that Jehovah becomes King in

order to save, but that through the salvation, as well as in

other acts, He arrives at the acme of his royal splendor.

            In still another way we can trace the same principle by

observing the mode of Jehovah’s activity in the coming

crisis. The fundamental conception is that of the theo-

phany. It may seem at first a trite thought, that Jehovah

must appear on the scene before He can interpose. But the

theophany does not occur as the mere prerequisite or pre-

cursor of the divine action, it is the vehicle of the action

itself. This is facilitated by the realistic conception of the

judgment, as a judgment of execution, rather than a formal

forensic procedure. In a forensic procedure the bare ap-

pearance of Jehovah could figure only as the initial act,

after which further steps would be indispensable. The

realistic idea, putting sentence and execution in one, con-

denses the whole into a single act and this act is the super-

natural arrival of God upon the field. While, however,

fitting into this view of the judgment, the epiphanic char-

acter of Jehovah’s action has not been exclusively produced

by it. At the basis lies again the motive to exalt the majesty

and power of Him, who by his mere entrance into the crisis

            37 Acording to Stade, Zeitschrift f. Theol. u. Kirche, II. p. 407, the.

scene of Ps. xxiv is eschatological.


            ESCHATOLOGY OF THE PSALTER                     23

decides the issue and thus centers all attention and interest

upon Himself. Here lies the source of that technical es-

chatological phrase “the coming of the Lord,” which like an

unbroken thread runs through both testaments.38 He comes,

Jehovah comes, the Messiah comes, from Genesis to Revela-

tion this is the import of the message in which ultimately

the eschatological hope embodies itself. And the imagery

of the theophanic representation is wholly in accord with

this intent to make God the central figure. No matter

whether Jehovah’s coming be linked with or compared to

the thunder-storm, or the tempest, or the flood or the vol-

canic eruption, in each case the sudden, inavertible, over-

whelming nature of the event is emphasized.39  Precisely

for this reason the impression is sometimes most vivid

where every attempt at the use of concrete imagery is

abandoned, because the figures threaten to break down

under the sheer weight of the reality signified. Nothing

could be more effective than the studied avoidance of all

intermediate apparatus, nay even of the mention of Jehovah

Himself in a passage like Ps. xlvii. 4, 5, “For, lo the kings

assembled themselves, they passed by together. They saw

it, then they were amazed; they were dismayed, they

hastened away.” It need not so much as be said, that

Jehovah appears; it suffices that He exists: his being God

brings the crisis to its inevitable issue.40

            38 Cfr. Sellin, Der alttestarnentliche Prophetismus, p. 181.

            39 For the reason stated the description of the eschatological scene

has an inherent tendency to turn into a, description of the theophany

as such, even to the extent of the purpose of the latter being for the

moment lost sight of. This is a feature observed also in prophecy,

eft.. Isa. ii. The Psalm in Hab. iii. and also the opening part of

Ps. xviii illustrate this. For an enunciation of the principle involved

by Jehovah Himself, cfr. Ps. xlvi. io “Be still and know that I am

God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the


            40 Stade, Zeitschrift f. Theol. u. Kirche, pp. 393-398 finds the escha-

tological theophany in a number of recurring phrases in the Psalter.

He enumerates as such “to arise”; “to be exalted” or “lifted up”; “to

awake”; “to be not silent”; “to hasten”; “to be not far”; “to stir up

might”; “to restore”; “to heal”; “to quicken”; “to redeem”; to save”;



            One more observation may be made under this head.

The profoundly religious state of mind with which the end

is contemplated appears in this that it imparts the same

coloring to the Psalmist’s mood in view of its retardation

as does the prospect of impending death by itself.  As has

been often remarked the attitude towards to latter fur-

nishes a gauge for the depth of religious attachment to

Jehovah. There is much in death to terrify the creature

regardless of religious considerations. We find that with

the Psalmists the chief cause of solicitude and perplexity is

the problem of their future relation to Jehovah. Will there

be in these strange shadowy regions remembrance of Je-

hovah, experience of his goodness, praise of his glory?

“What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the

pit, shall the dust praise thee, shall it declare thy truth?”41

What they most feared was not death as such, nor that they

might lose themselves in death, but that they might lose con-

tact with Jehovah. Now the same state of feeling asserts

itself in regard to the great future coming of Jehovah.

“How long, 0 Jehovah? Wilt thou hide thyself forever?

. . . 0 remember how short my time is. For what vanity

hast thou created all the children of men! What man is he

that shall live and not see death? That shall deliver his soul

from the power of Sheol? Lord, where are thy former

loving kindnesses, which thou swarest unto David in thy

faithfulness ?”42 Here the bitterness of death is measured

by the danger that it may sweep out of reach the vision of

Jehovah and the enjoyment of his glorious reign at the end.

To lose touch with Him in Sheol would be painful, to miss

Him at his final epiphany intolerable, it would be the su-

preme tragedy of religion. This is convincing proof that

the eschatology of the Psalter seeks and loves nought above

Jehovah Himself.

“to be gracious”; “to snatch out”; “to do justice.” Although many or

all of these terms find eschatological employment, it cannot be proven

that all or any of them had become technical in that sense.

            41 Pss. xxx. 9; cfr. vi. 5; lxxx. 5.

            42 Ps. lxxxix. 46-49. A new Testament parallel is I Thess. iv. 13-18.


            ESCHATOLOGY OF THE PSALTER                     25

            From a specific point of view we can observe the same

principle in the universalistic statements of the Psalter.

Here as in the prophets the subjection of the nations to

Jehovah and their conversion form part of the great future

change. In both cases this remains a hope and does not

become a challenge to missionary activity. It is only

through the gateway of eschatology that universalism and

the missionary idea come in. More particularly it is, the

greatness and majesty of Jehovah from which they spring.

Jehovah is so great that the nations must come and worship

before Him. This is of itself a certainty. But when the

idea is raised to the eschatological degree, when He is con-

templated in the overpowering majesty of his final appear-

ance, then a super-certainty results, that all the earth will

be flooded with the knowledge of his glory.43 While, how-

ever, with the prophets this remains, like so many other

things, a matter of mere futurity, in the Psalter, owing to

the entrance of the subjective element something more re-

sults. The mind of the Psalmist is not satisfied with hold-

ing the idea at the distance of objective contemplation, but

translates it into an eager desire for witnessing the fulfil-

ment of the prospect. Thus a real missionary urge is born

out of the eschatological vision of Jehovah and his kingdom.

This desire projects itself into the future and breaks out

into a direct missionary appeal conceived as addressed to

the Gentiles from that standpoint.” The world at large is

summoned to acknowledge and praise Jehovah. Of course,

this is not actual missionary propaganda.45 Yet, at bottom,

in its spiritual motivation, it is not different from the latter;

perhaps one might even say that the impulse back of it is

stronger than the fervor wherewith the Church seizes her

present possibilities. The closest analogy to this is again

            43 Ps. ix. 19, 20; xviii. 47 ff.: xxii. 27, 28; xxiii. 8; xlvi. to; xlvii. 1-3,

8, g; lxxxvi. 8-to; xcvii. 1, 6; xcviii. 2, 3. 9; cii. 15, 21, 22.

            44 Ps. lvii. 8-11; lxvi. 1-4; lxvii. 2-5; xcvi. 3, 7-13; xcix. 3 (in the

form of prayer) ; c. 1-3; cviii. 3; cxiii 3, 4; cxvii. 1, 2; cxlv. 21.

            45 Rhetorically it may be put on a line with the prophetic summons

to nature to “clap hands” and “sing.”



found in the hymnodic portions of Isaiah. The remem-

brance of these things may afford us help in ever anew

attuning the strain of our missionary-enthusiasm to its

highest God-centered key. When we profess to mission-

arize, not in the last analysis, to improve the world, but to

glorify God in the eternal salvation of sinners, this expresses

not merely a theological conviction, but it is also eminently

true to the principle inherent in the birth of the mission-

ary idea itself. For this the missionary idea was born and

for this cause came it into the world, that it should con-

tribute to the glory of God. It was for Him and not for

man alone that it was conceived in the womb of the Old


            The question next claiming attention concerns the de-

gree of spirituality in the eschatological outlook of the

Psalter. This degree is often placed low, because for

their descriptions of the future age the Psalms are depend-

ent on earthly, material, time-bound forms, The future

theocracy is a replica of the present one. The expected state

is a state in which the eschatological people of Jehovah,

dwelling in the holy land, with Jerusalem as its center, will

forever enjoy without measure the blessedness afforded by

Canaan, the paradise-garden of God. It would be difficult

to prove, that all this was understood by the Psalmists with

a clear consciousness of its symbolic, typical significance,

as we, on the basis of the New Testament, believe it lay in

the mind of God, the author of revelation. But, while this

is true, and should not be covered up in the interest of un-

historical allegorizing, it should not, on the other hand,

close our eyes to the profound spirituality with which in

the Psalter even this ostensibly material content of the

future is approached and apprehended. The main question

is after all not what forms and colors enter into the picture,

but what is the subtler atmosphere that pervades it to the

eye of the pious Israelite, what with his finer religious

sensibilities he sought and loved and admired in it. When

the question is put in this way there can be no doubt as to


            ESCHATOLOGY OF THE PSALTER                     27

the answer. The very fact of the intense concentration of

the hope in God Himself supplies it in advance. The escha-

tological state is before all else a state in which the enjoy-

ment of Jehovah, the beatific vision of his face, the pleasures

at his right hand, the perpetual dwelling with Him in his

sanctuary, form the supreme good. “Satisfy us in the

morning with thy loving kindness, that we may rejoice and

be glad all our days, . . . and let the beauty of Jehovah

our God be upon us,” these and other similar strains are

characteristic of the future-music of the Psalter.46 Whether

the familiar passages in Pss. xvi., xvii., xlix., lxxiii, where

the confidence of uninterrupted fellowship with Jehovah is

expressed, are based on the belief in a future blessed life

after death, as we think they are, or whether, on the

ground of the collectivistic theory, the statements in ques-

tion are interpreted of the imperishable life of Israel,

on either view the underlying sentiment is clearly that

of the supreme absorption of the religious life in the things

of God.47 And it will be noticed that this sentiment finds

readiest expression in view of the future state. If only

care be taken to exclude every idea obliterative of the sense

of human personality, there is ground for speaking of a

certain group of Psalms as mystical in their complexion,

as in fact a mystically-inclined type of piety has shown a

            46 Ps. xc. 14, 16. Cheyne, perhaps, goes too far in spiritualizing the

language of the Psalmists when he assumes the theophanic statements

to have been meant as .pure symbolism. This would hardly agree

with the parallel drawn between the eschatological and the earlier,

historic theophanies. The latter were certainly in part realistically

understood. Another instance of the same nature is, where Cheyne

credits the Psalmists who believed in spiritual sacrifice with the idea

of a purely-spiritual sanctuary. But is there not some difference be-

tween these two? The spiritual sacrifice remains objective, the

spiritual sanctuary would be a subjectivizing conception. Cfr. Origin,

  1. 344, 387.

            47 Writers who deny the presence of the idea of personal blessedness

after death in such passages, yet do not deny that the Psalmists expect

participation in the Messianic era. Cfr. Beer, p. 70. Can this be

entirely due to an acute sense of the nearness of the event?



marked preference for them in all ages.48  But there is only

a difference of degree between these and the Psalter in

general. It is Jehovah’s rest which the Psalmist desires

Israel to enter, the city of his vision is the city of God.49

How pervasively and intensely spiritual the atmosphere of

the eschatology of the Psalter is, can best be appreciated by

remembering to what an extent our Lord has reproduced it

in his teaching. Most of the second clauses of the beati-

tudes are to all intent a description of the eschatological

kingdom in Psalter-language. “The poor in spirit,” “the

pure in heart,” “the meek,” “the merciful,” “the peace-

makers,” together with their respective predicates, the en-

dowment with the kingdom, the inheritance of the earth, the

obtaining of mercy, the vision of God, the adoption into

sonship, these are all Psalter-types and Psalter-hopes, found

fit to enter into a most highly spiritualized description of

the future by the Psalter’s greatest interpreter. The way

in which the sanctuary is spoken of, the comparatively rare

references to ceremonial sacrifice, the peculiar tenor of these

references, where they do occur, which has led some to

speak of a class of Puritanical psalms, the deritualisation of

heaven, the emphasis on the nearness of Jehovah in the

sanctuary, all these plainly show where the center of the

interest lies.50 Add to this the total absence of the weird

apocalyptic element, and the predominance of a truly spirit-

ual atmosphere, can not fail to be recognized.51 Here also,

however, we should note how this fine spirituality is closely

interwoven with the fundamental character of the Psalter,

as that of subjective responsiveness to the divine approach

and embrace in religion. Devotion, worship, the giving

answer to God, cannot but spiritualize. It is, as it were, the

projection into the objective sphere of the intrinsically trans-

            48 Cfr. Cheyne, Origin, pp. 387, 388; Beer, p. 62, refers in connection

with Ps. Ixxiii. 28 to the Jewish Kirbath Elohirn, the unio mystica, as

eschatologically ,approached ; Montefiore, Mystical Passages in the

Psalms, Jewish Qurterly Review 1889, pp. 143-161.

            49 Ps. xcv. 11; xlvi. 4; xlviii. 1.

            50 Cheyne, Origin, pp. 314-327; Beer, p. 47.

            51 Cheyne, Origin, p. 428.


            ESCHATOLOGY OF THE :PSALTER                    29

lucent essence of the religious soul itself. And it is called to

enter into the direct presence of and lay hold upon Jehovah

Himself, in doing which it grasps the root of all spirituality.

Truly, the new invisible throne of God, in distinction from

the ark, rests in a yet higher sense upon the praises of


            In conclusion we may briefly consider the Messianic element

in the eschatology of the Psalter. Here also the subjectively

responsive and appropriative attitude has left some traces.

To be sure, before speaking of such matters, one is at pres-

ent compelled to raise the question whether in the old,

familiar sense there is a “Messiah” in the Psalter at all.

Belief in “typically-Messianic” Psalms has practically dis-

appeared from contemporary critical exegesis. But not

only this, the Psalms which used once to be quoted as

directly-prophetically Messianic are now frequently under-

stood as relating to the people of Israel as the real “An-

ointed of Jehovah.” The curious fact results that on such

a view the title “Messiah” in its technical sense, as the

designation of the individual eschatological King, disappears

from the Old Testament, for it is in the Psalter and in the

Psalter alone, that, on the old interpretation, this title is

found.53 In this situation little comfort can be taken from

the quasi-rehabilitation which the idea of typical Mes-

sianism has undergone at the hands of Babylonianizing

interpreters such as Gunkel. Calling attention to the fact

that in Babylonian and Assyrian documents the reigning

king, especially at his accession, was invested by courtiers

and court-poets with superhuman or eschatological predi-

cates, they have found this custom back in certain Psalms,

            52 Cheyne, Origin, p. 327.

            53 This leaves out of account Dan. ix. 25, 26, of doubtful interpreta-

tion. Cheyne, Origin, p. 340 and others, can, of course, continue to

speak of “Messianic psalms,” since the term “Anointed” is in a

more or less technical sense, with eschatological associations, bestowed

upon the people. Still, in view of the long traditional usage, it would

be better for those adopting such exegesis to avoid the term.



notably Pss. ii., xlv., lxxii, cx.54 On this view the users of

such language might be said to have seen their present ruler

in the mirror of the conception of the great eschatological

King, which would involve a certain resemblance to the

old typological scheme. Now, if this adaptation of Oriental

court-style to the case of an Israelitish king could be taken

as sincere and naive in its intent, something might be made

out of it, in connection with the fact, that at first no one

knew which of the Davidic descendants would fulfill the

promises, each new accession being capable of giving rise to

new hopes. We are not allowed, however, to impose such

a meaning upon the custom. These phrases formed a reg-

ular court-style; they were no more than “loyal hyperboles”

to which no one, least of all those who flatteringly spoke

them, attached any real significance. The only useful pur-

pose which the discovery of this ancient ceremonial may

serve to the conservative exegete consists in this, that it

may prove the early existence of eschatological belief and

eschatological interest in these pagan circles and so furnish

an argument against the theory of a late emergence of such

belief and interest among Israel.55  If, refusing to assume

such a style in the Psalter, and finding here not the insin-

cerities of court-life, but a solid typical groundwork in-

            54 Cfr. Gunkel, Ausgewahlte Psalmen, under the head of Pss. ii.,

xlv., cx. He does not discuss Ps. lxxii.

            55 Acording to Gressmann, Ursprung, p. 252, note 4, Gunkel is mis-

taken in assuming a transfer of Messianic-eschatological language to

the human king. The extravagant language, then, would have noth-

ing to do with eschatology. It would be court-style pure and simple:

“Der Messias hat hier nichts zu suchen.” We do not see how this is

to be reconciled with the later statements on pp. 236-293 where we

read that “the contemporaneous prince or dynasty is celebrated as

the introducer of the golden age, as once the first King. This ex-

plains the chief activity of the Messiah, etc.” According to this

“mythical-paradise elements” have been received into the court-style.

Gressmann further believes that the ceremonial must have originated

in the great empires of the East, the kingdom of Israel having been

too small for aught else than snobbish imitation. He compares the

reproduction of the customs of the court of Louis XIV. in the courts

of the little principalities of that period. This would emphasize the

utter emptiness of the custom in Israel.


            ESCHATOLOGY OF THE PSALTER                     31

wrought by the Spirit of God in the religious experience of

David and others, it will be obvious how significant this is

for the nearness and intimacy which the figure of the Mes-

siah had acquired for the religious consciousness. No mat-

ter what peculiar philosophy or psychology of the typical

relation be adopted, this much will be common to all, that

the thought of the Messiah must have had a vital existence

in the hearts of the Psalmists in order to make this pre-

figuration of him in themselves more than an empty, un-

real show. The David, who could speak of himself in Mes-

sianic terms, must have held the Messianic concept in a

warm religious embrace.

            So much for the typical side of the matter. The other

question had reference to the directly-Messianic element

in the Psalter. Here the phenomena are so peculiar that

modern criticism, though obviously shrinking and moving

away from the old, solid Messianic ground, has not suc-

ceeded in finding a satisfactory substitute. The chief

peculiarity of the passages in question is, that they speak

of the King or the Anointed as a present, existing figure.56

To account for this three possibilities offer themselves. If

one, with Gunkel and Gressmann, applies the court-style

hypothesis, the King spoken of or addressed is simply a

contemporary ruler and has nothing to do with the Mes-

siah.57 Or, if one has recourse to the collectivistic theory,

            56 The Psalms constituting this group of so-called “King-Psalms”

are the following: ii; xviii. 50; xx ; xxi; xxviii. 8; xlv; lxi. 6, 7; lxiii.

ii; lxxii ; lxxxiv. 10; lxxxix. 38. 51; cx; cxxxii.  Cfr. Buchanan Gray,

The references to the King in the Psalter in their Bearing on Questions

of Date and Messianic Belief in Jewish Quarterly Review, vii. pp.


            The only exception to the above statement about the present exist-

ence of the King or Messiah is Ps. ii., on the view that this Psalm

from beginning to end, with all the speakers in it, the writer in-

cluded, is projected into that point of the future, when the last great

attack of the nations against Zion takes place. In that case, of course,

the existence of the King at the actual time of writing would not be

necessarily implied.

            57 Here what was once supposed to be directly-Messianic is turned

into the quasi-typical, i.e. into the embellishment of the character



the King or Messiah fades away into the figure of Israel.

Again, if one is prepared to attach the extraordinary lan-

guage employed in such Psalms as ii. and cx. to one or the

other of the Maccabaean rulers, he may yet save the directly-

Messianic character at the expense of having it connected

with an unworthy figure. But on all three views the present

existence of the “King” is explained. It would require,

however, a combination of at least two of them to cover all

the facts,. In the case of Pss. xlv.; lxxii. and cx. the col-

lectivistic exegesis is, of course, excluded, and the attempt

to carry it through in Ps. ii. is open to most serious objec-

tions.58 Here then it will be necessary to fall back upon

either the one or the other or both of the two other pro-

posals. We believe orthodox exegetes will find it difficult

to get rid of the feeling, that neither of these two is in keep-

ing with the dignity of revelation. Subjectively the in-

sincerities of a court-ceremonial, and objectively the char-

of an existing king with originally eschatological traits. Gunkel ad-

mits that, contrary to the intent of the writers, very early readers of

such Psalms found in them a direct-Messianic import, Ausgewahte

Psalmen, p. 18. “So ist also dieser Stoff, der ursprunglich escha-

tologisch war, schliesslich auch wieder eschatologisch verstanden


            58 The subject of the equation Israel=the Messiah is a most interest-

ing one, but too large to be handled in the present connection. There

can be no a priori objection to the investment of Israel not only with

the predicate of “anointed,” but even with the title of “The Anointed

One.” The anointed king and the people are closely related, and the

parallel case of the attribution of sonship to both, suggests a common

possession by both of the anointing. In the New Testament the

anointing is bestowed upon both Christ and believers. Besides, the

anointing was not strictly confined to the kings. It is quite plausible,

therefore, to understand the term of Israel in such passages as

Hab. iii. 13; Ps. xxviii. 8, where the parallelismus membrorum favors

  1. The serious objection to the theory arises from the concrete way

in which it is applied, viz. that the Messianizing of the nation shall

have been an intentional substitute for the hope of a Davidic individual

Messiah. Usually Isa. 1v. 3 is cited as furnishing either an instance,

or the original precedent of the replacement of the Messiah by Israel.

But the passage does not require this interpretation, and in view of

the fact that it calls the mercies of David “sure” i.e. unalterable, re-

liable, it is absurd to find in a statement emphasizing this very thing the

idea of their abrogation or even transfer.


            ESCHATOLOGY OF THE PSALTER                     33

acter and life of the later Maccabaean leaders seem unfit to

be the bearers of such a high and sacred conception.59 As

compared with these, there is at least a kernel of attractive

truth in the collectivistic idea. Not as if the Messiahship

of the Davidic prince could have been abrogated and the

Messiahship of Israel substituted for it, but in this way

that in certain Psalms a strong sense of the close appurten-

ance of the Messiah to Israel and of Israel to the Messiah

reveals itself. It is not identity, but identification of life

that creates the appearance as if Israel were the real Messiah

to the exclusion of the personal figure. These Psalmists,

when they call Israel the Anointed of Jehovah, do so be-

cause they realize the significance of the Messiah’s office

for the religious life of Israel. Even Wellhausen observes

that in a representation, like that of Ps. ii. the Messiah and

Israel can be scarcely distinguished.60 Such a close iden-

tification is after all what may and must be expected, if

the root-idea of the Messiahship is taken into account. The

deepest motivation of the Messianic conception lies in the

absolute, concrete, palpable assurance it affords of Jehovah’s

permanent presence among his people as the supreme bliss

of the future.61 He is sacramental in the profoundest sense

of the word. Consequently it cannot be indifferent which

            59 The Maccabaean reference is, even in the case of Ps. cx. where

it might seem to be most plausible, rejected by Gunkel, Ausgewaahlte

Psalmen, p. 223. Cfr. Sellin, Der Alttestamentliche Prophetismus, pp.

168, 169.

            60 The Book of Psalms in Sacred Books of the Old and New

Testaments, 1898, p. 164: “The Messiah is the speaker, and the whole

Psalm is composed in his name . . . the Messiah is the incarnation of

Israel’s universal rule. He and Israel are almost identical, and it

matters little whether we say, that Israel has or is the Messiah.” But

we cannot agree with the clause “It matters little,” for, as above stated,

the Messiah has his whole significance in this, that he stands as the

God-given pledge of Israel’s religious privilege and salvation. Israel

become itself the Messiah would be thrown back upon itself, and the

whole concept would be useless. Baethgen. Die Psalmen,3 p. 4 well ob-

serves that while the name “son” might fittingly apply to Israel this

can not be said of the title “king (over Zion).”

            61 Cfr. Cheyne, Origin, pp. 338, 340.



of the two is considered the prius, the Messiahship of the

people, or that of the eschatological King. There is in this

respect a difference between the joint-application of the idea

of sonship to Israel and the coming King, and the joint-

application of the idea of Messiahship to the same two

subjects. In regard to the sonship, the sonship of Israel

comes first in order of revelation; in regard to the Messiah-

ship the anointed character of the Davidic heir has the pre-

cedence. Israel has its anointing because of the Messiah.62

The question involuntarily occurs whether such a close

religious embrace as seems indicated by the facts is con-

ceivable with regard to a mere concept, a person purely

seen through the medium of futurity. To speak of the pre-

existence of the Messiah in the Psalms may sound pre-

posterous in many critical ears, but there is no escape from

the force that draws in that direction, once the actual occur-

rence of the individual Messianic figure in the Psalter is

recognized. The Messiah leads, as it were, a mysterious

life, that is somehow woven into the life of his people.

After all those who place the Psalter in so late a period,

have least reason to ridicule such a view. Will it not

be necessary to assign to a date older than most of the

Psalms the mysterious statement of Micah according to

which the “goings forth” of the great coming ruler in Israel,

are “from of old, from everlasting”?63  If we might as-

sume that in this way the Messiah, apprehended as a present

reality, played a vital part in the piety of the Psalmists, this

would furnish another illustration of the penetrating sub-

            62 The analogy of the collective “Servant of Jehovah” in Isaiah is

often quoted to support the collective Messiahship of Israel. But this

would be an analogy only if the individual idea of the Servant were

entirely absent from these prophecies, as Giesebrecht and others

contend. Criticism, however, seems to be well on the way of receding

from this extreme position. And, if “the Servant of Jehovah” be

both individual and collective, and the two closely united, the

individual Messiah will have to be recognized in the Psalter also, and

that in close union with the people in order to make a true parallel

with Isaiah. Cfr. Sellin, Das Ratsel des deuterojesajanischen Buches,

  1. Gressmann,Ursprung, pp. 301, 333.

            63 Mic. v. 2.


            ESCHATOLOGY OF THE PSALTER                     35

jectivity with which the truth of revelation is appropriated

here and enable us to feel more strongly than at any other

point, how profoundly at one the Christian’s Messianic ori-

entation of faith is with that of those who could say: “Be-

hold 0 God our shield, and look upon the face of thine


            In concluding our rapid survey of the eschatology of the

Psalter, a few words may be added in regard to its prac-

tical bearing on present-day conditions in the religious and

social world. Perhaps our study of the Psalms can be of

some help to us in taking our bearings in the midst of the

loud and universal demand for what is called “reconstruc-

tion.” It cannot be denied that the eschatological teaching

of the Psalms, and Old Testament eschatology in general,

bear a certain striking resemblance to the desires and ideals

of this eminently modern drift of life. In the Psalter we

meet not only with the conception of a reconstruction of

things on the grandest of scales, but this is actually pro-

jected on the stage of earthly existence. Here, then, an

opportunity is afforded for testing, and, if necessary, cor-

recting the ends and methods with which the modern move-

ment for world-reconstruction occupies itself. This is all

the more timely, since the Church herself is invited to lend

a helping hand in the making over of things, and to let

herself be registered as one of several coequal and coopera-

tive forces making ready for this gigantic enterprise. Now

it is plain from the eschatological teaching of Scripture in

general and from the Psalms in particular, that the Church

has already in advance an outlook and a program towards

an absolute and ideal future, which is governed by certain

distinct and definite principles, to such a degree bound up

with her very essence of belief, that to ignore these prin-

ciples or to cease insisting upon them in any line of altruistic

work, would mean self-abdication and disloyalty to her

charter as the Church of God. The foremost of these

principles is that the end of existence for all things lies in

            64 Ps. lxxxiv. 9.



God, and that, therefore, to religion must be assigned the

highest place in every ideal condition contemplated as a goal.

It is the special function of the Church to speak unceasingly

and unfalteringly for this one supreme aspect of the future

world, to insist in season and out of season that in it God

and the service of God are to the highest good and satis-

faction of mankind, that without which all other desirable

things will lose their value and abiding significance. To

work for the amelioration of the world without putting at

the top of its program the bestowal upon this world of the

baptism of religion as the primal requisite, should be im-

possible for the Church so long as she retains a clear con-

sciousness of her own specific calling. Nor is this merely

one or the foremost of the tasks of the Church, it is in such

a unique sense her “business,” that every other activity in

order to legitimatize itself as a church-function should be

able to prove its vital connection, direct or indirect, with the

service of God and of religion as her one unique mission

in the world. For the Church to indulge in the advocacy of

social and economic programs, without taking the time or

the trouble of deriving these from her religious root-con-

sciousness, and subordinating them to the glory of God, is a

precarious undertaking, not only because in so doing the

Church would speak without authority, but also because by

every form of experimentizing in such a field she endangers

the authority, which within the sphere of strictly-religious

principles is properly hers. Undoubtedly the Church even

so, will do her royal share in making the world better, and

that more effectually than she could possibly do in any other

way. The by-product of the genuinely-religious activity

will be more abundant and more valuable, than any scheme

to substitute it for the main product could possibly make it.

For the Church, to keep this in mind is not to be indifferent

to the lesser and secondary needs and distresses of mankind;

it is in reality to obey the conviction that in no other way

her deep solicitude for the sinful world, and the resources

she carries within herself for its healing, can be successfully


            ESCHATOLOGY OF THE PSALTER                     37

brought to bear upon it. There can be no doubt that the

Church owes the success with which in the past she has con-

tributed to the progress of the world in civilization to her

fidelity to this fundamental principle and the self-limitation

it imposes upon her; through it mainly she has become and

remained the antiqua mater out of whose blessed womb

the liberties and reforms among mankind have been born

and reborn. When measured by this standard of a

genuinely-religious and God centered consciousness, it will

have to be confessed that, taken as a whole, the modern

reconstruction-movement is sadly deficient. It appears to be

more humanistic than religious, to derive its motives and

ideals from man rather than from God. In the vision of

the land to be reached there seems to be little of the wor-

ship and enjoyment of him who is the center of every hope

worth cherishing for man. God is enthroned but seldom

in these Eutopian palaces. And the fear is not altogether

groundless, that the Church, in her pragmatic desire to

accomplish concrete and speedy results, has opportunis-

tically fallen in line with such humanitarian efforts, and for

the moment waived the consciousness of her unique and

privileged position, as voicing the specific claims of God upon

the service of man. A compromise of this kind born from

opportunism is serious enough; far more serious would the

situation be, if internal doubt as to the reality or primacy

and efficacy of the God-ward side of religion within the

consciousness of professed Christians should underlie this

tendency. That would mean not merely the death of

religion as such, but would result in the utter sterility, so

far as lasting, deeper results are concerned, of all uplifting

work conducted in its name. Christianity can make the

world better in the sign of religion; that standard abandoned

she will not only fail of success, but face actual defeat.

            The second principle with which the biblical prospect of

a better order of affairs is inseparably bound up is that

of supernaturalism. The Psalter expects the marvelous

future from no other source or cause than a God who only



doeth wonders. Whatever there may be in it of teaching and

learning and meditating upon the law, these human en-

deavors or performances are not credited with bringing on

the world-change. It is not through evolution from be-

neath, but through descent and theophany and interposition

from above, that the face of the earth is to be renewed. The

comparison with and the appeal to the supernatural past

is sufficient proof of this. That the help of man is vanity is

a conviction deeply inwoven into the consciousness of the

Psalmists. Their true help is in the name of Jehovah

who made heaven and earth. Here again a sad difference

is to be observed between this frame of mind, and that in

which much of the reconstructive effort of the present time

is being applied. The latter often cherishes a most doctri-

naire and tenacious belief in the inherent and endless per-

fectibility of human nature, a humanistic optimism which

manages to thrive, no one knows how, in the face of the

most discouraging circumstances. It is a faith and has

some of the noble characteristics of faith, its imperviousness

to discouragement, its sovereign indifference to obstacles,

its resiliency under apparent defeat, but it is after all a

faith in man rather than in God, and since faith in the last

analysis can be glorified only through its object, it lacks

the supreme glory of the faith of Christianity. It cannot

overcome the world, because it has its resources in the world

itself. Even much of its unshakable confidence in man is

due to this that it feels itself shut up within the sphere of

the purely-human, and so tied down to man and his natural

potentialities, that to doubt of man would mean to despair

of itself and its own mission. And unfortunately at this

point also there is observable a certain tendency in the pro-

cedure of the Church to bend and lend itself to this mode

of thinking. Some of its educative and reformatory work

does not at least scorn the appeal to it as a motive force ,and

gives the impression, if not by direct avowal, at least in-

directly and through the assent of silence, that much can be

made of man, if only his better nature is cultivated and his


            ESCHATOLOGY OF THE PSALTER                     39

environment improved and his evil propensities repressed.

True, this may seem a mere matter of temporary accommo-

dation, an innocent shifting of the emphasis. Even as such,

however, it is serious enough. The idea of God and his

indispensable, all-determining part in the transformation

of the world, and central place in the world as transformed,

is not a thing that, like some secondary factor, can be for a

while ignored or neglected with impunity. The Christian

who allows himself to be drawn into this mode of thought,

can not escape in the end having his whole religious con-

sciousness deflected by it from its original and proper

center. A dualism which reckons with God in the inner

life of the soul and takes no account of Him in its outward

activities for reclaiming others, is in the long run impossible.

Moreover, the tendency in question minimizes and virtually

denies the fact of sin as the primal element in the situation

to be met. The slighting of the thought of God has for its

inevitable correlate the weakening and ultimate loss of the

specific consciousness of sin. But, serious as all this may

be, there is sometimes reason to fear that the things en-

umerated are not simply consequences of a drift of thought

superficially followed, but are the deeper-lying causes of

an inclination to fall in with the drift. The humanitarian

movement in its most pronounced and specific form, not

seldom has for its background a weakened or tottering

faith in the dependableness of God and the supernatural.

Where this shows itself the Church should be on her guard.

lest by countenancing it she deny herself and her Master

and renounce the most precious heritage of power she has

received from Him. To withdraw herself from participating

in such action is not abandonment of the world to itself;

it is the simple refusal to encourage a huge system of

quackery, and, that, if for no higher reasons, in the interest

of sinful, suffering humanity itself.

            Finally the third lesson to be learned from the eschatology

of the Psalter is the importance of the strand of other-

worldliness in our Christian thought-fabric and love-service



with reference to the future. It might seem, to be sure, as

if the Psalter were ill-adapted to instruct us here, because

its own outlook is confined to the earthly state, because

while expecting another world-order, it postulates no other

milieu for this than the terrestrial one already known. And

so it might seem as if both the Psalter and Old Testament

eschatology in general lent real support to the view that it is

this lower earthly sphere, that must be transformed, and

that, leaving the question of a higher sphere to itself, the

Christian can be contented with directing his reclaiming

effort to it alone. But this is only apparently so, and the

Psalter is, of all biblical books, the best adapted to correct

this impression, because it gives us a glimpse not merely of a

higher future world objectively, but gives us a glimpse of

the subjective psychological process by which the revelation

of such a higher world was carried home to the minds of

the Psalmists, and consequently of the depth to which it is

rooted in the very heart of the religious consciousness itself.

It was because they could not conceive of the communion

between themselves and their God as other than endless, that

the Psalmists projected it into a future life. It was the

challenge of death flung into the face of religion that led

to this supreme victory of faith. It was this that opened the

gates of brass and broke the iron bars in sunder. Thus

religion reached the consciousness of the inadequacy of the

present life to meet its most instinctive and deepest de-

sires, and threw its anchor into the greater, eternal beyond.

And from that moment onward there could be no more

doubt as to where the emphasis in biblical religion would

finally lie. The New Testament has, of course, added to

this the clearer and more principal knowledge, that not

merely will God not withdraw himself from the believer in

death, but that first on the other side of death the perfectly

normal and satisfying, the true life can begin. It has

brought life and immortality to light in their most positive

self-evidencing aspect. This revelation is so rich and over-

whelming; it shows such a tremendous disproportion be-


            ESCHATOLOGY OF THE PSALTER                     41

tween what religion can mean and bring to us here, and

what it will mean and bring to us hereafter, that merely to

believe it is bound to make other-worldliness the dominating

attitude of the Christian mind. This is so much the case

that the slightest shifting of emphasis here may justly be

considered the symptom of some religious abnormality.

The gauge of health in the Christian is the degree of his

gravitation to the future, eternal world. The Christian

train of thought in this respect is the reversal of that of

the Old Testament: the eternal is not so much a prolonga-

tion of the temporal, but the temporal rather an anticipa-

tion of the eternal. And what is true of life is true of the

ministering and self-propagating function. The Church

of Christ in all its complex service to the world can never

forget that its primary concern is to call men into and pre-

pare them for the life eternal. Now, if one compares

these obvious facts with the spirit in which the modern

humanitarian movement estimates this life and the future

life in their relative importance, it can not be denied, that

the Christian point of view is not only not always consist-

ently maintained, but that sometimes it is openly scorned and

rejected. The taunt of the masses, who feel themselves dis-

criminated against in the treasures and comforts of this

world, is that religion seeks to reconcile them to their spoil-

ing of the present with the promise of an illusory or at best

doubtful future. The temptation is strong to overcome this

prejudice through giving greater prominence to the secular

advantage connected with the Christian life and promoted

by Christian activity. There is some warrant for this, for

we are taught that godliness is profitable unto all things,

having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to

come. At the same time the danger should not be underes-

timated that out of this strategic concession to the demand of

the age, may spring an actual compromise with the spirit that

would secularize and terrestrialize Christianity as to its

essence. Leaving for a moment higher things out of

account, it is obvious that from the Christian standpoint no



greater injury can be done to the true progress and healing

of humanity in this present evil world than to make it

promises and offer it remedies which have no vital connec-

tion with the hope of eternal life. For this hope alone can

in the long run feed and keep flowing every stream, of

altruistic activity that deserves the name of religion. The

life of this earth as a mere passing episode in time is not

worth the aeonian toil expended upon it.  Precisely be-

cause the Christian other-worldliness is inspired by the

thought of God and not of self, it involves no danger of

monastic withdrawal from or indifference to the present

world. The same thirst for the divine glory which is the

root of all heavenly-mindedness, also compels the consecra-

tion of all earthly existence to the promotion of God’s king-

dom. Here also the by-product cannot continue, if the main

object of pursuit is lost sight of or neglected. But, what is

most serious of all, the vanishing of the belief in the

transcendent importance of the world to come would most

surely spell the death of the Christian religion itself.

Whatever may have been possible under Old Testament

conditions, in the beginnings of revelation, it is absolutely

impossible now with the New Testament behind us to con-

strue a religious relationship between God and man on the

basis of and within the limits of the present life alone. A

religion which touched only the little span of consciousness

between birth and death would be a pseudo-religion and

its God a pseudo-God. A God who treated the fugitive

generations of the race as so many passing acquaintances,

content to see them afloat in and float out of the luminous

circle of his own immortal life, could not continue to evoke

the worship of his creatures. Pagan cult He might receive,

but Christian service not. Men would become, and in a

far more tragic sense than the Psalmist meant it, strangers

and sojourners with Him. The Psalter bears eloquent

witness to the truth that a hope of indefinite perpetuation

for the collective body is not enough. It requires the as-

surance of the eternity of religion in the individual soul to


            ESCHATOLOGY OF THE PSALTER                     43

secure the permanence of religion as such. The Psalmists

had their faces set towards this and through wrestlings of

prayer with Jehovah won their way to the light. The

modern, humanistic movement prefers to cultivate the

secular and earthly in part because it has come to doubt the

heavenly and eternal; its zeal for the improvement of the

world often springs not from faith, but from scepticism.

The Church by compromising and affiliating with this

would sign her own death-warrant as a distinct institution.

When religion submerges itself in the concerns of time and

becomes a mere servant of these, it thereby renders itself

subject to the inexorable flux of time. Kronos has eaten

all his children and he will not spare even this noblest of

his offspring, once it passes wholly into his realm and

closes behind itself the doors of eternity. On the other

hand, in a pure and firm eschatological conviction, which

keeps eternal hopes and interests well to the front, lies the

safeguard and pledge of the perpetual vigor of Christianity.

It cannot lose its youth here, because it knows eternal youth

is promised in the hereafter. Through faith in this promise

alone it defies the attrition of time and history. Its es-

chatology is its greatest religious glory, for in this the

Church expresses her faith in a future when all the

accidents and externals of religion shall drop away, a great.

purging of the world-stage, which shall leave only the per-

fect and ripe fruitage of all God’s intercourse with man

from the beginning. The Gospel of the life to come is the

Gospel of a Church sure of herself and her own endless

destiny. No other creed can bring it, and the Christian

Church can bring nothing less. In it lies the believer’s own

portion and it is the only portion he should think it worth

while to offer to a spiritually empoverished and starving

world. It is moreover the portion which has the promise

that all other things shall be added to it.

            Princeton.                              GEERHARDUS VOS.