Does Psalm 110:1 disprove the Trinity?

by Luke Wayne
5/19/17

Jehovah's Witnesses and other Unitarian groups who deny the biblical doctrine of the Trinity often turn to Psalm 110:1 as an argument against the Trinity. Such an argument is based on several misconceptions about what Christians believe and what the doctrine of the Trinity is. The text reads:

"The LORD says to my Lord: 'Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet,'" (Psalm 110:1).

This passage is frequently cited in the New Testament as describing the Father speaking to Jesus. In the New Testament Greek, the word "kurious" or "Lord" is used for both persons, however in the original Hebrew the first word "LORD" is "YHWH," or the divine name, while the second "Lord" is a form of the word "Adon" or "master/lord." This is why many modern translations render the first in all caps when translating the Psalm, so as to distinguish them. One might translate the passage:

"Yahweh said to my Master: 'Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet,'"

Anti-Trinitarians attempt to make three basic objections from this verse, all of which are fallacious and demonstrate gross misunderstandings. Such objections are easily stated and just as easily answered:

 

  1. Objection: This verse clearly shows that the Father and the Son are distinct persons.

    Answer: Of course it does. That's what Trinitarians have always believed. We believe in one God in three distinct persons. The Father, Son, and Spirit are each different persons. So, what's the problem?

This objection normally arises from a confusion of biblical Trinitarianism with the heresy of modalism. Modalism teaches that God is only one person who variously acts the roles of Father, Son, or Spirit. This is not what biblical Christians believe. We believe that God is a Trinity. He is one and only one God; one living Being. He exists, however, in three distinct, coequal, coeternal personals. The Father can send the Son. The Son can pray to the Father and can send the Spirit. The Spirit can intercede to the Father on our behalf. They are distinct persons, exist simultaneously, and can interact. That The Father speaks to the Son and the Son submits to the Father is perfectly consistent with the doctrine of the Trinity. Indeed, it is exactly what we claim to be the case.

  1. Objection: Only the Father is called YHWH in this verse. The Son is simply called "Lord." That means the Father is God and the Son is not.

    Answer: It doesn't mean anything of the sort. Hebrews 1:10-12 identifies the Son as the LORD of Psalm 102 (i.e. YHWH) and then applies Psalm 110:1 to the Son in the very next verse without contradiction. Psalm 110 identifies the Messiah as greater than a mere Son of David yet one who is in submission to the Father, and the words carefully reflect that reality. By itself, Psalm 110 alone certainly doesn't prove the Trinity, but it is perfectly consistent with it.

This objection again misunderstands what Trinitarians believe. It also fails to take into account the rest of Scripture. Jesus is identified as YHWH by multiple New Testament authors, and is also called God in several places. He identifies Himself as the I AM, and bears the same titles as God and displays uniquely divine attributes, claims, and actions. The fact that He is also distinct from the Father, and that there is clearly only one YHWH, is the primary basis for concluding that YHWH is a multi-personal being!

  1. Objection: This verse doesn't teach the Trinity!

    Answer: That is correct, but irrelevant. While it in no way contradicts it, this verse doesn't, by itself, directly teach the Trinity. In fact, the Trinity is not discerned from any one isolated verse, but rather from the whole Bible together, especially the New Testament.

This objection is really kind of silly, and usually only comes up after you have corrected the errors in one or both of the other two objections. This verse, indeed this whole Psalm, definitely contributes to our understanding of the relationship of the Messiah to the Father. In that sense, it is a small part of the whole picture from which we come to understand the Trinity, but it has never been one of the central passages that informed Trinitarians would turn to in directly defending the doctrine of the Trinity. This passage does teach me that the Messiah is highly exalted above all earthly leaders and that He is much more than merely an earthly son of David, and that certainly points me in the right direction, but it takes much more revelation than that to clarify the wondrous truth of the Trinity. That truth is discerned by accepting the authority of all of Scripture and believing everything it says. You don't arrive at the Trinity through proof-texting single verses.

 

Inside the Bible

Jesus said
John 8:24, "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I AM, you will die in your sins."

Paul said
Colossians 2:9, "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,"

Titus 2:13, "looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,"

John said
John 1:1-3, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being."

Peter said
2 Peter 1:1, "o those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ."

 

Inside CARM

Romans 8:9-11 and the Trinity
The terms used for the Spirit and the way the Father, Son, and Spirit are described in Romans 8 reflects and depends on truth of the doctrine of the Trinity

The Book of James and the deity of Christ
James knew and believed that Jesus is the one true God, and wrote to his audience on that basis.

The Book of Jude and the deity of Christ
The book of Jude is one of the shortest books in the New Testament, containing only one small chapter. Yet, even in these few lines, Jude manages to add to the vast biblical testimony of the deity of Christ.

Does the calming of the sea point to the deity of Christ?
Psalm 107 paints a picture precisely like the one painted by the gospel writers, and the parallels make it clear: Jesus is not merely a prophet or even a merely human Messiah. Jesus was and is Jehovah God who took on human flesh and dwelt among His people without ceasing to be God.