Quick Book Review: The Vine and the Son of Man

vinesonofmanTitle: The Vine and the Son of Man: Eschatological Interpretation of Psalm 80 in Early Judaism

Series: Emerging Scholars

Author: Andrew Streett

Bibliographic info: 232 pp.

Publisher: Fortress Press, 2014.

Buy the book at Amazon.

With thanks to Fortress Press for the digital review copy.

The Vine and the Son of Man, a revised version of Andrew Streett’s doctoral dissertation, examines the interpretation and reinterpretation of Psalm 80 in early Judaism (in the Psalter, Daniel 7, Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism) and in early Christianity (in Mark, John 15, and the parable of the Wicked Tenants).

Streett’s thesis is simple:

The thesis of the study is (a) that Jewish and Christian interpreters found material in Psalm 80 pertaining to events at the end of the age, a time that some interpreters believed had already come upon them and their communities; and (b) that the meaning derived from Psalm 80 most often comes from the images of the vine (vv. 9-17) and the potentially messianic man (vv. 16b, 18), which because of the ambiguity of the text are open to a variety of interpretations.

Chapter One starts us of with an examination of Psalm 80 in its historical context. Streett himself sees the Psalm as stemming from the end of the Northern Kingdom and that it reminds Israel of Yahweh’s “former blessing on the twelve tribes and to plead for restoration through the leadership of a Davidic king.” Streett looks at various motifs found in the psalm e.g. creation and re-creation, exodus and a new exodus, the vine imagery, and the son of man. This chapter also contains a part on v. 15b being a later addition to the psalm.

Chapter Two sets Psalm 80 within the wider context of the Psalter. This includes a fascinating argument for the Psalter being deliberately designed and that the placement of this Psalm in Book III of the Psalter shows that the messianic and eschatological content found in nuce in its historical context becomes strengthened and even more explicit as its literary context is manipulated.”

Chapter Three attempts to connect the Danielic “son of man” imagery with that of Psalm 80 (with the primary connection being that of the beasts). Streett views the Danielic “son of man” as being “an exalted royal leader who plays the role of Adam as king and priest over a renewed nation and creation” and contends that “Daniel 7 is the first instance of eschatological and messianic interpretation of Psalm 80 by way of allusion.” He puts forth a vigorous case, but ultimately I found this the least convincing part of the book.

Chapter Four is on Psalm 80 within Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism, which includes examining pseudo-Philo, the Dead Sea Scrolls, 2 Baruch, Leviticus Rabbah, and the Psalms Targum. I particularly enjoyed Streett’s argument showing how Psalm 80 was messianized during the Second Temple period, drawing upon the changes made in the text of the LXX to prove this.

Chapter Five is quite interesting because here the author attempts to show that Psalm 80 was critical to seeing the passion/suffering of the Christ to be essential (whereas the suffering of the Christ is typically thought to have been drawn from the Suffering Servant of Deutero-Isaiah and maybe Daniel 7).

The final three chapters then look at the possible intertextual connections between Psalm 80 and the New Testament. Chapter Six does this by looking at the Gospel of Mark. Chapter Seven hones in on the parable of the wicked tenants. Chapter Eight looks at the connections between Psalm 80 and John 15.1-8 (the parable of the vine). And then the book ends with the standard concluding chapter.

All in all, this was quite an informative study on Psalm 80, specifically on how it very well may have contributed to Jewish messianic expectations. If you’re interested in Jewish messianic expectations or the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament, then this will be a valuable addition to your library.

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