Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Binitarian Nature of the Holy Bible’s supreme proof text for the unity of God Pt. 2

Sam Shamoun

We continue where we left off.

The Messiah as Adonai

In Psalm 110:5 David’s Lord who is at Yahweh’s right hand is Adonai since he is the One who executes judgment upon his enemies. Consider vv. 1 and 5-7 carefully:

Psalm 110:1: “The utterance of Yahweh to my Lord (adoni) is: ‘Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.’”

Psalm 110:5-7:The Lord (Adonai) himself at your right hand will certainly break kings to pieces on the day of his anger. He will execute judgment among the nations; He will cause a fullness of dead bodies. He will certainly break to pieces the head one over a populous land. From the stream along the road HE DRINKS, then he will raise high his head.”

It seems reasonably clear that the One who brings judgment upon the nations and breaks them to pieces is David’s Lord since the passage says that the Lord will drink from a brook after his victory, which is clearly a human function.

In fact, the statement in v. 7 regarding the Lord raising his head implies that the water which the Lord drank from was for the purpose of renewing his physical strength which had been spent in battle:

27 tn Here the expression “lifts up the head” refers to the renewed physical strength and emotional vigor (see Ps 3:3) provided by the refreshing water. For another example of a victorious warrior being energized by water in the aftermath of battle, see Judg 15:18-19 (see also 1 Sam 30:11-12, where the setting is different, however). (NET Bible)

This simply further affirms that it is David’s Lord who is in view here, which perfectly comports with the NT teaching that this is a Psalm about the Messiah Son of David.

This brings us to our next point. According to Psalm 2 it is the Messianic King who will actually destroy the kings of the nations for having kindled his fierce anger. Compare the following:

Psalm 110:5-6:Adonai himself at your right hand will certainly break kings to pieces on the day of HIS anger. He will execute judgment among the nations; He will cause a fullness of dead bodies. He will certainly break to pieces the head one over a populous land.”

Psalm 2:7-12: ““I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, And rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When HIS wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.”

Hence, it is not Yahweh who is doing the destroying but the Lord at his right hand who does so, and therefore he is Adonai.

The NT itself claims that Jesus the Messiah will destroy all of his enemies in the day of his wrath as he sits enthroned at God’s right hand:

“Then comes the end, when HE [Jesus] delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when HE puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For HE must reign till HE has put all enemies under HIS feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For ‘He has put all things under His feet.’ But when He says ‘all things are put under Him,it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” 1 Corinthians 15:24-28

Here, the blessed Apostle refers to Psalm 8:5 and 110:1 in describing Jesus placing his enemies along with everyone else under his feet! And:

“And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of HIS wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’” Revelation 6:15-17

“The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.” Revelation 17:12-14

“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, ‘Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.’ And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.” Revelation 19:11-21

In light of the foregoing it is abundantly clear that David’s Lord is the Adonai of Psalm 110:5.

Hence, the use of Adonai in Psalm 110 for David’s Lord refutes any attempt of undermining the Deity of Christ on the grounds that he is called Adoni. If anything Psalm 110 actually confirms that Adoni and Adonai can be used interchangeably in reference to One who is fully Deity as well as human.

This brings us to our next point.

The Masoretic Vocalization of the Hebrew Bible and the Septuagint

The readers may not realize that this entire argument regarding the difference between Adoni and Adonai is based solely on the Masoretic vocalization which did not reach its final form until the Middle Ages! It is vitally important to note that OT Hebrew was written with consonants that only had “vowel letters.” Biblical Hebrew initially did not have vowel signs which were only added hundreds of years later.

With that said it must be to keep in mind that both Adonai and Adoni are spelled identically in Hebrew since they both consist of the four consonants ‘-d-n-y.   

Thus, the entire argument of “Biblical” unitarians is based on the assumption that the Masoretic vocalization which added vowel signs to distinguish between Adonai and Adoni is absolutely correct!

In light of this fact one can actually argue that the Masoretes were so troubled by the use of this Psalm by Christians to prove the Deity of the Messiah that they decided to add vowel signs to make it read Adoni as opposed to Adonai. In this way the Jews could argue that the Christians were wrong since the Psalm does not affirm the Divine nature of the Messiah.    

However, in order to circumvent this objection certain unitarians appeal to the Greek translation of the Psalm (known as the Septuagint [LXX]) to establish the fact that David must have used Adoni and that the later Masoretes were therefore correct: 

The Lord said to my Lord (Eipen ho kyrios to kyrio mou), Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” 109:1 LXX

Here, the Greek version renders the Hebrew word used by David as “my Lord,” which is the literal translation of Adoni. Unitarians propose that the translation would have simply used kyrios or “Lord” without the possessive pronoun mou if the underlying Hebrew word had truly been Adonai.

The problem with this claim is that it erroneously assumes that Adonai cannot be rendered as kyrious mou or “my Lord” as well. But this ignores the fact that Adonai is translated precisely this way in the Greek of Psalms 16:1 and 35:23!

Here is the translation of the Hebrew:

"I say to the LORD, 'You are my Lord (adonai); I have no good apart from you.'" 16:2

“Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord (elohai we’adonai).” 35:23

And now compare this with the Greek version:

"I said to the Lord, Thou art my Lord (kyrios mou); for thou has no need of my goodness." 15:2 LXX

“Awake, O Lord (kyrie), and attend to my judgment, even to my cause, my God and my Lord (ho theos mou kai ho kyrios mou).” Psalm 34:23 LXX

This now leaves the unitarians in the horns of a dilemma. They will either have to admit that Adonai can be rendered as kyrious mou, which means that their argument concerning the Greek of Psalm 110:1 flounders and is without merit since it doesn’t establish their contention that the Hebrew originally read Adoni. Or they will have to acknowledge that the Masoretes were mistaken since Psalms 16:2 and 35:23 should have been Adoni, not Adonai. But then this would prove that the Hebrew Bible does use Adoni for Yahweh, thereby refuting the unitarian assertion that Adoni is never used for the true God! 

Moreover, once it is admitted that the Masoretes could be mistaken in the way they rendered the Hebrew of Psalms 16:2 and 35:23 then this opens the possibility that they were also wrong for reading Psalm 110:1 as Adoni.

The LXX on the Preexistence of David’s Lord

The other problem that unitarians face by appealing to the LXX is that this particular version actually affirms that David’s Lord personally existed before the creation of the cosmos! Here is how v. 3 reads in the LXX:

From the womb, before the Morning-star (pro heosphorou), I brought you forth/begot you.” 109:3

Yahweh brought forth or begot David’s Lord from the womb, from before the formation of the Morning-star!

Morning-star may be referring to an actual star or a spirit being (or perhaps both!) which the star represents since this is how the word is used in the following passage:

“And it shall be on that day that God will give you rest from your pain and wrath and your hard slavery with which you were subject to them. And you will take up this lament against the king of Babylon, and you will say on that day… How is fallen from heaven the Morning-star (heosphoros), which used to rise early in the morning rising! He has been crushed into the earth who used to send [light] to all the nations! You said in your mind, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will set my throne above the stars (asteron) of God; I will sit on a lofty mountain, upon the lofty mountains towards the north; I will ascend above the clouds; I will be like the Most High.’ But now you will descend into Hades and into the foundations of the earth.” Isaiah 14:3-4, 12-15

The fall of the king of Babylon is described as the Morning-star falling from heaven. In context it seems that Yahweh is likening the destruction of the king to the judgment that had fallen on a majestic spirit being, one who thought he could set himself above the stars of God and make himself equal to the Most High.

This suggests that the Morning-star may have been a heavenly creature that wanted to rule over the angels and become greater than them in status and honor.

Whatever the case maybe it is clear from Psalm 109:3 that David’s Lord existed before the constellations were made, and therefore before the earth was brought into being since Yahweh had created the stars (as well as the angels) before fashioning the world:

“Where were you when I was laying the earth’s foundation? Now tell me, if you are endowed with understanding. Who determined its measures, if you know? Or who was it that stretched a line upon it? On what have its rings been fastened? And who is he that cast a cornerstone upon it? When the stars (astra) were born, all my angels (pantes angeloi mou) praised me with a loud voice.” Job 38:4-7

And since unitarians appeal to the LXX of Psalm 110 to prove their case are they willing to accept this particular version’s rather explicit and emphatic witness to the preexistence of David’s Lord? If not, then why not?

Jesus Christ – Thomas’ Adonai and Elohim

The problems are far from over for the unitarians. According to Psalm 35:23, David’s God and Lord is Yahweh. The LXX translates the Hebrew Elohai we’Adonai as ho theos mou kai ho kyrios mou.

However, according to Thomas Jesus is his Lord and God! 

“And Thomas answered and said unto him, ‘My Lord and my God (ho kyrios mou kai ho theos mou).’ Jesus saith unto him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed [are] they that have not seen, and [yet] have believed.’” John 20:28

The words which the inspired author uses are virtually identical to what we have in the Greek translation of Psalm 35:23, with the only exception being that the order is reversed. Since the phrase used in the LXX is a translation of the words Elohai we’Adonai we can therefore assume that Thomas actually called Jesus both Adonai and Elohim, especially if he was speaking in Hebrew.

In other words, the Greek of John 20:28 suggests that Thomas actually confessed that Jesus is Adonai we’ Elohai! At the very least this is how we should understand Thomas’ words in light of the parallel construction found in Psalm 34:23 LXX which renders Hebrew Elohai we’Adonai as ho theos mou kai ho kyrios mou.

That Thomas is calling Jesus his Lord and God is something that is beyond dispute as far as the grammar of John is concerned. Noted reformed Christian apologist Dr. James R. White explains: 

“Thomas’s answer is simple and clear. It is directed to the Lord Jesus, not to anyone else, for John says, ‘he said to Him.’ The content of his confession is plain and unambiguous. ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus is Thomas’s Lord. Of this there is no question. And there is simply no reason – grammatical, contextual, or otherwise – to deny that in the very same breath Thomas calls Jesus Christ his ‘God.’ (White, The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief [Bethany House Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI 1998], Chapter 5. Jesus Christ: God in Human Flesh, p. 69)

The late Catholic NT scholar Raymond E. Brown writes:

#17. John 20:28: On the Sunday evening one week after Easter Jesus appears to Thomas and the other disciples, causing Thomas to confess him as “My Lord and my God.” This is the clearest example in the NT of the use of “God” for Jesus.276 Here Jesus is addressed as “God” (a nominative form with the definite article, which functions as a vocative). The scene is designed to serve as a climax to the Gospel: As the resurrected Jesus stands before the disciples, one of their number at last gives expression to an adequate faith in Jesus. He does this by applying to Jesus the Greek (Septuagint) equivalent of two terms applied to the God of the OT (kyrios, “Lord,” rendering YHWH; and theos, “God,” rendering ’Elohim). The best example of the OT usage is in Ps 35:23, where the psalmist cries out: “My God and my Lord.” It may well be that the Christian use of such a confessional formula was catalyzed by the Roman emperor Domitian’s claim to the title “Lord and God” (dominus et deus noster). (Brown, Introduction to New Testament Christology [Paulist Press, Mahwah, N. J. 1994], Appendix III. Did the New Testament Call Jesus God?, (C) Passages Where Jesus Is Clearly Called God, pp. 188-189; underline emphasis ours)

Both in a footnote and in his conclusion Brown notes that the NT calls Jesus God in several other places as well,

276. The contention of Theodore of Mopsuestia that Thomas was uttering an exclamation of thanks to the Father finds few proponents today. Bultmann (“Christological” 276) calls it: “The only passage in which Jesus is undoubtedly designated or, more exactly, addressed as God.” That statement is exaggerated, however, for it does not give proper emphasis to the probabilities or, indeed certainties that Heb 1:8; 1 John 5:20; and II Pet 1:1 refer to Jesus as God. Moreover, it draws more attention than is warranted to the fact that “God” is used with an article in John 20:28 and without an article in John 1:1. As I noted above, the two passages form an inclusion and thus say the same thing. C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to John (2d ed.; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978), 573, apropos of John 20:28: “The difference between the present verse and 1:1 (where theos is anarthrous) cannot be pressed.” (Ibid.; bold emphasis ours)


The question that forms the title of this APPENDIX must be answered in the affirmative. In three reasonably clear instances in the NT and in five instances that have probability Jesus is called God. The use of “God” for Jesus that is attested in the early 2d century was a continuation of a usage that had begun in NT times. There is no reason to be surprised at this. “Jesus is Lord” was evidently a popular confessional formula in NT times, and in this formula Christians gave Jesus the title kyrios which was the Septuagint translation for YHWH. If Jesus could be given this title then why could he not be called “God” (theos), which the Septuagint often used to translate ’Elohim? The two Hebrew terms had become relatively interchangeable, and indeed YHWH was the more sacred term.   

This does not mean that we can take a naive view about the development that took place in the NT usage of “God” for Jesus (nor, for that matter, the gradual growth in the understanding of Jesus’ divinity). The eight instances with which we are concerned are found in these NT writings: Romans, Hebrews, Titus, John, I John, and II Peter… (Ibid., (D) Evaluation Of The Evidence, pp. 189-190; bold emphasis ours)

Hence, Thomas’ declaration not only confirms that Jesus is both Yahweh/Adonai and Elohim it further establishes that Adoni is applied to God!

  1. The prophet David calls Jesus Adoni.
  2. Jesus is the Lord God according to the inspired Scriptures.
  3. Therefore, Adoni is a title used for Deity.     

To then argue against the Deity of Christ solely on the mere use of Adoni is fallacious since it doesn’t tell us one way or another whether the inspired Biblical writer has a Divine subject in view or not; that has to be determined primarily from the context itself.

For more on Psalm 110 we recommend the following articles and rebuttals:

This concludes the second part of our analysis. Please continue to part three.