DISSERTAZIONI DI DOTTORATO
MASCARENHAS TheodoreThe Missionary Function of Israel in Psalms 67, 96 and 117
Mod.: Prof. Robert ALTHANN
The basic question posed in the thesis is whether there is a missionary function assigned to Israel in Psalms 67, 96 and 117. The results from the detailed study of the three selected Psalms are then utilised to investigate other missionary-like instances in the Psalter. The three Psalms have been chosen because they appear to be the most representative of the missionary function in the Psalter. All three have universalism and the missionary function as the main theme. Secondly, within these three Psalms, which are studied in the context of the whole Psalter and their concatenation with other Psalms, one finds practically all the ideas regarding the missionary function of Israel.
The author defines mission using terms and categories present in the New Testament and in Christian circles and adapts it to the study of the mission and missionary function in the Old Testament. It is argued that while there appears to be no direct mandate for mission in the Old testament, except perhaps in the case of Jonah, Israel's missionary function is expressed through three metaphors, "a blessing to the nations" (expressed through the promise made to Abraham: Gen 12:1-3), "a kingdom of priests" (Exod 19:6), and "a light to the nations" (Isa 42:1-6; 49:1-6).
Psalms 67, 96 and 117 are treated comprehensively using a wide variety of approaches. The Masoretic text is examined critically, a translation is provided, the poetic techniques and the unity of each Psalm are discussed and its links to the psalms surrounding it are investigated. But the author's main concern is to discover the expression of Israel's missionary function within each Psalm.
In Ps 67, Israel prays for Yahweh's blessing because it is convinced that this blessing would make God's way and salvation known to the nations. The Psalmist has used material available to him like the Aaronic Blessing but has so re-modelled it as to make it missionary minded. Retaining all the theological import that the blessing carries, he has instilled in it the Abrahamic hope and has portrayed Israel as a blessing to the nations.
In Ps 96, Israel is called to proclaim Yahweh as the only viable God and as the universal king and Lord. The nations and the whole world are invited to sing to Yahweh and to worship him. The Psalmist has a clear vision of what is Israel's role in the world vis-à-vis the nations. Enlightened by a missionary vision, borrowing and adapting material from elsewhere, he sets up very clearly what Israel has to do in its missionary role. Convincing and valid arguments from monotheism and the kingship of Yahweh form the missionary gospel to be proclaimed.
Psalm 117 invites the nations to praise Yahweh, recognising his covenantal attributes. Basing himself on the particularism expressed in the characteristic virtues of Israel's God, his faithfulness and everlasting love towards his people, the Psalmist subtly but consciously extends these covenantal virtues to the nations by including them among the worshippers of Yahweh
In conclusion, the dissertation examines other instances in the Psalter which hint at a missionary function for Israel and concludes that the Psalter repeatedly affirms Israel's election and privileged position which paradoxically compel it to bring others to its God. While expecting all nations to render homage to its God and to worship him (Ps 22:28-32; Ps 47, 87), Israel realises its own special role in this event either as a conduit of God's blessings (Ps 67) or as a witness to his steadfast love (Ps 117) or as a proclaimer of his deeds (Ps 9:12; 18:50; Ps 96).
Israel never loses sight of the fact that it has been chosen and gathered from all nations and that his steadfast love to Israel never dwindles or fades away. Israel on its part is called to live according to Yahweh's way and thus merit his blessings. The Psalter recalls that Israel has to endeavour to live a life worthy of God's people, proclaim his saving deeds and his steadfast love. In doing so, it fulfils its missionary function.