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“At/In the Right Hand”: An Exhortation

February 1, 2017

I really must appeal to readers to do a bit of reading and checking of data before “winging it” with proposals that are baseless.  This exhortation comes on the heels of some responses to my latest posting on the NT references to Jesus “at/in God’s right hand” (here).  I’m not simply being peevish.  It’s a waste of everyone’s time for ill-informed and baseless notions to be expressed, everyone’s time, including those who proffer them.

That posting about the two Greek expressions used in the NT, and the predecessor posting as well (here), arose from quite a lot of detailed work issuing in two published essays focused on the Christological use of certain Psalms in the NT.  In that earlier posting (here), for example, I cite briefly some of the crucial linguistic data.  These data arise from (1) checking every instance of NT references to Jesus and God’s “right hand”, and (2) every instance of either of the two Greek prepositional phrases in question in the LXX, checking for each instance the Hebrew constructions translated, and (3) using the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae to survey usage of the two Greek expressions in several “pagan” authors roughly contemporary with the NT writings.

So, my proposals don’t arise from some sudden flash of a “what if” sort, or some free-wheeling notion.  They arise instead from an attempt to grasp and make sense of the clear patterns involved.  Crucially, the two Greek expressions aren’t used interchangeably in the LXX, but instead translate a different set of Hebrew expressions.  And that is the case across the various LXX writings, which means that the several translators followed this pattern.   So, this seems to me to make it less likely that the two Greek expressions under investigation appeared in early Christian discourse as variant translations of the same Hebrew phrase (in Psalm 110:1).  I know that Hengel, Hay, Bauckham, et alia favour this view, but it seems less likely to me, for the various translators of the LXX didn’t operate this way.

Second, the preference for εν δεξιᾳ in NT confessional expressions is exhibited across various authors in the NT, and is not simply a personal preference of this or that author.  So we have to account for this widescale/shared preference, despite concurrent evidence that the same authors knew very well, and could quote exactly, what the wording of Greek Psalm 110:1 was.

Third, the focus on the LXX data arises from the evidence that the NT writings reflect a strong influence of the Greek OT upon their discourse.  After all, there is the direct citation of Psalm 110:1 in a number of writings, and many other OT texts as well.  Moreover, all the references to Jesus vis-a-vis God’s “right hand” arguably reflect OT influence.

Finally, the TLG data eliminates the suggestion that εκ δεξιων was being superseded by εν δεξιᾳ in Koine Greek.  For, as I indicated in my postings, both expressions are used by the various “pagan” authors surveyed.

I welcome questions for clarification or such from anyone, and any observation relevant to the issue.  And I welcome proposals from others as well, so long as any proposal arises from an equivalent investment of effort in surveying the relevant data.

One Comment
  1. Professor Hurtado
    I liked your comment (when giving a lecture somewhere, seen on YouTube) that you do not make pronouncements on (if I remember it correctly) dental surgery, because you are not a dental surgeon. Unfortunately, people seem to have no such inhibitions when making pronouncements on Biblical texts.

    The internet is a rich source of unfounded theories that get latched onto by some people. For instance, in my research on Codex Sinaiticus I discovered on-line a video that states that “the name Jesus Christ appears nowhere in Codex Sinaiticus.” The best I can conclude concerning the claimant is that (s)he does not know how to read nomina sacra. But that will not stop others from believing a repeating the claim, which is totally at variance with the facts.


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