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Book Review – The Vine and the Son of Man: Eschatological Interpretation of Psalm 80 in Early Judaism (Andrew Streett)

Andrew Streett. The Vine and the Son of Man: Eschatological Interpretation of Psalm 80 in Early Judaism. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2014. 232 pp. $59.00.

VinePart of the Emerging Scholars Series from Fortress Press, this title is the revised doctoral dissertation of Andrew Streett, which investigates the eschatological and messianic interpretations of Psalm 80 from the time of its writing, through Second Temple Judaism, and in the New Testament. “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” (1).

Chapter 1 sets the stage for investigating the eschatological interpretation of Psalm 80 in the Second Temple Period by exploring the content of the psalm itself, showing “how concepts that would later become the basis of eschatological interpretation are rooted in the psalm as it might have been understood in the original context” (15). Streett analyzes the broader issues and themes of the psalm that are the seedbed for later eschatological developments, such as the exodus/new exodus and creation/recreation motifs of the vine image in verses 9-16, the man/son of man in verse 18, the features of the vine descriptions that appear to be royal motifs, and probable allusions to a Davidic king. The chapter ends with a look at the addition of verse 16b as the first stage of messianic interpretation of Psalm 80.

In Chapter 2, Streett shows how the purposeful editing of the Psalter expanded the eschatological meaning of Psalm 80. Here he interacts significantly with the work of Gerard Wilson, beginning by highlighting the five major features of the Psalter that point toward purposeful and meaningful arrangement of the book. Streett also deals with the view of the Davidic king in the final form of the Psalter, demonstrates evidence for an intended eschatological and messianic outlook in the final form of the Psalter, and looks at Psalm 80 in the context of the edited Psalter to show the shift in meaning that its new context effected. “Placing Psalm 80 in the context of its final form 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” (89).

The thesis of Chapter 3 is that “the author of Daniel 7 used Psalm 80 prominently in fashioning the basic structure of his vision and the figure of one like a son of man” (92). The chapter begins with a look at the mythological background of Daniel 7 as well as the various views on the influence of Canaanite myth. Streett then considers the best proposals arguing that the OT acts as a mediating point between the Canaanite myths and Daniel 7. Streett argues “that the author of Daniel 7 derived his figure of the son of man, the beastly enemies, and the basic structure of his vision from Psalm 80, which he interpreted eschatologically” (101). “Daniel 7 is the first instance of eschatological and messianic interpretation of Psalm 80 by way of allusion, and the only instance of this in the OT” (110).

In Chapter 4 Street analyzes the ways Psalm 80 was interpreted eschatologically and messianically through translation or allusion in Second Temple and rabbinic literature. He looks at four features of Psalm 80 in the LXX (79 LXX) that could point to a messianizing or eschatologizing of the text: the change to υἱὸν ἀνθρώπου in verse 16, the translation of the superscriptions to εἰς τὸ τέλος ὑπέρ τῶν ἀλλοιωθησομένων, the change to τοῦ δούλου in verse 5, and change to ζωώσεις in verse 19. Streett also spends some time on the interpretation of Psalm 80 in 1QHa XVI, 4-26; Pseudo-Philo’s Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum; 2 Baruch 36-40; the Psalms Targum; and Leviticus Rabbah.

The final three chapters consider whether NT writers used Psalm 80 to make sense of the perceived eschatological period that had begun with the coming of Jesus the Messiah. These chapters argue that four passages from the gospels allude to Psalm 80 and interpret the psalm eschatologically and messianically. Chapter 5 demonstrates that Mark alludes to Psalm 80 in the passion predictions and in Mark 14:62, interpreting Psalm 80 both eschatologically and messianically as prophecy fulfilled in Christ. Chapter 6 shows that Mark 12 alludes to Psalm 80 in the parable of the wicked tenants and the following saying of Jesus, and that Psalm 80 as the intertext is the source for the son/vine combination and for the third party that receives judgment instead of the vine. And finally, chapter 7 investigates the use of Psalm 80 in John 15:1-8, demonstrating that recognition of Psalm 80 as an intertext provides a source for the messianic application of the vine image, allegorical identification of the Father/Son relationship, and the presentation of disciples as branches (221). John 15:1-8 presents Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophecy of the son/branch that continues Israel’s role.

Because no prior full-length work had been dedicated to the interpretation of Psalm 80 in biblical and Second Temple literature, this book is a unique and important study. Fascinating and novel intertextual insights abound. It’s definitely a must-read for any with specific interest in the ancient history of interpretation of Psalm 80, but it is also a delightful and valuable study in Jewish messianic expectation, which carries over into issues relating to early Christology. Furthermore, in this study Streett demonstrates the importance and fruitfulness of tracing by way of detecting allusion texts that are rarely quoted in Jewish literature and NT texts. As Streett expresses in the conclusion, may this method of investigation be extended to other neglected passages.

*Many thanks to Fortress Press for sending a free copy in exchange for an unbiased review!

Purchase: Amazon

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  1. Jennifer,

    Thanks for reviewing The Vine and the Son of Man: Eschatological Interpretation of Psalm 80 in Early Judaism. It’s always exciting for us to see that first review go up on Amazon!

    Shaun Tabatt
    Community Development Manager
    Fortress Press


    • Many thanks to Fortress Press for sending me the title! It was a delight to read and review. I was glad to supply the first Amazon review – it’s a shame for good books to be un-reviewed!


  2. Wow sounds very neat; over the years I’m beginning to see a larger context that Psalms need to be placed in, and that there are a lot more reference to eschatology and the Messiah in light of the Davidic Covenant that runs deeply throughout the Psalms


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