While our Reformation commentators readily found Christological meaning in the Psalms, whether typologically or more immediately, considerable care was nevertheless taken to understand the historical context of the text as well.

In his interpretation of Psalm 98, English pastor and theologian John Downame (1571-1652) demonstrates this concern, as he sets forth both the historical and Christological meanings of righteousness.

A Literal Goodness

The English Annotations:

Most expositors understand this righteousness to be evangelical righteousness through faith in Christ’s merits etc.; on this ground, the subject of the whole psalm (as is generally conceived) is to set out the happiness and glory of Christ’s kingdom and the conversion of the nations to him.So that we may know the ground upon, and how far we may go, to keep ourselves within proper bounds. Neither is to be questioned, but that it was intended to that use by the Holy Ghost, by way of mystical application and interpretation, which though to us Christians most considerable now, yet ought we not neglect the immediate, literal, historical sense, which is the ground of the mystical, and is to be sought, so that we may know the ground upon, and how far we may go, to keep ourselves within proper bounds, good use is to be made on several occasions, by good and warrantable consequences and applications. We say, therefore, that some notable victory or deliverance, having been the immediate occasion, by which we must understand the word “righteousness” to mean literally “goodness and mercy.” And though it is known that the prophets sometimes speak of future things, by prescience they could better express their own confidence (and to produce it in others) of a certain accomplishment, yet here is the immediate cause of their knowledge: “The Lord has made known,” “has shown,” and so forth, what has already taken place. It is this kind of information that they convey.

Annotations on Psalm 98:2.

Psalms 73-150, ed. Herman J. Selderhuis, Reformation Commentary on Scripture, OT vol. 8, p. 147.

RCS Series: Christology and the Psalms


Martin Luther | All of Scripture in the Psalms

Cardinal Cajetan | Apostles, Psalms, and Literal Exposition

Wolfgang Musculus | Typology and the Psalms

John Calvin | Davidic Typology

Konrad Pellikan | Messianic Expectation and the Psalms

John Downame | Christological Righteousness

Philipp Melanchthon | Christ the Son and Lord of David

Wolfgang Musculus | Christology and Deliverance in the Psalms

The Psalms among the Reformers: An Interview with Herman J. Selderhuis