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Formerly Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series

Claudia V. Camp, Texas Christian University
Andrew Mein, Westcott House, Cambridge

Founding Editors
David J. A. Clines, Philip R. Davies and David M. Gunn

Editorial Board
Richard J. Coggins, Alan Cooper, John Goldingay, Robert P. Gordon,
Norman K. Gottwald, Gina Hens-Piazza, John Jarick, Andrew D. H. Mayes,
Carol Meyers, Patrick D. Miller, Yvonne Sherwood
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Studies in Reception

edited by

Dirk J. Human
Gert J. Steyn
Copyright 2010 by Dirk J. Human and Gert J. Steyn

Published by T & T Clark International

A Continuum imprint
80 Maiden Lane, New York, NY 10038
The Tower Building, 11 York Road, London SE1 7NX


Visit the T & T Clark blog at www.tandtclarkblog.com

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, including photocopying,
recording, or otherwise, without the written permission of the publisher, T & T Clark

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress.

ISBN: 978-0567-15052-3 (hardback)

Typeset and copy-edited by Forthcoming Publications Ltd. (www.forthpub.com)

Printed in the United States of America by Thomson-Shore, Inc

Preface vii
Abbreviations xv
List of Contributors ixx

Part I


Eckart Otto 3


Jaco W. Gericke 27


Alphonso Groenewald 52

Part II


Gerda de Villiers 69


Sebastian Fuhrmann 83


Leonard P. Mar 99
vi Psalms and Hebrews


Chris L. De Wet 113


Martin Karrer 126


Dirk J. Human 147


Christian Frevel 165


Gert J. Steyn 194


Gert J. C. Jordaan and Pieter Nel 229


Evangelia G. Dafni 241

Part III


Herrie Van Rooy 263

Index of References 279

Index of Authors 295
Dirk J. Human and Gert J. Steyn

A Psalm seminar, entitled Psalms and Hebrews: Studies in Reception,

took place at the University of Pretoria on the 27th and 28th of August
2007. This was the fth annual meeting of the ProPsalms (Project
Psalms) project, a specialized and interdisciplinary seminar between
African and European scholars. This book is the peer-reviewed outcome
of that seminar.
The reception (use and interpretation) of biblical Psalms within (the
so-called Epistle of the) Hebrews and the Septuagint (LXX) is depicted in
various ways by this collection of essays. By focusing especially on the
Psalm quotations (for example, from Pss 8, 40[39], 95[94], and
110[109]) in Hebrews, the current collection depicts both the nature of
the Psalm texts that were usedwith special emphasis on the Hebrew
and Greek (LXX) Psalmsand the manner in which a particular early
Christian writer (here the unknown author of Hebrews) utilized and
interpreted the Psalms texts within his argument. Therefore, the book
provides insights into the complexities of ancient hermeneutics, and the
re-interpretation of religious texts.
Contributions are arranged into three parts. Part I represents a more
general approach to the relationship between Psalms and Hebrews. The
second part provides specic illustrations of different psalms, and their
reception in Hebrews and the LXX. In Part III, a nal essay conveys an
African illustration on how psalms are to be received in a contemporary
language and religious tradition.
In the rst contribution, Eckart Otto explores the hermeneutics of bib-
lical theology and the history of religion. He illustrates these processes
through an appropriation of the reception of some Psalms in the Epistle
to the Hebrews. First, the hermeneutical debate in Old Testament
Theology (from Otto Eissfeldt to Walter Brueggemann) is highlighted.
Especially Brueggemanns category of a productive misunderstanding

viii Psalms and Hebrews

appears to pose some problems. The reception of Ps 8 in Heb 2 serves as

an example to illuminate some of this categorys shortfalls. Both a
sociological and a theological level of description are necessary in order
to derive a better understanding of the processes of reception between the
two testaments. A sociological description correlates the functions of
religion and societal institutions. Furthermore, a theological description
(which includes a brief exposition of Hos 11:19), correlates divine
majesty with divine suffering by exploring the idea that God overcomes
his own anger when he suffers together with those who should be
destroyed by his wrath. The last section of Ottos contribution examines
the reception of Pss 2 and 110 (LXX 109) in Hebrews. Once again,
Brueggemanns productive misunderstanding is questioned. A better
proposition is proposed, namely, that the inherent meaning of the
Hebrew text is unfolded coherently by the authors of the LXX and
Hebrews. Otto arrives at the conclusion that a study of the history of
religion reveals a sound theological substance binding the Old and the
New Testament together.
In his essay, Jaco Gericke considers the question as to whether the
reading of the Psalms by the author of Hebrews is offering the truth.
However, rather than providing an answer to this question, the contri-
bution challenges the reader to reect on the question itself by asking
what it might mean to afrm or to deny the truth of something. Various
philosophical theories of truth are discussed, with reference to which it is
demonstrated that, whether or not one thinks of Hebrews interpretation
of the Psalter as true, depends on what is meant by the concept of truth
itself. However, no particular view on the nature of truth is without its
problems. Gericke shows not only what is involved in presupposing a
particular view of truth in assessing the relation between Hebrews and
the Psalter, but also what the pros and cons of holding to that pre-
supposed view amount to.
Alphonso Groenewald states that the author of Hebrews depends most
heavily on the Pentateuch and the Psalms. The Pentateuch, for the most
part, offers material for reection on redemptive history; while the
Psalms provide for the christological material. The great debt of Hebrews
to the Old Testament, however, is not simply a matter of general
background and copious quotation; it also extends to fundamental Old
Testament ways of thinking which are constantly presupposed, and
which underlie all passages in the book. The concept of esed (faith-
fulness, kindness, grace, steadfast love, solidarity etc.) is one of those.
According to the Hebrew Scriptures, God revealed himself to his people
at Sinai. Groenewalds contribution deals specically with three Psalms
references (Pss 86; 103; 145) to the Sinai revelation. This discussion is
Preface ix

followed by a short overview of this specic text in the Pentateuch.

Groenewald concludes by briey indicating the possible inuence that
these Old Testament texts had on Hebrews.

The trajectories of Old Testament textual traditions, and their re-

interpretations in New Testament literature, are most visible in those
texts where explicit quotations are to be found in the New Testament. It
is thus not surprising that the New Testament contributions in this vol-
ume mainly focus on the occurrences of explicit quotations in Hebrews.

The rst four essays of Part II, Special Illustrations, deal with Ps 8 and
its reception. Gerda de Villiers reects upon creation and humankind
through the agesfrom the Old Testament era, through the LXX epoch,
into the New Testament times. From this it appears that Ps 8 underwent
some signicant interpretations, dependent upon its discourse partner(s)
at any given period in time. Initially, Ps 8 took a decisive stance against
the worldview of the ancient Near East and the royal ideology of Egypt.
Humble, yet precious in the eyes of YHWH are human beings in this
Hebrew Psalm. The LXX reveals some problems with regards to the
translation of the psalms key terms, thereby illustrating that any
translation necessarily involves a process of interpretation. In the time of
the Hebrews epistle, the world has radically changed and the author
foresees a new creation with the Son as the redeemer of humankind.
Human beings, once again portrayed as humble, become part of a new
creation through belief in the Son.
Sebastian Fuhrmann, in his essay on The Son, the Angels and the
Odd: Psalm 8 in Hebrews 1 and 2, demonstrates how at least one
important intention of the author of Hebrews was to contextualize the
traditional interpretation of Ps 8 anew. A new interpretation of this
psalm, which was used to explicate the Sons resurrection and enthrone-
ment, is now provided by the unknown New Testament author. This
psalm is now employed to prove that the humiliation of Christ was
according to Gods plan. The author emphasizes the compassion of
Christ for the believers, and argues for Jesus disgraceful suffering on the
cross by means of scriptural proof from Ps 8. The name of Christ, Son,
is higher than that of the angels, although he was humiliated to a position
lower than the angels.
In another contribution, Leonard Mar investigates the central ques-
tion that Ps 8 poses, namely: What is man? This question is asked, and
answered, in the context of a second question, namely: Who is God?
The essay aims to explore how the relation between Gods glory (as it is
revealed in creation), and the glory of humankind (as the apex of Gods
x Psalms and Hebrews

creation), should be understood. With the Old Testament context in

mind, the citation of the psalm in Hebrews is examined in the second
part of the essay to ascertain how the author of Hebrews applied Ps 8 in a
Messianic sense to Jesus Christ.
Still focusing on Ps 8, Chris de Wet investigates The Messianic
Interpretation of Psalm 8:46 in Hebrews 2:69. He argues that the
author of Hebrews interprets Ps 8 messianically, despite its typical nature
as a creation hymn. The citation given in the text excludes certain words
and phrases, and new meaning is given to certain words. This makes the
messianic interpretation possible. Jesus, as the Son of God, was made
lower than the angels for a little while, but through his death and
suffering has been crowned with honour and glory. But Jesus is also
representative of all humankind, which means that through him, human-
kind will also be crowned with honour and glory. This is closer to the
psalms original meaning, which understands the glory of humankind in
relation to the glory of God. Jesus, as the Theanthropos (according to the
author of Hebrews), is the representation of Gods honour and glory,
which is then also transmitted (in an eschatological hope) to humankind.
It is quite possible that the author of Hebrews did know the original
meaning of the psalm, but in his view and according to the principles of
interpretation of his own time, this meaning could only be realized in the
events of Jesus death and suffering.
Martin Karrer moves the spotlight to another important quotation in
Hebrews when he discusses the LXX Ps 39:710 in Heb 10:57. It
certainly is interesting that Jesus talks (MFHFJ) in Heb 10:5a. As this
explicitly points to a kind of Jesus logion, it is striking that it has left
no traces in any known collection of Jesus logia elsewhere, and should
be ascribed to the author of Hebrews own interpretative presentation of
the Psalm. The quoted text of LXX Ps 39:710 is signicant for the
textual history of the LXX. Although there are traces that the author of
Hebrews might have altered the text at the end of the quotation for his
own purpose, it certainly is important that LXX manuscripts support the
peculiarities of Hebrews within the quotation (PMPLBVUXNBUBand
FVEPLITBK). According to Karrer, the quotation from LXX Ps 39:710 in
Heb 10:57 gives remarkable insights into both the theology of Hebrews,
as well as into the textual history of the LXX. Jesus actually speaks, and
yet he exclusively speaks words from the written Scriptures of Israel
dominated by words from the Psalms. Therefore, the Psalms illustrate the
Christology of Hebrews in an outstanding manner. However, the Jesus of
Hebrews actualizes the Psalms. LXX Psalm 39 gets a new christological
perspective (preparing Heb 13:1014). The author of Hebrews tries to
maintain the LXX wording of his quotationsas can be seen in the
Preface xi

preference for TX_NB in Heb 10:5 (attested by the Old Greek), rather than
using XUJB
 Three essays touch upon Ps 95 and its Wirkungsgeschichte. In an
extensive contribution, entitled TI NFSPOUnderstanding Psalm 95
within, and without, Hebrews, Christian Frevel makes a thorough
analysis of Ps 95. He argues that the use of the Old Testament in the
New Testament is seen as a strong indication of the coherence of the
Bible within itself. But this coherence is manifold and by no means
unambiguousallusions, afrmative or contrastive citations and lines of
reasoningand more than once the meaning of the Old Testament text is
changed. However, despite the diversity of scripture within scripture, and
explicit as well as implicit intertextuality, there still remains a strong
bond between the Old and the New Testaments. How this correlation
between Old and New can be perverted, by insisting on the prevalence of
the New Testament, becomes clear in some results of Hebrews research.
The Letter to the Hebrews has strong dealings with Old Testament
allusions and citations on the one hand, but has also been accused of
having an anti-judaistic implication on the other. Therefore a closer look
at Hebrews and its specic dealing with the Old Testament is necessary.
This article is a bold contribution to the aforementioned problemby
examining the use of Ps 95 in Hebrews. The use of the Old Testament in
Hebrews as a larger issue becomes clearer with Frevels explication.
Dirk Human focuses in his A Prophetic Voice for Africa from Psalm
95 more on the understanding of Ps 95 in its Old Testament context(s),
and adds some challenges for its New Testament interpretation. An
exposition of the text in its Old Testament context in comparison with its
New Testament use and understanding reveals continuity and disconti-
nuity with regard to context, content and theological meaning of the text.
Ultimately, Human reads the psalm as a challenge to his African Sitz im
Gert Steyn, in his contribution, titled The Reception of Psalm
95(94):711 in Hebrews 34, refers to the fact that about half of all the
quotations in Hebrews were taken from the Psalms. The author quotes
extensively from Ps 94 (LXX), presenting the latter half of the whole
psalm as the third longest quotation in the New Testament. It is the rst
time in the known literature of early Judaism, and early Christianity, that
Ps 94 LXX is quoted, and the author introduces the quotation as words
from the Holy Spirit. There are clear signs of following the LXX text as
closely as possible. The key words TINFSPO and LBUBQBVTJKdetermined
the delimitation of the quotation. There are very few changes to the text
of the psalm itself, and it possibly represents an existing but lost Vorlage;
the authors preference for Attic above Hellenistic forms, and small
xii Psalms and Hebrews

adaptations to highlight the contrast between that generation and this

generation. This generation should hold on to the courage and hopea
shift in the interpretation of Ps 95(94), which is visible between his
contrasting of the warning for that generation and the promise of this
generation. A lengthy Midrash on the quotation follows in which the
author re-quotes the beginning and the end of the initial quotation twice
each, strategically placing the quotation from Gen 2:2 in its centre.
Building on an existing tradition, that linked the creation and the exodus
themes, a transition is made in the interpretation of LBUBQBVTJKfrom
referring to the Promised Land, to now referring to a sabbatical period.
Although there are clear signs of typology (MosesJesus, the Exodus
generationthis generation), the spiritualization of rest, with its cultic
and eschatological connotations, cannot be denied. Probably as the rst
Jesus (Joshua) led them to the Promised Land, so this Jesus (the Son of
God) would lead them to a sabbatical rest.
Another major focal point in Hebrews remains the role of Ps 110the
most quoted psalm in the New Testament. The contribution of Gert
Jordaan and Pieter Nel argues that there is good reason to believe that
the structure of Hebrews as a whole was moulded to the basic form of Ps
110. The authors chose to follow the direction that George Buchanan
(and a few others before him) took, namely, in seeing that Hebrews is
basically a homiletical Midrash on Ps 110. In their contribution, From
Priest-King to King-Priest: Psalm 110 and the Basic Structure of
Hebrews, Jordaan and Nel position themselves against Saldarinis
opposing viewpoint on the homiletical Midrash theory. They argue that
the author of Hebrews not only took the central verses for his sermon
from Ps 110, but also used the thought-structure of the psalm as blueprint
for the broad structure of his sermon. The implication is that Hebrews
thereby complies with an important requirement of a typical Midrash.
The Old Testament passage which it takes up for exposition (Ps 110:1, 4)
remains the basic text throughout the document. Although the expound-
ing-process requires other Old Testament passages to be quoted, the
author of Hebrews constantly returns to Ps 110:1, 4 as basic text.
Evangelia Dafni, furthermore, examines LXX Ps 109. In Heb 1:13 the
New Testament, following rabbinic-exegetical conventions, quotes LXX
Ps 109(110) in order to provide answers to typical hermeneutical ques-
tions regarding theology, messianism and angelology of the Holy Scrip-
tures in their Hebrew/Aramaic and Old Greek form. The New Testament
authors raise questions on how the identication of the monotheistic
image of God in ancient Israel, with the triune God of the Early Christian
Community, as well as the identication of the Old Testament concept of
the Messiah, is to be legitimatized with the incarnated Jesus Christ.
Preface xiii

Today, these questions could receive various answers from Old Testa-
ment as well as New Testament scholars as a result of their different his-
torical, ideological and theological presuppositions. Modern theoretical
edices, unlike the christological interpretation of the ancient Israelite
Scriptures, are based on the assumption that (for the Christian) self-
awareness of the identication of the Lord in question with the expected
Messiah and Jesus Christ is a given fact, but for critical Old Testament
scholarship this is the question it has to seek an answer to.
In this essay, Dafnis objective is to discuss the meaning of deviations
in the text transmission of the LXX Ps 109(110), as well as to give some
examples of interpretative and hermeneutical guidelines and perspectives
on the basis of intended word-choices (as found mainly in vv. 13),
which, in her view, are constitutive for the tradition-critical and theo-
logico-historical setting of the whole psalm.

In Part III of this volume, Contemporary Illustration: An African

Example, Herrie van Rooy offers a presentation on how the Psalms are
to be received in a contemporary African context. This essay illustrates
that the messianic interpretation of the Psalms has received new attention
in some circles of the Afrikaans-speaking Christian community of South
Africa during recent years. This is especially the result of the publication
of a new hymnbook in Afrikaans that contains a new Afrikaans version
of the Psalter. The way in which the so-called Messianic Psalms were
rendered in the new version has resulted in reservations being expressed
in some circles. This contribution examines a number of examples of
renderings of Ps 110 to illustrate the problem. It further considers the
criticism levelled against the new Afrikaans Psalter and presents a short
survey of the psalms linked to the Messiah in Hebrews. The inter-
pretation of these psalms in Hebrews is compared to the interpretation
underlying a number of metric versions of those psalms. The discussion
of the use of a number of psalms in Hebrews refutes the position of the
critics of the new Afrikaans metrical version of the Psalms. For these
critics this new version must be rejected on account of its rendering of
the so-called Messianic Psalms.

Finally, we as editors wish to express our sincere gratitude to several

people who have helped with the orthographical setting and proofreading
of the book. They include A. Groenewald, G. de Villiers, and H. Janse
van Rensburg and S. Duncan. We attribute this volume to the inter-
disciplinary co-operation between Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern
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AB Anchor Bible
ABD Anchor Bible Dictionary. Edited by D. N. Freedman. 6 vols.
New York, 1992
ALGHJ Arbeiten zur Literatur und Geschichte des hellenistischen
ANRW Aufstieg und Niedergang der rmischen Welt: Geschichte
und Kultur Roms im Spiegel der neueren Forschung. Edited
by H. Temporini and W. Haase. Berlin, 1972
AOTC Abingdon Old Testament commentaries
BBB Bonner biblische Beitrge
BDAG Bauer, W., F. W. Danker, W. F. Arndt, and F. W. Gingrich.
GreekEnglish Lexicon of the New Testament and Other
Early Christian Literature. 3d ed. Chicago, 1999
BETL Bibliotheca ephemeridum theologicarum lovaniensium
BevTh Beitrge zur evangelischen Theologie
BHBib Bibliotheca Hispana Bblica
BHS Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. Edited by K. Elliger and
W. Rudolph. Stuttgart, 1983
Bib Biblica
BKAT Biblischer Kommentar, Altes Testament. Edited by M.
Noth and H. W. Wolff
BThS Biblisch-theologische Studien
BU Biblische Untersuchungen
BWANT Beitrge zur Wissenschaft vom Alten Testament
BZ Biblische Zeitschrift
BZAW Beihefte zur ZAW
BZNW Beihefte zur ZNW
CBC Cambridge Bible Commentary
CBETH Contributions to Biblical Exegesis and Theology
CBiPa Cahiers de Biblia patristica
CBQ Catholic Biblical Quarterly
CC Continental Commentaries
CJJC Collection Jsus et Jsus-Christ
CMOMLP Collection de la Maison de lOrient et de la Mditerrane.
Srie littraire et philosophique
CThM Calwer theologische Monographien
DJD Discoveries in the Judaean Desert
xvi Psalms and Hebrews

DNP Der neue Pauly: Enzyklopdie der Antike. Edited by H.

Cancik and H. Schneider. Stuttgart, 1996
DSD Dead Sea Discoveries
EBS Encountering biblical studies
ECC Eerdmans critical commentary
EHST Europische Hochschulschriften Theologie
EKK Evangelisch-katholischer Kommentar
EKKNT Evangelisch-katholischer Kommentar zum Neuen
ETL Ephemerides theologicae lovanienses
EvTh Evangelische Theologie
ExpTim Expository Times
FAT Forschungen zum Alten Testament
FOTL Forms of the Old Testament Literature
FRLANT Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und
Neuen Testaments
FZB Forschung zur Bibel
GHAT Gttingen Handbuch zum Alten Testament
HBS Herders biblische Studien
HCOT Historical commentary on the Old Testament
HNT Handbuch zum Neuen Testament
HThKAT Herders theologischer Kommentar zum Alten Testament
HTR Harvard Theological Review
HTS Hervormde Teologiese Studies
IBC Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and
ICC International Critical Commentary
ICNT International Commentary on the New Testament
Int Interpretation
JBL Journal of Biblical Literature
JNSL Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages
JSNTSup Journal for the Study of the New Testament: Supplement
JSOTSup Journal for the Study of the Old Testament: Supplement
JTS Journal of Theological Studies
KAT Kommentar zum Alten Testament
KBL Koehler, L., and W. Baumgartner, Lexicon in Veteris
Testamenti libros. 2d ed. Leiden, 1958
KEK Kritisch-exegetischer Kommentar ber das Neue Testament
KTU 2 Die keilalphabetischen Texte aus Ugarit. Edited by M.
Dietrich, O. Loretz, and J. Sanmartn. AOAT 24/1.
NeukirchenVluyn, 1976. 2d enlarged ed. of KTU: The
Cuneiform Alphabetic Texts from Ugarit, Ras Ibn Hani, and
Other Places. Edited by M. Dietrich, O. Loretz, and J.
Sanmartn. Mnster, 1995 (= CTU)
Abbreviations xvii

LD Lectio Divina
LHBOTS Library of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies
LSJ Liddell, H. G., R. Scott, H. S. Jones, A GreekEnglish
Lexicon. 9th ed. with revised supplement. Oxford, 1996
LXX Septuagint
MSU Mitteilungen des Septuaginta-Unternehmens
MT Masoretic Text
NABPR National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion
NCBC New Century Bible Commentary
NEB Neue Echter Bibel
Neot Neotestamentica
NICNT New International Commentary on the New Testament
NIDOTTE New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology
and Exegesis. Edited by W. A. VanGemeren. 5 vols. Grand
Rapids, 1997
NIGTC New International Greek Testament Commentary
NIVAC New International Version Application Commentary
NJB New Jerusalem Bible
NJKV New King James Version
NovT Novum Testamentum
NovTSup Novum Testamentum: Supplement Series
NTS New Testament Studies
OBO Orbis biblicus et orientalis
TBKNT kumenischer Taschenbuchkommentar zum Neuen
OTE Old Testament Essays
TK kumenischer Taschenbuch-Kommentar
OTL Old Testament Library
PaThSt Paderborner theologische Studien
PG Patrologia graeca [= Patrologiae cursus completus: Series
graeca]. Edited by J.-P. Migne. 162 vols. Paris, 18571886
QD Quaestiones disputatae
RB Revue biblique
ResQ Restoration Quarterly
SBAB Stuttgarter biblische Aufsatzbnde
SBB Stuttgarter biblische Beitrge
SBL Studies in biblical literature
SBLDS Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series
SBLMS Society of Biblical Literature Monograph Series
SBLSCS Society of Biblical Literature Septuagint and Cognate
SBS Stuttgarter Bibelstudien
SNTSMS Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series
SwJT Southwestern Journal of Theology
TDNT Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Edited by G.
Kittel and G. Friedrich. Translated by G. W. Bromiley. 10
vols. Grand Rapids, 196476
xviii Psalms and Hebrews

TDOT Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. Edited by

G. J. Botterweck and H. Ringgren. Translated by J. T.
Willis, G. W. Bromiley, and D. E. Green. 8 vols. Grand
Rapids, 1974
TGl Theologie und Glaube
THAT Theologisches Handwrterbuch zum Alten Testament.
Edited by E. Jenni, with assistance from C. Westermann. 2
vols., Stuttgart, 19711976
THKNT Theologischer Handkommentar zum Neuen Testament
ThWAT Theologisches Wrterbuch zum Alten Testament. Edited by
G. J. Botterweck and H. Ringgren. Stuttgart, 1970
TLZ Theologische Literaturzeitung
TWNT Theologische Wrterbuch zum Neuen Testament. Edited by
G. Kittel and G. Friedrich. Stuttgart, 19321979
TynBul Tyndale Bulletin
UBL Ugaritisch-biblische Literatur
VE Vox evangelica
VeE Verbum et Ecclesia
VT Vetus Testamentum
VTSup Vetus Testamentum, Supplements
WBC Word Biblical Commentary
WMANT Wissenschaftliche Monographien zum Alten und Neuen
WTJ Westminster Theological Journal
WUNT Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament
ZABR Zeitschrift fr altorientalische und biblische
ZAW Zeitschrift fr die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft
ZNW Zeitschrift fr die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die
Kunde der lteren Kirche
ZTK Zeitschrift fr Theologie und Kirche


Evangelia G. Dafni, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany

Gerda de Villiers, University of Pretoria, RSA

Chris L. De Wet, University of South Africa, Pretoria, RSA

Christian Frevel, Ruhr University, Bochum, Germany

Sebastian Fuhrmann, North-West University, Potchefstroom, RSA

Jaco W. Gericke, North-West University, Vanderbijlpark, RSA

Alphonso Groenewald, University of Pretoria, RSA

Dirk J. Human, University of Pretoria, RSA

Gert J. C. Jordaan, North-West University, Potchefstroom, RSA

Martin Karrer, Kirchliche Hochschule, Wuppertal, Germany

Leonard P. Mar, University of Johannesburg, RSA

Pieter Nel, North West University, Potchefstroom, RSA

Eckart Otto, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, Germany.

Gert J. Steyn, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, RSA

Herrie van Rooy, North-West University, Potchefstroom, RSA

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Part I

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Eckart Otto

Old Testament Theology from Otto Eissfeldt

to Walter Brueggemann
Exactly eighty years ago Otto Eissfeldt wrote an important article bear-
ing the title Israelitisch-jdische Religionsgeschichte und alttestament-
liche Theologie (Israelite-Jewish History of Religion and Theology of
the Old Testament).1 In this article Eissfeldt pleaded for a division
between a history of Israelite and Jewish religion and a theology of the
Old Testament. This was needed because, Eissfeldt maintained, historical
scholarship would always fail to explain what revelation could mean in
the Old Testament. Furthermore, while, as far as practical-theological
purposes were concerned, it was possible to write a theology of the Old
Testament, this would not be the task for historical-critical scholarship.
Old Testament scholarship as part of the approach of Liberal German
theology to Christian religion before the First World War had almost
given up trying to deal with systematically structured theologies of the
Old Testament, favouring instead chronologically ordered descriptions of
the development of religion in the Old Testament. After the First World
War, under the inuence of Karl Barths Wort Gottes Theologie
(Theology of the Word of God)2 the conservative endeavour for a theol-
ogy of the Old Testament was rediscovered and even a search for a

1. Otto Eissfeldt, Israelitisch-jdische Religionsgeschichte und alttestament-

liche Theologie, ZAW 44 (1926): 112.
2. Cf. Karl Barth, Das Schriftprinzip der reformierten Kirche, Zwischen den
Zeiten 3 (1925): 21545, and idem, Der Rmerbrief (2d ed.; Munich: Chr. Kaiser,
1922). For Karl Barths hermeneutics and its relevance, cf. Dietrich Korsch,
Dialektische Theologie nach Karl Barth (Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck],
1996), 12145.
4 Psalms and Hebrews

testimony of Christ in the Hebrew Bible was attempted.3 Otto Eissfeldt,

as a liberal historian, wrote his article in 1926, intending to save the
historical-critical approach to the history of religion, and, so he thought,
the overwhelming backlash of a theology of revelation within Old
Testament scholarship.
Walther Eichrodt responded directly to Otto Eissfeldts article.4 He
acknowledged that the objective of any theology of the Old Testament
should be the revelation in Christ, and drew on the hermeneutics of
contemporary historians including Eduard Spranger. Following Max
Weber,5 Spranger acknowledged that all historical writings were guided
by an aim of recognition, directing the historian in selecting historical
material and sources. This selection depended on a contingent decision
of the historian. For the Old Testament scholar as a theologian, according
to Walther Eichrodt, this decision should be that Christ was Gods
revelation to humanity.6 The theological substance of the Old Testament

3. Wilhelm Vischer, Das Alte Testament als Wort Gottes, Zwischen den Zeiten
5 (1927): 37995; idem, Die Bedeutung des Alten Testaments fr das christliche
Leben (Theologische Studien 3; Zurich: Evangelischer Verlag Zollikon, 1938);
idem, Das Christuszeugnis des Alten Testaments. Vol. 1, Das Gesetz (Zurich:
Evangelischer Verlag Zollikon, 1934); idem, Das Christuszeugnis des Alten
Testaments. Vol. 2, Die frhen Propheten (Zurich: Evangelischer Verlag Zollikon,
1942). For a positive evaluation of Wilhelm Vischers contribution to Old Testament
scholarship, cf. Hans-Joachim Kraus, Geschichte der historisch-kritischen Erfor-
schung des Alten Testaments (2d ed.; NeukirchenVluyn: Neukirchener Verlag,
1969), 42633.
4. Walther Eichrodt, Hat die alttestamentliche Theologie noch selbstndige
Bedeutung innerhalb der alttestamentlichen Wissenschaft?, ZAW 47 (1929): 8391.
5. Max Weber, Die Objektivitt sozialwissenschaftlicher und sozialpolitischer
Erkenntnis, Archiv fr Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 19 (1904): 2287
(reprinted in idem, Gesammelte Aufstze zur Wissenschaftslehre [5th ed.; Tbingen:
J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1982], 146214).
6. In this sense the meaning of Max Webers hermeneutics for a Biblical
Theology of both Testaments is up to now hardly realized; cf. Eckart Otto, Hat Max
Webers Religionssoziologie des antiken Judentums Bedeutung fr eine Theologie
des Alten Testaments?, ZAW 94 (1982): 187203. For a philosophical equivalent of
Max Webers hermeneutical approach cf. Josef Simon, Wahrheit als Freiheit. Zur
Entwicklung der Wahrheitsfrage in der neueren Philosophie (Berlin: de Gruyter,
1978), 228425. The result corresponds to Max Webers hermeneutics: the indi-
vidual has to decide about nal values (Letztwerte) and his or her decision deter-
mines the approach to history, and not the other Hegelian way roundthat history
could determine the decisions about nal values for the individual. Max Webers
hermeneutics formulated a decisive insight of German neo-Kantianism, which
inuenced him and also Wilhelm Herrmann, Karl Barths academic teacher at
Marburg. So, it is only logical that Walther Eichrodt, inuenced by Karl Barth, took
OTTO Hermeneutics of Biblical Theology 5

could only be grasped if it was interpreted in the light of the central

revelation of the New Testament. Otherwise, maintained Eichrodt, the
sense of Old Testament literature and history would remain hidden. And
yet, according to Eichrodt, this should not mean that the Old Testament
has to be interpreted within a scheme of Christian dogmatics.7 In 1939
Walther Eichrodt himself published a theology of the Old Testament, a
work which was systematically structured. Notably, however, this work
did not derive its structure from Christian dogmatics, but centred instead
around the idea of covenant.8

up this hermeneutical idea as an argument against Otto Eissfeldts disconnection of

history of religion and theology. The Weberian hermeneutical approach remains
relevant wherever history of religion and theology will be separated. See already
Rainer Albertz, Religionsgeschichte Israels in alttestamentlicher Zeit. Vol. 1, Von
den Anfngen bis zum Ende der Knigszeit (Grundrisse zum Alten Testament. ATD
Ergnzungsreihe 8/1; Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1992), 3238. Cf. also
the discussion of his refusal of the possibility to write a theology of the Old Testa-
ment for more than practical reasons in Religionsgeschichte Israels oder Biblische
Theologie des Alten Testaments? (ed. Norbert Lohnk; Jahrbuch fr Biblische
Theologie 10; NeukirchenVluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1995), and the review of
this discussion by Henning Graf Reventlow, Biblische, besonders alttestamentliche
Theologie und Hermeneutik IV. Alttestamentliche Theologie und / oder israelitische
Religionsgeschichte. Biblischer Monotheismus. Alttestamentliche Rede von Gott,
Theologische Rundschau 71 (2005): 40854 (40816); cf. also below, n. 17.
7. Ludwig Khler used a tripartite scheme of Christian dogmatics to structure the
themes of his Theology of the Old Testament. This was because, for him, it was the
task of a theology of the Old Testament to connect views, ideas and terms of the Old
Testament, which are or could be theologically relevant, in the right order; cf.
Ludwig Khler, Theologie des Alten Testaments (Neue Theologische Grundrisse;
Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1936 [2d ed., 1947]). Dogmatically struc-
tured Old Testament theologies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
could only survive as a counter-position to liberal histories of Israelite and Jewish
religion by the inuence of Albrecht Ritschls positivism of revelation, as indicated
in the Theology of the Old Testament by Hermann Schultz, Alttestamentliche
Theologie. Die Offenbarungsreligion in ihren vorchristlichen Entwicklungsstufen
dargestellt (5th ed.; Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1896). I would also note
the reverse undertaking of writing a Christian dogmatics following the tripartite
scheme on the basis of biblical texts by Friedrich Mildenberger, Biblische Dogmatik.
Eine Biblische Theologie in dogmatischer Perspektive. Vol. 1, Prolegomena. Ver-
stehen und Geltung der Bibel; Vol. 2, Oekonomie als Theologie (Stuttgart: Kohl-
hammer, 199192). This way the hermeneutical problem of history and revelation
can nd a better solution than by the intrusion of dogmatical schemes into a theology
of the Old Testament.
8. Walther Eichrodt, Theologie des Alten Testaments. Vol. 1, Gott und Volk; Vol.
2, Gott und Welt; Vol. 3, Gott und Mensch (Leipzig: Ehrenfried Klotz, 193339). A
comparable approach of systematically structuring theologies of the Old Testament,
6 Psalms and Hebrews

It was Gerhard von Rad who overcame the idea of a systematical

structuring of a theology of the Old Testament. Such an approach,
according to von Rad, suffered from the notion that one could not nd
any convincing centre for the many divergent theological claims and
positions within the Old Testament.9 For von Rad, the function of a
theology of the Old Testament should be to re-narrate the different narra-
tives of Old Testament traditions of Israels history and their projection
into the future by the prophets,10 so that the Old Testament should be to a
degree the repetition of Israels repetitions of its traditions.11 This was a

theologies which claim to derive their categories from the Old Testament itself, is to
be found in the Theologies of Walther Zimmerli (Grundriss der alttestamentlichen
Theologie [Theologische Wissenschaft 3/1; Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1972]) and
Claus Westermann (Theologie des Alten Testaments in Grundzgen [Grundrisse zum
Alten Testament. ATD Ergnzungsreihe 6; Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht,
1978]). Since Lothar Perlitts revival of Julius Wellhausens late dating of the
biblical theology of covenant it was no longer possible to use it as a centre of Old
Testament theology, as Walther Eichrodt had suggested; cf. Ernest W. Nicholson,
God and His People: Covenant and Theology in the Old Testament (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1986); Eckart Otto, Die Ursprnge der Bundestheologie im Alten
Testament und im Alten Orient, ZA(B)R 4 (1998): 185. On the approaches taken
by Walther Zimmerli and Walther Eichrodt, cf. Eckart Otto, Prolegomena zu einer
Theologie des Alten Testaments, Kairos 19 (1977): 5372 (5662). The orthodox
counter-position even to Walther Eichrodts conservative approach one can nd
again with Nathan MacDonald (Deuteronomy and the Meaning of Monotheism
[FAT II/1; Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 2003]), who interprets the
synchronically read Deuteronomy unhistorically, as if it were a Lokaldogmatik
(dogmatics of theological loci), as observed by Udo Rterswrden in Alte und neue
Wege in der Deuteronomiumsanalyse, Theologische Literaturzeitung 132 (2007):
87789 (886). Cf. also Eckart Otto, Monotheismus im Deuteronomium. Wieviel
Aufklrung es in der Alttestamentlichen Wissenschaft geben soll. Zu einem Buch
von Nathan MacDonald, ZA(B)R 9 (2003): 25157, and the critical remarks of
Georg Braulik, Monotheismus im Deuteronomium. Zu Syntax, Redeform und
Gotteserkenntnis in 4,3240, ZA(B)R 10 (2004): 16994 (reprinted in idem, Studien
zu den Methoden der Deuteronomiumsexegese [Stuttgarter Biblische Aufsatzbnde.
Altes Testament 42; Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 2006], 13764). Syn-
chronical interpretations of biblical texts, which do not follow the surface reading of
the text, are susceptible to unhistorical and even dogmatical exploitation.
9. Cf. already Gerhard F. Hazel, The Problem of the Centre in the Old Testa-
ment Theology Debate, ZAW 86 (1974): 6582.
10. Gerhard von Rad, Theologie des Alten Testaments, Vol. 1, Theologie der
geschichtlichen berlieferungen Israels. Vol. 2, Die Theologie der prophetischen
berlieferungen Israels (Munich: Chr. Kaiser, 195760).
11. Some critics got the impression that Gerhard von Rad did not write a
Theology of the Old Testament, but more an introduction to a theology or even a
history of Israelite religion; cf. Hazel, Centre, 7776, and see n. 73, below.
OTTO Hermeneutics of Biblical Theology 7

rather conservative approach, deeply rooted in the anti-liberal Erlangen

School of Heilsgeschichte (Salvation History), which had Johann Chris-
tian Konrad von Hofmann (18101877) as its most famous representa-
tive. In von Rads theology, this conservative thinking was resurrected in
a disguised form of Traditionsgeschichte (History of Traditions), which
Wolfhart Pannenberg could claim for his programme of Offenbarung als
Geschichte (Revelation as History).12 Inuenced deeply by Hegelian
philosophy,13 it also appealed to New Testament scholars of the Bultmann
School, most notably Ernst Ksemann, who employed a programme of
kerygmatic theology.14 This was possible because von Rad had reduced
the task of his Theology of the Old Testament to the re-telling of the
kerygmatic intentions in Old Testament traditions. It is to be noted,
however, that von Rad, because he did not explain how traditions had
been shaped and what kinds of interests had developed their theological
kerygmata, aspects which he simply described, rather uncritically, lost
with this approach the dimension of a concrete history of Israel.15
A basic hermeneutical dilemma underlies all these discussions, one
which Gotthold Ephraim Lessing16 had long ago describednamely, that
zufllige Geschichtswahrheiten (contingent historical truth) can never

12. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Dogmatische Thesen zur Lehre von der Offen-
barung, in Offenbarung als Geschichte (ed. W. Pannenberg; Gttingen:
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1961), 91114.
13. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Weltgeschichte und Heilsgeschichte, in Probleme
biblischer Theologie. Gerhard von Rad zum 70. Geburtstag (ed. Hans Walter Wolff;
Munich: Chr. Kaiser, 1971), 34966; idem, Der Gott der Geschichte, Kerygma
und Dogma 23 (1977): 7692; idem, Zeit und Ewigkeit in der religisen Erfahrung
Israels und des Christentums, in Grundfragen systematischer Theologie. Gesam-
melte Aufstze (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1980), 2:188206. Again a
circle was closed, because also Johannes Christian Konrad von Hofmann was
positively inuenced by Hegelian philosophy.
14. Cf. Ernst Ksemann, An die Rmer (Handbuch zum Neuen Testament 8a;
Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1973); cf. in connection with Ernst Kse-
manns kerygmatic theology in the horizon of Rudolf Bultmanns theology also
Wolfhart Pannenberg, Kerygma und Geschichte, in Grundfragen systematischer
Theologie (Munich: Chr. Kaiser, 1967), 1:7980.
15. Cf. Otto, Theologie des Alten Testaments, 6266. Gerhard von Rads
approach was recently renewed by Hans-Jrgen Hermisson, Alttestamentliche
Theologie und Religionsgeschichte (Forum Theologische Literaturzeitung 3; Leip-
zig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2000). For a review, cf. Reventlow, Biblische,
besonders alttestamentliche Theologie und Hermeneutik IV, 41416.
16. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, ber den Beweis des Geistes und der Kraft
(Hamburg, 1777).
8 Psalms and Hebrews

prove ewige Vernunftswahrheit (eternal truth of reason);17 or, to

formulate it theologically, the history of human ideas of revelation can
never prove divine revelation. And yet, this dilemma also has a positive
aspect, because it reminds us of a theologically necessary insight, which
Augustine formulated by the words Deus semper maior,18 so that the
plurality of theologies within the canon is a theological consequence
of this insight.19 We shall come back to this problem of diversity of

17. More than 30 years ago, in my habilitation lecture of 1975 at the University
of Hamburg, I expressed the opinion that the hermeneutical dilemma could only be
solved by a consequent distinction between a chronologically organized history of
religion in the Old Testament and the inter-testamental literature on the one hand,
and a theology of the Old Testament which was organized by the hermeneutical
category of application (i.e. by the prevailing ethical problems of our days, such as
poverty, colonialism, apartheid, danger of nuclear war etc.) on the other; cf. Otto,
Theologie des Alten Testaments, 6672. I based this distinction on Johann Gustav
Droysens differentiation between an inquiring or narrating and a discussing
(diskussive) exposition of history, the latter collecting the results of historical
research and focusing them on a special problem or challenge of our presence, in
order to decide about alternatives of practical action; see Johann Gustav Droysen,
Historik. Vorlesungen ber Enzyklopdie und Methodologie der Geschichte (7th
ed.; Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1974), 27699 (36365).
Accordingly, I refused a distinction between a historical-critical approach to the Old
Testament and a pragmatic-pious, that is, uncritical approach, as Otto Eissfeldt and
his modern followers suggested. There can only be one historical approach with
different ways of exposition. This distinction would meanand I was aware of this
in 1975the end of an Old Testament theology written in books, with Old Testa-
ment theology becoming a contingent achievement of interference into the
endeavours of solving challenges, writing articles, taking part in discussions, and so
on. Even today I am convinced that this can be an obligation of Old Testament
scholars, but in between I have given lectures on the theology of the Old Testament
for more than 30 years and had to write an ethics of the Old Testament. Thus, I have
learned by these tasks that it is worthwhile to draft the structure of such a eld in a
book that also claims to have actual relevance in current situation; cf. Eckart Otto,
Ethik des Alten Testaments (Theologische Wissenschaft 3/2; Stuttgart: Kohlhammer,
1994). The publication of this book side by side with Walther Zimmerlis Theology
of the Old Testament (Grundriss der alttestamentlichen Theologie) forced me to
differentiate more sharply than in 1975 between theology and ethics, although even
today I am convinced that all our theologies should have ethical consequences.
18. Augustinus, De Trinitate (cf. TRE IV), 692, 695.
19. Cf. Thomas Sding, Einheit der Schrift? Theologie des biblischen Kanons
(Quastiones Disputatae 211; Freiburg: Herder, 2005), 7879. Wilhelm Hermanns
differentiation between Glaubensgrund (basis of faith) transcending the Glaub-
ensgedanken ([spoken or written down] idea of faith) was an adequate reformu-
lation of Augustines Deus semper maior in a neo-Kantian context, one which was
inuenced also by Karl Barths hermeneutics. On the level of language, Jurie Le
OTTO Hermeneutics of Biblical Theology 9

theologies within one canon later, for indeed we are not only challenged
by the theological differences within the Old Testament, but also by the
difference between the Old and the New Testament as part of one
Christian canon.
Before we return to the problem of a Biblical Theology we should
follow the development within Old Testament scholarship after Gerhard
von Rads Theology of the Old Testament. This marked a nal point in
the process of rediscovering the theology of the Old Testament as a
counter-reaction to the histories of religion of the nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries. After von Rads Theology, a decline of the discipline
of Old Testament theology began, a decline which, one must admit,
likely came about as a consequence of von Rads approach. More clearly
than others, this approach indicated the dilemma of a plurality of tradi-
tions within a theology of the Old Testament. Consequently, subsequent
scholarship had to repeat the discussions of the nineteenth century,
meaning that the draft of histories of religion gained ground again.20
There have been several recent attempts to escape the hermeneutical
dilemma of diversity and unity in a theology of the Old Testament:
Erhard S. Gerstenberger rejected the idea of unity in favour of a plurality
of theologies in the Old Testament;21 Antonius H. J. Gunneweg suggested
a history of religion that should become a theology by judging the

Roux, in relating Augustine and Hans-Georg Gadamer (Sprache und Hermeneutik,

in Gesammelte Werke [Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1970], 2:18498)
helpfully differentiates an inner world of words transcending an outer world; cf.
Jurie LeRoux, Augustine, Gadamer and the Psalms (or: The Psalms as the Answer
to a Question), in Psalms and Liturgy (ed. Dirk Human and Cas J. A. Vos;
JSOTSup 410; London: T&T Clark International, 2004), 12330. A further develop-
ment of Augustines difference-theological approach into a consciousness-theologi-
cal form will differentiate between the self-consciousness of limited freedom, which
is related to a consciousness of innity as its precondition, and, as a negative
dialectic claims, its consequence; cf. Jrg Dierken, Selbstbewutsein individueller
Freiheit. Religionstheoretische Erkundungen in protestantischer Perspektive
(Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 2005), 3194, with further reference to
Schleiermacher, Hegel and Fichte. In these difference-theological approaches the
problem of theological diversity within the Old and New Testament canons can nd
a theological answer as a necessary consequence of the difference of Glaubens-
grund (basis of faith) transcending all kinds of Glaubensgedanken (ideas of
faith). But this difference does not release us from the duty of asking whether there
exists a logical coherence in all the diversities of biblical texts.
20. Cf., e.g., Albertz, Religionsgeschichte.
21. Erhard S. Gerstenberger, Theologien im Alten Testament. Pluralitt und
Synkretismus alttestamentlichen Gottesglaubens (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2001). The
subtitle shows with what it is concernedthe history of religion.
10 Psalms and Hebrews

religious concepts of the Old Testament by Christian standards;22 and

Otto Kaiser reactivated Rudolf Bultmanns categories of an existential
interpretation of the dialectic of law and gospel. In a Bultmannian way,
the Old Testament as Torah with Deuteronomy as its centre and herme-
neutical key,23 and correlated to the New Testament as gospel, should
represent a history of failure.24 As has already argued against Rudolf
Bultmanns Theology of the New Testament,25 the categories of existen-
tial interpretation were not inherent to biblical texts, but part of a
Protestant history of reception of the Bible.
A further attempt to solve the hermeneutical dilemma of a theology of
the Old Testamentnamely, the dilemma of theological diversity of
different theologies and a theological unity (which is more than just the
addition of different theological traditions)is represented by Walter
Brueggemanns Theology of the Old Testament, which undertakes to
make a postmodern virtue out of this dilemma.26 For Brueggemann, God

22. Antonius H. J. Gunneweg, Biblische Theologie des Alten Testaments. Eine

Religionsgeschichte Israels in biblisch-theologischer Sicht (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer,
1993). Again, the subtitle reveals that it is concerned with a history of religion.
23. Otto Kaiser, Der Gott des Alten Testaments: Theologie des Alten Testaments,
vol. 3 (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 19932003). As for Otto Kaiser, the
Torah in the sense of Deuteronomy should be the most plausible centre of the Old
Testament, a position already suggested by Siegfried Herrmann, Die konstruktive
Restauration. Das Deuteronomium als Mitte biblischer Theologie, in Wolff, ed.,
Probleme biblischer Theologie, 15570. This approach is thus based on an out-
moded position of research, one in which scholars counted with deuteronomistic
redactions in most parts of the Old Testament. At the same time, we know that texts
which sound deuteronomistic were very often post-deuteronomistic, meaning that
the book of Jeremiah, for example, contradicted the Torah; cf. Eckart Otto, Old and
New Covenant: A Post-exilic Discourse between the Pentateuch and the Book of
Jeremiah. Also a Study of Quotations and Allusions in the Hebrew Bible, OTE 19,
no. 3 (Festschrift Jurie LeRoux, 2006): 93949; idem, Der Pentateuch im Jeremia-
buch, ZA(B)R 12 (2006): 245306.
24. Cf. Kaiser, Theologie, 3:393424 (15), and also the earlier work by Rudolf
Bultmann, Die Bedeutung des Alten Testaments fr den christlichen Glauben, in
Glauben und Verstehen. Gesammelte Aufstze (Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul
Siebeck], 1933), 31336.
25. Rudolf Bultmann, Theologie des Neuen Testaments (Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr
[Paul Siebeck], 1958).
26. Walter Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute,
Advocacy (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997); cf. for this approach also Jaco Gericke,
YHWH Unlimited: Realist and Non-Realist Ontological Perspectives on Theo-
Mythology of the Old Testament, ZA(B)R 11 (2005): 27495, and also idem, Does
Yahweh Exist? A Philosophical-Critical Reconstruction of the Case Against Realism
in Old Testament Theology (Ph.D. diss., University of Pretoria, 2003).
OTTO Hermeneutics of Biblical Theology 11

is created or generated by the rhetoric of texts telling about God, mean-

ing that a theology of the Old Testament looking for any substantial
sphere behind the diversity of texts goes astray if it tries to correlate the
texts to a transcendent reality beyond language. This concept is a direct
critique of the approach advocated by the Tbingen School of Hartmut
Gese27 and Peter Stuhlmacher,28 an approach which is based on an iden-
tity of ontological substance inherent in the historical development of
religion of the Old into that of the New Testament.29 Brueggemanns
approach is guided by the attempt to overcome Lessings hermeneutical
dilemma by means of the presupposition that the only substance of an
Old and New Testament Theology could be the rhetoric of biblical texts,
which implies that history does not have any meaning for a theology
of the Old or New Testament. Lessings zufllige Geschichtswahr-
heit (contingent historical truth) is thus as meaningless as the ewige

27. Hartmut Gese, Essays in Biblical Theology (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1981).

28. Peter Stuhlmacher, Reconciliation, Law, and Righteousness: Essays in
Biblical Theology (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986).
29. A more coherent critique of the Aristotelian concept of substance than that of
Walter Brueggemanns postmodernism is Ernst Cassirers differentiation between
Substanzbegriff (conception of substance) and Funktionsbegriff (conception of
functions) of 1910/1923 as a consequence of (neo-)Kantian epistemology; for Ernst
Cassirers essay Substanzbegriff und Funktionsbegriff. Untersuchungen ber die
Grundfragen der Erkenntniskritik, cf. Thomas Meyer, Ernst Cassirer (Hamburg:
Ellert & Richter, 2007), 5865, 13153. Different from postmodern approaches,
which are losing the cultural framework they depend on, Ernst Cassirer transferred
the Kantian epistemology (Erkenntniskritik) to a method of Kulturkritik
(critique of culture) which could establish a unity beyond the Aristotelian concept of
substance. It would be worthwhile to detect the meaning of Ernst Cassirers
philosophy of symbolic forms, and that of his Doktorvater Hermann Cohen, in
his approach to the Hebrew Bible, for example in his monograph, Religion der
Vernunft aus den Quellen des Judentums. Nach dem Manuskript des Verfassers neu
durchgearbeitet und mit einem Nachwort versehen von Bruno Strauss (repr. Darm-
stadt: Joseph Metzler, 1966), an approach which is directly relevant for any theology
of the Old Testament; cf. Eckart Otto, Die hebrische Prophetie bei Max Weber,
Ernst Troeltsch und Hermann Cohen. Ein Diskurs im Weltkrieg zur christlich-
jdischen Kultursynthese, in Asketischer Protestantismus und der Geist des
modernen Kapitalismus (ed. Wolfgang Schluchter and Friedrich Wilhelm Graf;
Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 2005), 20155. The better alternative to
Postmodernism is a self-reexive modernism (see also n. 6, above) which is aware
of the traps of ethnocentrism, colonialism and paternalism; cf. Postcolonial Biblical
Criticism: Interdisciplinary Intersections (ed. Stephen D. Moore and Fernando F.
Segovia; London: T&T Clark International, 2005); Judith E. McKinley, Reframing
Her: Biblical Women in Postcolonial Focus (The Bible in the Modern World 1;
Shefeld: Shefeld Phoenix, 2004).
12 Psalms and Hebrews

Vernunftswahrheit (eternal truth of reason). This is because, Bruegge-

mann argues, there is no truth at all in biblical texts, only disputed
rhetorical kerygmata and anti-kerygmata of many diverse texts. The
polyphonic openness of the Old Testament in substance and in modes of
articulation, according to Brueggemann, deserves interpretation. One of
the possible interpretations would be the Christian one, which is, of
course, oriented towards the New Testament; others would be the Jewish
talmudic interpretation, as well as that of the Muslims (these latter being
necessary critiques of Christian conceptions of Biblical Theology).
Yet Brueggemann is much closer to the conceptions of Biblical
Theology of such gures as Brevard S. Childs,30 James Sanders31 and
others than he would like to admit. This is because Brueggemanns
Theology of the Old Testament is also based on the formation of the
canon, which Gotthold Ephraim Lessing once would have called a
zufllige Geschichtswahrheit (contingent historical truth). However,
whereas Childs takes the Christian canon as an expression of ontological
substance which has its centre in Jesus Christ, Brueggemann takes it as a
productive misinterpretation of the Old Testament by the early Christian
authors of the New Testament. Yet could a misinterpretation be theo-
logically productive? Yes, if it is accepted that there exists no single
truth, but only different claims of truth. This would mean that the mis-
interpretation of texts and the original intention of authors of texts are on
the same level, their inherent truths justifying their contradictions.

The Reception of Psalm 8 in Hebrews 2

The reception of Ps 8 in Heb 2 is a good example to examine, if it is
accepted as a productive misinterpretation of the Old Testament in the
New Testament. At a rst glance, one might come to this conclusion.
Psalm 832 is concerned with everymans dignity as YHWHs mandate,

30. Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (Phila-

delphia: Fortress, 1979); idem, Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context
(London: SCM, 1985); idem, Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments
(London: SCM, 1992).
31. James Sanders, Torah and Canon (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1972). For a
critical discussion of these approaches, cf. James Barr, The Concept of Biblical
Theology: An Old Testament Perspective (London: SCM, 1999), 40138.
32. For an exegesis of Ps 8, cf. Ute Neumann-Gorsolke, Herrschen in den Gren-
zen der Schpfung. Ein Beitrag zur alttestamentlichen Anthropologie am Beispiel
von Psalm 8, Genesis 1 und verwandten Texten (WMANT 101; NeukirchenVluyn:
Neukirchener Verlag, 2004), and the review of Martin Arneth in ZA(B)R 11 (2005):
37478, who correctly criticizes Neumann-Gorsolkes differentiation of a static-
resultative anthropology in Ps 8 and a dynamic one in the Priestly Source.
OTTO Hermeneutics of Biblical Theology 13

democratizing Egyptian royal ideology33 and consequently royalizing the

Hebrew anthropology by the idea that every man is king and every
woman queen.34 The authors of Hebrews interpreted this progressive
anthropological concept of Ps 8 as conservative by taking back the
democratization of ancient Near Eastern royal motifs in Ps 8, translating
ben adam (human being) by hyios tou anthrpou (son of man) as a
designation for Christ,35 to whom the world will be subjected. This seems
to be a misinterpretation of Ps 8, yet one that is in a negative way
productive, since it could be understood as a kind of backlash against a
progressive anthropology in this psalm, in favour of an idea of divine
kingship. Psalm 8 could criticize Heb 2:68 and its context, but what
about a critique that owed in the opposite direction? This paradigmatic
case illustrates that Brueggemanns category of a productive misunder-
standing as a link between the Old and New Testament delivers some
problems. The authors did not at all misunderstand Ps 8, although they
interpreted it christologically, correlating in a sophisticated way anthro-
pology and christology.

A Sociological Level to Describe the Process of Reception of Psalm 8 in

Hebrews 2
I start with a sociological approach to describe some substantial char-
acteristics, ones which are inherent in the quoted and quoting texts, and
which are observable in their relation to each other. In 1912 Ernst
Troeltsch published his famous essay on social theories of Christian

33. Cf. Manfred Grg, Der Mensch als knigliches Kind nach Ps 8:3, Biblische
Notizen 3 (1977): 713.
34. For an integration of this anthropology into the context of ancient Near
Eastern anthropologies, cf. Eckart Otto, Gottes Recht als Menschenrecht. Rechts-
und literaturhistorische Studien zum Deuteronomium (BZABR 2; Wiesbaden:
Harrassowitz, 2002), 17886.
35. The authors of Hebrews, in making the quotation, shifted from the anthropo-
logical statement of Ps 8, which already got an eschatological horizon in the Septua-
gint, to a christological one. For the eschatological interpretation of Ps 8 (LXX), cf.
Joachim Schaper, Eschatology in the Greek Psalter (WUNT II/76; Tbingen: J. C.
B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1995), 7678; Martin Karrer, Der Brief an die Hebrer.
Kapitel 1,15,10 (kumenischer Taschenbuch-Kommentar zum Neuen Testament
20/1; Gtersloh: Gtersloher Verlagshaus; Wrzburg: Echter, 2002), 168. In favour
of an eschatological-christological understanding of the reception of Ps 8 in Heb 2
speaks the fact that this psalm is in the New Testament mostly connected with
Ps 110:1 (LXX 109.1). See, e.g., 1 Cor 15:25, 27; Eph 1:2122; cf. Hans Hbner,
Biblische Theologie des Neuen Testaments. Vol. 3, Hebrerbrief, Evangelien und
Offenbarung. Epilegomena (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1995), 28. For
the reception of Ps 110 (LXX 109) in Hebrews, see below.
14 Psalms and Hebrews

churches and groups,36 a work which was inspired by his discussions

with Max Weber at Heidelberg. The categories of this essay are also
relevant for a sociology of the Judean and Jewish religion in the societal
sequence of state, community and sects.37 Early Judean religion, just like
those of the other areas of the ancient Near East, had an important role in
the legitimization of the rulership of the state.38 This situation persisted
into the seventh century BCE, whereupon the authors of Deuteronomy
contradicted the royal ideology of the Assyrian hegemonial power by
categorically dissolving the connection between religion and state.39 The
so-called exilic period, and with it especially the deuteronomistic and
priestly theologies of the Torah, necessarily ratied this dissolution. The
Jewish religion of the Persian period was transformed into that of a
community apart from the Persian state organization.40 When there was
no longer any state which could be legitimized, any such function of
religion was lost. The Hellenistic and Roman period was characterized
by a dissolution of the Jewish community in Palestine and in the diaspora
into different sects (haireseis), including those of the Essenes, Pharisees
and Sadducees (see Josephus, Ant. 13.5.9). The early Christian church
was one of these sects.
With this ideal, typical development in mind, how should we consider
the quotation of Ps 8 in Heb 2? The democratization of royal ideologies
of divine kingship and royalization of Hebrew anthropology in Ps 8 was
an outcome of the dissociation of state and religion since the seventh
century BCE. The transference of Ps 8 from the eld of anthropology to
that of christology was by any means a drawback and revival of an
ancient Near Eastern ideology of divine kingship. And yet, everything,
according to Heb 2:8, was to be under Christs control:

36. Ernst Troeltsch, Die Soziallehren der christlichen Kirchen und Gruppen.
Gesammelte Schriften I (3d ed.; Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1923). For
the relevance of this approach for a modern sociology of religion, cf. Hans Joas,
Gesellschaft, Staat und Religion. Ihr Verhltnis in der Sicht der Weltreligionen,
in idem, Skularisierung und die Weltreligionen (ed Klaus Wiegandt; Fischer
Taschenbuch 17647; Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer, 2007), 943.
37. Eckart Otto, Staat - Gemeinde - Sekte. Soziallehren des antiken Judentums,
ZA(B)R 12 (2006): 31244.
38. Otto, Gottes Recht, 520, 94195; idem, The Judean Legitimation of Royal
Rulers in Its Ancient Near Eastern Contexts, in Human and Vos, eds., Psalms,
39. Eckart Otto, Das Deuteronomium. Politische Theologie und Rechtsreform in
Juda und Assyrien (BZAW 284; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1999 [repr. 2001]).
40. Cf. Lisbeth S. Fried, The Priest and the Great King: TemplePalace Rela-
tions in the Persian Empire (Biblical and Judaic Studies 10; Winona Lake: Eisen-
brauns, 2004), 156233.
OTTO Hermeneutics of Biblical Theology 15

For You have put everything in subjection under His feet. Now in putting
everything in subjection to Him, He left nothing outside of His control.
But at present we do not yet see all things subjected to Him.

That for a short time Christ should be subordinated to the angels (Heb
2:9) is a hint to Good Friday, which explains the not yet in Heb 2:8.
But soon everything shall be subjected to Christ, including the state, so
that there shall be no place for any divinization of any king or state in
the world. That was exactly what Deuteronomy already intended to
explainnamely, that only YHWH, and no human being or institution,
could demand absolute loyalty. Acts 5:29 summarizes this attitude by the
demand that we are to obey God more than man. Hebrews 2 gives
reasons for this demand, claiming that everything will be subjected to
Christ, meaning that the power of any state would be limited. Already,
within a sociological perspective, we see that the quotation of Ps 8 in
Heb 2 is not a misinterpretation, but rather a legitimate reception.
Hebrews 2 refers to the implicit precondition for the anthropology of Ps
8namely, the idea of God as creator and universal ruler of the world.
Hebrews 2 transfers the idea of the subjection of nature to humanity in Ps
8 back to the divine realm without rendering human beings completely
powerless. So, Ernst Ksemann was correct when he said that nowhere in
the New Testament was Christ placed so near to man as in Heb 241 and
that the shift from an anthropological to a christological meaning within
the quotation of Ps 8 in Heb 2:67 is the best indicator of this. Just as in
Ps 8, humanity will be free because all powers of the world are tran-
scended by the Creator, so also in Heb 2 human beings become brothers
and sisters, free from the power of death. Hebrews 2 is in accordance
with the theological intentions of Ps 8, and the reception is legitimate.
But what are the criteria to be used in the differentiation between a
legitimate and illegitimate reception of the Old in the New Testament?
The main problem with Brueggemanns postmodern conception is the
fact that it even excludes this questionbecause for him there are no
criteria for evaluating different claims of the rhetoric of different texts.42

41. Ernst Ksemann, Das wandernde Gottesvolk. Eine Untersuchung zum

Hebrerbrief (4th ed.; FRLANT 55; Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1961),
42. Diversity and plurality as insurmountable is a presupposition that Walter
Brueggemann shares with postmodern authors such as Lyotard, Welsch, Baudrillard
and Derrida. Theological scholarship fails itself if it a priori renounces looking for
theological identity in the diversities; cf. Gregor Maria Hoff, Die prekre Identitt
des Christlichen. Die Herausforderung postModernen Differenzdenkens fr eine
theologische Hermeneutik (Paderborn: Schningh, 2001).
16 Psalms and Hebrews

If the contradiction of texts implies that each text claims a truth that is its
only truth, there cannot be any mediation between the anthropology in
Ps 8 and the christology in Heb 2. Indeed, I would like to suggest a
counter-position to that of Walter Brueggemann, who at the moment
represents the most sophisticated approach in Old Testament scholarship.
The purpose of the description up to this point has been to equip our-
selves with criteria that can be used to evaluate the reception of the Old
Testament (LXX) in the New Testament as either a misinterpretation or as
an adequate reception by answering the question whether the authors of
the New Testament took up those intentions of the authors of the Old
Testament texts which were central for them.43 This is exactly the case
with Ps 8 and Heb 2. Already on a level of sociological description,44
functions of religion and societal institutions are correlated.45

A Theological Level to Describe the Process of Reception of Psalm 8 in

Hebrews 2
This leads us to a second level of description, the theological one in a
proper sense. The traditional rubrics of biblical theology cannot contri-
bute to an explanation of the reception of Ps 8 in Heb 2: Ps 8 is neither a

43. This means that a structuralistic exegesis, which renounces unhistorically the
authors intention in favour of interpreting texts as structures of signs, blocks any
approach to a Biblical Theology as much as a theology, which simply presupposes
Gods identity in the Old and New Testament; cf. Thomas Sding, Einheit, 155231.
Thomas Sding, arguing for a pre-Kantian ontology, speaks of the identity of Gods
actions of salvation in both testaments as a Postulat des Glaubens (postulate of
faith) alluding to Kant with an anti-Kantian intention. This way the problem of an
enlightened modernity, including its linguistic turn, cannot be solved by super-
seding them.
44. This anthropology of Ps 8 and Gen 1:2628 was one of the cradles for the
idea of human rights defending the individual against the state; cf. Eckart Otto,
Human Rights: The Inuence of the Hebrew Bible, JNSL 25, no. 1 (memorial
volume for Hannes Olivier) (1999): 120. This sociological level of description has
a meaning that goes far beyond a Biblical Theology; cf. Eckart Otto, Die
Applikation als Problem der politischen Hermeneutik, ZTK 71 (1974): 14581.
45. Even today Max Webers cutting-edge sociology of Ancient Judaism, that is,
the Old Testament, remains important; cf. Max Weber, Die Wirtschaftsethik der
Weltreligionen. Das antike Judentum. Schriften und Reden 19111920 (ed. Eckart
Otto; Max Weber Gesamtausgabe I/21; Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck],
2005). For the interpretation, see Eckart Otto, Max Webers Studien des Antiken
Judentums. Historische Grundlegung einer Theorie der Moderne (Tbingen: J. C. B.
Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 2002). Hartmann Tyrell, Review of Max Weber, Das antike
Judentum, Theologische Rundschau 72 (2007): 12126, presents a number of topics
in Max Webers sociology of Ancient Judaism that are relevant today for the eld of
sociology, even if it is exegetically outmoded.
OTTO Hermeneutics of Biblical Theology 17

promise that has Heb 2 claiming its fullment, nor a law or failure, with
Heb 2 standing as gospel or salvation. We may rather ask whether there
are theological criteria for a decision, and whether the transference from
anthropology to christology was in accordance with the theological
intentions of the authors of Ps 8.
The anthropology of Ps 8:24 is characterized by the dialectic of the
triumphant God as the Creator of the world on the one side and the
weakness of man on the other:
Out of the mouth of babes and unweaned infants You have established
strength because of Your foes, that You might silence the enemy and the
avenger. When I view Your heavens, the work of Your ngers, the moon
and the stars, which You have established: What is man, that You are
mindful of him, and the son of man, that You care for him?
The motif of babes and infants, out of whose mouth God established
strength against his foes, transformed Egyptian royal ideology into
Hebrew anthropology. The newborn Egyptian crown prince, who was
thought to be son of the sun-god, was empirically weak, but meta-
empirically gifted with divine strength. Psalm 8 democratized this motif
in order to express an anthropological dialectic: although human beings
are empirically weak and helpless against the power of evil, Gods foe,
they gained strength by the Creator of the world, a strength which God
put into their mouths in order to silence Evil. This meta-empirical divine
strength makes humans not much lower than God. We also nd the same
dialectic between Gods strength and the weakness of natural man in
Ps 93 and many other hymns,46 but also in the book of Job.47 The Torah
of the Pentateuch integrates the evil into anthropology. Genesis 23 as a
post-priestly narrative explains the origin of evil by the idea of Gods
free limitation of his omnipotence in favour of granting humans the
freedom to decide between good and evil,48 which includes also the

46. Eckart Otto, Myth and Hebrew Ethics in the Psalms, in Psalms and
Mythology (ed. Dirk J. Human; LHBOTS 462; London: T&T Clark International,
2007), 2637.
47. Othmar Keel, Jahwes Entgegnung an Ijob. Eine Deutung von Ijob 3841
vor dem Hintergrund der zeitgenssischen Bildkunst (FRLANT 121; Gttingen:
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1978), 51163.
48. Eckart Otto, Die Paradieserzhlung Genesis 23: Eine nachpriesterschrift-
liche Lehrerzhlung in ihrem religionshistorischen Kontext, inJedes Ding hat
seine Zeit. Studien zur israelitischen und altorientalischen Weisheit. Festschrift fr
Diethelm Michel (ed. Anja Diesel; BZAW 241; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1996), 16792;
idem, Das Gesetz des Mose. Die Literatur- und Rechtsgeschichte der Mosebcher
(Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2007), 1427, 2034; idem, Die
Urmenschen im Paradies. Vom Ursprung des Bsen und der Freiheit des Men-
18 Psalms and Hebrews

possibility to fail, because without this possibility there would be no

freedom. The solution proposed in Ps 8 differs from this approach in Gen
23. Whereas the late authors of Gen 23, who are in a dialogue with the
authors of Job and Ecclesiastes,49 argue with the dialectic inherent in any
freedom of decision-making, Ps 8 bridges the gap between the almighty
God and evil in human experience by means of a dialectical anthro-
pology of the natural weakness of humanity, helpless in the hands of evil
powers and chaos on the one side, and divine strength as Gods mandate
on the other.50
Yet this was not the last theological step in the Old Testament intended
to mediate between Gods omnipotence and human empirical experience
of evil in the world. If we are looking for a red ribbon in the diversity
of different theologies within the Old and the New Testament, we should
probably conclude that it is the continuously progressing work at ration-
alizing the problem of theodicy, which already within the Old Testament
took its decisive turn with God overcoming his own triumphant omni-
potence by suffering from the evil in the world:
When Israel was a child, I loved him and called him as my son out of
The more I called to them, the more they went away from me, sacricing
to the Baalim and burning incense to graven images.
Yet I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them up on my arms, but they did
not accept that I loved them.

schen, in Tora in der Hebrischen Bibel. Studien zur Redaktionsgeschichte und

synchronen Logik diachroner Transformationen (ed. Reinhard Achenbach, Martin
Arneth and Eckart Otto; Beihefte zur Zeitschrift fr Altorientalische und Biblische
Rechtsgeschichte 7; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2007), 12233. For the post-P origin
of Gen 23, cf. now also Martin Arneth, Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt
Studien zur Entstehung der alttestamentlichen Urgeschichte (FRLANT 217;
Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007), 97147.
49. Eckart Otto, Woher wei der Mensch um Gut und Bse? Philosophische
Annherungen der gyptischen und biblischen Weisheit an ein Grundproblem der
Ethik, in Recht und Ethos im Alten Testament. Gestalt und Wirkung. Festschrift fr
Horst Seeba (ed. Stefan Beyerle; NeukirchenVluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1999),
50. For an integration of this approach of Ps 8 into a Biblical Theology of
creation, cf. Eckart Otto, Schpfung als Kategorie der Vermittlung von Gott und
Welt in Biblischer Theologie. Die Theologie alttestamentlicher Schpfungsber-
lieferungen im Horizont der Christologie, inWenn nicht jetzt, wann dann.
Festschrift fr Hans-Joachim Kraus (ed. Hans-Georg Geyer; NeukirchenVluyn:
Neukirchener Verlag, 1984), 5367.
OTTO Hermeneutics of Biblical Theology 19

I drew them with cords of humanity, with bands of love; and I was to
them as one who lifted the yoke over their cheeks, and I went down to
them and gave them to eat. (Hos 11:14)51

This text unfolds a dialectic between Gods love and Israels meb
(turning away). The more God cared for them, the more they turned
away from him. The consequence of Israels meb will be Gods anger
and Israels catastrophe:
They shall return to Egypt and Assur shall be their king, because they
refused to return to me. The sword dances in their towns and consumes
their defences because of their own counsels. But my people keep to their
meb. (Hos 11:57)

By an adversative exclamation (k)52 a turning point is marked.53 From

now on, the authors let us look directly into Gods heart:
How can I give you up, Ephraim! How can I surrender you and cast you
off, Israel! How can I make you as Admah and treat you as Zeboim! My
heart turns against me, my suffering with you (nim)54 is inamed.
(Hos 11:8)

The dialectic of the love and anger of God provokes a tension within
God: his heart turns against him. There is a deep theological dimension
in this text. God overcomes his own anger by suffering with those he has

51. For the text-critical problems of Hos 11:19, cf. Hans-Walther Wolff,
Dodekapropheton 1. Hosea (2d ed.; BKAT XIV/1; NeukirchenVluyn: Neu-
kirchener Verlag, 1965), 24748.
52. Graham Davies, Hosea (NCBC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 261.
53. There is no reason to separate Hos 11:8 literary-critically from the preceding
verses and to interpret v. 8b as an interpolation, as former exegetes such as Julius
Wellhausen and others suggested on the assumption that aspects of threat and
promise in one literary unit were irreconcilable. Such a literary-critical division
misses the theological argument of Hos 11:19.
54. The suggestion of BHS to read raam misses the intention of the text. For
nm as suffer emotional pain and noam as compassion (Hos 13.14), cf.
H. Simian-Yoffre, nm, in ThWAT 5: 36684 (378, 383). None of the translations
of nimm as repentance, remorse, or compassion ts fully with the
connotation of identication in the lexeme nm; cf. ThWAT 5:370. Jrg Jeremias
(Die Reue Gottes. Aspekte alttestamentlicher Gottesvorstellung [2d ed.; Biblisch-
Theologische Studien 31; NeukirchenVluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1997], 54)
denes nimm as a counter-power to Gods anger, by which he means Gods
suffering from the tension of love and wrath. This is not compassion but suffer-
ing with Israel, which will be destroyed. For the difference between compassion
(Mitleid) and suffering with somebody (Mitleiden), which does not include the
hierarchical connotation of compassion but that of identity with the suffering person,
cf. Kthe Hamburger, Das Mitleid (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1985), 67.
20 Psalms and Hebrews

intended to destroy because of their meb. The consequence will be

that God will not destroy his people. What Hos 11:89 demonstrates is
the idea of a kind of a self-liberation of God which overcomes his wrath,
so that he is no longer dependent on humankinds actions. God gains his
omnipotence as a suffering God by overcoming his triumphant attitude,
punishing human iniquities. This paradox55 is a hermeneutical precon-
dition for the theology of Ps 8. Only if Gods acting is not bound by his
response to human action56 can he endow humanity with strength to over-
come chaos and evil. In Hos 11 God experiences the dialectic of ante-
cedent love and subsequent wrath. God overcomes this by suffering from
the very tension of love and wrath within his heart, meaning that he can
also liberate the people of Israel from the consequences of their evil and
his own wrath:
I shall not execute the erceness of my anger. I will not destroy Ephraim,
for I am God and not man, the Holy one in the midst of you. (Hos 11:9)

Hosea 11:19 represents a highly speculative theology, one which looks

into Gods own heart in order to mediate the idea of the almighty God
with human experience of evil. The limit of the theology of Hos 11 is its
speculative character. If it was written before 722/21 BCE, as most exe-
getes suppose, then it was historically falsied by the empirical experi-
ence of Israels catastrophe. If it was written after the destruction of
Samaria, it was written against the empirical-historical experience. Yet

55. If one is looking for the pre-Christian origins of the paradox of a theologia
crucis (theology of the cross), then it is here in the book of Hosea as a kind of
pivotal point for any theology of the Old Testament. Already the Ugaritic Anatu
Ba!lu myth knew of a suffering of Ba!lu, who accompanies Motu, the god of death,
into the underworld and suffers death. Notably, for Ba!lus resurrection, which
overcomes death, his sister Anatu is required to ght Motu and overwhelm him. In
the book of Hosea God is suffering, overcoming himself by overcoming his anger
with man. In the New Testament christology God becomes suffering humanity, and
overcomes death, thereby liberating humankind from the consequences of divine
wrath. If one is looking for a speculative Good Friday (spekulativer Karfreitag) in
an Hegelian sense, then one can detect it in this prophetic text, the idea of God
overcoming his own negativity by suffering from it.
56. The limitation of Gods freedom by blessings and curses related to human
fulllments of the Torah also limits the Deuteronomic and deuteronomistic theology
in the Pentateuch and the books of Joshua to 2 Kings. For Hos 11 as an ethical
paradigm, cf. Eckart Otto, Die Geburt des moralischen Bewutseins, in Bibel und
Christentum im Orient (ed. Eckart Otto and Siegbert Uhlig; Orientalia Biblica et
Christiana 1; Glckstadt: J. J. Augustin; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1991), 6387;
idem, Theologische Ethik, 10911, 26566.
OTTO Hermeneutics of Biblical Theology 21

this is only the surface of the problem. The speculative theology of

Hos 11 leads necessarily to the following question: Where can suffering
human beings experience the self-liberation of God from his wrath? The
prophetic literature gives the answer in the books of Jeremiah57 and
Isaiah:58 in Israels and Zions suffering we become aware of Gods own
suffering. We experience in the book of Jeremiah Gods suffering by the
doings of his people, and in the book of Isaiah the vicarious character of
the servants suffering for his people. By gaining insight into the suffer-
ing of God, we are able to interpret the books of Jeremiah and Isaiah in
the theological horizon of the book of Hosea and vice versa.
The authors of Ps 8 intended to bridge the gap between the almighty
God and human experience of evil by means of a dialectical anthro-
pology of the natural weakness and meta-empirically given strength of
humankind. This, however, was no nal solution as long as Gods free-
dom was limited by humankinds evil actions. Not only anthropology
but also its underlying theology had to become dialectical. This was
achieved by having God overcome his own triumphant attitude of wrath.
It was asked earlier whether there exist any criteria that permit us to
evaluate the reception of Ps 8 in Heb 2 and the transference of anthro-
pological motifs to Christology. Is there any theological logic, something
more than just a productive misunderstanding? We have already seen
that from a sociological perspective which correlates the functions of
religious ideas to institutions, this reception was consequent and not a
misinterpretation. The same is true from a theological perspective: the
Old Testament as well as the so-called inter-testamental literature outline
the concept of divine majesty correlated to divine suffering by the idea of
God overcoming his own wrath by suffering with those who should be
destroyed by his anger. The paradox of divine omnipotence and the
weakness of suffering can already be detected in the prophetic literature
of the Old Testament. The same dialectic of majesty and weakness
characterizes the anthropology of Ps 8. The theological presupposition of
Christology is the idea that in Christs suffering God himself suffers, that
Christs triumph and majesty in overcoming death is Gods triumph and
majesty. The motif of Christs majesty in Heb 2, that everything will be
subjected under his feet, is to be correlated to Heb 2:910:

57. Georg Fischer, Jeremia 125 (Herders Theologischer Kommentar zum Alten
Testament, Freiburg: Herder, 2005), 60427, and Jeremia. Der Stand der Diskussion
(Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2007), 12330.
58. For the identication of the suffering servant in the book of Isaiah with Zion,
cf. Ulrich Berges, Das Buch Jesaja. Komposition und Endgestalt (Herders Biblische
Studien 16; Freiburg: Herder, 1998), 40319.
22 Psalms and Hebrews

But we are able to see Jesus, who was made little lower than the angels
for the suffering of death, now crowned with glory and honour, that He
by the grace of God should taste death for every man: For it became Him,
for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many
sons into glory, to make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through

We can see how intensively Heb 2 unfolds Old Testament theology.59

Thus, what is the criterion to be used in the differentiation between a
legitimate and illegitimate reception of the Old in the New Testament?
The answer: nothing other than the theological loyalty of the New Testa-
ment authors to the intentions of the authors of Old Testament texts and
vice versa. Do the New Testament texts which adopt material from the
Old Testament unfold the theologically dialectical logic of correlation
between humans and God in the Old Testament? This is exactly what
Heb 2 does when it adopts Ps 8.
But if in Christs suffering God himself should suffer and Christs
triumph and majesty should be Gods triumph and majesty, as the Old
Testament claims, how can we unfold this identication of God and
humanity without falling into the trap of patripassianism and docetism,
if, as the New Testament says, God became human in Christ?

The Reception of Psalm 2 and 110 (LXX 109) in Hebrews

Psalm 2 and 110 (LXX 109) delivered the requisite ideational tool that
enabled the authors of Hebrews to solve this questionnamely, the idea
of the Davidic king as Gods son. This motif of royal ideology in
Jerusalem was incorporated into Ps 2 in pre-exilic times.60 In the Septua-
gint it was interpreted eschatologically61 and this interpretation was

59. Hans Hbner (Biblische Theologie, 25) speaks of Vetus Testamentum per
receptionem amplicatum (Old Testament amplied by reception [in the New
Testament]) as the modus of Vetus Testamentum in Novo receptum (Old Testament
adapted in the New Testament). But a shortcoming in Hans Hbners approach is his
presupposition that the Old Testament only has relevance in a Christian context as
far as it was adapted in the New Testament. This means that only parts of the
Septuagint should be relevant, but not the Hebrew Bible. Such a shortcoming was
already refused by Luther and Calvin.
60. Eckart Otto, Politische Theologie in den Knigspsalmen zwischen gypten
und Assyrien. Die Herrscherlegitimation in den Psalmen 2 und 18 in ihren alt-
orientalischen Kontexten, in Mein Sohn bist du (Ps 2,7). Studien zu den
Knigspsalmen (ed. Eckart Otto and Erich Zenger; Stuttgarter Bibelstudien 192;
Stuttgart: Verlag Katholisches Bibelwerk, 2002), 3365.
61. Schaper, Eschatology, 7276.
OTTO Hermeneutics of Biblical Theology 23

adopted in the New Testament.62 The complex of quotations in Heb 1:5

13 is framed by the reception of the two Royal Psalms, Pss 2 and 110
(LXX 109).63 The rst quotation of the Old Testament in Hebrews is
Gods address to his son (Ps 2:7; 2 Sam 7:14):
For to which of the angels did (God) ever say: You are My Son, today I
have begotten You? And again, I will be to Him a Father, and He will be
to me an Son? (Heb 1:5)

Before God speaks to man, he is addressing his son. Christology in

Hebrews means rst of all Gods communication with Christ. In Ps 2:7
the title of the Davidic king, Son of God, was connected with the
enthronement, which differs from the Egyptian context, where the motif
of divine sonship was used for the newborn crown prince.64 The Septua-
gint related the motif to the expected messiah, and Hebrews to the pre-
existent Christ as Son of God. The reception of Ps 110 (LXX 109) was the
argumentative bridge between the eschatologically interpreted Ps 2 and
the theology of a pre-existent Son of God in Hebrews. In Ps 2 and also in
Ps 110 a number of motifs of Egyptian origin were adopted:65 for exam-
ple, that of the king sitting enthroned at Gods right side, a motif that was
part of the royal iconography of the Egyptian New Kingdom;66 and the
motif of dew, that is, perfume,67 which should have impregnated the

62. Ferdinand Hahn, Christologische Hoheitstitel. Ihre Geschichte im frhen

Christentum (3d ed.; FRLANT 83; Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1966),
63. For the reception of Ps 110 (LXX 109) in the New Testament, cf. Martin
Hengel, Setze dich zu meiner Rechten! Die Inthronisation Christi zur Rechten
Gottes und Psalm 110,1, in Le Trne de Dieu (ed. Mark Philonenko; WUNT 69;
Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1993), 10894, with further literature.
64. Helmut Brunner, Die Geburt des Gottknigs. Studien zur berlieferung eines
altgyptischen Mythos (2d ed.; gyptologische Abhandlungen 10; Wiesbaden:
Harrassowitz, 1986); Otto, Knigspsalmen, 3444. For Ps 2 as a cultic enthrone-
ment prophecy of the pre-exilic period, see also John W. Hilber, Cultic Prophecy in
the Psalms (BZAW 352; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2005), 89101; Frank Lothar Hofeldt
and Erich Zenger, Die Psalmen I (Psalm 150) (Neue Echter Bibel.AT; Wrzburg:
Echter Verlag, 1993), 50, who consider the psalm to be post-exilic.
65. Manfred Grg, Thronen zur Rechten Gottes, Biblische Notizen 81 (1996):
7281; Klaus Koch, Der Knig als Sohn Gottes in gypten und Israel, in Otto and
Zenger, eds., Mein Sohn bist du, 1527.
66. This motif has a possible Judean verication by the architecture of the temple
and the royal palace in Jerusalem, where the Davidic king sat at the right hand of
YHWH in the holy of holies of the temple; cf. Eckart Otto, Jerusalem. Geschichte
und Archologie (Becksche Reihe 2418; Munich: C. H. Beck, 2008), 5254.
67. Rudolf Kilian, Der Tau in Ps 110,3ein Miverstndnis?, ZAW 102
(1990): 41719.
24 Psalms and Hebrews

Egyptian queen,68 meaning that Ps 110:3 can be translated out of the

womb of Dawn, I fathered thee as Dew.69 Last but not least is the motif
of a royal priesthood, which is unique in the Old Testament. While this
motif has an Egyptian background, in Ps 110 it is expressed in a Judean
fashion by means of the Melchizedek motif (Gen 14:1428).70 Klaus
Koch71 and John W. Hilber72 argue for a pre-exilic dating of Ps 110, but
there are better reasons to correlate this psalm to the late post-exilic
ideology of the high-priest.73 Thus, the Hasmonean period would appear
to be the best possible date for this psalm.74
Yet this does not mean that the motifs of an Egyptian background
were not rooted in the pre-exilic royal ideology of the Davidic kings in
Jerusalem.75 In Ps 2 one can observe that there was a temporal difference
between the age of motifs of Egyptian origin going back to the early
Davidic monarchy and the composition of the psalm in the late pre-exilic

68. Brunner, Geburt, 47, 225.

69. Jarl Fossum, Son of God in the OT, ABD 6:128; Koch, Sohn Gottes,
19; cf. the latter work for a text-critical reconstruction of Ps 110:3 (MT) and Ps 109:3
70. For the function of the Melchizedek motif in the narration of Genesis, cf.
Otto, Gesetz des Mose, 2830.
71. Koch (Sohn Gottes, 2227) argues with the different receptions of the
Melchizedek motif, for example by Jubilees, Philo, and the Genesis Apocryphon, on
the one side, and the Egyptian background of the priestly-king motif, on the other.
72. Hilber (Prophecy, 7688) argues that the reference to my lord in Ps 110:1
speaks for an existing king.
73. Cf. James C. VanderKam, From Joshua to Caiaphas: High Priests after
the Exile (Minneapolis: Fortress; Assen: Van Gorcum, 2004), 112393, and Rein-
hard Achenbach, Knig, Priester und Prophet. Zur Transformation der Konzepte
der Herrscherlegitimation in Jesaja 61, in Achenbach, Arneth and Otto, Tora,
74. Herbert Donner, Der verlliche Prophet. Betrachtungen zu 1Makk 14,41ff
und zu Psalm 110, in Prophetie und geschichtliche Wirklichkeit im alten Israel.
Festschrift fr Siegfried Herrmann (ed. Rdiger Liwak and Siegfried Wagner;
Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1991), 8998, and also John W. Bowker, Psalm CX, VT
17 (1967): 3141.
75. A pre-exilic dating of all the Royal Psalms is as oversimplied as a postexilic
one. For the pre-exilic date of Ps 72, cf. Martin Arneth, Sonne der Gerechtigkeit.
Studien zur Solarisierung der Jahwe-Religion im Lichte von Psalm 72 (BZABR 1;
Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2000); for Ps 89, cf. Hans-Ulrich Steymans, Deinen
Thron habe ich unter den groen Himmeln festgemacht. Die formgeschichtliche
Nhe von Ps 89,45. 2038 zu Texten vom neuassyrischen Hof, in Otto and
Zenger, eds., Knigspsalmen, 184251; for Ps 18, cf. Klaus-Peter Adam, Der
knigliche Held. Die Entsprechung von kmpfendem Gott und kmpfendem Knig in
Psalm 18 (WMANT 91; NeukirchenVluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 2001).
OTTO Hermeneutics of Biblical Theology 25

period.76 Psalm 110 demonstrates that motifs of a pre-exilic royal

ideology even survived in the post-exilic Ptolemaic era. God is calling on
the king to sit on a throne at his right side, while77 God is putting his foes
under the kings feet, stretching out the staff of the kings power, so that
the king shall rule over his foes on the grounds that out of the womb of
Dawn he was fathered by God as Dew. With the motif of dawn (miar)
the authors allude to the motif-complex of YHWH as Sun-god. The king
was from the very beginning a divine person like the Egyptian crown
prince (Ps 110:13). The Septuagint already interpreted Ps 110:3 as a
statement of the pre-existence of an eschatological king,78 and in this way
amplied the intention of the Hebrew psalm. The authors of the Hebrew
psalm had the Hasmonean kings in mind, but they were already using
motifs which transcended any empirical kingship. The Greek authors of
the Septuagint in the rst century BCE took these motifs and correlated a
primeval dimension with an eschatological one. The pre-existing king
would be the eschatological messianic ruler of the world.
The rst horizon for the authors of Hebrews was to interpret Ps 109
(LXX) christologically, this time amplifying the interpretation of the
Septuagint. Again there is no reason to speak of a productive misinter-
pretation by the Christian reception of this psalm, but rather of a coher-
ent unfolding of the inherent meaning of the Hebrew text by the authors
of Septuagint and Hebrews. We have already seen that it was a logical
necessity for New Testament theologians to clarify the relationship
between God and his Son, in order not to fall into the trap of patripas-
sianism and docetism on the one side and ebionitism on the other. The
reception of Ps 110 (LXX 109) in Hebrews could clarify the relationship
between Father and Son (Heb 1:13), as well as Christs soteriological
function as a priest after the order of Melchizedek (Heb 5:9).79 Further-
more, it could introduce revelation as a continuation of inner-divine

Taking the reception of Ps 8, Ps 2 and 110 (LXX 109) in Hebrews
together, we can see that it was guided by the theological intention of the
authors of Hebrews to demonstrate that there is a divine association of

76. Otto, Knigspsalmen, 3651.

77. For the meaning of !ad, cf. Grg, Thronen, 7576.
78. Schaper, Eschatology, 1017; Karrer, Hebre, 139.
79. For George Wesley Buchanan (To the Hebrews [AB 36; New York: Double-
day, 1972], xixxxi), Hebrews was a homiletical midrash based on Ps 110, which
at any rate underlines the central meaning of this psalm for the author of Hebrews.
26 Psalms and Hebrews

Father and Son and a brotherly association of Son and humanity.80 In the
end, there is no contradiction between the history of religion and biblical
theology; the history of religion reveals the theological substance which
binds the Old and New Testament together.

80. Hbner, Biblische Theologie, 2930.

Jaco W. Gericke

The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Beroea;
and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these
Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they received the
word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these
things were so. (Acts 17:1011 [emphasis added])

In his book Truth: A History and Guide for the Perplexed, Felipe
Fernndez Armesto introduces his subject with the following clips of
childlike faithor rather, the lack thereof:
Most western parents feel guilty about Santa Claus. When the time comes
to face the question whether Santa really exists, they feel like slayers of
childrens innocence or exploiters of their credulity, or both. In cultures
without Santa, other mythical gift bearers generate similar family crises.
One mother I know cheerfully admitted that the whole story was hokum
and forfeited her childrens trust for the rest of her life. A father of my
acquaintance tried to stress the poetic truth of the tale and faced an
embarrassing interrogation about his hocus-pocus with the Santa suits,
Christmas stockings and half-eaten mince pies. Another said, Its true
about Santa the way it is true in the book that Long John Silver was a
pirate. So, its not true, his little boy replied. An academic couple,
after discussing it thoroughly between themselves, decided to tell their
children, Its true that Santa brings you your presents in the same way
we speak of the wind hurrying or the sun smiling. The little boy and girl

* I would like to take this opportunity to thank Professor Dirk Human of the
Department of Old Testament Studies at the University of Pretoria for inviting me to
participate in the ProPsalm seminar of 2006 and for the opportunity to contribute to
this publication. This study represents a revised edition of the paper delivered there
and was written during a post-doctoral fellowship at the North-West University
(Vaal Triangle Campus).
28 Psalms and Hebrews

who concluded that the sun and wind exist and that Santa does not, never
forgave them for this evasion. A schoolmaster who taught my own
children and had a very pious little girl tried saying that the Santa story
was a parable: You dont suppose, he said, that the things Jesus told in
the parables actually happened, do you? The child ceased to be pious. 1

On a daily basis we all pass judgments on whether the ideas, beliefs

and claims we encounter are true or not. In so doing we tend to take the
meaning of the word truth for grantedwe know what it is. Or do we?
For example, just try to come up with a denition for the concept. You
will nd that explaining what truth isas opposed to giving examples of
which ideas you consider to be truemight not be so straightforward. In
other words, it is far simpler to provide a list of allegedly true proposi-
tions (i.e. to give an extensional denition of truth) than to specify the
individually necessary and jointly sufcient conditions for classifying
any belief as true in the rst place (i.e. to give an intensional denition of
If one happens to be a philosopher of the analytic tradition3 engaging
in conceptual analysis,4 one might attempt to deal with the meaning of

1. Felipe Fernndez Armesto, Truth: A History and Guide for the Perplexed
(new ed.; London, Bantam, 1999), ixx.
2. The term intensional as employed in the present study is not the same as the
phenomenological notion of intentionality; here, it represents a mode of meaning.
In the context of the concept of truth, intensions will specify what something has
to be like to be true (i.e. what makes truth truthful). If we cannot do this, doubts may
arise as to whether we understand truth at all. As one popular explanation
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comprehension_(logic)notes, in logic, the compre-
hension of an object pertains to familiarity with the totality of its intensions, that is,
an understanding of the attributes, characters, marks, properties, or qualities, that the
object possesses. This is the correct technical term for the whole collection of
intensions of an object, but it is common in less technical usage to see intension
used for both composite and primitive ideas.
3. The school of analytic philosophy has dominated academic philosophy in
various regions, most notably Great Britain and the United States, since the early
twentieth century. It originated around the turn of the twentieth century as G. E.
Moore and Bertrand Russell broke away from what was then the dominant school in
the British universities, Absolute Idealism. Many would also include Gottlob Frege
as a founder of analytic philosophy in the late nineteenth century. When Moore and
Russell articulated their alternative to Idealism, they used a linguistic idiom, fre-
quently basing their arguments on the meanings of terms and propositions.
Additionally, Russell believed that the grammar of natural language often is philo-
sophically misleading, and that the way to dispel the illusion is to re-express propo-
sitions in the ideal formal language of symbolic logic, thereby revealing their true
logical form. For more on this school, see A. Biletzki and A. Matar, eds., The Story
of Analytic Philosophy: Plot and Heroes (London: Routledge, 1998).
GERICKE But is it True? 29

the concept of truth by seeking to provide an intensional denition of

the concept according to the classically structured format (an essentialist
For any x, x is true if and only if a, b, cz
Alternatively, a less essentialist approach would bracket the concern
with what truth ultimately is and instead attempt to dene the concept by
showing what people mean when they say of something that it is true (an
anti-essentialist approach). In this way the philosophically prudent
answer to the questionWhat is truth?5is probably, It depends on
what you mean by truth.6
Not surprisingly, the concept of truth is currently one of the central
topics in philosophy.7 It is discussed in metaphysics, epistemology,
philosophy of language, logic, philosophy of science, philosophy of
religion, philosophy of law, philosophy of mind, and elsewhere. A major
question in philosophical debates on the subject concerns the nature of
truth (what is it?). This question can be divided into many sub-questions,
concerning the sorts of things that can be classied as being true or false.
Is truth a property of sentences (which are linguistic entities in some
language or other), or is truth a property of propositions (non-linguistic,
abstract and timeless entities)? Are there different types of truth? How
about different degrees of truth? Is there a metaphysical problem of truth
at all, and if there is, what kind of theory might address it? Can we ever
know truth? Can our knowledge of truth be veried? Does truth change
or are only interpretations thereof vulnerable to contingency? What popu-
lar criteria for determining truth are justied? Do different languages and
cultures all understand the same thing under the concept? All of these are
all standard interests in the philosophical discussion of truth.8

4. For an introduction, see S. Laurence and E. Margolis, eds., Concepts: Core

Readings (Cambridge, Mass.; MIT, 1999).
5. In the words of the character of Pontius Pilate in the John 18:38.
6. According to James Barr, The Concept of Biblical Theology: An Old Testa-
ment Perspective (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1999), 57, most biblical scholars are
practical down-to-earth folk who have no time for the philosophers It depends on
what you mean by questions.
7. M. Glanzberg, Truth, in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter
2008 Edition) (ed. Edward N. Zalta), available online at http://plato.stanford.edu/
archives/win2008/entries/truth/. I have included a number of links to electronic
resources in this study for the convenience of those readers wishing to access the
relevant data on the internet.
8. A useful and user-friendly philosophical introduction to the topic of truth in
philosophy can be found on the internet at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
see http://www.iep.utm.edu/t/truth.htm.
30 Psalms and Hebrews

Biblical Studies and the Question of Truth

All of the above philosophical questions about the nature of truth are
very interesting (if you are philosophically inclined, that is). However,
since this is a study written for the 2006 ProPsalm seminar on the use of
Psalms (Old Testament) in the Letter to the Hebrews (New Testament),
the anticipated reader might well wonder what philosophical perspectives
on truth have to do with anything. Well, most scholarly research on the
relation between the Testaments in general, and on the interpretation of
the Old Testament in the New Testament in particular, tend to be purely
historical, literary and/or theological in orientation. In most discussions,
the meaning of the concept of truth is taken for granted. The truth of
the text is either considered a given (fundamentalists, conservative schol-
ars) or qualied, reinterpreted and generally not assumed to be a topic
for serious discussion. In the latter instance, truth is not up for discussion
since it is considered to pertain to private convictions (mainstream
scholarship, critical scholars), or obviously not applicable (non-theistic
and other radical viewpoints).9 To be sure, most biblical scholars will no
doubt have some view on whether or not the text is true (and in what
sense of the word), which is precisely why in this study I shall try to
demonstrate that providing a nal answer to the question of whether the
texttruth relation in PsalmsHebrews intertextuality is isomorphic is not
nearly as conducive to further research as complicating the question

In the present study a variety of philosophical theories of truth will be
discussed, and it will be shown what it involves to subscribe to each
particular theory in the context of the question of whether the interpre-
tation of the Psalms in Hebrews is the truth. However, readers should not
hold their breath for an answer to the question of truth. As far as it is
possible, this essay will not itself assume the truth (in any sense) or
falsity (in any sense) of either the biblical text, of any specic interpre-
tation by exegetes, or of any particular philosophical theory of truth. By
leaving aside all three of these contentious matters I hope only to show

9. See Philip R. Davies, Whose Bible is it Anyway? (JSOTSup 204; Shefeld:

Shefeld Academic, 1995), 21. A refreshing anomaly in the system that goes
against the grain as the author sees it is David J. A. Cliness Interested Parties: The
Ideology of Writers and Readers of the Hebrew Bible (JSOTSup 205; Gender,
Culture, Theory 1; Shefeld: Shefeld Academic, 1995), 925.
GERICKE But is it True? 31

what it might involve to entertain or adopt a particular set of philosophi-

cal assumptions about the nature of truth, and what doing so implies for
the way in which we approach the question of truth with reference to
Psalm interpretation in Hebrews.

The Textual Basis of the Research Problem

At this point a cursive overview of the textual data prompting the
concern with the meaning of truth with reference to Psalm interpretation
in Hebrews might prove illuminating. In this regard, two elements in the
biblical discourse can be identied as justifying the particular formula-
tion of the research problem opted for at the start:
a. the fuzzy nature of the concept of truth in the Psalter and in
Hebrews itself;
b. the claims the author of Hebrews made regarding the meaning of
certain Psalms.
To be sure, there is always the danger of imposing pseudo-problems
from philosophy onto the textual discourse, and it is therefore only right
to commence the discussion with an overview of the textual data
concerning the concept of truth in its own historical and literary context.
So, before we come to theories of truth proper, let us look at both of the
above-mentioned textual elements in turn.

The Concept of Truth in the Psalms

In the Psalms (as elsewhere in the Old Testament), the Hebrew word
E> is the most familiar term translated as truth.10 Etymologically, the

10. According to the popular internet encyclopedia, Wikipedia, the English word
truth is from Old English trew, trow, trw, Middle English trewe, cognate to
Old High German triuwida, Old Norse trygg. Like troth, it is a -th nominalization
of the adjective true (Old English trowe). The English word true is from Old
English (West Saxon) (ge)trewe, trowe, cognate to Old Saxon (gi)trui, Old High
German (ga)triuwu (Modern German treu faithful), Old Norse tryggr, Gothic
triggws, all from a Proto-Germanic *trewwj- having good faith. Old Norse tr
holds the semantic eld faith, word of honour; religious faith, belief (archaic
English troth loyalty, honesty, good faith, compare satr). All Germanic
languages besides English have introduced a terminological distinction between
truth delity and truth factuality. To express factuality, North Germanic opted
for nouns derived from sanna to assert, afrm, while continental West Germanic
(German and Dutch) opted for continuations of wra faith, trust, pact (cognate to
Slavic vra [religious] faith, but inuenced by Latin verus). Romance languages
use terms following the Latin veritas, while the Greek aletheia and Slavic have
separate etymological origins. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth.
32 Psalms and Hebrews

word has been thought of as representing a contraction from *> , a

primitive root with the associative meaning of properly, to build up or
support; to foster as a parent or nurse; guratively to render (or be) rm
or faithful, to trust or believe, to be permanent or quiet; morally to be
true or certain; once; to go to the right hand:hence, assurance, believe,
bring up, establish, + fail, be faithful (of long continuance, steadfast,
sure, surely, trusty.11 The vagueness and polymorphic nature of the
concept E> in the Psalms, however, can be sufciently illustrated with
reference to its 37 occurrences in that corpus.
In the Psalter, the term E> is encountered for the rst time in
Ps 25:10. In this text it would appear to denote some sort of property, not
of propositions but of the ways of YHWH. The same metaphor seems to
be operative in the very next psalm, where E> is assumed to be
something one can walk in (Ps 26:3). Another psalm states that YHWH
is in possession of E> in a manner that can be communicated, though
only by the living (Ps 30:9). The next psalm asserts that YHWH is a god
of E> in the context of a confession made in thankfulness for redemp-
tion (Ps 31:5). Another text (Ps 33:4) further complicates the conceptual
background for the modern reader when it asserts that YHWHs works
(are done?) in E> (i.e. truth as an adverb). The latter claim occurs in
parallelism with the assertion that the word of 9H9J is right, although
what kind of parallelism we are dealing with here (synonymous, syn-
thetic, antithetic) is not exactly clear. In Ps 40:10 the psalmist claims not
to have concealed YHWHs E> from the congregation, though nothing
is said here about the sense or reference of the concept. In 40:11 the
speaker goes on to ask of YHWH that his (i.e. the deitys) E> should
preserve him (i.e. the psalmist), without telling us more about what
E> in this case is supposed to be. Many readers might assume it to be
the truth of statements made by or about the deity, but, as will become
clear, things are not so simple.
The next psalm to mention the term translated as truth is juxtaposed
by the psalmist with the concept of light in a request that E> also be
sent out to lead him and bring him to the divine abode (Ps 43:3).
The metaphor of the way12 seems to be present, although technically in

11. James Strong, The New Strongs Complete Dictionary of Bible Words
(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996).
12. It used to be popular to oppose what was called Hebrew vs. Greek ways
of thinking. Particularly the Biblical Theology Movement of the mid-twentieth cen-
tury did much to emphasize what it believed to be fundamental differences between
Hebraic and Hellenistic mindset. It was frequently asserted that Hebrew thinking
was dynamic, functional, personal, metaphorical, active, historical, practical, and so
GERICKE But is it True? 33

this instance E> is not itself seen as the way, but rather as something
sent on it as guide for the devotee. In Ps 45:4 E> is construed as allow-
ing the king to ride prosperously in his majesty (again a rather vague and
obscure metaphorical application). Another psalm depicts E> as an
object of YHWHs desire and as located in the inward parts of the
human subject whom the deity will grant the knowledge of wisdom (Ps
51:6). Then there is Ps 54:5, in which the psalmist expresses the hope
that YHWH will to cut of his enemies in his (i.e. YHWHs) E> .
A use of the concept of truth similar to one noted earlier (cf. Ps 43)
is attested in Ps 57:3, where E> is again depicted as something which
YHWH sends from heaven to aid the psalmistalthough here it is
juxtaposed with the concept of mercy rather than lightthe rst of
many such combinations with mercy, which always precedes truth.
An identical pairing of mercy and E> is also attested in v. 10 of the
same psalm, where in parallelism both are said to be so extensive as to
reach unto the skies. Psalm 60:4 states that those who fear YHWH will be
given a banner to display because of the E> . Again, the sense and
reference are somewhat vague. In Ps 61:7 there are two familiar associa-
tions when we encounter the concept of E> juxtaposed with mercy (as
in Ps 57) and acting as a preservative (as in Ps 40). The next psalm again
shows the juxtaposing of mercy and E> , with the psalmist appealing to
both of these qualities in a request for being heard. However, in this text
it is curious to see that while mercy is ascribed to YHWH, E> is
associated with his salvation (Ps 69:13). In Ps 71:22 E> is again
something possessed by YHWH and an object of the psalmists praise,
alongside YHWH himself. Then, in its next occurrence, in Ps 85:10, we
once again encounter the combination of mercy and E> , both of which

on, with Greek thinking being static, substantive, impersonal, literal, passive, uni-
versal and theoretical. These oppositions are fundamentally awed, as was shown
by James Barr on several occasions, including in his Athens or Jerusalem? The
Question of Distinctiveness, in Old and New in Interpretation: A Study of the Two
Testaments (London: SCM, 1966), 3464. I agree with Barr and consider the popular
opposition to be the result of caricaturizing, stereotyping, sweeping generalization,
essentialism and a host of other fallacies. There never was such a thing as Greek
thinking in the sense of a unied mode of thought and the philosophers conceptual
world cannot be transferred to the general religious populace. Moreover, even the
philosophers disagreed among themselves and so too the ways in which different
biblical authors and redactors conceived of reality and expressed their ideas about it.
Also, with regard to the concept of truth, my intention with the above exposition is
not to oppose Hebrew and Greek philosophical thinking or to claim that the one is
better than the other or that we should adopt a biblical view on the matter. As the
saying goes, There aint no such animal.
34 Psalms and Hebrews

are said to be conjoinedeven as righteousness and peace are (according

to the parallelism). In the next verse (Ps 85:11) E> is depicted as
sprouting out of the earth in a parallelism also featuring the depiction of
righteousness looking down from heaven. In the next psalm (Ps 86:11),
the E> of YHWH is identied with the way of YHWH (compare this to
the earlier instance where there was no such identication, as truth is
said to guide along the way, rather than itself being the way). In v. 15 the
concept features once more when the properties of YHWH are extolled,
among them the abundance of mercy and E> .
In Ps 89:14 mercy and E> again appear in unison and are juxtaposed
in parallelism with justice and judgment, while being personied and
hypostasized as part of his entourage preceding YHWH. A little later in
the psalm, YHWH is asked concerning the whereabouts of his loving-
kindness that he promised David in his (i.e. YHWHs) E> . Then we
nd in Ps 91 that YHWHs E> is connected to his promises and
metaphorically constructed as a shield and girdle, while in Ps 96:13 E>
is said to be something with which YHWH will judge the world. In Ps
98:3 mercy and truth are yet again combined and here E> is something
that YHWH has remembered vis--vis the house of Israel. The same duo
features in Pss 100:5 and in 108:4, with the former depicting E> as
something YHWH has and which endures, and the latter again using a
spatial metaphor by representing truth as reaching the clouds (identical
to the image in Ps 57:10). In Ps 111:8, what is done in E> (and upright-
ness) is said to stand fast forever, while in Ps 115:1 E> (again with
mercy) belongs to YHWH and is given as a reason for glorifying him. In
Ps 117:2 (with mercy once more) YHWHs E> is yet again noted as
enduring. In the next psalm the way of YHWH is said to be a god of E>
(v. 30) and YHWH is asked not to remove E> from the psalmists mouth
(v. 43). Later on, the law and commandments of YHWH are said to be
E> (Ps 119:142 and 151 respectively). In Ps 132:11 YHWH swears to
David in E> , and in 138:2 the deity is again praised for the same
quality. In Ps 145:18 there is a reference to the nearness of YHWH to
those who call on him in E> , and in Ps 146:6 E> is something the
deity keeps forever.
It is interesting to note that in the Psalms E> is never discussed,
explained or dened. This should not come as a surprise since the texts
are not a collection of philosophical essays and aphorisms. The essential
meaning of the concept E> as used in the Psalter is, however, quite elu-
sive for anyone hoping to elucidate its meaning via philosophical (i.e.
conceptual) analysis. The data are simply too fuzzy to allow the analyst
to construct an intensional denition of E> by way of stipulating
GERICKE But is it True? 35

individually necessary and jointly sufcient conditions for its applica-

tion. A more appropriate assessment of its meaning might instead
involve the provisioning of a polythetic denition that acknowledges the
pluralism in linguistic, literary, historical, social and theological contexts
in the Psalter and denes the term along the lines of Wittgensteins
family resemblances approach where meaning is identied with use.
However, even such a exible perspective is bound to be vague given the
essentially metaphorical nature of the religious language in which the
concept is encountered in the Psalter. Yet what should be readily
apparent to the modern reader is the difference between our own use of
the concept of truthmainly as a property of propositions, beliefs and
knowledge-systemsand the Psalters conceptions which go beyond
cognitive associations by extending the scope of application to include
the properties, functions and relations of persons and actions. In the
recognition of this the question of what we mean when we speak of truth
(or its absence) in the context of Psalm interpretation suddenly seems not
so pedantic or straightforward. Our own conceptions of what truth is
might not completely overlap the meaning assumed in the biblical texts

The Concept of Truth in Hebrews and the Research Problem

The same vagueness regarding the concept of truth is found in the
book of Hebrews itself. The most familiar New Testament word for
truthB MIRFJB13occurs only once in the book (in derivative form) and
in Heb 10:26,
For if we sin deliberately after that we have received the knowledge of
the truth(B MIRFJBK), there remains no more sacrice for sins.

13. According to Thomas Cole, Archaic Truth, Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura

Classica NS 13 (1983): 728, the most familiar Greek word for Truth is B MIRFJB
(Aletheia). It was translated in Latin by Cicero as Veritas, yet both the etymology
and the translation are problematic. The two main theories about the original
meaning of Aletheia are the traditional theory correctness of speech or belief and
that advanced by Martin Heidegger in his inuential restatement of the view that to
a-lthes is, originally and essentially, to m lanthanonthat is, the unhidden or
unforgotten. If Heidegger and his followers are correct, altheia must be a quality
inherent in objects perceived or information received: a certain self-evidence, abid-
ing clarity or memorableness. Against this view (though also, by implication, against
those who reject altogether the correctness or relevance of the derivation from the
root lath), Bruno Snell has recently suggested that the lth excluded by a-ltheia is
something found in persons rather than things: forgetfulness rather than hiddenness
or being forgotten. A-lethes is that which is retained in the memory without any of
the gaps to which such lth would give rise.
36 Psalms and Hebrews

Here too there is no denition, explanation or discussion by the author of

what he meant by the concept. In translations we encounter the word
simply as truth, which means that even if the reference (denotation,
extension) of the term can be determined by careful exegesis (i.e., with
regard to what the author was calling true), the sense (connotation,
intension) of the word is still not claried (i.e. what the author meant
when he called the specic things true).14 What is clear, however, is
that in this text the truth is not identied with the deity as such or with
some cosmic standard of justied belief, but rather appears to be associ-
ated with the contents of knowledge pertaining to the sacrice of Christ,
its replacement of the old covenant and its warning of the judgment to
While Heb 10:36 features the only explicit occurrence of the term
(truth) in the book, it is of course presupposed and implicit elsewhere
in as much as the author is purporting to be telling the truth which he
believes his audience should take cognizance of. He makes numerous
truth-claims and most certainly believed that he was communicating a
true state of affairs to his readers, whatever it was that the concept of
truth was understood to involve. This is the case especially in the more
or less forty instances in theological assertions and arguments in the
book where the author quotes (or alludes to), interprets and applies a text
from the Psalter as part of his extended homily.

Hebrews Psalms Hebrews Psalms Hebrews Psalms

1:3 110:1? 3:7 95:7 5:6 110:4
1:5 2:7 3:8 95:8 7:17 110:4
1:6 (97:7) 3:9 95:9 7:21 110:4
1:7 104:4 3:10 95:10 8:1 110:1?
1:8 45:6 3:11 95:11 10:5 40:6
1:9 45:7 3:15 95:7 10:6 40:6
1:10 102:25 " 95:8 10:7 40:7
1:11 102:26 3:18 95:11? " 40:8
1:12 102:27 4:3 95:11 10:12 110:1?
1:13 110:1 4:5 95:11 10:13 110:1?
2:6 8:4 4:7 95:7 12:2 110:1?
2:7 8:5 " 95:8 13:6 118:6
2:8 8:6 " 95:11?
2:12 22:22 5:5 2:7

14. For more on these distinctions in their philosophical sense, see http://www.
GERICKE But is it True? 37

The problem with which we are interested in this study concerns not
the validity of the arguments but their truth-value,15 in as much as no
respectable biblical scholar nowadays reads the Psalms in the way the
author of Hebrews does.In many of the above-listed texts, the author of
Hebrews commits what epistemologists and logicians call the fallacy of
contextomy. Contextomy is a logical fallacy and refers to the selec-
tive excerpting of words from their original linguistic context in a way
that distorts the sources intended meaning, a practice commonly referred
to as quoting out of context. The problem here is not the removal of a
quote from its original context (as all quotes are) per se, but rather the
quoters decision to exclude from the excerpt certain nearby phrases or
sentences (which become context by virtue of the exclusion) that serve
to clarify the intentions behind the selected words. The fallacy of quoting
out of context is moreover committed only when a contextomy is offered
as evidence in an argument. Such fallacious quoting can involve argu-
ments from authority that often quote the authority as a premise. How-
ever, it is possible to quote even legitimate authorities out of context
so as to misrepresent the experts opinion, which is a form of mislead-
ing appeal to authority.16 Reading in and between the lines of biblical

15. In logic, a valid argument is one whose premises lead to the conclusion
without there being a fallacy committed along the way. This is not the same as a true
argument. An argument can be valid in terms of structure but false with regard to
any of the premises or the conclusion.
16. Limitations of space do not permit a detailed analysis of each of these texts.
Even if it was possible to perform such a study, my interest does not lie in a
summary and repetition of the ndings of research already extant that somehow
relates to my own concern. That such data exist is evident from the ndings of a
relatively recent assessment, on the various ways in which the author handles the
Old Testament. According to George H. Guthrie, Hebrews Use of the Old
Testament: Recent Trends in Research, Currents in Biblical Research 1 (2003):
27194, the past two decades have witnessed an acceleration of research on the book
generally, and within the context of the heightened attention, certain trends in
exploration of Hebrews uses of the Old Testament have emerged. After current
discussions on direct quotations, allusions, uses of biblical phrases, echoes, and
general references are considered, as are the authors uses of introductory formulae,
four trends that have surfaced in the literature of recent years are discernable. The
rst trend concerns a movement away from focus on the question of a specic
textual form behind Hebrews and a movement to consideration of the authors own
minor adjustments in presentation of the text for stylistic and theological purposes.
The second trend in research concerns approaches that read the structure of Hebrews
as framed by expositions of key Old Testament texts. The third trend involves
explorations into specic exegetical methods used by the author of Hebrews, and the
fourth attempts at discerning the authors hermeneutical program. These trends
38 Psalms and Hebrews

scholars assessment of the problem, it would appear as though one

or more of the following explanations for the discrepancies between
Hebrews and the Psalms are taken for granted as trivializing the matter
1. The Old TestamentNew Testament wording differs because the
author used the LXX as opposed to the MT (or he had access to an
unknown Hebrew Vorlage) on which our own translation of the
Psalms is based.
2. While we might nd the interpretation problematic, a historical
perspective on the authors methodology shows that he often
used the so-called Pesher form of exegesis in Christological
format, something which in terms of reading strategy would not
have struck the implicit readers as hermeneutically illegitimate.
3. Sometimes the text from Hebrews differs verbatim from the
Psalters own text, but the meaning conveyed is basically the
4. The author of Hebrews may on one or more occasions have
quoted from memory, so that one can expect minor verbal dis-
crepancies in the data.
5. The author of Hebrews allegedly never meant merely to provide
a historical and descriptive commentary on a text in the Psalter
but was in fact in the process of constructing his own theology
based on a justied reinterpretation of the Psalters text in light
of his own understanding of the Christ-event.
6. As religious text the meaning of a verse in the Psalter is not
exhausted by a historical and purely descriptive reading, and in
reception-history the notion of multiple sense, indeterminate
reference, double fullment, etc. is considered warranted.
While all of these replies do explain why the text of Hebrews differs
from the text of the Psalter in terms of content and meaning, it makes
little difference to the fact that what the author of Hebrews in his con-
struction of theological arguments claims a given text from the Psalms
actually means is still at times demonstrably not something the psalmist
himself might have agreed with. In addition, even if the fallacy of con-
textomy can be eliminated by the suggestion that it is generated by the

demonstrate the central place in research that Hebrews use of the Old Testament has
enjoyed. Yet, while all of the positions assume the use of the Old Testament in
Hebrews as in some sense problematic from a modern perspective, none of them opt
for a philosophical approach aimed at clarifying the notion of truth presupposed by
the modern exegete that gives rise to the problems in the rst place.
GERICKE But is it True? 39

intentional fallacy,17 there is still the fact that the author of Hebrews in
his use of a proof-text approach was (even if legitimately) engaging in
quote mining. In doing so, his claims are only apparently valid as long
as one ignores the details in the rest of the particular psalm he is quoting
from or alluding to. The question now is whether he was telling the
truthor rather, what we mean when we afrm or deny this.

Theories of Truth18
Theories of truth may be described according to several dimensions of
description that affect the character of the predicate true.19 The truth
predicates that are used in different theories may be classied by the
number of things that have to be mentioned in order to assess the truth of
a sign, counting the sign itself as the rst thing. The kinds of truth
predicates may then be subdivided according to any number of more
specic characters that various theorists recognize as important:
1. A monadic truth predicate is one that applies to its main sub-
jecttypically a concrete representation or its abstract content
independently of reference to anything else. In this case one can

17. The Intentional Fallacy in Literary Criticism, addresses the assumption that
the meaning intended by the author of a literary work is of primary importance. By
characterizing this assumption as a fallacy, a critic suggests that the authors
intention is not important. The term is an important principle of New Criticism and
was rst used by W. K. Wimsatt and Monroe C. Beardsley, The Intentional
Fallacy, Sewanee Review 54 (1946): 46888 (revised and republished in The Verbal
Icon: Studies in the Meaning of Poetry [New York: University of Kentucky Press,
1954], 318).
18. For a general introduction, see J. L. Austin, Truth, reprinted in Philo-
sophical Papers (ed. J. O. Urmson and G. J. Warnock; 3d ed.; Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1979), 11733; S. Blackburn and K. Simmons, eds., Truth
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999); M. David, Theories of Truth, in Hand-
book of Epistemology (ed. I. Niiniluoto, M. Sintonen and J. Wolenski; Dordrecht:
Kluwer Academic, 2004), 331414; R. L. Kirkham, Theories of Truth: A Critical
Introduction (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 1992); W. Knne, Conceptions of Truth
(Oxford: Clarendon, 2003); M. P. Lynch, The Nature of Truth: From the Classic to
the Contemporary (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 2001); R. Schantz, ed., What is Truth?
(Berlin: de Gruyter, 2002); F. F. Schmitt, Truth: A Primer (Boulder, Co.: Westview,
1995); S. Soames, Understanding Truth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999);
D. Davidson, Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1984); idem, The Structure and Content of Truth, Journal of Philosophy 87
(1990): 279328.
19. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pragmatic_theory_of_truth.
40 Psalms and Hebrews

say that a truth-bearer is true in and of itself. Many biblical

scholars might opt for such an approach if they suggest that we
should evaluate the truth-claims of Hebrews on its own terms
and not from any evaluative point of view from outside, whether
that of the psalmist or the reader asking the question.
2. A dyadic truth predicate is one that applies to its main subject
only in reference to something else, a second subject. Most
commonly, the auxiliary subject is either an object, an inter-
preter, or a language to which the representation bears some
relation. In our own inquiry, the truth predicate obtains this
format if we compare what the author of Hebrews claims with
what the text of the psalm he is referring meant in its own
context and then judge his arguments accordingly.
3. A triadic truth predicate is one that applies to its main subject
only in reference to a second and a third subject. Here one has to
specify both the object of the sign, and either its interpreter or
another sign called the interpretant before one can say that the
sign is true of its object to its interpreting agent or sign. If one
opts for this perspective on the truth predicate in the question of
whether Hebrews is true, then we not only have recourse to
the texts of Hebrews and the Psalms, but ask whether what is
said is the truth about the world from our own perspective.
A consideration of these distinctions is useful when we discuss the
various theories of truth. The same distinctions also complicate the
application of the particular philosophical perspective, since our answer
to the question regarding the meaning of truth in biblical truth-claims is
not only dependent on a particular theory of truth, but also on a particular
interpretation of the scope of the truth-predicate. In addition, there is the
question of whether we can speak of only one type of truth applicable to
all forms of discourse. Many biblical scholars in particular might argue
that one cannot assess the truth of a religious text in the same way one
would the truth of a scientic claim or a historical chronicle.20 If this is

20. Philosophers themselves wonder whether one might distinguish types of

truth. According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth, metaphysical subjectivism
holds that the truth or falsity of all propositions depends, at least partly, on what we
believe. In contrast, metaphysical objectivism holds that truths are independent of
our beliefs. Except for propositions that are actually about our beliefs or sensations,
what is true or false is independent of what we think is true or false. Moreover, rela-
tive truths are statements or propositions that are true only relative to some standard,
convention, or point-of-view, such as that of ones own culture. Many would agree
that the truth or falsity of some statements is relative: Relativism is the doctrine that
GERICKE But is it True? 41

accepted, then a further clarication is warranted on the part of those

evaluating the biblical data, otherwise the judgment might involve
category mistakes as well as a number of fallacies of assumption and
representation being committed.
Another preliminary issue concerns determining the kinds of things
one can call true or false in the rst place.21 Up till now we have been
asking what we mean if we wonder whether Hebrews reading of the
Psalms provide us with the truththe question is whether the concept
belong to this context at all. On the one hand, the answer seems to be
yes, given that entities such as propositions, beliefs, arguments, and so
on are relatively uncontroversial candidates, as well as the fact that they
all feature in the biblical texts under consideration. However, can the
application of modern criteria for evaluating truth-claims be quite so
simple, particularly in view of the nature of the biblical conceptions of
truth discussed earlier and given the difference between the hermeneu-
tical assumptions underlying Hebrews reading of the Psalter and our

all truths within a particular domain (say, morality or aesthetics) are of this form,
and entails that what is true varies across cultures and eras. For example, moral
relativism is the view that a moral statement can be true in one time and place but
false in another. This is different from the uncontroversial claim that people in
different cultures and eras believe different things about morality. Relative truths can
be contrasted with absolute truths. The existence of absolute truths is somewhat
controversial, but is strongly asserted by universalism. Absolutism in a particular
domain of thought is the view that all statements in that domain are either true in all
times and places or false in all times and places: none is true for some cultures or
eras while false for other cultures or eras.
21. According to http://www.iep.utm.edu/t/truth.htm, although we do speak of
true friends and false identities, philosophers believe these are derivative uses of
true and false. More generally, philosophers want to know what sorts of things
are true and what sorts of things are false. This same question is expressed by
asking: What sorts of things have (or bear) truth-values? The term truth-value has
been coined by logicians as a generic term for truth or falsehood. To ask for the
truth-value of P, is to ask whether P is true or whether P is false. Value in truth-
value does not mean valuable. It is being used in a similar fashion to numerical
value as when we say that the value of x in x + 3 = 7 is 4. To ask What is the
truth-value of the statement that Montreal is north of Pittsburgh? is to ask whether
the statement that Montreal is north of Pittsburgh is true or whether it is false. (The
truth-value of that specic statement is true.) There are many candidates for the sorts
of things that can bear truth-values: statements, sentence types and tokens, propo-
sitions, theories, facts, assertions, utterances, beliefs, claims, opinions, doctrines,
ideas, and so on.
42 Psalms and Hebrews

Finally, it should be remembered that in the context of philosophy, it

is not even agreed that there is such a thing as truth to begin with. With
regard to the ontology of the concept, philosopher Simon Blackburn
discerns four distinct views currently on offer:22
First there is realism, the position that yes, indeed, there is such thing
as truth, and yes, we can say somethingin fact, a lotabout it. Typi-
cally, scientists tend to be realists, and realists are generally optimistic
about science. The problem with at least some nave versions of realism
(so-called real realism) is that there is no coherent account of it. A
second category that assumes the existence of truth is what Blackburn
labels constructivism. Constructivists would disagree that truth
means the objective representation of an independent reality, but also
disagree with claims that there is no such thing as truth in any sense of
the word. Here theories of truth are considered functional, in that they
might give us models that serve as useful ctions to navigate the world.
The third perspective is a little less optimistic and is called quietism.
Here lies deconstructionism, whose fundamental tenet is that nobody can
provide a theory of truth because there is no neutral viewpoint one can
adopt to stand outside personal or local truths (the above-mentioned
lethal objection to real realism). Finally there is eliminativism, the
rather radical idea that one simply should not think in terms of truth at
all, because the concept is meaningless. Ultimately, our concern is not
the ontology of truth, yet readers would do well to keep the plurality of
opinion on this matter in mind since all judgments on the truth of Psalm
interpretation in Hebrews must presuppose some or other ontology for
which it will have to account in some way.
With these preliminary thoughts behind us, we turn to a discussion of
the theories themselves. The overview to follow is not exhaustive and
does not deal with every theory of truth ever conceived. Moreover, its
introductory nature means the presentation will not distinguish all the
different versions of the particular view, even though virtually every
theory is manifested by its proponents not as a unied and homogenous
perspective, but comes to us as a cluster of views, the precise details of
which vary in different times and in different contexts. Limitations on
space mean that I must leave aside the more formal semantic and logic
theoriessuch as axiomatic theories of truth, revisionary theories of
truth, and identity theories of truth, and so on. I have also decided not to
discuss the debate concerning the classication and naming of the
various theories since many operate under more than one name and are
located under different categories by different philosophers. But enough

22. S. Blackburn, Truth: A Guide (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).
GERICKE But is it True? 43

said about practicalities, it is now time to concern ourselves with what

this study is all about in the rst place. In this regard, it is appropriate to
distinguish two kinds of truth-theories, namely, substantive theories and
deationist theories. These different views about truth will be discussed
under these headings for the sake of clarity.

Substantive theories. In this category we nd theories whose task is to

specify the substantive characteristics possessed by all and only truths.
The aim of these approaches is therefore to say what all truth statements
share as being the essential, necessary and sufcient property for truth-

Correspondence theories.23 The correspondence theory is the default

theory of truth. It is the one most people think is obvious. According to
the correspondence theory, a claim is true if it corresponds to what is so
(the facts or reality) and false if it does not correspond to what is so.
An example of applying this theory to the HebrewsPsalms relation
(hereafter Hebrews and Psalms will be abbreviated to H and P respec-
tively) would be to say the proposition x (where x is any interpretation)
in H about a (where a is the quoted or alluded verse) in P is true if and
only if in the reference of x in H corresponds to the reference of a in P.
From a philosophical perspective, of course, the correspondence
theory of truth is not without problems, and neither is its application to
the HP relation. The rst problem pertains to the nave hermeneutical
realism of the theory. Let us consider the idea of the meaning of x or a in
H and P respectively. Before we decide whether x and a correspond in
terms of reference, how do we know our interpretation of x (xi) corre-
sponds to x as intended by the author of H (xH)? Moreover, how do we
know our interpretation of a (ai) corresponds to a as intended by the
author of P (aP)? After all, we can never compare x with xH or ai with
aPthat is, we can never compare our interpretation of the text (the

23. M. David, Dont Forget About the Correspondence Theory of Truth, in

Lewisian Themes: The Philosophy of David K. Lewis (ed. F. Jackson and G. Priest;
Oxford: Clarendon, 2004), 331414; D. Davidson, True to the Facts, Journal of
Philosophy 66 (1969): 74864; G. Forbes, Truth, Correspondence and Redun-
dancy, in Fact, Science and Morality: Essays on A. J. Ayers Language, Truth
& Logic (ed. G. Macdonald and C. Wright; Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), 2754;
R. Fumerton, Realism and the Correspondence Theory of Truth (Lanham, Md.:
Rowman & Littleeld, 2002); D. J. OConnor, The Correspondence Theory of Truth
(London: Hutchinson, 1975); G. Vision, Veritas: The Correspondence Theory and
Its Critics (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 2004). For informative internet resources, see
44 Psalms and Hebrews

text as it appears) with the texts own meaning (the text in itself).24 For,
as soon as we attempt to make such a comparison, what is seen as the
text itself is once more available to us only as an interpretation of the
A second problem then arises concerning the question of what has to
correspond for us to be able to answer the question of truth afrmatively.
Is the correspondence to be demonstrated limited to verbal or semantic
isomorphisms between x and a in H and P respectively? Or should a in P
and x in H themselves also correspond to actual reality (some extra-
textual state of affairs, whatever that is). For even if x = a, both might
have no correspondence to any extra-textual state of affairs, meaning that
even if x in H tells the truth about a in P, either x in H or a in P (or both)
might not have any extra-textual world in which they are instantiated.
This would mean that x in H may be true with reference to a in P, yet
still false with reference to what is actually the case in the extra-textual
world about which H and P are presumably making claims. But the
problem is greaterfor the rst problem discussed above again arises in
as much as the supposed extra-textual state of affairs that we have any
consciousness of would again be little more than our interpretation of it.
So, one only ends up comparing interpretations of texts with interpreta-
tions of other texts and extra-textual realities, meaning at best that a

24. This is in effect the hermeneutical version of Kants critique of metaphysics

and the transcendental pretensions. For more on this and the noumenon/phenome-
non distinction, see M. Grier, Kants Critique of Metaphysics, in The Stanford
Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition) (ed. Edward N. Zalta), http://plato.
25. The same problem concerns the constraints of context, be this intra-, inter- or
extra-textual context. We have no access to any of these contexts per se, only to our
interpretations and constructions of these contexts. Reading a text in context
therefore not only involves access solely to an interpretation of the text rather than
the text itself, it also involves access to that text only via a constructed context rather
than a context supposedly given. This does not mean that there is no meaning, that
all interpretations are equally true or false or that the reality itself is constructed. It
only means that, whatever the meaning, interpretation and reality of the text iswe
will never know it or verify our claims about it other than by way of interpretation
and construction, the correspondence of which to the actual state of affairs (which
itself needs to be dened in terms of what we mean by this) cannot be veried
absolutely. These considerations suggest that those assuming a correspondence view
of truth face the problem that interpretation is endless and that all contextual cons-
traints are self-imposed constructs. This means that it will be impossible to demon-
strate that in attempting to determine the correspondence between texts (or the lack
thereof), one might not be able to prove that what is shown to correspond (or not) is
in fact the texts themselves.
GERICKE But is it True? 45

correspondence of interpretations might be demonstrated without ever

being able to show that the interpretations themselves correspond to what
is being interpreted in the rst place.26

Coherence theories.27 According to the stereotypical version of

coherence theories of truth, a statement is true if it is logically consistent
with other beliefs that are held (known) to be true. And since a belief is
assumed to be false if it is inconsistent with (contradicts) other beliefs
that are believed to be true,28 we are advised to doubt claims that are
inconsistent with the rest of our presumably true beliefs. In general,
coherence theory therefore sees truth as coherence between some speci-
ed sets of sentences, propositions or beliefstruth is said to require a
proper t of elements within the whole belief system.

26. On the other hand, it might be argued that the reason why the correspondence
theory seems correct on prima facie evaluation is that it is (but to what, then, does it
correspond?). This means that the above remarks showing we only have our
interpretation of things and never the things themselves does not mean there is no
truth about the text or that the true interpretation is not what corresponds to the text
per se. In other words, what we learn is not that there is no truth or that truth is not
correspondence. Rather, our lack of access to the things themselves merely shows
our own inability to know and verify truth claims absolutely. That means the critique
of the correspondence theory, with its assumption of the distinction yet isomorphism
between x and the interpretation of x as truth-condition, is ultimately a devastating
blow not to correspondence theory, but to our epistemological capabilities. Hence
the post-modern dictum that there is only interpretation or appearances and no facts
and reality is correct only in terms of what we have access to that can be veried. It
is wrong, however, to dismiss reality and facts simply because we cannot know or
prove our interpretation absolutely. Something is being interpreted and something
appears in some way. Just because we can never show our representations to
correspond to an objective state of affairs does not mean that there is no such state of
affairs (there must be since something is being represented). It simply shows that we
can never prove the correspondence of the representation and the state of affairs. If
this is the case, then the problem lies with epistemological optimism, not with the
correspondence theory itself.
27. N. Rescher, The Coherence Theory of Truth (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1973); B. Russell, On the Nature of Truth, Proceedings of the Aristotelian
Society 7 (1907): 22849; P. Thagard, Coherence, Truth and the Development of
Scientic Knowledge, Philosophy of Science 74 (2007): 2647; R. C. S. Walker,
The Coherence Theory of Truth: Realism, Anti-realism, Idealism (London: Rout-
ledge, 1989), and The Coherence Theory of Truth: Realism, Anti-realism, Ideal-
ism, Synthese 103 (1997): 279302; J. O. Young, Global Anti-realism (Aldershot:
Avebury, 1995), and idem, A Defence of the Coherence Theory of Truth, Journal
of Philosophical Research 26 (2001): 89101.
28. A. R. White, Coherence Theory of Truth, in Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
vol. 2 (New York: Macmillan, 1969), 13031.
46 Psalms and Hebrews

According to the stereotypical version of this theory, then, x in H is

true if and only if it logically coheres with other propositions in the belief
system. Of course, one problem emerging from such a formulation
concerns the system itselfwhat is it and what are its boundaries? Is the
belief system we are talking about the set of beliefs in the Letter to the
Hebrews, the set of beliefs in the mind of the author, the set of beliefs in
the mind of the reader, the set of beliefs in the specic Psalm quoted, of
what? All of these might be contested. And yet, unless we can specic
the belief-set, how are we to determine the truth of the text or to assess
truth claims about it?
A second problem with a coherency view is that a belief can be con-
sistent with all our other personal or popularly accepted beliefs and yet
have no independent supporting evidence.29 For example, many meta-
physical beliefs are consistent with all imaginable states of affairs (e.g.
the universe came into existence ve minutes ago complete with his-
torical records and memories). The problem for a coherence theory of
truth, then, is not only to identify the belief set in question, but also the
fact that such specication and the resulting possession of a coherent
system simply means the absence of inconsistencies, not necessarily of
falsities. If it is true that a system can be coherent and false, coherency
cannot be a standard criterion for ascertaining actual truthfulness.

Pragmatic theories.30 Pragmatic theories of truth are those accounts,

denitions, and perspectives on the concept truth typied by the philo-
sophies of pragmatism and pragmaticism. They can be said to involve a
combination of correspondence and coherency theories yet differ radi-
cally with regard to what the representationrealityrelation is all about.
Basically, according to the pragmatic theory, a statement is true if it
allows you to interact effectively and efciently with the reality you are
dealing with. The less true a belief is, the less it facilitates such inter-
action. A belief is false if it facilitates no interaction. If more than one
belief makes allowance for interaction with the world then both are
true (i.e. both work). In the context of Hebrews interpretation of the
Psalms, proponents of this theory might consider the New Testament text
to be truth if it worked.

29. Cf. the section on critique at http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth-coherence/.

30. For primary literature, see C. S. Peirce, What Pragmatism Is, The Monist
15 (1905): 16181; idem, Basis of Pragmaticism (1906), rst published in
Collected Papers, CP 1:57374 and 5:54954. For a more recent popular defence of
the theory, see R. Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1979). For a general introduction to the theory, its ideas and
history, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pragmatic_theory_of_truth.
GERICKE But is it True? 47

The rst problem is similar to the one discussed with reference to the
coherence and correspondence theories. In asking whether Hs interpre-
tation (x) of a in P is true, what are we in fact asking and what is sup-
posed to work for whom in relation to what else? Hs beliefs in x about a
in P for his own religious purposes? Hs beliefs in x about a in P for the
author of a in P? Hs beliefs in x about a in P for us? Our own beliefs
about a in P for us? Our own beliefs about x in H for us? And what if Hs
reading x of a in P does work for H but not for P or us (or vice versa)?
Can x in H be both true and false at the same time?
Another problem arises even if we limit pragmatics to the author of
Hebrews himself. An example here would be the author of Hs belief x
that the text a in P is referring to Jesus. According to this theory, Hs
claim in x that P in a says x is true if it makes Hs life-world (Umwelt)
more predictable and thus easier to live in. Of course, the problem is that
sometimes false beliefs work, yet are discovered not to be true even
though it might be convenient to believe them. H might believe some-
thing about Christ and enlist words from a in P for scriptural support
and even if the reading works for H and just so happens also to be the
meaning intended by P, the mere argument that because a is useful for H
it must be identical to a in P is still a fallacy. In this case the argument
would be true but invalid.

Deationary theories.31 This is the second cluster or group of truth

theories vis--vis the substantive one discussed thus far. Deationary
theories can be said to hold in common that the predicate true is an
expressive convenience, not the name of a property requiring deep
analysis. Once we have identied the truth predicates formal features
and utility, deationists argue, we have said all there is to be said about
truth. The various deationary theories tend to be mostly concerned with

31. B. Armour-Garb, Deationism and the Meaningless Strategy, Analysis 61,

no. 4 (2001): 28089; B. Armour-Garb and J. C. Beall, eds., Deationary Truth
(Chicago and La Salle: Open Court, 2005), B. Armour-Garb and J. C. Beall, eds.,
Deationism and Paradox (Oxford: Clarendon, 2006); R. Cartwright, A Neglected
Theory of Truth, in Philosophical Essays (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 1987); H. Field,
The Deationary Conception of Truth, in MacDonald and Wright, eds., Fact,
Science and Morality, 55117; idem, Deationist Views of Meaning and Con-
tent, Mind 103, no. 411 (1994): 24984; idem, Deating the Conservativeness
Argument, Journal of Philosophy 96 (1999): 53340; A. Gupta, A Critique of
Deationism, Philosophical Topics 21 (1993): 5781; M. McGrath, Between
Deationism and Correspondence (New York: Garland, 2001); M. Williams,
Meaning and Deationary Truth, Journal of Philosophy 96 (1999): 54564. For a
good introduction in an electronic resource, see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/
48 Psalms and Hebrews

technical semantic and formal logical issues, meaning that its claims may
seem unnecessary pedantic to some. Moreover, they come in many
varieties, most of which overlap to a considerable extent, meaning that
the differences between the various forms of deationism are often more
a matter of nuance than of substance:
1. According to the redundancy theory of truth, or the disquota-
tional theory of truth,32 asserting that a statement x in H is true is
completely equivalent to asserting the statement itself. Accord-
ing to this view, truth is a mere word that is conventional to
use in certain contexts of discourse, but not a word pointing to
anything in reality. The use of such words as fact and truth was
nothing but a roundabout way of asserting a proposition so that
treating these words as separate problems in isolation from judg-
ment was merely a linguistic muddle, though there remains
some debate as to the correct interpretation of this position.
Hence, this particular version of deationism is commonly ref-
erred to as the redundancy theory. Most predicates attribute
properties to their subjects, but the redundancy theory denies
that the predicate is true does so. Instead, it treats the predicate is
true as empty, adding nothing to an assertion except to convert
its meaning to its use. That is, the predicate is true in H says
x merely asserts the proposition contained in the sentential
clause (H says x) to which it is applied, but does not ascribe any
additional property to that proposition or sentence. A variant of
redundancy theory is the disquotational theory which uses a
modied form of Tarskis schema:33 To say that H is true is
simply to assert H says x.
2. The Performative Theory is a deationary theory that is not a
redundancy theory. The Performative Theory of Truth argues
that ascribing truth to a proposition x in H is not really char-
acterizing the proposition itself, nor is it saying something
redundant. Rather, it is telling us something about the readers
intentions. The readerthrough his or her agreeing with it,
endorsing it, praising it, accepting it, or perhaps conceding itis
licensing our adoption of (the belief in) the proposition. Instead
of saying, What H says in x is true, one could substitute I

32. H. Field, Disquotational Truth and Factually Defective Discourse, Philo-

sophical Review 103 (1994): 40552.
33. A. Tarski, The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundations of
Semantics, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 4 (1944); idem, The
Concept of Truth in Formalized Languages, in Logic, Semantics, Metamathematics
(New York: Clarendon, 1956).
GERICKE But is it True? 49

embrace the claim H makes in x. The key idea is that saying of

some proposition, x in H, that it is true is to say in a disguised
fashion I commend x to you, or I endorse x, or something of
the sort.
3. The Prosentential Theory of Truth34 suggests that the grammati-
cal predicate is true does not function semantically or logically
as a predicate. All uses of is true are prosentential uses, that is,
they are substitutes afrming that something was said. When
someone asserts What H says in x is true, the person is asking
the hearer to consider the sentence H says x, while saying that
x is true is simply afrmation of and substitution for the
sentence H said x.
4. Then there is the view known as the Minimalist Theory,35 which
takes the primary truth-bearing entities to be propositions, rather
than sentences. According to the minimalist view, then, truth is
indeed a property of propositions (or sentences, as the case may
be), but it is so minimal and anomalous a property that it can-
not be said to provide us with any useful information about or
insight into the nature of truth. It is fundamentally nothing more
than a sort of meta-linguistic property. Another way of formulat-
ing the minimalist thesis is to assert that the conjunction of all of
the instances of the following schema, The proposition that
H(x) is true if and only if x, provides an implicit denition of
the property of truth. Each such instance is an axiom of the
theory and there are an innite number of such instances (one
for every actual or possible proposition in the universe). Our
concept of truth consists of nothing more than a disposition to
assent to all of the instances of the above schema when we
encounter them.
Our concern to this point has been only with what the deationary
theory is. In the remainder of this section I will consider ve of the many
possible objections36 that might be forthcoming were we to adopt a
deationist perspective in response to our initial question on the truth of
Hebrews in its interpretation of the Psalter

34. S. Grover, A Prosentential Theory of Truth (Princeton: Princeton University

Press, 1992).
35. P. Horwich, Truth (2d ed.; Oxford: Blackwell, 1998).
36. This particular list represents an adaptation of D. Stoljar and Nic Damnjano-
vic, The Deationary Theory of Truth, in Zalta, ed., The Stanford Encyclopedia
of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition). See http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/
50 Psalms and Hebrews

1. Above we saw that deationism can be presented in either a

sententialist or a propositionalist version. Some philosophers have
suggested, however, that the choice between these two versions
constitutes a dilemma for deationism. The objection is that if
deationism about the truth-status of x in H about a in P is con-
strued in accordance with propositionalism, then it is trivial, while
if it is construed in accordance with sententialism it is false.
2. It is often objected that deationism has particular trouble meet-
ing adequacy conditions. One way to bring out the problem here
is by focusing on a particular articulation of the correspondence
intuition, an articulation favoured by deationists themselves.
According to this way of spelling it out, the intuition that a cer-
tain sentence or proposition x in H corresponds to the facts
about a in P is the intuition that the sentence or proposition is true
because of a certain way the world is; that is, the truth of the
proposition is explained by some contingent fact which is usually
external to the proposition itself.
3. Philosophy of language has isolated a class of propositions
that are supposed to fail when their truth-value is considered.
According to some moral philosophers, for example, moral, inter-
pretative and religious propositionssuch as the claim that x in
H is right in interpreting a in Pare neither true nor false. This
view nds a gap in the class of propositions between those that
are true and those that are false. The deationary theory of truth
is inconsistent with there being a gap in the class of propositions,
and this has been taken by many to be an objection to the theory.
4. It is commonly said that the beliefs and associations of H and aim
at truth. The idea here, of course, is not that Hs beliefs and asser-
tions are always true in a statistical sense, or even that they are
mostly true. The idea is rather that truth is a norm of assertion.
This fact about assertion and truth has often been seen to suggest
that deationism must be false. However, the felt contradiction
between normativity and deationism is difcult to specify.
5. The nal objection begins by drawing attention to a little-known
doctrine about truth that G. E. Moore held at the beginning of the
century (masterfully formulated in his so-called Open Question
Argument with reference to the impossibility of dening the
primitive and simple concepts such as Good without begging
the question). By analogy, no matter what denition one might
put forward for Truth with reference to Hs view expressed in x
about the meaning of a in P, it is always possible to ask, But is
that true?
GERICKE But is it True? 51

If anything was accomplished in this study, hopefully it involved demon-
strating that asking whether the interpretation of Psalms in Hebrews is
true from a philosophical perspective is far more complicated than
common-sense realist populist notions of truth seem to imply. Thus we
saw that analytic philosophers might be justied in answering the ques-
tion of whether what Hebrews did with (or to) the Psalter is true with the
counter-question of what the person asking understands byor means
bythe concept of truth. No doubt the biblical authors from both Psalms
and Hebrews were convinced of the truth of their own writings and no
doubt most scholars have made up their minds with regard to their con-
victions on the matter. And yet, if there is one thing that might be worth
considering in evaluative assessments of psalm interpretation in Hebrews,
it would be whether, when we think of the data as true or false, we have
given enough thought to the nature of truth. There is no need, however,
for biblical scholars to strive to provide answers that have evaded philo-
sophers over the centuries; rather, what they should learn from philoso-
phical investigations is that sometimes in the interpretation of texts the
most thought provoking ideas come not from providing nal answers but
from asking ultimate questions.

Alphonso Groenewald

The document known as the Epistle to the Hebrews is one of the most
elegant and sophisticatedperhaps even the most enigmatictexts of
rst-century Christianity. Its author is unknown.1 The circumstances of
its composition remain shrouded in a cloud of mystery.2 Its argumenta-
tion is subtle, its language rened, and its imagery rich and evocative. It
is an outstanding example of the art of persuasion.
The text is an elaborate early Christian homily which was probably
composed to encourage a community to remain faithful to its commit-
ments.3 In order to achieve this, the book sketches an elaborate portrait
of Christ as the true High Priest. It furthermore focuses on the ultimate
paradigm of commitment to God. Christs willing acceptance of the will
of God earned him a place at Gods right hand. This illustrated to his
followers what they had to do in order to become part of the promised

1. Harold W. Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary (Hermeneia;

Philadelphia: Fortress, 1989), 16. Cf. also Frederick F. Bruce, The Epistle to the
Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), xxxvxlii.
2. Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 6ff. In this regard Kiwoong Son (Zion
Symbolism in Hebrews: Hebrews 12:1824 as a Hermeneutical Key to the Epistle
[Paternoster Biblical Monographs; Milton Keynes: Paternoster], 3) infers as follows:
The epistle to the Hebrews is enigmatic like the mysterious gure Melchizedek
whose origin and genealogy are completely unknown Not only the historical facts
of the epistle but also some of its theological issues are highly controversial.
3. Jeremy Punt, Hebrews, Thought-Patterns and Context: Aspects of the
Background of Hebrews, Neot 31 (1997): 11958.
4. Harold W. Attridge, Giving Voice to Jesus: Use of the Psalms in the New
Testament, in Psalms in Community: Jewish and Christian Textual, Liturgical,
and Artistic Tradition (ed. H. W. Attridge and M. E. Fassler; Atlanta: SBL, 2003),
GROENEWALD A God Abounding in Steadfast Love 53

The Christology of the text of Hebrews develops largely through

exposition of scripture.5 The scripture this book interprets is certainly a
Greek form of the Old Testament.6 In this regard Guthrie7 makes the
following important remark: Of all the topics in which scholarship has
made strides on Hebrew research during the past quarter century, there
is, perhaps, none more important than that books uses of the Old Testa-
ment. The book of Hebrews is replete with quotations, allusions, echoes
and general references from the Old Testament. Hebrews packs more of
the Old Testament into its complex discourse than any other New Testa-
ment writing. Perhaps the one exception is Revelations, which handles
the Jewish scriptures quite differently. It can simply be stated that the
way in which Hebrews uses the Old Testament forms the books nucleus.
In the Old Testament we nd the basis of authority, tools for rhetoric
and exhortation, materials for building a structural framework, a well-
spring for theology and, more specically, both a professed anticipation
and a validation of the books Christology.8 In spite of what has hitherto
been said, it seems that an exact inventory of Old Testament references
in Hebrews has eluded any form of consensus, due to the authors mix of
direct quotations, allusions to specic passages, uses of biblical phrases
and general references to Old Testament historical events and persons.9
What furthermore complicates this matter is the bewildering use of
terminology regarding the appropriation of the Old Testament by the
New Testament in the secondary literature.
In terms of the books employment of different parts of the scriptures,
the author of Hebrews depends most heavily on the Pentateuch and the

5. Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 23. Cf. also Richard T. France, The
Writer of Hebrews as a Biblical Expositor, TynBul 47 (1996): 24576.
6. In this regard Attridge (The Epistle to the Hebrews, 23) infers as follows:
Although a Greek text of the Old Testament is certainly the source of Hebrews
citations, the wording of these citations in many cases does not conform in every
detail to any extant witnesses to the Septuagint. The fact has occasionally led to
unwarranted speculation that our author used also, or primarily, a Hebrew text. That
rst-century texts of the Greek Old Testament should show minor variations from
witnesses to the Septuagint from the fourth century is hardly surprising. It is also
clear that our author felt free to alter the words of scripture, and some of the differ-
ences between Hebrews citations and witnesses to the Septuagint may be due to
tendentious handling of the text. See also George Howard, Hebrews and the Old
Testament Quotations, NovT 10 (1968): 20816.
7. George H. Guthrie, Hebrews Use of the Old Testament: Recent Trends in
Research, CBR 1 (2003): 27194.
8. Ibid., 272.
9. Stephen Motyer, The Psalm Quotations of Hebrews 1: A Hermeneutic-free
Zone?, TynBul 50 (1999): 322 (7).
54 Psalms and Hebrews

Psalms.10 The former (Pentateuch), for the most part, offers him material
for reection on redemptive history, while the Psalms provide for his
christological material. The book of Hebrews resonates with the
Psalms.11 The great debt of the book of Hebrews to the Old Testament is
not simply a matter of general background and copious quotation, but it
also extends to fundamental Old Testament ways of thinking which are
constantly presupposed and which underlie all passages in the book.12
The present study will argue that the concept of 5DI (esed, faithful-
ness, kindness, grace, steadfast love, solidarity, etc.) is one of those.13
The book of Hebrews is not unique in the way it pays debt to this Old
Testament concept, but is a particularly striking example of its appli-
cation as it was intrinsic to its whole outlook on the Christian faith.14
According to the Hebrew Scriptures, God revealed himself to his people
at Sinai. He made known his nature to them. In the subsequent section, I
will deal with the Psalms, and specically with a few of the references
made in the Psalter to this Sinai revelation. This exposition will be fol-
lowed by a short overview of this specic text in the Pentateuch. I will
then conclude this study by indicating a possible inuence these texts
had on the book of Hebrews.

A God Revealed at Sinai

Israels denition as well as understanding of God were put to words in
liturgical formulas which were formulated in a very condensed and con-
cise manner.15 According to Zobel,16 we encounter the oldest of these

10. Guthrie, Hebrews Use of the Old Testament, 274.

11. Harold W. Attridge, The Psalms in Hebrews, in The Psalms in the New
Testament (ed. S. Moyise and M. J. J. Menken; London: T&T Clark International,
2004), 197212.
12. Geoffrey W. Grogan, The Old Testament Concept of Solidarity in
Hebrews, TynBul 49 (1998): 15973. Cf. also Punt (Hebrews, Thought-Patterns
and Context, 14445): Hebrews gives clear evidence of its interpretation of the
meaning of Christ for its particular day and age, and environment. In the attempt to
articulate this, Hebrews gives testimony of utilising a number of traditions, wittingly
and unwittingly.
13. France (The Writer of Hebrews, 246) postulates as follows: What is more
distinctive of Hebrews is the way its whole argumentation is focused around a
succession of Old Testament themes and gures Cf. also Attridge, The Epistle to
the Hebrews, 23.
14. Grogan, The Old Testament Concept, 173.
15. Hans-Jrgen Zobel, esed, TDOT 5:57.
16. Ibid.
GROENEWALD A God Abounding in Steadfast Love 55

formulas in Exod 34, which is a review of the Decalogue. This confession

of faith about Yahweh, probably a very ancient one, had been connected
with Israels oldest perceptions of Yahweh and his relationship to those
he claimed to be his people.17 This confession may have been rened,
and even expanded, by the addition of supplementary phrases in the use
of it in both narrative summary and liturgy; but its beginning may be
assumed to be quite old, at least as old as the early development of the
use of the name Yahweh for confessional purposes.
The Yahweh predication in v. 6 reads as follows: Yahweh is )HIC =
E> H 5DI3CH )JA (C *H?IH (El merciful and gracious, slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness). Here, as Yahweh
reveals himself, his name and his character to Moses, he states among his
attributes that he is E> H 5DI3CH (abounding in steadfast love and
Yahwehs self-revelation (Exod 34:67) is set in the aftermath of the
episode of the golden calf (Exod 32) and precedes the renewal of the
covenant.19 The expression occurs in a particularly solemn context,
coming from the mouth of Yahweh himself in the course of the theo-
phany, and the prexed 3C emphasizes both the solemnity of the occa-
sion and the abundance of the E> H 5DI that Yahweh is lavishing on his
wayward people.20

17. John I. Durham, Exodus (WBC 3; Waco, Tex.: Word, 1987), 454.
18. Cf. the following remark by Cornelis Houtman, Exodus 2040 (HCOT;
Kampen: Kok, 1996), 3:685: Door de opsomming van min of meer synonieme
termen komt het karakter van JHWH zeer duidelijk uit de verf: zijn doen en laten
wordt gekenmerkt door buitengewone toewijding, inzet en liefde. Cf. also Erich
Zenger, Das Buch Exodus (Geistliche Schriftlesung; Dsseldorf: Patmos, 1982),
19. Cf. in this regard Ruth Scoralick, Gottes Gte und Gottes Zorn. Die
Gottesprdikationen in Exodus 34,6f und ihre intertextuellen Beziehungen zum
Zwlfprophetenbuch (HBS 33; Freiburg: Herder, 2002), 8990: Zwischen den
(nicht ausdrcklich im Text so genannten) Polen von Bundesbruch und Bundes-
erneuerung entfaltet sich das dramatische Geschehen. Eingebunden sind darin
Elemente komplexer theologischer Reexion zu Fragen der Gegenwart und Erfahr-
bahrkeit Gottes. Vorrangiges Thema der Kapitel ist das Ringen um den weiteren
Bestand und die Gestalt der Beziehung zwischen JHWH und Israel nach der
existenzbedrohenden Krise, die die Episode mit dem goldenen Kalb auslste. Durch
die Krise klren sich die Identitten aller Beteiligten und ihrer Beziehung Der
erneuerte Bund grndet in Gottes schpferischer Barmherzigkeit und Vergebung (Ex
34,10), deren erstes Zeichen das strahlende Mosegesicht ist.
20. Gordon R. Clark, The Word Hesed in the Hebrew Bible (JSOTSup 157;
Shefeld: Shefeld Academic, 1993), 24748.
56 Psalms and Hebrews

The confession that follows the double calling of Yahwehs name is

clearly reected in eight Old Testament passages.21 Three of them are in
the Psalms, namely Pss 86:15, 103:8 and 145:8, with one each in Num
14:18; Joel 2:13; Nah 1:3; Neh 9:17 and Jon 4:2. A word for word repe-
tition of this formula occurs in Ps 86:15, as well as in Ps 103:8 (though
without = and E> ).22 This formula furthermore occursthough with a
minor change in the word order and with the omission of one of the
constituent partsin Ps 145:8. The focus will therefore only be placed
on the three above-mentioned psalms in which this formula occurs.

Psalm 86:15
The specic prole of Ps 86 can be dened as follows: a detailed analy-
sis of the text of Ps 86 with regard to its intertextuality reveals that this
psalm is an artistic relecture of already existing texts.23 The skilful inter-
textuality of the text presupposes an intensive familiarity with the tradi-
tion, or with the texts incorporated, and literary-poetic competence, so
that the psalm may well have originated in the milieu of scribal scholar-
ship (Schriftgelehrsamkeit).24
The creativity of the author of Ps 86 is demonstrated in the fact that,
on the one hand, he has combined conventionalized Psalmic language in
such a way that Ps 86 appears as a summary of the Davidic Psalms;
especially the partial compositions of Pss 4041 and 6971(72), which
conclude the two Davidic Psalters, Pss 341 and 5171(72), and on the
other hand, by adopting the Sinai theology of Exod 3334, he gives the
psalm an overall horizon that then acquires further dimensions of mean-
ing in the context of the Psalter.25
Psalm 86, which in terms of genre criticism can be classied as a
petition, is constantly shaped as a thou-address to God. In God the
supplicant seeks the saving and consoling nearnessreferring to Gods
self-revelation at Sinai. To that extent one can assert that this psalm is at

21. Durham, Exodus, 453. Cf. also Christoph Dohmen, Exodus 1940 (HThKAT;
Freiburg: Herder, 2004), 354; Terence E. Fretheim, Exodus (Interpretation; Louis-
ville, Ky.: John Knox, 1991), 302; Houtman, Exodus 2040, 685; and Scoralick,
Gottes Gte und Gottes Zorn, 1.
22. Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60150: A Commentary (trans. Hilton C
Oswald; Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1989), 292, and Zobel, esed, 5:57. Cf. also
Gunild Brunert, Psalm 102 im Kontext des Vierten Psalmenbuches (SBB 30; Stutt-
gart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1996), 142.
23. Frank-Lothar Hossfeld and Erich Zenger, Psalmen 51100 (HThKAT;
Freiburg: Herder, 2000), 536.
24. Ibid., 539.
25. Ibid., 537.
GROENEWALD A God Abounding in Steadfast Love 57

the same time a prayer clothed in Sinai theology, as well as a realized

theology of prayer.26 This means that the psalm asks for rescue from
hostile powers so that in and through that rescue the nature of Yahweh,
formulated in the predicates, that is the mystery of his name, will be
I will focus specically on v. 15 since a word-for-word repetition of
the Exodus formula occurs here. This verse reads as follows: But you
are my Lord, you are a merciful and gracious God (El), slow to anger and
abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (*H?IH )HIC= J?5 9E H
E> H 5DI3CH )JA (C ). In this verse the petitioner appeals precisely to
this specic divine prole of the God of Sinai, and to the nature of
Yahweh thus revealed. Important is the fact that he reminds his God,
with a quotation from Exod 34:6, of his godhead, proclaimed by himself
and experienced by Israel in the narrative of its origins.
Israel was rescued from its misery in Egypt, and was not rejected by
its God in spite of its rebellion in the wilderness and its breaking of the
covenant of Sinai, but was accepted forever as Yahwehs own people,
due to these very characteristics which v. 15 recalls by citation. Yahweh
is merciful: he recognizes suffering as suffering and allows himself to
be moved by it. Gracious: as one powerful and of high position, he
bends down protectively, shows mercy, and cares for those in misery.
Slow to anger: he is patient and generous. And abounding in steadfast
love and faithfulness: his love is not only inexhaustible, but reliable and
indestructible. In the text of Ps 86 the petitioner now asks for himself as
an individual a demonstration of this godhead of Yahweh, revealed in the
history of the people of Israeland in such a way that his enemies may
see that God is on his side, and that they are thereby publicly shamed,
that is, exposed and disempowered. It can be concluded by stating that Ps
86 is rich theology composed in the form of a prayer.

Psalm 103:8 27
Psalm 103 is the rst in a group of psalms of praise, namely Pss 103
107.28 This psalm can be classied as a hymn praising Yahwehs king-
ship, which was revealed at Sinai.29 Yahweh is worthy of a total response
of grateful worship for the totality of his blessings. All the blessings and

26. Ibid., 538.

27. This verse reads as follows: Yahweh is merciful and gracious, slow to anger
and abounding in steadfast love (5DI3CH )JA (C 9H9J *H?IH )HIC). This without
= and E> .
28. Leslie C. Allen, Psalms 101150 (WBC 21; Waco, Tex.: Word, 1983), 21.
29. Erich Zenger, Die Nacht wird leuchten wie der Tag. Psalmenauslegungen
(Freiburg: Herder, 1997), 417.
58 Psalms and Hebrews

benets listed in this text are in accordance with the age-old divine
revelation. They are a creed come true. Yahweh had always been the
answer to his peoples needs. Hymnic motifs are thus heard which
glorify Yahwehs wonderful rule in the history of his chosen people in a
most comprehensive way.30
The content of his transcendent name (v. 1) had once and for all
been revealed in the propositional statement of Exod 34:6. Moses, in
response to his plea (Exod 33:13), had received as Israels representative
a denition of the divine name in terms of Yahwehs gracious attitude
towards his covenant people.31 This text of Ps 103 constantly has as
interplay the text of the Sinai account (Exod 1934), which is here
indicated as a new covenant, that is, a covenant of constant renewal.
We also have this perspective in the nal text of Exod 1934 on a
canonical level.32
What is this loyal love, this 5DI? How does Ps 103 dene it? The
psalmist expounds its signicance in the course of vv. 918.33 Verses 9
12 outline how the charitableness of God toward his own predominates
and eventually bids him to give up the charges he might have pressed
against them. God thus forgives the iniquities of his own completely.
Verses 1318 aptly dene this divine 5DI in terms of Gods pardoning
love. These statements about the goodness and forgiveness of Yahweh
reach their culmination in the image chosen in v. 13, where the tertium
comparationis is the merciful love of a father.34 It is the nature of the
father of the covenant to welcome back his errant son (cf. Exod 4:22; Jer
31:20; Hos 11:1, 3, 4).

Psalm 145:835
With regards to its form, Ps 145 is an acrostic poem in which each
bicolon begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet.36 This poetic
technique does not only ease the memorization of the text, but indeed

30. Kraus, Psalms 60150, 290.

31. Cf. in this regard Dohmen, Exodus 1949, 359: Den Kerngedanken dieser
Kapitel (Exod 3334) bringt Ps 103 in eine Gebetsform und zitiert Exod 34,6 sogar.
Mann kann diesen Psalm als ins Gebet gefasste Zinaitheologie beschreiben, wobei
der Schwerpunkt deutlich auf das Motiv der gttlichen Barmherzigkeit und
Vergebungsbereitschaft gelegt wird.
32. Zenger, Die Nacht wird leuchten, 417.
33. Allen, Psalms 101150, 22.
34. Kraus, Psalms 60150, 292.
35. This verse reads as follows: 5DI=58H )JA (C 9H9J )HICH *H?I (Yahweh is
gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love).
36. Allen, Psalms 101150, 294.
GROENEWALD A God Abounding in Steadfast Love 59

fulls a theological programme.37 It gives expression to the fact that the

kingship of God will be praised from A to Z, that is to say in abun-
dance in space and time. It can be said that Ps 145 is a solo hymn of
exuberant praise to appreciate Yahwehs kingship.38 In terms of standard
genres, it can be classied as a hymn. The motifs of Yahwehs majesty
and grace alternate with repeated calls for praise. The poet willingly
regards himself as a link in this living chain of worship of Yahweh the
king, great and mighty, who is good to all. Like every monarch worthy
of the name, he cares for the subjects in his realm. The creedal statement
cited in v. 8 (cf. Exod 34:6), a favourite text of post-exilic Judeans, is
used to summarize his constant goodness.
His love, goodness and might are made known in the fact that he
who was revealed as the merciful God of Sinaiis willing to forgive. 39
Furthermore, he is the Creator God who is willing to uphold all who are
falling and he raises up all who are bowed down (145:14). The fact that
=< (all, totality) occurs 16 times in the text indicates the totality of
Gods reign.40
In the subsequent section the focus will be on the text of Exod 34:6,
which served as the pre-text for the preceding above-mentioned psalms.

Exodus 34:6
Exodus 34 should be read against the background of the Sinai narra-
tive, which is narrated in Exod 1934. It seems to be integrally related
to chs. 1924, and indeed to the entire Sinai tradition.41 On the nal

37. Erich Zenger, Dein Angesicht suche ich. Neue Psalmenauslegungen

(Freiburg: Herder, 1998), 171.
38. Allen, Psalms 101150, 297.
39. Zenger, Dein Angesicht suche ich, 170.
40. Zenger (ibid., 172) infers as follows in this regard: Der Psalm will eine
Theologie des Gottesreichs entfaltenund dies in der diesem Thema einzig
angemessenen Form des hymnischen Lobpreises auf ewig und immer. Mit diesem
Psalm will der Beter (im Sinne der Psalterredaktion ist es David: vgl. V.1a) sich
einerseits einfgen in den Lobpreis des Weltknigtums JHWHs, der (wie der Psalm
dann erlutert) immer schon durch die Werke des Schpfer- und Geschichtsgottes
erklingtallein dadurch da und wie sie sind (Perspektive: das Werk lobt seinen
Meister). Andererseits will sich der Psalmsnger zum Stimmfhrer der Lobgesnge
machen, in der er alles Fleisch (vgl. V.21) mitreien will und die nie verstummen
sollen, weil auch das zu feiernde Knigswirken JHWHs nie zu Ende geht.
41. In this regard Dohmen, Exodus 1940, 281, infers as follows: Nach dem
gewaltigen zweiten Block (Ex 2531) im zweiten Teil des Exodusbuches (Exod 19
40), der insgesamt eine Gottesrede darstellt, wird mit Ex 3234 (bzw. mit Exod
31,18) die Erzhlung von Ex 24 fortgesetzt. Wie schon im Zusammenhang mit dem
60 Psalms and Hebrews

texts canonical level, the perspective of these chapters can be sum-

marized with the term new covenant, which implies a covenant of
constant renewal.42 We discern the following three phases in these
chapters: (1) covenant agreement on the basis of the Decalogue and the
so-called Covenant Code (Exod 1924); (2) breaking of the covenant as
a result of the worship of the golden calf (Exod 32); (3) and renewal of
the covenant (Exod 3334). Chapter 34 is thus built into the pattern of
sin and forgiveness by joining it to chs. 32 and 33. It is thus transformed
into a renewal of the broken covenant and forms the climax of the narra-
tive which began in ch. 32 with the story of the golden calf.43 Chapter 32
relates the breaking of the covenant, while ch. 34 recounts its restoration.
Chapter 33 bridges the two parts of the narrative with an account of
Moses intercession, which nally achieved the healing of the breach.44
It seems clear that a blending of earlier traditions dealing with separ-
ate themes had here been accomplished deliberately and in a masterly
Exodus 34 is one of the most difcult chapters to analyse and opinions
differ widely on its interpretation.45 The burning issuewhich will how-
ever not be addressed in the present study, as it falls outside of the imme-
diate focusturns out to be the issue of the relation of the Decalogue in
Exod 20 with the laws of ch. 34.46 Furthermore, the present narrative
gives evidence of tensions in the details of the story. Once again, this is
not the focus of the present study.
In ch. 34 Moses is commanded to cut two tablets of stone that were
like the rst ones, which he had broken.47 The explicit mentioning of the
rst tablets ties ch. 34 closely to the golden calf incident. But, whereas
the rst time God himself provided the tablets, this time Moses is ordered
to bring with him the tablets on which God is to write. It is emphasised
that God himself would write on the tablets, and he would write the same
words that were on the former tablets. This promise was the concrete

Tafelmotivgesehen, verbindet den ersten Block der Sinaitheophanie (Ex 1924)

und den dritten (Exod 3234) ein durchlaufender Erzhlfaden. Gleichzeitig stehen
sich beide Teile gegenber, was schon die ersten, dann zerbrochener Tafeln und die
daraufhin erneuerten, zweiten Tafeln verdeutlichen. Cf. also Scoralick, Gottes Gte
und Gottes Zorn, 85.
42. Zenger, Die Nacht wird leuchten, 417.
43. Durham, Exodus, 451.
44. Brevard S. Childs, Exodus (3d ed.; OTL; London: SCM, 1979), 611.
45. Ibid., 604.
46. Ibid., 605.
47. Ibid., 611; Durham, Exodus, 451.
GROENEWALD A God Abounding in Steadfast Love 61

sign that Israel had been forgiven and the relationship had been restored
on the part of God.48
The description of the preparation and execution of the instructions
followed by the theophany is reminiscent of elements in ch. 19 both in its
specic vocabulary and general description. In the morning Moses alone
was to climb Mt. Sinai and present himself before God, who revealed
himself in his name with a theophany (34:5). In the present structure of
the received text the actual theophany is portrayed as a fullment of
Moses request in the previous chapter to know Gods ways (33:1213)
and to see his glory (33:17ff): Moses said to the LordNow if I have
found favour in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you
and nd favour in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your
people The Lord said to Moses, I will do the very thing that you have
asked; for you have found favour in my sight, and I know you by name.
Moses said, Show me your glory, I pray (vv. 1213, 1718 NRSV).49
Yahweh then announces that he will make a covenant on the basis of his
words (chs. 1923), which he does. Moses writes down the words of the
covenant (vv. 27b28a). Whereas in chs. 1923 Moses acts as covenant
mediator who seals the covenant between God and the people in a ritual
of ratication, in ch. 34 God alone makes his covenant with Moses
without any covenant ceremony.50 Moreover, it is indicative that the
chapter concludes with the tradition of Moses ongoing function of com-
municating Gods will to the people (34:2934; cf. 33:7ff.).
The effect of placing the theophany within the context of the
restoration of the covenant shifts the focus of the special revelation from
the realm of an individual experience of Moses to a ratication of Gods
covenant relation with Israel through his mediator. The God who now
makes himself known through this name as the God of mercy, steadfast
love and judgment makes good his claim by forgiving his sinful people.

48. Cf. Dohmen, Exodus 1940, 352: Der mehrfache ausdrckliche Rckbezug
auf die frheren Tafeln besttigen, was aus dem angekndigten Vorberzug Gottes
zu erahnen ist, nmlich die Vergebungsbereitschaft Gottes und die daraus
resultierende Ermglichung der Gottesgemeinschaft. Im Unterschied zu den ersten
Tafeln, die Mose in Ex 24,12 angekndigt und in Exod 31,18 bergeben wurden,
kommt es Mose bei den neuen Tafeln jetzt zu, die Steine fr die Beschriftung
49. In this regard Dohmen, Exodus 1940, 354, infers as follows: Man kann die
V67 von hierher durchaus als Gottes Antwort auf die Bitte Mose nach dem
Wissen um Gottes Weg (Exod 33,13) und das Sehen der Herrlichkeit Gottes (Ex
33,18) betrachten, wobei dann der Vorberzug auf letzteres zu beziehen ist und die
Gnadenformel auf ersteres.
50. Childs, Exodus, 607.
62 Psalms and Hebrews

This GodYahwehis a God merciful and gracious, abounding in

steadfast love; his will to forgive is therefore incomprehensible for the
human mind.51 The frequent use in other parts of the Old Testament of
the formula in v. 6, by which the nature of God is portrayed, is an elo-
quent testimony to the centrality of this understanding of Gods person.52
It seems that the biblical tradition understood the formulation as a
reection of a considerable history of Israels relation with its God.

A God Abounding in Steadfast Love

An Old Testament Perspective
A rich and profound theological framework is prevalent behind the mere
surface of these wordsthey namely indicate a specic image and
understanding of God. Any text mentioning Yahwehs 5DI (Gods
steadfast love/kindness/grace) is an appeal to his gracious character and
exceptional commitment to his people according to his self-revelation.53
In the Old Testament, when used in religious language, it denotes an
attitude of God which arises out of his relationship with his people.
Gods 5DI thus rests on the covenant (EJC3) by which he has freely
bound himself to his people. 5DI may be dened as follows: it
is not merely an attitude or an emotion; it is an emotion that leads to an
activity benecial to the recipient. The relative status of the participants is
never a feature of the esed act, which may be described as a benecent
action performed, in the context of a deep and enduring commitment
between two persons or parties, by one who is able to render assistance to
the needy party, who in the circumstances is unable to help him- or

That is to say, Gods 5DI is the providential exercise of his power on

behalf of the needy people with whom he has established a special

51. Dohmen, Exodus 1940, 356.

52. Cf. the following remark by Dohmen, Exodus 1940, 354: Die nun folgende
Namensoffenbarung enthlt keine Wesensbeschreibung Gottes, wie man sie im
Horizont der Theophanie vielleicht erwartet. Vielmehr ist das, was man zwar
durchaus wie eine theologisch reektierte Credo-Formulierung betrachten kann,
eingentlich eine Gottesbeschreibung, die in ihrem ersten Teilaus einer
Beziehung heraus oder auf eine solche hin formuliert ist.
53. Rudolf K. Bultmann, FMFPK etc., TDNT 2:47787. Cf. also Ingvar Flysvik,
When God Becomes My Enemy: The Theology of the Complaint Psalms (Saint
Louis, Miss.: Concordia Academic, 1997), 166.
54. Clark, The Word Hesed, 267.
GROENEWALD A God Abounding in Steadfast Love 63

5DI is an indication of the permanence of divine kindness.55 It

indicates Yahwehs benevolence in favour of Israel and the individual
worshipper. The history of Yahwehs peoplepast, present and future
and the life of the individual Israelitein fact, of the whole worldis
the stage on which Yahwehs kindness is demonstrated. He has decided
in favour of Israel; he has promised life, care, alleviation of distress, and
preservationindeed, he has lled the whole earth with his kindness. He
has thus granted fellowship to his people, to all humankind, to the whole
world. And this act, like the promise and assurance of future help and
fellowship, is characterized by permanence, constancy and reliability.
This is the message that Israel and the individual Israelite hear through
Yahwehs word.

A Septuagint Perspective
Normally the Septuagint uses FMFPK for 5DIthis is also the case in our
text of Exod 34:6. The Septuagint translators have rendered the Hebrew
5DI3C with QPMVFMFPK (very compassionate). In religious usage 5DI
always means his faithful and merciful help, and this understanding is
also expressed in the use of FMFPK in the Septuagint.56 Because of Yah-
wehs superiority as the partner in the covenant who remains faithful, his
FMFPK was understood for the most part as a gracious gift. He promised it
when the covenant was being made, and he constantly renewed it. Hence
Israel could request FMFPK from him, including the mercy of forgiveness,
when it had broken the covenant (e.g. Exod 34:9; Num 14:19; Jer 3:2).
When God acts like this and also when man acts similarly, the emphasis
is not on the basic attitude, but on its manifestation in deeds.

A New Testament Perspective

In the New Testament FMFPK is often used for the divinely required atti-
tude of humans towards humans.57 However, more important for our
specic discussion, is the New Testaments understanding of Gods
FMFPK, which is often thought of in the original Old Testament sense of
faithfulness, that is, the gracious faithfulness of Godthus, in the
same way as 5DI. Mention of Gods FMFPK is most often expressed in
reference to the Christ event. It marks that intervention of divine mercy
into the reality of human misery, which took place in the person of Jesus
of Nazareth who in his work of freeing and healing demonstrated his

55. Zobel, esed, 5:62.

56. Bultmann, FMFPK, 2:479, and Hans-Helmut Esser, FMFPK, Dictionary of
New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 2:594.
57. Bultmann, FMFPK, 2:482.
64 Psalms and Hebrews

authority.58 Jesus answered the cry for help: Have mercy on me (Mark
10:47, 48). In the prologue to his Gospel, Luke announced its main
theme in the two great psalms of praise (Luke 1:4655, 6879), namely,
that the covenant loyalty of God, as promised in the Old Testament and
shown in action in the history of Israel, would reach its climax in the
gracious self-humiliation of God, the humble (poor), in the event of

It seems that the book of Hebrews uses the Old Testament (specically
texts from the Pentateuch and from the Psalms) in many and diverse
ways.59 These texts are used as a structuring element for the discourse as
a whole, articulating its major segments and serving as an essential
component to substantiate its innovative Christology. It has thus been
used as evidence for various contentions which the homilist wants to
make about the person and work of Christ and the kind of response
required by his followers. Most intriguing is the fact that these texts are
used to give a voice to Jesus. Ironically, in the book of Hebrews the one
who delivers the nal word of God to the world speaks only in the words
of scripturethat is the Hebrew Bibleand principally in the words of
the Psalms.
As has already been stated before, the great debt which the book of
Hebrews pays to the Old Testament is not simply a matter of general
background and copious quotation, but the way in which it also extends
to fundamental Old Testament ways of thinking, which are constantly
presupposed and which underlie all passages in the book. In the book of
Hebrews we thus often detect references, whether direct or even indirect,
to the Old Testament as an authoritative text or texts. The Old Testament
texts which give voice to the aims and aspirations of Jesus Christ, by
whom God has now spoken his nal word (Heb 1:1), had always been
alive and active throughout Israels history. Any part of the Old Testa-
ment may thus in principle be understood as speaking about Christ, or as
spoken to or by him.
Whenever the author portrays the character of Jesus, the concept of
God, as made known to us in Exod 34:6 (and as quoted in Pss 86:15;
103:8; 145:8) plays an important role in his theologizing about Jesus.
Already at the beginning of the book the author portrays Jesus as a
reection of the glory of God andvery importantlythe exact imprint

58. Esser, FMFPK, 2:595.

59. Attridge, The Psalms in Hebrews, 212.
GROENEWALD A God Abounding in Steadfast Love 65

of Gods very being (Heb 1:3). The Old Testament texts which were
discussed in the present study say something to us about Israels under-
standing of Yahwehs very being. Hebrews, in its portrayal of Christ as a
type of High Priest, uses the concept FMFPK (5DI) to show the solidarity
of Christ, who is greater than any High Priest, with his brethren (2:17).60
This is the guarantee of Christs merciful and boundless signicance for
the rst-century esh-and-blood believers struggling to overcome the
stranglehold of past traditions and adjust to volatility in their fast-
changing world. According to 4:16,61 this fact gives the despairing
church condence to draw near to the throne of grace in order to nd
mercy (FMFPK)as the new Israel.62 They witness to the climax of Gods
covenant relationship with his peoplerst Israel, now the church. This
statement reects the homilists experiencewhat he has seen through
the eyes of faith. He wraps his experience in Old Testament terms,
offering a new christological reading of the Old Testament based on the
fundamental conviction about the ultimate signicance of Christ as the
one abounding in steadfast love (FMFPK).
To conclude: the ultimate meaning of Scripture is therefore dened in
terms of its own privileged position in the unfolding drama of history.
Whatever these Old Testament texts might have meant at an earlier time,
the author of Hebrews portrays to his readers that the books ultimate
and proper meaning is concerned with the churchs participation in
Gods FMFPK (5DI), both at present amid certain troubles and temptations,
and in future in the world to come for those who remain faithful.
Throughout this text our homilist is at great pains to observe how the
Word of God in the scriptures (i.e. the First Testament) can address the
reality of his audience. He is helped along the way by imaginative
exegesis to nd fresh meaning in the old texts in order to invite his
audience to imitate the initiator and perfector of their faiththat is, the
true High Priest Jesus Christ.

60. Heb 2:17 reads as follows: Therefore he had to become like his brothers and
sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful (FMFI NXO) and faithful high
priest in the service of God, to make a sacrice of atonement for the sins of the
people (NRSV).
61. Heb 4:16 reads as follows: Let us therefore approach the throne of grace
with boldness, so that we may receive mercy (FMFPK) and nd grace to help in time of
need (NRSV).
62. Esser, FMFPK, 2:598; cf. also Peter Enns, The Interpretation of Psalm 95 in
Hebrews 3:14:13, in Early Christian Interpretation of the Scriptures of Israel:
Investigations and Proposals (ed. C. A. Evans and J. A. Sanders; JSNTSup 148;
Shefeld: Shefeld Academic, 1997), 35263 (358).
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Part II

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Gerda de Villiers

Below follows my own fairly literal translation of Ps 8 from the Hebrew
in Biblical Hebraica Stuttgartensia. Some problems regarding such a
translation will be referred to later in this study in the section dealing
with the Septuagint (LXX). The relevant words and phrases are italicized.
For now, Ps 8 reads:
1 To the choirmaster, on the Gittitha psalm of David.
2 YHWH our God, how mighty your Name in all earth,
You who set your splendour on the heavens.
3 From the mouth of babies and infants
You founded strength,
because of your foes;
to put an end to enemy and avengers.
4 If I look at your heavens, the works of your ngers,
moon and stars that You established
5 What is man, that you remember him?
Son of man, that you visit him?
6 You have diminished him slightly from G/god(s)
and with honour and glory you crowned him;
7 You let him rule over the works of your hands
all you put under his feet;
8 sheep and oxen all of them, also the beasts of the eld,
9 bird of the heavens and sh of the sea,
crossing the paths of the sea
10 YHWH our God, how mighty your Name in all earth.

Psalm 8 is an exceptionally simple yet moving hymn. Most scholars agree

that it could indeed be labelled as a hymn of praise.1 The psalmist is

1. See, for example, Richard J. Clifford, Psalms 172 (AOTC; Nashville: Abing-
don, 2002), 67; H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Welwyn: Evangelical,
1977), 100; Arthur Weiser, The Psalms: Old Testament Library (trans. Herbert
70 Psalms and Hebrews

overcome by a feeling of awe and wonder when he2 witnesses the starry
skies and realizes its vastness. This spectacular view, however, gives rise
to profound reection on creation: where did everything come from, and
what is humankind doing here?

A Brief Outline of the Contents of Psalm 8

Leaving aside the superscription,3 the opening lines of the psalm (v. 2)
start with an exclamation, praising the Name of YHWH, our God on
earth. Although our God almost certainly pertains to the God of Israel,
the point of focus of the psalm is not Israel, but humankind in general.4
Consequently, the psalmist afrms the establishment of YHWHs majesty
in the heavens. Clearly he is Lord of the universe.
Verse 3 sketches an unlikely scene: helpless and dependent youngsters
who silence hostile foes and enemies.5 Then the psalmist becomes
intensely aware of his existence within the cosmos (vv. 49). He looks
up at the galaxy and realizes that it is the work of YHWH (v. 4). Verses
79 afrm YHWH as Creator by directly alluding to Gen 1:2628.6 In the
centre of creation stands humankind, a being like all others on earth,
namely, created by the Creator, but it7 is at the same time different.
YHWH diminished humankind from being divine (v. 6),8 yet bestowed it
with honour and glory and gave it the privilege of ruling over the very
creation of its Creator (v. 7).
Still marvelling at the honour and special position of humankind, the
psalm closes with the same words used at the beginning: a praise of the
Name of YHWH (v. 10).
At rst glance this psalm makes readers catch their breath, because of
its simplicity, but also because of its skilful and artistic composition. The

Hartwell; 5th ed.; London: SCM, 1979), 140; Claus Westermann, The Psalms (trans.
Ralph D. Gehrke; Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1980), 93.
2. Most probably the psalmist was male.
3. The discussion follows the verses as delimited by BHS. The purpose of this
essay excludes a discussion of the date and Davidic authorship of Ps 8.
4. Clifford, Psalms 172, 68.
5. For a discussion of who these may be, cf. ibid., 6869.
6. See also Weiser, The Psalms, 144.
7. I use it as neutral designation to avoid clumsy he/she constructions. When
using it, I intend both genders.
8. The Hebrew of the MT simply reads lohm. Translators have rendered this
word according to many different interpretations, as can be seen from a survey of a
selection of modern language Bible translations. A discussion of the various read-
ings would be a lengthy endeavour, and falls outside the scope of the present study.
DE VILLIERS Reections on Creation and Humankind 71

most striking feature is of course the inclusiothe psalm opens and

closes with the same phrase (vv. 2 and 10). Furthermore, it plays with
merisms: earth and heaven (v. 2), moon and stars (v. 4); it employs
binary opposites: helpless infants vs. powerful enemies (v. 3), human-
kind vs. the divine (vv. 5 and 6). And it makes liberal use of parallel-
ismsnotably, the reference to man and son of man in v. 5, which
will be discussed later (part 2) in this article.
Above all it taps upon those existential questions that bother all human
beings at some developmental stage or another: Who am I? Where do I
come from? What am I doing here?

Psalm 8 in Dialogue With
Psalm 8, a beautifully moving psalm, may have more to it than meets the
eye. In its simplicity it positions itself directly against two of Israels
powerful neighbours: Mesopotamia and Egypt.

The Ancient Near East

The relationship between Ps 8 and Gen 1:2628 has been pointed out by
various scholars.9 This relationship concerns views on creation and the
position of humankind within it. However, it is important to note that the
so-called creation myths of the ancient Near East were not attempts to
explain the origins of the world.10 The most notable example is the
Babylonian Enuma elish, probably the best known ancient creation myth,
which is in fact the holy writ of the cult of Marduk,11 an exposition of
how Marduk, a relative late-comer to the Babylonian pantheon, hap-
pened to become the supreme god, ruler of heaven and earth, subjecting
gods and humans under his authority.12

9. See, for example, Frank-Lothar Hossfeld and Erich Zenger, Die Psalmen 1.
Psalm 150 (Wrzburg: Echter 1993), 77; cf. also Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms
159 (trans. Hilton C. Oswald; Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1988), 180.
10. Jean Bottro, Religion in Ancient Mesopotamia (trans. Teresa Lavender
Fagan; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 83.
11. Andrew R. George, The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: Introduction, Critical
Edition and Cuneiform Texts, vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 39.
12. For a brief but informative summary of the plot, see Henrietta McCall,
Mesopotamian Myths (5th ed.; London: British Museum Press, 2001) 5259. For a
more elaborate discussion of the epic, see Thorkild Jacobsen, The Treasures of
Darkness: A History of Mesopotamian Religion (London: Yale University Press,
1976), 16791.
72 Psalms and Hebrews

Which concepts regarding creation, human beings and the divine do

this epic reveal?13
Tiamat, the chaos monster who is a personication of the destructive
force of the salt water, sets the scene. Together with Apsu, her freshwater
partner, generates a series of gods who start off as primeval beings, but
who, as they procreate, seem to display an evolutionary development
towards intelligent reasoning. Unfortunately, these children of divine
offspring create such a noise that their father Apsu, with the connivance
of his son Mummu (the mist), undertakes to destroy them. However, Ea,
the wise one among the gods, intercepts the plan, puts Apsu to sleep and
shuts Mummu out. Soon enough Apsu is killed. In the meantime, Ea and
his spouse Damkina beget a son, Marduk, who is ten times, fty times
more of a god than the others.
Anu, Marduks grandfather, is besotted with this youngster. He spoils
him by giving him rather noisy toys: winds and the dust carried forth by
the south-storm. Of course, some of the other deities become irritated, if
not downright jealous about this favouritism. As such, they convince
Tiamat to side with them against Marduks line, perhaps also by persuad-
ing her to avenge the death of her husband. She obliges. First, she creates
a band of fearsome monsters, before then taking a second husband,
Kingu, who leads them. When Ea, Anshar and other members of the
younger generation become aware of Tiamats movements, they are
alarmed. Furthermore, it appears that no one, neither Ea nor Anu, is able
to match the violence and anger of Tiamat. Eventually Marduk is elected
to meet Tiamat in battle. Accepting the position, he sets one condition,
namely, that he should reign as champion of the gods after the battle is
Eventually Marduk and Tiamat engage in one-on-one combat. Marduk
forces Tiamat to swallow an imhullu-wind, following which he pierces
her distended belly and slays her eeing army, including Kingu. He splits
her body in two: from the one half he makes a roof for the heaven, from
the other half he fashions the earth with the subterranean waters below.
Here he also builds the Esharra-temple, the foundation of the cult centres
for Anu, Ellil and Ea. Tiamats eyes are pierced to let ow forth the
Tigris and Euphrates. From Kingus blood, humankind is created to work
hard so that the gods may rest. The epic closes with the last assignment
to the gods: the erection of the Esagilla, Marduks personal shrine and

13. It should also be noted that epic is a modern literary term applied to almost
all ancient narrative poetry; see Piet H. Roodt and Henning J. Pieterse, Epos, in
Literre Terme en Teorie (ed. Theuns T. Cloete; Pretoria: Haum Literr, 1992),
1025 (these South African authors insist on their nom de plume).
DE VILLIERS Reections on Creation and Humankind 73

ziggurat. Here Marduk holds a banquet where he is unanimously wor-

shipped as king of the gods. On the instruction of Anshar, the gods name
Marduk with fty honoric names, expressing his characteristic powers
or deeds.
How does this account relate to biblical concepts of creation?
Earlier scholars14 noted the linguistic afnity between Tiamat and
tehmthe Hebrew word for deep or primeval ood. Nowhere,
however, can a direct borrowing be assumed. Rather, the biblical Gen 1
stands in stark contrast to the Babylonian account. In fact, it demytho-
logizes the myth completely. In the rst place, there is only one God
no others. Furthermore, there is no mention of any battle or struggle. God
simply speaksand so it happens. He controls all events. The ocean,
which was often considered in traditional ancient Near Eastern world-
view to be a chaos monsterTiamat being a widely known exampleis
simply a natural phenomenon that abides by Gods command (Gen 1:6).
Other such phenomena, including the sun, the moon and the stars,
considered by the other nations to be manifestations of deities, are in the
Genesis account depicted as created by God (vv. 1417). Most important
is the creation of humankind and the reasons for its creation (vv. 2628).
According to the Enuma elish, humankind was fashioned from the blood
of Kingu. And yet, the idea that people were fashioned from a substance
from the earth, like clay, was apparently more common.15 Furthermore,
creation was mostly the result of some kind of oppression16 and for the
purpose of relieving the labour of the gods.17 Above all, the gods were
not the friends or companions of their human subjects.18
Genesis 1 takes up the motif of the fashioning of humankind from a
substance from the earth, but the motivation is radically different. God
creates humankind by his own free decision. He does not wish to subject
the humans, nor to oppress them. Furthermore, humankind is created in

14. Gerhard von Rad, Genesis (trans. John H. Marks; 4th ed.; London: SCM,
1979), 50.
15. David Damrosch, Narrative Covenant: Transformations of Genre in the
Growth of Biblical Literature (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987), 112. The
Gilgamesh Epic also recounts the coming into being of Enkidu who is created by a
piece of clay, moulded and then thrown on the steppe by the creator-goddess, Aruru.
See, for example, Andrew R. George, The Epic of Gilgamesh: A New Translation
(New York: Barnes & Noble, 1999), 5. Cf. also George, The Babylonian Gilgamesh
Epic, 545.
16. Jeffrey H. Tigay, The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic (Philadelphia:
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982), 19495.
17. Just as in Enuma elish.
18. Bottro, Religion, 37.
74 Psalms and Hebrews

Gods image, not to be his slaves, but actually to rule over his creation
(Gen 1:2627). Turning the creation imagery of the ancient Near East
upside down, Gen 1 unfolds a unique account of how the God of Israel
operates in a sovereign, controlled, almost regal manner, with benign
intensions towards the human beings that he created, even commanding
them to take the responsibility to rule over his handiwork.
Drawing upon the creation tradition and directly alluding to Gen
1:2628, Ps 8 also challenges the concepts of creation that existed in
contemporary Babylonia and Assyria. The psalm agrees with Genesis
and its view of creation and humankind. The Genesis narrative is inte-
grated and recounted with fewer words. The psalmist chooses poetic
style to express the rm conviction that YHWH is the sole Creator who
has no competitors, and who assigns a special and privileged position to
his created subject, humankind. This position is almost equalbut not
quiteto his own.

Assyria and Babylonia, however, were not the only theological discourse
partners. Psalm 8 also challenges Egyptian concepts. According to
Egyptian belief, the king was a substitute for the creator god and his duty
wasamong other thingsto keep the chaos powers in check and to
uphold the cosmic order.19 Whereas it had been possible to single out
Enuma elish (see above) as a template for Mesopotamian concepts on
creation and humankind, Egypt offers no such obvious account. Egypt,
in fact, provides several creation possibilities. The many different Egyp-
tian religious centres each had their own creator deities and creation
myths. For example, Heliopolis and Hermopolis regarded the sun as the
creator deity; at Memphis it was Ptah who created everything, simply by
speaking a word (not unlike God in Gen 1!); Thebes revered Amun as
creator; at Elephantine Khnumm fashioned human beings from clay on
his potters wheel.20 However, these myths and concepts were never
understood in a literal sense, even in ancient times. These myths were
attempts to express something that was mysterious, impossible to dene
or understand, something that was divine by its very nature.
Central to Egyptian religious thought, stands the concept of maat.21
Maat is often depicted as a sitting woman with outstretched wings and
an ostrich feather on her head, sometimes only as a woman with a

19. Hossfeld and Zenger, Psalmen 1, 77. See also Kraus, Psalms 159, 184.
20. Vincent A. Tobin, Theological Principles of Egyptian Religion (New York:
Lang, 1989), 59.
21. Ibid., 77.
DE VILLIERS Reections on Creation and Humankind 75

feather, or even more abstract, she is simply presented by her symbol, the
ostrich feather. Often, and wrongly so, maat is regarded as a goddess.
And yet, according to Egyptian belief, she was more than a goddess:
maat was a concept, representing order, truth and justice. Indirectly,
maat can also be connected to creation: maat represents that which is
everlasting, unchanging and present since the very time of creation.22 The
principle of maat permeates the whole universeheaven and earth.
Thus, maat is necessary for cosmic stability.
However, with regard to the pharaoh, he was considered to be more
than a human ruler. He was also regarded as the living instrument for the
realization of maat23 in mundane matters. Maat seems to have been
threatened continuously by isfetthat is, disorder, lie and injustice.24
With regard to human affairs, the state and politics, it was the duty of the
pharaoh to maintain maat and abolish isfet. Consequently, the pharaoh
bore the title good god (nr nfr), a title which signies that he was also
seen to possess the power and goodness of a creator god. As maat seems
to have been founded at the very moment of creation, it was reasoned
that the position and capabilities of the pharaoh were established at the
same time.25
Unlike Enuma elish, Egyptian creation myths recount no battle or
strugglestruggle occurs only later in the myths, notably in relation to
Isis, Osiris, Seth and Horus. In brief, one of these myths recounts how
evil Seth slays his brother Osiris and scatters his body over all Egypt.
Isis, sister/wife of Osiris, manages to retrieve all of the parts, except for
his penis. Having magical skills, she creates a penis from gold and
impregnates herself by the seed of her deceased husband. Osiris revives
as lord of the underworld26 and Horus, the child of this miraculous
conception, is re-incarnated whenever a new pharaoh ascends the throne.
Every pharaoh is considered to be the living incarnation of the god
Horus, a direct divine descendent from Atum-Ra, the creator-god and
founder of kingship.
Thus, within the person of the pharaoh many lines coalesced. His
positions and powers were established at the time of creation. He was of

22. Klaas A. D. Smelik, Maat, in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the

Bible (ed. Bob Becking, Karel van der Toorn and Pieter W van der Horst; Leiden:
Brill, 1999), 53435 (534).
23. Tobin, Theological Principles, 81, 90.
24. Smelik, Maat, 534.
25. See Tobin, Theological Principles, 9092, for an exposition of the divine
genealogy of the Pharaoh.
26. Cf. Robert K. Ritner, Ancient Egypt (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1997), 137.
76 Psalms and Hebrews

divine origin, every crown-prince being considered to be the living

incarnation of Horus. At the death of an old king, the succession of the
new ruler was interpreted as a new act of creation, thereby afrming the
eternal and stable order of maat.
Psalm 8 rebels against this royal theology. YHWH is the sole Creator
and nothing threatens him or the work of his hands. Furthermore, no
human baby, not even a king, is invested with special divine powers
not even the newborn Egyptian crown-prince. The strength established in
the mouths of babies and infants attests to the greatness and the grace of
YHWH alone. Psalm 8 rmly positions humankind as human and YHWH
as divine. Consequently, the Egyptian royal ideology is turned upside

The Septuagintand Problems of Translation
Towards the close of the rst millennium B.C.E. many Jews who were
living in Alexandria were no longer able to speak or understand their
mother-tongue which was at that stage Aramaic. As a result, it became
necessary to translate their holy scripture into Greek.27 According to Jew-
ish tradition,28 Ptolemy Philadelphus (285245 B.C.E.) commissioned a
Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible for his library in Alexandria;
however, it is more probable that the rst translation only comprised the
Pentateuch.29 This tradition appears in the Letter of Aristeas, according to
which the Pentateuch was translated in Alexandria by seventy-two expert
Jewish translators from Jerusalem. After working independently for
seventy days, when the task was completed, the individual translations
were found to be identical. As a result of this remarkable agreement, the
Greek translation was considered authoritative. The work was called the
Septuagint, which is Greek for seventy, with the commonly used
LXX deriving from the Roman numeral form of this gure.
This traditional viewpoint, however, has not remained unchallenged.
The origin and development of the LXX has a long and complex history.30
Furthermore, some scholars are of the opinion that the Septuagint has its

27. Johan Cook, Septuaginta, in Christelike Kernensiklopedie (ed. Fritz Gaum,

Allan Boesak and Willie Botha; Wellington: Lux Verbi, 2008), 984.
28. Izak Spangenberg, The Literature of the Hellenistic Period, in Ancient
Israelite Literature in Context (ed. Willem Boshoff, Eben Schefer and Izak
Spangenberg; Pretoria: Protea, 2000), 199236 (220).
29. See Cook, Septuaginta, 984.
30. Ibid.
DE VILLIERS Reections on Creation and Humankind 77

origins in a Palestinian, not an Alexandrian, context.31 This assumption is

based on some interpretative methods and theological innovations which
were typical of contemporary Judaism. The terminology and hermeneu-
tics of the Greek Psalter seem to reect an undeniable Palestinian air.
Especially prominent is the so-called gezera shavah, a Rabbinic exe-
getical or midrashic principle,32 which is appropriated quite commonly in
the LXX translation of the Psalms. Being used extensively by Palestinian
Jewish scribes, this may point toward the Ps 8s Palestinian origins.33
However, whether the origins of Ps 8 are Alexandrian or Palestinian,
in this regard it is important to note that the Greek version Psalter was
not merely a translation: the Septuagint book of Psalms also appears to
be a document of the religious, intellectual and political life of Helle-
nistic Judaism.34 It was, like all translations, also an interpretation.

Psalm 8 in the Septuagint

As anyone who has attempted to translate a text from one language into
another would know, the most difcult task is to nd a word that has
exactly the same meaning in both languages. Even if the translator is
completely bi-lingual, this is more or less impossible. Poetry, with its
liberal appropriation of synonyms, homonyms, implicit semantic elds,
and so forth, cannot be translated.
Psalm 8 attests multiple problems of translation. In the present study,
however, only two verses will be discussedvv. 5 and 6.
Above, I have translated Ps 8:5 as follows:
What is man, that you remember him?
Son of man, that you visit him?
Verse 5 in Hebrew uses the poetic literary device known as synonymous
parallelism;35 that is, words that are similar in meaning are used in a
parallel construction, mainly to emphasize one ideain this psalm, what

31. Joachim Schaper, Eschatology in the Greek Psalter (Tbingen: J. C. B.

Mohr, 1995), 4142.
32. David Wenkel, Gezerah shawah as Analogy in the Epistle to the Hebrews,
Biblical Theology Bulletin (2007): 6268 (62).
33. Schaper, Eschatology, 41, 64, 99.
34. Ibid., 19.
35. Cf. Jan Fokkelman, Dichtkunst in de bijbel. Een handleiding bij literair lezen
(Zoetermeer: Meinema, 2000), 81109, for a detailed discussion on different forms
of parallelisms. George H. Guthrie and Russell D. Quinn, A Discourse Analysis of
the Use of Psalm 8:46 in Hebrews 2:59, Journal of the Evangelical Theological
Society 49 (2006): 23546 (236), also discuss this literary device and offer an inter-
pretation of Ps 8 accordingly. The weakness of humankind and Gods incompre-
hensible care for it are foregrounded.
78 Psalms and Hebrews

humankind represents in the eyes of YHWH. Instead of repeating the

same words, the poet says the same thing in a different manner. This
is done not only to elaborate his point, but obviously also for artistic
literary purposes.
The LXX translators rendered the Hebrew verbs into Greek quite
successfully, though man caused some trouble. The Hebrew poet chose
two different words to refer to the human beingthe more poetic n
and the more common dm. The Greek translator, in contrast, seems to
have just one wordanthrpos. This rendering reduced the beauty of the
poem. In due course, it also became interpreted as a messianic psalm.36
The words son of man are the same words that are used in Dan 7:13 to
describe the appearance of a messianic gure, imagery which may have
inuenced the interpretation of this psalm.37 However, this was probably
not done intentionally, as the primary aim of the initial translators was to
achieve a high degree of consistency and harmonization.38 The different
Hebrew termsdm, , n and even gibrare almost without
exception translated with anthrpos.
And yet, the translators were not consistent.
In my translation above, I read v. 6a as follows:
You have diminished him slightly from G/god(s)

For some reason or another, the Greek translator chose angelos as a

suitable equivalent for lohm. And yet, elsewhere in the LXX angelos
seems to be the standard translation of the Hebrew term malk, a term
simply indicating messenger, which, in the Old Testament, could be
either human or super-human.39 The translation of lohm in v. 6 with
angelos may have been due to a later Jewish tradition that regarded a
comparison between humans and God theologically offensive.40
Towards the end of the rst millennium B.C.E., a particular doctrine on
angelology was developing. While the Hebrew Bible refers to super-
human malkm, they are certainly not the angelos of the New Testa-
ment. At most they were simply messengers from God sent by him to
convey a divine message to humankind or to assist humans in one way or

36. Schaper, Eschatology in the Greek Psalter, 76.

37. This has also been noted by other commentators, notably Kraus, Psalms 1
59, 180.
38. Schaper, Eschatology in the Greek Psalter, 3233.
39. Jan Willem Van Henten, Angel II, in Becking, van der Toorn and van der
Horst, eds., Dictionary of Deities and Demons, 5053 (50).
40. Gnaumuthu S. Wilson, A Descriptive Analysis of Creation Concepts and
Themes in the Book of Psalms (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Andrews
University, 1966 [obtained via UMI Dissertation Services]), 127.
DE VILLIERS Reections on Creation and Humankind 79

another, including, for example, to accompany them on travels (Gen

24:40), warn them (Num 22), engage in battle on their behalf (2 Kgs
19:35), explain visions (Zech 1:9, 14; Dan 7:16) and so forth.41 Further-
more, often they could not be distinguished from humans, and they took
on human form and acted like earthly human beings (e.g. Gen 18:28).
However, the Old Testament seems to reveal a tension between an
earlier and later dispensation about the way in which God communicated
with his human subjects.42 A distance is noticeable. There seems to be a
movement from a free and comfortable exchange to a more remote
encounter which was necessarily mediated by subordinate emissaries of
the divine. Especially from the third century onwards and throughout the
inter-testament period, the malkm of the Old Testament seem to
develop in the angelos of the New Testament.43
During the beginning of the second century B.C.E., at the time of
Hasmonean rule, the Judeans in Palestine experienced existential
suffering.44 During this time, many of the apocalyptic works appearing in
the Old Testament apocrypha were composed.45 The angels were still
the messengers of God, though now they were recognizable, clearly
different from humans. They became portrayed as exalted beings with
supernatural status and a marvellous appearance, often awe-inspiring,
even frightening (e.g. Matt 28:3).46

Psalm 8:56 and Hebrews 2:59
The author of the epistle to the Hebrews lived in a world where the
eschatological fever ran high and the apocalypse was expected immi-
nently.47 Times were turbulent and the environment was threatening to
the adherents of the Christian faith. The threat may have been mani-
fold: in a community where the believers in Christ were stigmatized and

41. Angelika Berlejung, Engel (E.), in Handbuch theologischer Grundbegriffe

zum Alten und Neuen Testament (ed. Christian Frevel and Angelika Berlejung;
Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2006), 15153 (152). Cf. Samuel A.
Meier, Angel I, in Becking, van der Toorn and van der Horst, eds., Dictionary of
Deities and Demons, 4550 (47).
42. Meier, Angel I, 47.
43. Van Henten, Angel II, 51.
44. Schaper, Eschatology in the Greek Psalter, 29.
45. David A. DeSilva, Perseverance in Gratitude: A Socio-Rhetorical Commen-
tary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Cambridge, Mass.: Eerdmans, 2000), 94.
46. Meier, Angel I, 49.
47. DeSilva, Perseverance in Gratitude, 27.
80 Psalms and Hebrews

sometimes persecuted by the Roman authorities, the old pagan religions

were certainly an attractive alternative. Furthermore, converts from
Judaism also felt the pressure to return to their initial faith.48 Thus, the
author had to convince those who by that time were considering
backsliding into their old ways that faith in Christ was worthwhile and
that perseverance to the very end was to be rewarding.49
The belief in angels and their mediatory role between God and humans
had increased signicantly by the time of Hebrews composition. Angels
were now more than mere messengersthey were considered to be very
close to the presence of God, more so than human beings, and they were
seen to mediate the Torah between God and the people.50 Furthermore, a
rather intricate cosmology developed. Heaven and hell had become reali-
ties. There was a rm belief in an afterlife in which the deceased lived on
according to his or her faith in a Saviourideas which are unknown in
the Hebrew Bible.51
In this context of uncertainty, with its developed angelology and belief
in future judgment according to moral behaviour and endurance of faith,
what had happened in the meantime to Ps 8?
When the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews quoted from the Old
Testament, he did not have a Hebrew text at his disposalhe almost
certainly used the LXX.52 By this time Ps 8 had acquired a messianic,
even Christological interpretation,53 somewhat obscuring the anthropo-
logical one. Verses 57 (LXX) of this psalm are quoted in Heb 2:68a.
However, the author quotes the psalm in his own unique way. Notably,
he does not follow the LXX version literally. He does not allude directly
to the psalm, but introduces its contents with a rather vague reference to
its occurrence. Then he omits the lines you have set him over the works
of your hands.54 This in itself does not seem to be signicant: he expects

48. Harold W. Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the

Epistle to the Hebrews (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1989), 13.
49. Cf. also Barnabas Lindars, The Theology of the Letter to the Hebrews
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 12.
50. DeSilva, Perseverance in Gratitude, 9394.
51. For a detailed discussion, see Angelika Berljung, Weltbild/Kosmologie, in
Frevel and Berlejung, eds., Handbuch theologischer Grundbegriffe, 7172.
52. Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek
Text (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 37.
53. Several passages in the New Testament quote Ps 8 and do so from the LXX
version (Matt 21:16; 1 Cor 15:2; Eph 1:2022; Heb 2:59), giving it an undeniable
Christological interpretation; cf. Guthrie and Quinn, A Discourse Analysis, 237.
54. Harold W. Attridge, The Psalms in Hebrews, in The Psalms in the New
Testament (ed. Steve Moyise and Maarten Menken; London: T&T Clark Inter-
national, 2004), 201; cf. DeSilva, Perseverance in Gratitude, 108.
DE VILLIERS Reections on Creation and Humankind 81

his readers to know the origins of the quotation.55 Thereafter he inten-

tionally steers this psalm towards a specic interpretation. This is by no
means a wrong interpretationon the contrary, the author of the
epistle knows exactly what he wants to convey and therefore he chooses
his quotations from the Old Testament with care. What started as a vague
introduction becomes quite clear from Heb 2:9 onwards. The whole
argument builds up towards the superiority of Jesus, of the Son. The
diminishing of man from either lohm of the Masoretic text, or
angelos of the LXX, is interpreted in a temporary manner and related to a
certain stage in the history of the Son imagery.56 Jesus is the one who
takes on a lower status than the angels, and the main intention is to save
humankind. Human beings are still important because they have to be
saved by the Son.
Thus, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, unlike the poet of Ps 8,
does not reect on the exalted status of humankind in general.57 He
wishes to convince his readers that Christs humiliation and death, and
even the fact that his enemies are apparently not yet put under his feet,
do make sense in the bigger picture. The readers must keep in mind that
humiliation was only temporarythere is another glorious reality which
is not yet revealed, but is already present.
Just like his contemporaries, the author of Hebrews sees the cosmos as
consisting of different realms, notably the visible realm of the heavens
and the earth. Accordingly, he can appropriate Ps 8 and agree with the
Hebrew poet that all visible phenomena are created by God. However,
the author of the epistle also visualizes an unseen realmheaven, which
is Gods abode. Although invisible, this realm is present and real.
Already in Heb 1:1012, the author told his audience that the visible
creation, although it is Gods work, is temporary and will be destroyed,
probably soon. A new dispensation is soon to come, a dispensation in
which even the angels will play a subordinate role (Heb 2:5). The new
creation is more fully described in Heb 12:2224. This is Gods abode,
the heavenly Jerusalem where he resides as judge with the Son and
Mediator, together with many angels waiting for those who persevere in
faith to join them.
The author of Hebrews had eschatological expectations and anticipates
another world58 beyond this one, with its dismal circumstances. This

55. DeSilva, Perseverance in Gratitude, 71.

56. Attridge, The Psalms in Hebrews, 204.
57. Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 7172; Ellingworth, The Epistle to the
Hebrews, 14344.
58. DeSilva, Perseverance in Gratitude, 42728.
82 Psalms and Hebrews

world, this creation with all its virtues and vices, is but temporary. He
wants to make his readers aware of another world. Eventually everything
will be consumed in a new creationa wonderful reward for those who
persevere in faith. The new creation pertains to that which is eternal by
nature and closely linked to the exaltation and supremacy of Christ. The
promise of the new creation and all its rewards, should hopefully encour-
age the believers and prevent them from backsliding.

The Epistle to the Hebrews sketches a totally different picture of creation
and of humankind than Ps 8. God is still concerned about humankind,
but not about its privileged position within his creation. Gods concern is
primarily salvic. Not humankind in general, but the Son in particular is
lowered for a short while, with the sole purpose of redemption.
God is still honoured as the One who created and maintains the uni-
verse, but he is no longer the sole agent: from the very beginning he has
had the Son as his partner (Heb 1:23). Furthermore, the visible creation
is passing and not to be marvelled at. That which is to be revealed
sometime, possibly in the near future, is far better. The author of the
Epistle to the Hebrews pleads to the believers to open up their minds to
this glorious reality, which is already present, yet hidden. The rewards of
the unseen creation will encourage the true believers to live a pious life
and endure suffering until the very end.
The climax will be reached when the new creation becomes is fully
realized and visible to all, when it is revealed that everything that exists
is subject to the Son. Within this new creation only human beings who
persist in their faith in the Redeeming Son will partake of eternal glory.

Sebastian Fuhrmann

The importance of Ps 8, at least for Heb 2, has always been recognized
by interpreters. The present study merely claims to add and rearrange
some pieces of the interpretation of Hebrews. Interpretation, in this case,
is viewed as an explanation of what the author intended his addressees to
understand. Interpreters, thus, should attempt to portray this process of
understanding, ultimately reconstructing the text, in the manner in which
the addressees were most likely to construct for themselves. This recon-
struction of the meaning of the text resulting from the process of reading
or listening to the text aims at laying bare the knowledge that should be
assumed for the intended addressees.
In this study I refer to two areas of knowledge, namely, semantics and
Traditionsgeschichte. First, a brief overview of the outline of Heb 1 and
2 and the resulting questions will be given, followed by a survey sur-
rounding the tradition of interpreting Ps 8 and 109 (LXX) together and in
relationship to each other (as they occur in Heb 1 and 2), in the New
Testament, concluding with some observations about the introduction of,
and the reference to, Ps 8 in Heb 2.

Some Remarks on the Outline of Heb 1:114

In Heb 1:4 the effect of Christs sessio ad dexteram patri is specied as
being made so much better than the angels, and having by inheritance
obtained a more excellent name than they.1
Hebrews 1:514, then, is concerned with furnishing a proof from Scrip-
ture to illustrate and conrm the statement of Heb 1:4. What was the
nature of the authorial intention, which forms the basis of this emphasis
of the superiority of Christ over the angels? Some earlier commentators

1. Unless otherwise stated, English Scripture references are taken from the NKJV.
84 Psalms and Hebrews

have argued that there is a polemic against the admiration of angels.2

This explanation, however, was considered as somewhat insufcient; for
this polemic is nowhere to be found anywhere in the text, not even in the
admonishing sections.3 Recent proposals that have suggested that in Heb
1:514 one nds a description of a heavenly act of enthronement4 or an
echo of the motif of the rivalry between men and angels5 do not seem
to t the context satisfactorily.
Beginning with the observation that there is a Christ-Hymn in Heb
1:13 (one can ignore whether the author of the epistle used or created
this), it is astonishing to note the accent set by the author in the reception
of the hymn in 1:4: only one motif is developed from the hymn, namely,
the exaltation of Christ and his sessio ad dexteram. The description of
this sessio furthermore is limited to the supremacy of the Son over the
There are other hymnic declarations of supremacy in the New Testa-
ment, for example in Phil 2:10; Col 15; 1 Pet 3:22 and Eph 1:2021. The
last-mentioned is particularly interesting, because in these verses,
similarly to Hebrews, Ps 109:1 (LXX) is quoted and then interpreted as
referring to the dominion of Christ as being
far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and
every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is
to come.6

Regarding this observation, the reduction of Christs dominion to his

supremacy over the angels in Hebrews is noticeable, while it refers to a
whole row of powers elsewhere. Why then, this reduction?
I propose an answer: the hymns connected with a sessio ad dexteram
and Christs dominion over the powers were known beforehand to the

2. Cf., for instance, Gnther Bornkamm, Das Bekenntnis im Hebrerbrief, in

Studien zu Antike und Urchristentum (BevTh 28; Munich: Kaiser, 1959), 188203
(198); John Joseph Gunther, St. Pauls Opponents and Their Background: A Study of
Apocalyptic and Jewish Sectarian Teachings (NovTSup 35; Leiden: Brill, 1973),
3. See the arguments of Erich Grsser, An die Hebrer I (EKK 17/1; Neukirchen
Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag; Zurich: Benziger, 1990), 67, and, more recently, Georg
Gbel, Die Kulttheologie des Hebrerbriefes: Eine exegetisch-religionsgeschicht-
liche Studie (WUNT 2/212; Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 2006), 13435.
4. This proposal was made by Ernst Ksemann, Das wandernde Gottesvolk: Eine
Untersuchung zum Hebrerbrief (3d ed.; FRLANT 55; Gttingen: Vandenhoeck &
Ruprecht, 1959), 60, and taken up by Grsser, An die Hebrer, 1:6768.
5. Cf. Gbel, Kulttheologie, 13435.
6. Sequences of powers are also found in passages with a non-hymnic char-
acter, including Rom 8:3839 (with angels mentioned); Eph 6:12, Col 1:16 and 2:10.
FUHRMANN The Son, the Angels and the Odd 85

rst readers/hearers of Hebrews. When one takes into account the dis-
semination of this motif in early Christian literature by various authors,
as in Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians and 1 Peter, this appears to be a
The author in Heb 1:414 exclusively refers to Christs dominion
over the angels, which on the other hand also appear in Ps 8:6, quoted in
Heb 2:7. The author is therefore obviously interested in explaining the
relationship between Jesus and the angels as it is announced in Ps 8, but
in this psalm not Christs exaltation over the angels, but his humiliation
to a status lower than the angels seems to be the central issue, at least for
a Christian interpreter of the rst century.

The Tradition of Interpretation of Psalms 8:7 and 109:1 (LXX)

as Shown in 1 Corinthians and Ephesians
in Comparison with Hebrews
As is often shown by scholars,7 in Hebrews 12 the author refers to a
tradition of interpreting both Ps 8:7 and 109 (LXX) together.8 Certain
verses of Ps 8 and Ps 109 (LXX) are cited in both 1 Cor 15 and Eph 12,
as well as in Hebrews: Ps 109:1 (LXX) in Heb 1:13 (literally), 1 Cor
15:25 and Eph 1:2021; Ps 8:7 in Heb 2:8 (literally), 1 Cor 15:27 and
Eph 1:22. Comparing these quotations from Psalms and their contexts in
1 Corinthians, Ephesians and Hebrews, certain common motifs are to
be found:
1. All texts deal with the disempowerment of an enemy, who is
either identied with death itself (so 1 Cor 15:26) or connected
to it (Eph 2:12; Heb 2:1415).

7. For instance, Gert J. Steyn, Some Observations About the Vorlage of Ps

8:57 in Heb 2:68, Verbum et Ecclesia 24 (2003): 493514 (499), with reference
to the commentaries of Weiss and Grsser.
8. At this point the author is more interested in the interpretation of both psalms
together rather than individually. For the reception of Ps 8, cf. in addition to Steyn,
Observations, also Wenceslaus M. Urassa, Psalm 8 and Its Christological Re-
Interpretations in the New Testament Context: An Inter-contextual Study in Biblical
Hermeneutics (EHST 577; Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 1998), passim. For the recep-
tion of Ps 110, cf. David M. Hay, Glory at the Right Hand: Psalm 110 in Early
Christianity (SBLMS 18; Nashville: Society of Biblical Literature, 1973); Michael
Tilly, Psalm 110 zwischen hebrischer Bibel und Neuem Testament, in Heiligkeit
und Herrschaft: Intertextuelle Studien zu Heiligkeitsvorstellungen und zu Psalm 110
(ed. D. Snger; BThS 55; NeukirchenVluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 2003), 14670,
and Martin Hengel, Psalm 110 und die Erhhung des Auferstandenen zur Rechten
Gottes, in Anfnge der Christologie (ed. C. Breytenbach and H. Paulsen; Gttingen:
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1991), 4373.
86 Psalms and Hebrews

2. The foundation for Christs acting towards salvation is, in all

texts, expressed as laid in a unity between Christ and those to be
saved (1 Cor 15:2122; Eph 2:5; Heb 2:11, 1415).
It is not very likely that these motifs were used accidentally with and/or
independently developed from the Psalms in each case. The chances are,
rather, that there was a tradition of interpretation of these Psalms verses
in the abovementioned two directions of argumentation. One is con-
cerned with the explanation of the forthcoming or the already established
dominion of Christ over the earthly and heavenly authorities and Gods
enemies,9 as mentioned above, while the other is concerned with sal-
vation, participation and unity. The focus will now fall on explaining and
providing an interpretation of the motif last mentioned as it occurs in
1 Cor 15 and Eph 12; and then in Heb 2.

The Motif of Participation, Community and Salvation in 1 Corinthians 15

Similar to Heb 2:11, 14a, 17a, Paul in 1 Cor 1510 uses the idea that it is
because of their belonging to Christ that believers can be saved. Accord-
ing to 1 Corinthians, salvation is the deliverance from the captivity of
death, which can only be performed by a man (Christ), because the
captivity is understood as a fate caused by man (Adam). The resurrection
of Christ is the starting point of the realization of Gods promise to
subordinate everything to Christ and to appoint him as dominator. The
resurrection of everybody (QBOUFK, 1 Cor 15:22), respectively of the
Christians (PJ UPV_ 9SJTUPV_, 15:23), is expected to take place at the return
of the Lord, but is already founded in his resurrection.11 The reason for
the resurrection of the dead lies in the imminent victory of Jesus over
death as the last enemy (1 Cor 15:2425 and especially 15:26). The
defeat of death is therefore directly connected to the Psalms citations in
1 Cor 15:25 (Ps 109:1 [LXX]) and 1 Cor 15:27 (Ps 8:7).12 Death will be
defeated like any other power (here the QBOUB of Ps 8:7 takes effect); the
dominion of Christ endures, until God (cf. 15:25)13 has placed every

9. Cf., e.g., Steyn, Observations, 497.

10. In this chapter Paul deals with the problem of the resurrection of the dead.
See Wolfgang Schrage, Der erste Brief an die Korinther: 1Kor 15,116,24 (EKK
7/4; Zurich: Benziger; NeukirchenVluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 2002), 111ff., for
a discussion of Pauls opponents in Corinth and their denial of the resurrection (cf.
1 Cor 15:1219).
11. Cf. Schrage, Brief, 188: Jesus resurrection is interpreted as Anbruch und
Unterpfand (initiation and pledge) of Gods eschatological salvic action.
12. Cf. especially Hay, Glory, 123ff.
13. Cf. Winfried Verburg, Endzeit und Entschlafene: Syntaktisch-sigmatische,
semantische und pragmatische Analyse von 1 Kor 15 (FZB 78; Wrzburg: Echter,
FUHRMANN The Son, the Angels and the Odd 87

power under his feet. Thus, the nal victory over the death is postponed
by Paul until the future,14 an idea supported by the BYSJ taken from Ps
109:1 (LXX). Nota bene: the far more cursory manner in which Paul
explains the concept of death as resulting through (EJB) man in 1 Cor
15:21, compared to Rom 5:12ff., is further evidence that these ideas, or
the premises necessary to arrive at these conclusions, were already known
to the Corinthians; hence the interpretation of Ps 8 and 109 as well.

The Motif of Participation and Salvation in Ephesians 12

The argumentation in Ephesians provides further evidence that there was
a tradition of interpreting both of these psalms together. In Eph 1:20
2:10 the quotations of Ps 8:7 and 109:1 are part of a hymnic end of a
prayer,15 which is concerned with the effect (1:20a, FOFSHFJ_O) of God in
Christ. God acted in Christ by raising him from the dead (1:20a),
appointing him ad dexteram (1:20b = Ps 109:1 [LXX]), and handing him
all dominion (1:21a). Christ dominates a whole string of authorities, and
receives a new name (1:21a; cf. Heb 1:3). The idea of the Christians
participation in Christ (cf. 1 Cor 15:2122; Heb 2:11, 14) is to be found
in Eph 1:22b, directly following the quotation taken from Ps 8:7. The
author of Ephesians interprets that idea within the framework of Christ
being the head of the Church, which is, according to Eph 1:23, his body.
The author thus derives the salvic effect, for the Church, from the idea
of participation in the dominion of Christ (cf. 1:20, FHFJSBK BVUPOLBJ=
LBRJTBK; 2:1, LBJ= VNB_K), insofar as the salvation for the Christian com-
munity in 2:56 is described analogously to 1:20 as a process of making
alive together (TV[PXQPJFJ_O), being raised up together (TVOFHFJSFJO)
and requiring them to sit together (TVOLBRJ[FJO).16 Based on their
participation in Christinitialized at baptismthe Christians were seen
to escape the inuence of the prince of the power of the air (2:2b).17
The motif of disempowerment is thus to be found here as well as the
idea of the participation in or the unity with Christ (cf. 1 Cor 15).

1996), 3941; and Charles E. Hill, Pauls Understanding of Christs Kingdom in

I Corinthians 15:2028, New Testament 30 (1988): 297320 (300).
14. Cf. Verburg, Endzeit, 37.
15. Cf., e.g., Rudolf Schnackenburg, Der Brief an die Epheser (EKK 10; Zurich:
Benziger; NeukirchenVluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1982), 69.
16. Eph 2:5 most likely refers to baptism since it alludes to the idea of dying
together, raising together and partaking in this through baptism (cf. Rom 6:111; Gal
3:27; Col 2:12f.). See Petr Pokorn, Der Brief des Paulus an die Epheser (THKNT
10/2; Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1992), 102, 1045.
17. According to Pokorn (ibid., 86), 2:2b is a reference to the devil (EJBCPMPK
in Eph 4:27 and 6:11), whose dominion is over the area separating people and God.
88 Psalms and Hebrews

Because of the baptism that enables one to be in Christ, the becoming

alive together with Christ has already become a certain reality as it is
manifested in the church, therefore relativizing the eschatological
reservation found in 1 Corinthians.18

Hebrews Compared to 1 Corinthians and Ephesians

With regard to the theme disempowerment of an enemy, Hebrews
makes a stand between 1 Corinthians and Ephesians: Hebrews accentu-
ates the already realized disempowerment of the prince of the power of
the air (as in Ephesians), namely, the EJBCPMPK (Heb 2:14), but also
emphasises the eschatological reservation as in 1 Corinthians. The
expression of the idea of the Christians participation in Christ has a
stronger relationship in both Hebrews and 1 Corinthians, insofar as it is
Christ who established the unity through his incarnation. In Ephesians,
Christ and Christians are connected by baptism, and the unity with the
exalted Christ implies a raising up and an enthroning together.
These parallels, regarding the mention of Pss 110 and 8 in Hebrews,
conrm that the basis of reconstructing the process of understanding and
the consequent construction of a coherent meaning could be viewed by
presuming the same tradition of interpretation for both Pss 8 and 109
(LXX) collectively, which was used in 1 Corinthians and Ephesians, as
well as in Hebrews.19
The adoption of the motif participation in Christ in Hebrews deserves
special attention. The author of Hebrews, unlike Paul, obviously used
neither the scheme of an AdamChrist typology,20 nor the motif of being
resurrected together (like in Ephesians) in order to explicate his idea of
unity. His interpretation uses the typos of the high priest and the people
of the covenant, qualied as his cult-congregation.

Some Observations About the Reception and

Interpretation of Psalm 8 in Hebrews
Having claried the preconditions of the use of Ps 8 in Hebrews, thereby
having shown that it is the reception not of that psalm alone but a
tradition of the combined interpretation of Pss 8 and 109 (LXX) as well, it

18. Cf. Ferdinand Hahn, Theologie des Neuen Testaments. Vol. 1, Die Vielfalt
des Neuen Testaments (Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 2002), 36364.
19. For traditional elements in 1 Cor 15:2028, cf. Schrage, Brief, 157 n. 704.
20. Cf., e.g., Daniel G. Powers, Salvation Through Participation: An Examina-
tion of the Notion of the Believers Corporate Unity with Christ in Early Christian
Soteriology (CBETH 29; Leuven: Peeters, 2001), 15256.
FUHRMANN The Son, the Angels and the Odd 89

is now easier to understand how the author of Hebrews re-interpreted

Ps 8 in the introductory verses of his writing.

The Introduction of Psalm 8 in Hebrews 2:6

Hebrews 1:414 is an explication or conrmation of the statement that
was formulated in Heb 1:3c. The sequence of citations21 is framed by a
reference to Ps 109:1 (LXX), which in Heb 1:3 is encountered as an
allusion (FLBRJTFO FO EFDJB_)] and in Heb 1:13 as a quotation. Thus Ps
109:1 and the motif of the sessio ad dexteram is clearly emphasized.
After the admonitions in Heb 2:14 the theme is picked up again in Heb
2:5, thematically connected through the motif of the position of the
angels related to that of the Son within the hierarchical order. Hence Heb
2:5 can be viewed as a conclusion of the argument in Heb 1:414:
For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come.

This Scripture-based conclusion is now confronted in Heb 2:68 with the

quotation of Ps 8:57. Therefore an introductory formula is employed,
which is unique to this passage: EJFNBSUVSBUP EF QPV UJK MFHXO.
Contrary to the common translations, which mostly read one testied,
it is quite likely that it should be translated with: But there is some-
where someone contradicting and saying Another possibility could
be to read the half verse as a rhetorical question, in the sense of: But is
there perhaps one contradicting and saying?22 This choice of trans-
lation results from certain observations of the meaning of EJBNBSUVSFJ_O
in this passive-like respectively deponent form23 to be found in Heb 2:6:
The deponens EJBNBSUVSFTRBJ denotes not only, as the stem NBSU-
suggests, to bear witness or asseverate, but rather, as LSJ (s.v.)
shows, to protest solemnly and to beg earnestly. In pagan juridical
language the term EJBNBSUVSJB even became a terminus technicus for the
description of an objection concerning the permissibility of a legal action
based on the statement of witnesses.24 The term occurs only here in
Hebrews; in biblical writings it is quite often usedbesides those cases

21. Cf. Friedrich Schrger, Der Verfasser des Hebrerbriefes als Schriftausleger
(BU 4; Regensburg: Friedrich Pustet, 1968), 3540, and Radu Gheorghita, The Role
of the Septuagint in Hebrews (WUNT 2/160; Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 2003), passim.
22. Then one has to change the punctuation of Nestle-Aland (27th ed.) and QPV_
has to be translated as perhaps, not as somewhere.
23. I am indebted to my teacher Cilliers Breytenbach, who made this observation
during a seminar on Hebrews in Berlin.
24. Cf. Ernst Leisi, Der Zeuge im attischen Recht (Frauenfeld: Huber 1907), 28
30, with references to Isaeus 6.62; Demosthenes, Pro Phorm. 5052 et al.
90 Psalms and Hebrews

where is has the common meaning to bear witnessin the sense of to

warn somebody.25
When EJBNBSUVSBUP is understood in the sense of as to protest, the
adversative meaning of EF in Heb 2:6 is much better explained than when
it is rendered with to bear witness. Such an understanding of the phrase
elucidates the authors intention in his citation of the angel passages: at
rst the exaltation and the sessio ad dexteram patri are veried by a
proof of Scripture. Afterwards and as a result of this procedure the author
substantiates not only the humility itself, but also the necessity of
Christs humility (in his earthly days) with evidence from Scripture. The
author succeeds in advancing his argument by quoting Ps 8:6 in Heb 2:7.
Here, one sees for the rst time, after a brief mention in Heb 1:3, that
Christs existence and effect on earth are in focus.

The Reference to the Angels of Psalm 8 in Hebrews 2:1416

Twice the author of the epistle refers to the angels of Ps 8 after quoting it
in Heb 2:7, the rst time being in 2:9 and the seconds in 2:16. While in
2:16 the angels are mentioned in an argumentative manner: PV HB=S EIQPV
Returning to the overview of the tradition used in 1 Cor 15 and Eph
12, the equivalent of the dark powers in these letters is found in
Hebrews as the devil, EJBCPMPK. Second, we recall the idea of Christs
unity with those who belong to him in all three texts connected to both
Pss 8 and 109 (LXX). In Hebrews, this idea of unity is very closely
connected to the idea of salvation, as shown by 2:14ff.
The disempowerment (Heb 2:14, LBUBSHFJ_O)26 of the EJBCPMPK and the
deliverance (2:15, BQBMMBTTFJO)27 of those who were captured in slavery

25. Cf. Deut 8:19; 2 Chr 24:19; Neh 9:26; 13:21; Ps 80:9 (LXX); 1 Tim 5:21. For
examples from pagan literature, see Demosthenes, Or. 42.28; Polybios, Hist. 1.33.5;
Aeschines, De Falsa Legatione 89.9. In Polybios, Hist. 3.110.4 and Plutarch, Cimon
16.8 EJBNSUVSFTRBJ is used with the meaning of ask to hinder, at the last example
even parallel to LXMVFJO.
26. To annul/to disempower, one of the possible denotations of LBUBSHFJ_O LUM
(the other is to annihilate), ts better within the context (cf. Wolfgang Feneberg,
Vernichten oder entmachten? Bemerkungen zu dem paulinischen Vorzugswort
LBUBSHFX, Kirche und Israel 1 [1991]: 5360 [54]) and goes with the intention of
the Psalms quotations (cf. Verburg, Endzeit, 148).
27. The verbum can be used in at least two ways (cf. Friedrich Bchsel,
BQBMBTTX LUM, TWNT 1:25260 [253]): (1) to deliver one out of a connement
(with a genitive), (2) in the juridical sense of deliverance because of an acquittal (cf.
the examples of Demosthenes listed by LSJ, s.v., where BQBMMBTTFJO is always used
parallel with BGJFOBJ). For Heb 2:15, the last mentioned meaning does not t,
FUHRMANN The Son, the Angels and the Odd 91

because of their fear of death constitute the salvic effect of Christs

death according to Heb 2. The syntactic construction in Heb 2:14b15
suggests an understanding of both the nal clauses as parallels (espe-
cially because of the parallel constructed subjunctive-aorist forms),
referring to the causal EJB-construction. Therefore, disempowerment and
deliverance are both identied as consequences of the death of Jesus.
In Heb 2:15b GPCX] RBOBUPV is the dative-object of FOPYPK28 and
EPVMFJBK the genitive-object of BQBMMBTTFJO.29 Therefore this verse can
be paraphrased in the following way: Christ rescued theseso many
were their whole life subdued to the fear of deathfrom slavery.30 What
this means is that the BQBMMBTTFJO designates a deliverance from slavery
based on the LBUBSHFJ_O of the EJBCPMPK. For the way ahead, in order to
facilitate an understanding of the reconstruction further, it is important to
record, that fear of death according to Hebrews has no active role in
enslaving and is thus not personalized either.
Hebrews 2:14b15 states the salvation effected by Christ. In 2:14a and
2:16, however, the necessity of the humiliation of Christ in enabling this
salvation is treated. While Heb 2:14aB is thematically concerned with the
EPVMFJB, Heb 2:16 refers to the disempowerment, the LBUBSHFJ_O of the
EJBCPMPK. Because of the absolute (QBSBQMITJXK) and unique partaking
(aorist: NFUFTYFO) of the Son in esh and blood (Heb 2:14a),31 it is

because EPVMFJB has never been a punishment in a juridical sense, in contrast to

forced labour, cf. Nikolaus Forg, Poena, DNP 9:118788, with literature. The
metaphor of forced labour because of the fear of death does not help interpretation.
28. The adjective FOPYPK (cf. LSJ s.v.: generally held in, bound by, and as legal
term meaning liable to, subject to) generally requires a dative-object describing a
matter one is obliged to or detained by (e.g. OPNPK, HSBGI, BSB etc.). If it is used
with a genitive, as for instance sometimes in the Bible, then the genitive indicates
the matter one is convicted of (the crime; cf. 2 Macc 13:6; Mark 3:29), or, related to
this, the sentence (cf. Gen 26:11; Mark 14:64 par. Matt 26:66). Furthermore, the
genitive with FOPYPK is used for the good someone strives to achieve (cf. 1 Cor
11:27; Jas 2:10). None of these genitive-conjunctions makes EPVMFJB a probable
object of FOPYPK in Heb 2:15.
29. The verb always requires a genitivus separationis, except in a juridical
context, meaning acquit/pardon or when simply referring to remove,
eliminate, cf. LSJ, s.v.
30. As James Moffatt (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to
the Hebrews [ICC 45; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1924 (repr. 1957)], 28, 35) also
pleads. On Moffatts reading, see Patrick Gray, Godly Fear: The Epistle to the
Hebrews and Greco-Roman Critiques of Superstition (SBL Academia Biblica 16;
Leiden: Brill, 2004), 114.
31. The QBJEJB, i.e. men, took part in it per denitionem and are still partaking in
it (perfect form).
92 Psalms and Hebrews

possible for the Son, Christ, to disempower the devil and to deliver the
children from slavery (Heb 2:14b, 15). Hebrews 2:16 thereby motivates
why the incarnation, namely, the incarnation as being a little lower than
the angels (Heb 2:7, 9: CSBYV UJ QBS  BHHFMMPVK) was necessary. It is
because the EJBCPMPK, as it is well known, does not attack the angels,
but he attacks the seed of Abraham (Heb 2:16).
Thus the verb FQJMBNCBOFTRBJ in 2:16 cannot32 refer to the Son as
the subject because of its denotation: hold oneself on by, lay hold of; 2.
attackespecially with words; 3. make a seizure of, arrest; lay hands on
in assertion of a claim; 4. lay hold of, get, obtain.33 Also in the LXX and
in the New Testament FQJMBNCBOFTRBJ with the genitive nearly always
designates a violent act, mostly in the sense of take hold of someone or
something using hands,34 frequently with hostile intention.35 In a gura-
tive sense it is used when one takes hold of a very valuable object.36 The
meaning that a person is taken care of37 by a higher authority is only to
be found once.38 More often the adversative aspect is emphasized, that

32. Cf. the translations and commentaries for that verse in, for example, William
L. Lane, Hebrews 18 (WBC 47A; Dallas: Word, 1991), 51, 63, he [Jesus] takes
hold to help, or Grsser, An die Hebrer, 1:14950. See also Martin Karrer, Der
Brief an die Hebrer. Vol. 1, Kapitel 1,15,10 (TK 20/1; Gtersloh: Gtersloher
Verlagshaus; Wrzburg: Echter, 2002), 158, 180.
33. Cf. LSJ, s.v. The translation listed refers to FQJMBNCBOX in connection with a
genitive object. For this translation, see also Karl G. Dolfe, Hebrews 2,16 Under
the Magnifying Glass, ZNW 84 (1993): 28994, and Michael E. Gudorf, Through
a Classical Lens: Hebrews 2:16, JBL 119 (2000): 1058. But Gerhard Delling,
MBNCBOX LUM, TWNT 4:515 (9), for instance, paraphrases: to draw someone to
oneself to help and thus to take him up into the fellowship of ones own destiny;
cf. also BDAG, s.v., where Sir 4:11 and Scholia to Aischylos Persae 742 (here:
TVOFQJMBNCBOFJO) are cited as examples.
34. Cf. Exod 4:4; Deut 9:17; Judg 16:3; 19:25; 1 Kgs 1:50; (6:6); 11:30; 2 Kgs
2:12; 4:27; Job 8:15; Ps 34:2; Zech 8:23; Isa 27:4; Ezek 29:7; Bel. 1:36; Tob. 6:3;
11:11; Matt 14:31; Mark 8:23; Acts 17:19. Only once, in Jer 38:32, is God an
FQJMBCPNFOPK, because this verse is concerned with the hands of God in an
anthropomorphic sense. In later Jewish writings, see T. Gad. 6; T. Sim. 8; Philo, Leg.
2.88; Somn. 2.69.
35. Deut 25:11; Judg 12:6; (Aquila) 19:29; 20:6 (FLSBUITFO); 2 Sam 13:11; Job
38:13; Sus 1:40; Luke 20:20, 26; 23:26; Acts 21:30, 33.
36. Cf. Prov 4:13; Bar 4:2 and 1 Tim 6:12, 19.
37. That is the intention in most translations and commentaries; for example, the
NKJV: For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of
Abraham. The KJV translates he took not on him the nature of angels.
38. Namely Sir 4:11, BDAG s.v.; here only FQJMBNCBOFTRBJ in a positive sense
has a personal object, and the subject is wisdom. In the Hebrew text there one
nds 5J EH (Hiphil of 5J ), which means more admonish; cf. KBL, s.v. Thus, it is
FUHRMANN The Son, the Angels and the Odd 93

something evil takes hold of a person.39 In pagan Greek literature it is

used the same manner.40
Because of the denotation of the verbum nitum the readers/hearers
are in the process of reception referred to the next possible subject. The
connotation of aggression in FQJMBNCBOFTRBJ makes EJBCPMPK the only
possible subject, because fear of death should not be personied in this
context, as shown above.41
Interpreters who read take care of someone in Heb 2:16, applying
this to Jesus as the subject, assume an allusion to Isa 41:8,42 or propose
a reverberation of the comparison of Christ with the angels.43 And yet, in
the same way the semantic result does, the syntax supports my interpre-
tation. First, the adverb and New Testament hapax legomenon EIQPV44
indicates an appeal to the knowledge of the readers:45 as we know the
devil does not attack angels in Heb 2:16 is a motivational statement
(HBS) building upon prior experience and expressing an ongoing
situation. Second, the interpretation is also supported by the tempora of
Heb 2:1416: the phrase The children (QBJEJB) are partakers of esh
and blood in 2:14 is formulated with a perfect indicative. Here the
action of the Son is subsequently46 described three times using aorist

possible that the translators of Sir 4:11 wanted to imply the more threatening aspect
of admonish. This also explains the alternative reading BOUJMBNCBOFUBJ (cf. the
critical edition of Joseph Ziegler, Septuaginta. Vetus Testamentum graecum
auctoritate Academiae Litterarum Gottingensis editum, 10/2. Sapientia Iesu Filii
Sirach (2d ed.; Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1980), laying more emphasis
on the adversative character.
39. Cf. Ps 47:7; Jer 30:30; 51:23.
40. See Sebastian Fuhrmann, Vergeben und Vergessen. Christologie und Neuer
Bund im Hebrerbrief (WMANT 113; NeukirchenVluyn: Neukirchener Verlag,
2007), 6163.
41. That is proposed by Gudorf, Lens, 1718 (and following Gray, Fear,
11517). The proposal of Albert Bonus (Hebrews 2.16 in the Peshitta Syriac
Version, ExpTim 33 [192122]: 23436) that the death has to be the subject of
FQJMBNCBOFUBJ may be suitable for the Peshitta, but not for Hebrews, insofar as death
never occurs as an entity within the context. The fact, however, that the Peshitta also
presents a translation of the verbum that conveys a hostile meaning can be advanced
as an argument for the interpretation proposed here.
42. Cf., among others, NA27, although there is BOUJMBNCBOFJO med. in Isa 41:8f.
(without alternatives noted by Ziegler).
43. E.g. Grsser, An die Hebrer, 1:149.
44. Cf. LSJ, 388: perhaps, usual doubtless.
45. Cf. BDR 441.7: Berufung auf das auch bei den Lesern vorhandene
Wissen, doch wohl, ja.
46. The UPV_U  FTUJO (2:14) is just an expression and needs no consideration
concerning our question.
94 Psalms and Hebrews

forms (NFUFTYFO, LBUBSHITI], BQBMMBDI]), a phenomenon also found in

Heb 2:17 (XGFJMFOPNPJXRI_OBJ). By means of these complexive
aorists47 Christs action is characterized as a unique and perfected one. In
Heb 2:15b16, however, only present stems (I>TBO, FQJMBNCBOFUBJ) are to
be found, these stressing an aspect of the duration of an activity,48 thus
possessing a more dening character. &QJMBNCBOFUBJ therefore cannot
refer to the Son, over and above the semantic considerations previously
mentioned, because his actions on behalf of the children are related to
an exact point of time (hence the use of an aorist) and are not common-
place or ongoing actions (which would require a present stem).
The EJBCPMPK as prosecutor attacks man. That is why Christ had to
become a human being, which in this instance required that he be humili-
ated to a status lower than the angels, because the angels were not to be
Hence it becomes obvious that the mention of the angels in Heb 2:16
is directly related to the angels of Ps 8:6 cited in Heb 2:7. The question
pending from the psalm quotation was not, is Jesus taking care of the
angels or on anybody else?, but rather why was the Son required to be
humiliated? The EJBCPMPK, as it is well known, does not attack the
angels, but he attacks the seed of Abraham, therefore (PRFO is a con-
secutive conjunction)49 Christ had to be made like his brethrenread:
not like the angelsin all things.50
As can be seen, we nally have in Heb 2:16, 17a a conclusion drawn
from a Christological interpretation and a justication of Ps 8:6, both of
which have as their foundation the motifs of participation and dis-
empowerment taken from a traditional interpretation of Ps 8:7 and Ps
109:1 (LXX).

The Incarnation and the Visible Dominion

It is remarkable that there are Christological statements, concerning
Christs exaltation as well as his humiliation, in close proximity to each
other in the rst two chapters of Hebrews.51 The author initially empha-
sizesaccording to the traditional interpretation of Pss 8 and 109
(LXX)the dominion of Christ, seen in his being enthroned at the right
hand of God. It is, however, the impact of Ps 8 that enables the author

47. Cf. BDR 332.

48. Cf. BDR 318.2.
49. Cf. BDR 451.6.
50. The paraphrase here follows the translation of NKJV.
51. Cf. Steyn, Observations, 499, with reference to Barth and Clements.
FUHRMANN The Son, the Angels and the Odd 95

specically to focus on the statements of Christs superiority over the

angels, in a manner markedly different from the traditional listing of the
various authorities dominated by the risen Christ. The reason for this
specic focus is very likely owing to an attempt to increase the rhetorical
effect: the description of Christs dominion, derived from the traditional
interpretation of Pss 8 and 109, that is, according to Scripture, com-
pletely contradicts the experience of the addressees.52
Having increased the rhetorical effect in Heb 1:32:5 the author con-
siders the lack of correspondence between the promise of the scripture
and the everyday experience, and indicates that even that lack somehow
corresponds to scripture. That is why he writes in Heb 2:89: we do not
(yet or not at all)53 see the risen and governing Christ (PVQX PSX_NFO
BVUX_] UB= QBOUB VQPUFUBHNFOB) but the humiliated and crowned one
*ITPV_OEPDI] LBJ= UJNI]_ FTUFGBOXNFOPO). This section now seeks to
explain the ideas behind that construction.
By quoting Ps 8:6 the author gives a rst hint that not only Christs
enthroning at the right hand of the Father, but also his humiliation, are
proven by Scripture: it should be assumed as being known to the
addressees that incarnation was an integral part of Gods salvic acts
regarding the very probable supposition that the idea of the unity
between Christ and those belonging to him was part of the traditional
interpretation of both Pss 8 and 109 (LXX) (cf. 1 Corinthians and
Ephesians). Otherwise, there would hardly be an explanation for the
brevity of argumentation concerning this theme in Heb 2.
But the author is not only concerned with the proof from Scripture
concerning the necessity of the fact of incarnation and therefore humili-
ation, but also with the method of this humiliation, namely with Christs
suffering. As is well known, particularly this suffering on the cross was
a christologumenon most defamatory for a Christian in Antiquity.54
Hebrews 2:8b10 is concerned with this relation.

52. Cf., among others, the socio-historical analyses carried out by David A.
DeSilva, Despising Shame: Honor, Discourse and Community Maintenance in the
Epistle to the Hebrews (SBLDS 152; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995), and Persever-
ance in Gratitude: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000).
53. Both translations are possible with PVQX, cf. LSJ, s.v.
54. For the implications of crucixion as summum and ultimum supplicium, cf.
Heinz-Wolfgang Kuhn, Die Kreuzesstrafe whrend der frhen Kaiserzeit: Ihre
Wirklichkeit und Wertung in der Umwelt des Urchristentums, ANRW 2.25:1:648
793. For the understanding of the disgracefulness of crucixion in Hebrews, see
96 Psalms and Hebrews

These verses express an interpretation of the preceding quotation of Ps

8:57. In 2:8b it is stated that the believers are not yet able to perceive
the universal dominion of the Son (the QBOUB VQFUBDBK from Ps 8:7).
What they can see is Jesus as the humiliated man in his earthly days
Ps 8:6a). Astonishingly, however, according to 2:9aC, the believers do
not only see Jesus as the humiliated, but also as the crowned, one (EJB= UP=
would rather have been expected to be a statement about the ruling
Christ. Furthermore, as the nal conjunction PQXK55 indicates, Christs
coronation was before his death on the cross, and was because of his
suffering. That is: The suffering of Jesus while he was dyingthat is to
say his suffering on the crossqualied him to taste56 death effectively
for all (VQF=S QBOUPK).57
When the author of the epistle to the Hebrews did not connect the
motif of being crowned from Ps 8 with the initiation of the sessio ad
dexteram it demanded an answer as to what he intended when he located
this crowning with honour and fame in Jesus earthly days. The most
probable explanation is that this alludes to the appointment of the Son in
the high priests ministry.
The investiture of a high priest was, according to our sources, accom-
panied by a kind of crowning, which can be understood as a type of
encyclopaedic background58 (cf., e.g., Sir 45:12, investiture of Aaron,
among other things with a golden wreath: TUFGBOPK YSVTPV_K) and espe-
cially in the book of Zechariah (Zech 6:11, crowning of the high priest:

11:26; 12:2; 13:13. Probably not the crucixion per se, but the non-heroic way of
suffering (cf. Heb 5:7) of Jesus was reason for the mockery by pagan and Jewish
critics of early Christendom.
55. See Herbert Braun, An die Hebrer (HNT 14; Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr,
1984), 56: a nal clause would be against the course of argumentation and absurd
(ablaufs- und sinnwidrig).
56. That there is a difference in meaning between suffering of death and
tasting the death is also seen by Karrer (Brief, 172), in opposition to, for example,
Braun (Hebrer, 56), who is assuming an epexegetical function of UPV_ RBOBUPV,
which means an identity of QBRINB UPV_ RBOBUPV and HFVPNBJ RBOBUPV.
57. The same line of argumentation is, it should be noted, also to be found in
Heb 5:89 and 7:28.
58. Perhaps there is also an allusion on the passion narratives and the crown of
thorns (Mark 15:17 par. Matt 27:29; John 19:2), but there the reference is to the
crowning of a king.
59. For pagan priesthood, see also Diodor of Sicily 20.54.
FUHRMANN The Son, the Angels and the Odd 97

Because of the nal conjunction PQXK (Heb 2:9), the expression of

the God-forsaken Jesus on the cross refers to the intention of the author
to describe Christs suffering and his death as a necessary event according
to Gods salvic plan. Regarding the explanation of the author, the
suffering and death of Jesus were not only disgraceful but in addition
they were actually according to Gods will (FQSFQFO RFX],_ Heb 2:10) with
regard to the perfection of the Son (UFMFJXTJK, cf. Heb 5:9 and 7:28)60.
The Son had necessarily to withstand these temptations, sufferings and
hostilities, in order to comply with the rule formulated in Heb 2:11 (P
BHJB[XO LBJ= PJ BHJB[PNFOPJ FD FOP=K QBOUFK [cf. 5:1]).61 This sentence is
the authors interpretation of the motif of the close connection of Jesus
and those belonging to him, which we know from the interpretation of
the psalm in Eph 12, as well as in 1 Cor 15 (and Rom 5).

Hopefully it has been demonstrated how at least one important intention
of the author of Hebrews was to contextualize the traditional interpre-
tation of Ps 8 anew. The author emphasizes a new interpretation of these
portions of Scripture, which were used to explicate the Sons resurrection
and enthronement. In Hebrews these portions of Scripture are also
employed to prove that the humiliation of Christ is according to Gods
This new interpretation begins in the rst verses of the epistle with a
detailed reference to a well-known matter: the name of Christ, Son, is
higher than that of the angels (Heb 1:4), although he was humiliated to a
position lower than the angels (Heb 2:7 = Ps 8:7). The motif of the close
connection between the saviour and the ones to be saved found in
1 Cor 15 and Eph 12, regarding the Christians and the risen Christ, is, in
Hebrews, initially applied to the taking part of the Son in the temptations
during his earthly ministry. This manner of thinking underlines the

60. See Sebastian Fuhrmann, Christ Grown into Perfection. Hebrews 9,11 from
a Christological Point of View, Biblica 89 (2008): 92100.
61. Cf. Otfried Hous, Katapausis. Die Vorstellung vom endzeitlichen Ruheort
im Hebrerbrief (WUNT 11; Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1970), 216 n. 830, with
examples. Hous summarizes, da der zitierte Satz v.11a nicht eine christologische
Aussage darstellt, sondern einen mit 5,13 zu vergleichenden allgemeingltigen
Grundsatz ber das Verhltnis von Priester und Gemeinde: Priestertum setzt
Blutsverwandtschaft voraus An Hand dieses Grundsatzes wird in Hebr 2,11bff
aufgezeigt, warum Christus Mensch werden mute. Cf. also Karrer, Hebrer I, 182,
referring to Philo, Spec. Leg. 1.229.
98 Psalms and Hebrews

comforting (paracletic) character of the text. The author of Hebrews

places emphasis on the compassion of Christ with the attempted believ-
ers and gives an argument for Jesus disgraceful suffering on the cross by
means of the scriptural proof of Ps 8.

Leonard P. Mar

Psalm 8 stands out in comparison to the psalms surrounding it in its
placement in the Psalter. The previous ve psalms (Pss 37) led us
through the dark valleys of lament and times of disconsolation, and in the
psalms following we will again return to the depths of despair and
misery, to the deepest darkness of heartache and suffering. In the midst
of these, Ps 8 stands as a beacon of light, illuminating a bleak and deso-
late landscape with its enjoyment of the glory of Yahweh, as revealed in
the majesty of creation.
In this study I intend to examine Ps 8 in its original setting and investi-
gate how the author of Hebrews interprets this psalm christologically. It
seems that there are two extreme scholarly viewpoints in this regard.
 On the one hand, we have the view of Goldingay who argues that the
New Testament interpretation of the psalm should be seen as part of New
Testament Theology and quite irrelevant to the meaning of the psalm,
which does not have a direct bearing on Jesus.1 In its own context, the
psalm is neither explicitly nor implicitly eschatological. Nor is it
messianic. It is rather a celebration of the position of rulership to which
God has appointed humankind.
On the other hand, Leupold maintains that Ps 8 is messianic by type.2
He argues that man as originally created is a clear foreshadowing of
Jesus Christ. What was said of the one may be claimed for the other.
Leupold believes that the author of the psalm did not fully realize this
particular aspect when he composed his poem, but he was led by Gods

1. John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology. Vol. 1, Israels Gospel (Downers

Grove: InterVarsity, 2003), 112.
2. Herbert C. Leupold, Exposition of Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), 101.
100 Psalms and Hebrews

Spirit to express certain higher elements of truth. By divine providence

the human author was inspired to write truths of which he himself was
not aware at the time, but which the Spirit of God intended.

Structure, Gattung, Sitz im Leben and Dating

In the heading, the meaning of EJE89 is uncertain. The word might be
linked to one of the well-known towns of the Philistines, Gath. Whether
the word might indicate a type of instrument, or a melody, or perhaps
some kind of religious festival associated with that town, is completely
With regard to the structure of the psalm, various possibilities have
been offered. Craigie maintains that the psalm consists of four strophes,
namely, Gods majesty and might (vv. 23), humankinds sense of
insignicance (vv. 45), Gods role for humankind (vv. 69), and con-
cluding praise (v. 10).4
Terrien describes the structure as follows: Preludethe marvel of the
Name (v. 2ab); Strophe 1the majesty of God (vv. 2c3); Strophe 2
the fragility of humanity (vv. 45); Strophe 3the greatness of human-
kind (vv. 67); Strophe 4the service of animals (vv. 89); Postlude
the marvel of the Name (v. 10). According to Terrien, the psalm thus
consists of four quatrains of four cola each.5
Wilson divides the psalm into the following sections: vv. 2a and 10
form an inclusio that proclaims the wondrous admiration of the psalmist
for the glory of God; vv. 2b3 praise Yahwehs majestic power and pro-
tection as creation displays it; vv. 45 give recognition to human frailty
in the light of the creative power of God; and vv. 69 contain the
astonished acceptance of divine empowerment and humankinds resul-
tant responsibility.6
Mller sees vv. 2 and 10 as the framework of the psalm, declaring the
worldwide praise of Yahweh, Israels God, with v. 3 as an expansion on
this theme. Verses 45 contain the crux of the psalm, namely, the praise

3. For a reference to an instrument or melody, cf. Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 150

(WBC 19; Waco: Word, 1983), 105; and also Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 159
(trans. Hilton C. Oswald; CC; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 31. For the understand-
ing of a religious festival, cf. Robert Davidson, The Vitality of Worship: A Com-
mentary on the Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 37.
4. Craigie, Psalms, 1067.
5. Samuel Terrien, The Psalms: Strophic Structure and Theological Commentary
(ECC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 126.
6. Gerald H. Wilson, Psalms (NIVAC; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 1:199.
MAR The Messianic Interpretation of Psalm 8:46. Part I 101

of the Creator and his creationhumankindwith 69 an elaboration of

this theme.7
Bullock believes that the psalm has a chiastic pattern:
A Benediction (1)
B Gods rule (23)
C Human meanness (4)
C Human greatness (5)
B Humanitys rule (69)
A Benediction (10)8

All of these suggestions certainly have their merit, but to my mind the
structure of the psalm is as follows: v. 2a forms an inclusio with v. 10,
proclaiming the majesty and glory of Yahweh. The name of Yahweh
here is a reference to Gods person and his character. The Name is
synonymous with everything he is. Therefore the psalmist begins with
Yahweh and ends with Yahweh. Before he speaks of enemies and
humanity and its place in creation, he speaks of God, and when he has
nished speaking of humanity, crowned with glory, he again speaks of
God. Ultimately, the psalmist declares that God is an awesome God.
Verses 2b3 speak of Yahwehs majestic power displayed in creation
and the protection found in Yahweh that silences the enemy. The Hebrew
of this verse and a half is difcult to understand. The verse begins with
the words 9?E C0 , the relative particle followed by an imperative. This
reading is not only extremely awkward, but also grammatically impos-
sible. Various solutions have been proposed for this problem.9 In the end
there is no clear solution and I have decided to follow the suggestion of
the critical apparatus of BHS and read the Qal perfect second masculine
singular of the verb *E?, with the translation You have set your glory
above the heavens.
The H+-assonance in )JB?H+JH )J==H+ and (JCCH+4 and 3JH+ emphasizes
the contrast between Gods power and the strength of the enemies. Gods
power is established in the mouths of those who are regarded as weak
and unable to neutralize the strength of the enemies. Thus the psalmist
underlines the fact that the power of enemies, human or otherwise, is as

7. Buks A. Mller, Psalm 8, in Riglyne vir prediking oor die Psalms (ed.
Coenie W. Burger, Buks A. Mller and Dirkie J. Smit; Kaapstad: N. G. Kerk-
Uitgewers, 1988), 36.
8. C. Hassell Bullock, Encountering the Book of Psalms (EBS; Grand Rapids:
Baker, 2001), 42.
9. Cf. Kraus, Psalms, 178, for an overview as well as a bibliography on the
subject; cf. also Marvin E. Tate, An Exposition of Psalm 8, Perspectives in
Religious Studies 28, no. 4 (2001): 34950.
102 Psalms and Hebrews

nothing compared to the strength of God, even when that strength is

revealed in the weakest of the weak. The focus stays therefore on God.
Verses 46 proclaim the glory of humankind as the apex of Gods
creation. Verse 4 forms the introduction to the question posed in v. 5.
When the psalmist surveys the glory of creation, he is overwhelmed with
the realization that humankind really is the pinnacle of the work of Gods
ngers. Verse 5, H?5BAE J< )5 *3H H?C<KEJ< H? 9>, is a synonymous
parallelism, while v. 6 has a chiastic pattern:
H9C E C59H 5H3<H )J9= >  > H9CDIEH

The >-alliteration between )J9= > and  > emphasizes the position of
humankind in relation to God and /or the heavenly beings, depending
on ones reading of )J9= (see the analysis below). The last syllables of
the verbs in vv. 56 rhyme: H?C<KE rhymes with H?5BAE and H9CDIEH
rhymes with H9C E. These rhyming patterns focus the attention on
Gods actions on behalf of humankind. It is God who thinks of and visits
humankind, it is God who crowns and appoints humanity to a position of
rulership. Human authority is therefore delegated authority which must
be exercised on behalf of God, and not for selsh personal gain.
Humanitys position of glory should never be seen in isolation from
Gods glory. It is in Gods glory that humankind nds its glory. This is
reinforced by the use of the interrogative particle 9> in vv. 2, 5 and 10.
The eye and ear of the reader are through the use of this particle imme-
diately drawn to the centre and the boundaries of the psalm. Thus,
Yahwehs majesty forms the boundaries in which humanity nds its
place of glory through its God-appointed position of rulership. Therefore
the question What is man? cannot be separated from the question
Who is God? I will elaborate on this later in the analysis of the psalm.
In vv. 79 the poet expands on the position of humankind as ruler over
all the animals. Verse 7, HJ=8CEIE 9E =< (J5J J >3 H9=J>E, forms
a synonymous parallelism. The use of second person verbal forms
reiterates what was said previously concerning Gods actions. Verse 8
shows a chiastic pattern:
J5 EH>93 )8H )=< )JA= H 9?4

The use of the word =< here in vv. 79 as well as in vv. 2 and 10 again
draws attention to the boundaries and the centre of the psalm. Gods
majesty can be seen in all of creation, and he has placed all the works of
his hands under humankinds feet. Thus the psalmist again calls attention
to the fact that humankinds identity is found within God.
MAR The Messianic Interpretation of Psalm 8:46. Part I 103

There can be little doubt that Ps 8 should be described as a hymn, and
more specically, as a creation hymn.10 It is, however, not a hymn in
praise of creation, but in praise of the Creator.11 Yet, it is an original and
unique creation by its author, resulting in an apparent mixture of forms
within the psalm. The form of the psalm is unusual in the sense that it
does not contain the usual calls to praise found in hymns; also, it is
addressed to God throughout.12 Hymnic material, wisdom material and
elements of the lament can be found in the psalm.13 The terse, direct
address of God with which the psalm begins is typical of lament, while
the question of v. 5, What is man?, is a phrase used in wisdom litera-
ture in the context of suffering, the pursuit of justice and fear of mortality
and guilt (cf. Job 7:17; 15:14; Ps 144:3).14 This reection on the nature
and destiny of humankind is of course typical of wisdom literature.

Sitz im Leben
It is quite impossible to ascertain whether the psalm was composed
specically for use in the liturgy for a specic act of cultic worship. It
was possibly used in the cult, perhaps on an occasion such as the Feast of
Tabernacles.15 Eaton thinks that the psalm has a connection with the
autumnal New Year festival where Yahweh was celebrated as king.16
However, its content is so central to Israels tradition that there certainly
were numerous occasions for which the psalm would be appropriate. The
fact that the psalm alternates between singular and plural forms would
make it tting for communal worship. The heading of the psalm certainly
indicates a cultic use of the psalm during the course of Israels worship
in the temple. At a later date, the psalm was associated with the Day of
Ascension in Christian circles, due to the New Testaments interpretation

10. Arnold A. Anderson, Psalms 172 (NCBC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972),
100; and also Craigie, Psalms, 106.
11. Mller, Psalm 8, 35.
12. John Eaton, The Psalms: A Historical and Spiritual Commentary with an
Introduction and New Translation (London: T&T Clark International, 2003), 80; cf.
also Erhard S. Gerstenberger, Psalms Part 1, with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry
(FOTL 14; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 67; and also James Luther Mays,
Psalms (IBC; Louisville: John Knox, 1994), 65.
13. Craigie, Psalms, 106; cf. also Kraus, Psalms, 179.
14. Gerstenberger, Psalms, 6869.
15. Anderson, Psalms, 100; cf. also Craigie, Psalms, 106.
16. Eaton, Psalms, 80.
17. Craigie, Psalms, 106.
104 Psalms and Hebrews

Kraus argues that the psalm was used during a festival that took place
at night-time, during which it was sung antiphonally (cf. Ps 134:1; Isa
30:29; 1 Chr 9:33).18 Davidson, however, argues the exact opposite,
maintaining that the fact that the psalmist refers only to the stars and
the moon does not necessarily indicate that the psalm was performed at
night during some cultic act.19 In the end, I do not think that the cultic use
of the psalm should be conned to one specic occasion; it was probably
used in a variety of settings, including private use by an individual
Gerstenberger maintains that humanitys experience of the general
volatility and insecurities of life provide the background for the origin of
the psalm.20 Tate also believes that the psalm originated from a situation
of stress and that the psalmist wants to strengthen the faith of the
community of Yahweh worshippers.21 Thus, the praise offered to God in
Ps 8 forms a rampart of strength against evil forces that endanger a
person in the midst of the community.
The reference to the enemy and the avenger in v. 3 surely means that
Gerstenbergers and Tates viewpoints are feasible. In the midst of
everything that can and does go pear-shaped in life, the psalmist is aware
of his frailty as a nite human being. But then he looks up, perhaps at
night, to see the beauty of Gods glory revealed in his creation. Then he
realizes that humankind, being created in Gods image, displays Gods
glory and majesty so much more than the rest of creation. This oods
him with praise to God the Creator, and thus, through his praise, the
enemy is silenced.
The place of the psalm in the Psalter also lends support to this view.
Tate has pointed out that the psalms surrounding Ps 8 reect oppression
and distress, and enemies of all kinds are extremely prolic.22 The
faithful worshipper is indeed under siege, living in a world where they
are under constant threat, but where their praise will silence the enemy,
even if just for a moment.

It is not really possible to date the psalm with any degree of certainty.
The psalm itself provides us with no clues in this regard. It is similar to
Gen 1 with regard to creation in general as well as humanitys position in

18. Kraus, Psalms, 179.

19. Davidson, Vitality of Worship, 38.
20. Gerstenberger, Psalms, 71.
21. Tate, Psalm 8, 346.
22. Ibid, 344, 346.
MAR The Messianic Interpretation of Psalm 8:46. Part I 105

creation, but these similarities do not provide us with any information

concerning its precise dating. The theme of creation does not necessarily
mean that it should be assigned a post-exilic date, as is often assumed.23
A post-exilic date is possible, but a pre-exilic date cannot be discounted.
We simply cannot be sure.

Analysis of Psalm 8
As will be seen, the inclusio (vv. 2a and 10) should be understood as the
key to our understanding of the psalm. The inclusio shows that Yah-
wehs sovereign power encompasses the whole of creation as well as all
spheres of life. Everything in the psalm should be read in service of the
glory of Yahwehs name.24
God is addressed as Yahweh, Israels Lord. The Name is an indication
of Gods revelation of himself.25 The glory of his Name speaks of the
glory of his being; his person. Through his name, Yahweh acts in this
world.26 Wilson points out that the use of the name 9H9J is signicant.27
God made himself known and accessible to his people through the
revelation of the Name. It is an extension of who he is. Where the Name
of God is, there he is. The divine name presents God to the world. A god
is usually found in a place where his worshippers can gather to offer him
praise. The temple is often such a place where believers encounter God.
In Ps 8, however, the name of Israels God is not conned to the temple,
but it extends throughout all the earth.28
The word-pair (> and (5H9 occurs elsewhere, in Ps 148:13. There, as
is the case here, the Name is used almost as a synonym for the glory of
God. Yahwehs name reveals his glory in all of creation. The word-pair
#C 9 and )J>9 forms a merism and indicates the all-encompassing
reach of Gods glory. Both heaven and earth display the glory and
majesty of God, who encounters humankind throughout creation. The
focus is on Yahweh and his glory, not on creation. The subject matter of
Israels praise is not the glory of creation, but the glory of the Creator.

23. Craigie, Psalms, 106.

24. Cas Vos and G. C. Olivier, Die Psalms in die liturgie met verwysing na
Psalm 8 as liedteks, HTS 58 (November 2002): 143146 (1436).
25. Craigie, Psalms, 107.
26. Vos and Olivier, Psalm 8, 1436.
27. Wilson, Psalms, 200.
28. Cf. Richard J. Clifford, Psalms 172 (AOTC; Nashville: Abingdon, 2002),
106 Psalms and Hebrews

5H9 often refers to the glory or majesty of an earthly king (e.g. Ps

21:5). It is therefore quite appropriate that this word is used to describe
the glory of the one whose majesty and splendour surpass that of any
human ruler, because his rule encompasses both heaven and earth.29
As was shown in the structural analysis of the psalm, in v. 3 the poet
contrasts Yahwehs power and the strength of the enemies. Yahwehs
power is established in the mouths of babes and children. Scholarly
opinions differ regarding how this verse should be understood. Eaton
argues that the context suggests that these babes are the weak and
humble worshippers, whose inadequate singing of Gods glory is yet
used by him to still the avenger.30 Mays states that it should be under-
stood as hyperboleevery human sound is a response to the universal
reign of God and the revelation of his majesty.31 Children can also be
understood as a symbol of the weak and powerless.32 Dahood holds to the
view that the psalmist is so overwhelmed by Gods majesty that he can
only babble like an infant.33 Vos and Olivier believe that the babes and
children are not a metaphor for the suffering and scorned people of God,
but are instead a reference to those who testify of Gods power.34
Perhaps the psalmist simply means that children will literally join in
the praise offered to Yahweh and that out of their praise Yahweh raises a
bulwark of strength to silence the enemies. Kraus suggests that perhaps
wisdom thinking was involved here and that the poet wanted to indicate
that the power of enemies is broken by the voice of weak children.35 Here
in Ps 8 the enemies are not identied, and therefore they can refer to any
and everyone who opposes God. Weisers assertion that the enemies
refer to sceptics and atheists does not nd support in the text.36 From that
which in the eyes of man is helpless and weak, God ordains strength to
defy everything and everyone that oppose him. The power of the enemy,
of whatever kind they might be, is utterly and absolutely neutralized by
Yahwehs strength, even when that strength is revealed in the weakest of
the weak. The focus therefore stays on God.

29. Cf. Davidson, Vitality of Worship, 37.

30. Eaton, Psalms, 81.
31. Mays, Psalms, 66.
32. Mller, Psalm 8, 36.
33. Mitchell J. Dahood, Psalms. Vol. 1, 150 (AB 16; Garden City: Doubleday,
1965), 49.
34. Vos and Olivier, Psalm 8, 1437.
35. Kraus, Psalms, 182.
36. Artur Weiser, The Psalms (trans. Herbert Hartwell; OTL; London: SCM,
1962), 141.
MAR The Messianic Interpretation of Psalm 8:46. Part I 107

In v. 4 the poet looks at the majesty of Gods work and describes it as

J > (JE 34 . Terrien compares this with the art of a sculptor, whose
ngers, more than his hands, fashion and mould the complex designs of
the Universe.37
 Davidson points out that we need to recognize the huge gulf that exists
between our world and the world of the psalmist.38 When we look to the
heavens today, using modern technology, we can see so much more than
he or she did, looking up at the sky in ancient Israel. The psalmist only
saw the stars and the moon (and, of course, the sun), but we can gaze in
wonder at galaxies millions of light years away, at black holes and
thousands of planets. The immensity of space and thus of Gods creation
is such an overwhelming display of the majesty and the splendour, the
greatness of the Creator, that we can certainly echo the words of the
psalmist to the nth degree. And yet, in the midst of this display of power
and glory, we can also cry out in wonder with the psalmist:
H?5BAE J< )5 *3H H?C<KEJ< H? 9>
Verse 5 is an expression of wonder that in the vastness of the universe,
a universe that reveals the fullness of Gods glory, human beings have
such a noble and important role: Though unfurling the vast reaches of
space and directing the movement of the stars and moon, God gives
special attention to humans on earth.39 They do not deserve this in any
way; God simply chooses to crown humans with his splendour and
majesty. They are indeed endowed with glory and splendour like the
king in Ps 21:5, and they have dominion over the three spheres of earthly
life: land, air, and sea (vv. 78).40 This is in contrast to the cosmogonies
found in ancient Near Eastern texts, where humans are created to be the
slaves of the godsmaintaining the universe for them and seeing to their
food, clothing and honour. However, biblical cosmogony differs:
Yahweh is not needy like these other gods; he created humans in his
image and likeness to live in a living relationship with him, to subdue the
earth and to rule over its creatures.41
When the psalmist views the wonder of Gods creation one would
expect that he would be overwhelmed by the knowledge that humankind
is small and insignicant. Yet, the opposite is true: he is fascinated by
humankinds greatness as the apex of Gods creation.42 Here the

37. Terrien, Psalms, 129.

38. Davidson, Vitality of Worship, 38.
39. Clifford, Psalms, 69.
40. Ibid, 6970.
41. Ibid, 70.
42. Mller, Psalm 8, 37.
108 Psalms and Hebrews

signicance of the interrogative particle 9>, which was pointed out in

the structural analysis, comes into play. By drawing our attention to the
centre and the boundaries of the psalm, the poet shows that the revelation
of Gods glory and the distinguished position of humanity cannot and
should not be separated. The glory of humanity is indeed a reection of
Gods glory. The glory and honour of humankind cannot be understood
in isolation from the majesty and glory of Yahweh. Yahwehs glory is
revealed in all of creation, and thus also in humankind, as the crown of
that glory.
The centre of the psalm announces human power and authority. The
boundaries of the psalm contain declarations of praise to God. The centre
(v. 5) and the boundaries (vv. 2a, 10) must be understood in relation to
one another. In the words of Brueggemann,
Human power is always bounded and surrounded by divine praise.
Doxology gives dominium its context and legitimacy. The two must be
held together [T]o use human power without the context of praise of
God is to profane human regency over creation and so usurp more than
has been granted.43

Weiser conrms this viewpoint by pointing out that Gods revelation

enables humankind to arrive at the right understanding of his own self.44
The Bible upholds an intimate relation between Gods revelation and
humankinds comprehension of his own existence. Gods revelation
always illuminates the nature of humankind; and, on the other hand, an
accurate appreciation of humanity cannot be realized if God is taken out
of the equation. The claim of the Psalm is thus that we can say human
being only after we have learned to say God.45
Kraus points out that the exclamation introduced by 9> expresses
unlimited astonishment.46 Heaven and earth testify to Yahwehs great-
ness and majesty, and thus the poet is made aware of the ultimate depths
of his humanity. The statement in Ps 8:2 and 10 is decisive in this regard.
Just as the creative power and majesty of Yahweh can only be known in
the entire creation through the revelatory power of his Name, so too the
mystery and wonder of humankinds beginning and destiny can be
perceived only through Yahwehs self-revelation. Mays rightly points

43. Walter Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms: A Theological Commen-

tary (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1984), 3738.
44. Weiser, Psalms, 14243.
45. James Luther Mays, What is a Human Being? Reections on Psalm 8,
Theology Today 50, no. 44 (1994): 519.
46. H.-J. Kraus, Theology of the Psalms (trans. Keith Crim; CC; Minneapolis:
Fortress, 1992), 148.
MAR The Messianic Interpretation of Psalm 8:46. Part I 109

out that the riddle of human identity is somehow interrelated with its
being remembered and visited by God.47
Childs maintains that the psalmist, while observing the magnitude of
Gods creative power as displayed in the heavens, is overwhelmed with
the thought of humankinds insignicance.48 Davidson also believes that
to look at ourselves in the light of the vastness of the universe is to have
our insignicance forcefully brought home to us, because we are tiny
specks living on one of the smallest planets.49 It is indeed true that basic
to the term H? is the idea of humankind as weak and vulnerable.50 This
means that the position of glory that this psalm assigns to humankind is
so much more wonderfulbecause it is indeed this weak nite vul-
nerable being that has been elevated to a position a little lower than
heavenly beings, because he has been created in the image of almighty
Yahweh. The position of humankind as the one creature adorned with
Gods glory thus stands in sharp contrast to the image of frailty and
The question asked in v. 5 also occurs in Ps 144:34, where the psalm-
ist asks it in reference to the frailty and eetingness of human life. H?
and )5 *3 also occur in Ps 90:3 in this sense. Job also asks this question
in Job 7:17, where it reads as a bitter parody of Ps 8.51
The question the psalm asks, What is man?, is a question that
reects our time. In other times the focus was on the doctrine of creation
or Christology. In the psalmists own time the question was Who is
God? Psalm 8 holds those two questions together.52 To ask what human-
kind is, one has to ask who is God, because it is only in that relationship
that humanity can really discover who it is.
The poet continues by declaring that humankind has been made a little
less than )J9= , and that he has been crowned with C59H 5H3<. Scholars
differ concerning the translation of )J9= . Clifford believes that )J9=
should be understood as heavenly beings (cf. Gen 6:2, 4; Job 1:6; Ps
97:7).53 Crenshaw argues for the opposite, maintaining that the audacity

47. Mays, Psalm 8, 515.

48. Brevard S. Childs, Psalm 8 in the Context of the Christian Canon, Int 23
(1969): 2031 (22).
49. Davidson, Vitality of Worship, 39.
50. Kraus, Theology, 149; cf. also Wilson, Psalms, 204.
51. Davidson, Vitality of Worship, 39; cf. also J. Clinton McCann, A Theological
Introduction to the Book of Psalms: The Psalms as Torah (Nashville: Abingdon,
1993), 6064, for a discussion of the intertextuality of Ps 8 and the book of Job.
52. McCann, Theological Introduction, 58; cf. also Mays, Psalm 8, 51112.
53. Clifford, Psalms, 69; cf. also Wilson, Psalms, 206.
110 Psalms and Hebrews

of the claim made by the psalmist favours the sense God.54 This is also
the position that Craigie takes, arguing that )J9= contains here an
allusion to Gods image in humankind, and the exercise of the God-given
dominion in creation. I think either translation is possible.55 It certainly
does not refer to gods in the sense of idols, because they are usually
considered weak and ultimately powerless.56 The point the psalmist
wishes to make is that humankind is not equal to God or to heavenly
beings, but they are just a little lower, endowed with divine qualities,
but not inherently divine in nature.57
The place of humankind in the world is portrayed in the psalm by
the use of imagery related to the coronation of a king. The word-pair
C59H 5H3< is found elsewhere in Ps 145:12, where it refers to Yahwehs
kingship. C59 occurs in Ps 104:1 in relation to creation, and is a quality
usually ascribed to kings (Pss 21:6; 45:45).58
Humankind is set up as a king over all the creatures. McCann points
out the signicance of the repetition of the word =< in vv. 2, 7, 8 and
10.59 Gods glory is revealed in all of creation, and he has placed all
under humankinds feet. Thus, the allness of Yahwehs majesty is
given by him to humankind. This means that Gods majesty as it is
revealed in all of the earth includes humanitys glory and position of
Yet, this dominion of humankind should never be seen as a self-serv-
ing use of power against other creatures; rather, it should be understood
as a claim that human dominance should be undertaken as a vocation
whose source and signicance lies in Yahwehs rulership. The reign of
humans over other creatures is thus a reign for the sake of the subjects.60
Structurally as well as theologically the psalm declares that humankinds
authority is bounded by Gods sovereignty and majesty. If we ignore the
central position of humankind in Gods creative order we can shun our
responsibility to rule and be faithful stewards of all things. But the
greater danger would be to focus on the centre and ignore the boundaries.
Human dominion should always be placed in the context of Gods

54. James Crenshaw, The Psalms: An Introduction (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,

2001), 63.
55. Craigie, Psalms, 108.
56. Tate, Psalm 8, 355.
57. Ibid.
58. Ibid.
59. McCann, Theological Introduction, 58.
60. Mays, Psalm 8, 518.
61. McCann, Theological Introduction, 59.
MAR The Messianic Interpretation of Psalm 8:46. Part I 111

The privileged position of humankind as portrayed in this psalm

should never be understood as the glorication of humankind. The psalm
speaks of delegated authority and delegated glory, as vv. 67 make clear.
Here we nd four verbs with God as the subject (H9CDIEH, H9C E,
H9=J>E, 9E). Humankinds signicance can never be seen in isolation
from Gods majesty and glory. It is in humankinds reection of Gods
glory that they nd their signicance. Kraus puts it beautifully:
The origin of human life and the form of its meaning are given in rela-
tionship with God Only in this face-to-face relationship does the glory
of Gods world shine into the depths where mankind stands, and only thus
does the elohim nature of mankind nd tangible expression and only
thus do splendour and beauty, like a royal crown, adorn and honour
mankind. By Yahwehs decision and ordinance, humans, though miserable
and vulnerable, have come to belong to Gods world. Just as the name of
Yahweh is manifest upon the earth, and Gods majesty is reected in the
creation of the heavens, so now from mankind, as beings incorporated into
the elohim world, the reection of Gods majesty shines forth.62

God has appointed humankind to a position of rulership. This ruler-

ship involves taking care of that which God has made; we are indeed
accountable to God for what we have done to the earth. When human-
kinds rulership becomes the focus and it is no longer bounded within the
context of Yahwehs sovereign power, then dominion can and will result
in disaster. The rape and pillage of the earth and its resources, the very
real threat to so many species of wildlife, and the pollution of the
atmosphere stand in shrill dissonance to this trust, accusing humankind
of disobedience to the mandate of care, of rulership that God has
delegated to us. In the words of McCann,
If the centrality of human dominion does not contribute to the majesty of
God in all the earth, then God-given dominion has been replaced by
human autonomy. The result is death and destructionfor the earth, for
us, for future generations.63

Human greed accompanied by the relentless exploitation of the creation

must be replaced by a new sense of stewardship. This stewardship will
only be possible when we accept the authority of God over us, and when
we understand that it is in our reection of his majesty and glory that we
can come to the right understanding of who and what we really are; only
then can we full our God-ordained position as the apex of his creation.64

62. Kraus, Theology, 149.

63. McCann, Theological Introduction, 59.
64. Davidson, Vitality of Worship, 40; cf. also Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty, Psalm
8, Int 59 (2005): 39294.
112 Psalms and Hebrews

McCann is therefore correct when he observes that the praise of God

is the rst step in addressing the environmental crisis.65 When we
worship God we are reminded that humanity is not free to do whatever
science and technology enables us to do. Worship insists on God being
God and human being human. Worship of God demands that we recog-
nize that our identity and destiny should not and cannot be understood
apart from the sovereign majesty of Yahweh.
God has not withdrawn the commission to have dominion over the
world. He created humankind in his image to be his representatives on
earth (cf. Gen 1:28; 2:15). In the words of Goldingay,
The fullment of this sovereignty does not have to wait for the coming of
a messiah. Psalm 8 does not speak ideally of a world that could not become
a reality in the psalmists day. It is a rejoicing in the nature of human
experience now and it implies an accepting of a human vocation for now.66

Summary and Conclusion

In this study Ps 8 was analyzed in its Old Testament context. This setting
indicated that humankind nds its glory in the glory and the majesty of
Yahweh. The inclusio (vv. 2a and 10) has shown that we cannot speak
about humankind without speaking about God rst. To ask What is
man? we rst have to ask Who is God? Psalm 8 pictures humankind
as the apex of Gods creation. In the midst of the glorious revelation of
Gods majesty in his creative work, the psalmist celebrates the superior
position of humankind.
Psalm 8, however, does not proclaim the glory of humankind in
isolation from the glory of God. The authority of humankind over all the
works of creation, all the animals, birds and creatures of the sea, should
always be understood as delegated authority. God appoints humankind to
rule over the creation that he fashioned with his ngers. Therefore,
humankind has the obligation not to exploit creation for its own selsh
purposes, but to care for creation as faithful stewards under Gods rule.
The second part of this study (by Chris L. De Wet) will pay attention
to the citation of Ps 8:46 in Heb 2:69. The author of Hebrews, writing
in a different context would interpret the Old Testament text messiani-
cally, inuenced by the events surrounding the person of Jesus Christ.
The author of Hebrews adapts the text to suit his own purpose, which
makes the messianic interpretation possible.

65. McCann, Theological Introduction, 59.

66. Goldingay, Theology, 113.
Chris L. De Wet

It has been demonstrated in the contribution by Leonard P. Mar that the
Old Testament context of Ps 8 exclaims the glory of humankind as the
crown of Gods creation. Literally centuries later, the psalm would be
read by the author of Hebrews, who is faced with the grave circum-
stances of an imperfect reality a number of years after the events
surrounding the work and person of Jesus Christ. This contribution
intends to investigate particularly the Messianic interpretation of Ps 8:4
6 in Heb 2:69. First, a textual analysis of the citation in Hebrews will be
attempted, focussing on the structural and semantic characteristics of the
text in question. Second, the motif of Jesus as the Messiah in Heb 2:69
will be extrapolated from the theological data in the textattention will
be given to the theomorphic and anthropomorphic attributes of the
Messiah. Finally, some concluding remarks will be made.

The Messianic Interpretation of Psalm 8:46 in Hebrews 2:69

In the Epistle to the Hebrews (or sermon to the Hebrews1), the
author applies Ps 8, along with numerous other psalms, to Jesus. As the
Messiah, he is the fullment of Scripture. This interpretation would seem
unacceptable by modern standards of exegesis, but such judgment would
be unfair and anachronistic. His exegesis must be judged by the standards
of his own cultural milieu.2 Thus, in order to examine the messianic

1. David A. DeSilva, Honour, Patronage, Kinship & Purity: Unlocking New

Testament Culture (Illinois: IVP Academic, 2000), 308.
2. Natalio F. Marcos, The Septuagint in Context: Introduction to the Greek Ver-
sions of the Bible (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 328, states that the author of Hebrews
modied the text to suit his own purpose.
114 Psalms and Hebrews

interpretation of this psalm in the text of Hebrews, one rst needs to

view the text in question and, second, offer an elaboration of the specic
reference to Jesus, examining the theomorphic and anthropomorphic
attributes of the Messiah.

Textual Comments
The author of Hebrews cites Ps 8:57 (LXX), which is one of several
quotations in the rst section of Hebrewsalso described as the Exor-
dium (Heb 1:12:18) of the Epistle.3 In the Exordium, the author warns
the recipients that Christ is the nal word of God, greater (EJBGPSX-
UFSPO) than the angels. Thus, disobedience to Christ, resulting in drift-
ing away (QBSBSVX_NFO), has grave consequences. This Exordium4 thus
gives authority to the writing; the discourse concerns this ultimate
revelation of God, and in turn, also adds authority to the author. The
numerous Old Testament quotations also serve to establish authority in
the Exordium.
The author of Hebrews uses the LXX and not the MT as the basis for
his quotation from Ps 8. The introductory formula for this quotation
(EJFNBSUVSBUP EF QPV UJK MFHXO, Heb 2:6a) needs to be examined.5
Ellingworth mentions the distinctiveness of the authors choice of
EJBNBSUVSPNBJ rather than the usual NBSUVSFX, which is used in most of
the introductory formulae.6 This word, which occurs frequently in the
LXX, usually has a nuance of warning, especially linked with QBSB-
LBMFX, as Ellingworth states. It would make sense in the light of the
warning that surfaces in vv. 14. This also supports the notion that Heb

3. Cf. David Wallace, The Use of Psalms in the Shaping of a Text: Psalm 2:7
and Psalm 110:1 in Hebrews 1, ResQ 45 (2003): 4150 (44).
4. David A. DeSilva, Perseverance in Gratitude: A Socio-Rhetorical Com-
mentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 4549, is
correct in stating that Hebrews does not t in with the classical rhetorical pattern;
however, the use of classical discourse appellations aid in the understanding of the
rhetorical function of the text. For a structural and discourse analysis of Hebrews,
see Frederick F. Bruce, The Structure and Argument of Hebrews, SwJT 28 (1985):
612, and Albert S. J. Vanhoye, Discussions sur la Structure de lptre Hbreux,
Bib 55 (1974): 36162.
5. The introductory formulae of Hebrews can also be compared with the intro-
ductory formulae of the Qumran Pesharim. For some interesting observations
regarding differences and similarities, cf. Moshe J. Bernstein, Introductory
Formulas for Citation and Re-Citation in the Qumran Pesharim: Observations on the
Pesher Technique, DSD 1 (1994): 3070.
6. Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek
Text (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 147.
DE WET The Messianic Interpretation of Psalm 8:46. Part II 115

1:12:18 forms an Exordium. A sense of solemnity is created.7 The

wording QPV UJK is a somewhat strange occurrence, as some commenta-
tors have noted.8 Leschert shows that it is probably not God who is
speaking in this instance, as with other citations of Scripture in Hebrews,
though labelling it as a Philonism does not add much signicance to the
interpretation.9 He also notes that, to the author of Hebrews, the human
author is relatively unimportant in contrast to God, who is the primary
author of Scripture. In my opinion, the use of this vague statement may
have a rhetorical effect. The use of Ps 8 in other New Testament writings
(Matt 21:16; 1 Cor 15:27, and the possible allusions in Eph 1:22; Phil
3:21; 1 Pet 3:22) indicates the popularity of this psalm in early Chris-
tianity.10 The vagueness of the phrase could almost be sarcastic, as the
readers probably knew exactly where the psalm occurs and who wrote it.
It may have been used so frequently that explanation of author and place
seemed unnecessary.11 Ellingworth explains the alternate reading of UJ
for UJK in the LXX and rightly refutes statements by some that it is a
deliberate alteration to refer to Christ.12 The Hebraism MFHXO typically
introduces a quotation.
The quotation in Hebrews of LXX Ps 8 has a number of interesting
features that warrant some discussion. First, it must be stated that there is
some ambiguity regarding the contents of the quotation. Some manu-
scripts ( A C D* P : 33 1739) include the full quotation by inserting
L al) omit the line. Metzger prefers the shorter reading due to the
probability of scribal enlargement of the quotation.13 The logic of the
argument in Heb 2:69 also supports a shorter reading. In a previous
quotation, that of Ps 102:26 in Heb 1:10, it is stated that the heavens and
the earth are the works of your hands. It would seem illogical to state

7. Harold W. Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Hermeneia; Philadelphia:

Fortress, 1989), 70.
8. Cf. Ellingworth, Hebrews, 14748; Dale F. Leschert, Hermeneutical Founda-
tions of Hebrews: A Study in the Validity of the Epistles Interpretation of Some
Core Citations from the Psalms (NABPR Dissertation Series 10; Lewiston: Edwin
Mellen, 1994), 99, who notes its occurrence in Philos Ebr. 61 and also correctly
states that this observation does not really aid in the interpretation.
9. Leschert, Hermeneutical Foundations, 99.
10. Cf. Brevard S. Childs, Psalm 8 in the Context of the Christian Canon, Int
23 (1969): 2031; Leschert, Hermeneutical Foundations, 9091.
11. So argues John Chrysostom (Homily 4 on Hebrews [PG 63:3640]).
12. Ellingworth, Hebrews, 148.
13. Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament
(Stuttgart: United Bible Societies, 1975), 66364.
116 Psalms and Hebrews

now that Jesus, to whom this quote refers, is ruler of the works of Gods
hands, which would in fact be his own hands.14 Second, the authors
understanding of VJPK BORSXQPV needs to be discussed. This, however,
will be postponed until the discussion of Jesus as the Messiah in another
section of this study since it relates more to theological than text-critical
issues. Third, the LXX has translated )J9:= G with BHHFMPVK, thus corre-
sponding with the Targum.15 It obviously ts in with the authors line of
argumentation. The question of how to translate )J9:= G will not be dis-
cussed here.16 The issue at stake here, is rather that the author of Hebrews
understood it to mean angels, especially due to the use of the subject in
the former and latter parts of the discourse. Fourth, there is a slight but
signicant difference between the MT and the LXX regarding the meaning
of the phrase CSBYV UJ. The meaning of the phrase in the LXX would
have a temporal connotation,17 thus translated as a little while. The
phrase a little lower, as stated in the MT, rather refers to degree or posi-
tion within the cosmos. It is convenient for the author of Hebrews to use
the LXX, as it subscribes more to the idea of Christs temporal and tem-
porary humiliation in the form of his incarnation. But it will be shown
that even if the text would apply to humankind in general, it would still
be a tting nuance. Humanity is lower than the angels only for a little
while, but later, in an eschatological hope, humanity will rise above the
angels and then be crowned with glory and honour (Heb 2:7).
After the quotation has been given, a typical midrashic interpretation
follows in Heb 2:8b9. This genre of interpretation involves the citation
of a text with an exposition of key words and phrases. The structure of
the midrash appears below, with the Old Testament citation underlined:
Introductory Formula
Old Testament Citation

14. Cf. DeSilva, Hebrews, 109; Ellingworth, Hebrews, 14849; Leschert,

Hermeneutical Foundations, 1024.
15. Bernard H. J. Combrink, Some Thoughts on the Old Testament Citations in
the Epistle to the Hebrews, Neot 5 (1971): 2236.
16. For possible translations of )J9= G, see Leschert, Hermeneutical Foundations,
8688, 103; Childs, Psalm 8, 2426.
17. Cf. Simon J. Kistemaker, The Psalm Citations in the Epistle to the Hebrews
(Amsterdam: Soest, 1961), 1056; Childs, Psalm 8, 25.
DE WET The Messianic Interpretation of Psalm 8:46. Part II 117


The structural analysis offered here aims to highlight the form and nature
of both the quotation and the following midrashic exposition.18 The word
MFHXO introduces the quotation. The Old Testament quotation is given
and the start of the midrash is signalled by the marker HBS. The exposi-
tion starts with a two-fold Demonstrandum, which is the main point the
author is attempting to make with this midrash: (a) in the subjection of
all things [positive description] (b) nothing has been left out that is not
subjected to him [negative description]. At this stage, the readers may
think that the author is still referring to humankind in general if they did
not nd clues in the previous verses. It is interesting to note that the
author does not even bother with an explanation of the rst part of the
quotation as found in Heb 2:6. Whether it is Jesus or humankind that the
reader is thinking of, the problem of the Demonstrandum remains: all
things are not yet subjected to humanity or to Jesus.19 The author
acknowledges this problem in colon 10 and then explains it from colon
11 to 17we do not see all things subjected now (OV_O), which is read
temporally.20 The key to this problem lies in the occurrence of the phrase
CSBYV UJ, which gives the answer to why we only see Jesus and not the
subsequent subjection of all things. A beautiful chiastic construction is
present in colons 1114, in which the name and act of Jesus is framed.21

18. For the structure and comments of previous citations, cf. John P. Meier,
Symmetry and Theology in the Old Testament Citations of Hebrews 1:514, Bib
66 (1985): 50433; Edward R. Dalglish, The Use of the Book of Psalms in the New
Testament, SwJT 27 (1984): 2539.
19. Cf. Leschert, Hermeneutical Foundations, 105.
20. Cf. Kistemaker, Citations, 104.
21. Attridge, Hebrews, 66, notes that the use of the name of Jesus in Hebrews is
signicant and in this chiasm again the skilful structuring of the text around the
name of Jesus is seen.
118 Psalms and Hebrews

A further explanation is given in Heb 2:10, stating that he is still

bringing many children (QPMMPVK VJPVK, literally many sons) to glory
by means of his suffering22 (QBRINBUXO 23 The repetition of the words in
2:10 from those in the exposition is clear. It could then be argued that
2:10 is either part of the midrash or an extended exposition. The use of
the word sons also refers to the son of man in the quotation, which
indicates that a double meaning of the psalm quotation is possible.24 We
will come back to this later in the study. The crowning with honour and
glory relates, then, to the suffering and death of Christ on the cross.

Jesus as the Messiah in Hebrews 2:69

It has been seen in his midrash that the author of Hebrews is specically
referring to Jesus as the Messiah. He takes a typical creation hymn and
gives it a Messianic motif. If one wants to understand Jesus as the
Messiah in 2:69, one needs to examine the way the author describes
Jesus. There are two attributes the author of Hebrews gives to Jesus the
Messiah. First, he describes a number of theomorphic attributes of Jesus,
especially found in 1:114. Although this part of the text is not part of
the designated verses of this study, it needs to be examined thoroughly if
one wants to understand the claims made about Jesus in 2:69. Second,
in 2:69, the anthropomorphic attributes of Jesus as the Messiah are
discussed. These attributes will now be examined in detail.

The Theomorphic Attributes of the Messiah

The author of Hebrews starts by describing the theomorphic attributes of
the Messiah. Theomorphic attributes refer to those attributes of the
Messiah which are of divine nature or described in divine terms. He uses
the title Son (VJPK) for the Messiah. This title is basically used through-
out the entire Exordium up to 3:1, in which Jesus status as high priest is
elaborated upon, and even in this section and onwards, the title of Son
is still used (3:6; 4:14; 5:8 etc).25 Thus, the very rst theomorphic attrib-
ute of Jesus is that he is the Son of God. The socio-rhetorical analysis of
DeSilva provides many useful insights for understanding this term, and
he elaborates: The title Son carries a message that Jesus honour and
worth derives from the honour of the father, God himself.26 He states

22. Ibid., 7375.

23. Cf. Steve Moyise, The Old Testament in the New (Continuum: London,
2001), 101; Steve Moyise and Maarten J. J. Menken, The Psalms in the New Testa-
ment (London: Continuum, 2004); Leschert, Hermeneutical Foundations, 1056.
24. Leschert, Hermeneutical Foundations, 1069.
25. Wallace, Psalms, 4445.
26. Cf. DeSilva, Hebrews, 8587.
DE WET The Messianic Interpretation of Psalm 8:46. Part II 119

further that honour in the Greco-Roman world was greatly inuenced by

ones parentage. If the father has a favourable reputation, the son is also
seen in that light, unless time proves it different.27 A son was also a very
precious possession to the father. Daughters, as Malina describes,28 were
seen in a different light. A father was very vulnerable to shame through
daughters, and it was preferable to marry them off as soon as possible,
usually after menstruation has started. But Jesus, being the Son of God,
carries the honour of God himself.
As the Son, he is also the nal revelation of God (Heb 1:1) and this
implies that he is the fullment of Scripture.29 As God spoke to the
fathers in the old days through the prophets, we are spoken to now in the
last days through his Son. The Son carries the honour of God, but he is
also a representative of God in his word and revelation (Heb 1:1).
The Son is also the heir of everything God has created. The author of
Hebrews is here already setting the stage for the argument of subjection
of all things to the Son. Not only is he the heir of all things, but all things
have been created through him. Leschert indicates that the use of the
phrase UB= QBOUB excludes any possibility of exception.30
Hebrews 1:3 again illustrates the close relationship in honour between
the Father and the Son, masterfully in Christological hymns. The Son is
described as the radiance or reection (BQBVHBTNB)31 of the glory
(EPDB) of the Father and the representation or characteristic trait
(YBSBLUIS) of his very being (VQPTUBTFXK).32 Furthermore, the Son also
bears all things (GFSXO UF UB= QBOUB), which implies that not only is
the Son the subject through which all of the universe is created, but the
entire universe is sustained through the Son. It takes place through the
word of his power (UX]_ SINBUJ UI_K EVOBNFXK BVUPV_). Attridge also
afrms a possible Philonic link, as the Logos of Philo of Alexandria is
also the instrument by which God sustains creation.33 He is also puri-
cation for our sins (LBRBSJTNPO UX_O BNBSUJX_O). These four attributes

27. Cf. David A. DeSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts,

Methods & Ministry Formation (Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 13739, and
New Testament Culture, 200202.
28. Bruce J. Malina, The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural
Anthropology (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 2001), 153.
29. Cf. DeSilva, Hebrews, 8485.
30. Leschert, Hermeneutical Foundations, 106.
31. This word is also used by Philo to illustrate the relationship of the Logos to
God; cf. Attridge, Hebrews, 44.
32. According to Attridge (ibid, 4445), this word is derived from the Stoic
philosophy referring to the fundamental reality of God.
33. Ibid., 45.
120 Psalms and Hebrews

are pointers to the immense power of the Son, which is now nally
stated, in that the Son has been seated on the right hand of the Majesty
on high. Christ is then the one who sits the nearest to God in the heav-
enly household. This would also play an important role later in the
Epistle when Christ is described as the Mediator or Broker. DeSilva
points out that in the imperial Roman household, the sons of the emperor
were usually sought as mediators (or brokers) to the emperors bene-
cence.34 He also notes that glory was usually seen as the visible mani-
festation of ones honour. Against this backdrop, Jesus is then the visible
manifestation of Gods glory.35 This aspect is also seen in the quotation
from Ps 8:57, where the term glory again appears.
The next section in Heb 2 is the logical result of the previous state-
ments. If the Son is then at the right hand of God, there cannot be any-
thing that he is subjected to, not even the angels. He is more superior to
the angels because he has inherited a greater name than all of them.36 The
introduction of the subject of angels is quite interesting. Angels became
quite popular in the inter-testamental period. They were seen as the
mediators between God and humankind. They mediated the Torah
between God and Israel.37 It would imply, then, that the role of Jesus, as a
new Mediator, and his power, supersedes the role and power of the
angels. The same notion is found in 1 Clem 36:16, which could have
been inuenced directly by Hebrews.38 In later Christian literature, in
Similitude 5 and 6 of The Shepherd of Hermas, we nd that the angels
are commanded by the Son and also serve the Son. This is also seen in
Athenagorass Apology 10.39 Attridge gives sufcient attention to the
signicance of the use of the adjective LSFJUUXO in Hebrews, which

34. DeSilva, Hebrews, 88.

35. David A. DeSilva, Despising Shame: Honour Discourse and Community
Maintenance in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995), 21315.
36. The name given to a person played a very important role in the estimation of
that individuals honour in the ancient Mediterranean. The title/name given to Jesus,
Son of God, implies the highest possible status of kinship as the angels are not
called by this name.
37. DeSilva, Hebrews, 9394. This notion of mediation of angels is described in
many Old Testament texts, Old Testament apocryphal texts and Dead Sea Scrolls.
38. John C. ONeill, Who is Comparable to Me in My Glory: 4Q491 Frag-
ment 11 (4Q191C) and the New Testament, NovT 42 (2000): 3335, believes that
Hebrews may not have inuenced 1 Clement. He also draws comparison to the
reference in Hebrews to that of the Incomparable One in certain Qumran texts.
39. In some later patristic writings, the hierarchy of the heavenly beings is dis-
cussed in some length; cf. Dionysius (Denis) the (Pseudo-)Areopagite, On the
Celestial Hierarchy; and in medieval literature, Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theo-
logica 1.108.
DE WET The Messianic Interpretation of Psalm 8:46. Part II 121

should be noted as a distinct stylistic feature from Greek rhetoric.40 The

name that Christ bears is the title Son, which the angels could not
possibly bear. The signicance of this name should not be underesti-
mated, as Attridge also points out.41 In Philo, the Logos also has the name
of Son and in the Enoch-Metatron tradition, in 3 En 12:15, Metatron is
given the name of the lesser YHWH after he is clothed in glory and
splendour. Thus, for the author of Hebrews, the appellation Son as a
name above the names of the angels is a very high status-indicator. The
name of Christ as Son cannot be underestimated as a theomorphic attri-
bute, which is the key premise in the argument of the author of Hebrews
regarding angels and the position of Christ and humanity. As rstborn
(QSXUPUPLPO) of God, the angels must worship him.42 Hebrews 1:514
then forms an implicit Refutatio against any who would disagree with the
author that Christ is more superior to the angels. A number of proof-texts
and allusions to certain texts are given, including 2 Sam 7:14; Pss 2:7;
45:78; 102:26; 103:20; 104:4; 110:1.43 The occurrence of Ps 110 with
Ps 8 is not uncommon in the New Testament. This will be elaborated on
in the next section of this study.
In conclusion, the status of Jesus as Son of God is the primary theo-
morphic attribute. From this attribute stems others, such as the roles of
heir and sustainer of the universe, as nal revelation, reection and
representation of the glory of the Father, powerful Ruler and Mediator at
the right hand of God, and nally, the One whom the angels will worship
(Heb 1:6). He bears the glory of God, the manifestation of the Fathers
honour, as key representative of the divine and heavenly household.

The Anthropomorphic Attributes of the Messiah

The Messiah does not only have theomorphic attributes; rather, according
to the author of Hebrews, he also has anthropomorphic attributes. These

40. Attridge, Hebrews, 47.

41. Ibid., 48; cf. also Andrei A. Orlov, Titles of Enoch-Metatron in 2 Enoch,
JSP 18 (1998): 7186; Daniel Abrams, Boundaries of Divine Ontology: The
Inclusion and Exclusion of Metatron in the Godhead, HTR 87 (1994): 291321.
42. This term is also traditionally used for the Davidic king in Ps 88:28, though
Stephen Motyer, The Psalm Quotations of Hebrews 1: A Hermeneutic-Free
Zone?, TynBul 50 (1999): 322 (16), points to Peters statement in Acts 2:3234
that the psalmist is actually David and he is addressing YHWH about another Lord
at his right hand. Others make a connection between Adam and Jesus as the
QSXUPUPLPO; see, for example, Frederick F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews
(NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 1617.
43. Cf. Karen H. Jobes, Rhetorical Achievement in the Hebrews 10 Misquote
of Psalm 40, Bib 72 (1991): 38796.
122 Psalms and Hebrews

attributes are of a human nature or described in human terms. The

citation of Ps 8 is especially used to describe the anthropomorphic attri-
butes of the Messiah. As was mentioned, the author of Hebrews does not
provide a midrashic exposition on Ps 8:5. He does not answer the ques-
tion What is a human? The understanding of the phrase son of man
(VJPK BORSXQPV) by the author of Hebrews may warrant some discussion.
The title Son of Man immediately invokes a messianic connotation.
The occurrence of the title in Dan 7:13 does appear to be a messianic
title, along with allusions in Ps 110:1.44 Psalm 110 is also used in Heb 1:3
with Ps 8. Yet this is not enough evidence alone to assume that the
author of Hebrews interprets it as a messianic title. Another fact that sup-
ports this statement is that the author of Hebrews does not use the title in
his midrashic exposition. Childs believes that the title is a reference to
Christ in Hebrews, as Christ embodies everything man (humankind)
is supposed to be.45 Such an interpretation, at this juncture, is a herme-
neutical leap we are not yet ready to take. If the author of Hebrews did
interpret it messianically, he would have utilized it more in the following
midrash. On the other hand, the author of Hebrews also does not refer to
humankind in general in his midrash. Although he does not use the title
Son of Man, he makes the quote refer specically to Jesus.46 The fact
that the midrash provided does not give an explanation leaves us only to
speculate. One must, however, note that the author of Hebrews was
possibly aware of the original interpretation of Ps 8, and Jesus incarna-
tion, suffering and death would then also include him in the appellations
BORSXQPK and VJP=K BORSXQPV, especially due to his position to the
angels. The exalted Son is certainly not lower than the angels. The occur-
rence of the LXX reading of CSBYV UJ may also allude to the temporary
incarnation or becoming human of Jesus.
The author of Hebrews does, however, state that the psalm is referring
to Jesus, though not to Jesus as the messianic Son of Man, but rather to
Jesus as the son of man or son of a human beingwho was made
less than the angels only for a little while. The author of Hebrews makes
Jesus the representative human being. Why does the author do this? This
is because Jesus, unlike the rest of humankind, has already been
crowned with glory and honour through his suffering and death.47 The
central issue of the anthropomorphic attributes of the Messiah is sub-
jection (Heb 2:8b). This is demonstrated, rhetorically, by the repetition

44. Cf. Leschert, Hermeneutical Foundations, 100101.

45. Childs, Psalm 8, 30.
46. These are relevant points made by Ellingworth, Hebrews, 15051.
47. Cf. Moyise, Old Testament, 101; Attridge, Psalms, 203.
DE WET The Messianic Interpretation of Psalm 8:46. Part II 123

of several forms of VQPUBTTX, namely, VQFUBDFO, VQFUBDBK, VQPUBDBJ,

BOVQPUBLUPO, VQPUFUBHNFOB and even VQPLBUX. It was illustrated that
the Demonstrandum of the midrash concerned subjection. The author
even gives a positive and negative description thereof (Heb 2:8b), again
for emphasis. The original interpretation of Ps 8 depicts humankind in its
full glory. However, to the author of Hebrews, this creates a problem,
appropriately states:
Although we do not yet see the psalms declaration as reality, the author
will go on to tell the hearers what they can see: but we see the one who
was made lower than the angels for a little while, namely Jesus, crowned
with glory and honour in order that he might taste death on behalf of all by
the favour of God (2:9). This verse re-contextualizes the psalm in the
interpretative context of Jesus career, and the choice of the LXX over the
MT signicantly opens up this possibility.48

The author of Hebrews needs to nd sense in an apparent tension: on the

one hand, in the promise of Scripture in Ps 8 and Ps 110 it is said that
humankind will rule over all (UB= QBOUB) the universe in its entirety;49 yet,
on the other hand, the reality is of a broken world, one epitomized in the
suffering and death of Christ.50 But this also becomes the crux of the
search for sense, as is seen in the presence of the chiasm. The name and
actions of Jesus are surrounded by the citations. At rst, Jesus was made
less than the angels, but is now crowned with glory and honour. This
notion is also supported by the authors use of perfect participles
(IMBUUXNFOPO and FTUFGBOXNFOPO)51 rather than the previous aorists. The
author of Hebrews and his audience, as he assumes, are still subjected to
a broken existence. The use of the rst person plural verbs of observa-
tion, such as CMFQPNFO and PSX_NFO, indicate two things: (1) that the
author acknowledges that he also experiences the tension his audience
probably experiences when coming across Ps 8, hence the use of the rst
person, and (2) that he is dealing with the realities they are faced with
every day, as with the use of the verbs of observation. Yet their hope is
*ITPV_O, who has tasted (HFVTIUBJ) death for every person by the grace of

48. DeSilva, Hebrews, 109; cf. Childs, Psalm 8, 30.

49. Cf. Paul Ellingworth and Eugene A. Nida, A Translators Handbook to the
Epistle to the Hebrews (Stuttgart: United Bible Societies, 1983), 36.
50. For a detailed discussion of the possible referents of the pronoun BVUX]_ in the
Midrashic interpretation, see Leschert, Hermeneutical Foundations, 106.
51. For a thorough discussion of the grammar, see Ellingworth, Hebrews, 150.
124 Psalms and Hebrews

There are a number of important theological elements in the reasoning

of the author of Hebrews. Jesus, the Son of God, was also the son of a
human being, and experienced rst hand the realities of living in a
broken world which is not subject to him. This sense of experience is
strengthened by the use of the word HFVTIUBJ. The most horric reality
of a broken world is the suffering of death (UP= QBRINB UPV_ RBOBUPV). The
word QBRINB, in the singular form, could refer explicitly to the event of
the crucixion. In its plural form, it usually refers to human suffering in
general, and in Heb 2:10 the plural may refer to the many sufferings of
Jesusthe result of incarnation. It may, however, only be ambiguity on
the part of the author.52 The point is that suffering is generally a human
experience, reserved for the sons of human beings. The hope in the
midst of this crucible of human suffering is embodied in the phrase EPDI]
RBOBUPV YBSJUJ RFPV VQF=S QBOUPK By the grace of God, every person
will share in this realization of the original meaning of Ps 8, according to
the author of Hebrews. The phrase YBSJUJ RFPV_ indicates that the
crowning of honour and glory is now also transmitted to human beings
(Heb 2:10).53 The use of VQF=S QBOUPK is also signicant, indicating that it
is for every individual person. This skillful choice of words in Hebrews
makes the argument personal, and thus even more effective.
Thus, DeSilvas statement that the midrash holds a possible double
meaning, in my opinion, is conrmed.54 Leschert also concludes:
the writer of Hebrews does not remove mankind from the picture, by
applying the Psalm to Christ. He views Jesus, not as an isolated individ-
ual, but as the representative of mankind, through whom humanity will
also be exalted (cf. v 10). Rather than detracting from the glory of man in
Psalm 8 by his Christological interpretation, the writer elevates man to an
even higher plane.55

To conclude, the author of Hebrews speaks of Jesus overwhelmingly in

anthropomorphic terms in this midrash. Primarily, Jesus is the repre-
sentative of humankind, who has experienced the greatest reality of
humanity, namely, the suffering of death. Yet the bridge between the
anthropomorphic and theomorphic attributes, according to Hebrews, is
the crowning of glory of the son of a human being, who is also the Son
of God. As the honour of God, visibly manifested in glory, is transmitted

52. Cf. Attridge, Hebrews, 73.

53. For a full discussion of the term TUFGBOPX, see Ellingworth, Hebrews, 155.
54. DeSilva, Hebrews, 11011.
55. Leschert, Hermeneutical Foundations, 115.
DE WET The Messianic Interpretation of Psalm 8:46. Part II 125

to the Son, the reverse also takes place, namely, that the honour of the
son of humanity, Jesus, will be visibly manifested in an eschatological
hope of the crowing of humankind with honour and glory.56

The author of Hebrews interprets Ps 8 messianically despite its typical
nature as a creation hymn. The citation given in the text also excludes
certain words and phrases, and new meaning is given to certain words.
This makes the messianic interpretation possible. Jesus, as the Son of
God, was made lower than the angels for a little while, but through his
death and suffering has been crowned with honour and glory. Yet Jesus
is also representative of all humankind, which means that through him
humankind will also be crowned with honour and glory. This is closer to
the psalms original meaning, which understands the glory of humankind
in relation to the glory of God. Jesus as the Theanthropos, according to
the author of Hebrews, is the representation of Gods honour and glory,
which is then also transmitted, in an eschatological hope, to humankind.
It is quite possible that the author of Hebrews did know the original
meaning of the psalm, but in his view and according to the principles of
interpretation of his own time, this meaning could only be realized in the
events of Jesus death and suffering.

56. Cf. Geoffrey W. Grogan, Christ and His People: An Exegetical and
Theological Study of Hebrews 2:518, VE 6 (1969): 5471.
Martin Karrer

1. Introduction
Some years ago Gert Steyn (2001) opened his contribution to the Jesus
sayings in Hebrews with the following observation: In Hebrewsone
encounters a fascinating perspective on the human Jesus, the Jesus who
takes the form of blood and esh (2:14).1 In his study, Steyn entered the
(sometimes lively) discussion of the image of the historical Jesus in
Hebrews2 and drew special attention to Heb 2:1213 and Heb 10, places
where Jesus speech is recorded. The second of these texts is the subject
of the present discussion.
The NRSV translates the central passage, 10:57, as follows:
when Christ came into the world, he said, Sacrices and offerings you
have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings
and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, See, God, I
have come [or more precisely: I come] to do your will, O God (in the
scroll of the book it is written of me).

Jesus talks (MFHFJ) in 10:5a. Therefore we explicitly nd a Jesus

logion. However, neither this word, nor the words in 2:1213, left any
traces in any known collection of Jesus logia elsewhere.3 Evidently, the
Jesus of Hebrews ignores the utterances of the Jesus delivered in the

1. Gert J. Steyn, Jesus-Sayings in Hebrews, ETL 77 (2001): 43340 (433).

2. Erich Grsser, Der historische Jesus im Hebrerbrief (1965), in Aufbruch
und Verheiung. Gesammelte Aufstze zum Hebrerbrief (BZNW 65; Berlin: de
Gruyter, 1992), 100128; Jrgen Roloff, Der mitleidende Hohepriester (1975), in
Exegetische Verantwortung in der Kirche (ed. M. Karrer; Gttingen: Vandenhoeck
& Ruprecht, 1990), 4461; Nikolaus Walter, Christologie und irdischer Jesus im
Hebrerbrief (1982), in Praeparatio Evangelica: Studien zur Umwelt, Exegese und
Hermeneutik des Neuen Testaments (ed. W. Kraus; WUNT 98; Tbingen: Mohr
Siebeck, 1997), 15168, and others.
3. Cf. Friedrich Schrger, Der Verfasser des Hebrerbriefes als Schriftausleger,
(BU 4; Regensburg: Pustet, 1968), 88.
KARRER LXX Psalm 39:710 in Hebrews 10:57 127

Synoptic, Johannine and other Jesus traditions. Instead, he speaks in

words of Israels scripture. In Heb 2:1213 he cites LXX Ps 21:23 besides
other texts, in Heb 10:57 he cites LXX Ps 39:79 (according to the
numeration of the MT, Ps 40:68).
This usage of scripture in Jesus sayings is one of the peculiar features
of Hebrews. It is worthwhile considering for two reasons. First, Jesus
cites a psalmwhich is of Christological importance. We will begin
there. Secondly, the quoted text of LXX Ps 39:710 is signicant for the
textual history of the LXX. I will dedicate the second part of my study to
that theme, trying to make a small contribution to LXX research. The last
part of this study will provide a short summary in the form of some
posed theses.

2. Jesus Speaks LXX Psalm 39:

The Perspective in Hebrews
a. The Place of Our Quotation in Hebrews
The readers of Hebrews are prepared to listen to this psalm since they
have been acquainted with extensive quotations from Israels scriptures
since ch. 1. From this chapter onwards, the author used Israels scriptures
and based his argument on quotations from them. It is well known that
he quoted more often and widely than any other early Christian author,
and this does not need to be discussed here.4

4. For the history of research, see Gnther Harder, Die Septuagintazitate des
Hebrerbriefs: Ein Beitrag zum Problem der Auslegung des AT, in Theologia
Viatorum (ed. M. Albertz; Munich: Kaiser, 1939), 3352; Peter Katz, The Quota-
tions from Deuteronomy in Hebrews, ZNW 49 (1958): 21323; Erko Ahlborn, Die
Septuaginta-Vorlage des Hebrerbriefes (Ph.D. diss., Georg-August-Universitt
Gttingen, 1967); Schrger, Schriftausleger; George D. Howard, Hebrews and the
Old Testament Quotations, NovT 10 (1968): 20816; Graham Hughes, Hebrews
and Hermeneutics: The Epistle to the Hebrews as a New Testament Example of
Biblical Interpretation (SNTSMS 36; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1979); John Cecil McCullough, The Old Testament Quotations in Hebrews, NTS
26 (1980): 36379; Otfried Hous, Biblische Theologie im Lichte des Hebrer-
briefes, in New Directions in Biblical Theology: Papers of the Aarhus Conference,
1619 September 1992 (ed. S. Pedersen; NovTSup 76; Leiden: Brill, 1994), 10825;
Hans Hbner, Biblische Theologie des Neuen Testaments III (Gttingen: Vanden-
hoeck & Ruprecht, 1995), 1563; Dale F. Leschert, Hermeneutical Foundations of
Hebrews: A Study in the Validity of the Epistles Interpretation of Some Core Cita-
tions from the Psalms, National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion
(NABPR.DS 10; Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 1995); Richard T. France, The Writer of
Hebrews as a Biblical Expositor, TynBul 47 (1996): 24576; James W. Thompson,
The Hermeneutics of the Epistle to the Hebrews, ResQ 38 (1996): 22937; Karen
128 Psalms and Hebrews

Likewise, the readers are prepared thematically. The author has led
them through more than nine chapters before reaching our quotation. He
has told them of the greatness of the word of God; that was the theme of
Heb 1:14:13, which grounds his extensive use of scripture. Thereafter
he has introduced his christologically essential point, namely, that Jesus
is to be understood as a priest who has given himself as an offering (Heb
4:149:28). No Aaronic priest could do so. Therefore, different from the
Aaronic priesthood (which is a priesthood in earthly history), Jesus
offering (RVTJB) marks the end and completion of time, the TVOUFMFJB
UX_O BJXOXOas is outlined in Heb 9:26, only a few verses before our
Consequently, the readers expect a prcis in ch. 10the offering of
Christ stands out against the Aaronic offeringsand a commentary, one
which deepens their understanding of that special moment. They will not
be disappointed, because in these verses Jesus elucidates his offering in
contrast to all the familiar offerings in Israel (gift offerings, slain offer-
ings, burnt offerings, sin offerings). The word of scripture, as the author
of Hebrews understands it, denies these offerings (QSPTGPSBJ, RVTJBJ,
PMPLBVUXNBUB, QFSJ= BNBSUJBK). Nevertheless, Jesus himself is an offer-
ing (QSPTGPSB, Heb 10:10).6 LXX Psalm 39 condenses the Christological
point of Hebrews.7

b. The Quotation and the Previous Word of Jesus, Hebrews 2:12f.

The readers are prepared to mingle the word of scripture and the word of
Jesus. This occurred in a similar way in Heb 2:12f. There, Jesus quoted
the scriptures of Israel (Psalms and the prophet Isaiah) for the rst time
to characterize his work. The readers heard: Jesus will announce the

H. Jobes and Moiss Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint (Grand Rapids: Baker Aca-
demic, 2000), 19599; Ulrich Rsen-Weinhold, Der Septuaginta-Psalter im Neuen
Testament: Eine textgeschichtliche Untersuchung (NeukirchenVluyn: Neukirchener
Verlag, 2004); Martin Karrer, The Epistle to the Hebrews and the Septuagint, in
Septuagint Research: Issues and Challenges in the Study of the Greek Jewish Scrip-
tures (ed. W. Kraus and G. Wooden; SBLSCS 53; Leiden: Brill, 2006), 33553.
5. That eschatological motif is prepared for in Heb 1:2.
6. Ulrich Wilckens, Theologie des Neuen Testaments I/3: Paulus und seine
Schler, Theologen aus dem Bereich judenchristlicher Heidenmission (Neukirchen
Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 2005), 325, points out correctly that the author of
Hebrews in that way transposes and modies cultic ideas but does not imagine an
end of cultic ideas on the whole.
7. One may discuss heavy tensions in the background (so Alexander J. M.
Wedderburn, Sawing off the Branches: Theologizing Dangerously Ad Hebraeos,
JTS 56 [2005]: 393414), and yet the line of the argument as a whole seems
consequential (see the commentaries).
KARRER LXX Psalm 39:710 in Hebrews 10:57 129

name of God and be of faithful obedience, surrounded by a holy com-

munityBHJB[PNFOPJ in 2:11 corresponds to FLLMITJB in 2:12.8
Hebrews 10 forms an inclusio9 to these motifs as Jesus again char-
acterizes his obedience (he realizes the will of God, 10:7/9). Moreover,
he now constitutes the holiness of the community; IHJBTNFOPJ FTNFO in
10:10 corresponds to BHJB[PNFOPJ in 2:11. Thus, ch. 10 sharpens the
point, sharpening at the soteriology, with IHJBTNFOPJ FTNFO emphasizing
the enduring reality. The effect of Jesus offering culminates in the
certitude of the community to be holy and clean to appear before God,
who is enthroned in his heavenly sanctuary (BHJPK LUM means clean as
well as holy; cf. 4:16).10
Perhaps the tie between the passages is even more solid. Michael
Theobald proposes to read the future in Heb 2:12f. (BQBHHFMX_, FTPNBJ)
in a strict sense. If we follow him, the author of Hebrews has found the
future tense in his quotations (LXX Ps 21:23, etc.), but has interpreted it.
He inferred that Jesus spoke the words of scripture as a self-charac-
terization when his entrance into the community was yet to come, while
it belonged to the future.11 Theobald concludes succinctly that Jesus
speaks of his pre-existence.
The peculiar idiom in 10:5 underlines that tendency: Jesus talks about,
coming into the world (FJTFSYPNFOPK FJK UP=O LPTNPO). The words
spoken by him initiate his way on earth; they are not part of the earthly
way itself.12 In addition, Lance Laughton noted that Jesus both times, in
chs. 2 and 10, speaks to God rather than humans.13 Again, that ts best

8. For more details, see Steyn, Jesus-Sayings, 43437; Michael Theobald,

Vom Text zum lebendigen Wort (Hebr 4,12), in Jesus Christus als die Mitte der
Schrift (ed. C. Landmesser; BZNW 86; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1997), 75190 (77377),
and Claus-P. Mrz, Herrenworte im Hebrerbrief, in Studien zum Hebrerbrief
(SBABNT 39; Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 2005), 97139 (99111).
9. Cf. Mrz, Herrenworte, 137.
10. Cf. Hans-Friedrich Weiss, Der Brief an die Hebrer (KEK 13; Gttingen:
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1991), 51011.
11. Theobald, Text, 775.
12. The FJTFSYPNFOPK FJK UP=O LPTNPO sounds Johannine but also can be interpre-
ted independently as equivalent to a Semitic expression which means to be born
(Erich Grsser, An die Hebrer II: Hebrer 7,110,18 [EKKNT 17/2; Neukirchen
Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag 1993], 214f., after Bill. II 358). Efforts to nd a place
for the word in the earthen biography of Jesus missed the point; see Theobald,
Text, 777 n. 91, against Franz Delitzsch, Der Hebrerbrief (Leipzig: Drfing u.
Franke, 1857; repr., Giessen: Brunnen, 1989) and others.
13. Lance C. Laughton, The Hermeneutic of the Author of Hebrews as Manifest
in the Introductory Formulae and Its Implications for Modern Hermeneutics (M.A.
diss., University of Pretoria, 2005), 51, 54.
130 Psalms and Hebrews

if Hebrews contours the words of Jesus against a background of tran-

scendence and pre-existence.
All in all, the Jesus of Hebrews differs in a double sense from the
Jesus of the Gospels. He speaks only words of scripture, as we saw in the
introduction, and he speaks these words relating to his pre-existence.
Perceived in that manner, Hebrews does not compete with the Gospels,
which are written about the same time. The author of Hebrews rather
develops another, complementary point of view. The Gospels locate the
words of Jesus during his life on earth. Our author conversely strength-
ens words which shed light on Jesus life in a pre-existent perspective.
He learns through his transcendence that Jesus directs his way into the
world as a way of obedience (ch. 10), of bringing holiness (chs. 2 and
10) and of proclaiming God (ch. 2).
If we are more cautious and locate the words of ch. 2 in history (not
pre-existence), we observe a similarly consistent perspective: Jesus
announces his obedience, which brings holiness to humans, out of his
pre-existence (10:57). Then in history, he proclaims God in the commu-
nity which is constituted by the word of God to Israel and now founded
in his own obedience and sharing his faithfulness (2:1113). In any case,
the quotations summarize the Christological soteriology of Hebrews and
its consequence for ecclesiology in a nutshell.
Let me add an observation of secondary importance but yet of interest.
If the author of Hebrews allocates all words of Jesus (2:12f. and 10:57)
in his pre-existence, he also solves a problem discussed by modern
authorsnamely, how Jesus can speak through the Psalms and other
scriptural texts which were formulated and written centuries before his
earthly birth. The author of Hebrews removes that problem, as well as,
perhaps, denying it. Foras he sees itJesus is able to speak words
from Israels scriptures because they are words of God (given through
the Holy Ghost14) regarding his work; they are word that are effective
through all time.15

c. The Introductory Formulae of Jesus Words, Spoken and Written Text

A look at the introductory formulae deepens our observations. The
author of Hebrews stereotypically opens the words of Jesus by verbs of
speaking, LBMFJ_O and MFHFJO (2:11f.; 10:5, 8, 9), and neglects the most

14. Cf. Thomasz Lewicki, Der Heilige Geist im Hebrerbrief, TGl 89 (1999):
494513 (497f.), and idem, Weist nicht ab den Sprechenden!: Wort Gottes und
Paraklese im Hebrerbrief (PaThSt 41; Paderborn: Schningh, 2004), 8288.
15. Cf. the notes at Theobald, Text, 775, and Peter Pilhofer, ,SFJUUPOPK
EJBRI LIK FHHVPK: Die Bedeutung der Prexistenzchristologie fr die Theologie des
Hebrerbriefs, TLZ 121 (1996): 31928 (328).
KARRER LXX Psalm 39:710 in Hebrews 10:57 131

frequent quotation formula of the rst century, HFHSBQUBJ (it is writ-

ten).16 That means he favours the linguistic eld of the spoken word
testify throughout the text).17 So, all his emphasis lies on the actual,
performative word. The given word of God continuously becomes a
spoken word.18 Theobald states: Streng genommen, handelt es sichgar
nicht um Schriftzitate, sondern lebendige Rede.19 Lance Laughton
worked out this non-interchangeable tone with relevant details and some
differing aspects.20
It is noteworthy that one line of our text, 10:7, shows a discrepancy:
the author uses HFHSBQUBJ, which is contrary to his normal approacha
solitary case, as we nd no other instance in Hebrews. The difference is,
of course, slight. (FHSBQUBJ stands inside the quotation and is part of the
cited text of LXX Ps 39:8. It is, therefore, not arranged by the author: for
him, also in our passage Jesus speaks (MFHFJ, 10:5). And yet, why does
the author transmit the line FO LFGBMJEJ CJCMJPV HFHSBQUBJ QFSJ= FNPV_, in
the main point of a scroll it is written of me, and not exclude it?
Remarkably enough, in 10:89, during the repetition of the quotation,
he ignores the line. It is clearly not the focus of his interest.21 Therefore
the simplest explanation establishes a philological paradox: the author of
Hebrews respects the quoted written text despite his preference for the
living word. He quotes what he reads in his Psalms scroll and does not
exclude a line. In consequence, Jesus actually speaks, but he does not
speak a new word. Even in the detail from which the living word is
taken, it can be controlled by the scriptures of Israelin this case, it can
be veried by a written Psalms scroll.
The author has strong reasons to do so. He anticipates a possible
criticism of readers (omitting a line would mean to change the claimed
text) and realizes a distinct fundamental decision: in 1:1f. he has asserted
that the one God speaks through the Son, who spoke to the fathers.

16. (FHSBQUBJ is used since LXX 4 Kgdms 14:6.

17. Theobald, Text, 764, nds God as speaker 22 times, the Son four times, the
Spirit twice and others (mostly abstract formulae) ve times.
18. Heb 1:5 etc.; 10:5, 8 etc.; 2:6; 7:17 etc. See the overview and literature in
Karrer, Epistle, 33553 (33638).
19. Theobald, Text, 759.
20. Cf. Laughton, Hermeneutic of the Author of Hebrews, especially 3847.
21. The interpretation of the motif lies beyond our interest here. The most
fascinating theory thinks that our author in effect allows a self-reference to the main
point (LFGB MBJPO; cf. Heb 8:1) of his text (the Hebrews scroll); cf. Martin Karrer,
Der Brief an die Hebrer. Vol. 2, Kapitel 5,1113,25 (TK 20/2; Gtersloh:
Gtersloher Verlagshaus, 2008), 184f.
132 Psalms and Hebrews

Therefore, the fathers (Israel) have the words of God. The ancient words
of God are in power and have an actual sense. To put it differently: the
Son speaks the psalm in our chapter, since the word of the psalm is the
given, rm and solid word of God.
That is a very high esteem to assign to the written, given word. In
some way, we can say that the word of Israels scripture is even more
important than the delivered words of the historical Jesus.22 Swiftly, the
contrast of Hebrews to the Gospels sharpens. It was noted above that
Hebrews chooses another perspective than those presented in the
Gospels. Now we must add: even if the author of Hebrews does not want
to compete with the Gospels, he prefers his own perspective. He prefers
to read and interpret the old scriptures, not the Gospel tradition.23

d. The Role of the Psalms

Many scholars think of congruence between Philo and Hebrews,24 yet
Philo and Hebrews differ in their use of scripture. Philo interprets the law
(the Nomos) and only sometimes in his works uses Psalms to elucidate
utterances of the Law. The author of Hebrews, in contrast, prefers the
Psalms. He quotes the Psalms (fourteen instances) more often than the
Pentateuch (thirteen instances) and the Prophets (major prophets ve
instances, minor prophets two instances).25 The words of Jesus indicate
his special view:
The Jesus of Hebrews especially loves the Psalms. In Heb 2 he cites
LXX Ps 21:23 (MT 22:23) to outline his announcement of the name of
God in the community (FLLMITJB) and directs the following reception of
Isaiah (Isa 8:17f.; 12:2 LXX) by another psalm, the song of David in LXX
2 Kgdms (MT 2 Sam) 22:3.26 In Heb 10 he exclusively cites LXX Ps 39:7
9 (MT 40:68). All in all, the Jesus of Hebrews understands himself in
relation to psalms and prophecy, favouring the psalms in that frame.

22. For Heb 1:1f., cf. Martin Karrer, Der Brief an die Hebrer. Vol. 1, Kapitel
1,15,10 (TK 20/1; Gtersloh: Gtersloher Verlagshaus, 2002), 11114, and pp.
56ff. for the theology of the word in Hebrews.
23. Thus it is no wonder that it is impossible to identify the Christological hints
of Hebrews and Gospel traditions even in 5:78 (see Jrg Frey, Leidenskampf und
Himmelsreise: Das Berliner Evangelienfragment [Papyrus Berolinensis 22220] und
die Gethsemane-Tradition, BZ 46 [2002]: 7196).
24. Cf. Ronald Williamson, Philo and the Epistle to the Hebrews (ALGHJ 4;
Leiden: Brill, 1970).
25. Schrger, Schriftausleger, 25156, lists the 35 (if we do not count recapitula-
tions, 29) quotations (and the most important allusions [ibid., 2017]).
26. There we nd QFQPJRX=K FTPNBJ FQ  BVUX_] as in Heb 2:13a. Only the order of
the words differs.
KARRER LXX Psalm 39:710 in Hebrews 10:57 133

Is it possible to explain that peculiarity? There is an additional

phenomenon which helps. All the psalms quoted are connected to David.
David once spoke the words of the song in LXX 2 Kgdms (MT 2 Sam) 22,
UBVUIK, and David spoke to the Lord the words of this song), and the
Psalter attributes LXX Ps 21 (MT 22) as well as LXX Ps 39 (MT 40) to
David (we nd UX_] %BVJE in v. 1 of both psalms). Maybe that assignment
originally did not mark Davidic authorship, but described situations in
the life of David27 to give an orientation (as Gilles Dorival suggests
contrary to the majority of scholarship).28 Nonetheless, in that case the
psalms too are Davidic, in the wider sense that David exemplarily used
them. David is the psalmist par excellence,29 who sheds light on the
words used by Jesus and, mediates these words, to Jesus himself. The
conclusion is obvious (and is drawn by Gert Steyn and others): Hebrews
refers to David, the famous poet-king of Judah, since the author partici-
pates in the early Christian development of Davidic Christological
The argument is intriguing. One must merely be warned to strengthen
the special motif of a Davidic origin of Jesus,31 against scholars who
point that the Christ in Hebrews is a Davidic descendantgreat Davids
greater Son,32 who receives illumination by his ancestorfor the author
of Hebrews avoids sketching a Davidic genealogy of Jesus. He restricts
his inuential genealogical hint in Heb 7:14 to Jesus provenance from
Judah (differing, for example, from the old tradition in Rom 1:3, which
names David).33

27. LXX 2 Kgs 22:1 connects the recitation by David and a situation in his life.
28. Gilles Dorival, propos de quelques titres grecs des psaumes, in Le
Psautier chez les Pres (ed. Gilles Dorival et al.; CBiPa 4; Strasbourg: Centre
danalyse et de documentation patristiques, 1994), 2136; Christian-B. Amphoux
and Gilles Dorival, Des oreilles, tu mas creuses ou un corps, tu mas ajust?
propos du Psaume 39 (40 TM), 7, in 'JMPMPHJB (ed. P. Brillet-Dubois et al.;
CMOMLP 9; Lyon: Maison de lOrient et de la Mditerrane, 2006), 31527.
29. &O %BVJE in Heb 4:7 conrms that view on David.
30. Cf. Steyn, Jesus-Sayings, 437f.
31. While knowing that this idea is widespread in scholarship, see Jean-Marie
van Cangh, Fils de David dans les vangiles synoptiques, in Figures de David
travers la bible (ed. L. Desrousseaux and J. Vermeylen; LD 177; Paris: Cerf, 1999),
345427 (384f. and others).
32. Frederick F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews (rev. ed.; Grand Rapids,
Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990), 232.
33. See the discussion and bibliographical citations in Martin Karrer, Von
David zu Christus, in Knig Davidbiblische Schlsselgur und europische
134 Psalms and Hebrews

Indeed, though Judah is the Davidic tribe, nevertheless it seems

possible that the author of Hebrews hesitates to promote the opinion of
Jesus Davidic birth which was common knowledge in his time.34 He,
instead, looks for an indirect connection: the Jesus, born from Judah,
loves the psalms created or used by the peerless poet-king who is born of
Judah. This Judaic tradition grants an alternative to Aaronic thoughts, an
alternative which Hebrews needs for its theology. All in all, 7:14 uses
Judah to formulate an opposition to AaronLevi. Read from this pers-
pective, Jesus nds the necessity of his obedience to God (Heb 10) and
the announcement of his priesthood according Melchizedek in the psalms
of the Judahite king David (Melchizedek is mentioned immediately after
Heb 7:14, in 7:15, and 7:17quoting the Davidic psalm LXX 109 [MT
Additionally we nd a second relevant impulse in the psalm tradition.
The LXX understands Ps 21 (MT 22) and Ps 39 (MT 40) as being directed
to the future, FJK UP= UFMPK (Pss 21:1; 39:1). Modern research disputes the
scope of this heading, and many doubt if the LXX translators wanted to
eschatologize the psalms. But inevitably the eschatological lecture was
spread in the rst century B.C.E., continuing into the Christianity of the
rst century C.E.36 This development made it easy to transform the psalm
into Christology.
Formulated within Hebrews, the Psalms are no less prophetic than the
words of Isaiah and other prophets. Jesus uses the Psalms because the
great poet-king David speaks of the time to come and the texts allow
themselves to be spoken by Jesus himself. In sum, Hebrews provides a
ne paradigm for the eschatologization of the Psalter and uses that
eschatologization as a basis for his Christology.

Leitgestalt: 19. Kolloquium (2000) der Schweizerischen Akademie der Geistes- und
Sozialwissenschaften (ed. W. Dietrich and H. Herkommer; Stuttgart: Kohlhammer,
2003), 32765 (333, 340, 350 n. 31).
34. Cf. 2 Tim 2:8; Matt 1 and Luke 2; 3:2338.
35. The psalm is assigned to David again in v. 1.
36. For an overview of the discussion, see Joachim Schaper, Eschatology in the
Greek Psalter (WUNT 2/76; Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1995); Christoph Rsel, Die
messianische Redaktion des Psalters: Studien zu Entstehung und Theologie der
Sammlung Psalm 289 (CThM 19; Stuttgart: Calwer, 1999); Martin Rsel, Die
Psalmberschriften des Septuagintapsalters, in Der Septuaginta-Psalter: Sprach-
liche und theologische Aspekte (ed. E. Zenger; HBS 32; Freiburg: Herder, 2001),
12548; Holger Gzella, Lebenszeit und Ewigkeit: Studien zur Eschatologie und
Anthropologie des Septuaginta-Psalters (BBB 134; Berlin: Philo, 2002).
KARRER LXX Psalm 39:710 in Hebrews 10:57 135

e. LXX Psalm 39 (MT 40) and Christology

Some scholars tried to nd traces of a Christological reception of LXX
Ps 39 (MT 40) in early Christianity before or besides Hebrews, but did
not fully succeed in their efforts. The introduction in Heb 10:5aJesus
speaks coming into the world (FJTFSYPNFOPK FJK UP=O LPTNPO)truly
reminds us of Johannine theology (cf. John 11:27). But the motif is not
specic enough to prove a rm coherence between Hebrews and Johan-
nine literature. We also nd it in expressions of the post-Pauline
literature, for instance *TPV_K I>MRFO FJK UP=O LPTNPO (Jesus came into the
world) of 1 Tim 1:15. Furthermore, the motif does not touch the psalm
immediately. Gnter Reim37 attempted to ll this gap in a recent essay
and suggested that the Johannine community used LXX Ps 39 to structure
the Gospel of John. Yet we nd not a single quotation of this psalm in
John and the Johannine letters,38 and similarities such as the use of TX_NB
in the Christology (cf. Heb 10:5 to John 2:21)39 are not necessarily
caused by LXX Ps 39. Reims argument, therefore, does not hold water.
On rst sight, comparison with Pauline literature provides a somewhat
better prospect. The author of Hebrews denitely knows one or more
members of the Pauline circle (Heb 13:23 mentions Timothy),40 and Eph
5:2 conrms an understanding of Jesus as QSPTGPSB= LBJ= RVTJB (cf. RVTJB
LBJ= QSPTGPSB in Heb 10:5, and especially the Christological QSPTGPSB
in Heb 10:10). However, the language of offering is too well established
in thoughts of the rst century.41 Therefore, if we are cautious, we only
succeed in nding the following development: in the post-Pauline period
of the late rst century Jesus death is understood as an offering in parts
of the Christian communities. Hebrews, a non-Pauline writing, but with
links to Paulinismand other aspects of the contemporary Johannine
literatureuses and intensies this theologumenon independently.42

37. Gnther Reim, Vom Hebrerbrief zum Johannesevangelium anhand der

Psalmzitate, BZ 44 (2000): 9299.
38. There may be an allusion to v. 11 of the psalm in John 1:17. But even that is
not a certainty.
39. Reim, Hebrerbrief, 96.
40. Some propose that the verse (and its environment) was secondarily included
into Hebrews. However, the textual tradition does not support that; see the
discussion in the commentaries (e.g. Karrer, Der Brief an die Hebrer, 1:3537).
41. Cf., for different aspects, Simon Kistemaker, The Psalm Citations in the
Epistle to the Hebrews (Amsterdam: Van Soest, 1961), 43, and Steyn, Jesus-
Sayings, 438.
42. For a discussion on the relation of Hebrews to Pauline literature and thought,
see, for example, Knut Backhaus, Der Hebrerbrief und die Paulus-Schule, BZ 37
136 Psalms and Hebrews

All in all, our psalm does not play a signicant role in Christology
before Hebrews was written. That is no surprise, because if we read the
psalm independently, it does not show any tendency towards Christol-
ogy. The psalm itself consists of two parts, a song of thanks (vv. 211)
and a prayer for further assistance against enemies (vv. 1218). The
latter part (the prayer) contains a confession of sins that made a Christo-
logical interpretation impossible (LBUFMBCPO NF BJ BOPNJBJ NPV, my acts
of unlawlessness have overtaken me, LXX Ps 39:13).43 Furthermore, the
rst part could be spoken by any person whom God had helped. The I
in the beginning of the psalm is collectively intended. Anyone can cite a
visit of the temple or personal piety: I waited patiently for the Lord; he
inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God (vv. 13),
and so on until v. 8, I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is
within my heart.44
Unfortunately, we lack a quotation of the psalm in early Jewish lit-
erature (Qumran etc.).45 Yet, the rst reception of the psalm in Chris-
tianity after Hebrews underlines the non-Christological sense. It is a
quotation by Irenaeus (written a century after Hebrews). In comparison
to Hebrews, Irenaeus ignores the second part of the psalm (the supplica-
tion) and cites v. 7 (sacricium et oblationem noluisti; Haer. IV
17:1).46 And yet, in spite of Hebrews, he applies this verse anthropo-
logically. He comments that David, the author of the psalm, teaches
humans (homines)47 that God wishes obedience (obauditio)48 by
them. The psalm has ethical consequences for Irenaeus and is not
Christologically focussed as in Hebrews. That is of special importance
since Irenaeus knows Hebrews.49 Evidently Hebrews offers an interpre-
tation deviating from the normal sense.

(1993): 183208, and James W. Thompson, The Epistle to the Hebrews and the
Pauline Legacy, ResQ 47 (2005): 197206.
43. Wedderburn, Branches, 405 n. 23, assumes that this motif has caused the
late reception.
44. I cite the translation of the Hebrew text in the NRSV.
45. The text is lost even in the biblical manuscripts from the Judean desert,
except for a small fragment in 11QPsd =11Q8 Frg. 6 (DJD 23, 69).
46. I follow the Latin text in Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus haereses = Gegen die
Hresien IV (trans. and Preface N. Brox; FC 8/4; Freiburg: Herder, 1995), 126 l. 7f.
47. Eos, ibid., 126 l. 9 refers to homines, 124 l. 24.
48. Ibid., 126 l. 9.
49. Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 5.26 proves that Irenaeus knows Hebrews; cf. Irenaeus,
Haer. 2.30:9; 3.6:5; 5.32:2.
KARRER LXX Psalm 39:710 in Hebrews 10:57 137

f. A First Result
All these observations show that LXX 39 (MT 40) illustrates the Christol-
ogy of Hebrews in an outstanding way. The kind of quotation (a quotation
in the mouth of the pre-existent Jesus) is as singular as is the Christo-
logical application of the psalm on the whole. Surely, an eschatological
use of the Psalms is prepared during the time of Hebrews, and the author
of Hebrews participates in the theological developments of the late rst
century. His reection, that Jesus comes into the world and gives himself
as an offering, belongs in that time (we noticed the connections with
Johannine and post-Pauline theology). Nevertheless, the frame and the
scope of his psalm-adaptation remain unique. Modelled on our psalm,
the author transposes the tradition that Jesus came into the world to save
sinners (cf. the full formula in 1 Tim 1:15, *ITPV_K I>MRFO FJK UP=O LPTNPO
BNBSUXMPV=K TX_TBJ) into his own theology: Jesus Christ, obedient to
God, came in the body which God had prepared for him to bring holiness
(the possibility to live in Gods presence) to humankind through his
offering (Heb 10:57 together with 10:10).

3. The Text of the Psalm: Hebrews 10:57 and the LXX

a. From Hebrews to the Psalm
It would be fascinating to continue with the theology of Hebrews, to pass
through the ideas of Christs obedience, priesthood and offering and to
correlate the words of Jesus to the words of God spoken from Heb 1:5
onwards (Harold W. Attridge pursues the dialoguebetween God and
Christ, the Son, throughout Hebrews),50 although in that case we would
need to leave aside the quotation that is the focus of the present study.51
Nearer to our theme lies another much disputed question. Therefore we
change the perspective and take up that question in our second main part:
Does the quotation of LXX Ps 39 (MT Ps 40) in Hebrews contribute to the
textual history of that psalm?

50. Harold W. Attridge, The Psalms in Hebrews, in The Psalms in the New
Testament (ed. S. Moyise and M. J. J. Menken; London: T&T Clark International,
2004), 197212 (212).
51. Information is given in the commentaries and specialist literature (with
different accents). See, for example, Walter C. Kaiser, The Abolition of the Old
Order and Establishment of the New, in Tradition and Testament (ed. S. J. Feinberg
and P. D. Feinberg; Chicago: Moody, 1981), 1937; Mrz, Herrenworte, 11137;
and Georg Gbel, Die Kulttheologie des Hebrerbriefes: Eine exegetisch-religions-
geschichtliche Studie (WUNT 2/212; Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), 185203 and
138 Psalms and Hebrews

Two lines intersect in the discussion. On the one hand, there are strong
indications that Hebrews is interested in the written text and tries to
follow it without many corrections (also in our quotation, as discussed
above). On the other hand, scholarship until today has been dominated
by the suspicion that New Testament authors, and the author of Hebrews
as well, felt free to alter the texts they used by expressing the creativity
of their thinking, especially with regard to Christology.
Hebrews 10 ts as a test case in that discussion since A. Rahlfs recon-
structed the LXX (in the critical edition)52 against Hebrews, this despite
the fact that the major manuscripts of the LXX go in a decisive point with
Hebrews, namely, they read the variant TX_NB (body) instead of XUJB
(ears). Scholarly opinion is divided.53 Gert Steyn summed up the
arguments some years ago and concluded: It isextremely difcult to
establish here in Heb 10:57 the Textvorlage used for this quotation.54
Meanwhile, the clearing process goes on. I will now sketch the extent of
the debate and try to advance it.

b. The Text in Hebrews and LXX

Hebrews in our passage, as in all his quotations, uses the LXX. While it is
possible that the author knew the Hebrew manuscripts, there is no indi-
cation of this in his writing, and so on.55 Therefore we must concentrate
on a comparison between Hebrews and the LXX. The following table
notes the texts and marks the differences between Hebrews (cited

52. Alfred Rahlfs, ed., Psalmi cum Odis (3d ed.; Septuaginta: Vetus Testamen-
tum Graecum 10; Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1979), 143f.; cf. Alfred
Rahlfs, ed., Septuaginta. Id est Vetus Testamentum graece iuxta LXX interpretes,
Editio altera (ed. and rev. R. Hanhart; Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2006),
53. See Ahlborn, Septuaginta-Vorlage, 122; Masso Caloz, tude sur la LXX
orignienne du Psautier: Les relations entre les leons des psaumes du Manuscrit
Coislin 44, les fragments des Hexaples et le texte du Psautier Gallican (OBO 19;
Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1978), 38286; Karen H. Jobes, Rhetorical
Achievement in the Hebrews 10 Misquote of Psalm 40, Bib 72 (1991): 38796;
idem, The Function of Paronomasia in Hebrews 10:57, TJ 13 (1992): 18191;
Jobes and Silva, Invitation, 19599; Pierre Grelot, Le texte du Psaume 39,7 dans
la Septante, RB 108 (2001): 21013; Radu Gheorghita, The Role of the Septuagint
in Hebrews: An Investigation of Its Inuence with Special Consideration to the Use
of Hab 2:34 in Heb 10:3738 (WUNT 2/160; Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003),
48f.; Rsen-Weinhold, Septuagintapsalter, 205; Amphoux and Dorival, Des
oreilles; Gbel, Kulttheologie, 188200.
54. Steyn, Jesus-Sayings, 439.
55. It is impossible to prove that the author of Hebrews used a Hebrew text of
scriptures. See, for an overall view, Karrer, Epistle.
KARRER LXX Psalm 39:710 in Hebrews 10:57 139

according to Nestle-Alands 27th edition) and the critical text of the LXX
as reconstructed by RahlfsHanhart:56
LXX Ps 39:79 Rahlfs Heb 10:5b7
(differences from Hebrews underlined) (differences from LXX Rahlfs underlined)

One of the deviations, the difference between PMPLBVUXNB and

PMPLBVUXNBUB, is minor and shows a shift in both textual traditions: the
singular PMPLBVUXNB is witnessed in the LXX by B and some others and
in Hebrews by the oldest manuscript, Papyrus 46, D and others. The
great majority of manuscripts of the LXX (including the Papyrus Bodmer
XXIV = manuscript 2110 of the LXX) and Hebrews testify to the plural
PMPLBVUXNBUB (A etc.). It is, therefore, impossible to build a theory of
intentional correction on that variant.57
Better is the case with the last variant: the author of Hebrews cuts off
the quotation in the midst of v. 9 of the LXX Ps 39 and omits the verb
FCPVMIRIO. That alters the whole construction. The LXX had the sense
I wanted to do your will. Hebrews gains the new construction ILX
UPV_ QPJI_TBJ (I come to do). A second change follows; Hebrews
rearranges the address P RFPK NPV and omits the NPV. Here one must
evidently concede a redactional amendment: the author of Hebrews
shortens and manages the quotation to integrate it well into the context of
his document.58
Nonetheless such a management is often necessary at the beginning or
the end of quotations. It does not decide the case in the centre of the
quoted text. There remain two variants. Let us rst look at I]UITBK in
LXX Ps 39:7, which is replaced by FVEPLITBK in Hebrews (youGod
did not wish instead of you have taken no pleasure). Rahlfs preferred
in his edition of the LXX the codex B while and A have F[IUITBK

56. We leave the repetition of the quotation in Heb 10:8f. out of consideration.
The variants there are caused by the rhetorical will of the author of Hebrews; cf. the
57. Alan H. Cadwallader, The Correction of the Text of Hebrews Towards the
LXX, NovT 34 (1992): 25792 (291), comments: the reading PMPLBVUXNB
possibly indicates contact with a LXX text showing recensional / revisional activity
towards the Hebrew.
58. For more arguments, see Steyn, Jesus-Sayings, 439f.
140 Psalms and Hebrews

(youGoddid not look for). The previously mentioned Papyrus

Bodmer, at the moment the oldest witness of LXX Ps 39, could not be
used by Rahlfs in his critical edition. Today we can do soand read
there, coherent to Hebrews, IVEPLITBK (an alternative writing for FVEP-
LITBK). Moreover, the text of the papyrus corresponds to LXX Ps 50 (MT
51):18 where the psalmist again expresses the conviction: You (God)
will take no pleasure (PVL FVEPLITFJK) in burnt offerings (PMPLBV-
UXNBUB). It becomes possible that the translators of the LXX preferred
the same phrase in both psalms; or copyists in an early time balanced the
translation of Ps 39 and Ps 50. In both cases Hebrews may have found
the verb in the Psalms scroll he used (the author himself does not prefer
FVEPLFJ_O, which is found exclusively in the quotations appearing at Heb
10:6, 8, 38).
So far we reach an ambivalent result. On the one hand, the author of
Hebrews alters the used text at the end of the quotation for his own pur-
pose. On the other hand, important LXX manuscripts support the peculi-
arities of Hebrews within the quotation (PMPLBVUXNBUB and FVEPLITBK).
The most interesting of these manuscripts is the Papyrus Bodmer XXIV.
That papyrus59 seems to offer a prehexaplaric textform.60 Therefore the
variants tested by Hebrews perhaps are not the oldest text of the psalm in
the LXX, but they are certainly old.61

c. 4X_NB or XUJB: The Decision of Rahlfs

We now reach the last and principal contrast of Hebrews to the Rahlfs
text. It is at the same time very different from the Hebrew version of the
psalm. The latter reads EJC< )J?K (unvocalized), MT E7JC&<7 )J:?"K 7, you
(God) have dug ears, like one digs a cistern (cf. 9C< in Exod 21:33).
The phrase is difcult to understand but readers who were familiar with
Semitic languages insisted on the given text (that proves the Midrash
Tehillim62). At most they integrated a gloss, which enlightens the

59. Dated by some to the end and by others to the beginning of the third century
or even the end of the second: see Amphoux in: Amphoux and Dorival, Des
oreilles, 320.
60. See Dominique Barthlemy, Le psautier grec et le Papyrus Bodmer XXIV
(1969), in Etudes dhistoire du texte de lAncien Testament (OBO 21; Gttingen:
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1978), 17478, and cf., in the same volume, idem, Le
Papyrus Bodmer 24 jug par Origne (1972), 194201.
61. We must correct the proposal of Rahlfs (apparatus) that the FVEPLITBK in LXX
manuscripts stems from Hebrews (ex Hebr. 10,6).
62. See The Midrash on Psalms (trans. W. G. Braude; 2 vols.; New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1959), 1:435.
KARRER LXX Psalm 39:710 in Hebrews 10:57 141

understanding.63 So, we have a strong Hebrew tradition for the text, or in

terms of textual criticism, a lectio difcilior against all translators who
facilitate the understanding.
Knowing that, Rahlfs studied the manuscripts of LXX and the textual
situation was very clear: all the Greek manuscripts (B, , A, etc.) read a
facilitating variant, TX_NB However, all the manuscripts were more
recent than Hebrews, which is the rst witness for TX_NB. Therefore he
suggests that Hebrews created the variant and the Greek manuscripts
took it over. Pierre Grelot recently renewed that explanation.64
Surely, the reconstruction of the Old Greek had to come into conict
with all Greek manuscripts (each of them has TX_NB, as noted). But there
was the Latin daughter translationthe manuscript G of the Vetus Latina
(sixth century) and the Psalterium Gallicanum, which read aures (ears),
and, as we may add (Rahlfs does not record it) Irenaeus. We earlier
referred to his quotation, of which the full text reads: Sacricium et
oblationem noluisti, aures autem perfecisti mihi65 (sacrice and offer-
ing you have not desired, but ears you have perfected for me). Irenaeus
counts the Psalms according to the LXX (some lines later he mentions the
comparable criticism of the offerings in quinquagesimo Psalmo = LXX
Ps 50 / MT 5166) and agrees to the LBUISUJTX of the LXX and Hebrews
(perfecisti contradicts the Hebrew verb dig). But he presupposes
XUJB or X>UB (the classic plural), an equivalent to the Hebrew ears.
Thus, we condently know that the ears of the Hebrew occurred in the
text of a LXX manuscript from the late second century. Last, but not least,
that corresponds to the more recent translations listed in the Hexapla
(Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion etc.). Therefore Rahlfs reconstructed
XUJB as the Old Greek, but only according to young witnesses. The prob-
lem is stated: Is it permissible to follow the daughter translations and the
parallel younger translations against all Greek manuscripts of the LXX?

d. 4X_NB or XUJB (X>UB): New Evidence

In the decades since Rahlfs our knowledge of manuscripts has increased.
Previously we missed any Greek LXX-manuscript attesting XUJB. But

63. Amphoux and Dorival, Des oreilles, 316, read in the Targum: you have
dug ears to hear your salvation; cf. Luis Diez Merino, Targum de Salmos: Edicin
prncipe del Ms. Villa-Amil no. 5 de Alfonso de Zamora (BHBib 6; Madrid: Consejo
Superior de Investigaciones Cienticas, Inst. Francisco Surez, 1982), 106, and
225 (there Latin translation: aures ad audienda precepta tua fodisti mihi).
64. Grelot, Texte, 212.
65. And ongoing: holocausta autem pro delicto non postulasti; see Irenaeus,
Haer. 4.17:1 (= 126 l. 79).
66. Ibid., ll. 12ff.
142 Psalms and Hebrews

TX_NB has won an outstanding witness. The Papyrus Bodmer (witness of

the textual tradition previous to Origen, as noticed) supports it. At the
same time, inquiries into the quotations of Hebrews did not nd any
secondary case where Hebrews would have inuenced all Greek manu-
scripts of the LXX. On the contrary, the text of Hebrews conates regu-
larly a part of the LXX transmission (most often to the upper-Egyptian
textform) and differs from other LXX manuscripts.67 Even Irenaeus
disputes the high estimation of Hebrews since he despises it, despite
knowing Hebrews. Thus it becomes difcult to ignore the homogeneity
of the Greek LXX manuscripts.
In that erratic situation, in 2006, Gilles Dorival inspected the Church
Fathers again. He found that some of them go with TX_NBfrom Origen,
On the Pascha 2.46.333668 to the scholia of Ps 39 (MT 40) of the fth
century. Others testify ears, again from the end of the second century
(Irenaeus, as noted above) up to the late Old Church (Theodore of
Mopsuestia, Commentary on Psalms 39:7b).69 But most interesting, the
witnesses for ears do not throughout testify to XUJB. Eusebius (Com-
mentary on Psalms 39:7 [PG 23:356]) and Diodorus (Commentary on
Psalms 39:7 [CCSG 242]) have X>UB.
Dorival correlated that observation with the history of Greek language.
8UB (the plural to PV>K) is the older and better Greek, XUJB (the plural to
XUJPO) younger. What is now decisive is that we nd precisely the same
development in the sequence of the psalm translations. The LXX of
Psalms translates *K in nearly all cases by PV>K / X>UB (twenty times)70
while the younger translations have XUJPO / XUJB Dorival concludes that
Rahlfs has erred when he followed the younger word formation (N.B.
Rahlfs could not use a LXX manuscript for his reconstruction of ears).
The Old Greek must sound X>UBif it had ears at all!71

e. From TX_NB to XUJB: A Proposal Regarding Textual History

Despite these problems Dorival prefers a new reconstructed text with
X>UB (together with Christian Amphoux).72 However, another explanation

67. See Rsen-Weinhold, Septuaginta-Psalter, 169206 (there older literature).

68. Origne, Sur la Pque (trans. O. Guraud and P. Nautin; Paris: Beauchesne,
1979), 244f. The matter is somewhat surprising, if one thinks of the Hexapla.
69. For the full evidence, see Dorival in Amphoux and Dorival, Des Oreilles,
32124. For more insights on the reception by the Church Fathers, see Pierre Grelot,
Le mystre du Christ dans les Psaumes (CJJC 74; Paris: Descle, 1998), 12732.
70. The only exception, Ps 17(18):45, can be disputed; see Dorival, Des
Oreilles, 324f.
71. Ibid.
72. Ibid., 326f.
KARRER LXX Psalm 39:710 in Hebrews 10:57 143

is easier: the Old Greek had TX_NB as witnessed by all Greek manuscripts
of the LXX, Hebrews and a part of the quotations in the Old Church.
Then, in a process of revision, the text was corrected alongside the
Hebrew. 4X_NB was replaced by X>UB or XUJB. None of these variants is
attested to earlier than Hebrews, but all the younger translations of the
Hebrew text and Church fathers from the second century onwards
demonstrated proof of it. Thus the variant spread into the second century
and was perhaps formed in the rst century, but could not reject the Old
Greek for some decades.
Such a history of the text ts well into what we know of the general
development of the LXX: the old translators took into account the
understanding of the Greek readers. They dared to substitute the phrase
You (God) dug (!) ears, which contradicted the Hellenistic way of
thinking (as it does modern thought). To do so they used a well-known
stylistic instrument of metonymy, the synecdoche totum pro parte,73 and
exchanged ears to body (TX_NB), dig to make ready (LBUBSUJ[FT-
RBJ). Rahlfs breaks their phrase needlessly; he preserves the second half
of the synecdoche, LBUBSUJ[FTRBJ, with the manuscripts, but destroys the
rst half of them.
Vice versa Rahlfs and his followers indicate the more recent develop-
ment of the text. As we know from many sources (especially the kaige-
manuscripts), the translations of the Old Greek seemed too free to
redactors from the rst century BCE onwards. These redactors rejected
inuences on the meaning by the Greek target language and tried to
represent the Hebrew tone as far as possible. For them, X>UB and (shortly
after that) XUJB was a very good choiceit not only was semantically
correct, but it also sounded phonetically nearer to )J:?"K 7. Therefore they
introduced XUJB. The Christian authors from the second century onwards
sometimes used the older TX_NB and sometimes the younger text XUJB. A
few of them corrected XUJB to X>UB in the classicist manner which we
often nd in later antiquity.

In sum, our text really is a test case for the text history of LXX. But we
must correct the critical text of LXX Ps 39:7 against Rahlfs. 4X_NB is the
better text, orif one wishes to make a compromiseat least a very
good attested old text of the psalm, which should be noted in some way
in the Obertext of the critical edition.

73. Ahlborn, Septuaginta-Vorlage, 122, lists other examples with TX_NB in the
(Job 3:17 and Prov 3:8).
144 Psalms and Hebrews

f. 4X_NB and the Theology of Hebrews

There are some possibilities which can broaden the text critical argu-
ment. Setting aside the discussions of a writing error74 or the inuence of
paronomasia (phonetic assonance),75 a third aspect needs some attention:
the signicance of TX_NB for the theology and language of Hebrews.
A look at the concordance is revealing. Hebrews prefers the term
TBSD, esh, (and BJ<NB) for the earthly life of Jesus, beginning in Heb
2:14 (cf. 5:7)and does so also here in Heb 10 (in the famous v. 20). If
we read our passage in its context, it is the Jesus of blood and esh
who comes to his brothers and sisters to sanctify them (Heb 2). Going
through his esh like a curtain, he opens the way into the heavenly
sanctuary (Heb 10:2).76 Thus the esh nds God (TX_NB never appears
in Hebrews before ch. 10). Concerning the strength of that line, we
would expect TBSD, if the author had corrected the text used by him. The
language of Hebrews conrms the judgment to assign TX_NB to the LXX
And yet, that is not all. We must also read on in Hebrews, and there we
nd TX_NB in the pivotal sketch of Jesus offering. Hebrews memorizes in
ch. 13 that Jesus suffered outside the precinct of the Aaronic sanctuary
(what we know from the Gospel tradition as well) and comments (as a
climax of his own Christology): outside the precinct of the sanctuary lies
the place where the bodies (TXNBUB) of the animals are burnt whose
blood (BJ<NB) is brought into the holy place by the high priest as a
sacrice for sin (Heb 13:11f.).
Therefore one can compare the suffering of Jesus to a sin offering, but
arranged against the Aaronic priesthood. The Aaronic priesthood brings

74. Caloz, tude, and others try to support XUJB by the proposal that 48."
arose from a misreading for 85*". Yet the argument is too complex to convince:
The copyist in that case would have made three mistakes. Reading 5* as ., he would
have combined it with 4 from the previous word and doubled the 4 (otherwise we
would have the form IRFMITB and a strictly differing sense).
75. Jobes, Achievement, and idem, Function (cf. Jobes and Silva, Invitation
to the Septuagint), works out assonances in the text: PVL IRFMITBK / PVL FVEPLITBK
TX_NB EF / (PMPLBV)UXNBUB QFSJ= FNPV_ / RFMINB TPV Such assonances are of great
interest because they help mnemotechnically. Yet they may be well formed by the
original translators and therefore cannot decide stages of textual history. There is no
need to locate them late in the redactional process (Jobes recommends a redaction by
Hebrews according to the rhetorical technique of paronomasia). Furthermore, not all
of the assonances convince; especially the counterpart TX_NB EF / (PMPLBV)UXNBUB
looks very articial.
76. It is impossible to discuss the latter verse here in detail. Gbel, Kult-
theologie, 2046, and the commentaries list the relevant literature.
KARRER LXX Psalm 39:710 in Hebrews 10:57 145

the blood into the sanctuary on earth and opens the way for God there.
However, in that way all life remains on earth (if we follow Hebrews). It
does not enter into the greater heavenly sanctuary and the heavenly holy
town that comes. Jesus opens the way and guides to the town in oppo-
sition to Aaron (cf. Heb 13:14).77
Perhaps Hebrews uses TX_NB in that context by chance. But the matter
would become fascinating if the author had detected a plus of sense and
set the noun deliberately. In any case, he forms an inclusio to Heb 10
(TX_NB, vv. 5, 10, and BJ<NB, v. 19). He completes what he had signalled
by the psalm quotation: God does not desire the burnt offerings and sin
offerings brought to him by priests on earth. He supersedes them by
giving Jesus the body, which characterizes the offering of the priest in
the order of Melchizedek. The obedience of Jesus, in the sense of
Hebrews, is the obedience of a faultless sacrice and at the same time of
a perfect high priest.
Read in that way, the psalm text used by Hebrews is old. But the
interpretation deviates from the old text. Once the psalm was thought to
be a prayer in the temple or in the personal piety of many humans. Now,
in Hebrews, the author superimposes a new sense. The psalm serves as
an impulse for a cultic and soteriological Christology.
The hermeneutics of Hebrews must handle that tension. It seems that
the problem is greater than in Heb 2 and Heb 8, which has been dis-
cussed hermeneutically in the contributions to the present volume: Eckart
Otto has pointed out that new interpretations are legitimate if they follow
the intentions and outline of the theological ideas of the given text of
scripture. In Heb 2 and Heb 8 he found this tendency.78 Here, in ch. 10,
Hebrews proceeds differently. The author reformulates the framework
and theological ideas. The hermeneutics are provoked at the same time
for sympathy and contrast.

4. Conclusions

The quotation from LXX Ps 39:710 in Heb 10:57 gives remarkable

insights into the theology of Hebrews and into the textual history of LXX.
These insights can be summarized in the following theses:

77. Again it is impossible to discuss the text in detail. Ibid., 45458, and the
commentaries list the relevant literature.
78. See Eckart Ottos contribution in the present volume, Hermeneutics of
Biblical Theology, History of Religion and the Theological Substance of Two
Testaments: The Reception of Psalms in Hebrews (pp. 326).
146 Psalms and Hebrews

1. The author of Hebrews develops a non-interchangeable theology

of the spoken and yet written word of God. That theology sets off
his many quotations and culminates in the words of Jesus: Jesus
speaks authentically, and yet he exclusively speaks words of the
written scriptures of Israel.
2. The words of scripture spoken by Jesus transcend Jesus earthly
biography and at the same time characterize it as a whole. The
author of Hebrews, in that manner, prefers a view of pre-exis-
tence. He risks, perhaps intentionally, a striking difference from
the Gospel tradition.
3. The quotations spoken by Jesus are dominated by words of the
Psalms. Therefore the Psalms illustrate the Christology of Hebrews
in an outstanding manner. However, the Jesus of Hebrews actual-
izes the Psalms. LXX Psalm 39 gets a new Christological perspec-
tive (preparing Heb 13:1014). That shift in meaning must be
handled in hermeneutics (we may not forget the original sense of
the Psalms today).
4. The Psalms used by Jesus in Hebrews are connected to David in
the tradition. Additionally, in the LXX they received an eschato-
logical tone. Thus Hebrews associates the Jesus, born of Judah,
with the hopes in the Psalms of the peerless poet-king, born from
5. The author of Hebrews quotes written texts and tries to maintain
their wording. Hence his quotations gain reliability in textual criti-
cism regarding the LXX. Each quotation needs a detailed philo-
logical examination.
6. The textual reliability of Hebrews urges the correction of a wide-
spread scholarly opinion: TX_NB in Heb 10:5 belongs to the Old
Greek, or at least to a wide-spread draft of the LXX in the times of
Hebrews (as the best manuscripts of the LXX conrm). Conse-
quently, the revision of the Rahlfs text, which is in the making,
should favour TX_NB against Rahlfs, or as a minimum mark the
alternative TX_NB besides XUJB in the Obertext (for example by

Dirk J. Human

In Ps 95 one is introduced to the unashamed and exuberant joy of a
community participating in a cultic festival to glorify the kingship of
Yahweh. The text is characterized not only by a summons to praise
(vv. 15) and worship (vv. 67a) this God of Israel; its celebration also
includes an admonitory sermon (vv. 7b11) that convinces the com-
munity of believers to maintain their faith in this supreme God. Both
exultation and admonition thus build the antithetic atmosphere of praise
and warning in the psalm.
In the Jewish worship tradition, the psalm is used on Friday evenings
as the rst of six psalms to welcome the Sabbath celebrations. It is also
one of the special psalms used for morning prayer on the Sabbath. In the
Christian tradition it is called the Invitatory Psalm (Venite)an intro-
duction to the psalms of the day.1 In the Common Lectionary, the psalm
is used in the Sunday service on the third Sunday in Lent in Year A.2
Even more than this, the whole of Ps 95 is in general use among Chris-
tians, who invite and exhort one another with its words during worship
and other festival services.
Several research issues are at stake in the Forschungsgeschichte of the
psalm.3 These issues touch on such themes as: the coherence or unity of

* I dedicate the present study to Eckart Otto, to mark his 65th birthday.
1. Cf. Alexander Vella, To Enter and Not to Enter: A Literary and Theological
Study of Psalm 95, Melita Theologica 42 (1991): 7794 (77); and A. F. Kirk-
patrick, The Book of Psalms (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1957), 572.
2. Ronald P. Byars, Psalm 95, Scripture and Theology 56, no. 1 (2002): 7779
3. G. Henton Davies, Psalm 95, ZAW 85 (1973): 18387, gives a literature
review on the psalms research history. See also Willem S. Prinsloo, If Only You
Would Listen to His Voice!, in The Bible in Human Society: Essays in Honour of
John Rogerson (ed. R. P. Carroll, D. J. A. Clines and P. R. Davies; JSOTSup 200;
Shefeld: Shefeld Academic, 1995), 39395; idem, Die lof van my God solank
148 Psalms and Hebrews

the psalm, its relation to other Festival Psalms including Pss 50 and 81;
the genre(s) or Gattung(en) of the text; its dating or historical setting; its
cultic Sitz im Leben; and the psalms relationship to the New Testament.
It is indeed the psalms relation to the New Testament that raises
interest in the hermeneutical relationship between the two Testaments.
An understanding of Ps 95 in its Old Testament context, in comparison
with its New Testament use and understanding, reveals continuity and
discontinuity with regard to context, content and the theological meaning
of the text. The interpretation and exposition of Ps 95 (or its motifs and
allusions) in the New Testament does not comply exactly with the
psalms understanding in its Old Testament setting(s).
To illustrate this point, in this study the psalm will primarily be
explicated in its Old Testament context(s). Then a few remarks on the
comparison between the Old Testament interpretation, as well as the
psalms New Testament understanding (according to Heb 34), will
illustrate the continuity and discontinuity in the theological signicance
between both texts. Finally, a short word on the relevance of the psalm
for my African context will be voiced.

Composition and Poetic Quality

Text and Translation
The Hebrew text of Ps 95 is well preserved. It has no heading and offers
an intelligible reading to the exegete. While the whole of the psalm
exhibits a constant 3 + 3 metre, v. 7 poses metrical irregularities.4 This
has not only caused commentators to suggest text-critical emendations
for the verse; these irregularities, together with the change of tenor from
worship to warning (in v. 8) have also given rise to questions about the
verses redaction-critical composition.5 It becomes a question of whether

ek lewe (Irene: Medpharm, 2000), 15658; Frank-Lothar Hossfeld, Psalm 95.

Gattungsgeschichtliche, kompositionskritische und bibeltheologische Anfragen, in
Neue Wege der Psalmenforschung. Fr Walter Beyerlin (ed. Klaus Seybold and
Erich Zenger; Freiburg: Herder, 1995), 2944, idem, Psalm 95, in Psalmen 51
100 (ed. Frank-Lothar Hossfeld and Erich Zenger; HThKAT; Freiburg: Herder,
2000), 658.
4. Alfons Deissler, Die Psalmen (Dsseldorf: Patmos, 1964), 374.
5. For a thorough discussion of text-critical suggestions and emendations, cf.
Charles A. Briggs and Emilie G. Briggs, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on
the Book of Psalms (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1969), 1:296; Marvin E. Tate,
Psalms 51100 (WBC 20; Dallas, Tex.: Word, 1990), 497, and Hans-Joachim Kraus,
Psalmen 60150 (ed. Siegfried Hermann and Hans Walter Wolff; 5th ed; BKAT;
NeukirchenVluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1978), 2:828.
HUMAN A Prophetic Voice for Africa from Psalm 95 149

or not v. 7b (Today, if you hear his voice) was a later text insertion, or
Fortschreibung, made in order to bridge two distinct parts of the psalm
(17a; 811).6
Nevertheless, Ps 95 makes sense without any emendations to the
Masoretic text. Despite discussions on the original unity and growth of
the poem, the text in its present form comprises a coherent and mean-
ingful whole.7 Stylistic features and repetitions, as well as the logical
conception of the psalm, serve as major reasons why the interpretation of
the psalm as a unit can be maintained.8 Especially when comparing Ps 95
with Pss 50 and 81 (Festival Psalms), all these texts are seen to share the
same untypical combination of the elements of praise and prophetic
admonition.9 There is thus no reason why the whole of the psalm could
not have functioned as part of a liturgical agenda or a cultic procession
for the ancient Israelites.10
With this in mind, the Ps 95 reads as follows:
H? J CH4= 9 JC? 9H9J= 9??C? H<= 1
H= JC? EHC>K3 95HE3 HJ?A 9>5B? 2
)J9= =<= =H58 (=>H 9H9J =H58 = J< 3
HC4J HJ5J E3JH H9 H9H )J9 H=C 5

6. Theodor Seidl, Scheltwort als Befreiungsrede: Eine Deutung der deuterono-

mistischen Parnese fr Israel in Ps 95, 7c11, in Das Volk Gottes en Ort der
Befreiung. Festschrift E. Klinger (ed. H. Keul and H. J. Sander; Wrzburg: Echter,
1998), 10720 (109, 117).
7. Cf. Vella, To Enter, 82; Prinsloo, If Only, 406. See also the structural
analyses of Marc Girard, Analyse structurelle du Psaume 95, Science et Espirit 33,
no. 2 (1981): 17989, and Pierre Auffret, Essai sur la structure littraire du Psaume
95, Biblische Notizen 22 (1983): 4769.
8. Hossfeld, Psalm 95, 661; and Frank-Lothar Hossfeld, Die Psalmen: Psalm
51100 (NEB; Wrzburg: Echter, 2002), 513.
9. Oswalt Loretz, Ugarit-Texte und Thronbesteigungspsalmen: Die Meta-
morphose des Regenspenders Baal-Jahwe: Ps 24, 710; 29; 47; 93; 95100 sowie
Ps 77, 1720; 114 (UBL 7; Mnster: Ugarit-Verlag, 1988), 305.
10. The psalm is neither a complete hymn nor a full sermon, with the function to
admonish people as Mahnwort. Hermann Gunkel, Die Psalmen bersetzt und
erklrt (GHAT 2/2; Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1926), 417, understood
the text as prophetische Liturgie, while Sigmund Mowinckel, Psalmenstudien.
Buch III (Amsterdam: P. Schippers, [1921] 1961), 32930, attributed the psalm to
the category of the Thronbesteigungspsalmen and the cult. For the liturgical
agenda, cf. Erhard Gerstenberger, Psalms Part 2 and Lamentations (FOTL XV;
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 184. For a cultic procession hymn, cf. Rudolf
Kittel, Die Psalmen (KAT XIII; Leipzig: Erlangen, 1929), 312. For an entrance
liturgy, cf. Vella, To Enter, 94.
150 Psalms and Hebrews

H? 9H9JJ?A= 9<C3? 9 C<?H 9HIE? H 3 6

* 4H HEJ C> ) H?I? H H?J9= H9 J< 7
H >E H=B3) )HJ9 H5J
C35>3 9D> )HJ< 93JC>< )<33= HBE= 8
J= A H C)8 J?H?I3 )<JEH3 J?HD? C 9
J<C5 H 5J = )9H )9 33= J E ) C> H CH53 HB 9? )J 3C 10
JEIH?>= *H 3J) JA 3 JE 3?C 11

Come, let us shout with joy to Yahweh;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving (praise),
with songs let us shout with joy to him.
For Yahweh is the great God,
and the great king above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us worship, let us bow down,
let us kneel before Yahweh, our Maker;
for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture,
the ock of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts, as you did at Meribah;
as in the day at Massah in the desert,
where your fathers tested and tried me,
though they had seen my deeds.
For forty years I was angry with that generation;
and I said: (They are) a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.
So I have sworn an oath in my anger, They shall never enter my rest.

Literary Context
Psalm 95 forms part of (a) larger literary context(s) in the Psalter. With-
out taking this these larger redactional context(s) into consideration, the
specic theological function of the psalm, in relation to neighboring
psalms, will be forfeited.
Psalms 90150 form the second major division of the Psalter. This
part contains more untitled (or so-called orphan) psalms than in the rst
(Pss 189). Psalms 90106 (Book IV) forms the editorial centre of the
Pss 90150 collection.11 Furthermore, two groups of psalms seem to form

11. Jerome F. D. Creach, Yahweh as Refuge and the Editing of the Hebrew
Psalter (JSOTSup 217; Shefeld: Shefeld Academic, 1996), 99.
HUMAN A Prophetic Voice for Africa from Psalm 95 151

an intentionally ordered section in Book IV. Each group is bound by a

theological concept or idea, namely, Yahweh as refuge (Pss 9092, 94),
and Yahweh as king (Pss 93, 9599).
Psalms 189 also form a redactional unit in the Psalter. After the rise
(Ps 1) and the fall (Ps 89) of the earthly king, the descriptions of the
destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in Ps 89 seem to leave Israel
void. The second part of the Psalter, namely, Pss 90150, with the theo-
logical concepts of Yahweh as refuge (Pss 9092, 94) and Yahweh as
king (Pss 93, 9599), is a response to the agony over the destruction of
Jerusalem.12 The earthly king is overthrown. Who will reign now?
Yahweh is king. Not only is he described in this part as the only reliable
monarch, but as king he is depicted as the protector of Israel. Wilsons
suggestionthat Pss 93, 9599 hold the key to the theological meaning
of the completed Psaltertherefore seems to be convincing.13
Psalm 95 exhibits an important function inside the coherent collection
of Pss 93100, which hails the universality of Yahwehs kingship over
the world. To a large extent, this kernel group (Pss 9399) in Book IV is
an invitation to acknowledge the kingship of Yahweh and to participate
in Israels worship.14
The psalm plays a pivotal role in the unfolding of the theme of
Yahwehs kingship. It serves to address Israel on their election as Gods
people; and to sensitize them, by means of an oracular admonition, to
their responsibility to be faithful to the king.
Three basic functions of the psalm might be deployed.15 In combina-
tion with Ps 94, the endangering of Yahwehs kingship is addressed.
Psalm 95 portrays an inside perspective, namely, that Israel itself could
be a threat to the intimate communion with Yahweh, by means of dis-
belief and unfaithfulness among the people. Secondly, Ps 95 and Ps 100
form an inclusion or frame around the discrete unit Pss 9699the king-
ship of Yahweh psalms.16 The psalm nally serves as a bridge between
the cluster of psalms that describes the establishment of the kingship in
Pss 9394, and the cluster of psalms that depicts the universal execution
of the kingship in Pss 96100.

12. Ibid., 98.

13. Gerald Wilson, The Editing of the Hebrew Psalter (SBLDS 76; Chico, Calif.:
Scholars Press, 1985), 21617.
14. Jrg Jeremias, Ps 100 als Auslegung von Ps 9399, Skrif en Kerk 19, no. 3
(1998): 60515 (605).
15. Hossfeld, Psalm 95, 660, and Die Psalmen 51100, 513.
16. David M. Howard, The Structure of Psalms 93100 (ed. W. H. Propp;
Biblical and Judaic Studies from the University of California, San Diego 5; Winona
Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1997), 141.
152 Psalms and Hebrews

Literary Characteristics
Psalm 95 undoubtedly reveals poetic quality, although it does not read
like a typical psalm.17 Even Hermann Gunkel was of the opinion that the
poem is either original, or rich in spirit (wenig ursprnglich oder
geistreich).18 However, sound and stylistic features enhance the beauty
of the psalms composition and the poetic interwovenness of its various
components.19 Poetic conventions that contribute to its literary identity
include: rhyme patterns (vv. 15); alliteration (vv. 1, 5, 7, 8); assonance
(v. 7ab); word- and sound-play (vv. 1, 6); metonymy (v. 2); repetition;20
antithesis or contrast (vv. 17a/7b11; v. 4); anadiplosis (vv. 45);
chiasms (vv. 17c; v. 2; vv, 45); inclusion (vv. 6/8); pars pro toto (vv.
45); metaphor (vv. 1, 7b); simile (v. 8); and merism (v. 5). All these
gures of speech are applied functionally in order to enhance either
aspects of the text, or the signicance of its theological content.
The fact that the psalm ends in a blunt and abrupt way has led to
assumptions that the psalm serves only as an introit, or as part of a larger
liturgical agenda during worship services and other festival celebrations
of the congregation, at the sanctuary.21 Its open-endedness, a feature
found in other psalms (Pss 77 and 78), might even be an intentional
device used by the author in order to emphasize the seriousness of the
exhortation and the required urgency of the congregants response to the
divine voice.

On the basis of morphologic, syntactic, stylistic and semantic criteria, the
text can be divided into two basic sections: namely, vv. 17a and 7b
11.22 The rst stanza (vv. 17a) is characterized by its typical Old

17. Peter E. Enns, Creation and Recreation: Psalm 95 and Its Interpretation in
Hebrews 3:14:13, Westminster Theological Journal 55 (1993): 25580.
18. Hermann Gunkel, Die Psalmen bersetzt und erklrt (GHAT II/2; Gttingen:
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1926), 418.
19. Cf. Beat Weber, Werkbuch Psalmen II: Die Psalmen 73 bis 150 (Stuttgart:
Kohlhammer, 2003), 14142.
20. Various words and sounds are repeated in the text. These include: 9H9J
(vv. 1, 3, 6, 6); C (vv. 4, 5, 9, 11); ) (vv. 7, 10); =H58 (v. 3 [2]); )9 (v. 10 [2]);
3 (vv. 6, 11); 9 (vv. 5, 6); J< (vv. 3, 7); 5J (vv. 4, 5); H= (vv. 4, 5).
21. Gerstenberger, Psalms Part 2, 184. Cf. also Klaus Seybold, Die Psalmen
(HAT I/15; Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1996], 376).
22. Various possibilities prevail for the division of the psalm. Examples are:
vv. 17c, 7d11cf. Gunkel, Die Psalmen, 418, and many others after him; vv. 17,
811cf. R. E. O. White, A Christian Handbook to the Psalms (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1984), 147; vv. 15, 611cf. Jrg Jeremias, Das Knigtum Gottes in
HUMAN A Prophetic Voice for Africa from Psalm 95 153

Testament hymn structure; while the second stanza (vv. 7b11) is

described as a prophetic oracle because of the divine admonition or
The rst stanza (vv. 17a) consists of two parallel structured strophes,
where the believing community is summoned to bring homage to Yah-
weh through praise (vv. 15) and worship (vv. 67a). In both instances,
each call is a self-summons (Selbstausforderung)where either the
people in the whole community address one another (Come or go
in), or a cult ofcial calls on people in a procession to participate in
exuberant praise and in humble worship. Both these calls are motivated
with reasons why Yahweh should be hailed (vv. 35) or worshipped
(v. 7a). These motivations are in both cases introduced by the causal
particle J<.
The tenor of the cultic atmosphere changes drastically in the second
stanza (vv. 7b11). Verse 7b, Today, if you hear his voice, functions as
a bridge verse and an introduction to a liturgical sermon, one in which
the present Israelite community is warned to be faithful to Yahweh, their
king, in order to enter his rest (v. 11).
This sermon is clearly a re-actualization of traditions in the Israelite
history, to convince and remind the contemporary community of the
conditional character of Yahwehs covenant promises to his people. The
current generation23 should listen to his voice (v. 7b), not harden their
hearts (v. 8) or let their hearts err (v. 10). Ultimately, they should know
his ways. In other words, Israel should recognize his salvation deeds
(v. 9) and Torah ordinances (v. 10) if they want to enter his rest (v. 11).
To summarize, the text of Ps 95 can be divided into:

den Psalmen. Israels Begegnung mit dem kanaanischen Mythos in den Jahwe-
Knig-Psalmen (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1987), 108; vv. 16, 711
cf. Georg Fohrer, Psalmen (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1993), 3738.
23. Many exegetes have made suggestions for the dating of the psalm. Attempts
vary from impossible to x a date (cf. John W. Rogerson, Psalms 51100 [CBC:
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977], 217) to viewpoints such as pre-
exilic, exilic and post-exilic datings (cf. Prinsloo, If Only, 396, for a summary of
these views). One should reckon with the growth of the psalm in its different
historical, cultic and literary contexts, but if one takes the psalms literary position in
Books IV and V, as part of the theology and Sitz of the Yahweh-is-King Psalms, as
the point of departure, then a post-exilic dating of the psalm seems to be convincing.
Since Friedrich Baethgen, Die Psalmen bersetzt und erklrt (HAT; Gttingen:
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1904), 293, the late exilic, post-exilic period after the
Babylonian exile has regularly been indicated as the historical setting or date for the
psalmcf. Hossfeld, Psalm 95, 662.
154 Psalms and Hebrews

x a summons to praise Yahweh (vv. 15);

x a summons to worship Yahweh (vv. 67a);
x a prophetic oracle explicated in a sermon (vv. 7b11).

Textual Analysis
Summons to Praise Yahweh (vv. 15)
The psalm starts with festive jubilation.24 With a plural imperative
(Come), and four plural cohortatives (let us shout with joy, let us
shout aloud, let us come, let us shout with joy), the congregation is
challenged in vv. 12 to praise Yahweh with song and music. A cultic
scene is alluded to with various components of the text: apart from the
hymnic summons, the term 95HE3 implies either a thanksgiving song or a
prayer offering; while EHC>K3 supposes songs sung by the accompani-
ment of a stringed instrument (Ps 119:54). These activities were probably
executed in the sanctuary.
In addition to this, the face of Yahweh is meant to be a metonym for
his presence. With regard to ancient Near Eastern understanding, the
term represents the image of a god in a sanctuary. In the case of Israel,
the inside of the Jerusalem templeprobably the inner parts like the
Holy or Most Holy (where the ark of the covenant was placed, or else the
empty debir, which fullled a similar function)can be visualized.
Tradition-historically, the expression to approach or to see Gods
face presupposes a situation where a subject is given an audience before
a king in his throne room.25

24. Whether it was a Prozessionshymnus (cf. Rudolf Kittel, Die Psalmen

bersetzt und erklrt [KAT; Leipzig: A. Deicherische Verlagsbuchhandlung W.
Scholl, 1922], 312), Wallfahrts- und Einzugsliturgie (cf. Hans Schmidt, Die
Psalmen [HAT 15; Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1934], 177), the text of an autumnal
new year celebration (cf. John Eaton, The Psalms: A Historical and Spiritual
Commentary with an Introduction and New Translation [London: T. & T. Clark,
2003], 337), employed during the Feast of the Tabernacles/Booths (cf. Deissler, Die
Psalmen, 374 and Tate, Psalms 51100, 499), or any other cultic or festive worship
service (cf. Seybold, Die Psalmen, 377), is hard to determine.
25. Herbert J. Levine, Sing Unto God a New Song: A Contemporary Reading of
the Psalms (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), 11216; Friedhelm
Hartenstein, Die Unzugnglichkeit Gottes im Heiligtum. Jesaja 6 und der Wohnort
JHWHs in der Jerusalemer Kulttradition (WMANT 75; NeukirchenVluyn:
Neukirchener Verlag, 1997), 41108 (6378); Friedhelm Hartenstein, Das
Angesicht Gottes im Exodus 3224, in Gottes Volk am Sinai. Untersuchungen zu
Ex 3224 und Dtn 910 (ed. M. Kckert and E. Blum; Verffentlichungen der
Wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft fr Theologie 18; Gtersloh: Gtersloher Verlag,
2001), 15783 (16064).
HUMAN A Prophetic Voice for Africa from Psalm 95 155

In the cultic language of the Old Testament, the hymnic self-summons

to praise in the plural (cohortative) form has its setting in the context of
pilgrimages to Jerusalem, or processions in the cultic areas of Zion.26
Thus, these joyful calls to pay homage to Yahweh, while the people are
approaching his presence, are probably part of a festive procession or
liturgy in the area of the Jerusalem temple.
That Yahweh is characterized by the metaphor Rock of our salva-
tion in v. 1 (Deut 32:15; Pss 18:3, 32, 47; 89:27) is signicant. This
image already anticipates the reason why the festive crowd should come
to praise himhe was responsible for their salvation, either recently or
in the distant past. Israels experience with the rock as a symbol for
refuge or protection against danger during their desert wanderings (Num
24:21; Isa 33:16); or the water given by God from the rock that Moses
hit (Exod 17:17; Num 20:8), as well as the rm rock on which the
temple was built, all recall redemption associations in the Israelite
The expression H? J (our salvation) also conveys a confessional
character. In relation to H? in v. 6 (our Maker/Creator), with which
word-play is effected, the two expressions denote and alert the feast
participant to Gods work with this faith community. Yahweh is simul-
taneously redeemer and creator of the contemporary us, namely, the
present Israel. A large chiasm or ABBA parallelism (vv. 15 / 67)27 not
only effects cohesion in these verses, but also the motifs of Yahweh
being saviour and maker are brought to the fore:
Saviour (A, vv. 12) Creator (B, vv. 35) Maker (B, v. 6) Saviour (A, v. 7)

Verses 35 provide the reasons as to why Yahweh should be praised. In

the typical form of the Old Testament hymn genre, the call to praise is
followed by the J< particle (for) and the consequent motivation.
Yahweh should be praised because he is a great God and great King
over all the gods (Pss 47:3; 96:4; 99:2). To sketch the greatness and
supremacy of Yahweh above all other gods, the author alludes to the
mythological worldview of the Ugaritic pantheon, where the supreme
god El surpasses the power of all other gods. The reference to Yahweh as
=H58 = (a great God) elevates Yahweh to the highest God in the whole
universe. The portrayal of Yahweh of =H58 (=> (a great king) also has

26. Frank Crsemann, Studien zur Formgeschichte von Hymnus und Danklied in
Israel (WMANT 32; NeukirchenVluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1969), 181. See also
Jrg Jeremias, Kultprophetie und Gerichtsverkndigung in der spter Knigszeit
Israels (WMANT 35; NeukirchenVluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1970), 109.
27. Charles B. Riding, Psalm 95:17c as a Large Chiasm, ZAW 88 (1976): 418.
156 Psalms and Hebrews

mythological allusionsit reects typical descriptions in Ugarit, where

Baal is depicted as almighty king and judge, who reigns over all the
gods.28 And yet, to ascribe these titles to Yahweh also has a polemical
function, as this means that Yahweh is the only high godhis kingship
even surpasses that of El and Baal.
For the people of the ancient Near East the acknowledgment of some-
one as king was inextricably bound to the choice of that person (or
power) as a means of protection.29 Israels praise of Yahweh therefore
means that they recognize him as sole ruler and protector.
Verses 45 elaborate on these statements, stating why Yahweh is a
great God and a great King. Both verses are syntactically and stylistically
bound together with a chiastic pattern, as well as the introduction of the
relative particle C .
The comprehensive work of Yahweh as creator is described with
vertical dimensions in v. 4, and horizontal dimensions in v. 5. The depths
of the earth and the peaks of the mountains are the work of his hands.
These antithetic parts of the universe not only express the utmost borders
of creation; they also represent the abodes of the gods of life on the
mountains, and the spirits/gods of death who reside in Sheol (in the
depths). According to ancient Near Eastern belief, the high mountains
were the abodes of the gods (Pss 68:15; 89:12; 121:1), while the nether-
world was the realm of the powers of death.30 Behind these descriptions
again appear the mythological multi-layered world-building that was
visualized by ancient Near Eastern people.31
The merism of sea and dry land (v. 5) indicates the whole universe,
and represents everything that Yahweh has made. Interestingly, the
notions )J9 (sea) and E3JH (dry land) may also allude to Yam or
Yammu, the Canaanite god of chaos, as well as and Boshet or Bashtu, a

28. See KTU 1.3 V 3233: Our king is almighty Baal, our judge, no one is
above him; KTU 1.4 VII 4950: I alone am the one who reigns over the gods. Cf.
Oswalt Loretz, Ugarit-Texte und Thronbesteigungspsalmen. Die Metamorphose des
Regenspenders Baal-Jahwe (UBL 7; Bielefeld: Cornelsen Verlagsgesellschaft,
1988), 30910.
29. Creach, Yahweh as Refuge, 97.
30. Artur Weiser, The Psalms: A Commentary (OTL; London: SCM, 1962),
31. Othmar Keel, Die Welt der altorientalischen Bildsymbolik und das Alte
Testament. Am Beispiel der Psalmen (Zrich: Benziger; NeukirchenVluyn: Neu-
kirchener Verlag, 1972), 2148 (3639, 4748). See also Claus Peterson, Mythos im
Alten Testament. Bestimmung des Mythosbegriffs und Untersuchung der mythischen
Elemente in den Psalmen (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1982), 18182, for other Old Testa-
ment parallels.
HUMAN A Prophetic Voice for Africa from Psalm 95 157

protective spirit in Mesopotamia.32 Yahwehs creative power over both

Canaanite and Mesopotamian gods are hereby alluded to.
The repetitions of both H5J (his hands) and H= (for him), as part of
the chiasm between vv. 4 and 5, simultaneously emphasize that Yahweh
is not only the Maker/Creator of the depths of earth, the peaks of the
mountains, and the sea and dry land, but also that he owns them. His
ownership and power to create them elevates him above all other gods;
whether they are gods/spirits of life, death, chaos or protection. While
holding everything in his hand, there is no threat that could endanger the
kingship of this great God at all. His power knows no limitations.

Summons to Worship Yahweh (vv. 67)

In contrast to the noisy music and shouts of joy in vv. 12, a more
devoted atmosphere characterizes the second strophe of the rst stanza
(vv. 67a). Here the festive throng is again summoned, but this time it is
to worship Yahweh. With a plural imperative (Come or Go in), and
three cohortative self-summons, the worshippers are again challenged to
prostrate, kneel and bow down before the presence of Yahweh. If the
imperative verb Come (v. 1) has invited the congregation to approach
the temple area, and if the cohortative let us near (v. 2) is an indication
that the people enter the temple, then the imperative Go in (v. 6) might
be the movement of their last approach before they prostrate themselves
in the inner parts of the sanctuary.
The humble submission of the worshippers before the great God
evokes the obedience, trust and gratitude of the creatures before their
creator. In their prostration they recognize him as our Maker (v. 6).
Yahweh is not only the creator of the universe, he is also the creator of
his people, Israel. The contrast between his greatness and their humble
obedience indicates their low and dependent position before Yahweh.
Parallel to the hymnic structure in the rst strophe, the motivation to
come and worship Yahweh is introduced in v. 7a by the particle J<. The
reason for their devotion is founded in the covenant relationship between
Yahweh and Israel. The covenant formula, He is our God and we are
the people of his pasture, the ock of his hand (Jer 11:4), underscores
both Yahwehs ownership and his guidance of his people. The shepherd
and ock metaphor is probably a reference to Yahwehs deeds of
salvation during the exodus events, the desert wanderings, the Sinai
events, and the occupation of the land.

32. Hannes D. Galter, Bastu, in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible
(ed. K. van der Toorn, B. Becking and P. W. van der Horst; Grand Rapids: Eerd-
mans, 1999), 16364.
158 Psalms and Hebrews

The shepherd metaphor (Pss 77:21; 78:52; 80:2; 100:3)33 is supportive

of the function of the king. In ancient Near Eastern thought, the kings
role as shepherd of his people was to provide for, guide and protect them
among the worlds nations.34 For this purpose, Yahwehs covenant ock
was dependent upon him. Their obligation was to show their trust in their
creator, shepherd and protector for their needs.

Sermon as Prophetic Oracle (vv. 7b11)

In the second stanza of Ps 95 (vv. 7b11) there is a sudden change in
subject and atmosphere. A divine voice, one which reminds of a pro-
phetic oracle, meets the ears of the current congregation. Not the festive
praise and the devout worship, but the warning and admonishment of the
present congregation become evident.
In the typical style of the Deuteronomic/deuteronomistic theology, the
contemporary congregation is warned to listen to Yahwehs voice, and
not to harden their hearts like their fathers did.35 The author uses the
Mosaic sermon style when he urges them to make a decision today
(Deut 4:40; 6:6; 7:11; 8:19; 9:3; 30:15; Exod 34:11). The emphasis on
today intensies Yahwehs determination to treat mistrust and unfaith-
fulness in the same way that he treated their unfaithful fathers, namely,
to deny them the occupation of the Promised Land.
The psalms author applies the divine voice, probably represented in
the cultic ceremony by a Levite speaker or cultic prophet, to voice this
exhortation.36 Israels own history is used as an example to convince and
remind the present Israelite generation (probably a post-exilic generation
who returned from Babylon and had experienced the hardships of re-
settlement in their land) to be faithful to Yahweh in order to enjoy his
promised Heilsgut, the blessings of his rest. This generation is taken
on a trip down the Israelite memory lane to see how their forefathers
Tradition-historically, the Massah and Meribah narratives of Exod
17:17 and Num 20:113 (see also Deut 33:8 and Ps 81:8) are explicated

33. For Mitchell Dahood, Psalms. Vol. 2, 51100 (AB 17; New York: Double-
day, 1986), 355, the resumption of the ock metaphor in the second part (vv. 7b11)
is indicative of the unity of authorship of the psalm.
34. The shepherd image is more than a pastoral metaphor. It expresses the role of
a king in the ancient Near East as provider, leader and protector; cf. James L. Mays,
Psalms (Interpretation; Louisville, Ky.: John Knox, 1994), 306.
35. Thijs Booij, Psalmen. Deel III (81110) (POT; Nijkerk: Callenbach, 1994),
150; W. Dennis Tucker, Psalm 95: Text, Context and Intertext, Bib 81 (2000):
54050 (540); Seidl, Scheltwort als Befreiungsrede, 107.
36. Jeremias, Kultprophetie, 127; Levine, Sing Unto God, 115.
HUMAN A Prophetic Voice for Africa from Psalm 95 159

and interpreted for the present listening generation. The word-play

between 9D> (v. 8) and J?HD? (they have tested me) draw the attention
to the etymology of the names Meribah and Massa. These locations were
the places where the Israelites tested and proofed Yahweh with
contention and testing. This testing is not spelled out in our text, but,
according to the abovementioned traditions, these were the localities
where the Israelites found fault with Moses and his guidance. The
Israelites rebelled and questioned the presence of Yahweh at Massah and
Meribah, where they were in need of water and protection. This conduct
was regarded as unfaithfulness, despite Israels awareness of Yahwehs
salvation deeds (my deeds in v. 9) all along their journey.
The consequence of their mistrust and disbelief was that Yahweh
loathed this murmuring generation, whose hearts went astray and who
didnt recognize his ways (my ways in v. 10). As a semantic synonym
of Yahwehs deeds (my deeds in v. 9), the phrase J= A most probably
refers to the salvation deeds of Yahwehs creation power, his guidance
and care, and his protection.
As the climax of the admonition, the last verse functions as a warning
to the present generation: So I have sworn an oath in my anger: They
shall never enter my rest. This quotation from Deut 12:9 became a
reality for the unfaithful generation. Moses and his generation did not
enter Gods rest (i.e. the Promised Land) because of their unfaithful
behaviour and attitude towards him. Gods rest is indicative of either the
Promised Land (Deut 25:19; Num 14:30),37 or the temple as place of
Yahwehs residence (Ps 132:8, 14).38 The ancient Israelite desert genera-
tion had to learn what the consequences of unfaithful behaviour were.
Now the new (post-exilic) generation is confronted with the same choice:
to be faithful to Yahweh, or not.
The open-endedness of the psalm leaves room for the open choice that
the believing community has when they use the psalm in their cultic
celebrations. Everyone who has read the psalm is confronted with the
same choice and with self-reection.39 Those who fail to pay heed to the
admonition of the prophetic oracle will nd themselves apart from Gods

37. Eaton, The Psalms, 339.

38. Georg Braulik, Gottes Ruhe. Das Land oder der Tempel? Zu Psalm 95,11,
in Freude an die Weisung des Herrn. Beitrge zur Theologie der Psalmen. Festgabe
zum 70. Geburtstag von Heinrich Gross (ed. Ernst Haag and Frank-Lothar Hossfeld;
Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk), 3344.
39. Seybold, Die Psalmen, 379.
160 Psalms and Hebrews

Psalm 95 in the New Testament

Several motifs or allusions from Ps 95 can be traced in the New Testa-
ment. Obvious examples include 1 Cor 10:113, where the Meribah
narrative (the water from the rock) is typologically applied to Jesus, or
Matt 15:24; 18:1213; John 10 and Rev 21:3, where the shepherd motif
of Ps 95:7 is applied to Jesus. It is not the intention of the present essay
to discuss these examples in detail, but rather to offer a few observations
on the discontinuity between the Old and New Testament texts and
It is in Heb 34 that Ps 95 functions most extensively. Here we nd
parts of the psalm being utilized in the plot of this New Testament
narrative. Especially vv. 711 are cited and explicated in Heb 3:7 and
4:11. The contribution of Gert J. Steyn to the present volume, entitled
The Reception of Psalm 95 (94):711 in Hebrews 34, discusses the
reception of Ps 95 in this New Testament context thoroughly.
Without attempting to engage in a thorough exegesis of these cita-
tions, I want to make a few remarks on the author of Hebrews use of the
psalm. From these observations it becomes evident, I believe, that there
is continuity and discontinuity with regard to the context, content and
theological meaning of the Old Testament psalm and that the New
Testament authors have not done justice to the psalms exact understand-
ing in its Old Testament setting. With the citation or exposition of Ps 95,
they have (hermeneutically speaking) created a new text in the New
Testament context. Under the inuence of the author of Hebrews own
theological intention, the psalm text became part of its theological pro-
gramme and narrative. Here follows a few observations.

Psalm 95 in Hebrews 34: Some Hermeneutical Observations

Throughout the letter to the Hebrews it is evident that the full signi-
cance of the Old Testament is realized by the Early Christian Church.
The new dispensation supersedes the old one. This happens pro-
leptically through Israel.40
In the rst part of the book the theological agenda of the book (1:5
5:10) prepares the reader for the core argument, namely, that Jesus Christ
is the high priest (5:1110:39). This preparation explains that Jesus is
greater than the angels (1:52:18), greater than Moses (3:119), greater
than Joshua (4:113) and greater than the earthly high priests (4:14

40. Enns, Creation and Re-creation, 278.
HUMAN A Prophetic Voice for Africa from Psalm 95 161

Most relevant of the present discussion is Heb 34, since the prophetic
sermon of Ps 95:7b11 is cited in Heb 3:711. Verses 78 of Ps 95
appear in Heb 3:15; v. 11 is cited in Heb 4:3, 5; while vv. 78 occur once
again in Heb 4:7. Hebrews 3:18 alludes to v. 11 of the psalm. The psalm
is applied to a context in which the audience is warned against the danger
of unbelief, which will cause the denial of the rest promised to them.41
Without analyzing or discussing the whole of Heb 34 or all the Ps 95
citations therein, the following observations seem to be hermeneutically
x It is noteworthy that the author of Hebrews makes citations from
the Septuagint text, and not from the Masoretic text. Furthermore,
it is clear that the author is not always consistent in the treatment
of citations. By citing the Septuagint text, the author of Hebrews
had deviated from the Masoretic textual tradition. The Septuagint
text is a different text and already an interpretive translation of the
Masoretic version.
x Psalm 95 has no heading or indication of specic authorship.
Instead of the unknown author of the psalm, the author of Hebrews
puts the psalm quotation in the mouth of the Holy Spirit (3:7), and
of David (4:7). This is a denite interpretation of the author of
Hebrews, which is absent in Ps 95. To make David the human
author of the psalm in a post-exilic context is unimaginable.
x The author of Hebrews follows a Midrashic method of exposition.
This author has even made a typological connection between
Israel and the church. The explication of Gods rest in Heb 4:811
as an eschatological event reects the pesher exposition model.42
This boils down to a reinterpretation of the original psalm for a
different time period and different historical context.
x Changes have been made by the author of Hebrews to the text of
Ps 95. The author of Hebrews cites the psalm in such a way to
make it sound as if the text has immediate bearing on his audi-
ence, the new wilderness community of the Hebrews context.

41. See the exposition of F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews (ICNT; Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 6067; Albert Vanhoye, Longue marche ou accs tout
proche? Le contexte biblique de Hbreux 3,74,11, Bib 49 (1968): 926; George
W. Buchanan, To the Hebrews: Translation, Commentary and Conclusions (AB 36;
New York: Doubleday, 1972), 6168; James Moffat, A Critical and Exegetical
Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1979),
4349; Herbert Braun, An die Hebrer (HNT 14; Tbingen: Mohr, Siebeck, 1984),
85101; Claus-Peter Mrz, Hebrerbrief (NEB; Wrzburg: Echter, 1989), 3234.
42. Enns, Creation and Re-creation, 272.
162 Psalms and Hebrews

x In Heb 3:719 the author wants to warn Christians, the new

exodus community, against unfaithfulness and disbelief. The
quotation and exposition of the psalm serves as an example of
apostasy in ancient Israel, and the consequences thereof. The
contemporary audience should persevere in their faithfulness to
x The author of Hebrews then inserted dio (therefore) into Heb
3:10, an element which is absent in the Septuagint text. Here the
author has even changed the Septuagint text for the sake of his
own theological intention and emphasis.43
x Furthermore, the Hebrews author added the phrase en dokimasia
(with scrutiny) in Heb 3:9, where the Septuagint has edokimasen
(MT = Ps 95:9 they tried or they tried me). This is a deliberate
change in the Hebrews text, one presumably intended to t the
theological programme of the New Testament context.
x As a nal example, the author of Hebrews purposefully and delib-
erately changed the Septuagint and Masoretic reading of Ps 95:10
(= Heb 3:10), namely, that (ekein) generation to this (taut)
generation in order to stress the urgency of the admonition to the
present Christian community.
From these observations it becomes clear that the Hebrews author util-
ized Ps 95 in such a way that the psalm seems to function as a prophetic
admonition in the early Hebrew community from the mouth (or pen) of
Davidnot only for ancient Israel, but also for the present Christian
wilderness community. The Old Testament picture has been modi-
ed.44 Here the author warns his contemporaries of their impending fate
and therefore not to repeat their ancestors mistake.45
Through additions to, and changes of, Ps 95, there is continuity and
discontinuity visible in the authors application (or reinterpretation) of
this age-old prophetic admonition (Ps 95:711) with regard to context,
content and theological signicance.
The question is: Does this prophetic admonition and the hermeneutical
process of the (re)interpretation of the psalm by the author(s) of Hebrews
address modern-day Africa?

43. Cf., ibid., for all three these examples.

44. John Brand, Sabbath-Rest, Worship, and the Epistle to the Hebrews Cele-
brating the Rule of Yahweh, Didaskalia (March 1990): 313 (9).
45. David C. Mitchell, The Message of the Psalter: An Eschatological Pro-
gramme in the Book of Psalms (JSOTSup 252; Shefeld: Shefeld Academic, 1997),
HUMAN A Prophetic Voice for Africa from Psalm 95 163

A Prophetic Word for Africa from Psalm 95

In both Ps 95 and in Heb 34 the prophetic oracle serves to sensitize the
current believing community to its faith relationship with God. It spells
out how unfaithfulness to God in the past has led to the withholding, or
absence, of his blessing, that is, his rest.
Not only ancient Israel and/or the early Christian communities, but
also African communities have to be on the alert to taking this divine
royal voice of Ps 95 seriously. Especially South Africas faith attitude,
which is reected in the words of Nkosi Sikilele, Africa (God, bless
Africa), should be nurtured with the reciprocal response to show faith-
fulness to God by means of respect for the Deity, for fellow Africans and
for the land, the continent.
The recognition of God as the great God and the great king over
the gods in Africa therefore requires retrospection of, and introspection
into, Africas own history(-ies). This self-reection, or self-critique, of
Africa should lead the multi-cultural and multi-facetted societies of
Africa, and South Africa in particular, at various levels of social and
religious life:
x to detect and discover the stubbornness of their own hearts with
regard to inhuman and unloving behaviour;
x to learn from the wrongdoings of their forefathers with regard to
social, political, economic and religious injustices;
x to observe their own ignorance with regard to Gods ways of
love, justice and grace.
Africa has indeed seen and experienced Gods great deeds in many
ways. Not only has this continent hosted Yahwehs rst prototypical
redemptive deeds in Egypt and the Reed Sea (Exod 15), but in various
ways Gods deliverance, protection and provision have been realized on
various parts of the continent today. Stories of hope and encouragement
in Africa are well known.
Psalm 95 is a challenge to choose an appropriate lifestyle. The praise
and worship of God as creator and righteous protective king should
therefore be concretized in the care for creation, the continent of Africa,
as well as in the just and righteous deeds of all African people towards
each other. The African kings and rulers have to fulll their royal
duties of guidance, in particular, care and protection.
If Africas nations do not deal regularly with the open-ended prophetic
admonition from the divine royal king of Ps 95, then their praise and
worship in liturgy and ordinary life will remain an unfullling experi-
ence. Africans will experience a denial of access to Gods rest on the
164 Psalms and Hebrews

African continent in various ways. As a result of this, African nations

will rather be drowned in suppression, starvation, illnesses, corruption,
ecological46 and other disasters.
In order to experience Gods rest in Africa to its fullest extent, one
very important prerequisite for the understanding of the Old Testament
in Africa should prevailgood and thorough textual exegesis. Without
this dedication Africa will remain in the desert.

46. Ps 95 has been related to an ecological perspective by Jannie du Preez,

Reading Three Enthronement Psalms from an Ecological Perspective, Mission-
alia 19, no. 2 (1991): 12230. To enjoy Gods rest in every country requires, accord-
ing to Du Preez, care for the land and the people.

Christian Frevel

1. Introduction

When discussing Ps 95 within and without (the Letter to the) Hebrews

in biblical theological perspective, we encounter certain hermeneutical
presuppositions which cannot be discussed at length in this article:
The use of the Old Testament in the New Testament is seen as a strong
indication of the coherence of the Bible within itself. Yet this coherence
is manifold and by no means unambiguousthere are allusions, afrma-
tive or contrastive citations and lines of reasoning, and more than once
the meaning of the Old Testament text is changed. However, despite the
diversity of scripture within scripture, and explicit as well as implicit
intertextuality, there still remains a strong bond between the Old and the
New Testament. How this correlation between Old and New can be
perverted, by insisting on the superiority of the New Testament, becomes
clear in some results of Hebrews research, where we nd such statements
as Israel wurde verworfen, da es zwar die Gabe des Wortes empng,
sich aber nicht glaubend durch die Gabe binden lie und insofern den
Charakter des Logos als einer auf den Weg schickenden Verheiung
verkannte.1 The conclusions drawn here are not only hermeneutically
questionable; they are fatal in their practical and inter-religious relevance
as well.
This is a problem which concerns the Letter to the Hebrews with
special urgency, since here a text is presented that has, on the one hand,
strong dealings with Old Testament allusions and citations, but that, on
the other hand, has also been accused of having an anti-judaistic impli-
cation. Therefore a closer look at Hebrews and its specic dealing with

* For Bernd Janowski, in celebration of his 65th birthday.

1. Ernst Ksemann, Das wandernde Gottesvolk. Eine Untersuchung zum
Hebrerbrief (Gttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 1939), 6.
166 Psalms and Hebrews

the Old Testament is necessary. The present study is meant as a contri-

bution to the aforementioned taskby examining the use of Ps 95 in
Hebrews, the larger issue of the use of the Old Testament in Hebrews
will become clearer. In order for this exercise to be successful, some
valuations have to be unfolded rst, in contradiction to the aforemen-
tioned hermeneutical prejudices of Ksemann and others.
In my opinion, dealing with both parts of the twofold Christian Bible
as a whole cannot place hermeneutical precedence on either the Old or
New Testament. Both testaments bear witness to the same revelation and
to the same God.2 Thus they are on an equal theological level, and have
the same value concerning the understanding of Christianity. The conse-
quences hereof can be described in the hermeneutical model of a canoni-
cal dialog,3 one which is contrastive, but which similarly has to keep in
mind that the rst part of our Holy Scripture is part of another world
religion. Practically speaking, this means that my exegesis has to justify
the interpretation of the text against the backdrop of JewishChristian
My intentions, when approaching Ps 95 in Hebrews as an Old Testa-
ment scholar, are modest. Following the train of thought in the Masoretic
version of the book of Psalms, I ask for serious hermeneutical changes in
Hebrews by drawing Ps 94 LXX into the discussion of Heb 3 and 4.
Searching for continuities and discontinuities, my core question will be
the consequences of the psalms reception and apparent updating in the
Letter to the Hebrews. As Hebrews relies strongly on Ps 94 LXX, I have
to consider the Greek version of Ps 95 MT as well.

2. Understanding Psalm 95 without Hebrews

How to understand Ps 95 MT without Hebrews? As a framework for my
exegetical observations in this regard I have to mention some of the
methodological starting points for more recent psalms exegesis: (1) the
withdrawal of the genre and the traditional genre criticism of Gunkel and
Mowinckel (Gattungskritik); (2) the recent tendency to move from
the single psalm to the Psalter as a whole, and thus to contextualize the
psalm; and (3) the accent on redactional criticism of the psalms. In
following these tendencies there are several levels of interpretation of

2. See, for example, Bernd Janowski, The One God of the Two Testaments:
Basic Questions of a Biblical Theology, Theology Today 57 (2000): 297324.
3. See Erich Zenger, Das erste Testament: Die jdische Bibel und die Christen
(Dsseldorf: Patmos, 1991), and Einleitung in das Alte Testament (7th ed.; Stuttgart:
Kohlhammer, 2008).
FREVEL TI NFSPOUnderstanding Psalm 95 167

Ps 95 which should be kept in mind: (1) the basic level is the psalm in
itself; (2) the next higher level is that of the neighbouring psalms and the
concatenationthe psalm has to be considered in the context of the
Royal Psalms, or the so-called YHWH-has-become-king Psalms; (3) then
it has to be examined in the larger context of the fourth psalm book (Pss
90106); (4) and nally it needs to be considered in the context of the
Psalter as a whole.4
Psalm 95 forms part of fourth book of the Psalms, which begins with
the focus on Moses.5 The third book is determined by the Asaphite and
Korahite dominance in Pss 7383 and 8489 (with the exception of Ps
86, a Davidic Psalm, and the last psalmPs 89, which is ascribed to the
Ezrahite Etan). With Ps 89 the third book has come to a dark endthe
earthly kingdom, with a Davidic successor on the Jerusalem throne, has
ceased (Ps 89:40). The whole fourth book seems to be a struggle with
this rock bottom of hope, developing a new and lasting perspective
through remembrance of, and reection on, anthropological boundaries
and the confession of the sole king YHWH. By mentioning Moses in Ps
90, the beginning of the fourth book is like a beat of the drum. In the
previous book there is only one citation of Moses, together with Aaron,
at the end of Ps 77: You led your people like a ock by the hand of
Moses and Aaron (*C9 H 9>5J3 (> * 4< EJI?, Ps 77:21). Now, at
the beginning of the fourth book, it is Moses bringing his 9=AE. The
superscription renders )J9= 9J 9>= 9=AE. The following psalms,
Pss 91 and 92, have no heading at all. Like the whole group of Royal
Psalms (Pss 93100), our Ps 95 also has no heading. After the fulminant
end of the group of Royal Psalms in Ps 100, Ps 101 starts again with
David, last mentioned in Ps 89:50. Inside this framework of the expected
psalm composer David, we have a vacuum-like lacuna which is lled by
Moses, causing the fourth book of the psalms to have a mosaic accent.
Besides Ps 90, and the reection of the Wilderness in the cited passage
of Ps 95, there is also an explicit reference to Moses and Aaron (and
Samuel) in Ps 99:69. The next mention of Moses is to be found in
Ps 103not only through the quotation of the grace formula (Gnaden-
formel), but also through reference to the revelation of the Law in v. 7,

4. As the numerous references in my footnotes testify, I am strongly indebted to

the continuing focus on the Psalms and on Psalter exegesis by Erich Zenger and
Frank-Lothar Hossfeld.
5. See extensively Egbert Ballhorn, Zum Telos des Psalters: Der Text-
zusammenhang des Vierten und Fnften Psalmenbuches (Ps 50150) (BBB 138;
Berlin: Philo, 2004), 62146; and further Johannes Schnocks, Vergnglichkeit und
Gottesherrschaft: Studien zu Psalm 90 und dem vierten Psalmenbuch (BBB 140;
Berlin: Philo, 2002), 179276.
168 Psalms and Hebrews

which takes up Ps 90:16: He revealed to Moses his ways, his great

deeds to the children of Israel (NJB). That Moses plays a crucial role in
the retrospection on the history of Israel in Ps 105:2645 is quite
expected, but the dominance of this section in the ashback of the whole
history is conspicuous. The fourth book ends with a broad reference to
the Exodus and the Wilderness period in Ps 106:833. So, even without
being called a Mosaic Psalter, the tendency of the fourth book to
accentuate Moses and his time (the Exodus, Sinai, and the Wilderness) is
unmistakable. Judging from the lecturing tone of the whole fourth book,
Moses plays a prominent role in this part of the Psalter. In this context it
should not be surprising that Ps 95 argues intensively with the Wilder-
ness period.6 Within the Mosaic Psalter Ps 95 functions as part of a
framework for the Royal Psalms. The parallels with Ps 100 are striking:
Ps 95 Ps 100
H? J CH4= 9 JC? 9H9J= 9??C? H<= 1 #C 9=< 9H9J= H JC9 95HE= CH>K> 1
H= JC? EHC>K3 95HE3 HJ?A 9>5B? 2 H 3 9I>3 9H9JE H53 2
=H58 (=>H 9H9J =H58 = J< 3
9??C3 HJ?A=
)J9= =<= H?  H9 )J9= H9 9H9JJ< H 5 3
EHA HEH #C JCBI> H5J3 C 4 HEJ C> * 4H H) H?I? H=H
H= )JC9 9=9E3 HJEC4I 95HE3 HJC  H 3 4
E3JH H9 H9H )J9 H=C 5
H> H<C3 H=H5H9
HC4J HJ5J C55 H H5DI )=H = 9H9J 3HJ< 5
9<C3? 9 C<?H 9HIE? H 3 6 HE?H> C5H
H? 9H9JJ?A=
HEJ C> ) H?I? H H?J9= H9 J< 7
H5J * 4H
Structurally, the most convincing argument is that of the covenant
formula, which occurs comparably only in Pss 33:12 and 144:15 in the
shepherd metaphor for YHWH (which is attested to outside of the forth
book only in the Asaphite Psalms, Pss 74:1; 79:13). There can be no
doubt as to the fact that these two psalms (Pss 95 and 100) are composi-
tionally parallel, and arranged as sort of twins. Jrg Jeremias published
an excellent article in 1998 in Skrif en Kerk in which he argues that
Ps 100 cites Pss 9399.7 Hossfeld and Zenger argue, with Jeremias, that

6. Against Ballhorn (Telos, 93), Moses cannot be the speaker of the psalm
performed in the temple.
7. See Jrg Jeremias, Psalm 100 als Auslegung von Ps 9399*, Skrif en Kerk
19 (1998): 60515 (613). In this article Jeremias stated the connections between Pss
96; 98 and 100 and restricted the parallels with Ps 95 mostly to Ps 100:3: Waren
die Rahmenaussagen in Ps 100 (V. 1,5) von Ps 98 bestimmt und die inneren
Rahmenaussagen von (V. 2,4) von Ps 96, so ist der zentrale V. 3 von Ps 95 geprgt.
Alle drei Kola in V. 3 sind abgewandelte Zitate aus Ps 95:7a. I am convinced that
FREVEL TI NFSPOUnderstanding Psalm 95 169

Ps 100 is a composition which is oriented to Pss 95; 96, and 98, and is
congured as the keystone of the original composition of Pss 93; 95; 96;
98; 100. According to Hossfeld and Zenger, Ps 100 bildet die beab-
sichtigte Klimax; er ist zu diesem Zweck eigens verfat worden und
nimmt gezielt die Ps 95; 96 und 98 auf.8 However, when closely exam-
ined, the congruities of Ps 100 with Pss 96 and 99 are less signicant
than its broad congruity with Ps 95. Indeed, although Pss 96 and 100
share common terminologythe phrase H> H<C3 (Pss 96:2; 100:4), the
word 9?H> (Pss 96:13; 100:5), the imperative H H3 (Pss 96:8; 100:2, 4),
and the EHC4I of the temple (Pss 96:8 and 100:4)in the case of Ps 98
there is not much more than the phrase #C 9=< 9H9J= H JC9, which is
also used in Pss 96:4 and 100:1, and the two terms 9?> H 5DI (Pss 98:3
and 100:5). The lines between Pss 93 and 100 are imsy. So, the strong-
est accent is on the parallels between Pss 95 and 100. Both psalms are
redactionally congured twins. In short, I agree with David M. Howards
assertion that Psalm 100 answers the question that might arise from the
end of Psalm 95, which is Has YHWH rejected succeeding generations?
The answer is No!.9
Let us now look at the psalm itself and at its structure. There is a
consensus among scholars that we have a very well structured rst part
in vv. 17, followed by a second part in vv. 811.10 This second part has
a less well-dened structure, and ends with the dark declaration: They
shall never enter into my rest. In direct opposition to this end, the psalm
starts off very positively with an imperative plural, H<=, paralleled by the
imperative at the beginning of v. 6, H 3. Both imperatives, which divide
the rst part of the psalm into two further parts, are followed by four (vv.
12) and three cohortatives (v. 6). While the imperatives designate a call
for nearing with praise, and for the cultic approach to the sanctuary, the
cohortatives describe the praise and form coevally as a performative act
of praise whose subject is the speaker of the psalm. At the same time as

Ps 100 is much more closely associated with the important brick of Ps 95:17.
However, the proposal of William M. Schniedewind (Are We His People or Not?
Biblical Interpretation during Crisis, Bib 76 [1995]: 54647 [549]) that Ps 100 is a
pre-exilic hymn of thanksgiving, which was reected in Ps 95 and other psalms, is
8. Hossfeld and Zenger, Psalmen 51100, 34.
9. David M. Howard, The Structure of Psalms 93100 (Biblical and Judaic Stud-
ies from the University of California, San Diego 5; Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns,
1997), 141.
10. A survey of the recent literature will reveal that there are many other
proposals for the structure of Ps 95; for example, Jrg Jeremias has suggested two
parts in vv. 15 and vv. 611.
170 Psalms and Hebrews

the speaker is calling for the hymnal praise which is justied by the
deeds of God in vv. 35 and 7a, the speaker himself is also performing
this praise, which he wants the addressee to perform, exemplarily.
The praise is expressed through the use of seven cohortatives 9HIE?
9<C3? 9 C<?H (v. 6), JC? 9>5B? (v. 2), 9 JC? 9??C? (v. 1)which
interact with each other: rejoice; shout for joy; come before; raise a load
shout; bow down; bend the knees; kneel.11 The rst foursyntactically
split carefully in two colometrically equivalent partsare each enhanced
with an addressee (introduced with =), or a nomen (introduced with 3),
and are arranged asyndetically. The second three are ordered in a syn-
detic chain, and only the last one is extended by the specication of
direction 9H9J J?A=. While the rst four cohortatives express acts of
praise, the second three aim to perform acts of veneration. The rst part
of the psalm looks like a processional hymn (Prozessionshymnus),12
divided in two phases: the way upward and inward into the sanctuary;
and then the adoration inside the Temple or in the courts of the Temple
(Tempeleinlassliturgie). This framework is oriented to the covenant
formulae in v. 7a.
The very positive prelude in v. 1 parallels *?C and HC as acts of joy
and jubilance. The pair (*?C and HC) occurs in the Asaphite Ps 81:2, and
again in Ps 98:4.13 The addressee of the synonyms is God. The Tetra-
grammaton that is used is connected to the H?J9= 9H9J of Ps 94:23. At
the end of the verse the addressee is H? J CH4, which resembles Ps 94:22.
This is neither an implicit reference to the temple, nor an association
with the water-producing rock which Moses struck in Exod 17:6 (Num
20 misses the term!).14 Rock has no special signicance in Old Testament

11. Translation from Frank-Lothar Hossfeld and Erich Zenger, Psalms 2: A

Commentary on Psalms 51100 (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005).
12. Frank-Lothar Hossfeld, Psalm 95: Gattungsgeschichtliche, compositions-
kritische und bibeltheologische Anfragen, in Neue Wege der Psalmenforschung (ed.
K. Seybold and E. Zenger; HBS 1; Freiburg: Herder, 1994), 32; cf. Hans-Joachim
Kraus, Psalmen 60150 (5th ed.; BKAT 15/2; NeukirchenVluyn: Neukirchener
Verlag, 1978), 829; Jrg Jeremias, Das Knigtum Gottes in den Psalmen: Israels
Begegnung mit dem kanaanischen Mythos in den Psalmen (FRLANT 141;
Gttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 1987), 109.
13. Cf. HC in Ps 98:6; thus attested twice in these two psalms. The other occur-
rences of the combination *?C with HC are in Job 38:7; Ps 98:4; Isa 16:10; 44:23;
Zeph 3:14.
14. Against Georg Braulik, Gottes Gtedas Land oder der Tempel? Zu Psalm
95,11, in Freude an der Weisung des Herrn (ed. E. Haag; 2d ed.; SBB 13; Stuttgart:
Verlag Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1987), 38; repr. in Studien zum Deuteronomium und
seiner Nachgeschichte (SBAB 33; Stuttgart: Verlag Katholisches Bibelwerk, 2001)
picked up by Ballhorn, Telos, 93.
FREVEL TI NFSPOUnderstanding Psalm 95 171

cultic categoriesit is never described as the aim of any cultic action or

as the destination of any pilgrimage; neither in the Pilgrimage Psalms,
nor in Ps 27:5.15 H? J CH4 is much more likely to be the usual meta-
phorical epitheton for the saving God, the one who intervenes in favour
of the one who is pressed hard. The metaphor thus expresses the idea of
a stronghold or a fortress, and is often combined with other building
metaphors.16 Marked by the sufx, YHWH is portrayed as the rock of the
addressed (cultic) community. Thus the psalm starts with references
to YHWH as the saviour of his people. The second verse refers to the
saviour of v. 1 by way of enclitic personal pronouns, and mentions two
acts of praise. The rst verb ()5B) expresses a cultic approach as in Pss
88:14 and 119:147, or a processional motion as in Ps 89:15. It is speci-
ed by 95HE3 (in the mode of thanksgiving, Pss 69:3; 104:4; 147:7).
This act is paralleled by the songs what are presented in reversed order,
so that EHC>K3 95HE3 becomes an asyndetic pair. It seems to be a
pilgrimage-like situation: coming to the sanctuary with a ceremony
which includes prayer and song.17 
The second three cohortatives start anew, like v. 1, with an imperative.
The second imperative, H 3, can be taken as symbolizing the second
phase of the nearing. While approaching the throne of the saving God
with songs of thanksgiving and moving inside in the rst part, we now
seem to have entered the temple, with the speaker calling for acts of ven-
eration in front of the throne. Interesting to note is that there are no other
references in which these three verbs symbolize the act of adoration. The
terms H3 and 9HI are attested on only three other occasions in the
Psalms (Pss 5:8; 86:9; 132:7). The verb H3 appears to be a specialized
term for nearing in the sanctuary. One can presume that H3 describes
a cultic movement towards God, one which seems subsequent to the
actions of praise in v. 1. Comparable to this nearing in Ps 95 are the three
other H3 imperatives in the Psalter: in Ps 96:8, Ascribe to YHWH the
glory of his name, bring gifts and enter his courts, and the very narrow
parallel in Ps 100:1b4 with two imperatives of H3 in vv. 2, 4, Make a
joyful noise to YHWH, all you on earth! Serve YHWH with gladness.

15. Cf. Hossfeld, Psalm 95, 32.

16. Cf. Isa 17:10 and Ps 18:47//2 Sam 22:47. The metaphor also appears in frag-
mented form in various instances of parallelism in 2 Sam 22:3; Pss 18:3; 31:3; 62:8;
71:3. The combination with sufxed 9 HJ and CH4 is found further in Deut 32:15;
Pss 62:3, 7; 89:27.
17. Hossfeld, Psalm 95, 32. For the connection of Ps 95 with the Festival
Psalms Pss 50 and 81, see, in addition to Hossfeld, Jrg Jeremias, Kultprophetie und
Gerichtsverkndigung in der spten Knigszeit Israels (NeukirchenVluyn:
Neukirchener Verlag, 1970), passim; Kraus, Psalmen 60150, 832.
172 Psalms and Hebrews

Know that YHWHhe aloneis God. He has made us and we belong to

him, we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with
thanksgiving, go into his courts with songs of praise. Praise/Thank him,
bless/praise his name.18
The liturgical setting of the described scene is further inuenced by
the three cohortatives that follow. These are not synonyms, but they are
very similar in their meaning (9HI, C<, (C3: bow down, bow low,
kneel). The direction evoked by the verbs is downwards; they incline
to the earth, minimizing the worshipper in the face of the greatness of the
deity, and so signalize subordination. They do not evoke a movement
from standing to lying on the ground,19 though the arrangement does
begin with the common term 9HI hit. (cf. rst of all Ps 99:5, 920), which
couches proskynesis. The other two terms can express the bending of the
knee(s), which is used as a gesture of adoration (1 Kgs 8:54; 2 Kgs 1:13;
2 Chr 6:13; Ezra 9:5). The verb C< also means to crouch, to huddle
(e.g. Gen 49:9; Num 24:9; Judg 5:27).21 The second verb (C3, to kneel,
is very unusual and occurs only three times (Gen 24:11; Ps 95:6; 2 Chr
6:13), but bowing the knees is a very commonly used phrase.
The description of these cultic acts is completed by the re-uptake of
the 9H9J= of v. 1 as the addressee in v. 6 (with 9H9JJ?A=)the same God
of salvation who is praised in v. 1 is now adored in v. 6.
Of special importance are the two sections that justify the solemn call
for the hymnic adoration in vv. 35, and the shorter one in v. 7aboth of
which are syntactically introduced with J<. Verse 3 justies the hymn

18. Translations of Psalms, if not otherwise attested, by Hossfeld and Zenger,

Psalms 2.
19. With Andrea Doeker, Die Funktion der Gottesrede in den Psalmen: Eine
poetologische Untersuchung (BBB 135; Berlin: Philo, 2004), 253.
20. There is an intimate compositional relationship between Ps 95 and the
Trishagion in Ps 99 (see Ruth Scoralick, Trishagion und Gottesherrschaft: Psalm
99 als Neuinterpretation von Tora und Propheten [Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibel-
werk, 1989], and Erich Zenger, Das Weltenknigtum des Gottes Israels [Ps 90
106], in Der Gott und die Vlker: Untersuchungen zum Jesajabuch und zu den
Psalmen [ed. N. Lohnk and E. Zenger; SBS 154; Stuttgart: Verlag Katholisches
Bibelwerk, 1994], 15960), which encloses the imperative to bow down before
YHWH (Ps 99:5, 9; cf. Ps 95:6), the greatness of God (Ps 99:2; cf. Ps 95:3), the
designation as our God (Ps 99:5, 8, 9; cf. Ps 95:7) and the reference to the
covenant (the covenant formula of Ps 95:5 is, on the one hand, explained in Ps 99,
and, on the other hand, enhanced so as to include not only Israel but all nations).
Both psalms refer to the Wilderness and to the Sinai tradition, the protagonists being
Moses and Aaron.
21. As a gesture of adoration it is used in 1 Kgs 8:54; 19:18; 2 Kgs 1:13; 2 Chr
7:3; 29:29; Ezra 9:5; Est 3:5; Isa 45:23.
FREVEL TI NFSPOUnderstanding Psalm 95 173

through a description of the magnitude of the benevolent God. He is the

=H58 = (Deut 7:21; Ps 77:14), and the =H58 (=>.22 When searching for
parallels,23 especially Ps 89:78 combines this praise with the assembly
of the gods: Who in the skies can compare with Yahweh? Who among
the sons of god can rival him? God, awesome in the assembly of holy
ones ()J5B5HD3), great and dreaded among all who surround him
(NJB). Compared to the other gods in the divine assembly, YHWH is a
great king (Ps 47:3).24 On these grounds v. 3 forms the explicit anchor
for the insertion of this somewhat Asaphite Festival Psalm into the group
of Royal Psalms (93100).
The J<-sentence is now followed by two relative clauses, which are
carefully arranged. By the double H=, the independent pronoun H9, and
the double HJ5J, we are pointed back syntactically to v. 3. However, the
form indicates that these two sentences are intended to be understood as
parallel. The declaration of possession (Eigentumsdeklaration) in v. 4 is
clearly linked to the reference to creation in v. 5. Together they span the
whole world, representing both axes of the mental worldview. Though
the hapax legomenon CBI> remains unsolved, there is a consensus that it
should be associated with the vertical axis. They are paralleled to the
highest peaks of the hills ()JC9 EHA HE), and therefore mostly translated
with depths or the like. The merism in v. 5 describes a horizontal axis:
from the Mediterranean Sea in the west ()J9), to the arid desert (E3J) in
the east. But both pairs have a double dutynot only do they span the
spatial dimensions of the world view (Weltbild), they also have cosmo-
logical associations. It is in Gen 1:9f. that God divides the water (which
is called )J in v. 10) from the 93J9 (cf. Jonah 1:9).25 The second relative
clause in v. 5 makes the context of creation explicit, by using two of the
most common verbs for creation (9 and C4J). Through the parallel
structure of vv. 4 and 5, the Eigentumsdeklaration (H5J3 and H=) is thus
substantiated by the act of creation. As in Deutero-Isaiah, YHWH is the
great king who rules over all gods, a position he assured for him by the
fact that he created the whole world. He reigns over the peaks of the
mountains, where gods used to dwell, and his sphere of inuence reaches
to the border of the netherworld, though probablyif we accept a

22. Cf. further with determination Neh 1:5; 9:32; Jer 32:18; Dan 9:4.
23. The greatness of God is praised in a similar way in Pss 40:17; 70:5; 71:19;
77:14; 86:10; 89:8; 104:1.
24. )J9= =<= (Pss 96:4; 97:9; 1 Chr 16:25, cf. )J9= 9=<>, Exod 18:11;
2 Chr 2:4; Ps 135:5; )= 3, Exod 15:11).
25. In most cases, besides Gen 1:10, the combination of )J and 93J hints at the
Exodus tradition (see Exod 14:16, 22, 29; 15:19; Neh 9:11; Ps 66:6).
174 Psalms and Hebrews

post-exilic date for the psalmthis area is also to be included.26 The

whole vertical and horizontal world is his, because he has made it.
Rightly, Hossfeld therefore rejects the attempt of Hermann Spiecker-
mann to disassociate vv. 4 and 5 diachronically:
Eine literarkritische Abtrennung der V. 45, insbesondere von V. 5ab,
wie bei Spieckermann empehlt sich nicht. Spieckermann mchte die
Eigentumserklrungen von V. 45a als ltere Bestandsgarantie und
Betonung der Erhaltung der Welt trennen vom Rekurs auf die prima
creatio in dem Abschnitt V. 5ab.27

Beside the parallel structure, the main argument is the double axis of vv.
45, which describes consistently the territorial, and therefore cosmo-
logical, dominion of YHWH (cf. Neh 9:6).
While v. 5, with its explicit creation theme, has come to a close, and
while v. 6 starts anew with the imperative H 3, the creation theme is
surprisingly brought into the psalm one more time with the last word in
v. 6, H? . This term shifts the focus of creation from the cosmological to
the anthropological and the covenantal dimension. The speaker thus
takes the whole community, who were all prompted to worship (let
us), into an individual and personal relationship to YHWH as creator
of humanity. Coevally, the collective dimension of this relationship,
which is made explicit in the covenant-formula of v. 7, is insinuated.
While the who has made us in v. 6b was an implicit rationale for the
adoration of the kingly God, the rationale now becomes syntactically
explicit with J<. The second justication clause is the climax of the rst
part of the psalm. The narrow relationship between God and the
addressee is maintained by way of the double enclitic and independent
personal pronouns (H?I? H H?J9= ). As in other deuteronomistic texts, the
covenant formula is bilateral, not unilateral as in priestly literature.28
There is no stronger tie between God and his people than that of the

26. Hossfeld, Psalm 95; ibid, Psalmenauslegung im Psalter, in Schriftaus-

legung in der Schrift (ed. R. G. Kratz, T. Krger and K. Schmid; BZAW 300; Berlin:
de Gruyter, 2000); Hossfeld and Zenger (Psalms 2) date the psalm between the late
exilic and the post-exilic period. The world-view and the supremacy over the other
gods, the elaborate creation theology and the intertextual citation of the priestly
Wilderness story, the reception of the almost nalized Pentateuch, and the mixed
language argue for a clearly post-exilic date in the Second Temple period. In respect
of the above-mentioned arguments, a pre-exilic dating between the rst and second
deportation (Jeremias, Knigtum, 113) does not seem convincing.
27. Hossfeld, Psalm 95, 35.
28. See Rolf Rendtorff, Die Bundesformel: Eine exegetische Untersuchung
(SBS 160; Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1995).
FREVEL TI NFSPOUnderstanding Psalm 95 175

covenant formula, which is seldom attested to in the Psalter (Ps 110:3;

and implicit in the beatitudes Pss 33:12; 144:15).29
The second part of the covenant formula is enhanced by extending the
metaphor of the pasture with the ock. This aims to strengthen the rela-
tionship between God and his people, as Hossfeld has argued: YHWH is
both the owner and the creator of his ock.30 His hand in v. 7 links up
with the frame created by the use of his hand in vv. 4 and 5.31 At the
end of v. 7a we have a romantic ambience, which seems to be completely
in harmony. The relationship between God and his people seems to be
The breakdown, which comes in v. 7b, is unexpected and surprising:
In 7b fllt nun pltzlich der Hinweis auf eine prophetische Rede in das
Huldigungsgeschehen ein.32 The issue of whether a base of the psalm in
vv. 17a was extended by adding vv. 7b11 has to be left aside in the
present study. I can only state briey that this is a question that has been
discussed extensively,33 and is even now being debated. In agreement
with W. S. Prinsloo, F.-L. Hossfeld has argued recently (against T. Seidl)
for the unity of the psalm. Though I agree with E. Zenger that there are
several reasons to see vv. 7b11 as a redactional addition,34 but this is not
relevant to the present study. For this we have to interpret the nal form
of Ps 95.
We can, however, look at the signicant change that occurs in v. 7b.
G. Braulik states: Aus einem statisch ausgewogenen Schema wird im
Schlustck ein massiver Unruheherd.35 The change is experienced as
abrupt because of the predominant, and somewhat mysterious, )HJ9
(today), which syntactically has no real linkage. Whether it be a cur-
rent date, a special date, or the recurring date of a festival is unclear

29. See Frank-Lothar Hossfeld, Bundestheologie im Psalter, in Der neue Bund

im alten: Studien zur Bundestheologie der beiden Testamente (ed. E. Zenger; QD
146; Freiburg: Herder, 1993), 16976.
30. Hossfeld and Zenger, Psalms 2, 461.
31. There seems no need to change the MT; cf. ibid., 458.
32. Kraus, Psalmen 60150, 831.
33. Jeremias, Knigtum, 111; Hossfeld, Psalm 95, 2944; Theodor Seidl,
Scheltwort als Befreiungsrede: Eine Deutung der deuteronomistischen Parnese
fr Israel in Ps 95,7c11, in Das Volk GottesOrt der Befreiung (ed. H. Keul and
H.-J. Sander; Wrzburg: Echter, 1998), 10720; Erich Zenger, Theophanien des
Knigsgottes JHWH: Transformationen von Psalm 29 in den Teilkompositionen
Ps 2830 und Ps 93100, in The Book of Psalms: Composition and Reception (ed.
P. W. Flint and P. D. Miller; VTSup 99; London: Brill, 2005), 40742 (429).
34. Zenger, Theophanien, 42930.
35. Braulik, Gottes Gte, 38.
176 Psalms and Hebrews

(i.e. ambiguous). Yet the collective us diminishes as the collective is

now addressed as you. This is somewhat comparable to the short
imperatives in vv. 1 and 6, except for the fact that these imperatives were
followed by cohortatives. It is clear that we have here a new situation of
speech, one in which the speaker is clearly the opposite. The following
) -sentence begins like a conditional clause, yet since it is not followed
by another conjunction, it expresses a wish of the speaker to listen to the
voice of the aforementioned God. The =HB3 > is a typically deutero-
nomistic phrase (Exod 19:5; 23:21f.; Deut 4:30; 8:20; 9:23; 13:5, 19;
15:5; 26:14, 17; 30:2, 10, 20; Jer 7:23; 11:4, 7 etc.) usually meaning not
an actual hearing, but obedience of the Torah. Contextually, most rele-
vant is J=HB3 H > =H in Num 14:22, which goes back into the Wilder-
ness. Because the Israelites refused the land they were sentenced by the
Lord. Although God is forgiving of iniquity and transgression, he is not
holding them guiltless (Num 14:1820). Thus God refuses them access
to the land (Num 14:23). The relevant keywords, next to J=HB3 H > =
in v. 22, are 9 C, 9D? and C35>.
In the deuteronomistic (or post-deuteronomistic) Jer 11 we nd
another passage that combines covenant delity with the past. The peo-
ple are disobedient, threatening the disruption of the covenant promise. If
we look at v. 7b while considering these parallels we see on the one hand
the oscillating position between the covenant formula in v. 7a and the
citation in vv. 811, and on the other that more than one parallel aspect
can be found between them: the combination of hearing the voice, the
land theme and the expulsion from the land because of disobedience
in the desert; the 9K9 )HJ9; the covenant theme, and so on. The )HJ9
H >E H=B3) therefore looks like the condensation of the deutero-
nomistic judgment theology. In the present text the phrase H=B3 has a
double function: it encloses the question of obedience to the Torah on the
one hand, as well as simultaneously introducing the speech of God in the
following verses on the other, which Israel shall hear now. If this
interpretation is correct, the speech of God in vv. 811 is not a current
and direct revelation, though it seems to be cited directly by the speaker
of vv. 17.
This question, whether the word of God represents a currently spoken
word or a quotation of an earlier revelation, is a crucial question when
looking at the following verses. The setting of this discourse is the linch-
pin for the liturgical interpretation of the psalm. What are the institu-
tional suppositions of the word of God? A cultic performance with a
directly spoken oracle of God in the temple? A prophetic oracle (cult
prophecy or prophetic liturgy [H. Gunkel]) which marks the climax
FREVEL TI NFSPOUnderstanding Psalm 95 177

of the feast-liturgy?36 A prophetic admonition (prophetische Mahnrede)?

Or a simple theological reection and fallback on the Torah?
First we should try to differentiate between the complex situations of
the speaker, the addressee(s), and the direction of the speech. Verse 8
starts with a vetitive. The addressee is the same as in v. 7b: the present
generation, of whom the speaker forms a part, up to v. 7. Neither the
speaker, nor the addressee(s) seem to have changed. The reference is
syntactically underlined through the enclitic personal pronoun in )<33=.
They should not harden their hearts as at Meribah and as in the day of
Massah in the desert. Here, the expected coherence seems to be broken,
since the present generation had not been in the desert and had not
hardened their hearts in the Wilderness. Yet, because the generation of
Massah and Meribah will only be mentioned explicitly in v. 9, the two
generations seem to be merged here into one. By a simple trick, namely
the elision of an explicit the generation of your fathers in the com-
parison, the addressed generation seems to be admonished not to refuse
again. Verse 9 switches to the Exodus generation, and ends any possible
confusion with a relative clause which makes it clear that God is the
speaker, and mentions the fathers as subject of 9D? and *I3. The enclitic
personal pronoun in )<JEH3 is the last explicit presence of the addressee
in the psalm. From now on all references mention the Exodus generation.
The subject again changes in v. 10. The verse formulates the reaction
of God to the testing and the trying of the Exodus generation with two
verbs which have God as subject. The rst one expresses a very strong
affect (HB ), and the second one refers to a speech act of God which
expresses a bipartite judgment on the attitude of the Exodus generation.
Regarding the tense and the discourse point in the narrative, this
speech is in a completed past (even though it is formulated in wayyiqtol).
The last sentence is once again joined with the relative particle, though
now it has a causative meaning. God refers to an oath in which he swore
his wrath, now applied to the Exodus generation, who shall not come
into his 9I?>.
Because a discourse cannot start with C , syntactically there is no
other choice than to let the speech of God begin in v. 8. Thus God is
clearly addressing the present generation, by admonishing them not to
act like the Exodus generation. This parenetic goal is attained through a
creative exegesis of the Wilderness period. The episode of Massah and
Meribah is not the reason for the death of the Exodus generation in the

36. Cf. Sigmund Mowinckel, Psalmenstudien (Psalmenstudien 3/6; Oslo, 1922;

repr. Amsterdam: Schippers, 1966), 3031.
178 Psalms and Hebrews

desert, nor is this verdict given at the end of the forty years. This is an
arbitrary interpretation of the Pentateuchal tradition in Ps 95. Accord-
ingly, we have to look deeper at the content of the discourse.
In the Pentateuchal traditions the term 3= 9B is not related to the
Wilderness period and the murmuring tradition. Though striking, 3= 9B
is scarce (Exod 7:3; Prov 28:14; Ezra 3:7), while ,C 9B is more com-
mon. Most relevant is Ezek 3:7: But the house of Israel will not listen to
you, for they are not willing to listen to me; because all the house of
Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. In deuteronomistic, or
deuteronomistically inuenced, texts 9B stands for the refusal of Gods
will (Deut 10:16; 2 Kgs 17:14; Jer 7:26; 17:23; 19:15; Neh 9:16, 17, 29),
and it is meant in the same way here. The place that is named rst,
Meribah, is associated with the hardening of hearts. Also connected to
Meribah is the story before Sinai in Exod 17:7the striking of the rock
after the death of Miriam in Kadesh (Num 20:13, 24; 27:14; Deut 32:51;
33:8; Ps 106:32; Ezek 47:19; 48:28 and indenitely in Ps 81:8). Massah,
the second place named, is missing in Num 20 and is merely associated
with the story in Exod 17. It is mentioned further in Deut 6:16; 9:22;
33:8. Both place names are combined only in Exod 17:7 and Deut 33:8.
It seems that Ps 95:8 consciously combines the two names by adopting
the end-compositional arrangement of the two quarrels in the whole
extension of the Wilderness journey.37 This is further substantiated by the
combination of the two verbs, 9D? and *I3, in v. 9, as well as the forty-
year span in v. 10. The interpretation of the quarrel as a test occurs rst
in the question of Moses in Exod 17:2 (*HD?E9> J5> *H3JCE9>
9H9JE ), and is adopted in the commandment of Deut 6:16: Do not put
Yahweh your God to the test as you tested him at Massah. While the
Wilderness journey is often interpreted as a temptation of his people, the
Psalms follow the line of Exod 17:2 in Ps 78:18, 41, 56 and 106.38 *I3
occurs in the Pentateuchal tradition and usually has God as subject. Only
in Mal 3:10, 15 is YHWH, as object of a test, described with *I3. This
relatively free reference to the Pentateuchal tradition is underlined

37. For interpretation of the arrangement, see Christian Frevel, Jetzt habe ich
erkannt, dass YHWH grer ist als alle Gtter: Ex 18 und seine Kompositions-
geschichtliche Stellung im Pentateuch, BZ 1 (2003): 322, and Mit Blick auf das
Land die Schpfung erinnern: Zum Ende der Priestergrundschrift (HBS 23;
Freiburg: Herder, 2000); Christian Frevel and Erich Zenger, Die Bcher Levitikus
und Numeri als Teile der Pentateuchkomposition, in The Books of Leviticus and
Numbers: Colloquium Biblicum Lovaniense LV: 1.3. August 2006 (ed. T. Rmer;
BEThL 215; Leuven, 2008), 3574.
38. Besides Ps 26:2, all occurrences of 9D? are related to the challenge of God in
the Wilderness.
FREVEL TI NFSPOUnderstanding Psalm 95 179

further with the deeds of God, which the Exodus generation has seen.
The term = A seems to comprise not only the donation of water at
Massah and Meribah, but also the whole Exodus tradition.39 Perhaps the
J= A H C)8 takes into account the fact that the murmur begins imme-
diately after the liberation (Exod 1517). Yet it is possible, too, that the
term includes all the deeds in the Exodus and the Wilderness tradition, or
at least with reference to vv. 4 and 5, from creation onwards (the whole
Heilsgeschichte). Verse 10 culminates in a judgment which takes into
account the whole Wilderness tradition. That Israels behaviour was
repellent for forty years, and that God is the subject of the verb HB, is
unique in the Old Testament.40 Important to note is that it is not the
Exodus generations behaviour that provokes disgustrather, it is the
whole generation, which is destined to die in the desert. A comparable
situation can be found in the Deuteronomistic, or deuteronomistically
inuenced, passages in Num 32:13; Deut 1:35; 2:14; and 32:20.
The self-quotation in v. 10, )9 33= J E ) , is not used in the Wilder-
ness context, but it reminds loosely of the phrase ,C 9B) (Exod
32:9; 33:3, 5; 34:9; Deut 9:6, 13), and the harsh prophetic critique,
C9H3= EHCC, in Jer 16:12; 18:12. Verse 10bB picks up the 33= of v.
8. The Exodus generation was completely depraved, except for Caleb
and Joshua and those who were under twenty years of age. 9 E is typical
when expressing ethical deviation, an aspect highlighted by the second
half of v. 10b, which begins with the last word of the rst half of v. 10b
()9). The people did not know Gods ways (cf. Exod 18:20; 33:13),
meaning they did not obey his laws. The way metaphor symbolizes an
ethical life and a legal context (Ps 103:7; cf. Deut 9:16; 28:9 et al.). (C5
is a synonym for Torah, with an emphasis on the deuteronomistic tradi-
tion and its successors. The Torah context of v. 10 ts well with the line
coming from the rst part of the psalm. As in the motif of the pilgrimage
of the nations (Isa 2; Mic 4), the adoration of the magnicent king has as
a complement the praise of the Torah and its observance.
Yet the discourse of God is not nished yet. The last sentence is part
of the self-citation of God, and the oath mentioned is not attested in the
Pentateuch literally, either. Again it is the deuteronomistic and priestly

39. Analogous is, for example, the term E =A? in the prayer of penitence in Neh
9:1617: But they and our ancestors acted arrogantly, grew obstinate and outed
your commands. They refused to obey, forgetful of the wonders which you had
worked for them; they grew obstinate and made up their minds to return to their
slavery in Egypt (NJB).
40. Cf. Ezek 6:9; 20:43; 36:31; Pss 119:158; 139:21; Job 10:1; comparable with
Ps 95:10 is the attestation of #HB in Lev 20:23.
180 Psalms and Hebrews

spy story in Numbers and Deuteronomy which offers the factual and
literal nearest parallels. First there is the retrospect in Num 32:10f.,
which cites the oath of Num 14:2123: And YHWHs anger burned that
day and he swore, saying: None of the men who came up from Egypt,
from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I swore to
Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob; for they did not follow me fully. Also
to be noted is Deut 1:34f.: Yahweh heard the voice of your words and
he got angry and swore: Not one of these people, this evil generation,
will see this good land I swore to give your ancestors. Though the
differences between Ps 95 and these texts are obvious, these parallels do
lead to the oath in Ps 95:11 being understood in the context of the land,
and to the exclusion of the Exodus generation from the land. The land is
not mentioned explicitly: H3, not 9 C follows the ) . It is generally
noted that the nal phrase JEIH?>= *H 3J) (they will not come to
my rest) has a parallel in Deut 12:9. Braulik has argued that here 9=I?
and 9IH?> are not, in fact, synonyms, but are differentiating terms which
see the land besides the temple as target. This is further substantiated by
the rst part of the psalm and the context of the group of Royal Psalms:
Der Kontextbezug der JHWH-Knig-Psalmen votiert ebenso fr einen
Tempelbezug (vgl. Ps 93,5; [94,22?], 96,8f.; 97,8; 99,2; 100,4).41 Then
again, Hossfeld has rightly pointed out that 9IH?> can be understood as a
metaphor, indicating the intact relationship between God and his people.
The ambiguity at the end of the psalm is intended, as the end of the
psalm has to be taken over into the present generation, who are admon-
ished by this divine discourse. It is the land, the temple and the covenant
coevally that Israel is in danger of losing if the present generation is as
intractable as the Exodus generation.42 The present post-exilic Israel,
coming into the temple with hymns of thanksgiving, is hereby confronted
with the salvatory power of the King of the World, who has established a
lively relationship with Israel in the land, updated and experienced in his
The most serious alteration made to the reception of the Wilderness
tradition, as well as the judgment over the Exodus generation theme, is
the chronological placement of the determination that they will not
come into my rest. The wrath of YHWH, which causes the judgment, has
grown in the forty years in the desert after the spy story. The 9? )J 3C
are not the result, but only the precursors to the judgment. Only by these
phrases, which determine the sense of the psalm, can one harmonize it
with the Wilderness tradition. If there is any misunderstanding the

41. Hossfeld, Psalm 95, 39.

42. Ibid., 42.
FREVEL TI NFSPOUnderstanding Psalm 95 181

dependence of the psalm on its determining pretexts, the psalm becomes

a harsh rupture of the land promise. But such a (mis)reading is only pos-
sible if one cuts off vv. 811 from the context of vv. 17. While Israel is
rejoicing in the temple, it has come into his rest, meaning that v. 11
can only be understood in conformity with the Wilderness tradition being
understood as a reference to the Exodus generation alone. This is one of
the pivotal points in Heb 3 and 4, where the question arises: Why is
there no Israel in his rest after Joshua?
I want to summarize and continue the interpretation of Ps 95 without
Hebrews in seven points, paying special interest to the function of vv. 8
11, since these are of the most relevance to Heb 3 and 4:
1. The presumed date of composition for the nal form of Ps 95,
based on vv. 7b11, is certainly post-exilic, bevasue it presup-
poses late priestly and deuteronomistic texts. A late exilic or
early post-exilic date is excluded because of the mixed language
and the reception of the almost nalized Pentateuch.
2. It is by no means by chance that the Wilderness tradition is taken
up in Ps 95the whole fourth book of the Psalter has a concern
for Moses.
3. Verses 811 are a sort of creative exegesis, an update of the
revelation in the Wilderness. The addressee is the present Israel
()HJ9), which has come to the temple to worship YHWH in the
original context of a now unidentiable festival. In its present
context as part of the group of Royal Psalms, Ps 95 functions
(together with Ps 100) as a frame and link between Israels
adoration and the adoration of all the nations respectively the
whole earth (Ps 100:1).
4. The speech of God is cited by the speaker of the psalm. Therefore
vv. 811 should not be understood as a word of God revealed on
the date of the festival. It is more likely that it is an update of the
Wilderness tradition in the Israelite cult, a new application of the
given Pentateuchal tradition in a creative way. The assumptions
regarding scribal theology and festival practice do not exclude
each other diametrically, but complement each other. Thus, we
do not have to reinstall the employed cult prophet who annun-
ciates his oracles to the festival community.
5. Verses 811 describe the whole Wilderness tradition as a time
determined by quarrel and disobedience. The reference to
Massah and Meribah serves to encompass the whole of those
forty years. The framing water-related quarrels of Exod 17 and
Num 20 are combined with the pivotal points, which are the spy
story and the refusal of the land as the central promise and
182 Psalms and Hebrews

benefaction. Within the whole discourse it is clear that the exclu-

sion of the 9IH?> was justied by, and limited to, the Exodus
generation, and that the present generation has come into his rest.
In this way the base line of the psalm can be described as grace,
not punishmentas forgiveness, not wrath.
6. The disgust at the people is an affective exaggeration which
underlines the parenetical aim. The whole speech functions as
an admonition that the given land and the nearness of God are
revocable. Verses 811 are not meant as a threat, but hook up to
the core of vv. 17the hymnal praise of the Rock of Salvation.
The election of Israel is imbedded in a cosmological dimension
of creation and of the reign of the kingly God. The covenant with
his people in v. 7 forms part of Gods cosmological power and of
his dominion of the world. The goal of history is the salvation of
Israel in his rest: the temple, the land and the presence. Thus the
function of the citation is clearly positive and not negative. The
term Drohbotschaft used by Grsser43 is missing the deeper
sense of the admonition.
7. The fact that the addressee of vv. 811 is the present Israel as
Gods chosen, and not discarded, people, is a crucial point. Many
of the older New Testament commentaries fail in this regard,
insofar as they ascribe the wrath of YHWH not to the Exodus
generation, but to the present Israel. Ernst Ksemann, Otfried
Hous and others contrive to impose a substitution theology
insofar as they do not admit the present addressee to have come
into his rest. The use of terms such as abolishment, cancelled
promise, loss of salvation, failure, surpassing, and so on
are typical in this context. For example, Friedrich Delitzsch
states: Weil das Gottesvolk in der Wste aufgrund seines
Unglaubens nicht an den gttlichen Ruheort gelangen konnte,
bleibt er sicher aufgespart fr diejenigen, denen Gott mit dem
neuen Heute (4,7) eine bessere Chance erffnet hat.44 The
differentiation between the present addressee, which has come
into his rest, and the Exodus generation, to which YHWH swore
that they would never come into his rest, is one of the crucial

43. Erich Grsser, An die Hebrer: 1. Teilband: Hebr 16 (Evangelisch-

Katholischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament 17/1; Zurich: Benzinger, 1990),
203, cf. p. 211.
44. Franz Delitzsch, Die Psalmen: Biblischer Kommentar ber das Alte Testa-
ment (5th ed.; Leipzig: Drein & Franke, 1894; repr. Giessen: Brunnen Verlag,
1984), 133; cf. Ksemann, Gottesvolk, 19, and, with only slight differences, Grsser,
Hebrer, 200202.
FREVEL TI NFSPOUnderstanding Psalm 95 183

points in understanding Ps 95 without Hebrews. It is also one of

the most important points when combining vv. 17 with 811. In
the light of this, the intriguing question arises whether Hebrews
interprets Ps 94 (LXX) in a substitutional way.

3. Psalm 94 LXX
Before we continue with some observations on Ps 95 within the context
of Hebrews, we have to look at any major changes made to the psalm in
the LXX.45 There is no question as to the fact that the author of Hebrews
is using text from the LXX, but which text is an issue currently under
discussion in LXX research.46 There are minor changes of the LXX major
text tradition which are represented in the Gttingen Septuagint in vv. 2,
6, 8, 10: LXX connects EHC>K3 95HE3 with a copula LBJ= in v. 2, and com-
plements the absolute CH53 to UI] HFOFB]_ FLFJOI] in v. 10. Even though the
question as to the Vorlage of Hebrews cannot be discussed here,47 there
are some major changes of the MT in the LXX that are worth noting and
discussing briey.

45. See, for the whole fourth book of the Psalter, Frank-Lothar Hossfeld,
Akzentsetzungen der Septuaginta im vierten Psalmenbuch: Ps 90105 (Ps 89105
bzw. 106 LXX), in Der Septuaginta-Psalter: Sprachliche und theologische Aspekte
(ed. E. Zenger; HBS 32; Freiburg: Herder, 2001), 16369.
46. It is, of course, impossible to give an extensive bibliography for the treatment
of LXX Psalms by Old and New Testament scholars. Worth consulting are: Ariane
Cordes, Theologische Interpretation in der Septuaginta: Beobachtungen am Bei-
spiel von Psalm 76 LXX, in Zenger, ed., Der Septuaginta-Psalter, 10521; Albert
Pietersma, The Place of Origin of the Old Greek Psalter, in The World of the
Aramaeans. Vol. 1, Biblical Studies in Honour of Paul-Eugne Dion (ed. P. M. M.
Daviau, J. W. Wewers and M. Weigl; JSOTSup 324; Shefeld: Shefeld Academic,
2001), 25274; Joachim Schaper, Der Septuaginta-Psalter als Dokument jdischer
Eschatologie, in Die Septuaginta zwischen Judentum und Christentum (ed.
M. Hengel and A. M. Schwemer; WUNT 1/72; Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1994), 38
61; Eschatology in the Greek Psalter (WUNT 2/76; Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1995);
Der Septuaginta-Psalter: Interpretation, Aktualisierung und liturgische Verwendung
der biblischen Psalmen im hellenistischen Judentum, in Der Psalter in Judentum
und Christentum (ed. E. Zenger; HBS 18; Freiburg: Herder, 1998), 16583; Stefan
Seiler, Theologische Konzepte in der Septuaginta: Das theologische Prol von 1
Chr 16,8ff. LXX im Vergleich mit Ps 104; 95; 105 LXX, in Zenger, ed., Der
Septuaginta-Psalter, 197225.
47. Cf. Martin Karrer, Der Brief an die Hebrer: Kapitel 1,15,10 (kumen-
ischer Taschenbuchkommentar zum Neuen Testament 20/1; Gtersloh: Gtersloher
Verlagshaus, 2002); Beate Kowalski, Die Rezeption alttestamentlicher Theologie
im Hebrerbrief, in Ausharren in der Verheiung: Studien zum Hebrerbrief
(ed. R. Kampling; SBS 204; Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 2005), 4850, where
184 Psalms and Hebrews

1. The most striking change is that of 9<C3? (let us kneel) to LBJ=

LMBV TXNFO (and let us weep) in v. 6. This is most probably a
misreading, rather than an indication that the pre-masoretic text
(Vorlage) read 9<3?. Thus the psalms genre changes from a hymn
in the temple in the rst verses, to a part of a penitential liturgy.
With this shift from hymn to complaint the admonition of vv. 8
11 seems to be grounded in the behaviour of the community. The
addressed people of Israel has sinned or done evil, and thus they
come into the temple to confess and to repent. The homily starting
with the TINFSPO in v. 7b aims at provoking a return to God, rather
than a general admonition.
2. The names of the locations Meribah and Massah, which are word-
plays in Hebrew with 9D? (to test) and 3JC (to struggle), are
changed congenially to FO UX]_ QBSBQJLSBTNX]_ LBUB@ UI=O I
UPV QFJSBTNPV. Massah is translated with QFJSBTNP K in both Exod
17:7 and Deut 6:16; 9:22, and in the LXX there is no other instance
with the Greek transliteration. The changes with Meribah are
weightier. Only in the LXX is Meribah translated with 1BSB-
QJLSBTNP K (rebellion). In Exod 17:7, the LXX says -PJEP SITJK
(reproach), but in most other instances uses B OUJMPHJB (Num
20:13; 27:14; Deut 32:51; 33:8; Pss 80:8; 105:32; except for Ezek
47:19 and 48:28, where we nd .BSJNXR ,BEIK).
3. The LXX complements v. 10 with B FJ, and thus makes the rebellion
a constant. This addition strengthens the tendency, which is
already present in the MT.
4. The LXX translates the two imperatives, H<= (v. 1) and H 3 (v. 6),
with the adverb EFV_UF. Thus the semantic connection between
coming not into my rest JEIH?>= *H 3J) , which is translated
temple in vv. 16 is cut off. This facilitates the eschatological
interpretation of the LBUB QBVTJK, which dominates Heb 4.
5. The psalm undergoes a very important change with the super-
scription "J>OPK X] EI_K UX]_ %BVJE. In this way Ps 94 LXX (95 MT)
forms part of the general tendency of the LXX Psalter, particularly
explicit in the fourth book.48 The fourth book, Pss 90106 MT

the slight differences between the LXX and Hebrews are noted (FO EPLJNBTJB] instead
of FEPLJNBTBO in Heb 3:9; UBV UI]instead of FLFJOI]in 3:10;and an additional EJP in
v. 10). Karrer votes in favour of a special branch of LXX tradition (Sonderstrang);
Kowalski prefers to see the author of Hebrews as responsible for the changes.
48. See Hossfeld, Akzentsetzungen and further Albert Pietersma, Exegesis and
Liturgy in the Superscriptions of the Greek Psalter, in X Congress of the
FREVEL TI NFSPOUnderstanding Psalm 95 185

(89105 LXX), has the greatest number of psalms without

headings in the MT. Of the thirteen new David superscriptions in
the LXX Psalter, nine are located in the fourth book. A short over-
view of the psalm group attests to this tendency. While we could
speak of a strengthened mosaic accent in the headingless psalms
following the only Mosaic Psalm (Ps 89 LXX [90 MT]), now the
Davidization of the fourth book becomes dominant. Only Ps 89
LXX has preserved Moses in the superscription: 1SPTFVYI@ UPV
.XVTI B ORSX QPV UPV RFPV. The same heading as in Ps 94 LXX (95
MT), "J>OPK X] EI_K UX]_ %BVJE, can be found in Ps 90 LXX (91 MT)
and Ps 92 LXX (93 MT). In Ps 92 LXX (93 MT) it is only the second
part after an enhanced superscription which attributes the psalm to
the day before the Sabbath, PUF LBUX] LJTUBJ I
HI. Within the
Sabbatical-triad of Pss 9193 LXX, Ps 92 LXX becomes an obvious
reference to the creation. The psalm is attributed to the sixth day
of creation and the rst habitation of the land.49 The background of
this tendency to enhance the relation to the weekdays is the phrase
E39 )HJ= CJ CH>K> in Ps 92 MT, which is preserved in Ps 91 LXX
NFSBO UPV TBCCB UPV). This attribution is
continued in Ps 92 LXX (93 MT) (&JK UI@O I
BCCB UPV), and in Ps 93 LXX (94 MT) (:BMNP@K UX]_ %BVJE UFUSB EJ
TBCCB UXO). It is essential to understand and keep in mind that the
psalms preceding Ps 94 LXX (95 MT) have a Sabbath connection,
one which corresponds to the creation story of Gen 1 in Ps 92. The
linkage between creation and kingship is present in Ps 95 MT
(94 LXX) as well, and is developed in the group of Royal Psalms
as a whole.50
6. Supplementing the observations of the aforementioned Davidic
switch in the fourth book, Ps 95 LXX (96 MT) has a connection
with David and with the Second Temple. Psalm 96 LXX (97 MT
HI BVUPV LBRJTUBUBJ) connects the land
explicitly to David and to Pss 9798 LXX (9899 MT), which are
ascribed simply to David. Psalm 99 LXX (100 MT) has preserved
this connection through the 95HE offering.

International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies: Oslo 1998 (ed. B.
A. Taylor; SBLSCS 51; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2001), 99138, and
Septuagintal Exegesis and the Superscriptions of the Greek Psalter, in The Book of
Psalms: Composition and Reception (ed. P. W. Flint and P. D. Miller, Jr.; Formation
and Interpretation of Old Testament Literature 4; Leiden: Brill, 2005), 44375.
49. Hossfeld and Zenger, Psalms 2, 446.
50. Cf. ibid., 44344.
186 Psalms and Hebrews

4. Psalm 95 (94 LXX) within Hebrews

With regard to Ps 94 LXX within Hebrews, the change of superscriptions
is important in two respects: the rst is simply the Davidic authorship,
and the second is the Sabbatical air of Ps 94 LXX in its LXX context.
This second aspect needs further explanation, after a quick look at the
mention of David in Heb 3 and 4.51
Hebrews 4:7 mentions FO %BVJ=E MFHXOthe only reection on David
in an introduction of a quotation or reference to a psalm in Hebrews. The
rst introduction in Heb 3:7 attributes the quotation of Ps 94:811 LXX
to the voice of the Holy Spirit (LBRX@K MFHFJ UP@ QOFV_NB UP= BHJPO),
developed out of 2 Sam 23:2.52 On the one hand, the author of Hebrews
has recognized the Psalter as a book wherein God speaks, while on the
other hand he has identied it as a book that is attributed to David.
Especially Ps 94 LXX is considered to be a Psalm of David, in conformity
to the LXX Psalter. If one keeps in mind that the citation of Ps 94 LXX as
the words of David would be the only passage in which scripture is
uttered by, or attributed, to a human speaker, it seems quite possible to
understand the FO %BVJ=E in Heb 4:7 as in David and not through
David, that is, denoting particularly or merely the book of Psalms.
The author of Hebrews uses the Psalms extensively, not only in allu-
sions or phrase quotes. The Letter to the Hebrews has the greatest num-
ber of citations of contiguous psalm pieces. Following Karrer,53 the
distribution of Old Testament quotations is signicant: Pentateuch (13);
Psalms (14); and Prophets (7). It can be argued that the selection of the
Psalms reveals the theological preferences of the author of Hebrews.54

51. What follows has beneted from several New Testament viewpoints which
cannot be discussed in detail here. Most relevant are Peter Enns, Creation and Re-
creation: Psalm 95 and its Interpretation in Hebrews 3:14:13, WTJ 54 (1992):
25580, and The Interpretation of Psalm 95 in Hebrews 3.14.13, in Early
Christian Interpretation of the Scriptures of Israel: Investigations and Proposals
(ed. C. A. Evans and J. A. Sanders; JSNTSup 148; Studies in Scripture in Early
Judaism and Christianity 5; Shefeld: JSOT, 1997), 35263; Khiok-Khng Yeo, The
Meaning and Usage of the Theology of Rest (,BUB QBVTJK and TBCCBUJTNPK) in
Hebrews 3:74:13, Asia Journal of Theology 5 (1991): 233; Dave Mathewson,
Reading Heb 6:46 in Light of the Old Testament, WTJ 61 (1999): 20925,
together with the commentary of Karrer (Hebrer) and, in a more or less contrastive
way, G. Schunack, Der Hebrerbrief (Zrcher Bibelkommentare; Zurich: Theo-
logischer Verlag, 2002); Hegermann, Hebrerbrief; Braun, Hebrer; and August
Strobel, Der Brief an die Hebrer (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1991).
52. Karrer, Hebrer, 34, 6061, 207.
53. Ibid., 62.
54. The following chart refers to the appendix in NestleAland 27th ed.
FREVEL TI NFSPOUnderstanding Psalm 95 187

Ps 2:7 Heb 1:5; 5:5 Ps 95:11 Heb 4:3, 5

Ps 8:57 Heb 2:67 Ps 102:2628 Heb 1:1012
Ps 22:23 Heb 2:12 Ps 104:4 Heb 1:7
Ps 40:79 Heb 10:57 Ps 110:1 Heb 1:3, 13; 10:12
Ps 40:89 Heb 10:9 Ps 110:4 Heb 5:6; 7:17, 21
Ps 45:78 Heb 1:8 Ps 118:6 Heb 13:6
Ps 95:78 Heb 3:15; 4:7 Ps 135:14 Heb 10:30
Ps 95:711 Heb 3:711

To be expected are the messianic classics Ps 2 and Ps 110 MT (109

LXX), and the reception of Ps 40 MT (Ps 39 LXX), as well the prominence
of Ps 8.55 Apart from these, there are the traditions of the kingship of God
in Pss 45 and 95, conceptions of creation from Ps 102 MT (LXX 101), and
a phrase from Ps 104 MT (LXX 103). The author of Hebrews was of
course familiar with the Psalter as a whole, and he uses the Psalter not
only as a supplier of phrases, but also in order to develop his theology in
a psalms context. He was acquainted not only with the individual psalms,
but also with their contextual integration. The haggadic pesher or (with-
out dening a sharp contrast between pesher and midrash56) midrashic
exegesis of Ps 94 LXX (95 MT) hints at the context of this psalm in the
LXX. In the dashing exegesis (khne Schriftdarlegung57) of ch. 4 we nd
the rst combination of Ps 94:11 LXX (95:11 MT) with Gen 2:2. The
exegetical literature correctly identies this passage as a gezera shewa,
that is, an explanation of a verse of scripture by using analogy with
another verse.58 Following the second quotation of Ps 94:11 LXX (95:11
MT) in Heb 4:3, the text continues: LBJUPJ UX_O FSHXO B QP= LBUBCPMIK
LPTNPV HFOIRFOUXO (though the works were [nished] from the foun-
dation of the world). Taking up the FSHB of Ps 94:9, and identifying
them not with the deeds in Egypt or in the Wilderness, but with all the
deeds of God, namely, the FSHB of the creation, v. 3 leads to the

55. See K. Backhaus, Gott als Psalmist. Psalm 2 in Hebrerbrief, in Gottes-

sohn und Menschensohn (Biblisch-Theologische Studien 67; NeukirchenVluyn:
Neukirchener Verlag, 2004), 198231; H. Lhr, Heute, wenn ihr seine Stimme
hrt: Zur Kunst der Schriftanwen dung im Hebrerbrief und in 1 Kor 10, in
M. Hengel and H. Lhr (ed.), Schriftauslegung im antiken Judentum und im
Urchristentum (WUNT 74; Tbingen: Mohr, 1994), 22648; G. Reim, Vom zum
Johannesevangelium, anhand der Psalmzitate, BZ 44 (2000): 9299.
56. For discussion, see Karrer, Hebrer, 2021.
57. Ibid., 215.
58. Gnter Stemberger, Einleitung in Talmud und Midrasch (8th ed.; Munich:
Beck, 1992), 2829, hints at the rhetorical parallel syncrisis pros ison. Because this
rule is usually used only inside the Torah, Karrer speculates about the different
position in Hebrews, which does not clearly concede priority to the Torah.
188 Psalms and Hebrews

reection on creational rest. This is a signicant change compared to the

rst reference to Ps 94:11 LXX (95:11 MT) in Heb 3:9. Following some
Greek manuscripts, the UFTTFSB LPOUB FUI is understood as an adverbial
supplement to UB= FSHB NPV (they have seen my deeds forty years). The
Hebrew word order allows for this reading, but the presupposition is to
ignore the LBUB@ UI@O INFSBO in v. 8. Thus, Heb 3 underlines the above-
mentioned serious alteration of Ps 95, in contrast to the Pentateuchal
pretexts. The judgment you will not come into my rest has moved from
the spy story to the end of the Wilderness period. Yet the author of
Hebrews was aware of this transformation. He understood Ps 94:811
and its core background in Num 14 very well. There are two lexematical
hints at Num 14:29 that strengthen this assumption: (1) the word
LX_MPOin 3:17 is used in Num 14:29 LXX, but is a hapax in the New
Testament; (2) the use of QJQUX in 3:17 and 4:11 resembles Num 14:29.
So, the author avoids uncoupling the oath completely from the spy story
and the refusal of the land, yet follows Ps 94 in transposing the oath to
the end of the forty years. His paradigm is not refusal of the land, or
murmurings about the lack of water in Massah and Meribah, but B QJTUJB
(Heb 3:19) and QJTUJK (Heb 4:2 and 3).
The assumption of this line of thought is of course the uncoupling of
the QFJSBTNPK from the linked stories in Exod 17 and Num 20. Now the
temptation and reviling in the whole forty years moves more into the
foreground. Even though the deeds of God in the Wilderness prevail in
Heb 3:9, the interpretation is open to all deeds of God. This is made
complete in Heb 4:3 in the LBJUPJ UX_O FSHXO B QP= LBUBCPMIK LPTNPV
HFOIRFOUXO. The reference to the deeds of creation, which allow the
cognition of God in his creational world, is by all means conforming
to Ps 94 LXX, especially in the hymnic praise of the greatness of God in
vv. 4 and 5. Yet in Ps 94 LXX there is no reference to the seventh day,
which is established in the following text passage. Without giving an
exact reference to the creation story, Heb 4:4 cites Gen 2:3: FJSILFO HB S
FCEPNI] BQP= QB OUXO UX_O FSHXO BVUPV (he says somewhere about the
seventh day as follows: And God rested on the seventh day from all his
works ). 
This transformation or movement of theme from the land to the
Sabbatical rest is a pivotal point for the eschatological redening of the
LBUB QBVTJK. And yet, before explaining this crucial transformation, we
have to ask: How does the shift to Gen 2 work? Of course, the gezera
shewa needs a semantic hook that is next to the aforementioned reference
to the FSHB. This can be found in the use of LBUBQBV X as verbal phrase
FREVEL TI NFSPOUnderstanding Psalm 95 189

in Gen 2:3 LXX, and of LBUB QBVTJKin Ps 94:11 LXX.59 If God speaks,
LBUB QBVTJO NPV can be interpreted as his Sabbatical rest on the seventh
day. My proposal is that this identication is further strengthened by
the abovementioned Sabbatical context of the neighbouring psalms (Pss
9193 LXX), which are connected with the Sabbath, as well as the sixth
day and the fourth day, respectively. The psalm group was interpreted
within a late post-exilic Sabbath theology, and the praise of creation in
Ps 94 LXX may be interpreted in the context of Sabbatical theology.
Creation theology comes to its climax in the Sabbath as the aim of all
creation.60 Thus the author of Hebrews read the LBUB QBVTJO NPV in the
Sabbatical context of the neighbouring psalms as reference to the
creational Sabbath of God. This forces an eschatological interpretation
of the LBUBQBVTJK, which seems to be in the background of Heb 4, and
the word TBCCBUJTNPKin Heb 4:9.61 But this eschatological shift is
already present in Heb 4:1. That seems clear from the programmatic
prepared in 3:14s NFYSJ UFMPVK (until the end), which is the starting
point for the interpretation of the quote from Ps 94 LXX. The rationale for
this reading is the TI NFSPO, which is picked up from 3:7, in 4:7 and
which is also present in 3:15.
This logic has another presupposition: if the Sabbatical rest of all
creation is the real content of the FQBHHFMJB in 4:1 (which is LBUBMFJ-
QPNFOIK), then the promise is denitely still outstanding. This is, of
course, the most crucial transformation, one which leads us to my nal
question: Is there an actual place for Israel in Heb 4? While the author of
Hebrews was certainly aware that Ps 94:811 was spoken to the Exodus
generation, and that the oath was only cited to a present generation that
had come into the temple, it is not by chance that vv. 16 are completely
absent in Heb 34. In the understanding of the author of Hebrews, the
hymnal praise will be the eschatological praise. Thus the admonition is
linked to the B QJTUJB (Heb 3:19) and QJTUJK (Heb 4:2 and 3) paradigm
which is determined christologically. In order to open the promise of the
eschatological LBUB QBVTJKto his audience, the author has to detract the
Joshua generation from the fullling of the promise. This is, of course,
a violent reinterpretation, against the sense of his Pentateuchal and
Psalmic pretexts. And it is this that becomes the authors inexcusable
hermeneutical sin, as it causes the exclusion of the present Israel from

59. For the discussion of LBUB QBVTJK in Hebrews, see especially Khiok-Khng,
Meaning, 233.
60. Cf. Hossfeld and Zenger, Psalms 2, 64042.
61. Cf. Karrer, Hebrer, 21820.
190 Psalms and Hebrews

the line of promise. Thus, in order to achieve his intention, he runs a

subtle play with the text. First, the Joshua generation is implicitly cut off
in the absolute understanding of the FJ in the oath-citation of 3:11, 18; 4:3
Surely, the author of Hebrews knows all too well that there is a Joshua
generation, one that is numerically not signicantly smaller than the
Exodus generation (Num 26). Nevertheless, he reduces this possibility of
LBUB QBVTJK in Deut 12:9 or 1 Kgs 8:56 in favour of the eschatological
interpretation. The Joshua generation and the preceding Israel is there-
fore explicitly located outside the promised LBUB QBVTJK (4:8). The
reversal of the generation scheme is obvious in the update of 4:3,
with the FJ FJTFMFV TPOUBJ FJK UI@O LBUB QBVTJO NPV. The present generation
of usthe addressees of Hebrewsis supposed to come into his rest.
While the post-Wilderness generation has entered the land and the
temple (clear from the processional situation in Ps 94:17a LXX [MT
95:17a]), the eschatological interpretation qualies the LBUB QBVTJK as
unattained. The anchor is TI NFSPO, assuring the update and developed
further in vv. 7 and 8. The author again excludes the Joshua generation
explicitly in v. 8, with a venturous conclusion which accepts logical and
historical inconsistencies to maintain the line of argumentation. The
validity of the oath that PJ QSPUFSPO FV BHHFMJTRFOUFKhave not entered
his rest is afrmed with B QPMFJQFJO. This allegation contradicts biblical
reality (because the promise is applied only to the Exodus generation and
not to the Joshua generation), but not the authors understanding of
LBUBQBVTJK. Since the TINFSPO of the psalm citation is spoken after
Joshua FO %BVJ=Eby God (4:7), Joshua could not have lead the people
into Gods rest, because God would speak of a certain day after the point
in time the people had come into his rest. The argumentation is logically
circular, but rhetorically effective. The contemporaneous Israel sinks into
the deep fosse between the addressees, us, who hear the psalm citation
anew, and the bygone fathers, they, who had failed to believe. Verse 9
draws the conclusion that there remains a rest as TBCCBUJTNP@K UX_] MBX_]
UPV_ RFPV_. There can be no doubt, that MBPK UPV_ RFPV_is the admonished
Christian community. While rst the text takes the land from them
(Israel), now the Sabbath is taken semantically, too. In my view, the
argumentation implies substitution in its pure form. 

To sum up: because of the eschatological interpretation of the LBUB

QBVTJK (vv. 1, 8, 9), and the connection to the QJTUJK (v. 2), there is no
place for Israel. Within the time, TINFSPO, there is no present or relevant
FREVEL TI NFSPOUnderstanding Psalm 95 191

Israel who can hear the FO %BVJ@E as addressee. The living word (cf. 4:12)
is only FQBHHFMJB of a TBCCBUJTNP@K (4:9) for the MBP K UPV_ RFPV_ (4:9),
who are the congregation of Christ (cf. 1:1).

5. Concluding Remarks
Finally, I want to summarize the reception of Ps 94 LXX within Hebrews:
1. The author of Hebrews resumes and updates Ps 94 LXX in order to
develop his theology in a psalm context. He uses Ps 94 because it
is in line with his argumentation. The distance regarding the
Wilderness tradition; the missing localisation of the Wilderness
quarrel; and the movement from the disobedience to a general
attitude of the people of Israel t perfectly into his concept.
2. Via the Davidization and the Sabbathization, Heb 34 strengthens
the tendency of the LXX. Psalm 94 is understood now as a promise
of a creation-theological and eschatological perfection.
3. The hermeneutical problem of Israels existence in the Promised
Land, which results from the aforementioned reinterpretation of Ps
94, is solved with a substitutional theology. In doing so, illogical
arguments (cf. Heb 4:8) will be accepted.
In the end we have to return to our hermeneutical presuppositions.
Christian interpretation of scripture has to avoid disinheritance and anti-
Judaism. There is no way to distinguish a specic Christian theology by
denying the salvation of Israel, the everlasting covenant, and the mercy
of God. If our interpretation is correct, the Letter to the Hebrews reserves
no place for contemporary Israel, respectively, contemporary Jews, in
the salvation plan of God. They are discarded because they refuse. The
continuous debate surrounding anti-Judaistic sentiment in scripture
suggests the problematical, and in some ways anachronistic, use of the
term anti-Judaism; as well as the fuzzy criteria for anti-Judaism.62

62. See, for example, William Klassen, To the Hebrews or against the
Hebrews? Anti-Judaism and the Epistle to the Hebrews, in Separation and Polemic.
Vol. 2, Anti-Judaism in Early Christianity (ed. S. G. Wilson; Studies in Christianity
and Judaism/tudes sur le Christianisane et le judasme; Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid
Laurier University Press, 1987), 116; Franz Mussner, Das innovierende Handeln
Gottes nach dem Hebrerbrief und die Frage nach dem Antijudaismus des Briefes,
in Im Spannungsfeld von Tradition und Innovation (ed. G. Schmuttermayer;
Regensburg: Friedrich Pustet, 1997), 1324, as well as the more recent commen-
taries. See also the debate surrounding the document in the Pontical Biblical
Commissions The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible
(Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2002).
192 Psalms and Hebrews

There have been ample attempts at justifying the use of scripture in

Hebrews by, for example, the Ponticial Biblical Commission:
Although it never explicitly afrms the authority of the Jewish Scriptures,
the Letter to the Hebrews clearly shows that it recognises this authority
by repeatedly quoting texts to ground its teaching and exhortations. It
contains numerous afrmations of conformity to prophetic revelation, but
also afrmations of conformity that include aspects of non-conformity as
well The Letter to the Hebrews shows that the mystery of Christ fulls
the prophecies and what was pregured in the Jewish Scriptures, but, at
the same time, afrms non-conformity to the ancient institutions: the
gloried Christ is at one and the same time in conformity with the words
of Ps 109 (110):1, 4, and in non-conformity with the levitical priesthood
(cf. Heb 7:11, 28).63

In the range of fullment and preguration we cannot expect a serious

confession of anti-Judaistic implications in the theology of the Letter to
the Hebrews:
Neither does the Letter to the Hebrews mention the Jews or even the
Hebrews! The author points out the deciencies of Old Testament
institutions, especially the sacricial cult, but always basing himself on
the Old Testament itself, whose value as divine revelation he always fully
recognises. With regard to the Israelites of the past, the authors appre-
ciation is not one-sided, but corresponds faithfully to that of the Old
Testament itself: that is, on the one hand, by quoting and commenting on
Ps 95:711, he recalls the lack of faith of the generation of the Exodus,
but on the other hand, he paints a magnicent fresco of examples of faith
given throughout the ages by Abraham and his descendants ([Heb] 11:8
38). Speaking of Christs Passion, the Letter to the Hebrews makes no
mention of the responsibility of the Jewish authorities, but simply says
that Jesus endured strong opposition on the part of sinners.64

That the Letter to the Hebrews recalls the lack of faith of the Exodus
generation is only one side of the coin. The implication of Israel without
allotment of the rest on the one hand, and the history of reception on the
other, is more precisely expressed by Martin Karrer:
Obwohl er seine Theologie seinem Verstndnis nach innerjdisch ent-
wirft, entsteht ein Graben zu jedem Judentum, das Aaron durch die
Weichenstellungen der Tora zum primren kultischen Orientierungspunkt
gemacht sieht und die Tora ohne Christologie liest. Das bahnt christlichen
Widersprchen gegen das Judentum unter Vereinnahmung der Tora die

63. The Pontical Biblical Commission, Jewish People, B.3.8.

64. Ibid., C.79.2.
65. Karrer, Hebrer, 91.
FREVEL TI NFSPOUnderstanding Psalm 95 193

Hebrews does not provide a conscious and affective anti-Judaism, but an

implicit substitution, and therefore a sort of anti-Judaism, one which has
to be corrected by a focus on the remaining promises of the Torah. The
hermeneutically postulated canonical dialog of Heb 3 and 4 is a tough act
to follow. More explicitly, F. Mussner states: Christliche Theologie darf
sich, was ihr Verhltnis zum Judentum angeht, nicht einseitig und oft
miverstehend an einer neutestamentlichen Schrift wie dem Hebrer-
The only possible conclusion is to discuss the implications of the
theological presuppositions of the Letter to the Hebrews, and to adjust
them within an inner-canonical dialogue and in the light of a recent
dabru emet with respect to Jewish faithfulness to their revelation. As
Karrer puts it, Hermeneutisch ist das Gesprch, das in ihm (scil. the
Letter to the Hebrews) abbricht und die Gemeinsamkeit mit Israel gegen
jeden Antijudaismus zu suchen.67

66. Mussner, Handeln Gottes, 2223.

67. Karrer, Hebrer, 91.

Gert J. Steyn

1. Introduction
The Psalms have a prominent place in the New Testament. This is not
strange when one keeps in mind the place that they have in Israel, with
its liturgical use in the temple and in the synagogues. No wonder that the
Psalter has been the hymnbook and prayerbook of the Christian Church
from the earliest times.1 Focusing on Hebrews, this prominence can be
seen from the fact that it is the New Testament book which quotes the
most from the Psalmsas becomes clear from the following graph.



10 Psalms

Mark Ma tt Luke Acts John Rom 1 Cor 2 Cor Eph Heb 1 Pet

Matt (8); Mark (5); Luke (7); Acts (10); John (8); Rom (13); 1 Cor (3);
2 Cor (2); Eph (2); Heb (16); 1 Pet (2).

About half of all the Old Testament quotations in Hebrews are taken
from the Psalms. In fact, there is a case to be made that all the explicit
quotations in the rst half of Hebrews were taken from hymnic texts.
Furthermore, the very rst quotation in Hebrews is taken from a psalm
(Ps 2), as is the very last quotation (Ps 118). It is thus no wonder that the
treatment of the Psalms in Hebrews has received particular attention
in such studies as those by Kistemaker (see n. 1) and Rsen-Weinhold,

1. Cf. Simon Kistemaker (The Psalm Citations in the Epistle to the Hebrews
[Amsterdam: Wed. G. van Soest, 1961], 114): The knowledge of sacred history was
stimulated, kept alive, and augmented by the use of the psalms in Synagogue and
STEYN The Reception of Psalm 95(94):711 in Hebrews 34 195

among others.2 This author, too, has also dealt with some of Psalms
quotations before, particularly regarding their Vorlage in Hebrews
(notably Pss 2;3 8;4 45;5 1186).
One of the occurrences in Hebrews where a psalm is quoted and fairly
extensively interpreted and commented upon is that of Ps 95(94):711 in
Heb 34. Relatively few of the quotations in the New Testament are
fairly long. Most of the lengthy Old Testament quotations are to be found
in LukeActs and in Hebrews. The quotation from Ps 95(94):711 in
Heb 3:7b11 is the second longest in Hebrews7 and probably the third
longest in the New Testament.8 The quotation from Ps 95(94) is thus,
with the quotations from Pss 16(15), 34 and 40(39), one of the longest
Psalms quotations in the New Testament. Furthermore, the author does
not only present this long quotation, but also continues with a midrasch-
artige exposition and application of the Psalms passage within his
argument. The author himself refers explicitly at least four more times
back to the same quotation. This makes it, with Ps 110, one of the two
passages that are the most frequently quoted and referred to by the author
of Hebrews. It is also the only place where Ps 95(94) occurs in the New
Testament, and there are no references to it in the Church Fathers.9 The
Psalms quotation and its application by the author of Hebrews should
therefore serve as an appropriate example of the reception of a psalm by
a New Testament author.

2. U. Rsen-Weinhold, Der Septuaginta-Psalter in seinen verschiedenen

Textformen zur Zeit des Neuen Testaments, in Der Septuaginta-Psalter: sprach-
liche und theologische Aspekte (ed. E. Zenger; HBS 32; Gttingen: Vandenhoeck &
Ruprecht, 2001), 187, and Der Septuagintapsalter im Neuen Testament. Eine
textgeschichtliche Untersuchung (NeukirchenVluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 2004).
3. Gert J. Steyn, Psalm 2 in Hebrews, Neot 37, no. 2 (2003): 26282.
4. Gert J. Steyn, Some Observations about the Vorlage of Ps 8:57 in Heb 2:6
8, Verbum et Ecclesia 24, no. 2 (2003): 493514.
5. Gert J. Steyn, The Vorlage of Ps 45:67(44:78) in Heb 1:89, HTS 60, no.
3 (2004): 1085103.
6. Gert J. Steyn, The Occurrence of Ps 118(117):6 in Heb 13:6: Possible
Liturgical Origins?, Neot 40, no. 1 (2006): 11934.
7. Exceeded only in length by that of Jer 31(38):3134 in Heb 8:812, which is
the longest in the New Testament.
8. The quotation from Joel 2 in Acts 2 takes its second place between the quota-
tions from Jer 31(38) and Ps 95(94) in Hebrews. Other long quotations are: Isa 42:1
4 (Matt 12:1821); Isa 6:9 (Matt 13:1415; Acts 28:2627); Isa 40:35 (Luke 3:4
6); Isa 61:1 (Luke 4:1819); Ps 16(15):811 (Acts 2:2528); Ps 34:1317 (1 Pet
3:1012) and Ps 40(39):79 (Heb 10:57).
9. Kistemaker, Psalm Citations, 35.
196 Psalms and Hebrews

Apart from evidence of existing combinations of texts prior to

Hebrews (e.g. Ps 2 + 2 Sam 7; Ps 110 + Ps 8; etc.), an extremely inter-
esting phenomenon seems to be the fact that the author himself connects
all his quoted texts in pairs around a particular theme.10 The same is also
true here, where the author deals with the motif of rest and uses the two
texts from Ps 95 and Gen 2:2 to make his point. The motif of rest is also
found in 4QFlor with a quotation of 2 Sam 7:11 as well as in 4Q372.

2. The Reception of Psalm 94:711 (LXX) in Hebrews 3:14:13

It is interesting to note, according to Attridge, that Heb 3:14:11 parallels
the rst section of Hebrews, 1:52:18: Both begin with a contrast
between Christ and some other agent of Gods dealings with humanity.
Both proceed, in slightly different fashions, to exegesis of a scriptural
text and to exhortation. In each section the terms of the initial contrast
lead gradually into a soteriological reection.11 The section 3:14:13 is
a cohesive unit12 that deals mainly with the issue of beliefunbelief by
means of the motif of rest. The unit has a clear Narratio, Amplicatio with
its Hypodeigma, and closes with a Peroratio.13 It starts with (A) a prelude
(Heb 3:16), the Narratio. Then it moves to (B) an example from Scrip-
ture, the Hypodeigma (cf. 4:11), which is already the beginning of his
Amplicatio14 and where the author presents his introductory formula
with a long explicit quotation from Ps 95(94):711 (Heb 3:711).
Hereafter follows (C) the authors own interpretation of the quotation

10. G. van den Brink also observed this: (het) valt ons op dat de schrijver
meerdere keren twee of meer teksplaatsen aanhaalt om zijn uitspraak te bewijzen.
He reckons that the technique of using a combination of passages was probably
developed on the principle of Deut 19:15, which points to the conrmation of an
issue by two or three witnesses (De schrift zegt of de Schrift fantaseert? Het gebruik
van het Oude Testament in Hebreen, in Verkenningen in de katholieke brieven en
Hebreen [ed. G. van den Brink et al.; Theologische Verkenningen 7; Kampen: Kok
Voorhoeve, 1993], 21117 [211]).
11. Harold W. Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Hermeneia; Philadelphia:
Fortress, 1989), 114.
12. So also, among others, Peter Enns, The Interpretation of Psalm 95 in
Hebrews 3.14.13, in Early Christian Interpretation of the Scriptures of Israel:
Investigations and Proposals (ed. C. A. Evans and J. A. Sanders; JSNTSup 148;
Shefeld: Shefeld Academic, 1997), 35263. Kistemaker calls it an interlude of
nearly two chapters (Psalm Citations, 85).
13. So also Martin Karrer, Der Brief an die Hebrer. Kapitel 1,15,10
(TBKNT 20/1; Gtersloh: Gtersloher, 2002), 205.
14. Attridge refers to this section as a lengthy meditation (Hebrews, 114).
STEYN The Reception of Psalm 95(94):711 in Hebrews 34 197

from Scripture, which is the rest of his Amplicatio and where the author
presents an even longer exposition and application (Heb 3:124:11). The
little pericope (D) about the Word of God (Heb 4:1213) is a reection
on the role of the authors previous involvement with Scripture and is the
closing part of the unit, the Peroratio.15 It serves, in turn, as a hinge
between the motif of rest and the motif of Jesus as High Priest16 that
follows. The reception of Ps 95(94):711 in Heb 34 will be discussed
on the basis of these four consecutive sections.

3. Prelude (3:16): The Narratio

This section bridges the Christological foundation of salvation in 2:518
and the exhortation of 3:74:11.17 The author of Hebrews addresses his
audience in 3:1 as holy brothers who share in the heavenly calling and
appeal to them to x your thoughts on Jesuswho is called the
apostle and high priest of our profession. The issue of faithfulness is
then introduced, which seems to be the overall theme for the discussion
in Heb 34, starting in 3:2 with QJTUPO18 and ending in 4:11 with
BQFJRFJBK. In his prelude to this theme of faithfulness, the author presents
Jesus and Moses as two role models. This connection is reinforced later
in the authors exposition of his quotation in Heb 3:1114.19 Here,
though, the faithfulness of Jesus is compared with that of Moses:20 just
as Moses was faithful in all his house (3:2). The author of Hebrews
probably alludes in 3:2 to Num 12:7 which is again alluded to (but not
quoted as some scholars state21) in 3:5.22 However, Jesus has been found

15. Paul Ellingworth also takes it to be a concluding comment (The Epistle to

the Hebrews [NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000], 213).
16. Jesus is referred to as High Priest at key points in the structure of Hebrews:
3:1; 4:14; 8:1; 9:11; 10:21.
17. G. Schunack, Der Hebrerbrief (Zrcher Bibelkommentare; Zurich:
Theologischer Verlag, 2002), 43.
18. Cf. Karrer (Hebrer, 189): Pistos, zuverlssig, wird zum Schlsselmotiv
19. Also Attridge, Hebrews, 115.
20. Ellingworth pointed out that Moses holds a particularly high place in the
thought of Philo, who repeatedly calls him high priest (Rer. Div. Her. 182; Sacr.
130; Vit. Mos. 1.334; 2.27, 66ff., 153158, 187, 275) and more than once RFP K (Vit.
Mos. 1.158; Somn. 2.189) (Hebrews, 194). A similar tradition existed in Palestinian
Judaism (e.g. the Assumption of Moses) and rabbinic tradition provides ample evid-
ence for the belief that Moses was held to be higher than the angels (Ellingworth,
Hebrews, 194).
21. NestlAland 27th ed.; Karrer, Hebrer, 188, 195ff.; Attridge, Hebrews, 108.
Ellingworth, though, calls it a fullest reference (Hebrews, 206).
198 Psalms and Hebrews

worthy of greater honour (EPDIK)23 than Moses (3:3). Then follows the
metaphor of the house: the builder of a house has greater honour than
the house (UPV_ PJLPV) itself.24 For every house (PJ>LPK) is built by some-
one, but God is the builder of everything (3:4). The house metaphor
stands in the centre of the ring compositional argument.25 House could
be understood to be either a community26 or a structure27 here. A little bit
further on, however, it is specied as a community (3:6).28
This argument leads to the fact that Moses was faithful in (FO) Gods
house as/like a servant (XK RFSBQXO), whereas Christ (the rst time
the term is used in Hebrews) is faithful over (FQJ) Gods house as/like
a son (XK VJPK, 3:56).29 This reminds the reader of the second quotation
(2 Sam 7:14 / 1 Chr 17:13), at the beginning of the book, where God
proclaimed Jesus as his Son (1:5), and the statement in 2:10 where Jesus
brought many sons (QPMMPV=K VJPVK) to gloryan idea that continues
again in 12:5. The author then indicates that we are his house (PJ>LPK
FTNFO INFJ_K) and that they hold on to the promise and the hope of which
3:6). The term RFSBQXO was used for the servants of the Temple of
Asclepius,30 the servants of the Pharaoh and also applied to Moses.31 It

22. Attridge, Hebrews, 108. W. L. Lane makes the interesting observation that Ps
94 is presented in the LXX as a meditation on Num 14 (Hebrews 18 [WBC 47A;
Dallas: Word, 1998], 85).
23. Cf. Heb 1:3; 2:7, 9, 10; 9:5; 13:21.
24. Cf. Heb 8:5 where Moses is referred to as building the tabernacle.
25. Similarly also Ellingworth: The key term in this section is clearly PJ>LPK
(Hebrews, 196).
26. Ellingworth pointed out that The Qumran community frequently describes
itself as a house (e.g. 1QS 5:6; 8:5ff.; CD 3:19), but this is a natural development
from Old Testament and orthodox Jewish usage, and there is no reason to suppose
direct inuence on Hebrews (Hebrews, 19697).
27. See ibid., 197. As structure, the idea is widespread in the New Testament.
The use of LBUBTLFVB[X in 3:3 suggests, according to Ellingworth, a live spatial
metaphor. Furthermore, PJ>LPKRFPV_ is freely used of the sanctuary in the LXX
(p. 197).
28. See also Heb 10:21.
29. There seems to be a progression in the authors reference to Jesus as Gods
Son. Heb 1 refers merely to the son. Here in Heb 3 Christ is faithful as/like a
son. Heb 4:14 states though explicitly that Jesus is Gods Son: *ITPV_O UP=O VJP=O UPV_
RFPV_. See also Heb 10:29.
30. W. F. Arndt, F. W. Gingrich and F. W. Danker, A GreekEnglish Lexicon of
the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1979), 359.
31. The term is a common term in the LXX. It is particularly applied to Moses in
Exod 4:10; 14:31; Num 12:7, 8; Josh 9:2 and 1 Chr 16:40.
STEYN The Reception of Psalm 95(94):711 in Hebrews 34 199

seemed to have combined cultic and prophetical elements in its serving

role. According to Ellingworth, RFSBQXO means a free man offering
personal service to a superior.32 Attridge conrms that it does not have
the same pejorative connotations of forced servitude as does EPV_MPK
Yet the distinction cannot be pressed, since the choice of terminology
here is governed by scripture.33 The allusion to Num 12:7 in Heb 3:5 is
striking,34 although the author of Hebrews takes it out of its context and
accords a very different sense to its key term.35 Nonetheless, Elling-
worth is of the opinion that the section 3:16 is essentially a midrash on
Num 12:7, with special reference to the adjective QJTUPK, which forms a
point of comparison between Moses and Jesus, and the preposition FO,
which the author understands as a point of contrast between them.36
Karrer, among other scholars, points also to the inuence of 1 Kgdms
(LXX) 2:35 and states: Das Haus von LXX 1 Kn (1 Sam) 2,35 hat seine
Mitte im Priesterhaus, das Gott sich schaffen wird, das haus von Num
12,7 in Israel. Beides geht in den Hebr ein.37
The author presents this prelude in a ring compositional structure38 that
has at its core the metaphor of the house. His argument develops
schematically as follows:
a. Jesus the apostle and high priest (was faithful)
b. Mosesjust as he was faithful in all his house
c. House building metaphor
b. Moses was faithful in all his house as a servant
a. Christ (is faithful) as a Son over his house

32. Ellingworth, Hebrews, 207.

33. Attridge, Hebrews, 111.
34. Cf. also the discussion by Karrer in this connection (Hebrer, 188, 195ff.).
35. Attridge, Hebrews, 111.
36. Ellingworth, Hebrews, 194.
37. Karrer, Hebrer, 198. So also Ellingworth, Hebrews, 201; Schunack,
Hebrerbrief, 45.
38. Also Karrer points to a similar structure, calling it einen kunstvollen
Chiasmus (Hebrer, 190).
200 Psalms and Hebrews

Picking up on the issue that the author and his audience are (FTNFO
INFJK)39 metaphorically the house of God,40 he states that they hold on
to the promise and the hope of which they boast (3:6). The same idea
resurfaces later again in Heb 10:23: Let us hold unswervingly to the
hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. This leads the author
of Hebrews to proceed to his introductory formula and to present his
long quotation from Ps 95(94):711. In contrast to the QJTUPK (Heb 3:2,
5) stands the BQJTUJB (3:12, 19) of the section that follows.41 Accord-
ingly to Kistemaker, It is this thought of belief and unbelief which is the
basis of the exegetical discourse upon which the structure of the promise
of God is built, entailing eternal rest.42 Karrer reminds us that this is
rhetoric for a Narratio, which is the point of departure for this section of
3:16: Antike Leserinnen und Leser erwarten die actualisierende
Mahnung und die mit einem Beispiel (Para- oder Hypodeigma; Begriff
4,11) arbeitende Amplicatio (Ausweitung) von einem Redeschlussteil
(der Peroratio).43

4. Quotation (3:711): The Hypodeigma

In order to gain some understanding of the reception of Ps 95 by the
author of Hebrews, it will be important to address a number of questions.
It should be asked, rst, what place this psalm had within the tradition of
history. Secondly, the critical work on the text ought to be carried out
here. It would be important to determine, as far as is possible, the
particular Vorlage that was used by the author of Hebrews. Before this is
done, it would be risky to establish which changes were made by the
New Testament author and which might be accounted for by the textual
variants available from our extant traditions. Once we have some under-
standing of these, then we could nally move to the New Testament
authors reception of Ps 95 within his context and as part of his
argument. Here the authors application of the psalm, his methodology in
using it, and his hermeneutics as revealed by his own interpretation of
the psalm would become clear.

39. Ellingworth points out the emphatic function of INFJ_K and to Hebrews use of
it in a fortiori arguments comparing the old and the new dispensations (2:3; 12:25)
(Hebrews, 210).
40. This is the introduction of a new Leitmotiv (Karrer, Hebrer, 192).
41. So also Kistemaker, Psalm Citations, 108.
42. Kistemaker, Psalm Citations, 111.
43. Karrer, Hebrer, 205.
STEYN The Reception of Psalm 95(94):711 in Hebrews 34 201

4.1. Tradition History of Psalm 95(94)

4.1.1. Background regarding Psalm 95. Different scholars connected
Ps 95 with the liturgical traditions44 of early Judaism and early Chris-
tianity. Braulik sees the psalm addressed to all Israel, who live in the
Promised Land and who are gathered at the temple in Jerusalem for a
feast.45 Mowinckel considers particularly the rst part46 of Ps 95 as
having all the characteristics of, and belonging to, the Enthronement
Psalms (Pss 93; 9699).47 The second partfrom which Hebrews
quotesexpresses an idea other than the mere enthronement, so that
the psalm can be considered as a liturgical composition.48 Psalm 95 had
clear connections to the harvest and new years festival,49 according to
Mowinckel, who adds thatit has the conception of Yahwehs appear-
ance and the revelation of his nature (name) and willthe epiphany
conceptalso the renewal of the covenant, and an admonition to faith-
fulness thereto.50 Mowinckel further expands on the characteristics of
these feasts, saying,
Just as the harvest feast was Yahwehs festival, so new years day on the
1st of Tishri was the special festal day of Yahweh New Years day is the
day for the sounding of horns (yom haphr), a rite characteristic of
the festal enthronement procession of Yahweh (Pss. 47.6; 98.6; cf. 81.4). It
is also called the day for the cry of homage (yom hattr!); the cry of
homage (tr!) is at the same time characteristic of the psalms and the
day of enthronement (47.2, 6; 98.6); the cry of homage means royal
homage, homage to the king (tr!ath melekh) for Yahweh; when this
cry is heard in Israel it is evidence that Yahweh her God is with her
(Num 23.21).51

44. Prinsloo reckoned that although there is fair agreement (redelike sekerheid)
that Ps 95 functioned in the cult, there is doubt about its precise cultic Sitz im Leben;
see Willem S. Prinsloo, Ps 95: As julle maar na sy stem wou luister!, in Die lof van
my God solank ek lewe. Verklaring van n aantal psalms deur Willem S. Prinsloo
(ed. W. Beuken et al.; Pretoria: Medpharm, 2000), 15567 (158) (English version
published in M. D. Carroll, D. J. A. Clines and P. R. Davies, eds., The Bible in
Modern Society [JSOTSup 200; Shefeld: Shefeld Academic, 1995], 393410).
45. Georg Braulik, Gottes RuheDas Land oder der Tempel?, in Freude an
der Weisung des Herrn. Beitrge zur Theologie der Psalmen. Festgabe zum 70.
Geburtstag von Heinrich Gro (ed. E. Haag and F.-L. Hossfeld; SBB 13; Stuttgart:
Verlag Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1986), 3344 (43).
46. Sigmund Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israels Worship, vol. 1 (trans. D. R.
Ap-Thomas; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 106, 122, 156.
47. Ibid., 32.
48. Ibid., 106.
49. Ibid., 122.
50. Ibid., 12122.
51. Ibid., 122.
202 Psalms and Hebrews

The Mishnah also supports this Jewish tradition and links New Years
day with the day of creationon a par with the feast of tabernacles and
the Enthronement Psalms, which also have a special connection with
creation.52 Johnson53 and Weiser54 strongly argued in favour of a New
Year festival that accompanied the Feast of Booths, while De Vaux55
rejected this. Assuming the existence of the New Year feast, Baly states:
The Creation and Exodus themes are tied together in a number of
psalms, which were probably used at this festival (Pss. 74:1217; 89:1
18; 95; etc).56 This is important to remember when considering
Hebrews use of Ps 95, its reinterpretation of the motif of rest and its
connection with Gen 2:2 and creation.

4.1.2. The use of Psalm 95 in the early Jewish and Christian traditions.
Although it has been observed before that there are no explicit quotations
from Ps 95(94) in our existing corpus of early Jewish and Christian
literature, there seems to be at least some possible allusions to Ps 95(94).
It is in particular the motifs of rest and of testing as found in this psalm
that were part of a number of familiar and recurring motifs in early
Judaism and early Christianity. It is therefore not surprising that traces of
the section quoted from Ps 95:711 by the author of Hebrews are thus to
be detected as allusions in 1QS 5:26 (Ps 95:7); 1QH 1:22; 1QS 5:4; Barn
8:5 (Ps 95:10); Odes Sol. 20:8 (Ps 95:11).57 The motifs of rest and testing
surfaced also at Qumran. In 4QFlor 1:7 (4Q174) the motif of rest (from
enemies) picks up from 2 Sam 7:11. It is also referred to in 4QapJosepha
(4Q372), frag. 1, I:5b6 and reads: They did not enter] (v. 6) Israel. And
he uprooted them from the land [ ] [from the place to him; they did not
allow them to rest]. The motif of the testing at Massah and Meribah
surfaces in 4QTest (4Q175) v. 15 in a quotation from Deut 33:811 and
reads: (whom) you tested at Massah, and with whom you quarrelled
about the waters of Meribah.
Familiarity with Ps 95 in liturgical settings can be accepted. Psalms 95
and 96 were apparently known as the psalms of the invitation for

52. Ibid.
53. Aubrey R. Johnson, Sacral Kingship in Ancient Israel (Cardiff: University of
Wales Press, 1955).
54. Artur Weiser, The Psalms (Philadelphia: SCM, 1982), 3552.
55. Roland De Vaux, Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions (London: Darton,
Longman & Todd, 1980), 5026.
56. D. Baly, The Geography of the Bible (London: Harper & Row, 1974), 86.
57. Cf. B. H. McLean, Citations and Allusions to Jewish Scripture in Early
Christian and Jewish Writings through 180 C.E. (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen, 1992),
STEYN The Reception of Psalm 95(94):711 in Hebrews 34 203

worship.58 According to Kistemaker, Ps 95 was regarded as a preamble

of services on Friday evening and Sabbath morning and the practice
undoubtedly stemmed from the Temple ritual which in later years was
gradually taken over in the Synagogue.59 Goulder holds a similar view
about the function of Ps 95, though he allocates it as part of the morning
liturgy in churches from early times:
The psalms in Book IV are numbered 90106, and we should therefore
have the same mnemonic as with the Songs: if they were a festal sequence,
evening and morning, the even-numbered psalms would have to fall in the
evening and the odd numbers in the morning. This time we have three
probable morning psalms, 95, 97 and 101. Psalm 95, the Venite, has been
used as a morning psalm in churches from early times: its challenge,
Today, if ye hear his voice, Harden not your heart, seems appropriate in
the morning, when there is time for such resolutions (95.7).60

Gzella pointed out the interesting similarities between this passage and
Joseph and Asenath:
In dem frhjdischen, hellenistisch geprgten Roman Joseph und Aseneth
(die Datierung ist eine crux, man wird wohl von irgendeinem Zeitpunkt
zwischen 100 v.Chr. ausgehen knnen?) bittet weiterhin Joseph fr
Asenath, sie mge in die LBUBQBVTJK Gottes eingehen (8,9). Der sehr enge
sprachliche Anklang an die Septuaginta-Fassung von Ps 95 (94), 11 (die
Formulierung FJTFSYFTRBJ FJK UI=O LBUBQBVTJO kommt nmlich nur noch
dort und in Dtn 12, 9 vor) drfte zweifelsohne fr ein eschatologisches
Verstndnis der Psalmenstelle zumindest zur Abfassungszeit des Romans
sprechen. Zusammen mit Hebr 3, 7ff bezeugt dies eine verbreitete
eschatologische Rezeption des Ruhemotivs im griechischen Psalter, an
dem sich die Verfasser dieser Texte orientiert haben.61

4.2. Text Variants and Vorlage

4.2.1. Alternative readings of Psalm 95:711. The text traditions that
might represent the Vorlage used by the author of Hebrews for his
quotation from Ps 95(94) could be divided into the Hebrew and Greek
traditions. Turning to the Hebrew textual traditions, it should be noted
that some fragments were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) that
contain parts of Ps 95:711: 4Q94 (4QPsm) and has the text of Ps 95:37,

58. Kistemaker, Psalm Citations, 35.

59. Ibid.
60. Michael D. Goulder, The Psalms of the Return (Book V, Psalms 107150)
(JSOTSup 258; Shefeld: Shefeld Academic, 1998), 109.
61. H. Gzella, Lebenszeit und Ewigkeit. Studien zur Eschatologie und Anthro-
pologie des Septuaginta-Psalters (BBB 134; Berlin: Philo, 2002), 165.
204 Psalms and Hebrews

whilst 1Q10 (1QPsa)62 contains Ps 95:1196:263 and 11QPsa contains Ps

95:11.64 This covers at least the beginning and the end of the section used
by the author of Hebrews for his quotation. The fragmentary 1Q10 con-
tains only the last two words in Hebrew (regarding this quotation) and it
agrees exactly with the reading of the MT. No evidence, however, of
explicit quotations to Ps 95 were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls
themselves.65 The closest is the reference to the forty years of Ps 95:10
which occurs also in CD 20:14. However, this motif was so widely
spread in antiquity that any analogy between these two texts would be
impossible to prove.66 When comparing the evidence from the Hebrew
traditions as found in the DSS and the MT, the readings which have
survived are identical:
Ps 95:7 (4QPsm)67 Ps 95:11 (1QPsa)68 Ps 95:711 (MT)
H?I? H H?J9= H9 J< H?I?2 ;H2 H?J9
=@ G H9 J<!:
)HJ9 H5J* 4H HEJ C> ) )H+J92 H+5J% * 4@H H+EJ :C>2 ) 2
H >E H=B3 )  H >7E: H+=B@3) :
937JC&><: )<6332= HBE2= 2
 C375>:32 9D7>2 )H+J<
H+3 ; J?&HD?& C6 ;
 J=: A7 H C%)8" J?&H?I73
CH+53 HB 7 9?%% )J :37C 2
H )9
E@ ) 2 C>2 @H%
 J<7C%5 H 5J% =
JA: 23 JE: 32?&C6 ;
JEIH?> = [ JE:I7H?>= 6 *H 3@J) :

62. Cf. D. Barthlemy and J. T. Milik, Qumran Cave I (DJD I; Oxford:

Clarendon, 1955), 69.
63. For the texts, cf. F. Garca Martinz and E. J. C. Tigchelaar, eds., The Dead
Sea Scrolls Study Edition. Vol. 1, 1Q14Q273 (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 56, 283.
64. U. Dahmen, Psalmen- und Psalter-Rezeption im Frhjudentum. Rekonstruk-
tion, Textbestand, Struktur und Pragmatik der Psalmenrolle 11QPsa aus Qumran
(Leiden: Brill, 2003).
65. See J. Maier, Die Qumran-Essener: Die Texte vom Toten Meer. Vol. 2 (UTB
1916; Munich: Reinhardt, 1996).
66. So also H. Braun, Qumran und das Neue Testament (Tbingen: Mohr, 1966),
67. Cf. A. Lehnardt, Bibliographie zu den Jdischen Schriften aus hellenistisch-
rmischer Zeit (Gtersloh: Gtersloher Verlagshaus, 1999), 6:202. The text is taken
from E. Ulrich et al., eds.), Qumran Cave 4. XI. Psalms to Chronicles (DJD 16;
Oxford: Clarendon, 2000), 132.
68. Cf. the catalogue compiled by James A. Sanders, Pre-Masoretic Psalter
Texts, CBQ 27 (1965): 11423 (114). Text taken from Barthlemy and Milik,
Qumran Cave I, 69.
STEYN The Reception of Psalm 95(94):711 in Hebrews 34 205

When turning to the Greek textual traditions of Ps 94 LXX, the rst

striking difference with that of the Hebrew is the presence of the super-
scriptionone of many in the Greek Psalter. Dines describes the super-
scription here as of a historicizing or exegetical kind.69 Comparing now
the particular passage of Ps 94:711 (LXX), which is quoted here in Heb
3, it is clear that a large part of the text from the quotation reads exactly
the same in both the MT and LXX (the latter mostly followed by New
Testament). The differences between the Hebrew and Greek texts are
mainly to be found in Ps 95(94):810.
x In v. 8, the singular for heart + the plural sufx ()<6332=) is
replaced in the LXX by the plural for heart + the plural per-
sonal pronoun (UB=K LBSEJBK VNX_O).
x Also in v. 8, attention has been drawn to the interesting phe-
nomenon that the LXX translator of Ps 95 interpreted a noun with
an initial > as though this was the rst radical and the Hebrew
C>2 was translated with 1BSBQJLSBTNPK.70 When this translation
equivalent is compared with the Hebrew 937JC&>, then, according
to Walters, one cannot even be sure whether the translator, at
this rst occurrence of the phrase, did not have in mind instead
(J36JC> part. Hiph., cf. 1 Sam. 2:10; Hos. 4:4.71 1BSBQJLSBT-
NPK is a hapax legomenon in the LXX, but resurfaces later in the
translations of Aquila (1 Chr 15:23), Symmachus (Job 7:11) and
Theodotion (Prov 17:11).72 The verb QBSBQJLSBJOFJO, however,
occurs fairly frequently in the LXX as a translation for D 2<7
(provoke); CC">7 (be bitter); 9C%>7 (be refractory, obstinate)
and CC"D7 (be stubborn).
x In v. 9b the LXX reads FEPLJNBTBO (without NF) for the Hebrew
hapax legomenon J?&H?I73. The LXX also reads UB= FSHB (plural)
for the singular J=: A7 of the MT.
x In v. 10a the MT has no demonstrative as in the LXX UI_] HFOFB_]
x In v. 10c BFJ is added in the LXX.

69. J. M. Dines, The Septuagint (London: T&T Clark International, 2004), 49.
70. Cf. P. Walters: It is obvious that in the Ps. Passage we must spell place-
names, FO UX_] 1BSBQJLSBTNX_] and UPV_ 1FJSBTNPV_ = 9D7>2 (The Text of the Septua-
gint: Its Corruptions and their Emendation [Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1973], 151).
71. Ibid., 152.
72. Cf. E. Hatch and H. A. Redpath, A Concordance to the Septuagint. Vol. 1,
AI (Graz: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, 1975), 1063.
206 Psalms and Hebrews

Hebrews seems not only to be closer to the LXX in these instances, but
almost identical.73 First, it is clear that Hebrews follows a LXX74 text
which has already translated the names Meribah (93JC>) and Massah
(9D>) with QBSBQJLSBTNPK and QFJSBTNPK.75 Attridge formulated this
observation as follows: The LXX translates these names abstractly, imi-
tating the etymological play in Hebrew, but obscuring the geographical
reference.76 Second, his reference later in 4:7 to David who foretold
these words of Ps 94 (LXX) (the only reference in Hebrews to a human
author), probably also points to his knowledge of this psalm in the LXX
which has Davids name in the heading to the psalm but which lacks in
the Hebrew version.77 Third, Hebrews also differs at some of the same
points where the LXX differs with the Hebrew.
Nonetheless, it reads slightly differently from the LXX as well: FJEPTBO
(LXX) became FJ>EPO in Heb 3:9. Some scholars are of the opinion that
there might even have been a textual error in the LXX tradition here,
which is why FO EPLJNBTJB] is not as close to J?&H?I73 as is the LXX FEP-
LJNBTBO.78 However, FO EPLJNBTJB] might have been an alternative LXX
reading, as testied by P.Bod. XXIV.
The reconstructed reading of Ps 94 (LXX) is close to that found in
P.Bod. XXIV (Ra 2110), dated in the middle of the second century or in
the fourth century C.E.79 None of the additions or omissions, as suggested
among the variants of the LXX, are attested by P.Bod. XXIV. The LXX
x VNX_O (as in Hebrews)instead of VNJO in P.Bod.
x FEPLJNBTBO instead of FO EPLJNBTJB of P.Bod. (as in Hebrews).

73. Schunack, Hebrerbrief, 48.

74. Kistemaker, Psalm Citations, 35; Enns, Interpretation, 353; D. Moody
Smith, The Use of the Old Testament in the New, in The Use of the Old Testament
in the New and Other Essays: Studies in Honor of William Franklin Stinespring (ed.
J. M. Erd; Durham: Duke University Press, 1972), 365 (59).
75. Cf. Rsen-Weinhold, Septuagintapsalter, 202; Kistemaker, Psalm Citations,
35; E. Grsser, An die Hebrer. 1.Teilband. Hebr 16 (EKK 17/1; Zurich: Benzinger
Verlag, 1990), 176; H.-F. Weiss, Der Brief an die Hebrer (KEK 13; Gttingen:
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1991), 259.
76. Attridge, Hebrews, 115.
77. According to Ellingworth, the author follows Jewish tradition in attributing
Ps. 95 to David (Hebrews, 217).
78. Cf. G. L. Archer and G. Chirichigno, Old Testament Quotations in the New
Testament (Chicago: Moody Bible, 1983), 79; Attridge, Hebrews, 115.
79. Cf. D. Fraenkel, Verzeichnis der griechischen Handschriften des Alten
Testaments von Alfred Rahlfs, Vol. I,1 (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2004),
STEYN The Reception of Psalm 95(94):711 in Hebrews 34 207

x FJEPTBO (FJ>EPO in Hebrews) instead of J EPTBO of P.Bod.

x UFTTFSBLPOUB (as in Hebrews)instead of N of P.Bod.
x LBUBQBVTJO (as in Hebrews)instead of LBUBQBVTPOUBJ of

Ps 94:711 LXX80 P.Bod. XXIV (Rahlfs Ra 2110)81


4.3. Introductory Formula

The introductory formulae of the New Testament quotations contain
important information regarding the authors use and interpretation of
Scripture. It serves often to express the authority of a quotation. Intro-
ductory formulae were widely used by Judaism82 and there is a clear
overlap between the New Testament introductory formulae and those
employed at Qumran and by Philo of Alexandria. The author of Hebrews
prefers to introduce his explicit quotations with verbs of saying rather
than verbs of writing.83 Using forms of MFHX, the author links every
quotation to God, the Son or the Holy Spirit.84 The quotation from

80. A. Rahlfs, Septuaginta: Vetus Testamentum Graecum. Vol. 10, Psalmi cum
Odis (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1979), 246.
81. Cf. R. Kasser and M. Testuz, Papyrus Bodmer XXIV. Psaumes XVII-CXVIII
(Cologny-Geneve: Bibliotheca Bodmeriana, 1967), 18990; A. Pietersma, Ra 2110
<P. Bodmer XXIV> and the Text of the Greek Psalter, in Studien zur Septuaginta.
Festschrift fr Robert Hanhart (ed. D. Fraenkel, U. Quast and J. W. Wevers; MSU
20; Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1990), 26286. Also http://ccat.sas.upenn.
82. E. E. Ellis, The Old Testament in Early Christianity: Canon and Interpre-
tation in the Light of Modern Research (Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1991), 79.
83. Cf. Platos Phaedrus (274b77) where he warned that written words are dead
and cannot answer back. True philosophy, however, is a live activity.
84. See also Heb 10:15.
208 Psalms and Hebrews

Ps 95:711 is introduced in Heb 3:7 as if it is an utterance of the Holy

Spirit. This is probably done from the tradition that the Spirit spoke
through David,85 creating a link with David (cf. 4:7 and the heading of Ps
94 LXX) and 2 Kgdms (LXX) 23:2.86 It was not an unknown practice to
quote Old Testament statements that were not made by God in their
original contexts, as if they were indeed utterances of God.87 Verbs of
saying in introductory formulae were usually used in the prophetic
circles of the Hebraists, while verbs of writing were usually used in the
prophetic circles of the Hellenists. The authors consistency in using a
form of the verb MFHX in Heb 34 is striking. Compare: MFHFJ (3:7);
(4:7); FMBMFJ (4:8).

4.4. Alternative Readings of Hebrews 3:711

The following variant readings exist among the New Testament manu-
scripts regarding the text of Ps 95(94):711 in Heb 3:711:
(1) The inclusion of NF between FQFJSBTBO and PJ QBUFSFK VNX_O by a2
D Y 0243. 0278. 1739. 1881 M lat sy bo. Some later LXX traditions also

support the inclusion, cf. R88 Aug Ga L89 1219 = . However, there is
not enough convincing evidence to assume that NF was part of the
original text of either the LXX or of Hebrews.90
(2) The substitution of FO EPLJNBTJB] by either FEPLJNBTBO (v vg; Ambr)
or by FEPLJNBTBO NF (a2 D2 Y 0278. a vgmss sy(p)). These substitutions
were most probably made later on the basis of the knowledge of LXX text
traditions. The LXX manuscripts, in turn, all read FEPLJNBTBO, but later
LXX traditions started to add NF, as in the latter case: Ga(sub *) L A =
. This inclusion by the later LXX traditions was possibly done on the
basis of knowledge of the New Testament quotation. In the light of the
discussion above regarding the differences between P.Bod. XXIV and
the LXX witnesses, there might be a case to be made that a LXX textual
version existed that read FO EPLJNBTJB], as the New Testament does, which
means that great care should be taken not to ascribe this alternative read-

85. See also Acts 1:16.

86. Karrer, Hebrer, 208.
87. Cf., for instance, Matt 19:4 which cites Gen 2:24, and Acts 13:34 which cites
Isa 55:2.
88. GreekLatin Psalter of the sixth century.
89. Lucian recensionpossibly late third century by the elder Lucian in Antioch.
90. So also E. Ahlborn, Die Septuaginta-Vorlage des Hebrerbriefes (Ph.D.
diss.; Gttingen: Georg-August-Universitt, 1966), 118; and Karrer: erkennbar
sekundr (Hebrer, 203).
STEYN The Reception of Psalm 95(94):711 in Hebrews 34 209

ing to the hand of the Hebrews author.91 Attridge is also of the opinion
that the original reading was no doubt FO EPLJNBTJB],92 and so thinks
Rsen-Weinhold too.93 %PLJNBTJB is a hapax legomenon in the New
Testament and occurs only twice in the LXX: Pss. Sol. 16:14 and Sir 6:21.
(3) The substitution of UBVUI] with FLFJOI] by C D2 Y 0278. a vgmss
sy bo. All the LXX witnesses read FLFJOI]. The combination HFOFB_] UBVUI] is
more frequent in the New Testament, but is found only once in the LXX.94
The combination HFOFB_] FLFJOI], however, is limited only to the LXX.95 One
can thus assume that the readings in both the reconstructed versions of
the LXX and the New Testament are the closest to the original. If that is
the case, then this change ought to be ascribed to the author of Hebrews.
(4) The substitution of UI_] LBSEJB] BVUPJ= EF with FO UI_] LBSEJB] BVUX_O
EJP only by 13. Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 657 (13), dated in the third to
fourth century C.E., contains Heb 2:145:5; 10:822; 10:2911:13 and
11:2812:17 with a large number of minor lacunae. P.Oxy 657 is the
most extensive papyrus outside the Beatty and Bodmer collections and
contains presumably the original, whole of Hebrews. It aligns frequently
with 46 and with B for the portions of Hebrews where both exist. It is
an extremely important witness that has not, so far, received sufcient
attention.96 Head and Warren suggested that a re-inking of the scribes
pen was responsible for this change. This is, according to them, one of
four passages that are of particular interest due to the fact that in these
places evidence of re-inking coincides with singular readings (readings
attested in no other Greek manuscript) in P. Oxy. 657.97 There are no
LXX witnesses that support either reading. The change should also be

91. This reading exists in P.Bod. XXIV and thus contra E. Ahlborn, who wrote:
So liest kein Zeuge der Septuaginta. Es gibt keine andere Lsung, als da diese
Lesart auf den Verfasser des Hebrerbriefes selbst zurckgeht. See his lengthy dis-
cussion that the author of Hebrews made this change on the basis of stylistic grounds
(Septuaginta-Vorlage, 11819). Also Ellingworth sees this reading as one prob-
ably made by the authorperhaps to avoid the unusual idea of human beings
testing God (Hebrews, 218). Similarly Enns, Interpretation, 353, 356ff.
92. Attridge, Hebrews, 113.
93. Der Hebr hat jedenfalls diese Lesart, ein Hapax legomenon im Hebr, in
seiner Vorlage gefunden, wie sie durch P.Bodmer (2110) bezeugt ist (Rsen-
Weinhold, Septuaginta-Psalter, 204).
94. New Testament: Matt 12:45; Mark 8:12 (2); Luke 11:30; Heb 3:10. LXX:
Gen 7:1.
95. Exod 1:6; Judg 2:10; Ps 95(94):10.
96. Cf. http://www.skypoint.com/~waltzmn/ManuscriptsPapyri.html#P13.
97. P. M. Head and M. Warren, Re-inking the Pen: Evidence from P.Oxy 657
(P13) Concerning Unintentional Scribal Errors, NTS 43 (1997): 46673.
210 Psalms and Hebrews

treated as one which was made by the author of Hebrews. The question
is: Which one of these two alternatives is the most authentic one?
Attridge argued in favour of the reading of P.Oxy 657 (13): Although
P13 may display a simple idiosyncratic corruption, it is likely that the
process of making the text of the psalm conform to the LXX was opera-
tive and that the unusual wording is original98an opinion which can be
supported by the fact that scribes often conformed their New Testament
text to readings they knew from the LXX.99 However, as the research of
Head and Warren on the re-inking of the scribes pen indicated, the read-
ings of P.Oxy 657 might in fact have resulted from a simple idiosyn-
cratic corruptionsupported by the observation that the relevant line
of script in P.Oxy 657 contains two clear cases of re-inking which relate
to the singular readings and, therefore, the implied exemplar for P.
Oxy 657 would not necessarily have reected the text represented by
NA27. They conclude:
P. Oxy. 657s FO UI LBSEJB BVUXO (cf. NA27: UI] LBSEJB]  "VUPJ=) is not a
simple alteration but a re-organisation of the thought of the verse, so that
the pause for re-inking corresponds precisely with the end of the clause (for
P. Oxy 657 although not for NA27). One might argue that, having made
that alteration, EF would no longer make sense and so EJP is substituted by
the scribe. But such a view would necessarily attribute the text of P. Oxy
657 to the conscious activity of the scribe; if the variants reect deliberate
alteration this would strengthen the argument that conscious assimilation
towards the text of the LXX is more likely than otherwise inexplicable
conscious departure from it, and thus strengthen Attridges case.100

4.5. Differences between Psalm 94:711 (LXX) and Hebrews 3:711

Having worked our way through the text-critical aspects of the Hebrew
and Greek textual traditions of Ps 95(94):711 and through the possible
variant readings of Heb 3:711, it becomes clear that the author of
Hebrews used a Greek Vorlage for his quotation with very close simi-
larities to that of the LXX. These few deviations might actually represent
another LXX Vorlage which is lost to us today. Attridge thinks in the
same direction, although his reason for this assumption cannot be
accepted when he says: These all may simply be due to a different LXX
text, since they do not seem to serve any particular purpose in Hebrews

98. Attridge, Hebrews, 113.

99. This has been demonstrated in the case of Old Testament citations in
Hebrews by A. H. Cadwallader, The Correction of the Text of Hebrews towards the
LXX, Novum Testamentum 34 (1992): 25792 (see n. 40 on pp. 264f. for a
discussion of this passage).
100. Head and Warren, Re-inking, 46673.
STEYN The Reception of Psalm 95(94):711 in Hebrews 34 211

application of the psalm.101 Two changes do indeed serve a very parti-

cular purpose in the application of Ps 94 (LXX), as will be discussed
below. Closer to the truth might be the answer found in Kistemakers
conclusion, namely, that the various textual divergencies are not so
much the work of the author, but most likely have been brought about by
constant usage in places of worship. It appears plausible that the writer
has taken the quotation in its present form out of the ritual of worship
services conducted in the Greek tongue.102 However, due to the lack of
such evidence, the following changes between the two versions could
alternatively be ascribed very cautiously to the hand of the author of

4.5.1. Linguistic adaptations towards Attic Greek. The substitution of

FJ>EPTBO (Ps 94:9 LXX) with FJEPO (Heb 10:9): The form FJ>EPTBO is not to
be found in the New Testament at all, but is fairly common in Hellenistic
Greek and in the LXXthe latter where it occurs 28 times. The form
FJEPO in turn, is closer to Classical (Attic) Greek. This change should thus
be treated as a mere linguistic alteration and one that is probably made
on the basis of our authors Greek abilities. The change is of no theo-
logical value.
The substitution of FJQB (Ps 94:10 LXX) with FJ>QPO (Heb 10:3): The
LXX uses here the more common Hellenistic rst aorist indicative form
of MFHX (FJQB), whereas the author of Hebrews prefers againas with
FJEPO abovethe Classical (Attic) Greek second aorist indicative form,
FJ>QPO. Ahlborn pointed out that the authors use of the Attic aorist forms
here, is in line with his practice in the rest of Hebrews where there is a
preference for Attic forms.103

4.5.2. Contextual adaptations for the readers of Hebrews. The substi-

tution of UI_] HFOFB]_ FLFJOI] (Ps 94:10 LXX) by UI_] HFOFB_] UBVUI] (Heb 10:3):
The author of Hebrews adapted his quotation from the original reference
in his Vorlage, that generation, to now referring to this generation
thus preparing the way for the psalm to be reapplied to his own read-
ers.104 This coincides with the fact that the phrase UI_] HFOFB_] FLFJOI] does

101. Attridge, Hebrews, 11516.

102. Kistemaker, Psalm Citations, 36.
103. Wenn richtig ist, da der Verfasser, wie wir annehmen, hellenistische
Aoristbildungen in seiner Vorlage hatte, so steht fest, da er diese selbstndig durch
attische ersetzte (Ahlborn, Septuaginta-Vorlage, 119).
104. C. Spicq, Lptre aux Hebreux (Etudes Bibliques; Paris: Gabalda, 1953),
74; Ellingworth, Hebrews, 218; Enns, Interpretation, 357. Contra Attridge, who
sees this as a minor variation (Hebrews, 115).
212 Psalms and Hebrews

not occur in the New Testament and the author replaces it with the more
common UI_] HFOFB_] UBVUI].105 In light of the fact that the quotation is
presented as the Holy Spirit (who) saysnote the present tense,
MFHFJit is clear that the author intended this quotation to be the current
living words of God which are directed to his current audience.
Substitution of LBJ= BVUPJ (Ps 94:10 LXX) by BVUPJ= EF (Heb 3:10): The
difference between using LBJ and EF is that LBJ would function more as a
copulative particle whereas EF is used to connect one clause with
another when it is felt that there is some contrast between them, though
the contrast is often scarcely discernible.106 The number of sequential
vowels in the phrase LBJ= BVUPJ= PVL would probably also read easier in the
alternative BVUPJ= EF= PVLThis may well be, again, a linguistic adaptation
by the author of Hebrews due to his own stylistic preferences.
The inclusion of EJP between FUI and QSPTXYRJTB in Heb 3:10: The
particle EJP that occurs here in Hebrews is absent in both the MT and the
LXX and there is no manuscript evidence for this variant.107 The author
made an alternative division in the text of Ps 94 (LXX) with this inclu-
sion. This inferential conjunction results in an important point in the
quotation and has shifted the emphasis and changed the meaning signi-
cantly. The period of forty years is no longer associated with Gods
wrath, but with the period of Gods activity in the desert when the Israel-
ites tested Gods works.108 Similarly, Num 14 and Ps 95 attest a negative
perception about the forty years in the desert. Whereas the MT and the
LXX is interpreted that God was angry for forty years, according to
Hebrews God was active in the desert for forty years and his anger
follows after that period. In the words of Enns: It seems that he is con-
cerned to portray the wilderness period in a positive lightone that is
not characterized by wrath.109 The difference between the interpretation

105. Ahlborn, Septuaginta-Vorlage, 120; Kistemaker, Psalm Citations, 3536;

K. K. Yeo, The Meaning and Usage of the Theology of Rest [katavpausi~ and
sabbatismov~] in Hebrews 3:74:13, Asia Journal of Theology 5 (1991): 233 (5).
106. Arndt, Gingrich and Danker, GreekEnglish Lexicon, 171. Similarly
Ellingworth: The main effect of reading BVUPJ= EF is to suggest a contrast
(Hebrews, 218).
107. Enns, Interpretation, 353.
108. Attridge, Hebrews, 115. Following Hous, Attridge reckons that it is
possible that the author conceived of two periods of forty years, one of disobedience
and one of punishment. Similarly Ahlborn: Nach dem Hebrerbrief gehren die
UFTTFSBLPOUB FUI zum vorausgehenden Passus; die Septuaginta (=Mas) hatte die
Zeitbestimmung zum folgenden gezogen (Septuaginta-Vorlage, 120). Also
Ellingworth, Hebrews, 218; Schunack, Hebrerbrief, 48; Enns, Interpretation,
353; Rsen-Weinhold, Septuaginta-Psalter, 205.
109. Enns, Interpretation, 354.
STEYN The Reception of Psalm 95(94):711 in Hebrews 34 213

of the two texts, the LXX and Hebrews, can clearly be seen in the author
of Hebrews commentary on this in 3:17. There he interprets it, without
the EJP, in the part of his exposition which refers to the original context
of the Exodus generation.
The author of Hebrews made very few changes to this long quotation
when citing it here. No drastic insertions or omissions occur. Neither are
there many substitutions. Those that do occur open the possibility to
interpret Ps 94 (LXX) with slightly different theological foci. Two kinds
of changes do occur, though: (a) a few basically minor linguistic adapta-
tions that resonate the authors preference for Attic Greek, and (b) two
alterations within the quotation itself by which the author adapts his quo-
tation as a current appeal to the audience of his time: that generation
became this generation, and the addition of EJP points to the reason
(therefore) for Gods anger with this generation. These alterations
bring the quotation in line with the authors approach to, and theological
application of, Scripture as living, spoken and authoritative Word of God
which is normative for his generation.

4.6. Remarks Regarding the Vorlage of the Quotation

Not one of the verses of this psalm is anywhere else explicitly quoted by
any of the New Testament writers, as is the case with Pss 40, 45 and 102
in Hebrews. Looking at the extensive manner in which Ps 95(94) is
quoted here, referred to and explained by the author of Hebrews, one
could fairly safely assume that the author himself was responsible for
nding and applying this quotation within his argument. The chances are
therefore good that the author of Hebrews was himself responsible for
the identication and application of this psalm. In this sense, the identi-
cation and application of the quotation from Ps 95 should not only
provide valuable insight into the author of Hebrews knowledge and use
of his Scriptures, but also insight into his hermeneutical integration of his
Scriptures into the context of his argument. This leaves us with the inter-
esting question of how he found it and in what version.

5. Interpretation: Exposition and Application (3:124:11):

The Amplicatio
After presenting the quotation from Ps 94:711 (LXX) in Heb 3:711, the
author moves to an exposition and contemporary application of the
psalm for his readers110 which highlights his actual purpose with the

110. Kistemaker reckons that the long quotation stand separate from the fore-
going and is quoted for the sake of exposition and application (Psalm Citations, 85).
214 Psalms and Hebrews

quotation.111 The brothers are exhorted to ensure that an attitude of

unbelief does not germinate in their midst and that they do not turn
away from the living God (Heb 3:12). What is at stake is their faith in
Christ (cf. 3:14), but the author of Hebrews argues that they would
actually become unfaithful to the living God himself. This unfaithfulness
to the living God is a strong reminder about the covenant that God
entered into with his people when he led them out of Egypt. He would
give them the Promised Land and they had to worship and obey him and
never forget him. The exodus motif is thus interwoven into the authors
argument. (He probably also ends his book with this motif in Heb 13,
where he quotes from Ps 118, which was used as part of the Great Hallel
of the festival of the Passover, during which the Exodus from Egypt was
celebrated.) The idea of a new exodus in the existence of the Early
Church was not a foreign concept during New Testament times. The
suffering of Christ himself was linked to the Passover by John. Scholars
have also pointed out that this new exodus motif was also common in
some Jewish sectarian groups, such as the Essenes.

5.1. The Structure of the Authors Commentary

Moody Smith already made reference to the complex patterns of exe-
getical discussion in Hebrews.112 The argument in which Ps 94 (LXX) is
used starts at Heb 3:1 and runs through to Heb 4:13. It ends in an impor-
tant remark regarding the authors opinion of the P MPHPK UPV_ RFPV_ in
Heb 4:12. It is important to take note of three important ways in which
the author of Hebrews deals with this quotation. First, he quotes fairly
substantially from this psalm. Secondly, he also presents a commentary,
or explanation, on the psalm in a midrashic manner, similar to the pesher
style to be found in the Dead Sea Scrolls113 in which a particular passage
is given an eschatological interpretation.114 Thirdly, he refers four times

111. Ellingworth, Hebrews, 219.

112. D. Moody Smith, The Use of the Old Testament in the New, in Erd, ed.,
The Use of the Old Testament in the New and Other Essays, 365 (59).
113. Attridge calls this a little homiletic midrash (Hebrews, 114), while Karrer
talks of Impulsen von Pesher und Midrasch (Hebrer, 206) and Rsen-Weinhold
sees it to be midraschartig (Septuagintapsalter, 202). Similarly Enns: His exe-
getical technique is similar to what we nd, for example, in the commentaries of the
Qumran community (Interpretation, 362); and D. Flusser: In this case, therefore,
the Essene exegesis and the rabbinic midrash do not represent two different
worldsboth belong together ( Today if you will listen to his voice: Creative
Jewish Exegesis in Hebrews 34, in Creative Biblical Exegesis: Christian and
Jewish Hermeneutics Through the Centuries [ed. B. Uffenhemer and H. G. Revent-
low; JSOTSup 59; Shefeld: JSOT, 1988], 5562 [57]).
114. Enns, Interpretation, 352.
STEYN The Reception of Psalm 95(94):711 in Hebrews 34 215

back to the explicit quotation (repetition) in a ring compositional manner.

He picks up the rst verse quoted (Ps 94:7), then the last (Ps 94:11),
again the last (Ps 94:11) and then again the rst (Ps 94:7).115 The two
references from Ps 94:11 are presented before and after a reference to
Gen 2:2, which stands in the centre of the ring composition. Structurally,
it can be illustrated as follows:
Quotation: Ps 94:711 (Heb 3:711)
Commentary: a. Ps 94:7 (Heb 3:15)
b. Ps 94:11 (Heb 4:3)
c. Gen 2:2 (Heb 4:4)
b. Ps 94:11 (Heb 4:5)
a. Ps 94:7 (Heb 4:7)

The train of thought develops in a circular fashion rather, than in a linear

manner.116 Just before he quoted the passage from Ps 94:711 (LXX), he
referred in 3:6 to the fact that they are holding on to the courage and the
hope. Then follows the introductory formula introducing the reason
why they hold on to this courage and hope, beginning with therefore.
Immediately following his quotation, the author uses CMFQFUF (impera-
tive) as an attention marker for his readers, who are addressed again as
BEFMGPJ (vocative). He now picks up on a number of points in the quota-
tion as key aspects that he wants to draw their attention to. He does this
by switching between the contexts of the current readers (this generation)
and that of the exodus generation (that generation) to which the quota-
tion actually refers.117 He sides himself now and then with his current
readers, talking about we (rst person plural), while at other times
addressing them as you (second person plural). These current readers
are then reminded that they should be cautious not to commit the same
acts of unfaithfulness and disobedience as they (third person plural),
i.e. their ancestors, did. Karrer aptly summarises the structural ow by
saying that the author verschmilztseinen rhetorischen Duktus (den
Weg vom Imperativ [3,8.12] ber rhetorische Fragen [3,1618] zur
Selbstaufforderung [4,1.11]) und jdische Schriftdarlegung.118 Attridge
noted that the exposition of the psalm, which is marked by an inclusio,
develops in three segments (3:1219; 4:15, 611), of which each, in

115. Cf. also Schunack: Das Schwergewicht in der Auslegung des Psalm-
Textes liegt auf der Anfangs- und der Schlussaussage (Hebrerbrief, 47).
116. Attridge, Hebrews, 124.
117. Flusser reckons that in the whole of the epistle to the Hebrews there is no
contrast between Israel and Christianity, but an essential gradation (Creative
Jewish Exegesis, 60).
118. Karrer, Hebrer, 206.
216 Psalms and Hebrews

turn, has an inclusio and quotes a part of the psalm.119 Within Attridges
scheme, the middle segment would then actually contain both the quota-
tions from Ps 94:11 (LXX), with the quotation from Gen 2:2 embedded
between them. The rst segment (3:1219) deals with the quotation in
the light of Num 14, concentrating attention on the past historical situa-
tion with a predominant note of warning.120 The second and third seg-
ments (4:111) relate the quotation to Gen 2:2, concentrating attention
on the application of Scripture to the readers situation with a predomi-
nant note of promise.121

5.2. Application to the Current Readers (Hebrews 3:1215)We or

It cannot be agreed with Kistemaker that the author of Hebrews begins
with a few sweeping statements in which he reveals the heart of the
matter.122 It is a well-planned and well thought through exposition. The
rst part of the commentary makes it clear that here are two distinct gen-
erations: we and they. The author starts with his current readers and
picks up on three key terms at the beginning of the quotation: LBSEJB,
He appeals to his readers to take heed of their attitude, so that none of
them should have a sinful, unbelieving heart (LBSEJB QPOISB= BQJTUJBK)
that turns away from the living God (3:12). The references in the quota-
tion, not to harden their hearts (NI= TLMISVOIUF UB=K LBSEJBK VNX_O, 3:8)
and their hearts are always going astray (BFJ= QMBOX_OUBJ UI_] LBSEJB],
3:10), would still have echoed in their minds. The command to reprove
one another probably stems from Lev 19:17.123
The urgency of their commitment and perseverance is pointed out by
linking back to TINFSPO, the word with which he started his quotation.
They should encourage each other daily as long as it is called today
(TINFSPO) (3:13)a similar idea that resurfaces again in Heb 10:24.

119. Attridge, Hebrews, 114.

120. H. Lhr labels 3:1214 Mahnung (Heute, wenn ihr seine Stimme
hrt: Zur Kunst der Schriftanwendung im Hebrerbrief und in 1 Kor 10, 226
248, in Schriftauslegung im antiken Judentum und im Urchristentum [ed. M. Hengel
and H. Lhr; Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1994], 22648 [229]).
121. Ellingworth, Hebrews, 237.
122. Kistemaker, Psalm Citations, 111.
123. Flusser, Creative Jewish Exegesis, 56. The motif of reproving each other
is to be found in Ben Sira 19:1317. Josephus too, mentions that the Essenes are
obliged to be forever lovers of truth and to reprove and expose liars (Bell. 2.141).
Cf. CD 7:23; 9:28; 1QS 5:256:1.
STEYN The Reception of Psalm 95(94):711 in Hebrews 34 217

The reason why (JOB) they should encourage each other is that sins
deceitfulness would not harden them (NI= TLMISVORI_], 3:13)which is the
warning at the beginning of the quotation: NI= TLMISVOIUF (3:8).
Yet again, he refers now back to the opening part of the quotation
(3:7b8a) and does so by means of explicitly quoting it again with its
own introductory formula. This would be the third time that the readers
have heard the same words: rst in the initial quotation itself, then in the
exposition, now in the re-quoting (3:15).

5.3. Explanation of the Original Context (Hebrews 3:1618)They

Moving back to the original context in which the quoted passage refers,
the author of Hebrews approaches his text by posing a number of
questions (ve in total).124 He does this in three sets of questions and
answersof which the rst two sets of answers are also presented in
question form by means of rhetorical questions. Each of the three sets
focuses on the identity of the original group. Each set starts with an
interrogative: UJOFK (who, 3:16); UJTJO (with whom, 3:17); UJTJO (to whom,
3:18).125 Kistemaker points to the importance of this: Because the word
UJOFK species in this lesson from church history those that provoked,
sinned, died, and did not enter into the promised rest, the interrogative
pronoun is of great importance in this pericope.126 Each of the three sets
picks up again some key phrases from the original quotation which were
not yet commented upon in the previous part: BLPVTIUFFO UX_] QBSB-
FJK UI=O LBUBQBVTJO NPV. The author reminds his readers about the
unfaithfulness of the people of God during the time of their exodus from
Who was the group that rejected the rest? The subject that rejected this
rest is identied: QBOUFK PJ FDFMRPOUFK FD "JHVQUPV (v. 16); UPJ_K BNBS-
UITBTJO (v. 17). The original exodus generation was intended for Gods
rest. But because of their disobedience to God and to Moses, they did not
succeed in achieving this rest. Now, through the call of Christ, a new
generation is called to this rest.127 The quotation referred to the exodus
generation that was called to hear (BLPVTIUF, 3:7) but they were in

124. Attridge points to a very similar feature in Philos expositions (Hebrews,

125. Cf. also 3:12 (UJOJ VNX_O), 13 (UJK FD VNX_O); 4:1 (UJK FD VNX_O), 6 (UJOBK).
126. Kistemaker, Psalm Citations, 109.
127. Cf. G. Reim: Der Kyrios Jesus ist der groe Hirte fr diese Schafe (13,20)
(Vom Hebrerbrief zum Johannesevangelium, anhand der Psalmzitate, BZ 44
[2000]: 9299 [93]).
218 Psalms and Hebrews

rebellion (FO UX_] QBSBQJLSBTNX],_ 3:8). The author of Hebrews asks now
(3:16): Who were they who heard (BLPVTBOUFK) and rebelled (QBSFQJ-
LSBOBO). The answer is given by means of a rhetorical question, starting
with BMM  PV: Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt?
The quotation in 3:10 referred to the forty years that the Exodus
generation spent in the desert (UFTTFSBLPOUB FUI) and that God was
angry (QSPTXYRJTB) with them. It was pointed out above that a shift in
emphasis took place from the forty years being a period of testing for the
exodus generation in the desert, to being a period now of Gods wrath.
Now, in his second set of questions and answers, the author of Hebrews
poses his third question: With whom was he angry (QSPTXYRJTFO) for
forty years (UFTTFSBLPOUB FUI)? He answers again by means of a
rhetorical question, starting with PVYJ (3:17): Was it not with all those
who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert?
This quotation refers to the fact that God took an oath (XNPTB)128 that
they shall never enter his rest (FJTFMFVTPOUBJ FJK UI=O LBUBQBVTJO NPV,
3:11). In his third set, the author of Hebrews asked the next question
(3:18): And to whom did God swear (XNPTFO) that they would never
enter his rest (NI= FJTFMFVTFTRBJ FJK UI=O LBUBQBVTJO BVUPV_) if not to those
who disobeyed? The use of FJ and FJTFMFVTPOUBJ in the ow of the
argument also needs to be noted here: FJ FJTFMFVTPOUBJ (3:11);129 NI=
(4:6). The author responds again, though not this time by means of a
rhetorical question, but by means of a concluding statement: So we see
(CMFQPNFO; cf. 3:12) that they were not able to enter (FJTFMRFJ_O), because
of their unbelief (BQJTUJBO) (3:19).

5.4. The Motif of Rest: ,BUBQBVTJK and 4BCCBUJTNPK (Hebrews

The author starts this next section with the remark that the promise
(FQBHHFMJB)130 about entering into Gods LBUBQBVTJK131 still stands (4:1).
He picks this issue up from 3:6, where he stated that the believers are
holding on to courage and hope. The term, LBUBQBVTJK, becomes a new
Leitthema that is to be found eleven times exclusively here between
3:11 and 4:11.132 The believers are exhorted to be careful that none of

128. Cf. 7:21. See also Acts 2:30.

129. A strong negation and a Hebraism here and in 4:3, 5 (Karrer, Hebrer, 203).
130. A specically Jewish-Christian term (ibid., 211).
131. For a comprehensive discussion of this term, see O. Hous, Katapausis:
Die Vorstellung vom endzeitlichen Ruheort im Hebrerbrief (WUNT 11; Tbingen:
Mohr Siebeck, 1970); Attridge, Hebrews, 12628.
132. Karrer, Hebrer, 205.
STEYN The Reception of Psalm 95(94):711 in Hebrews 34 219

them (you) be found to have fallen short of it. The author now sides
him with his readers when he refers to we (4:2, 3); he calls them PJ
QJTUFVTBOUFK (4:3). He continues thus with his comparison of the two
groupswe/you and they (LBRBQFS LBLFJ_OPJ, 4:2). That generations
exposure to the message and their reaction to it is compared with this
generation: we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did;
but the message they heard (P MPHPK UI_K BLPI_K FLFJOPVK) was of no value
to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith (NI=
between BLPI_K and BLPVTBTJO here in 4:2 and BLPVTIUF in the quoted
psalm (Heb 3:7b). Gods promise and the peoples response to it by faith
go hand in hand. The difference with that generation was, then, that they
merely heard the message, but did not blend it with faith. They are
contrasted with the group to which the author of Hebrews also belongs:
Now, we who have believed enter that rest (4:3).133 The bridge has
been built for a new group who could claim the very same promise.134
The promise thus remains the same but the previous group did not suc-
ceed in entering Gods rest. The current group has access to it because
they believe, blending the hearing of the promise with faith. The element
of faith becomes now a prerequisite for entering into the rest135 and he
contrasts warning and promise with each other.136
The author now re-quotes part of the initial quotation for a second
(Heb 4:3) and a third time (Heb 4:5). Both these are taken from Ps 94:11.
Between these two recurrences of Ps 94:11 stands the quotation from
Gen 2:2. The author uses Scripture here to explain Scripture by means of
the rabbinical gezera shewa midrash technique.137 It is on the basis of the
combined strength of the two Scripture passages (Ps 94:11 LXX and Gen
2:2) that the author draws the conclusion that those who believe shall
enter Gods rest.138 The reference to Gen 2:2 is dealt with again later in
Heb 4:9. It is at this point, at the core of his ring compositional argument,

133. In the words of Attridge: delity is stressed as the way to attain the goal
of divine rest (Hebrews, 104).
134. Attridge calls Ps 95 the hinge in the development of the argument
between the rst phase where the old and new recipients of the promise are con-
trasted, and the where the second phase begins (Hebrews, 126).
135. Similarly Kistemaker, Psalm Citations, 109.
136. Ellingworth, Hebrews, 219.
137. So also Karrer, Hebrer, 216; Attridge, Hebrews, 12829; A. Lincoln,
Hebrews: A Guide (London: Continuum, 2006), 71; H. Weiss, Sabbatismos in the
Epistle to the Hebrews, CBQ 58 (1996): 67489 (681).
138. Kistemaker, Psalm Citations, 110. He states that Hebrews employs the
word rest sensu pleniore by combining the two passages (on p. 113).
220 Psalms and Hebrews

in quoting Gen 2:2, where the transition from LBUBQBVTJO as the prom-
ised land of that generation, to LBUBQBVTJO as a Sabbatical period for this
generation, takes place.139 By using Gen 2:2 the author reinterprets his
key term LBUBQBVTJK in Ps 94 (LXX) in terms of the Sabbath.140
Kistemaker identies a threefold rest of which Ps 95 speaks: Gods
rest after creation, Israels rest in Canaan, and the true rest for the people
of God.141 Acknowledging such a threefold rest, one could actually
connect Gods creation rest with the quotation from Gen 2:2, Israels
Canaan rest with the quotation of Ps 94:11 just prior to Gen 2:2, and the
true rest of Gods people with the second quotation from Ps 94:11.
The motif of rest is rmly rooted in the importance of the Sabbath as
such and substantiated on the basis of God who rested on the seventh day
after he created everything.142 This same motivationthat God rested on
the seventh dayis to be found in the quotation from Gen 2:2,143 pre-
sented by the author as the centre of his commentary on Ps 94:711
(LXX). (T)he sabbath is the symbol of eschatological salvation.144
Bauernfeind too highlights the role of Gen 2:2 in this regard, saying, As
the Old Testament promise points beyond Moses to Christ, so the rest of
God in Gen. 2:2 points beyond Joshua and David (4:78) to the nal rest
to which believers in Christ will attain if they hold fast to their faith.145
The fact that the author mentions that it is said somewhere (FJSILFO
HB=S QPV) when introducing this quotation, is most probably an indication
that he consciously refers here to the relevant passage but that he does so
from memory.

139. Kistemaker already pointed out that in Heb 4:4 the concept of rest is placed
in the realm of spiritual things (Psalm Citations, 110). So also Attridge who men-
tions that in the authors suggestion in 4:45, the term rest has a different sense
from that accorded in the psalm, where it refers primarily to the resting place of
Canaan (Hebrews, 116). Similarly Enns: By citing Gen. 2.2, our author is arguing
that the rest that is the reward to the faithful new exodus community is to be under-
stood not as physical land, but as an eschatological rest; specically the rest God has
enjoyed since the completion of his creative work (Interpretation, 359).
140. Karrer states: Die Ruhe, die Gottt den Vtern ihrer Anmaung wegen
versagte, ist deshalb weit mehr als die Ruhe eines verheienen irdischen Landes um
den irdischen Ruheort Gottes (den Tempel in Jerusalem) (Hebrer, 216).
141. Kistemaker, Psalm Citations, 132.
142. Attridge reminds about the fact that in some apocalyptic texts, and
particularly in Philo, it is ultimately the primordial sabbath of Gods own rest that is
in view (Hebrews, 129).
143. Cf. Gert J. Steyn, A Note on the Vorlage of the Citation from Gen 2,2 in
Heb 4,4, Ekklesiastikos Pharos 84 (2002): 4350.
144. Attridge, Hebrews, 129.
145. O. Bauernfeind, LBUB QBVTJK, TDOT 3:628.
STEYN The Reception of Psalm 95(94):711 in Hebrews 34 221

From the preceding exposition (3:1618), LBUBQBVTJK would seem,

then, to refer to the Promised Land146 during the times of the exodus
generation, although it might have been used by the worshiper in Ps
95(94) in terms of the temple as the resting place.147 The author is at least
aware of the original context of the Promised Land, as his exposition
shows here in 3:1618. However, as his exposition develops, the term is
being reinterpreted in terms of a Sabbatical period148 that does not need to
be detached necessarily from a temple context. The noun LBUBQBVTJK is
used in the LXX for the Promised Land (Deut 12:9), when the Ark of the
Covenant came to rest (Num 10:35/6; 1 Chr 6:31; 2 Chr 6:41), for the
Sabbath (Exod 34:21; 35:2) or for the Jubilee (Lev 25:28). An interesting
passage which also refers to LBUBQBVTJK is 3 Kgdms 8:56149: FVMPHIUP=K
QBOUB PTB FMBMITFO. Both the motifs of rest and of today are com-
bined here with his people Israel (cf. 4:9: UX_] MBX]_ UPV_ RFPV_) and with
his promise. It is clear that Gods people already received the LBUB-
QBVTJK here in 3 Kingdoms.150 So, why would the author of Hebrews
state that they have not received it? In Heb 4:8 the author refers to the
fact that if Joshua ( *ITPV_K) had given them rest, God would not have
spoken later about another day (BMMIK  INFSBK, 4:8). Is he now
referring to another LBUBQBVTJKperhaps rather a Sabbatical period
than the land itself? Does he imply, then, that this Joshua (Jesus)
would be able to lead them to this rest (a Sabbath period)? Attridge
nds the key to understanding how it is that the promise remains open
[is] to see that Gods promised rest is not the earthly land of Canaan
but a heavenly reality, which God entered upon the completion of crea-
tion (vv. 3b5). Furthermore, it remains open for those who
currently hear the psalm to join in the festive sabbath rest that God
enjoys (vv. 910).151

146. Karrer writes: Er geht ein in die Ruhe wie ein gelobtes Land
(Hebrer, 205).
147. Cf. Braulik, Gottes Ruhe, 43. Also Karrer: Sie werden anders als die
jetzigen Beter des Psalms nicht zu seiner Ruhesttte, dem Tempel kommen
(Hebrer, 210).
148. Die Verheiung istverblieben. Sie bestimmt fr das Volk Gottes die
Ruhe des siebten Schpfungstages, die Sabbatruhe und Sabbatfeier Gottes (Karrer,
Hebrer, 218).
149. An association of the temple with the divinely provided LBUBQBVTJK is
probably to be found here in 3 Kgdms 8:5456 (Attridge, Hebrews, 126).
150. See also Josh 1:13, 15; 21:44; 22:4; 23:1.
151. Attridge, Hebrews, 123.
222 Psalms and Hebrews

Slightly different is the theory of Ksemann,152 who wanted to empha-

size a wandering motif153 of Gods people (das wandernde Gottes-
volk) from the earthly world to the heavenly as the underlying motif
of Hebrews. He based his argument on Heb 3:74:13 and on Heb
10:19ff. and understands the rest as the Gott verheienen himmlische
Heimat. Das Gottesvolk verlasse die irdische Welt und wandere der
himmlischen Heimat zu.154 Gbel quite rightly pointed out that there is
no reference to a wandering people of God in Hebrews, but rather to
an addressed people.155 It is the faithful listening to the divine speech
that becomes the prerequisite for the entry into the heavenly rest at the
end of time.156 It is therefore, in this sense, a gegenwrtige Teilnahme
am himmlischen Kult. Gbel makes it clear that one ought to distin-
guish here between the following: Eines ist die Rede von dem von Gott
angeredeten Israel der Wstenzeit, ein anderes die Rede vom himm-
lischen Vaterland, ein anderes das gegenwrtige Hinzugetreten-Sein der
Adressaten zum himmlischen Kult.157 The suggestion of Hous, of entry
into the eschatological temple (i.e. that Gods LBUBQBVTJK is identi-
cal with the heavenly sanctuary), would perhaps make sense within the
broader context and theology of Hebrewsa viewpoint similar to that of
Gbel: Eintritt in die LBUBQBVTJK (4,1.11) bzw. in das himmlische
Allerheiligste in der Folge des Eintretens Christi (6,19f). Do we have
here a connection between the rich cultic imagery of the temple,
sacrices and the high priest that will be discussed later in Hebrews on
the one hand, and the authors understanding of a Sabbath period with its
liturgical setting, on the other hand? It was stated in Heb 2:17 that Jesus
became a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God and that he
makes atonement for the sins of the people. Attridge reminds us that: In
Jewish tradition generally the sabbath was not simply a time of quiet and

152. Ernst Ksemann, Das wandernde Gottesvolk. Eine Untersuchung zum

Hebrerbrief (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1961), 5.
153. Enns holds a similar view: In the same way that the original exodus
community, which rebelled at Meribah and Massah, was a community wandering
through the wilderness, so too is the church a community of wilderness wanderers
living between Egypt and Canaan with the ever present possibility of rebellion
(Interpretation, 352).
154. The position of Ksemann as summarised by G. Gbel, Die Kulttheologie
des Hebr erbriefes (WUNT 2/212: Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), 427.
155. Gbel (ibid.) writes es msste nach Magabe der Einleitung dieses
Abschnitts (Hebr 3,711) mit dem Zitat aus Y 94(Ps 95),7 nicht vom wan-
dernde[n], sondern vom angeredeten Gottesvolk gesprochen warden.
156. Ibid.
157. Ibid., 428.
STEYN The Reception of Psalm 95(94):711 in Hebrews 34 223

inactivity but of festive praise and celebration. Similarly, as noted

already, descriptions of heavenly or eschatological rest in Jewish sources
often depict it in terms of such sabbatical activity as praise and thanks-
giving directed toward God.158
There are indeed some indicators that conrm this change from
LBUBQBVTJK as the Promised Land to a Sabbath period: (a) the appli-
cation of Gen 2:2, which clearly refers to the Sabbath day (FO UI_] INFSB]
UI_] FCEPNI]) in 4:4; (b) the identication of this rest as rest from work
(UX_O FSHXO) in 4:3, 4; (c) Gods setting of a certain day (UJOB= 
INFSBO) in 4:7; (d) the reference to another day (BMMIK  INFSBK) in
4:8 and then (e) the sudden use of TBCCBUJTNPK in 4:9. Hous pointed
out that The New Testament offers in Heb 4:9 the oldest documentation
of the noun TBCCBUJTNPK, which occurs several times in post-New Testa-
ment early Christian writings independently of Heb 4:9.159 According to
Hous, the word should neither be seen as identical in meaning nor
interchangeable with LBUBQBVTJK (3:11, 18; 4:1, 3, 5, 10f.); it designates
more closely what the people of God should expect when they enter the
LBUBQBVTJK of God (cf. 4:9 with v. 6a). Accordingly, the author of
Hebrews understands by TBCCBUJTNPK the eternal Sabbath celebration
of salvation, i.e. the perfected communitys worship before Gods
throne.160 The Songs of the Sabbath Sacrices, or Angelic Liturgy, that
was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QShirShab), with a fragment
also found at Masada, comes to mind here. Here, we learn that the wor-
shiping community would proceed in a liturgical procession, reaching a
point in their liturgy at which they believed themselves to be worshiping
with the angels in heaven before Gods throne (cf. Heb 12:22ff.).
When looking at Heb 3:74:11 and the prominence of the motif of
rest or resting place (UI=O LBUBQBVTJO, Heb 3:18; TBCCBUJTNPK, Heb
4:8), one becomes aware of the possibility that the author and his readers
might have been converts from a group that held the Sabbath in high
regard. The two keywords used by the author of Hebrews within this
motif of rest are TINFSPO and LBUBQBVTJO. It is thus noteworthy that the

158. Attridge, Hebrews, 131.

159. Cf. Justin, Dial. 23:3; Origen, Orat. 27:16; Epiphanius, Haer. 30.2.2;
66.85.9; Acts (Martyrdom) of Peter and Paul 1; Apostolic Constitutions 2.36.2;
pseudo-Macarius (Symeon), Homily 12.2.4. The only non-Christian occurrence is in
Plutarch (ca. 46120 C.E.), Superst. 3 (Moralia 166a) (see O. Hous, TBCCBUJT-
NPK, in Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament [ed. H. Balz and G. Schneider;
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993], 3:219).
160. Hous, TBCCBUJTNPK, 219. Attridge (Hebrews, 130) refers to the term as
sabbath observance.
224 Psalms and Hebrews

authors delimitation of the quoted section, i.e. the beginning and end of
the section that he quotes, is probably chosen on the basis of the fact that
it starts with TINFSPO (Ps 94:7) and ends with LBUBQBVTJO (Ps 94:11).
Both these terms are also playing a prominent role in Deuteronomy. For
TINFSPO compare, for instance, Deut 11:2, 8; 29:9, 14, and for LBUB-
QBVTJO compare Deut 12:89. It is clear that one cannot argue in favour
of the authors reliance on Deuteronomy here for these motifs in the light
of his use and application of Ps 94 (LXX). What is clear, though, is that
Deuteronomy equates the promise to rest with the inheritance of the
promised land.161
There are many indicators pointing to Egypt (Alexandria?) as a
possible context for the author of Hebrews and/or the group to whom he
writes. The good Greek, the overlap between the readings of the Torah
quotations of Philo, the close connections with the Alexandrian textual
traditions and the use of the LXX are but some of the clues that support
this theoryalthough they are not unique to Alexandria only. Yet if it is
assumed, as a working hypothesis, that this group is situated in Egypt,
and that they are to be identied with converts to Christianity from a
group similar as the Therapeutae about whom Philo wrote in his De Vita
Contemplativa162 (remember the connection MosesRFSBQXO above),
and if it is further assumed that they share a similar theology as that
of the Qumran community (as Philos Therapeutae did also), then cer-
tainly they are not sharing in the rest of the Promised Land. That land
is far away and they are still in Egypt, descendants of the diaspora. The
Sabbath and the sabbatical periods, though, were central to their theology.

5.5. The Importance of Today (4INFSPO)

Another keyword in the authors argument is the word today
(TINFSPO). Already at the beginning of his book (Heb 1:5) the author
quoted Ps 2:7, where the word occurs. It was applied there in terms of
God who instituted Jesus as his Son. The author starts his quotation here
with the same word in Heb 3:7b and picks it up again in 3:13 and 3:15
when he comments on the quotation and in 4:7 when he re-quotes a
fourth time from Ps 94 (LXX). His discussion on this psalm also nds its
conclusion with the focus on this word and an appeal to his readers to
grasp today as it still remains that some will enter that rest (4:6). The

161. Kistemaker, Psalm Citations, 115.

162. Quite interestingly, R. T. Beckwith independently came to the same con-
clusion as I did (Calendar and Chronology, Jewish and Christian: Biblical, Inter-
testamental and Patristic Studies [Leiden: Brill, 2001], 44).
STEYN The Reception of Psalm 95(94):711 in Hebrews 34 225

eschatological tone that was set in 1:2 continues here and resurfaces
again later when the author begins in 8:8 the longest quotation, taken
from Jer 31(38), with the words that the time is coming. By using and
applying Ps 94 (LXX), Moses and the people of God (that generation) are
compared with the new dispensation in Christ (this generation), who
share in the promise of Gods resttoday.
So when should this rest be pursued? The time is identied as today
(TINFSPO). There is a sense of urgency in the present timea phrase
used in 9:9. A denite appeal is made to his readers at this point
something that was already touched upon in 4:1b. Some scholars suggest
that the author of Hebrews probably counted forty years after the death
of Jesus as similar to the period that Israel was journeying through the
desert, which brings the author to the urgency of this second oppor-
tunitytoday. A forty-year typology certainly existed in the Dead Sea
Scrolls (CD 20:15; 4QpPs 37:1, 6). However, Attridge quite rightly
pointed out that there is no evidence that the author of Hebrews attaches
any typological signicance to the gure of forty years as indicative of
the period between Christs exaltation and parousia.163
According to Flusser, there is an eschatological aspect164 in this
today, both according to Hebrews and the rabbinic sources. He refers
to the famous legend165 regarding Rabbi Joshua ben Levi who asked the
messiah when he will come, upon which the latter answers today. He
did not come that day and the prophet Elijah explained to the rabbi that it
means in the mouth of the messiah todayif you listen to his voice (Ps
95:7). The idea is connected with the day of the Sabbath by Rabbi Levi,
quoting Exod 16:25 and Isa 30:15 in connection with it. This illustrates
then, that the concept of today is connected with repentance and with
the Sabbath.166

6. Reection (4:1213): The Peroratio

The Peroratio starts in an emphatic manner about the authors perception
of Scripture, which for him is the spoken word (singular) of God. This
sections opens with P MPHPK and ends with it as the very last word (pun
noted!)thereby forming an inclusio. The nature of Gods word is

163. Attridge, Hebrews, 115.

164. Flussers point makes sense as the book opens already on an eschatological
note in Heb 1:2 (Creative Jewish Exegesis, 59).
165. See b. Sanh. 98a.
166. Flusser, Creative Jewish Exegesis, 59.
226 Psalms and Hebrews

described rst, highlighting three elements: it is a living word (the sen-

tence starts with [X_O), it is active and it is sharper than a double-edged
sword. Then follows the function or effect of Gods word, on three
levels: it divides soul and spirit, bone and marrow, and judges the
thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

7. Conclusion
7.1. The Authors Approach to Psalm 95(94)
Introducing the quotation as the words that the Holy Spirit spoke and
with clear signs of following the text as closely as possible, the authors
approach to Ps 95(94) is that it is authoritative and normative. Using
MFHX in the introductory formula corresponds with the authors view that
this is Gods living word, which is still valid. Simply by quoting this
psalm, the author is making a statement regarding the continuity between
Israel and the church167

7.2. The Authors Method of Using Psalm 95(94)

The author quotes extensively from Ps 94 (LXX), presenting the latter
half of the whole psalm as the third longest quotation in the New Testa-
ment. No evidence exists that Ps 95(94) has been quoted before the time
of Hebrews in early Judaism or early Christianity and no explicit quota-
tions of it are thus to be found in any of the other New Testament docu-
ments.168 This points to the author of Hebrews for its identication,
selection, presentation, exposition and application. Given his argumenta-
tion and the contrast between the exodus generation and the authors
generation, he could just as well have used another passage from the
Torah. Yet he chose to use Ps 95(94). Why? According to Ellingworth,
(t)he author appeals, not to the exodus as a bare fact of history, but to a
tradition in which its permanent signicance had been mediated through
Jewish, and doubtless also Christian, worship.169
His Vorlage clearly follows a LXX text that already provides the author
with a more general text that adapts easier to the context of his readers.
The key words TINFSPO and LBUBQBVTJK determined the delimitation of
the quotation for our author. There are very few changes to the text of the
psalm itself and it might actually represent an existing but lost Vorlage.
If not, then the quotation displays the authors preference for Attic above

167. Enns, Interpretation, 355.

168. The only possible allusions are to be found regarding Ps 95:7 in John 10:3
and Rev 21:3.
169. Ellingworth, Hebrews, 214.
STEYN The Reception of Psalm 95(94):711 in Hebrews 34 227

Hellenistic forms, and small adaptations to highlight the contrast between

that generation and this generation.170
A lengthy midrash171 on the quotation follows in which the author re-
quotes the beginning and the end of the initial quotation twice each,
strategically placing the quotation from Gen 2:2 in its centre. By using
this second passage, he follows the rabbinic method of a gezerah shawah
argument.172 Although there are clear signs of typology173 (MosesJesus,
and the Exodus generationthis generation), the spiritualization of rest
with its cultic and eschatological connotations cannot be denied either.
Lincoln recently summarised the authors typological exposition as
(It) can be seen, for example, in 3.74.13, where the resting place of the
land becomes, via a link with Gods sabbath rest, a type of the rest of
eschatological salvation inaugurated by Christ in Gods new today (cf.
3.13, 14). Since the consummation of the rest is still future, there is a
continuity because Christian believers need to be exhorted to make every
effort to enter the rest, lest they fall through the same sort of disobedience
that aficted the wilderness generation (4.11). But there is also a dis-
continuity, because such believers can also be said to be already in the
process of entering the rest (4.3). The interplay between continuity and
discontinuity essential to typology is also what contributes to the effective-
ness of the writers paraenesis. The fullment in the antitype raises the
stakes for Christian believers. As a result of Gods oath, the wilderness
generation fell by the sword (cf. Num. 14.43), but Hebrews addressees
face something more fearful than any two-edged sword, the lethal weapon
of Gods word of judgment, which will expose the intentions of their heart
and render them defenceless before the consuming gaze of the one to
whom account must be given (4.1113).174

7.3. The Authors Purpose of Using Psalm 95(94)

Psalm 95(94) is used as an exhortation to remain faithful to God, which
is a reminder about Gods covenant with the Exodus generation, though

170. Cf. Enns: We might say that in wishing to make this psalm more relevant
to his readers, he says things about Psalm 95 that are not actually found in Psalm 95
(Interpretation, 353).
171. From all those commented upon in Hebrews, this is the most extensive
piece of continuous exposition of an Old Testament text (Ellingworth, Hebrews,
172. Cf. Flusser: This is the way of creative Jewish exegesis and it ts also the
method and the spirit of rabbinic Judaism (Creative Jewish Exegesis, 59).
173. So also Ellingworth, Hebrews, 215; Moody Smith, Old Testament in the
New, 5960.
174. Lincoln, Hebrews, 73.
228 Psalms and Hebrews

the word covenant is not yet used here (cf. Heb 810). They were not
able to enter Gods rest, according to the author, because of their
unbelief. They did not combine the message with faith. With the aid of
the Scriptures he wishes to prove that the promise to enter into Gods
rest remains for those who believe.175 This generation should, therefore,
hold on to courage and hopea shift in the interpretation of Ps 95(94),
which is visible between his contrasting of the warning for that genera-
tion and the promise of this generation. The author understands this
promise as a repetitive one. After initially being offered to the exodus
generation, it is repeated in Ps 95(94), and again to this generation so
long as it is called today (3:13)this promise is extended, so that there
remaineth therefore a sabbath rest for the people of God (4:9).176 Elling-
worth aptly sums the argument up as follows: (1) The wilderness gen-
eration was unable to enter Gods resting-place because of unbelief
(3:19); (2) There remains a sabbath rest for the people of God (4:9);
(3) Let us therefore strive to enter that rest (4:11). The primary Old
Testament reference throughout is Ps. 95:711. This is predominantly a
warning But the warning conceals an element of promise.177
Building on an existing tradition that links the creation and the exodus
themes, a transition is made in the interpretation of LBUBQBVTJK from
referring to the Promised Land, to now referring to a sabbatical period.
The Sabbath is the symbol of eschatological salvation. The promise of
rest remains open because Ps 95(94)actually, Godspeaks about
another day. Just as the rst Jesus (Joshua) led them to the Promised
Land, so this Jesus (the Son of God) would lead them to a sabbatical rest.
The eschatological tone is strengthened with the emphasis on, and
urgency of, TINFSPO.

175. Kistemaker, Psalm Citations, 110.

176. Ibid.
177. Ellingworth, Hebrews, 215.
Gert J. C. Jordaan and Pieter Nel

A very prominent and frequently investigated feature of the book of
Hebrews is its numerous quotations from, and allusions to, Old Testament
passages. Since almost thirty percent of the Old Testament quotations
and allusions in Hebrews come from the Psalms,1 scholarly attention dur-
ing the last few decades was drawn increasingly to the relation between
Hebrews and the Psalms.2 Of all the Psalms quoted in Hebrews, Ps 110 is
the most popular case by far.3 In fact, this psalm is quoted or alluded to
no fewer than twenty times in Hebrews.4 The quotations or allusions, in
all of these twenty instances, come from either v. 1 or from v. 4.5
The above statistics gave good enough reason for Buchanan to intro-
duce his commentary on Hebrews as follows: The document entitled
To the Hebrews is a homiletical midrash based on Psalm 110.6 As far
as we could detect, Buchanan was the rst to propose the theory that
Hebrews is an early Christian homiletical midrash on Ps 110. This

1. Of the probable 104 Old Testament quotations and allusions, more than 80
come from the Psalms.
2. Cf. George W. Buchanan, To the Hebrews: Translation, Comments and
Conclusions (AB 36; New York: Doubleday, 1972), xxixxiv; D. R. Anderson, The
King-priest of Psalm 110 in Hebrews (SBL 21; New York: Peter Lang, 2001), 134ff.
3. Edwin D. Freed, The New Testament: A Critical Introduction (London: SCM,
1994), 359; Gerald Bray, Biblical Interpretation, Past and Present (Leicester:
Apollos, 1996), 71.
4. David M. Hay, Glory at the Right Hand: Psalm 110 in Early Christianity
(Tennessee: Parthenon, 1973), 16366; Anderson, The King-priest of Psalm 110,
5. Ps 110:1 in Heb 1:3, 13; 2:9; 8:1; 10:1213; 12:2, 22 (7 times); Ps 11:4 in Heb
2:17; 3:1; 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:3, 11, 17, 21, 24, 25, 28; and 10:21 (13 times).
6. Buchanan, To the Hebrews, xix.
230 Psalms and Hebrews

theory, of course, is a narrowed-down version of the widely accepted

view that Hebrews is a written sermon or homily.7 Buchanans theory
departs from the general view in as far as its focus is not as much on the
homiletic nature of Hebrews as on its interpretative (midrashic) nature.
Bailey and Van der Broek8 explain midrash as a comprehensive inter-
pretative methodology which can be characterized as follows: it is an
oral or written report (in homiletic or exegetical form), based on the
exposition of a specic passage, which is frequently alluded to or quoted.
It seems that the literary form of Hebrews complies to the above
description of a homiletic midrash, as follows:
x Hebrews is a written report of an oral homily or MPHPV UI_K
x Hebrews is characterized by exposition of Old Testament
passages, which are quoted, explained and followed by an
In the exposition of a text, the author of Hebrews frequently turns to
other Old Testament passages that are dealing with the same theme to
clarify the basic text or to elaborate his argument.11 The result is a fre-
quently repeated pattern in Hebrews, one which runs more or less as
A. The basic text (quotation or allusion);
B. A cluster of other Old Testament quotations and allusions;
C. The basic text (quotation or allusion).

The specic passage which is thus explained in Hebrews is predomi-

nantly Ps 110, more specically vv. 1, 4. Hence the theory that Hebrews
is an early Christian midrash (search, investigation) of Ps 110:1, 4 seems

7. Cf. Werner G. Kmmel, Introduction to the New Testament (London: SCM,

1972), 279; Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction (Illinois: Intervarsity,
1990), 714.
8. James L. Bailey and Lyle D. van der Broek, Literary Forms in the New Testa-
ment: A Handbook (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 1992), 42.
9. Buchanan, To the Hebrews, xx; Freed, The New Testament, 359.
10. Cf. Bailey and Van der Broek, Literary Forms, 191.
11. Frederick F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
1988), lli.
12. Edward Earle Ellis, How the New Testament Uses the Old, in New Testa-
ment Interpretation (ed. I. H. Marshall; Kent: Paternoster, 1992), 119219 (204);
B. W. Holtz, Back to the Sources: Reading the Classical Jewish Texts (New York:
Summit, 1984), 198; G. Hughes, Hebrews and Hermeneutics (Cambridge: Cam-
bridge University Press, 1989), 357.
JORDAAN AND NEL From Priest-King to King-Priest 231

quite feasible. The manner in which this midrash is presented in the book
is homiletical, that is, an exposition followed by exhortation, so that Ps
110:1, 4 can indeed be regarded as Hebrews central text.
Saldarini13 agrees that Hebrews complies to the general denition of a
homiletical midrash as far as it is a work built around a central text or
texts. Yet he does not agree with Buchanan that particularly Ps 110 is the
central text of Hebrews. Saldarinis viewpoint can be summarized as:
Hebrews a homiletical midrash?Yes! But Ps 110 the central text of the
midrash?No! According to this objection, Hebrews should rather be
regarded as a combination of midrashim of various Old Testament texts,
of which Ps 110 is, albeit very prominent, only one such text. Saldarinis
argument seems to be that if Ps 110 had been the basic or central text of
Hebrews, it would have had a much more prominent inuence on the
form and structure of the book. But on the contrary, he says, Psalm 110
does not control the whole of Hebrews structure.14
It is exactly on this last objection of Saldarini that the present study
wants to focus. Buchanan did not reply to Saldarini in defense of his
theory. The only reection by Buchanan on the inuence of Ps 110 upon
the structure of Hebrews seems to be the following: The midrash on Ps
110 is limited to the rst twelve chapters of Hebrews. It is well organ-
ized; it includes many passages of scriptureand it is logically sound.15
Since these remarks are obviously insufcient, the present study is an
attempt to provide better grounds towards countering Saldarinis allega-
tion that Ps 110 does not control the structure of Hebrews. This attempt
is focused on two matters: rst, on the place of Ps 110 in the thought-
structure of Hebrews, and secondly, on a comparison between the struc-
ture of Hebrews and Ps 110.

Psalm 110 in the Thought-structure of Hebrews

Commentaries dealing with the structure (or thought-structure) of
Hebrews generally concentrate on the logical progress of the books
argument.16 Most commentators present the thought-structure of Hebrews
in broad terms (with minor variations) as follows:

13. A. J. Saldarini, Judaism and the New Testament, in The New Testament
and Its Modern Interpreters (ed. E. J. Epp and G. W. Macrae; Atlanta: Scholars
Press, 1989), 2754.
14. Ibid., 41.
15. Buchanan, To the Hebrews, xxii.
16. E.g. Bruce F. Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
1967), xlviiil; Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, lxiiilxiv; Simon Kistemaker,
232 Psalms and Hebrews

1:14 Introduction
1:514 Jesus superior to the angels
2:14:16 Jesus, our High Priest, became less than angels so that he
could bring about a rest superior to that of Moses and Joshua
5:17:28 Jesus, High Priest in the order of Melchizedek, superior to
8:110:18 Jesus as superior High Priest, was also superior in his
ministry of the covenant by his perfect and nal offering
10:1912:29 Exhortation to persevere in faith
13:125 Conclusion

Nel,17 however, suggests that the quotations from and allusions to Ps 110,
occurring in a regular pattern throughout the book, should be taken as
structural markers in Hebrews. The following table provides a picture of
Ps 110 as a structural marker in Hebrews:
Pericope contents Quote/allusion from Psalm 110 which Structural place
serves as structural marker in Hebrews
Heb 1:114. Heb 1:3 > (Ps 110:1). He sat down at Introduction
Jesus at Gods the right hand of the majesty on high18 to entire book
right hand is and Pericope 1
superior to the Heb 1:13 > (Ps 110:1). To which of the Conclusion
angels angels did God ever say: Sit at my to argument in
right hand until I make your enemies Pericope 1
your footstool?
Heb 2:14:16. Heb 2:9 > (Ps 110:1). We see Jesus, Introduction
Jesus left his who for a little while was made lower to argument in
glory to lead us than the angels, crowned with glory Pericope 2
into true rest and honour
Heb 2:17 > (Ps 110:4). That he might Introducing
become a high priest Ps 110:4 in
Heb 3:1 > (Ps 110:4). Jesus, the apostle Pericope 2
and high priest
Heb 4:1415 > (Ps 110:1, 4). Since we Conclusion
have a high priest who has gone into of argument in
heaven Pericope 2

Hebrews (New Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 18; Hugh
Monteore, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Blacks New Testament
Commentaries; London: Black, 1964), 31; George H. Guthrie, The Structure of
Hebrews: A Text-linguistic Analysis (NovTSup; Leiden: Brill, 1994), 144.
17. Pieter Nel, Die rol van Psalm 110 in Hebrers (M.A. diss., North-West
University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa, 2004), 67.
18. English translations come from the NIV, unless stated otherwise.
JORDAAN AND NEL From Priest-King to King-Priest 233

Heb 5:17:28. Heb 5:6 > (Ps 110:4). He says in Quotation

Jesus, high priest another place: You are priest for ever, introducing
in the order of in the order of Melchizedek. 110:4 into
Melchizedek, argument
is superior to in Pericope 3
Aaron Heb 5:10 > (Ps 110:4) Designated Allusions to
by God to be high priest in the order 110:4 as part
of Melchizedek of argument
Heb 6:20 > (Ps 110:4). Jesus has in Pericope 3
become high priest for ever, in the
order of Melchizedek
Heb 7:11 > (Ps 110:4). Why was there
still need for another priest to come
in the order of Melchizedek?
Heb 7:17 > (Ps 110:4). God said to Quotations as
him: You are priest for ever, in the part of the
order of Melchizedek argument
Heb 7:21 > (Ps 110:4). God said to conclusion in
him: The Lord has sworn and will Pericope 3
not change his mind, You are priest
for ever
Heb 8:110:18. Heb 8:1 > (Ps 110:1, 4). We have a Introduction
Jesus as superior high priest who sat down at the right to argument in
high priest is hand of the throne of the Majesty Pericope 4
also the superior in heaven
Minister of Heb 10:12 > (Ps 110:1). When Christ Conclusion
the covenant had offered a sacrice for our sins, of argument in
he sat down at the right hand of God Pericope 4
Heb 10:13 > (Ps 110:1). Since that
time he waits for his enemies to be
made his footstool
Heb 10:1912:29. Heb 10:1921 > (Ps 110:1, 4). Since Introduction
Exhortation to we have condence to enter the to argument in
persevering faith sanctuaryand since we have a Pericope 5
in Jesus great priest over the house of God
Heb 12:2 > (Ps 110:1). Jesus, the Conclusion
Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith of argument in
sat down at the right hand of the Pericope 5
throne of God
Heb 12:2223 > (Ps 110:1). You have
come to Mount Zionthe city of the
living God You have come to God
Heb 13:125 None Conclusion
of book

234 Psalms and Hebrews

The table above emphasizes the following features of the use of Ps 110
in Hebrews:
First, quotations and allusions from the psalm are spread throughout
almost the entire book (Heb 112). Only the last chapter (Heb 13) does
not contain any quote from, or allusion to, the psalm. The obvious reason
for this absence is that Heb 13, as the conclusive chapter, does not
continue the main argument of the book but contains some nal practical
Second, a denite pattern of quotations and allusions from Ps 110 can
be observed in Heb 112:
x Heb 1 has one quotation and one allusion from Ps 110:1.
x Heb 2:14:14 contain some allusions to Ps 110:1, but gradually
switches to allusions to Ps 110:4.
x Heb 57 have numerous quotations from Ps 110:4.
x Heb 8:112:29 contains various allusions, both to Ps 110:1 and
to Ps 110:4.
Thus a certain pattern in the use of Ps 110 seems to unfold already:
Heb 1: Heb 24: Heb 57: Heb 812:
Ps 110:1
 Ps 110:1, 4
 Ps 110:4

Ps 100:1, 4
Third, each pericope is introduced by a quotation from, or allusion to,
Ps 110:1 or Ps 110:4 and is again concluded by a similar quotation/
allusion. The result is a kind of inclusio, which is repeated almost unfail-
ingly in each pericope. Also quotations from other parts of the Old
Testament in Hebrews seem to fall into this pattern. Within each inclusio
the author of Hebrews makes use of quotation clusters from other Old
Testament passages19 in order to clarify or comment on either Ps 110:1 or
Ps 110:4, or both. This is in accordance with the typical midrash style.20
Each quotation cluster is presented within an inclusio pattern. The result
is a thought-structure which looks as follows:
Heb 1:114. Jesus superior to the angels at the right hand of God

Heb 1:3 > Ps 110:1 (allusion)

Heb 1:512 > Ps 2:7; 2 Sam 7:14; Pss 97:7; 104:4; 45:67; 102:2527
Heb 1:13 > Ps 110:1 (quotation)

19. Cf. A. Vanhoye, Structure and Message of the Epistle to the Hebrews
(Rome: Editrice ponticio institution biblicio,1989), 20ff.; Nel, Die rol van Psalm
110 in Hebrers, 6870.
20. Cf. E. E. Ellis, How the New Testament Uses the Old, 204; Holtz, Back to
the Sources, 198; Hughes, Hebrews and Hermeneutics, 357.
JORDAAN AND NEL From Priest-King to King-Priest 235

Heb 2:14:16. Jesus, our high priest, became less than angels
to bring about a rest superior to that of Moses and Joshua

Heb 2:89 > Ps 110:1 (allusion)

Heb 2:613 > Pss 8:57; 22:22; Isa 8:1718; 2 Sam 22:3
Heb 2:173:1 > Ps 110:4 (allusion)
Heb 3:74:7 > Ps 95:711; Gen 2:2; Ps 95:711
Heb 4:14 > Ps 110:1, 4 (allusion)

Heb 5:17:28. Jesus, high priest to the order of Melchizedek,

superior to the priesthood of Aaron

Heb 5:6, 10 > Ps 110:4 (quotation and allusion)

Heb 5:57:10 > Ps 2:7; Gen 22:17; 14:18; Num 18:21
Heb 7:17, 21 > Ps 110:4 (quotation)

Heb 8:110:18. Jesus as superior high priest also superior minister

of the new covenant by his perfect and nal offering

Heb 8:1 > Ps 110:1, 4 (allusion)

Heb 8:510:17 > Exod 25:40; Jer 31:3134; Exod 24:8; Ps 40:79;
Jer 31:31, 34
Heb 10:1213 > Ps 110:1 (allusion)

Heb 10:1912:29. Exhortation to persevere in faith

Heb 10:1921 > Ps 110:1, 4 (allusion)

Heb 10:3012:26 > Deut 32:3536; Hab 2:3, 4; Gen 5:24; 21:12; 47:31;
Prov 3:11, 12; Exod 19:12, 13; Deut 9:19; Hag 2:6
Heb 12:2, 2223 > Ps 110:1 (allusion)

The above considerations (especially the last schematic presentation

above) indicate that the quotations and allusions from Ps 110 are not
randomly scattered throughout Hebrews but present a specic pattern.
Although this pattern as such does not answer Saldarinis doubt that
Ps 110 controls the whole of Hebrews structure,21 it at least supports
Buchanans theory that the rst twelve chapters of Hebrews constitute a
well-organized midrash on Ps 110, which includes many passages of
scripture and is logically sound.22

21. Saldarini, Judaism and the New Testament, 41.

22. Buchanan, To the Hebrews, xxii.
236 Psalms and Hebrews

The Structure of Hebrews and Psalm 110 Compared

A more decisive piece of evidence comes from a comparison between
the above structure of Hebrews and the structure of Ps 110. The analysis
by Anderson23 can be taken as point of departure. Anderson describes
the structure of Ps 110 as an expanded chiasm, in which v. 4 forms the
pivoting verse, surrounded by a series of inclusios. This structure of
Ps 110 can be adjusted and appears opposite.24
Before continuing with the structure of the psalm as such, a brief
remark about the concluding verse of the psalm (He will drink from a
brook beside the way; therefore he will lift up his head) is needed. In
the structural schema above the verse is seen as describing the appointed
king in his triumph. Commentators agree that therefore he will lift up
his head (EJB=UPV_UPVZXTFJLFGBMIO) refers to a gesture of triumph, so
that this verse can be regarded as the triumphant climax of the psalm.25
However, the verse begins with a somewhat bafing phrase: He will
drink from a brook beside the way. Within the context of a victorious
triumph, these words do not seem to make sense at all. Therefore some
scholars have tried to sidestep the problem by suggesting an alternative
vocalization of the Hebrew text. Instead of the Masoretic reading =I2?!">:
9E6J: (C$5!$3!2 (he will drink from a brook beside the way) the Hebrew is
vocalized as H!9E
:J (C$5!$3!2 =I:?>2, which can be translated as an inheritance
on the way he makes it26 or the bestower will set him on a seat.27
The suggested vocalization presents an attractive option for the
analysis of the psalms structure, since it perfectly ts into the structural
framework as suggested above. However, it has to be kept in mind that
the author of Hebrews probably knew the psalm not from the Hebrew
text, but from the Greek text of the Septuagint.28 Hence it can be assumed
that he would have followed the interpretation of the Septuagint.

23. Anderson, The King-priest of Psalm 110, 281.

24. Cf. also Jasper J. Burden, Psalms 101119 (Cape Town: N. G. Kerk, 1991),
12526. The Greek LXX text comes from the 1935 edition by Rahlfs.
25. Cf. Charles A. Briggs, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book
of Psalms (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1976), 2:379; Leslie C. Allen, Psalms
101150 (WBC 21; Nashville: Nelson, 2002), 82.
26. Cf. Briggs, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary, 379.
27. Mitchell J. Dahood, Psalm 101150 (AB 17A; New York: Doubleday, 1970),
28. Cf. Willem Vorster, Hebrers: Inleiding tot Hebrers, in Handboek by
die Nuwe Testament (ed. Andrie B. Du Toit; Pretoria: NG Kerkboekhandel, 1988),
6:7388 (85); Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 721; Bray, Biblical Inter-
pretation, 63.
JORDAAN AND NEL From Priest-King to King-Priest 237

v. 1
The LORD said to my lord: Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.
vv. 23
The LORD will extend your mighty sceptre from Zion;
you will rule in the midst of your enemies.
Your troops will be willing on your day of battle;
arrayed in holy majesty,
from the womb of the dawn you will receive the dew
of your youth.
v. 4
The LORD was sworn and will not change his mind:
You are priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek.
vv. 56
The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings
on the day of his wrath.
He will judge nations, heaping up the dead.
and crushing the rules of the whole earth.
v. 7
He will drink from a brook beside the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.

238 Psalms and Hebrews

The Septuagint translation (FLYFJNBSSPVFOPEX_]QJFUBJ) evidently

followed the Masoretic vocalization. So, the author of Hebrews probably
also took Ps 110:7 in the sense of he will drink from a stream on his
way. Amidst a variety of suggestions commentators are still struggling
to make real sense of these words within the context of the psalm. A
rather feasible suggestion comes from Noordtzij,29 who says that drinking
water from a brook is an indication that the long and tiring battle is over
and that nally the priest-king can take the luxury of taking refreshment.
Thereafter he can lift up his head in triumph. It should also be noted that
the psalm begins with the feet resting on the footstool of the enemies
(Ps 110:1) and ends with the head being lifted up (Ps 110:7), both meta-
phorically referring to victory. In this way Ps 110 forms a very inter-
esting inclusio whereby the victory of the priest-king is emphasized and
is presented as central motif of the entire psalm.
In the light of these considerations it seems that the psalm ends with
the same motif with which it started, containing an expansion in the
intermediate verses. In v. 1 the Lord is appointed as king to be victorious
over his enemies. In Ps 110:26 it is explained how he will become
victorious: by being priest for ever according to the order of Melchi-
zedek. And nally, in v. 7, this king-priest is portrayed as the one who
lifts up his head in triumph. Thus the structure of the psalm can be
presented in the form of a diamond pattern:

v.1: v. 2,3: the King v. 5,6: v. 7:
the Lord appointed the day of appointed as the day of the Priest will be a
as King to conquer battle Priest for wrath victorious King
his enemies ever

Thus the development of thought in the psalm is that the appointed king
is also appointed as priest according to the order of Melchizedek, that is,
a priest-king; and as priest he will become a priest-in-glory who will
triumph over his enemies, i.e. a king-priest. Furthermore, it seems that
the king is appointed to combat his enemies in the day of battle so that

29. A. Noordtzij, De Psalmen (3 vols.; Korte Verklaring der Heilige Schrift;

Kampen: Kok, 1964), 181.
JORDAAN AND NEL From Priest-King to King-Priest 239

his rule may be restored (Ps 110:23); but as priest-king he will conquer
his enemies in the day of wrath to bring about the judgment of the Lord
(Ps 110:56).
When this structure of Ps 110 is compared to the basic structure of
Hebrews, it seems that there is indeed a parallel development of thought:
1. Ps 110 begins in v. 1 with the Lord that takes his place at the
right hand of God to be king. Likewise Hebrews (1:114) begins
with Jesus that takes his exalted place at the right hand of God,
superior even to the angels. Jesus is the undoubted king.
2. Ps 110:2, 3 continues with the promise that the king will be
victorious over his enemies in the day of battle. Parallel to this is
the second section of Hebrews (2:14:16), which deals with
Jesus who came to suffer (battle) as apostle and high priest in
order to bring about the glory of eternal rest to Gods children.
3. The parallel between the central verse of Ps 110 (v. 4) and the
middle section of Hebrews (5:17:28) is obvious. Both deal with
the king being appointed by God as high priest forever according
to the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus is
the priest-king of whom Melchizedek in the Old Testament was
a preguration.
4. Then follows Ps 110:5, 6, in which the promise of victory is
repeated, though now it will be in the day of wrath. The parallel
to this is found in Heb 8:110:18, the section dealing with Jesus
as Minister of the new covenant, who gave himself as nal
offering as atonement for the wrath of God over all our sins.
Christs victory in this respect is exclaimed in the quotation from
Jer 31:34 in Heb 10:17: Their sins and lawless acts I will
remember no more. Jesus died to bring about Gods judgment
for all believing sinners. In Heb 10:2631, those who refuse to
hold on to Christ and who persevere in their sins are warned that
they will be counted