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Monday, October 29, 2007

Psalm 68: scripture citing scripture

One of the most puzzling cases of a citation of the Hebrew scriptures in the Christian scriptures is found in Psalm 68:19. It is not only cited in Eph. 4:8, but it also contains a citation from Judges 5:12.
    Awake, awake, Deborah;
    awake, awake, utter a song;
    arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive,
    thou son of Abinoam. Judges 5:12 JPS

    Thou hast ascended on high,
    Thou hast led captivity captive;
    Thou hast received gifts among men yea, among the rebellious also,
    that the LORD God might dwell there. Ps. 68:19 JPS

    Thou hast ascended on high,
    thou hast led captivity captive:
    thou hast received gifts for men;
    yea, for the rebellious also,
    that the LORD God might dwell among them. Ps. 68:19 KJV
Look at how the King James version has altered the sense in the Psalm to make it match Ephesians.

Here is Eph. 4:8.
    Wherefore he saith,
    When he ascended up on high,
    he led captivity captive,
    and gave gifts unto men. Eh. 4:8 KJV
And one final allusion to his phrase is found in Revelations.
    He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity:
    he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword.
    Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. Rev. 13:10
The phrase "lead captivity captive" is fairly constant in these four citations. However, there is a significant difference between Ps. 68 and Eph. 4. In the psalm God receives gifts from people and in Eph. 4 God gives gifts to people.

There are three options for what has happened in Eph. 4:8.

1. The author has changed the citation on purpose to suit his intended meaning.
2. The author had a different text with a variant in the Hebrew or Greek.
3. The author is quoting from a different text, a hymn perhaps which has not been preserved.

Obviously, our expectations of quotes are different from what we actually find in the scriptures. Rick has a related post on Eph. 4:26.

PS I had this post all lined up with the citations in Greek and Hebrew but I didn't feel that it added anything to the discussion. Feel free to bring this up if it seemed significant to you.

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10 Comments:

At Tue Oct 30, 07:13:00 AM, Blogger Bob MacDonald said...

God receives gifts in response to having given them - so the reversal of the citation is not problematic. The ultimate gift of the Spirit is I think in view in Ephesians - and it is not too difficult to read it back into the poem. The gift of humanity to God is thanksgiving (vs 4-5, 33-34). I wonder if 'captivity captive' is the middle verse in this poem with Judges being part of the stimulus for the poet.

 
At Tue Oct 30, 08:50:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

>Bob
God receives gifts in response to having given them - so the reversal of the citation is not problematic.

Are you making a theoretical statement about Christian translation of the Scriptures? Do you think that God so moves (people, even non-Christians made in his image?) in non-inspired (un-inspired) poetry and letters and their translation?

>Suzanne,
You and Rick are on to something. Isn't there room for translation theory as reflected in the translation practices of the Bible writers as translators? Rick writes of a different translation practice:

"the handlers of this version [i.e., ESV, with NLT and HCSB and original NIV] wish to create a direct correspondence, a harmonization, between the OT text and the passages where it's quoted in the NT" and he rightly concludes: "This is problematic..."

AND so, to your "three options for what has happened in Eph. 4:8," I offer a fourth and a fifth:

4. The author has changed the citation on accident to suit his intended meaningS.

5. The author had no different text (i.e., neither one with a variant in the Hebrew or Greek nor some hymn no longer extant) than we have, but he reads into the same texts we have certain "second meanings" that the "original" authors did not at first intend (but might grant if they in the future could read along with Paul).

In other words, Deborah, the psalmist (whoever she is), and the writer(s) of Judges may all agree with Bob. There's absolutely no problem with what Paul does freshly writing his letter to Ephesian Greek Jews because of new Greek translation from that old Hebrew. In fact, given a few lessons in first century koine language, these ancient women and men might really like what God (by the Holy Spirit through Paul) is saying (anew). But if they took lessons in twenty-first century English, I doubt they'd like so much what the "handlers" of ESV, NLT, HCSB, and original NIV have done.

 
At Tue Oct 30, 02:54:00 PM, Blogger Richard A. Rhodes said...

I have always been troubled by the idea that we think we need to "correct" God's Word. If we really believe in plenary inspiration, then we should believe that God intended all those "mistakes" in Scripture quoting Scripture. For us to call them mistakes we have to believe at some level that we're smarter than God.

It never ceases to amaze me that no one realizes that there is a theological problem where plenary inspiration meets infallibility. I'll take plenary inspiration and authority of Scripture over our construct of infallibility any day.

 
At Tue Oct 30, 07:10:00 PM, Blogger exegete77 said...

Perhaps there is a fourth option: Paul never intended to quote the entire Psalm text, only this portion:

"When he ascended up on high,
he led captivity captive,"

Then his point is made by making his own conclusion, which differs from the Hebrew text.

 
At Wed Oct 31, 07:58:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

Richard,
I love it (and never thought of it before!):

God inspired, God intended, human mistakes in the Scriptures. He's bigger than I imagined (and I'm now much smaller). This goes along with what you blogged earlier on "The Culture of Perfectionism." (I sincerely meant it when I called it a perfect post. Those of us dealing with imperfection in recovery tend to talk, with J. Keith Miller and Pia Mellody, of being "perfectly imperfect.")

Your amazing insight actually allows the Bible to be literary also (if unevenly so) and to be read as such. Your statement is Joseph's to his brothers: what you intended for evil God intends (and breathes in) for good. May not be what you mean. If not, please do clarify. And have you (or anyone else) written on overcoming this "theological problem where plenary inspiration meets infallibility" not by a "construct of infallibility" of the text but by (a construct of) God's redemption through his inspiration?

 
At Wed Oct 31, 09:06:00 PM, Blogger Richard A. Rhodes said...

exegete77 said...

Perhaps there is a fourth option: Paul never intended to quote the entire Psalm text, only this portion:

"When he ascended up on high,
he led captivity captive,"

Then his point is made by making his own conclusion, which differs from the Hebrew text.


The fact that the wording is so close cannot be an accident.

This "fourth" option is always there, but we invoke it only to maintain our preconceived notion of what constitutes a "mistake".

Even j. k. gayle's comments still buy into the post-Renaissance concepts of what mistakeness is. While I fully believe that God doesn't make mistakes, I don't believe he's bound by the category of mistake as we conceive of it.

And it's a little over the top to say that anyone "intended it for evil" in using OT quotes. I see this as the foolishness of God being wiser than the wisdom of man.

 
At Thu Nov 01, 04:02:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

Ouch. Now I feel "punished."

Clearly, I'm a mere learner, making mistakes in post-post comments and by mistaken concepts labeled "post-*&@$!#". What would be quite over the top is this: if I were always correct about what you intend. What are questions for?

Is it over the top when C.S. Lewis ("no Hebraist") has the audacity to ask (no I think he insists, somewhere beyond the Renaissance) that Virgil in a real text (ready for linguistic analysis) prophesies the virgin birth of Jesus (though the Roman might deny he's so prophesied)? And what "preconceived notion of what constitutes a 'mistake'" does Lewis "maintain" when he suggests (no, he argues) that Plato predicts the passion of Christ (and would admit he's so predicted it)? The Latin and the Greek texts are just so close to the Hebrew and Greek scriptures; how could the facts show they are mere accidents? Would those be God's free "category of mistakes"? Or just accidents by Lewis's foolish mis-understanding of "second meanings"? What mistakeness does this literary critic buy into when he so naively asks (he's no linguist, after all) difficult questions of difficult scriptures inspired by a difficult God? Is he himself (he's no longer atheist now) still putting "God in the Dock"?

Has any of us risen to the level of the foolishness of God yet? But can't we imagine the mysteries? Is God bound by no category of mistake? Joseph and God say he's not bound by evil (though both must be bound by the "category of evil" for either to be free from it). Is there no value in parable, in analogy? Are we bound by "the fact" and by "wording" that seems (no "is") "so close" that it "cannot" (no really MUST not) "be an accident"? Please help us see the light, Rich, or give us a break.

 
At Thu Nov 01, 01:25:00 PM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

Psalm 68 continuing

 
At Thu Nov 01, 11:04:00 PM, Blogger Richard A. Rhodes said...

Oops! Kurk, I didn't mean to punish you! I was simply observing that the category of thing we call mistake is significantly different from any of the categories of αμαρτια, αδικημα, ατυχημα, or more generally πταισμα.

The Scripture gives us evidence about what God thinks is important to get "right" in translation, and it doesn't match what we think is necessary to get it "right".

So my point was that we don't have to think that the writers of Scripture meant to get it "wrong".

Is there room for analogy? Certainly. But is first order linguistic similarity probative? Absolutely. If the similarity is there, we will make the connection. That's just the nature of human language.

A frog walks into a bank carrying a paper shopping bag and asks for a loan. He is directed to the loan officer, Patricia Black. She learns that his name is Kermit Jagger and he wants to start a small business, but the only thing he has for collateral is the pink ceramic elephant that he had in the bag. The loan officer realizes she needs to talk to her manager, at which point Kermit tells her that the manager knows his father. Flustered, the loan officer takes the pink ceramic elephant into her manager's office asks what it is, and what she should do about the request. The manager answers:

That's a knickknack, Patty Black, give the frog a loan. His old man's a Rolling Stone.

 
At Fri Nov 02, 04:01:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

When you could have sent me the eternally stressed semanticist's "open letter," you make instead two first-order comments (here & over at Bob's Log.) At first glance, I had this fleeting idea to attempt a prosodic imaging of just the nature of human language in Ms. Black, but I can't stop laughing. (in other words, I thought I wanted to contemplate the rolling stone, but it keeps enjoying me.)
Do appreciate your taking time for such kind and helpful replies, Rich.
Kurk (aka J.K. Gayle)
P.S. We have some friends in common. This week a co-worker, a certain Tom (SIL linguist) tells me he knows you (from Michigan days) and you've been a great encouragement to them through the years. Jan and Tom say hello.

 

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