Friday, May 9, 2014

Some Thoughts on Ephesians 4:7-9 (Part IV)

Psalm 68:18 and the LXX in Ephesians 4:7-9

In addition to the difficult grammar, rhetorical devices and textual issues in the passage, Paul also cites the OT.  Or at a minimum, he makes an illusion to the OT.  The citation/illusion is of Psalm 68:18.  This citation/illusion poses some additional problems.  Following is the text from Ephesians 4:8 and the text from Psalm 68:18 (LXX).

αναβας εις υψος ηχμαλωτευσεν αιχμαλωσιαν, εδωκεν δοματα τοις ανθρωποις Eph. 4:8
ανεβας εις υψος, ηχμαλωτευσας αιχμαλωσιαν, ελαβες δοματα εν ανθρωπωPs. 68:18

It is clear that there is a significant difference in the two phrases.  The major difference is the second half of the statement.  The LXX renders the second half of Ps. 68:18 as ελαβες δοματα εν ανθρωπω (you received gifts among men).  Paul writes εδωκεν δοματα τοις ανθρωποις (you gave gifts to men).  If this is a citation then the change of the verb from “received” to “gave” is not only significant but problematic.  Barth phrases the problem this way, "The author of Ephesians is guilty of willful distortion of the Scriptures - unless it can be shown that his interpretation makes sense in terms of the use and understanding of the psalm contemporary with him." (Markus Barth P. 472).

These and other difficulties in Ephesians 4:8 have caused no little frustration among commentators.  Walvoord and Zuck in their two volume commentary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, provide a good example of the difficulty many have reconciling Ephesians 4:8 and Psalm 68:18.  In the first volume on the Old Testament, speaking of Psalm 68:18, they say, "Psalm 68:18 was referred to by Paul in Ephesians 4:8 (cf. comments there).  However, rather than quoting the Hebrew, Paul apparently followed the Jewish interpretation of the day (the Targum), ..." (Walvoord and Zuck (Old Testament) P.  843).  So, according to the commentary on Psalm 68, Ephesians 4:8 is not a quotation of the LXX but the Targum.  However, in the second volume on the New Testament they say, "Ephesians 4:8 includes a quotation from the Old Testament,...Most think it quotes Psalm 68:18 with five minor and two major changes. ... However, it is better to think that Paul was not quoting one particular verse of the psalm but rather that he was summarizing all of Psalm 68, which has many words similar to those in Psalm 68:18" (Walvoord and Zuck (New Testament) P. 634).  According to the commentary on Ephesians, Paul is not quoting the LXX or the Targum but is summarizing the Psalm itself.  This kind of confusion demonstrates that there is not an easy answer to the apostle's choice of wording. 

Another complication is the context of the Psalm itself.  The Psalm is a tribute to the triumph of Yahweh.  The people flee before Yahweh, His chariots are many thousands, He was with them at Sinai in holiness (v.17), etc.  After this reference to Sinai comes verse 18.  “You ascended to the heights, you took captives. You received gifts among mankind, even the rebellious, so the LORD God may live there.”  The context seems to be one of the LORD ascending, taking captives and receiving gifts in order to establish something permanent  - “so that LORD God may live there”.  The triumph, ascending and taking captive also seems somehow connected to Sinai but not to the Messiah.

In contrast Paul uses Psalm 68:18 as proof that God has given each one of us in the church gifts according to the measure of Christ (4:7).  He seems to change the intent of the Psalm and connect it to Christ rather than to Yahweh.  In the Psalm it is the LORD receiving gifts, in Ephesians 4 the men are receiving gifts.  In the Psalm the men are giving the gifts to the LORD, in Ephesians 4, Christ, the one who ascended and descended, is giving the gifts to men.

The problem rests on the assumption that Paul is quoting the LXX.  This is an understandable assumption not only because of the similar wording but also Paul introduces the quote with the words, “That is why God says…”.  However, if Paul were quoting or paraphrasing some other authoritative work, the problem would go away.

It turns out that Walvoord and Zuck’s Old Testament commentary may have the most viable solution.  Lincoln and Abbott agree with the first volume and point out that the major deviation from the LXX agrees with the Targum. (Lincoln, WBC P. 242, Abbott P. 112).  So, it appears that what we have is a either a quotation or an illusion to the Targum or an early form of the Targum rather than a direct quotation of the LXX.

So, it may be that the Targum’s interpretation of the Psalm is what Paul is making reference too.  This needs to be explored further.  I guess I will have to write a Part V.