Hebrews 10 and the LXX

(Posted by Paige)

So, who is up on recent developments in manuscript studies of the LXX?

I encountered an intriguing difference as I read through Hebrews commentaries in chronological order, focusing on the use of Ps. 40:6-8 in Heb. 10:5-7, specifically the line, “But a body you have prepared for me.” This rendering of Ps. 40:6 differs from what our MT-based OT says, whether “But ears you have pierced for me” (NIV) or “But you have given me an open ear” (ESV), each a paraphrase of the literal Hebrew “But ears you have dug for me.” Sure enough, when I checked my copy of the Septuagint, I found that it matches with what is written in Hebrews 10:5, “But a body you have prepared for me.”

Now, commentators from Calvin through F. F. Bruce (1990) and Peter O’Brien (2010) have been concerned to harmonize the difference between the MT and the LXX in some way, explaining the diversity by way of paraphrase. Ears, after all, are body parts; ears being “dug” certainly suggests listening or paying attention, but it could also refer to the formation of the ears in the first place – so, “Body parts you have created (or prepared) for me.” One more step gets to, “A body you have prepared for me,” which became the version happily appropriated by the author to the Hebrews, who wanted to present the obedient, bodily sacrifice of Christ as superior to all the animal sacrifices prescribed by the Mosaic Law.

And maybe it happened just so. But in Beale & Carson’s splendid tome on the NT’s use of the OT (Baker Academic, 2007), I encountered a different explanation, offered by George Guthrie in his chapter on Hebrews. On the textual background of Heb. 10:5-7 (Ps. 40:6-8) Guthrie writes:

“In 10:5c we find sōma (“body”) rather than the LXX’s ōtia (“ears” [also in LXX La(G) Ga]). Although it is true that LXX B S A have sōma, these probably should be read as corrections by scribes wishing to bring the manuscripts in line with Hebrews’ quotation.” (p.977)

In other words, according to this explanation the variation originated with the author of Hebrews, NOT the LXX, and was subsequently absorbed into later copies of the LXX.

Is anyone aware of which of the above explanations is current scholarly consensus? Do you find Guthrie’s suggestion compelling, based on the dates of the different LXX manuscripts, or are you satisfied with the harmonization approach?

Thanks in advance for any thoughts you have on this.

The Devil in his Redemptive-Historical Context

(Posted by Paige)

Here is a pair of theological questions related to the “fear of death” topic and deriving from the same pair of verses, Heb. 2:14-15. One of my curious laypeople asked about it in our Hebrews study:

In what sense did the devil ever hold “the power of death”?

How was this power altered by Christ’s defeat of the devil?

We are looking for a way to speak accurately about the “Before” and “After” of the devil in redemptive history. Any insights?

The Hebrews verses again are:

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

Inspiration and Ancient Texts

(Posted by Paige)

Here is another question along the theme of speaking to curious laypeople about inspiration and ancient texts: How would you go about describing the differences between certain passages in the LXX and MT in terms of the doctrine of inspiration? Again, the complexity of the process of inspiration is certainly in view, here involving multiple Hebrew versions and the work of translators. I am wondering what we can fairly say about diversity among OT texts that is in keeping with an orthodox doctrine of inspiration?

Is it fair to say, for example, that if I am reading the Septuagint I am reading the inspired text of the OT? Or is it just to be considered a translation, with editorial changes (i.e., redactions that do not come under the umbrella of inspiration)? — But if the latter, were the NT writers not reading the inspired OT? (Not to mention us, since we read translations too!)

What of the different versions of the Hebrew Bible that apparently existed before the LXX was made, and which may account for some of the differences between LXX and MT? Must we assume or posit that any one version, Hebrew or Greek, was “more inspired” than another? Or might we use the analogy of multiple Gospels, and the unity-in-diversity that we see between scenes in the Synoptics, to make sense of the differences?

For those of you with some knowledge in this area, how often and to what degree do the LXX and MT vary? I am entering into these questions via one particular portal, the book of Hebrews, so I do not yet have a sense of the big textual picture.

I would love recommended resources on this subject, too, if you have any to suggest. My “curious laypeople” will probably not want to venture much past their study Bible notes, but I can be a bridge to them for some of these more complicated ideas.

Thanks!

Re. Angels and the Law

(Posted by Paige)

I’m hoping some of you thoughtful people can help answer a pedagogical-theological question I’m pondering, prompted by my need to explain to some curious laypeople Hebrews 2:2 — “For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution…”

I know that while Paul (Gal. 3:19) and Stephen (Acts 7:38, 53) mention the bit about the angels in passing to audiences who apparently knew what they were talking about, we don’t get the background history for this reference in the OT accounts of the giving of the Law. (Maybe vaguely in Deut. 33:2, but not to the extent that we’d be able to say what Paul or Stephen said with just this to go on.)

So how would you explain to curious students how these NT authors got their information? Because it looks like they were repeating a more fully developed Jewish tradition, not an OT teaching. This situation seems to beg a bit of textual apologetics. How would you speak of inspiration and authority in this case?

Thanks!

Two Verses, Twelve Questions

(Posted by Paige)

Here’s a whimsical Bible puzzle for you to bat around. These two verses have recently caught my attention and raised a handful of questions in my mind:

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:5-6)

Here are twelve of my many questions. Tackle any that interest you, too!

1. What did the disciples assume about faith?

2. Were they correct in their assumption?

3. What did they assume about Jesus?

4. What did they expect Jesus to accomplish for them?

5. Is Jesus’ response intended as an affirmation or a correction of their request?

6. What does Jesus imply about faith?

7. Why a mulberry tree? Is there any symbolism here?

8. Is Jesus describing something that might literally happen, or is he using poetic hyperbole?

9. If hyperbole, what’s his point?

10. Is this the same message that Jesus intends in Matt. 17:20 (“…if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”)

11. Why is this exchange recorded here in Luke (i.e., in this particular location in the Gospel)? Are the apostles reacting to something, or has Luke collected similar material together?

12. How is this exchange related to what has come before and what will follow?

Bonus question: What would you emphasize if preaching from this passage?

“Commandments” in Matthew 5:17-20?

(Posted by Paige)

While puzzling this week over the referent for “these commandments” in Matt. 5:19, I came across two distinct explanations in two of D. A. Carson’s older commentaries. I think they end up in the same place, but they begin quite differently. What do you think?

Here is the familiar passage, from the ESV:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Carson writes this in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World (Baker, 1978; but I have the 1987 edition):

The expression ‘these commands’ does not, I think, refer to the commands of the OT law. It refers, rather, to the commands of the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom mentioned three times in verse 19f. They are the command already given, and the commands still to come, in the Sermon on the Mount…It is worth noting that Jesus’ closing words in Matthew’s Gospel again emphasize obedience: the believers are to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded (28:18-20). Jesus’ commands are highlighted, much as in 5:19.” (40, 41; bold added, italics in original.)

And he writes this in his article on Matthew in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (ed. Gaebelein; Zondervan, 1984):

“But what are ‘these commandments’? It is hard to justify restriction of these words to Jesus’ teachings…, even though the verb cognate to ‘commands’ (entolon) is used of Jesus’ teachings in 28:20 (entellomai); for the noun in Matthew never refers to Jesus’ words, and the context argues against it. Restriction to the Ten Commandments…is equally alien to the concerns of the context. Nor can we say ‘these commandments’ refers to the antitheses that follow, for in Matthew houtos (‘this,’ pl. ‘these’) never points forward. It appears, then, that the expression must refer to the commandments of the OT Scriptures. The entire Law and the Prophets are not scrapped by Jesus’ coming but fulfilled. Therefore the commandments of these Scriptures – even the least of them… — must be practiced. But the nature of the practicing has already been affected by vv.17-18. The law pointed forward to Jesus and his teaching; so it is properly obeyed by conforming to his word. As it points to him, so he, in fulfilling it, establishes what continuity it has, the true direction to which it points and the way it is to be obeyed. Thus ranking in the kingdom turns on the degree of conformity to Jesus’ teaching as that teaching fulfills OT revelation. His teaching, toward which the OT pointed, must be obeyed.” (146; bold added)

So…which is it, Dr. Carson? (Anybody have his new edition of the Expositor’s commentary?)

Joint Statement by WTS and Professor Enns

Joint Statement by WTS and Professor Enns

July 23, 2008

The following statement is being posted per the instruction of Rev. Charles McGowan, Chairman of the Institutional Personnel Committee.

The administration and Prof. Peter Enns wish to announce that they have arrived at mutually agreeable terms, and that, as of 31 July, 2008, Prof. Enns will discontinue his service to Westminster Theological Seminary after fourteen years.

The administration wishes to acknowledge the valued role Prof. Enns has played in the life of the institution, and that his teaching and writings fall within the purview of Evangelical thought. The Seminary wishes Prof. Enns well in his future endeavors to serve the Lord.

Prof. Enns wishes to acknowledge that the leaders of the Seminary (administration and board) are charged with the responsibility of leading the seminary in ways that are deemed most faithful to the institution’s mission as a confessional Reformed Seminary.

Prof. Enns expresses his deep and sincere gratitude to the Lord for his education and years of service at Westminster Theological Seminary.

Past statements and documents

Statement of the Board – May 23, 2008
Official Theological Documents – April 24, 2008
A Communication to the Westminster Seminary Community – April 10, 2008
Message from the Board of Trustees– March 29, 2008

2 Peter 1:5-11

This passage has quite a few interpretive difficulties in it. I will therefore tread cautiously.

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

The first difficulty is this: does verse 9 refer to believers or to unbelievers? I argue that he refers to believers here. First of all is the expression “cleansed from his former sins.” Secondly, the terms of the passage seem to indicate that the believer here is living like an unbeliever, rather than that the non-elect covenant member is on a teeter-totter. The following verse seems to me to indicate that the brothers are to receive this warning. Verse 10, by the way, does not indicate that the elect actually could fall from election. Thirdly, the lack of these qualities is not described as unbelief, but as “ineffectiveness, unfruitfulness, nearsighted, blind.” These qualities can more easily describe the believer who is not progressing as he ought, than that “cleansed from his former sins” could describe someone who is not elect.

Jude 5

Yet another passage abused in favor of FV theology is Jude 5:

“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.”

Steve Wilkins (ab)uses this passage on page 15 of his exam, where he says, “Thus Jude 5 can speak of the Israelites as having been ‘saved,’ and then destroyed, because they did not persevere.”

Two points need to be addressed: the first is that this was a physical salvation from Egypt. To make an automatic parallel to our spiritual salvation from this needs to be argued, not simply asserted.

Secondly, the context indicates that Jude is talking about the false teachers, not about people in the congregation. This is clear from verse 4: “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” That they “crept in” indicates that they certainly do not belong to the flock. In fact, they were predestined (“long ago were designated”) for this condemnation. They never were part of the flock. That is the point of the illustration. That this is the correct interpretation is proved decisively by the continuation in verse 8, which speaks again of those false teachers (“these people also”). He speaks of them not as members of “us,” but as “them.” Therefore, Wilkins’s interpretation does not follow from the text at all.

Hebrews 10:29 and Apostasy

For a while now, I have promised Todd that I would post something on this verse so as to continue the discussion of whether baptized persons are sanctified, and if so, what does that mean? Here is the passage in English:

“How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?”

And in Greek:

πόσῳ δοκεῖτε χείρονος ἀξιωθήσεται τιμωρίας τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ καταπατήσας, καὶ τὸ αἷμα τῆς διαθήκης κοινὸν ἡγησάμενος ἐν ἡγιάσθη, καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς χάριτος ἐνυβρίσας;

It must be pointed out that what we normally mean by “sanctification” cannot be the meaning of the word here. The normal progressive becoming-more-holy of a believer cannot be what is meant, since the word describes an event that took place in the past. We do not need to over-read the aorist’s “point-like” action to come to this conclusion, although this is certainly a once-for-all type of action. It happened only once. Aorist is the normal past tense in the NT. To parse it, the word is an aorist passive indicative, 3 person singular: “hegiasthe.” It is the word right before the last comma.

Now, the context is obviously talking about apostasy (see verses 26ff). But what is the nature of this apostasy? Clearly, the apostasy is that of treating as common something which is not common. The contrast here is between “hegiasthe” and “koinon.” In effect, the person is denying the very nature of what Christ’s blood is. The very nature of Christ’s blood of the covenant is sanctifying, a set-apart quality which it has in and of itself, but also the language refers to that which it does: namely, it sets apart the people of God.

One contextual issue must be dealt with here. What is the relationship between this use of “hegiasthe” and the same root in verses 10 and 14? Verse 14′s use is obviously different, given the different form of the verb. It is a present participle, describing something that is ongoing. Also, the terms of the verse (perfected for all time) indicates that he is talking about those who really are saved for all time. This raises the distinct possibility that verse 10 is not talking about the same thing as verse 29, since verse 14 comes in-between the two verses. Verse 10 is, however, also talking about something in the past, since we have here a perfect passive participle, masculine plural nominative. However, note again that it is a different form yet from the present participle of verse 14 and the aorist of verse 29. The perfect form indicates completed action with continuing relevance for the present (e.g. “I have now finished” is a perfect example of the perfect tense). The aorist might be translated “I finished,” whereas the present might be translated “I am finishing.” I think, therefore, that verse 10 is talking about something different than verse 29. That for two exegetical reasons: 1. verse 14 comes in-between the two verses, and is clearly talking about something different than verse 29; and 2. the difference of the verb-form. The difference is also indicated by the fact that, in this chapter, apostasy does not rear its head until verse 26. The first part of the chapter is all about Christ’s sacrifice being once-for-all in place of all the repetitious sacrifices of the old covenant.

The immediate syntax is as follows: the “en ho” immediately before is most likely a dative of agent, meaning “by this thing he was sanctified.” “Ho” is a relative pronoun referring back to “the blood of the covenant.” The blood of the covenant did this sanctifying act. It should be noted that this actually happened. The way that John Brown takes it, for instance, is that the apostate would have been truly sanctified had he stayed in. I cannot go there. The text says that it actually happened. It is a plain ol’ aorist tense verb. There is nothing to suggest a hypothetical case.

One point should be noted about the exegesis here: the emphasis is on the parallel (and the “how much more” argument) progressing from the two witnesses of the OT law going to the Son of God and the Spirit of Grace as the two witnesses of the New Covenant.

A much more seriously tempting interpretation is that the person who is sanctified is Jesus Christ. The verse would then read as follows: “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which that Son of God was sanctified (presumably as an offering).” This is John Owen’s interpretation. It has a great deal to recommend it. First of all, the closest antecedent of the pronoun in the verb “he was sanctified” is, in fact, the Son of God. Secondly, it does fit the context, since the first part of the chapter is all about Christ as offering and priest. A priest has to make an offering for Himself. But in Christ’s case, His blood is all that is necessary. The emphasis in verse 29 would then be a heightening of the sense of how sacred this blood is: “This blood of the covenant was so sacred, since it consecrated even the Lord of Glory to His mighty task of priesthood, and are you now going to treat it as profane?” I would say that this interpretation is quite defensible. Owen has defended it at length in his commentary on the passage.

If it does refer to the apostate, then I would offer this interpretation of it: the sanctifying that is being advocated here is the idea that a person is set apart from the world when he is baptized. He is no longer in the same position as an outright pagan. He is rather identified with the church. What is being described here is not the ordo salutis category of progressive sanctification, nor the definitive sanctification described in verse 10 (which is connected to faith in the Lord who has offered His body once for all), which is also an ordo category. Rather it is the set-apartness that a baptized person enjoys from the world. This says nothing about whether or not he has faith. Obviously, he never had faith by the very terms of the passage, if he is spurning the Son of God! There, that should be enough for the start of a good conversation on the passage.

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