Saturday, 20 April 2013
Contradictions In The Bible 12 :
Is Ephesians 4:8 a misquotation from Psalm 68:18?
Ephesians 4:8 quotes Psalm 68:18 (19 Heb.) as follows: "Therefore it says: `Ascending
on high, He led captivity captive, He gave [edoken] gifts to men.'" But the Hebrew text
reads a bit differently: "You did ascend [`alita] on high; You did lead captivity captive
[sabita sebi]; you did take/bring/fetch [laqahta] gifts among men." Is this a purposely
slanted translation? Was this a deliberate tampering with the Old Testament original in a
way incompatible with treating it as inerrant and authoritative? Some have argued that
this is the case. But they have not sufficiently considered the context of the Psalms
passage, nor have they taken into account the implications of the words interpreted in the
New Testament adaptation.
Interestingly enough, Paul is not following the Septuagint rendering here, as if he had not checked with the Hebrew original. On the contrary, the Septuagint quite literally
translates laqahta ("You did take") as elabes. It is actually the Aramaic Targum, the
traditional interpretation of orthodox Jewry, that interprets the Hebrew laqahta as
yehabta "You have given"). In other words, the implication of "You have taken-brought"
the gifts was in order that they might be conferred on men; not that God was to keep them
for Himself ("as if He needed anything" from men's hands--as Paul pointed out in Acts
17:25), but rather gifts in the hands of the Lord are there for the purpose of bestowal on
men. Thus the Targum brings out what is implied by the Hebrew verb, especially in
connection with ba'adam, "among men"--i.e., to be bestowed among men. This last
phrase the Targum interprets as referring to the recipients of these gifts from God and
simplifies the wording aslibene nasa' ("to the sons of men").
Paul also follows the Targum in this--which constitutes significant evidence, by the
way, of the antiquity of the interpretative oral tradition that preceded the written form of
the Targum (in the third century A.D.). As one trained in the graduate school of
Gamaliel, Paul would have been familiar with this Targumic rendition of Psalm 68:18.
(Here again, the Septuagint quite literally follows the Masoretic text: en anthropois
["among men"].) Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown (Commentary, ad loc.) make the
following comment concerning the Ephesian passage: "That is, Thou hast received gifts
to distribute among men--as a conqueror distributes in token of his triumph the spoils of
foes as donatives among his people. The impartation of the gifts and graces of the Spirit
depended upon Christ's ascension."
We may properly regard this New Testament quotation from the Hebrew Old Testament as an example of an interpretative rendering that is within the scope of its connotative meaning, drawing out its implications in a way appropriate to the point under discussion in the New Testament context.