Sunday, April 17, 2016

Hebrews and Psalm 2:7


We are studying the Book of Hebrews in our adult Sunday School class at Crossbridge Miami Springs. Today was our sixth “lesson”, Hebrews 3: 1 – 6. As the class “commentary” we are using N.T. Wright’s, Hebrews for Everyone, and it really is very good for the student whose preparation will consist of just the time it takes to read nine or ten short paragraphs on the given passage.

I have led (I am not sure it rises to the level of “teaching”) our class in its studies for many years, and it is usually one of the high points of my week.  My practice is to acquire additional commentaries or studies that will supplement our class commentary.  For Hebrews, I have The Epistle to the Hebrews (Revised Edition) by F.F. Bruce; The Holiest ofAll: An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews by Andrew Murray, and The Psalm Citations in the Epistle to the Hebrews by Simon Kistemaker.  

 A substantial part of my class preparation are the “real” books that I have at hand.  I can spread these out on a large surface behind my desk (actually a low queen size bed – and on the floor), as I read through and compare the scripture passages.  In addition to the specific books I acquire for a given study (usually used books from half.com, abebooks.com, and Amazon), I also have  some Bible Dictionaries, Bibles in various English translations, including Study Bibles, a Strong’s, a couple of one volume commentaries, and a number of other helps.  On line, I use Biblegateway.com quite a bit, especially to compare translations, and it has some free commentaries.  (I am not embarrassed to say that I use its links to Matthew Henry’s commentaries and really like them.)  Google has links to free, mainly 19th Century sources, which can be very helpful. 

Returning to Hebrews, I want to discuss very briefly Psalm 2 and the messianic use that is made of it by the author of Hebrews.

Being a lawyer, a professional who often deals with documentary evidence as part of his profession, and having majored in history at Duke in a department with wonderful teachers (I can think of one exception to that, but he proves the rule), I am always curious about NT citations to the OT that would prove a point (and what citation would not be used that way?), especially one that would be controversial in the conversation with Judaism.  Jesus of Nazereth as the expected Messiah and Son of God comes to mind. 

Obviously, the question is whether the Early Church simply read back into the OT passages their messianic implications.  Psalm 2, for example.

Kistermaker, in his book cited above, makes the following statement about Psalm 2:7:

The Psalms of Solomon, composed during the first century B.C. and used generally in local synagogues [footnote omitted] testify that the second Psalm, out of which the author to the Hebrews has taken his first quotation [Heb. 1:5a, and also is 5:5], was understood messianically [footnote omitted].  Although Targum Jonathan [part of the Talmudic books] may give evidence of this same type of interpretation, [footnote omitted], yet in later years, when the controversy between Christianity and Judaism waxed hot, the Rabbis poured quite a different meaning into the term “Anointed.”

 (The Psalms of Solomon are among the books of the Pseudepigrapha.)

Rather than the citation of the OT passages for the messiah being back-read by first and second century Christians to Jesus, the fact that those passages were in the minds of the people of Palestine when Jesus came accounts for his acceptance as the Messiah by so many Jews of that time, especially in view his teachings, his healings and other mircales, his sacrifice on the cross, and his resurrection and ascension.