As I’ve mentioned several times over the last couple of months, we are studying Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus together when we gather on Sunday morning. So far, we’ve made it half way through chapter 4.
Last Sunday, we looked at one of my favorite passages in the book: Ephesians 4:1-16. And, guess what? I did not lead the discussion on that passage. Nope. One of my friends wanted to facilitate our study together of that passage, and he did an awesome job!
To be honest, we had such encouraging and challenging comments about Ephesians 4:1 that I almost wish we had just remained on that verse for our entire study time. But, my brother did a great job of moving us through the whole passage so that we could consider how it all connects together and how we can respond to the passage.
Right in the middle of this great passage there is a quote from Psalm 68 that has often caused me to scratch me head. First, here’s the passage in Ephesians:
But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) (Ephesians 4:7-10 ESV)
I separated Ephesians 4:8 above so you can see the quotation. It comes from Psalm 68:18, and this is the way the passage reads there:
You ascended on high,
leading a host of captives in your train
and receiving gifts among men,
even among the rebellious, that the Lord God may dwell there. (Psalm 68:18 ESV)
Do you see the difference? The Psalm passage says that God – as the victorious king – receives gifts from people, while Paul said that Jesus – as the victorious king – gave gifts to people. (By the way, I checked the LXX – the Greek translation of the Old Testament – and it is very similar to the ESV above.)
So, it looks like Paul changed the passage from Psalm 68:18 when he quoted it. Did he make a mistake? Did he change Scripture? (Well, obviously, he changed it…)
So, what’s going on? Why did Paul find it necessary to change Psalm 68:18 when he quoted it? Is his hermeneutic simply to change the Old Testament to match his theology? (Some people have suggested that.) Or, is something else going on?
Well, I do think that something else is going on, and I’m going to explain what I think Paul is doing in two more posts over the next two days. But, for now, I thought I would ask what you think.
Why do you think Paul changed Psalm 68:18 when he quoted it in Ephesians 4:8?