In my previous post, “Ephesians 4:7-10 and Psalm 68:18,” I pointed out that Paul changed Psalm 68:18 when he quoted it in Ephesians 4:8. In short, he changed “receiving gifts from people” to “gave gifts to people” with the primary distinction being in the “receiving” and “giving.”
At the end of that post, I asked why Paul would change Psalm 68:18 when he quoted it in Ephesians 4:8. I have a suggestion about why Paul changed the passage, and I’m going to explain my suggestion over the next two posts.
First, here is 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.” (quote from Psalm 68:18)
(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)
Notice that Paul added a parenthetical statement following his quotation of Psalm 68:18. I believe this parenthetical statement can help us understand why he changed the wording of the Psalm (without changing the meaning, by the way).
Let’s begin with the very end of Ephesians 4:10 – “that he might fill all things.” If you are familiar with Ephesians, then this statement may sound familiar:
And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:22-23 ESV)
…and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:19 ESV)
So, with the phrase “fill all things,” Paul looks back at what he had already said about Jesus Christ (at the end of chapter 1) and to his prayer for the Ephesians (at the end of chapter 3).
Returning to Ephesians 4:10, Paul also refers to Jesus as “the one who ascended far above the heavens.” While the wording is a little different, this statement is also reminiscent of statements that Paul has made previously in the letter:
…that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:20-21 ESV)
…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… (Ephesians 2:6 ESV)
So, with the phrase “the one who ascended far above the heavens,” Paul also reminds his readers of something that he had previous said about Jesus and something that he had also previously said about them. (By the way, in Ephesians 4:10, I think that Paul used “ascended” instead of “raised” because it corresponds better to Psalm 68:18 while providing the same image.)
So, in the phrase “the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things,” Paul reminds his readers of two statements that he previously made about Jesus and two corresponding statements that he made about them. I think this reflection back to what has already been said is important in understanding why Paul changed “receiving gifts from people” to “gave gifts to people” when he quoted Psalm 68:18 (in Ephesians 4:8). I’ll explain why in my post tomorrow morning.
Can you see where I’m headed with this yet?