Friday, 4 September 2009

Hebrews and Psalm 2

The author of Hebrews bases his introductory chapter on a group of Psalms. In fact, the whole letter might be seen as a 'sermon' based on texts from the Psalms. These psalms provide a wonderful link to the Old Testament and a thrilling insight into the way that the early Christians 'read their Bibles'. Of course, they didn't have a Bible as we understand it but many would be familiar with much of the Old Testament.

Psalm 2 is a curious psalm. Unless we read it carefully it can be quite difficult to identify the speakers and the listeners. Of the 12 verses we might say that 9 represent God as speaking to the whole world; Psalm 2:1-6, 10-12. But we have three verses in the middle which seem to be out of place; Psalm 2:7-9. Who is the 'I' in Psalm 2:6, and who is the 'I/me' in Psalm 2:7 ? At first glance it seems that it is king David who is speaking and that this is a kind of coronation hymn but the author to the Hebrews sees another meaning in the psalm.

Part of the clue is in the phrase 'I have set my king' (Psalm 2:6) The word translated 'set' is usually translated 'poured out' in the Old Testament and if you 'pour out' oil on a designated person that would make it an 'anointing' and the person would become the Anointed One. This links it with the Anointed One in Psalm 2:2 but the word in verse 2 in Hebrew is 'mashiyach', the Hebrew word for 'Messiah' and the Greek equivalent of that word is 'Christ'.

Now we can see how the author of Hebrews is thinking. This is not simply a coronation hymn for David but a prophecy of 'David's greater son', Jesus Christ. The nine verses are indeed God speaking to the nations but those three verses Psalm 2:7-9 is a glimpse into a heavenly court and can be understood as the testimony of Christ himself. He has been raised from the dead and has ascended into heaven. It is the time of his coronation. The Father publicly acknowledges him as his Son (Psalm 2:7) and his heir (Psalm 2:8) This is the introductory theme of Hebrews 1:2-5 and the 'today I have begotten you' is not a statement of biology but rather the public acknowledgement of given authority.

The final scene of the psalm is a word of counsel to the leaders of the nations to submit to God's duly appointed king and includes the words 'Kiss the Son, lest he be angry'. (Psalm 2:12) This is not a kiss of passion or affection but the kissing of the hand in submission. This is the gospel proclamation. God has set his Son at his own right hand and ruler of heaven and earth and men must surrender to this rule or 'perish'. That is a necessary and sober warning but the psalm ends on a sweeter note; Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him. (Psalm 2:12) Have you?


John and Grace Miles said...

Ron, have you heard the theory about the author of Hebrews? It states that Priscilla was the author. Reasons:
The athor was not a minor person because of the high quality of the book.
The writer was obviously an educated Jew.
There was a big cultural difference between the Romans and the Greeks in their attitude towards women. Greeks put women down, Romans lifted them.
It was the Roman church that brought Hebrews to Nica.
Everyone voted for it and then asked who had written it.
The Romans refused to say and insisted that it be judged purely on its merits.
It was included because of its high quality.
The theory says that the Roman church hid the identity of the author fearing it would be rejected because of Greek prejudice against women.
Interesting idea.

Ron Bailey said...

I have not heard this but I doubt its likelihood. There are too many speculations in it. I think whoever came up with this has misunderstood Nicea too.