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Hebrews' Usage of Psalm 102:25-27: Part 1 (Updated)

Updated: Oct 8, 2022


Did the Writer of Hebrews Assume That the LORD Answered the Psalmist in 102:23-28?


In his opening chapter, the author of the letter to the Hebrews, included an address of the Father to the Son that originated from Psalm 102 (see Hebrews 1:10-12). The quotation is fascinating because the original Hebrew text is not even remotely messianic; it is demonstrably a Yahweh creation passage. However, the author of Hebrews is primarily quoting from the Greek translation of the Psalm (the Septuagint, LXX).


Did the writer of Hebrews understand the Greek version of Psalm 102:23 – 28 as referring to the LORD of creation or an earthly figure, who was addressed by God as “You, Lord?” Some who would argue for the latter have supported their claim by appealing to the commentary of F. F. Bruce for the letter to the Hebrews. [1]


Bruce, the esteemed commentator, proposed that the writer to the Hebrews viewed the Septuagint translation (LXX) of Psalm 102:23-24 as a secondary rationale for applying the LORD’s work of creation in Psalm 102:25-27 to the Son. However, most miss that this was not Bruce’s primary argument, as we shall show below.


Why is the Quotation of Psalm 102 Important?


Why would the writer to the Hebrews apply this passage about laying the foundation of the earth and the creation of the heavens to the Son, Jesus Christ? More profoundly, why would he declare that it reflects an address of the God of Israel, the LORD, to His Son? If the writer to the Hebrews taught that the Father addressed His Son as the LORD of creation, this would confirm that Jesus is God's divine Son who existed prior to the creation of the world.


F. F. Bruce proposed that the writer to the Hebrews viewed the Septuagint version of Psalm 102:23-28 as the LORD’s entire response to the afflicted Psalmist. This included God addressing someone as “O Lord,” and then ascribing the works of creation to Him. Bruce further reasoned that this would have required the writer to have viewed the addressee as either representing divine Wisdom or the coming Messiah. Therefore, the Greek translation of Psalm 102:23-28 would have not been understood as a Yahweh creation text but a messianic creation text. Problem solved.


But not so fast. Bruce’s supplemental proposal is conceptually plausible. However, it is highly problematic and far from conclusive. For example, Bruce’s overall suggestion hinges on the interpretation of at least one Greek word from the LXX that unfortunately does not mean what he claims. Also, Bruce’s assumption that the writer of Hebrews viewed Psalm 102:23-24 as the rationale for the address, is not required.


Below I have provided a review of both passages, addressing Bruce’s assumptions based on the evidence from the biblical texts. We will utilize my sevenfold question-based approach for our analysis.[2]


We will also clarify that this was not Bruce’s primary argument for the passage. We will show that Bruce argued that the writer of Hebrews did believe that the Son could have a Yahweh creation text applied to Him because of His role as the agent of God in creation. We will argue that this type of association of the Son with Yahweh themes and texts is pervasive in the New Testament, including in the book of Hebrews. This is due to the Son being with the Father before creation, as well as His heir and glorious image bearer.


Note: The chapter and verse numbers for the Septuagint and the Hebrew text differ by one. Thus, the Hebrew Psalm 102 is listed in the Septuagint as Psalm 101 (LXX). Also, the LXX text begins by counting the superscription as verse one, so its verse numbers are one more than the Hebrew verses. For clarity, I will use the Hebrew chapter and verse numbers for our analysis, since these are the most common numbers for English translations. However, my comments will largely refer to the content of the LXX Greek text, unless specifically noted.


 

Psalm 102:23-28 ( Translation of LXX)

23 He answered him in the way of his strength, ‘Tell me the paucity of my days. 24 Do not take me away at the mid-point of my days, while your years are in generation of generations!’ 25 At the beginning it was you, O Lord, who founded the earth, and the heavens are works of your hands. 26 They will perish, but you will endure, and they will all become old like a garment. Like clothing you will change them, and they will be changed. 27 But you are the same, and your years will not fail. 28 The sons of your slaves shall encamp, and their offspring shall prosper for ever“ (Psalms 102:23-28, New English Translation of the Septuagint).


Hebrews 1:8-12

8 But of the Son he says, 'Your throne, O God, is forever and ever ...' 10 And, ‘You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end’” (Hebrews 1:10 – 12, ESV).


 


Question #1: What Are Bruce’s Claims about Psalm 102:23-28 & Hebrews 1:10-12?

Bruce Claims the Author of Hebrews Viewed Psalm 102:23-28 as an Address from the Father to His Messianic Son


What is Bruce’s critical claim? Bruce posited that the only figures who would warrant being addressed as “Lord” by the LORD God, also ascribing creation to them, would be either the divine Wisdom (Provers 8:22-31) or the coming Messiah.


As a result of this claim, Bruce proposes that the author of Hebrews viewed Psalm 102:23-28 as a messianic text, with the Father (the LORD) enigmatically addressing His messianic Son (“You, Lord”).



Question #2: What Are Bruce's Assumptions about Psalm 102:23-28 & Hebrews 1:10-12?

Bruce Assumes the LORD Explicitly Addresses the Psalmist in the LXX Translation of Psalm 102:23-28


The original Hebrew passage has the afflicted Psalmist directing his words to the LORD (YHWH) throughout the Psalm. However, Bruce assumes that the Greek translator of Psalm 102 (LXX) must have viewed verses 23-28 as a responsive address from the LORD ("He answered") to another figure (“You, Lord). Bruce claimed that in the Septuagint the LORD is speaking to someone else who played a significant role in the original creation. Thus, the LORD (YHWH) addresses the Lord (the agent of creation).


Bruce wrote:

“Moreover, in the Septuagint text the person to whom these words are spoken is addressed explicitly as ‘Lord’ (‘Thou, Lord in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth’); and it is God who addresses him thus. Whereas in the Hebrew text the suppliant is the speaker from the beginning to the end of the psalm, in the Greek text his prayer comes to an end with v. 22.”


Bruce Assumes the Author of Hebrews Viewed Psalm 102:23-24 as the Scriptural Rationale for Applying Psalm 102:25-27 to the Son


Bruce also assumed that the writer to the Hebrews selected the address of Psalm 102:25-27, a creation passage, because he viewed it as the continuation of the address from the LORD (YHWH) to the other figure in Psalm 102:23-24.


Bruce wrote:

"This is God's answer to the suppliant; he bids him acknowledge the shortness of God's set time (for the restoration of Jerusalem, as in v. 13) and not summon him to act when that set time has only half expired, while he assures him that he and his servants' children will be preserved forever. But to whom (a Christian reader of the Septuagint might well ask) could God speak in words like these? And whom would God himself address as 'Lord,' as the maker of earth and heaven? Our author knows of one person only to whom such terms could be appropriate, and that is the Son of God." [1]


Therefore, Bruce’s argument hinges on the author of Hebrews interpreting Psalm 102 as an implied messianic Psalm. Thus, the author considered the significant difference between the Septuagint and the Hebrew text as a justification for applying the creation passage to Jesus Christ, the Son.


We will continue with Questions #3 - #7 in the next posts.


[1] Bruce, F. F. 1997. The Epistle to the Hebrews (The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Eerdmans. Kindle edition.

[2] Shepard, 2022. Why I Became a Biblical Binitarian. Independently published. pp. 57-61.

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Did the Writer of Hebrews Assume That the LORD Answered the Psalmist in 102:23-28? In the previous posts (Part 1 and Part 2), we analyzed the claims of F. F. Bruce regarding the assumptions of the wri

1 Comment


Nœmer Girón Araullo
Nœmer Girón Araullo
Sep 28, 2022

IMHO, the late F.F. Bruce was not far from the truth in that even other scholars believe that the early Christians of the Second Temple period were so well-versed in the Greek OT (LXX) that the writers of the NT Gospels & epistles literally quoted from the LXX many times over. Thus, in the final chapter of Hebrews, the writer concluded in v. 8 that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever," in accordance to what he'd earlier quoted from Psalm 102 in the opening of his letter. Praise God & the Lord Jesus for this website, brother!

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