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Hebrews' Usage of Psalm 102:25-27: Part 3 (Final)

Updated: Oct 9, 2022

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 writer to the Hebrews and his application of Psalm 102:23-28 to the Son. [1]


Using my sevenfold question-based approach we have established the following points:


Question #1: What Were Bruce's Claims?

  • Bruce proposed that the author of Hebrews viewed Psalm 102:23-28 as a messianic text, with the Father (the LORD, YHWH) enigmatically addressing His messianic Son (“You, Lord laid the foundation of the earth ...”).

  • Bruce proposed that vv.23-24 (LXX) served as a secondary rationale for the writer's application of the Yahweh creation text to the Son by the Father.

Question #2: What Were Bruce's Assumptions?

  • Bruce assumed that the Septuagint translator viewed Psalm 102:23-28 as the LORD's (YHWH) direct address to the messianic Lord (the agent of creation).

  • Additionally, Bruce assumed that the writer of the letter to Hebrews selected the address of Psalm 102:25-27 because he also viewed it as a messianic text.

  • Bruce’s argument hinges on both of these implied messianic assumptions about the Psalm.

Question #3: What Are the Original Words of Psalm 102:23-28?

  • Unfortunately, Bruce's explanations and translation of Psalm 102:23-24 are demonstrably problematic (see Question #3 in Part 2). We provided three major translational problems for Bruce's rendering and several contextual problems for his attempted explanations.

  • Additionally, the Septuagint translation of Psalm 102 consistently used Kurios for the Hebrew for LORD (YHWH). There are no indications that the translator viewed a secondary Lord in the Psalm. Therefore, Bruce's assumption is entirely his own.

Question #4: What Are the Biblical Assertions of Psalm 102:23-28?

  • The most impactful point in this analysis is that the writer of Hebrews did not actually quote Psalm 102:23-24 (LXX). The biblical writer did not express any opinions regarding Bruce's proposed rationale verses (vv. 23-24). He only quoted Psalm 102:25-27.

  • Equally problematic, there is nothing in the Septuagint text that necessitates the messianic assumption either.

  • Bruce's secondary argument is entirely his own. The author of Hebrews does not make it, and the Septuagint translation does not require it.


Let us now continue with the final questions.

 

Question #5: What Are the Biblical Assumptions of Psalm 102:23-28 & Hebrews 1:10-12?


The Septuagint's Use of Lord in 102:25 Was to Align the Address with the Hebrew Text


Oftentimes, in the absence of necessitating evidence, the simplest explanation is the correct explanation. When the Septuagint writer included the word Lord (Kurios) in Psalm 102:25, the most likely explanation is that he actually viewed these verses as the psalmist's address to the LORD (YHWH). That's it.


In reading Bruce's commentary, I previously assumed that the Greek text of the Septuagint provided some conclusive indicator that this was not the case. I assumed that there was something that Bruce noticed in the text that pointed decisively against this simple explanation. However, as shown above, it does not.


Therefore, this simple explanation fits with the LXX translator's consistent use of Kurios as LORD throughout the Psalm (see LORD in the superscription, Psalm 102:1, 12, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22). This also agrees with the translator's consistent application of the second person pronoun "you "to the LORD (102:1, 2, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15).


In other words, Psalm 102:25 would be the translator's only instance of using Lord (Kurios) and the pronoun you for anyone other than the LORD. We argue that he included the words "you, O Lord" to make it clear that it was being addressed to the LORD (YHWH). As we will show below, this also consistently aligns with the application of Yahweh texts to the Son by the writer of Hebrews.


Many readers may be surprised to learn that the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew text closely follows the original Hebrew. In fact, the only relevant exceptions are the two vocalization differences mentioned in the prior post. These two differences are not intentional theological deviations from the Hebrew text, only differences in pronunciation.


The best evidence of this is the LXX addition of the words "O Lord" in 102:25. In light of the Septuagint's consistent use of Kurios, it is not surprising that the only intentional addition to the text made by the LXX translator was in 102:25 when he inserted the words "you, O Lord" (Kurios): "At the beginning it was you, O Lord, who founded the earth ..." (Psalm 102:25, NETS). He could have added any type of messianic identifier or name to specify a distinct figure as an agent of creation. He did not. He continued to use Lord (Kurios).


I argue that the translator understood the creation passage as being directed to the LORD (YHWH) and in his only textual addition, he deliberately aligned the address with the meaning of the Hebrew text. That's it.


The Septuagint Text Does Not Provide Any Indication of a Messianic Address


Those who support Bruce's explanation must provide necessitating evidence. They must explain why the Septuagint translator did not include any additional expressions or clarifiers to differentiate the Lord (Kurios) of 102:25 from his other previous nine references to the LORD (YHWH).


More seriously, those supporting Bruce's proposal must explain the quasi-rebuke that now results in the Septuagint text of the LORD (YHWH) to the Messiah: "Bring me not up in the midst of my days" (Psalm 102:24, Bruce's translation). As shown above, not only does this translation deviate from the normative meaning of these underlying words in the entire Greek Bible, but it also creates a noticeable theological problem (i.e., God rebuffs the Messiah). These simultaneous strikes against Bruce's problematic translation and the unintended problematic theological implications demonstrate that this was a strained interpretation.



The Writer to the Hebrews Applied Yahweh Texts to the Son


I believe that Bruce's assumption that the writer to the Hebrews required a rationale for applying a Yahweh text to the Son is demonstrably unwarranted.


In Hebrews 1:6, the writer declares of the Father: "But when he again brings his firstborn into the world, he says, 'Let all the angels of God worship him'" (Hebrews 1:6, NET). This particular quotation originates from Deuteronomy 32:43 (LXX) and Psalm 97:7 (LXX). Both of these passages are definitive cosmic Yahweh judgment texts.


It is beyond argument that Yahweh is the object of worship in both the Hebrew and Septuagint texts. The contexts of both passages do not include any vocalization differences. They do not contain any potential rationalizations for applying them to the Son. Additionally, the preceding verses for neither of these passages (Hebrew or Septuagint) warrant stating that the Father commanded all of His angels to worship His Son. So, the writer to the Hebrews has already provided one example of a Yahweh text being applied to the Son, with the Father as the speaker, with no rationale quoted. If the author could do this for Hebrews 1:6, then he could do the same for Hebrews 1:10-12.


In my book, Why I Became a Biblical Binitarian, I refer to this pervasive pattern of applying Yahweh texts to Christ as the Yahwification of Jesus. Under Question #6 below, I will provide other New Testament examples of the apostolic application of passages with the sacred name Yahweh to Jesus.


Here I will only cite one explicit Old Testament messianic text to provide the ultimate Scriptural rationale for this type of application:

"But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days ...


And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD (YHWH), in the majesty of the name of the LORD (YHWH) his God" (Micah 5:2-4, ESV).


The Messiah was expected to be the ultimate representative of the LORD, He was to be God's Son, governing in the majesty God's name. This aligns with Hebrews chapter 1.


Thankfully, F. F. Bruce agreed with this assessment.

"No wonder that the Son has ascribed to him a dignity which surpasses all the names angels bear. Nor is our author the only New Testament writer to ascribe to Christ the highest of divine names, or to apply to him Old Testament scriptures which in their primary context refer to Yahweh."[1]


More importantly, it is often missed in his commentary that he provided the following as the primary rationale why the writer of Hebrews could apply the Yahweh creation text of Psalm 102 to the Son:


"What justification can be pleaded for our author's applying them thus? First, as he has already said in v.2, it was through the Son that the universe was made. The angels were but worshipping spectators when the earth was founded, but the Son was the Father's agent in the work. He therefore can be understood as the one who is addressed in the words: Of old thou didst lay the foundation of the earth; And the heavens are the work of thy hands."[1]


Jewish Literature Does Not View Psalm 102 as a Messianic Psalm


In a footnote for his commentary Bruce alluded to the works of a Yale professor named B. W. Bacon. Bruce argued that Bacon's work from 1902 argued that the Greek text of Psalm 102 "formed a basis for messianic eschatology, especially its reference to the 'shortness' of God's days ..." (see Bruce, footnote #102).


Thankfully, the B.W. Bacon article is available on Google books.[2] However, rather than provide my analysis of B.W. Bacon's argument, I would like to provide modern evidence that Psalm 102 was not considered messianic in any of the Jewish literature.


Here, I will simply refer to the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. [3] This volume, edited by G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, was first published in 2007, over a century of scholarship after Bacon. It provides a survey of all of the places where the New Testament directly quotes (or strongly alludes) to the Old Testament. The section on the book of Hebrews examines the writer's use of Psalm 102:25-27. Ironically, the scholars cite Bruce's proposal for understanding the passage as messianic. Additionally, like all of the other passages, they also provide a survey of any relevant uses of the Hebrew or LXX passage in ancient Jewish sources.


The commentary provides indications that the passage from Psalm 102:23-28 occurs in the Qumranic literature, along with targums, and other Jewish literature. However, with the exception of an anti-Jewish, pseudepigraphic writing, the Ladder of Jacob, they do not cite any Jewish messianic references for Psalm 102. None.


I was surprised to learn that this Psalm was not viewed by any relevant intertestamental sources as being messianic. We do not find any discussion of this specific LXX (or Hebrew) text as referring to divine Wisdom or to the Messiah.


This is a major historical blow to Bruce's overall argument, since it means that in the centuries prior to the writing of the book of Hebrews, we do not have any record of a single Jewish thinker proposing either the argument of Bruce or B. W. Bacon from Psalm 102. Even Bacon's article does not provide a Jewish source that explicitly references Psalm 102 as a messianic passage, only references to the concept of "shortness" of the time. Bacon attempts to make the case from the Hebrew text of Psalm 102 as being the backdrop for the Lord's discussion on the shortness of the time in Matthew 24:22. Not only is his argument not conclusive even on that angle, it is ultimately conjecture. It clearly does not relate to the LXX text. It is a broad stretch, in light of the absence of textual indicators or historical Jewish sources.


This historical reality confirms that Bruce's proposal was not only problematic, but it was also novel.



Question #6: Do Bruce's Claims Create Anomalies for the Bible?


The Writer to the Hebrews Viewed All OT Scripture as the Father's Word


Anyone who studies the book of Hebrews should have at least two impressions: (1) the author had a strong grasp of the Old Testament, and (2) he had a high view of Jesus, the Son of God.


The first verse of his letter provides us with one of the clearest declarations regarding his view of the Old Testament: "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets" (Hebrews 1:1, ESV). He then immediately follows it with an equally clear declaration about the Son, "... but in these last days he (God) has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world" (Hebrews 1:2, ESV). Notice whom the writer points to as the ultimate speaker in both cases: God. His high view of the Old Testament and his high view of the Son is grounded in God's relationship with both.


This point can not be overstated. In his use of quotations from the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings, he used a variety of expressions to convey that God Himself was speaking through the prophets and now through His Son. In fact, this is part of the writer's ultimate appeal to his Jewish audience (Hebrews 12:25-26).


The writer also does not hesitate to include the Son as the speaker for particular Old Testament passages that were prophetically from His perspective (see Hebrews 2:11-13, 10:5-7). However, in the thirteen chapters of Hebrews, many more Old Testament texts are cited as being from the Father's perspective. In fact, the entirety of Hebrews chapter 1 is the Father's high view of the Son in contrast with His view of the created angels.


All OT Scripture Is a Record of the Father's Words Centered on His Son


In summary, the writer to the Hebrews viewed all of Scripture as the voice of God. The God of their fathers was the ultimate author of every inspired text, and the Father consistently had His Son in view. This included not only the explicit messianic texts but all Old Testament texts. This explains why the writer could appeal to a wide range of passages from the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings as the Father speaking and addressing His Son. This is the ultimate rationale for applying any of these texts to Jesus. The Son was always the Father's focal point from creation to consummation.


The Son is the one "whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world" (Hebrews 1:2, ESV). Therefore, the Son was not a prophetic afterthought for the Father's words and works, but the epicenter of them. Amazingly, this included the cosmic Yahweh judgment texts of Deuteronomy 32:43 (LXX) and Psalm 97:7 (LXX), with all angels of the LORD worshipping the Son. Similarly, it also included the Yahweh creation text of Psalm 102:25-27 (LXX).


This pattern of Yahwfication is pervasive in the New Testament and the Septuagint: Mark 1:1-3 (from Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3), Romans 10:9 (from Joel 2:32), 1 Corinthians 2:8 and James 2:1 (from Psalm 24:10), 1 Corinthians 2:16 (from Isaiah 40:13), Philippians 2:9-11 (from Isaiah 45:23) and 1 Peter 3:14-15 (from Isaiah 8:12-13). Several other New Testament texts could be cited.


Hebrews 1:10-12 applying Psalm 102:25-27 (LXX) to the Son is not an anomaly, it is part of the progressive revelation of Jesus in the New Testament. On this important observation, the esteemed commentator, F. F. Bruce, declared the same.



The Conclusion

My respect for F. F. Bruce remains intact. His works continue to assist the church in the service of the truth. However, my goal has been to provide a thorough case against those who would use Bruce's problematic secondary proposal to argue against Bruce's primary arguments. Not only is this inconsistent for them, but now with the preceding case, it is also indefensible.


The writer of Hebrews provided us with one of the most breathtaking portraits of the Son. Contrary to the assumptions of some, this included the divine Son declared to be God's agent in creation. Hebrews 1:10-12 provides one of the clearest contrasts between the permanence of God's Son and the transience of His creation.


More importantly, the Father Himself has declared of Jesus: "You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 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).


Thankfully, the writer of Hebrews alluded again to these truths in Hebrews 13:8: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." On this point, F. F. Bruce also agreed.

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

[2] Google Books: Bacon, B. W. 1902. Hebrews I, 10-12 and the Septuagint Rendering of Psalm 102, 23. https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=GHIzAQAAMAAJ&pg=GBS.PA280&hl=en . Last accessed on October 8, 2022.

[3] Beale, G., & Carson, D. (2009). Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Kindle). Baker Academic etc.



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Hebrews' Usage of Psalm 102:25-27: Part 2 (Updated)

Did the Writer of Hebrews Assume That the LORD Answered the Psalmist in 102:23-28? In our prior post, we laid the groundwork for analyzing the claims of F. F. Bruce regarding the assumptions of the wr

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Nœmer Girón Araullo
Nœmer Girón Araullo
09 Οκτ 2022

Even respected theologians may make a blunder by presumptuously attempting to justify/rationalize what they deem unclear, like the reason why the author of Hebrews quoted an OT passage, whc is clearly addressed to the LORD/Lord (MT/LXX), and pivoted it to refer to the Lord Jesus, even attributing its words to God and not merely the psalmist's. That's why Bruce ended up mislabeling it as a messianic text. He should've remembered Jesus'words to Peter – "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven." From this we can infer that both Peter's confession and the psalmist's lament are both prompted by God the Father Himself, thus it's safe…

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Biblical Binitarian
Biblical Binitarian
09 Οκτ 2022
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Amen brother. You have given me something to think about. It all comes from God and goes back to God. Our limited minds are neither the ultimate sources or the ultimate destinations.

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