The Use (Or Abuse) Of Power In High Places: Gifts Given And Received In Isaiah, Psalm 68, And Ephesians 4:8 -- By: William N. Wilder
Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 20:2 (NA 2010)
Article: The Use (Or Abuse) Of Power In High Places: Gifts Given And Received In Isaiah, Psalm 68, And Ephesians 4:8
Author: William N. Wilder
BBR 20:2 (2010) p. 185
The Use (Or Abuse) Of Power In High Places: Gifts Given And Received In Isaiah, Psalm 68, And Ephesians 4:8
Center For Christian Study
Explanations for Paul’s apparent misquotation of Ps 68:18 in Eph 4:8 abound. I contend that, reading Psalm 68 against an Isaianic backdrop, Paul believed the finale of that psalm (Ps 68:34–35; LXX 67:35–36) to give scriptural expression to the divine gifts of power and might that he saw operative among those who were united to Christ. In Eph 4:8, Paul then employs an adaptive paraphrase of Ps 68:18 (LXX 67:19) to sum up important aspects of the exaltation of Christ in terms drawn from the larger context of that psalm. This in turn evokes a larger Isaianic storyline in which the victory of God and his enthronement (as the Divine Warrior) are replicated in his Messiah and, ultimately, in those believers in whom his Spirit of counsel and might is at work.
Key Words: gift, power, wisdom, spiritual warfare, Divine Warrior, Spirit, rulership, Messiah
Since Watergate, it has become commonplace in the United States to expose (or seek to expose) “abuses of power in high places,” by which is meant the concentration of power among the few for the sake of the few. Examples are rife of those in business or politics who assume the godlike prerogative of “ascending on high to receive gifts from men.” In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul reverses this storyline: the purpose of exaltation in his telling is giving gifts rather than receiving them.1 It is a vision of human rule—seen now in Christ and the church—that is empowering rather than exploitative, expansive rather than exclusive, the proper fulfillment of love rather than its betrayal.
Still, it may seem that Paul’s treatment of Ps 68:18 (LXX 67:19; MT 68:19) in Eph 4:8 is itself an abusive exercise of apostolic power over the original text. Both the Hebrew and Greek versions of Ps 68:18 have God
BBR 20:2 (2010) p. 186
ascending on high, taking captives, and receiving gifts (לָקַחְתָּ מַתָּנוֹת; ἔλαβες δόματα) from (or among) men. Yet Paul’s citation of this text in
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