Judgement Or Vindication? Deuteronomy 32 in Hebrews 10:30 -- By: John Proctor

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 055:1 (NA 2004)
Article: Judgement Or Vindication? Deuteronomy 32 in Hebrews 10:30
Author: John Proctor

Judgement Or Vindication?
Deuteronomy 32 in Hebrews 10:30

John Proctor


There is a case for the translation ‘vindicate’ rather than ‘judge’ in Hebrews 10:30, which is itself a biblical quotation from Deuteronomy 32. Four arguments contribute. The first is lexical: the verb κρίνω often does mean ‘vindicate’ in the LXX. The second is intertextual: Hebrews adopts Deuteronomy sensitively, and Deuteronomy has vindication in view. The third is text-critical: an unusual text-form in Hebrews raises the possibility that targumic readings may have insight to give. The fourth is rhetorical: the reading ‘vindicate’ sharpens our awareness of the author’s persuasive strategy in this part of Hebrews.

I. Introduction

The NRSV reading of this short sentence in Hebrews 10:30 – ‘The Lord will judge his people’ – seems a straightforward rendering of the Greek, κρινεῖ κύριος τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ. The Greek is itself a translation of a line of scripture, from Deuteronomy 32:36.1 This essay, however, puts the case for a different understanding of Hebrews 10:30, and suggests how such a reading would connect more broadly with the

argument and situation of Hebrews, and also with the OT source of the text. Two concerns prompt the enquiry.

a. The verb ‘judge’ does not directly reflect the meaning of the OT text in its OT context. A number of modern Bible versions offer ‘vindicate’ (or something like it) in Deuteronomy and ‘judge’ in Hebrews.2 Those translations lead one to suppose that a positive statement in Deuteronomy has been put to a different and negative use in Hebrews. So did the author to the Hebrews misunderstand Deuteronomy? Or might he have used his text more subtly than some translators have allowed?

b. The positive reading ‘vindicate’ fits better with both the social context of Hebrews and the thought of chapter 10. The readers are a minority within their community, and face pressure as Christians from elements in the wider society. Some are tempted to give up and leave the Christian fellowship (10:26). If they do this, they will – implicitly, even if not actively – be changing sides an...

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