Psalm 8’s Two-Layered Meaning In Hebrews and Why Both Matter for Humanity

Early in his letter, the author of Hebrews uses a lengthy quotation from Ps 8 to encourage his drifting readers to stand firm in their faith. This paper proposes the author of Hebrews understands Ps 8 to bear two layers of meaning––the first related to Christ and the second related to the new humanity he generates. More specifically, in Heb 2:5–9 the author declares the things spoken of in Ps 8 stand true of the Lord Jesus in this present age, yet he maintains these same things will be realized by humanity in the age to come. Only when these two layers are read together can one properly grasp what it means to be truly human. This study also suggests that this nuanced understanding of the Ps 8 extends to a proper grasp of other psalms as well.

The argument in this paper proceeds in four steps. First, it considers the author of Hebrews’s nuanced understanding of Ps 8. Applying Steven Runge’s insights in discourse grammar, it shows how the author intentionally divides Heb 2:5–9 into three “chunks,” with each chunk accomplishing a different purpose.(1) This section also evaluates leading evangelical perspectives and demonstrates that many scholars miss the author’s nuanced argument in this passage.(2)

Second, the paper examines Ps 8 LXX and shows that the interpretations made by the author of Hebrews display fidelity to the Greek text he quotes.(3) Third, the paper discloses how NT authors see in Ps 2 the same “two groups/two time periods” pattern evident in Ps 8, and this suggests this revealed layering of meaning is likely present in other psalms as well. Three different charts demonstrate NT authors understand both Ps 8 and Ps 2 bear two layers of meaning. Finally, the study concludes with a consideration of six important lessons about humanity drawn from the author of Hebrews’s nuanced understanding of Ps 8.

Footnotes:

1 Runge, Steven E. Runge, Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2010), 42.
2 Scholars and works considered include Craig L. Blomberg, A New Testament Theology (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2018), 506; Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 219; and George H. Guthrie, “Hebrews,” Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, ed. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 946.
3 This is not to imply the author of Hebrews had no awareness of the Hebrew text of Ps 8.

6 thoughts on “Psalm 8’s Two-Layered Meaning In Hebrews and Why Both Matter for Humanity”

  1. Psalm 8’s Two-Layered Meaning In Hebrews and Why Both Matter for
    Raises interesting hermeneutical questions, but makes some rather large claims (“only when”) and seeks to extend what he finds in one psalm to others too hastily.

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