The Meaning of Psalm 68:18 (MT 68:19) and Its Use in Ephesians 4:8–9

William Albright called Psalm 68 “the most difficult of all the Psalms.” Its syntax and vocabulary create a series of enigmas for the translator, and its unity, structure, and meaning have been given widely differing interpretations. For the Christian, a special problem is v. 18 (MT v. 19), which declares that God “received” gifts from people. Paul famously reverses this, saying that Christ “gave” gifts to people (Eph 4:8), and he uses this as the foundation for his teaching in Eph 4:7–16 on the gifts of the Spirit for the edification of the church. This paper will in summary fashion describe the structure and purpose of the psalm, and it will give special attention to the translation of the MT of v. 19 (without emendation). It will argue that standard translations of the problematic second half of the verse have somewhat obscured its meaning and purpose. This latter part of the verse, which is not cited in Ephesians, is key to understanding the intent of the psalm text, and it particularly validates Paul’s claim in Eph 4:9 about Christ’s descent to the “lower parts of earth.” The paper will then argue that the verse’s meaning is coherent with the larger purpose of the psalm and with Paul’s use of it, notwithstanding his alterations of the text.

4 thoughts on “The Meaning of Psalm 68:18 (MT 68:19) and Its Use in Ephesians 4:8–9”

  1. Substantive proposal
    This looks to be an excellent paper on a highly-debated text. Although we may well not want to have a scholar repeat from last’s year program, he should get a spot in the general conference program.

  2. Necessary
    Seems to be an important high level attempt at resolving a difficult text in the NT use of the OT. It should be appropriate in several sessions if we don’t want to repeat the same scholar as last year.


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