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Psalm 2:7 is quoted in two different contexts in Hebrews, seeming to be used to support two vastly different arguments.

In Hebrews 1:5, we read

For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? (Hebrews 1:5 ESV)

where Psalm 2:7 is apparently used to support Auctor's sustained argument that Jesus is better than angels.

A couple of chapters later, however, the verse is quoted again

So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; (Hebrews 5:5 ESV)

This time, the Psalm is apparently used to prove that Jesus did not take the priesthood upon himself (see, e.g., v4).

And yet, when reading Psalm 2, this stanza seems to refer to a decree in which God appointed the King (whether David, or Jesus, or both).

What is going on? These two verses seem to pay no attention to the original context, and simply use these words to augment an argument that is made before even approaching the text. To put it more provocatively, the usage here seems to be eisegesis or, perhaps, prooftexting.

What is Auctor's approach to Psalm 2:7 when he uses it in 1:5 and 5:5?

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For what it's worth, I don't mean to sound irreverent. Hebrews is clearly an inspired book, and I don't mean to accuse it of prooftexting; all I mean is that it seems like this, and I want to know what is really going on. –  Ray Oct 17 '11 at 14:28
    
I think it would be a good idea to see if there's any parallel in Jewish writings for Hebrews, is not like the final answer or anything but i think the usage of the 'proof texting' in the writing of the new testament was well used by the Jews in the rabbinic tradition. –  Leonardo Nov 10 '11 at 3:47
    
I'm not sure I understand the discrepancy you're seeing here; to me it looks like the statements are not inconsistent. If Psalm 2 is about the king God appointed, and calls that king his son, what is wrong with saying in one place that he was appointed by God, and in another place that that he is God's son? Can you clarify? –  Muke Tever Nov 26 '11 at 16:58
    
@leonardo: Proof-texting is common in the rabbinic literature, but nobody ascribes the status of scripture to such writings. The technique is used to explore the original text but not to contradict it. –  Gone Quiet Feb 8 '12 at 15:44

3 Answers 3

Implicit in the question is another question - do the NT authors serve as a model for interpretation of OT texts?

I think the short the answer is 'not necessarily'. Both the OT and NT authors spoke from God by the Holy Spirit - they both spoke into particular contexts, and with their own particular styles, but they did not need to perform exegesis on other Bible texts. Put another way, proof-texting is ok if it is prophetic!

However there are many examples of OT passages used with the kind of logic we could have applied ourselves, eg Matthew 22:

41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42saying, "What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?" They said to him, "The son of David." 43He said to them, "How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,
44 "'The Lord said to my Lord,Sit at my right hand,
   until I put your enemies under your feet'?
45If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?"   ESV

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Very good point--I was making the assumption that prooftexting is always a "bad" thing, but that may not be warranted. –  Ray Oct 17 '11 at 17:44
2  
I think in some places certainly the NT authors may have used OT language the way we might use Shakespeare or another author today--not necessarily as proof of our assertions, but as familiar language to couch them in. (Probably not in this case, though.) –  Muke Tever Nov 26 '11 at 17:01

For what it's worth, Matthew uses the same approach with the Prophets.

For example:

Matthew 1:22-23

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us."

pulls a phrase from the middle of

Isaiah 7:10-17

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. Then Isaiah said: "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted. The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on your ancestral house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria."

and

Matthew 2:14-15

Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son."

takes half a sentence from

Hosea 11:1-2

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols.

Neither of these remotely fit the original context.

However, Matthew was using the same technique as the author of Hebrews: Looking at a passage from the only Scriptures they knew, and trying to see Christ in it. In the early church, this was known as allegorical interpretation.

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It's reasoning by analogy, but it helps –  Ray Feb 8 '12 at 12:49

"To put it more provocatively, the usage here seems to be eisegesis or, perhaps, prooftexting".

Conclusions like these result from the assumptions brought to the text.

In a literal interpretation it is presumed that Ps 2 speaks of one thing, of which the human author was aware. Therefore, when a NT author finds something more, we presume it is eisegesis, prooftexting, or even as some authors suggest, wishful invention.

In a sensus plenior interpretation, a literal meaning is acknowledged, but so are three hidden meanings, two of which speak of Christ. Since it is presumed that it is God's intention to speak of Christ, then a conclusions of eisogesis, or prooftexting are unwarranted.

If a hammer keeps bending nails no matter who uses it, then take a closer look at the hammer. If the issues which arise from a literal approach to the scriptures keeps causing exegetical problems, then perhaps it is the approach which is the problem.

The author of Hebrews is the one who says it applies to Jesus. Presumably he is more of an authority on the topic than any modern interpreter. It would seem reasonable to take a closer look at the hammer.

Should we try to use the same methods as the apostles? Considering that they were specifically instructed to teach us, and they said we should imitate them, it just seems natural that their use of the Old Testament should be considered normative rather than exceptional.

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