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Hebrews 2b – Quoting Psalm 8

This blog started out as a “Cutting Room Floor” of my sermons—stuff that I left out of the sermon because it was too deep, took too much time, or was simply not directly related to the main focus of the sermon.  If I were to follow that line of thinking directly, the true “cutting room floor” of this week’s sermon will be next week’s sermon!  I originally intended to preach all the rest of Hebrews 2, down through the end of the chapter, but realized near the end that it was way too long for a single sermon.  So I cut it in half.

But even with reduced text and more time per verse, there were still things I left out.  One in particular deals with the quotation from Psalm 8 in Heb 2:6-8a.  Here’s the comparative chart and my own translation of the text:

Besides the issue of whether the text should say “angels” or “God” (see the sermon for more on that), when the author of Hebrews quotes Psalm 8, he leaves out the first line of Psa 8:7, “and you put him in charge over the works of your hands.”  Everything else is word-for-word identical to the Greek translation of the Hebrew.

It’s certainly not uncommon to see an author drop a phrase or verse when quoting one text in another.  It’ll happen again in Hebrews.  The question is: why is this phrase omitted?

In this case, strangely enough, it might not be omitted.  Many manuscripts—perhaps even the weight of external witnesses—have the phrase in there.  Many translations include it, including KJV and NASB.  Bruce Metzger in his textual commentary on the NT, notes (in location) that though the manuscript evidence seemed to favor the inclusion of the phrase, the textual committee thought that there was a greater probability that the phrase was added by a well-meaning scribe in order to match the source of the quotation.

In other words, some manuscripts have the phrase in Heb 2:7, some don’t.  Was the phrase there originally and accidentally dropped when the text was copied, or did the author of Hebrews not include it in his quotation, then a scribe later added it in order to match the original quote?

It’s a hard decision.  I lean towards Metzger’s explanation, since otherwise the omission of the phrase from many manuscripts doesn’t make much sense.  But either way, the concept of the line is already included in Hebrews, as Jesus’s reigning and omnipotent power over creation was clearly affirmed in chapter 1.  So whether or not the author of Hebrews originally included the phrase, he certainly believed that it applied to Jesus.

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