The Divine Builder in Psalm 68
Jewish and Pauline Tradition
- ISBN: 9780567694225
- Published By: Bloomsbury Academic
- Published: June 2020
Much scholarly discussion has circulated surrounding Paul’s use of Psalm 68:19 in Ephesians 4:8. In his book The Divine Builder in Psalm 68: Jewish and Pauline Tradition, Todd A. Scacewater provides a multi-faceted approach to this conversation. He inspects a variety of components that add to our understanding of this intertextual question and, in working through a large swath of information, provides an assimilated yet straightforward resolution: “the key to understanding Paul’s use of Ps 69:18 is the psalm itself” (155). Scacewater covers a variety of topics to arrive at this conclusion: from the contexts of both the psalm and Ephesians 4 to Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) and Jewish settings. The considerable ground he endeavors to discuss in crafting his argument varies greatly. This broad base forms a good foundation so that Paul’s intertextuality in Ephesians 4 can be perceived, and there is much to be commended in taking such an approach.
In this vein, one of the strongest points of Scacewater’s work is his engagement with many different dimensions of Psalm 68’s use in Ephesians 4. In any case of intertextuality that spans two different eras—especially when the former is used in such a distinct manner—time must be spent on setting the scene. Scacewater does this through surveying the literary and hermeneutical contexts of Ephesians 4:8 and Psalm 68:19 (17-26 and 31-50, respectively), assessing of the “divine builder topos” within ANE culture (51-61), and scrutinizing Psalm 68’s use in Judaism (91-117). Such detailed treatment of all that goes into one text’s use of another reveals concern for clarity and accuracy.
However, at times, the evidence was brief or uneven. For example, in his third chapter, Scacewater takes numerous pages to contend that Psalm 68 did not appropriate Ugaritic tradition when describing Yahweh (62-69). Compared to the relative time spent expanding upon ANE cultures (52-62), this discussion appears more as an aside than a vital component to his argument. For a departure such as this, one would expect to find more urgency as to its relevance and importance. Further, in exploring Psalm 68’s use in Judaism, while numerous sources that support the Mosaic interpretation of the psalm are examined, such as the Talmud, Targum, and rabbinic literature (91-101), comparable space is dedicated to only a few sources—The Septuagint translation of Psalm 68 and two Dead Sea Scrolls—that support his own view (104-115). Second Temple Literature more broadly could have been explored to fortify his argument as well. Evidence dissemination such as this does not disprove Scacewater’s argument, but its uneven nature warrants some explanation as to why prominence is given to one set of evidence over another.
Another noteworthy feature of Scacewater’s work is his clear conclusion (chapter 6) that ties the work together. After considering the presented evidence, Scacewater demonstrates varying interpretations of Psalm 68 in Ephesians 4 and draws connections between the various interpretations. He then offers his view, reading Paul’s use of Psalm 68 prophetically with Christ as the divine builder, which he writes incorporates the elements of the previous interpretations together (152). This is a fine and well-reasoned conclusion, but his work in previous chapters is a bit fragmented and difficult to follow, leading to a lack of clarity surrounding the conclusion to his process. As he develops the material that leads to his final chapter, Scacewater occasionally introduces gratuitous information that, unless its importance is better justified, would be more suitably relegated to a footnote.
An instance of this phenomenon occurs in the first chapter. After a brief introduction that builds expectation for the ensuing discussion, Scacewater transitions to discussing the authorship and destination of Ephesians (9-17). While this is interesting information, given the preceding section and the themes covered in the book, it seemed peripherally related. Another example of extended ancillary information is Scacewater's discussion of the dating of ancient poetry (75-83). While this too is interesting, more time is dedicated here than to the actual interpretation of Psalm 68 in ancient poetry (83-87). Sections such as this demonstrate a breadth of knowledge and research, but it would have been beneficial to keep the argument tight to avoid a disjointed flow.
Additionally, Scacewater opens with the problem of the difference in language between Psalm 68 and Ephesians 4 (from “received” to “gave” ) and proceeds to emphasize the importance of this discrepancy throughout the work (see, for example, 18, 48-49, 94-97). Yet only a short space is dedicated to the issue’s resolution (134-135), which not only begs the question as to why it was such a focal point at various places in the book, but also leaves the reader with the desire for a deeper discussion on the matter. Notwithstanding the intermittent instances of subsidiary information and fragmented flow, the concluding chapter reasonably ties the main pieces of the conversation together.
Scacewater’s book is a welcome contribution to the study of how the New Testament uses the Old. His work is intriguing, integrative, and highly academic. His discussion of the use of Psalm 68 within Ephesians 4 is informed by an abundance of information, context, background, and interpretation. He has set a substantial foundation for further consideration of this matter, and his conclusion sets the stage for further study. Though the supplemental information tended to be a bit extensive and the presentation of the evidence very specific, the findings in this study demonstrate that a more integrated approach to New Testament intertextuality is possible.
Amber M. Dillon is a PhD candidate in New Testament at Ridley College, Melbourne.Amber DillonDate Of Review:July 29, 2022