Tempting a Hen to Play a Chick(en)

(Dominus Flevit Altar Mosaic; Photo credit: Tiuli.com)

In Matt 4:5–7; Luke 4:9–12, Jesus cites Deut 6:16 in response to his temptation at the temple. The full text there runs “you shall not test Yahweh, your God, as you tested him at Massah” (Deut 6:16; לא תנסו את־יהוה אלהיכם כאשר נסיתם במסה) and refers to Israel’s grumbling about their lack of water in Exod 17:1–7. In this narrative, Exodus reports that Moses “[] called the name of the place ‘Massah’ and ‘Meribah’ on account of the dispute of the sons of Israel and of their testing Yahweh, saying, ‘Is Yahweh in our midst or not?’” (Exod 17:7; ויקרא שם המקום מסה ומריבה על־ריב בני ישראל ועל נסתם את־יהוה לאמר היש יהוה בקרבנו אם־אין; cf. Num 20:2–13). Although this interpretation is Exodus’s own, Exodus does not directly narrate the people’s posing this question (Exod 17:1–6). Instead, they demand water from Moses and inquire whether lacking it indicates that they have been brought into the wilderness to die of thirst (Exod 17:2–3). Thus, the pericope’s interpretive conclusion seems to represent the recorded speech as tantamount to having asked the question “Is Yahweh in our midst or not?” (Exod 17:7; היש יהוה בקרבנו אם־אין).

When Jesus quotes Deut 6:16 to the devil, he quotes only the first part of the text about the inappropriateness of testing God and omits the direct reference to Massah (Matt 4:7; Luke 4:12). Yet, the connection with Massah apparently helps make Deut 6:16 an apt retort to the temptation in which the devil has taken Jesus to “the pinnacle of the temple” (Matt 4:5; Luke 4:9; τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ). Once there, the devil urges Jesus to jump and trust Yahweh’s angels to catch him, in the words of Ps 91:11–12, “lest you should strike your foot on a stone” (Matt 4:6; Luke 4:11; μήποτε προσκόψῃς πρὸς λίθον τὸν πόδα σου).

Yahweh “will [indeed] command his angels” (τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ ἐντελεῖται), and they will indeed minister to Jesus (Matt 4:7, 11; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:10). Yet, Yahweh is himself one who does touch foot to stone: when Israel was at Massah, Yahweh said to Moses, “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb” (Exod 17:6; הנני עמד לפניך שם על־הצור בחרב).‭[1]

Thus, even as Jesus enacts what should have been Israel’s proper response of trusting Yahweh, so he also enacts Yahweh’s faithful care over his people.[2] In Ps 91:4, somewhat earlier than the devil’s quotation, the psalmist says Yahweh “will cover you with his pinion, and under his wings you will seek refuge” (באברתו יסך לך ותחת־כנפיו תחסה). In one respect, though much differently than the devil now suggests, Jesus is the properly trusting recipient of his Father’s care (Matt 4:6, 11; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:11). In another, Jesus is the hen that would gather her chicks to protect them—even at the cost of his own life—if they would but come under his “wings” (Matt 23:29–39; Luke 13:31–35; πτέρυγες).[3]


[1] Perhaps also in the background of this interchange is an exegetical tradition about Massah like that represented in Tg. Ps.-J. Exod 17:6: “Behold, I will stand before you there at the place where you saw the mark of the foot on the rock at Horeb” (Kaufman, Pseudo-Jonathan; האנא קאים קדמך תמן באתרא דתיחמי רושם ריגלא על טינרא בחורב). Thus, on the targumist’s reading, “the foot” (ריגלא) had apparently come into contact with “the rock at Horeb” (טינרא בחורב) with sufficient force to leave a “mark” (רושם).

[2] Cf. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.5 (Schaff, NPNF1, 8:121).

[3] Cf. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 91.5 (ibid., 8:447); Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 570–72.

Saul 2.0

Pieter Lasman, “The Triumph of Mordechai”
(1624; Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In 1 Sam 15:3, Samuel commands Saul, the son of Kish, “Go, and strike Amalek, and devote to destruction everything that is his. Do not take pity on him, but kill man and woman, child and infant, ox and lamb, camel and donkey” (לך והכיתה את־עמלק והחרמתם את־כל־אשר־לו ולא תחמל עליו והמתה מאיש עד־אשה מעלל ועד־יונק משור ועד־שה מגמל ועד־חמור).‭[1]‬ Unfortunately, Saul’s subsequent engagement with the Amalekites heeded only Samuel’s order to “go and strike Amalek” (לך והכיתה את־עמלק).‭[2]‬ Saul “did devote to destruction” (החרים) the Amalekite people but captured alive Agag, the king.[3] Indeed, “Saul and the people had pity on Agag and on the best of the flock and the herd and their choice offspring, on the lambs, and on everything good, and they did not accept devoting them to destruction, but every despised and weak thing they devoted to destruction” (ויחמל שאול והעם על־אגג ועל־מיטב הצאן והבקר והמשנים ועל־הכרים ועל־כל־הטוב ולא אבו החרימם וכל־המלאכה נמבזה ונמס אתה החרימו).‭[4]‬ Thus, Saul becomes the object of Samuel’s ire and forfeits the continuation of his kingdom.[5]

The task of Agag’s execution then fell to Samuel to perform.[6] Yet, not even in this case was the army’s previously defective destruction of the Amalekites completed.[7] Rather, the people found themselves continuing to reap the fruits of this disobedience when “King Ahasuerus exalted Haman, son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, and he lifted him up, and he set him on his throne over all the officials who were with him” (גדל המלך אחשורוש את־המן בן־המדתא האגגי וינשאהו וישם את־כסאו מעל כל־השרים אשר אתו).‭[8]‬ Here too there was a descendant of Kish—Mordecai, by name—to oppose the Agagite.[9] Yet, in this case, the son of Kish does not fail to fulfill his charge thoroughly.[10]

After Esther exposes Haman’s plot to Ahasuerus, the king has Haman executed and commissions Mordecai to write as he pleases in behalf of the Jews defense on the still fixed day of destruction Haman had arranged.[11] Mordecai’s decree against the Jews’ attackers is similarly thorough to Haman’s against the Jews, permitting the Jews “to destroy and to kill and to exterminate any force of a people or province that oppressed them—small children and women—and to plunder their goods” (להשמיד ולהרג ולאבד את־כל־חיל עם ומדינה הצרים אתם טף ונשים ושללם לבוז).‭[12]‬ Carrying out Mordecai’s decree in the king’s name on Adar 13–14, the Jews decisively defeat those who assault them.[13] In contrast with the decree’s permission “to plunder” (לבוז),‭[14]‬ however, the mt three times directly denies that the Jews engaged in plunder.[15] This avoidance of plunder is consistent both in Susa itself[16] and “in the king’s provinces” (במדינות המלך).‭[17]‬ This consistency suggests that Mordecai’s message, circulated both in Susa and in the provinces, lies behind the Jews’ practice in this regard.[18] Hence, the various activities prescribed in Esth 8:11b would be subordinate to Mordecai’s primary instructions for the Jews “to assemble and to make a stand for their lives” (להקהל ולעמד על־נפשם).‭[19]‬ Because the Jews successfully repelled their attackers, there was no defensive value in the activity of plunder.[20]

In its three-fold affirmation that the Jews avoided plunder, the mt draws still a further contrast between Mordecai and Saul, who had found occasion to engage in plunder contrary to Samuel’s command.[21] Even so does the final “savior and constant benefactor” (σωτὴρ καὶ διὰ παντὸς εὐεργέτης)[22] obtain vindication for himself and his people over those who stand against them.[23] Nor yet does he himself even gather plunder but rather consistently commends “godliness with contentment” (ἡ εὐσέβεια μετὰ αὐταρκείας).[24]


[1] Jobes, “Esther 1,” 165; Phillips, “Mordecai,” 477; see also Exod 17:8–16; Deut 25:17–19; 1 Sam 9:1–2.

[2] 1 Sam 15:3; cf. Jobes, “Esther 1,” 165.

[3] 1 Sam 15:8; cf. ibid.; Phillips, “Mordecai,” 477.

[4] 1 Sam 15:9; cf. Jobes, “Esther 1,” 165; Koehler and Baumgartner, Lexicon, s.v. משנה, ‭§2‬.

[5] 1 Sam 15:10–31; Jobes, “Esther 1,” 165.

[6] 1 Sam 15:32–33.

[7] Cf. Phillips, “Mordecai,” 477.

[8] Esth 3:1; cf. Anderson, Old Testament, 505, 507; Childs, Old Testament as Scripture, 605; Jobes, “Esther 1,” 165; Phillips, “Mordecai,” 477; Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas, Old Testament, 486; see also Esth 3:10; 8:3, 5; 9:24.

[9] Esth 2:5; Anderson, Old Testament, 505; Childs, Old Testament as Scripture, 605; Jobes, “Esther 1,” 165; Keil, “Esther,” 208; Phillips, “Mordecai,” 477; Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas, Old Testament, 486.

[10] Jobes, “Esther 1,” 165.

[11] Esth 6:14–8:8; Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas, Old Testament, 490.

[12] Esth 8:11b; cf. Esth 3:13; Keil, “Esther,” 234; Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas, Old Testament, 490. On the phrase “small children and women” (טף ונשים) here, see Phillips, “Mordecai,” 480.

[13] Esth 8:8; 9:1–19.

[14] Esth 8:11.

[15] Esth 9:10, 15–16; Jobes, “Esther 1,” 165; Phillips, “Mordecai,” 480. The Greek versions, by contrast, tend to agree with the mt in the latter two cases (Esth 9:15–16) and to describe the Jews as engaging in plunder in the first instance (Esth 9:10). The Lucianic recension appears to recount a consistent engagement in plundering, and 108 suggests plundering at least in Esth 9:16. The Hexaplaric tradition omits any reference to plundering in Esth 9:16, whether affirmative or negative, and agrees with the mt in portraying the Jews as refraining from plunder in Esth 9:10, 15 (Hanhart et al., Septuaginta). For discussion of Esther’s Greek versions, see Jobes, “Esther 5.”

[16] Esth 9:6–10, 15.

[17] Esth 9:16.

[18] Cf. Jobes, “Esther 1,” 165.

[19] Esth 8:11a; cf. Phillips, “Mordecai,” 480.

[20] Keil, “Esther,” 234; cf. Phillips, “Mordecai,” 480.

[21] 1 Sam 15:9.

[22] Add Esth E:13.

[23] Cf. 1 Cor 15:20–28Col 2:8–15Rev 19:11–16; Aphrahat, Dem., 21.20 (Schaff and Wace, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, 13:400); Jobes, “Esther 1,” 166, 168–69; see also Eissfeldt, Old Testament, 592; Jobes, “Esther 4,” 183.

[24] 1 Tim 6:6–10; cf. Matt 6:9–13Luke 11:2–412:13–21Heb 10:32–39.

Praying with Jesus

To demonstrate the superiority of Jesus’ sacrifice to those previously offered under the Torah, the writer to the Hebrews quotes a version of Ps 40:6–8 (Eng; 40:7–9 HB; 39:7–9 OG; Heb 10:5–9).1 In so doing, Hebrews fairly clearly situates its rendition of this psalm’s words as Jesus’ own (cf. Heb 10:10).2 If one were to read the entire psalm in this direction however,3 problems would seemingly arise (e.g., vv. 12–17 Eng).4

Nevertheless, in looking at the whole psalm from the perspective of Hebrews’ reading, one might well consider that Jesus “sometimes speaks in the name of our Head; sometimes also He speaks of us who are His members.”5 In this way, initially problematic elements (e.g., v. 12 Eng) would follow not with respect to him who is the head but with respect to those who are his members.6 Moreover,

Of all those things which our Lord Jesus Christ has foretold, we know part to have been already accomplished, part we hope will be accomplished hereafter. All of them, however, will be fulfilled because He is “the Truth” who speaks them, and requires of us to be as “faithful,” as He Himself speaks faithfully.7

Thus, it befits the church too to join in praying this psalm alongside her Lord.8


1. Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek Text (The New International Greek Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1993), 488; Richard B. Hays, The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel’s Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 106–7; B. F. Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews (3rd ed.; London: Macmillan, 1906), 311. On Hebrews’ quotation and its relationship to the OG, see GS, Ps 39:7–9; Franz Delitzsch, Psalms (Commentary on the Old Testament 5; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1866; repr., Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2006), 302; Geoffrey Grogan, Prayer, Praise, and Prophecy: A Theology of the Psalms (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus, 2001), 273; Karen H. Jobes, “The Function of Paronomasia in Hebrews 10:5–7,” TrinJ 13, no. 2 (1992): 182, 184; see also Karen H. Jobes and Moisés Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 48–51.

2. Ellingworth, Hebrews, 499; Jobes, “Paronomasia in Hebrews 10:5–7,” 186; Delitzsch, Psalms, 299; Westcott, Hebrews, 311; cf. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.5 (NPNF1, 8:120–21); see also Chrysostom, Hom. Heb., 18.1 (NPNF1, 14:451). Unless εἰσερχόμενος (Heb 10:5; entering) is both substantival and anarthrous, the text omits an explicit an explicit subject for the verb λέγει (says; Westcott, Hebrews, 311).

3. Cf. Chrysostom, Hom. Heb., 18.1 (NPNF1, 451); Hays, Conversion of the Imagination, 107.

4. Delitzsch, Psalms, 299.

5. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.5 (NPNF1, 8:121).

6. E.g., Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.22 (NPNF1, 8:126).

7. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.1 (NPNF1, 8:119).

8. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.2, 5 (NPNF1, 8:119–21); cf. Walter Brueggemann, “Psalms and the Life of Faith: A Suggested Typology of Function,” JSOT 17 (1980): 3–32; Hays, Conversion of the Imagination, 101–18; Jerry Eugene Shepherd, “The Book of Psalms as the Book of Christ: A Christo-Canonical Approach to the Book of Psalms” (Ph.D. diss., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1995).

My Glory

David between Wisdom and Prophecy (Paris Psalter [BnF MS Grec 139], folio 7v; photo credit: Wikipedia)
Psalm 7 is an individual lament,1 and the superscript situates it as “concerning the words of Cush, the Benjaminite” (Ps 7:1 HB; על־דברי־כושׁ בן־ימיני‎).2 This situation is rather difficult to pinpoint precisely in the biblical narratives of David’s life.3 The OG reading Χουσί is reflected in Augustine’s text and leads him to relate Ps 7 to 2 Sam 15:32–37.4 Yet, this rendering seems as though it may suggest a different Vorlage than is available in the MT.5

In connection with the Ps 7’s individual perspective and taking ל roughly as “by” (Ps 7:1 HB), the psalm is ostensibly “by David.” Within Ps 7’s larger lament, vv. 3–5, 8 (Eng) particularly profess David’s innocence concerning the accusations (cf. דברים; Ps 7:1 HB) leveled against him.6 As a unit, the contribution that vv. 3–5 (Eng) makes toward this profession entails some textual difficulties.7 To demonstrate his innocence, however, one of the appeals David makes is that, if his profession should prove false, his “glory” should be set in the dust (Ps 7:5 HB; כבודי לעפר ישׁכן‎; 7:6 Eng).

Within the life of David, the setting of David’s glory “in the dust” doubtless refers to the denigration of his “personal and official dignity.”8 Even so, Yahweh’s own dignity is, to some extent, at stake in David’s experience of oppression despite his innocence.9 Yahweh is righteous, and in his righteousness, he saves the upright (Ps 7:11–12, 18 HB; 7:10–11, 17 Eng). Indeed, in delivering David, Yahweh himself becomes David’s glory (Ps 3:4 HB; 3:3 Eng),10 and failing to deliver David would lay in the dust also Yahweh’s promise to David of a perpetual kingdom (e.g., 2 Sam 7:16). Yet, in faithfulness to his servant, Yahweh is he who lifts David’s head (Ps 3:4 HB; מרים ראשׁי‎; 3:3 Eng). In so doing, he has raised David’s countenance to be sure, but still more has he raised from the dust he who is both David’s son and the perpetual head of the house from which he comes (e.g., Matt 22:41–46; Mark 12:35–37; Luke 20:41–44; Acts 2:22–36).


1. Jeffrey H. Tigay, “Psalm 7:5 and Ancient Near Eastern Treaties,” JBL 89, no. 2 (1970): 178; see also David G. Firth and Philip Johnston, Interpreting the Psalms: Issues and Approaches (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2005), 295–300, for a survey of form-critical categorizations for the traditional Psalter.

2. The Psalms targum reads this portion of the superscript as “concerning the slaughter of Saul, the son of Kish from the tribe of Benjamin” (Tg. Ket. Ps 7:1; על תברא דשאול בר קיש דמן שבט בנימן).

3. Franz Delitzsch, Psalms (Commentary on the Old Testament 5; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1866; repr., Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2006), 84; see also S. E. Gillingham, “The Messiah in the Psalms: A Question of Reception History and the Psalter,” in King and Messiah in Israel and the Ancient Near East (ed. John Day; Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement 270; Sheffield: Sheffield, 1998), 226–27.

4. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 7.1 (NPNF 1, 8:20).

5. Cf. Delitzsch, Psalms, 84.

6. Tigay, “Psalm 7:5,” 178.

7. For a discussion, see Jacob Leveen, “Textual Problems of Psalm 7,” VT 16, no. 4 (1966): 440; Tigay, “Psalm 7:5.”

8. Delitzsch, Psalms, 86.

9. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 7.4 (NPNF 1, 8:21–22).

10. On reading the Psalter as a unified collection, see Jamie A. Grant, The King as Exemplar: The Function of Deuteronomy’s Kingship Law in the Shaping of the Book of Psalms (Academica Biblica; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2004), 11–19.

Slaves at Home

Ezra and Nehemiah each provide their own distinct reports of the Jews’ return from Babylonian exile. Even if the portrayal of this return as a “second exodus” is not a particular, literary concern in these books,1 the narrative’s inclusion of elements like captivity, release, land resettlement, and covenant establishment certainly echo important features in the narrative of Israel’s exodus from Egypt.2 Even so, Ezra and Nehemiah include in their portraits of the people’s experience of some “reviving” (מחיה) a stroke in which the people also found themselves still to be slaves (Ezra 9:8–9; cf. Neh 9:36).3

As a prime example of the people’s slavery in “the land that you gave to our fathers to eat its fruit and its goodness” (Neh 9:36; הארץ אשׁר־נתתה לאבתינו לאכל את־פריה ואת־טובה), “its increase goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins” (Neh 9:37; ותבואתה מרבה למלכים אשׁר־נתתה עלינו בחטאותינו). This observation situates even the returned community as being, to some extent, still subject to the covenant’s curses (e.g., Deut 28:33, 51). Yet, the promise still stood of a day when Abraham’s children would again freely enjoy the produce of the land (Deut 30; Isa 55; cf. John 4:35; Rom 4:13; 10:1–17).


1. Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (1st American ed.; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979), 634.

2. Cf. P. M. Venter, “Canon, Intertextuality and History in Nehemiah 7:72b–10:40,” HvTSt 65, no. 1 (2009): 161.

3. G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), 745–46; N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God 1; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), 268–79, 299–301; N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God 2; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 125–31, 428–30.

The Resurrection of the Son of God

In Acts 13:16–41, Paul addresses the Pisidian synagogue. In this discourse’s context, Paul asserts “we preach to you the good news concerning the promise that had come to the fathers—that this promise God has fulfilled for us their children by raising Jesus” (Acts 13:32–33; ἡμεῖς ὑμᾶς εὐαγγελιζόμεθα τὴν πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ἐπαγγελίαν γενομένην, ὅτι ταύτην ὁ θεὸς ἐκπεπλήρωκεν τοῖς τέκνοις [αὐτῶν] ἡμῖν ἀναστήσας Ἰησοῦν). From here, the following quotation of Ps 2:7 confirms Jesus’ resurrection by Yahweh’s hand (cf. Acts 13:37).1 This resurrection in incorruption situates Jesus as the means by which the ancestral promise becomes actualized (Acts 13:34–37) because it situates him as the recipient and mediator of the things vouchsafed to David (Acts 13:34)—namely, an everlasting covenant in which the wandering return and receive forgiveness from Yahweh (Isa 55; cf. Deut 30).2


1. Chrysostom, Hom. Act., 29 (NPNF1, 11:182–85).

2. Ibid.; N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God 2; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 268–74, 576–77.

David, the Man of God

In contemporary English parlance, to call someone a “man” or “woman of God” substantially means that individual is “godly” or “pious.” As such, the phrase is a descriptor of a person’s moral or religious standing in relation to some perceived measure.

In the Hebrew Bible, however, אישׁ (ה)אלהים ([the] man of God) regularly designates a “prophet.” To be sure, these prophets were often “godly” or “pious,” but even here, there were occasional exceptions to this behavior (e.g., 1 Kgs 13). Rather, when the Hebrew Bible applies this same phrase to David, it fits him into the framework of the broader tradition of the prophet as Yahweh’s representative (Neh 12:24, 36; 2 Chron 8:14). In these particular texts, David’s status as an אישׁ אלהים (man of God) revolves around his plans for the temple’s administration. Even so, scarcely can at least the Davidic psalms be separated from vocation as a royal אישׁ אלהים (man of God).1


1. Cf. 11QPsalmsa 27; Augustine, Civ., 17.14 (NPNF1, 2:352–53).

The Christ of His Christ

Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, "Anna Presenting Her Son Samuel to the Priest Eli"
Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, “Anna Presenting Her Son Samuel to the Priest Eli” (c. 1665; photo credit: Wikipedia)

In due order within The City of God’s longer discussion of Hannah’s prayer at Samuel’s dedication,1 Augustine arrives at the clause, “[a]nd [he] shall exalt the horn of His Christ” (1 Sam 2:10). Here, Augustine ponders:

How shall Christ exalt the horn of His Christ? For He of whom it was said above, “The Lord hath ascended into the heavens,” [1 Sam 2:10 LXX; 4QSama col. 2, line 33] meaning the Lord Christ, Himself, as it is said here, “shall exalt the horn of His Christ.” Who, therefore, is the Christ of His Christ? Does it mean that He shall exalt the horn of each one of His believing people, as [Hannah] says in the beginning of this hymn, “Mine horn is exalted in my God?” [1 Sam 2:1 LXX, Vg.] For we can rightly call all those christs who are anointed with His chrism, forasmuch as the whole body with its head is one Christ.2

Although Augustine does not appear to cite 1 Cor 1:31; 2 Cor 10:17 in developing his interpretation of Hannah’s prayer, these texts may well be reading 1 Sam 2:10 [LXX; 4QSama col. 2, line 33] along a similar, Christological trajectory.3 Boasting is to be in Jesus alone, who has ascended into heaven and with whom the church is united as a “collective person[—as] ‘Christ existing as church-community.’”4


1. Augustine, Civ., 17.4 (NPNF1, 2:339–43).

2. Augustine, Civ., 17.4 (NPNF1, 2:343); cf., e.g., 1 Cor 6:14–17; 12:27; 1 John 2:20, 27; Justin, Dial., 86.

3. See J. David Stark, “Rewriting Prophets in the Corinthian Correspondence: A Window on Paul’s Hermeneutic,” BBR 22, no. 2 (2012): 236–38; J. Ross Wagner, “‘Not Beyond the Things Which Are Written’: A Call to Boast Only in the Lord (1 Cor 4.6),” NTS 44, no. 2 (1998): 283–86, for discussion.

4. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Sanctorum Communio: A Theological Study of the Sociology of the Church (ed. Clifford J. Green and Joachim von Soosten; trans. Reinhard Kraus and Nancy Lukens; Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 1; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009), 141; cf. Eph 1:15–23; 2:4–7; N. T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1991), 41–55.

An Unfriendly Bodyguard

All four Gospels report Peter’s adamant affirmation of fidelity Jesus, no matter what may come (Matt 26:33–35; Mark 14:29–31; Luke 22:31–34; John 13:36–38). A key feature in the Synoptics’ presentation is Peter’s persistence about remaining with Jesus (Matt 26:35; Mark 14:31; Luke 22:33). In so presenting his declaration, Matthew and Mark focus exclusively on Peter’s commitment to die with Jesus (Matt 26:35; Mark 14:31). Beyond this affirmation, Luke also explicitly mentions Peter’s readiness to accept the lesser affliction of imprisonment with Jesus (Luke 22:33).

For John, Peter’s affirmation of fidelity still draws in Peter’s continuing presence with Jesus (John 13:37a). Here, however, Peter goes a step farther: Not only will he be present with Jesus, whatever may come, but he will die in Jesus’ behalf (John 13:37b; τὴν ψυχήν μου ὑπὲρ σοῦ θήσω; underlining added). The extent to which ὑπέρ indicates substitution (so: ὑπὲρ σοῦ ≈ in your place) is sometimes debatable.1 Particularly given the Synoptics’ preference for accompaniment language, John’s ὑπὲρ σοῦ could have a more general sense and indicate Peter’s profession of a willingness to die in keeping with how highly he values Jesus (so: ὑπὲρ σοῦ ≈ for your sake).2

Yet, in John’s Gospel, Jesus has already affirmed that the good shepherd will die in behalf of his sheep (John 10:11, 15, 17), and Jesus will shortly suggest that the one who has the greatest love will die in behalf of his friends (John 15:13). In both these analogous cases, the one who dies seems to do so at least in hopes that those may be spared in whose behalf he dies. Thus too in John 13:37b, Peter seems to be offering to serve as a kind of bodyguard for Jesus.3 Tied up as this offer is in John’s narrative with the rest of the Farewell Discourse (John 13:31–17:26), when Jesus says in this discourse “no one has greater love than this: that someone should lay down his life in his friends’ behalf” (John 15:13; μείζονα ταύτης ἀγάπην οὐδεὶς ἔχει, ἵνα τις τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ θῇ ὑπὲρ τῶν φίλων αὐτοῦ), Peter can hardly miss hearing this statement at least partly as a comment on his own offer that he has just made to die in Jesus’ behalf.

Although it would have been expressed differently in different contexts, “friendship” involves some kind of reciprocity, so that the one who lays down his life in his friends’ behalf is himself part of that friendship’s circle of influence.4 Within this circle of friendship, Jesus himself is preeminently the one who dies for his friends (John 15:13–15). Peter has promised to do the same for Jesus (John 13:37b), but Peter does not sufficiently comprehend the agenda on which Jesus is operating (John 18:10–11). So, when the time for Jesus’ death actually approaches, Peter rather distances himself from than interposes himself in behalf of Jesus (John 13:38; 18:15–18, 25–27).

Despite these failures, after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter is ready enough to confess his friendship with Jesus (φιλεῖν ≈ to love, to be a friend of) and to hear Jesus’ summons to shepherd his sheep (John 21:15–16). Jesus’ meaning has, however, not completely come home. Only when Jesus asks whether Peter is his friend does it seem that the reality his inquiry becomes clear (John 21:17).5 Semantically, ἀγαπᾶν (≈ to love) and φιλεῖν are closely related terms (John 21:15–17),6 but it is in the latter verbiage that Jesus has interpretively tied his own sacrifice to Peter’s unfilfilled promise of the same (John 13:37–38; 15:13–15).7 Although Peter has failed to make good on his friendly promise to die in Jesus’ behalf, he still affirms his friendship with Jesus (John 21:15–17). As the Chief and Good Shepherd, Jesus has died in behalf of his sheep and his friends, and this vocation he freshly commends to his friend Peter:

Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you would dress yourself and walk where you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and will bring you where you do not want to go. (John 21:17d–18; βόσκε τὰ πρόβατά μου. ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, ὅτε ἦς νεώτερος, ἐζώννυες σεαυτὸν καὶ περιεπάτεις ὅπου ἤθελες· ὅταν δὲ γηράσῃς, ἐκτενεῖς τὰς χεῖράς σου, καὶ ἄλλος σε ζώσει καὶ οἴσει ὅπου οὐ θέλεις.)

“And he said this to show by what kind of death he would glorify God” (John 21:19a; τοῦτο δὲ εἶπεν σημαίνων ποίῳ θανάτῳ δοξάσει τὸν θεόν). Peter had shrunk back from his previous espousals, but it was still his vocation to follow the Good Shepherd and to do so faithfully to the end.8


1. See Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 383–89, for a discussion.

2. See BDAG, s.v., ὑπέρ, §A.1.a.ε.

3. Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2003), 1004–5.

4. Ibid., 1004–15; cf. Augustine, Doctr. chr., 1.30.31 (NPNF1, 2:531); Augustine, Tract. Ev. Jo., 43.2 (NPNF1, 7:240).

5. Cf. BDAG, s.v., φιλέω, §1.

6. See D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies (2nd ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996); Keener, John, 1235–36; Moisés Silva, Biblical Words and Their Meaning: An Introduction to Lexical Semantics (rev. ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 96–97, for a discussion.

7. Cf. Andreas J. Köstenberger, John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 596–98.

8. Andreas J. Köstenberger, A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters: The Word, the Christ, the Son of God (Biblical Theology of the New Testament; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), 495–96n151.

Like Father, Like Son—Only More So

Lindisfarne Codex (fol. 27r, Incipit to Matthew; 8th cent.; Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First Chronicles 16 reports the ark of the covenant’s placement in the tent David had prepared for it (1 Chron 16:1). The middle of the chapter is a poetic section that celebrates Yahweh’s greatness toward Israel (1 Chron 16:8–36). The first part of this section (1 Chron 16:8–22) corresponds to Ps 105:1–15, the second (1 Chron 16:23–33) to Ps 96:1–13, and the third (1 Chron 16:34–36) to Ps 106:1, 47–48.1 The Chronicler does not explicitly describe David as this hymn’s composer, although this supposition appears reasonable.2 In any event, the hymn is offered in David’s presence and at his behest (1 Chron 16:7, 37).

In part, the hymn seeks to rehearse its audience’s identity as Yahweh’s covenant people.3 Given the ark’s recent completion of its previously only partial return from Philistine captivity, drawing the people’s attention afresh to Sinai would have been entirely understandable (Exod 24:1–25:22; 1 Sam 4:3–7:2; 1 Chron 13:1–15:29). Instead, as the most explicit locus of covenantal identity, the hymn enjoins those gathered to remember Yahweh’s covenant with the patriarchs and this covenant’s accompanying promise of Canaan as an inheritance (1 Chron 16:15–22).4 Yet, both this hymn and the promise to Abraham and his seed project the worship of Yahweh much farther than Israel’s boundaries in Canaan (Gen 17:1–8; 1 Chron 16:23–34; cf. Rom 4:13). As David thus commissioned agents to hymn Yahweh’s greatness, so too has David’s Son commissioned agents through whom he even also effects among the nations the extension of Yahweh’s praise and the full actualization of the promise to Abraham (e.g., Matt 28:18–20; Acts 1:6–8; 26:15–18; Rom 15:7–13; 1 Cor 5:16–21).5


1. C. F. Keil, 1 and 2 Chronicles (trans. Andrew Harper; K&D 3; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1866), 513; cf. Origen, Ep. Afr., 15 (ANF, 4:392). On these texts’ compositional relationships, see William Doan and Terry Giles, “The Song of Asaph: A Performance-critical Analysis of 1 Chronicles 16:8–36,” CBQ 70, no. 1 (2008): 32n7; Keil, Chronicles, 513–18; R. Mark Shipp, “‘Remember His Covenant Forever’: A Study of the Chronicler’s Use of the Psalms,” ResQ 35, no. 1 (1993): 29–39. For a concise description of their substantive differences, see Doan and Giles, “The Song of Asaph,” 38.

2. Keil, Chronicles, 511, 513.

3. Doan and Giles, “The Song of Asaph,” 38.

4. Ralph W. Klein, “Psalms in Chronicles,” CurrTM 32, no. 4 (2005): 267; R. Mark Shipp, “‘Remember His Covenant Forever’: A Study of the Chronicler’s Use of the Psalms,” ResQ 35, no. 1 (1993): 35–36; cf. Eusebius, Hist. eccl., 1.4 (NPNF2, 1:87–88).

5. Origen, Cels., 6.79 (ANF, 4:610); cf. Keil, Chronicles, 513; Shipp, “Remember His Covenant Forever,” 36–37; see also Rom 3:25; Heb 9:5.