From the Cradle to the Cross


5Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

In this passage from Hebrews 10 the author is reaching the crescendo of his argument concerning the death of Christ, namely His Priesthood, the superiority of His sacrifice, the inauguration of the New Covenant, redemption through His blood, and many other key and relevant themes.  As he begins to summarize and draw to a close this section of the epistle, he gives us key insight into an intra-Trinitarian conversation between Father and Son.  Note verse 5 from above, “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said.”  The introduction of a quote from Psalm 40 is preceded with this phrase, “He said” in reference to Christ, which immediately grants Him ownership of the citation that follows.  By reading Psalm 40 in its context, we may not immediately conclude that David is transcribing the words of Christ.  However, because Scripture is primarily a divine product, meaning this words are principally the words of God Himself, and because Scripture employs progressive revelation, meaning that latter revelation most often illuminates prior revelation bringing out its fuller meaning, then we may see clearly that the author of Hebrews has neither abused nor allegorized this selection of Scripture, rather he is indeed himself under the divine inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit providing additional context to what had been written 1000 years earlier.

In this citation we see Christ, by way of Psalm 40:6 declare, “a body have you prepared for me.”  This reference to His own body is likely a reference to His incarnation, where the Son of God, fully God in His being added upon Himself the nature of man, thus becoming 100% God and 100% man, the God-man.

Turning to Psalm 40:6 we may not readily see those words cited in our passage from Hebrews.  There we read, “…but you have given me an open ear” literally “ears you have dug for me.”  How then did this come to reference a body in Hebrews 10:5?

Some have concluded that because the New Testament, and especially Hebrews, often references the Septuagint (LXX), or the Greek (Koine) translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, that it must by necessity be the case in this verse and the reason for body instead of ear.  This was the common translation of first century Palestine, the common language of the people, and a familiar translation to both our Lord and His disciples.

However, in his massive commentary on this epistle, John Owen remains unconvinced that the LXX translation is being used here and instead asserts that the author of Hebrews is making an interpretation (albeit under divine inspiration) by employing a device known as a synecdoche, where a part is representative of the whole.  In other words, he is able to convey a larger intention of the passage, especially his own, by using the term body, as represented by a part of the body, the ear, in the original passage from Psalms.  But we must ask, why does he see this as necessary?  Reading through the remainder of the passage cited above we may find our answer.  This section is concluded with the profound statement, “through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Again we are confronted with the word body, though this time not in reference to Christ’s incarnation, but instead with reference to His death.  The reason for the synecdoche device used earlier was to highlight the body of Christ and to develop a full argument of our Lords earthly life from the cradle to the cross.  If we were to summarize the assertion being made here it would simply be that Christ, the Son of God for whom and by whom all things were made, came to earth, assuming the nature and body of humanity, to die on the cross in a shameful undignified manner unworthy of a King, for a sinful, rebellious people who by the shedding of His blood and the breaking of His body He has redeemed for Himself and they are being made sanctified.

And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

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