(Eph. 4:8) Does Paul accurately quote Psalm 68:18?

CLAIM: Critics claim that Paul deliberately twisted the OT text. Paul writes that God “gave gifts to men” (Eph. 4:8). However, in the original text, we read that God “received gifts among men” (Ps. 68:18). Which is true?

RESPONSE: A number of points can be made.

First, we need to consider the context of Psalm 68. This psalm is a plea with God to liberate his people the way he did back in the old days. In verse 7, God walked in triumph in front of the people. In verses 11-14, the kings scattered before him. The transfer of the ark to Zion is made analogous to the march of Yahweh, conquering his enemies. Normally, when a conqueror returned home from battle, he would take his booty and distribute it to the people, rather than receive it.

Second, the original Hebrew could either read “received” or “brought.” Stott writes that either translation is permissible. He also writes, “It is not without significance that two ancient versions or translations, one Aramaic and the other Syriac, render it ‘gave’. So evidently this was already a traditional interpretation.”[1]

Third, therefore, understanding both the original context and the original language, Paul shows Christ as giving out gifts, when he is raised. We see the same theme in Acts 2:33, when Peter says, “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.” In other words, Christ –similar to an ancient conqueror for his people (Ps. 68) –was received from God only to give to us.

[1] Stott, John R. W.: God’s New Society : The Message of Ephesians. Downers Grove, Ill. : InterVarsity Press, 1979, 1980. 157.