Ephesians 4:8—Does Paul inaccurately quote Psalm 68:18?

Problem: Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 saying, “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men” (Eph. 4:8). Yet the OT Psalm reads, “You have ascended on high, you have led captivity captive; you have received gifts among men.” Is there a discrepancy here between these two texts?

Solution: Some say that Paul did not quote from the Septuagint, but from the Aramaic Targum which is used by orthodox Jews to interpret the text. The Septuagint translates the Hebrew as “You have taken,” while the Targum translates the Hebrew “You have given.”

In any event, the idea given by these two translations of the Hebrew is that God received or took gifts so that they could then be distributed to men. Since both ideas are in the text, both renderings are correct. Thus, Paul says, “He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11). In other words, Paul quotes this OT passage to show that Christ was victorious over our spiritual enemies, taking from them the spoils of battle and passing on the gifts to believers who in the exercise of these gifts can be victorious over the enemy. Therefore, there are no discrepancies to be found in Paul’s use of this Psalm, since this is precisely what David did when he robbed his enemy of their gifts and gave them to his men.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.