Jared Compton. Psalm 110 and the Logic of Hebrews. Library of New Testament Studies 537. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015.
Jared (@jaredmcompton) entered the PhD program at Trinity one year after I did, and he and our wives became close friends. While we were at Trinity, we both joined CrossWay Community Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and learned so much from Mike Bullmore. After serving as a NT professor at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary for a few years, Jared returned to CrossWay Community Church as one of their pastors.
Both Jared and I wrote our dissertations under Don Carson on the use of the OT in the NT. Jared focused on how Hebrews uses Psalm 110, and now it’s in the prestigious LNTS series. Jared kindly agreed to answer some questions about his new book:
1. What sparked your interest in Hebrews and this topic?
My interest in Hebrews and this topic began during my doctoral studies. I’d decided to take a quarter-semester seminar on Hebrews, partly because I liked the professor (Peter O’Brien) and partly because Hebrews puzzled me. And it was during that seminar that I discovered that Hebrews puzzled me in two areas that I was already eager to explore in the dissertation I needed to write (!), namely, how texts fit together (something, I suppose, akin to discourse analysis) and how the NT uses the OT. It wasn’t until the next year, in another seminar, that these two areas, these two disciplines, happily converged into the “research problem” that motivated my dissertation (and now book). In God’s providence—though there were other more straightforward reasons that I simply can’t recall—I decided to write a paper on the use of Ps 110 in Hebrews. And it was during the course of that research that I came to the provisional conclusion that Ps 110 contained Hebrews in nuce (“in a nutshell,” to riff on Richard Hays’s way of describing Deut 32 in Romans). I began to think that Ps 110 played some sort of fundamental, argument-directing role in Hebrews’ exposition. And to my surprise, while I could find one or two authors making a similar point, no one had pursued it very far. And that’s when I knew what I had to do, what I wanted to explore. That paper was really the “first draft” of my dissertation.
2. What’s your book’s main argument, and how controversial is it?
In the book I argue that Ps 110 directs the logic of Hebrews’ argument, Hebrews’ exposition vis-à-vis its exhortation. I suspect that idea itself will be controversial, considering, for example, that Heb 8–10 is often thought to turn no longer on Ps 110 but on Jer 31 or some combination of Jer 31 and one or two others texts (e.g., Ps 40).
What will also be controversial, however, is the specific argument I see Ps 110 directing in Hebrews. I argue that Hebrews uses Ps 110 to suggest the scriptural plausibility of the Christian gospel. I’ll explain. Hebrews’ exposition divides into three parts: chapters 1–2, 5–7 and 8–10. In the first part (chs. 1–2), I argue that Hebrews uses Ps 110.1 to (1) interpret Jesus’s resurrection as his messianic enthronement (1:5–14), (2) connect Jesus’s enthronement with his fulfillment of Psalm 8’s vision for humanity (2:5–9)—this is my favorite part of the book (and the very first part I wrote), and (3) begin to explain why Jesus was enthroned through suffering (2:10–18). Then in the second and third parts of Hebrews (chs. 5–7, 8–10), I argue that the author corroborates this initial argument, this narrative sketch of the Christian gospel—i.e., the solution of the human problem through the death of the Messiah. The author now uses Ps 110:1 and 110:4. He uses these texts to (1) show that the Messiah was expected to be a superior priest and, moreover, (2) show that this messianic priest was expected to solve the human problem through death (5:1–10; 7:1–28; 8:1–10:18).
I say this reading will be controversial, as if what I’m arguing is some never-heard-of-before thesis. I’m not that brave (or naïve). The sorts of things I argue aren’t entirely new, but to my knowledge they’ve never been argued in the sort of sustained, rigorous way I try to do in my book.
3. What are some interesting conclusions you reach in your book?
I’ll mention just one, and it’s right at the beginning of the book. I argue that the OT catena (i.e., the 7 OT citations in Heb 1:5–13) proves that Jesus is superior to angels because he is the long-awaited Messiah and not also because he is divine (which he is, but that’s not part of the author’s argument). Hebrews 1:4 suggests the Son—Jesus—is superior to angels because of something he became (the enthroned Messiah), not because of something he always was (God). For the way I see the author’s citations of Deut 32 and, especially, Ps 102 support this reading, and these are the most obvious and difficult obstacles, see my book!
4. Who is your ideal reader and what is your ideal outcome? How would a pastor benefit from your book?
My ideal reader would be an unbelieving first-century Jew or, better, a recently-converted-though-struggling-to-believe first-century Jewish Christian. Short of that, I’d settle for a serious-minded “seeker,” wondering how Christianity can claim that Jesus of Nazareth was (and is!) Israel’s long-awaited Messiah. I’d also settle for readers who, like me, struggle to believe God, specifically, that Jesus is the enthroned Messiah, when so many of his (and, thus, our) enemies have yet to be put under his boot or, related, readers who struggle to believe these things about Jesus because he is, presently, absent from view, reigning invisibly in heaven and not visibly on this earth. I’d also be very encouraged were a pastor, preparing to preach through Hebrews, to pick up my book and use it to help him—and his congregation—see Hebrews’ big picture. I was going to say that this sort of result would make the book worth the effort. But the spiritual benefit I gained from researching and writing this book were (so much more than) sufficient to justify the effort. But this sort of result would certainly be very encouraging.
5. Are you finished with Hebrews? Any dreams about future projects?
I’ve got an essay on how Hebrews 11 does biblical theology that I’m going to (I need to!) draft for a book I’m writing with a couple friends. Beyond this, I’d love to write a short, pithy and readable little commentary on Hebrews, something in the tradition of Derek Kidner, John Stott, or Dale Ralph Davis. Whether I’ve got one of those in me is an open question. But I’d like to try. (Publishers?)