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John Owen on the Apostles' Christological Interpretation of Psalm 2

In his Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, John Owen gave consideration to the hermenutical principles underlying the way in which Psalm 2 is cited in the New Testament. Owen suggested that the fact that Psalm 2 is exclusively quoted in regard to its ultimate fulfillment in Christ shows that it was never intended to be about David in any absolute sense--even if there was typological significance to David in the historical setting of the Psalm. What Owen wrote has massive implications for addressing the faulty "first-reading/second-reading" approach of biblical interperation adopted by so many in biblical studies today.1 Owen explained:

That it is the Messiah who is prophesied of in the second Psalm, from whence the words are taken. This, with all Christians, is put beyond dispute by its application to Christ in several places of the New Testament, as Acts 5:25—27; Acts 13:33; Heb. 5:5. It is certain also, that the Jews esteemed that psalm to relate to the Messiah. But it was not enough for the apostle, that those with whom he dealt acknowledged these things, unless they were really so; that his argument might proceed (ex veris) from what was true, as well as (ex concessis) from what was granted. There is no cogent reason why we should acknowledge David and his kingdom to be at all intended in this psalm. The apostles, we see, apply it to the Lord Christ without any mention of David, and that four several times; twice in the Acts, and twice in this epistle. We may indeed grant that consideration was had of David and his kingdom typically, but not absolutely. When the thing signified is principally aimed at, it is not necessary that every thing spoken should be applicable properly to the type itself; it being sufficient that there was in the type somewhat that bore a general resemblance to what was principally intended. On the contrary, where the type is principally intended, and an application made to the thing signified only by way of general allusion, there it is not required that all the particulars assigned to the type should belong to the anti-type. Hence though in general David, and his deliverance from trouble, with the establishment of his throne, might be respected in this psalm, as an obscure representation of the kingdom of Christ; yet sundry particulars in it, and among them this mentioned by our apostle, seem to have no respect to him, but directly and immediately to intend the Messiah. If it yet be supposed that what is hence spoken, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee," is also to be applied to David, yet it is not ascribed to him personally and absolutely, but merely considered as the type of Christ: what then is principally and directly intended in the words, is to be sought for in Christ alone; it being sufficient to preserve the nature of the type, that there was in David any resemblance or representation of it. Thus, whether David be admitted here as a type of Christ or no, the apostle's purpose stands firm, that the words were principally and propT erJy spoken of the Messiah.

1. For helpful critiques of the "first-reading/second-reading approach" see Richard Gaffin's Critique of Pete Enns and Lane Tipton's Christ the Center interview "Redemptive-Historical Hermenuetics."  2. John Owen Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Boston: Samuel T. Armstrong, 1812) pp. 66-67.

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