From: Dale M. Wheeler (
Date: Thu Dec 02 1999 - 12:05:39 EST

<x-flowed>Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>At 10:25 PM -0600 11/30/99, Steven Craig Miller wrote:
>>I think what we have going on at Ps 2:7 is a double entendre of a sorts.
>>According to Hans-Joachim Kraus, the king is being installed and adopted as
>>a "son of God." And yet the Hebrew verb used is one that would be common
>>for human procreation, the LXX translators chose a similar Greek term. The
>>double sense of the word seems meant to cover the notion of physical birth,
>>while legally making the king a "son" (of God) through adoption. Perhaps
>>one way of conveying this double sense in English would be: "You are my
>>son, today I have fathered you." Here one has a term which suggests a male
>>parent in reproduction, and yet it might also serve as a metaphor for
>>adoption. But I suspect that the real problem here is twofold, namely that
>>in English we normally don't speak of males giving birth, nor do we
>>normally speak of an adoption as a form of begetting, and so any
>>translation of this is bound to sound strange to our ears.
>Yes, of course this is a coronation psalm and the sense of the original was
>"I have adopted you"--it is all in accordance with the prophecy of Nathan
>in 1 Samuel 7, "I will be a father to him and he will be a son to me" (more
>or less). But there is no term for 'ADOPT' actually applied here. The term
>hUIOQESIA is used five times in the GNT (Rom 8:15, 23, 9:4; Gal 4:5, Eph
>1:5), but there's no instance of a corresponding hUIOQETEW or hUION TIQHMI;
>instead GENNAW is used.
>I've always understood this (I don't know where I read this, it's not my
>own invention) "adoption" of the king in terms of the personalization of
>the relationship between God and anointed King of the original adoptive
>relationship between YHWH and Israel; there too there is the fiction of
>biological birth: "Israel is my first-born son ... I will destroy your
>first-born son" (Exodus 4:22-23). I've checked the reverse index for
>"adopt-" in LSJ at the Perseus site (that capacity and checking synonyms
>speedily is awesome!) and am amazed at the great variety of terms used for
>adoption. Yet the Biblical language seems intent on using the biological
>word for "beget" or "generate" even where the language would seem to be
>understood best in a metaphorical sense.

Where you may have read this (aside from me saying this a couple of times
over the past several years of bgreek and bhebrew) is in Kaufmann's article
on Royal Grants in the ANE. Familial terminology (father, son, mother,
daughter, love, hate, adopt, disinherit, etc.), including birth
terminology, is common in ANE (Hittite, Egyptian, etc.) treaties and
covenants, but especially in the Royal Grants (which are covenants made
with faithful vassals, who are already [normally] in a Sovereign-Vassal
relation with a great king, and because of their faithfulness to the great
king are elevated from the position of something like governor over their
homeland to vice-regent/king, which kingship is then dynastic and can never
be taken from the vassal's family line as long as the great king or his
descendents live). These covenants and their terminology show up
prominently in the Abrahamic and Davidic covenant statements, esp., 2Sam 7,
Ps 89, and the rest of the royal Pss. The use of them in the OT is then
just consistent with ANE covenant practices and the LXX (in its own
"literal" way) is just passing them along to the NT. Its interesting that
when Paul is writing to churches in Graeco-Roman areas he frequently
changes from the ANE imagery to G-R terminology for adoption, since those
folks would probably have not understood the birth metaphor (which is
probably why it doesn't appear outside the LXX and NT uses in LSJ). So, in
these Grants, when the vassal is made a regent/king, the ceremony/covenant
document describes the installation in ANE adoption terminology, "you are
my son, today I have begotten you." There's nothing ontological happening
here, no one is getting physically or in any other way"born"; the person is
just being invested with a royal office and responsibilities.


Dale M. Wheeler, Ph.D.
Research Professor in Biblical Languages Multnomah Bible College
8435 NE Glisan Street Portland, OR 97220
Voice: 503-251-6416 FAX:503-251-6478 E-Mail:

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