Christ’s Performance of God’s Will in Hebrews 10: Fulfilling the Psalmist’s Desire in Psalm 40

The use of the word “body” in the citation of Ps 40:6 in Heb 10:5 has drawn a great deal of scholarly attention. In this paper I will focus instead on the form of the psalm citation in the context of Heb 10. Specifically, I will argue that the author of Hebrews has accurately cited the wording of Ps 40:6-8 as he knows it (including “body”). He has, however, stopped the citation of the Ps 40:8a just before the finite verb “I desire.” The effect of leaving the word “desire” out is significant because the infinitival phrase “to do your will, O God” is complementary to the verb “desire” in the psalm. Thus, when the writer of Hebrews places Ps 40:8a in the mouth of Jesus, he does not say (as the psalmist does), “Here I am, I have come …. To do your will, O God, I desire.” Instead, Christ says, “Here I am, I have come … to do your will, O God.” Jesus does not express a desire to do God’s will. Rather, he states the purpose for his coming before God—to do God’s will. This curious way of citing the psalm suggests first a deep commitment to the actual words of the Old Testament text, but also a willingness to recontextualize the words for the purpose of an argument. As will be shown, this kind of biblical citation has good parallels in other Jewish texts.