Vincent's Word Studies
The Epistle to the Hebrews
"Who wrote the Epistle God only knows." Such was the verdict of Origen, and modern criticism has gotten no farther. That it is not the work of Paul is the almost unanimous judgment of modern scholars. Its authenticity as a Pauline writing has been challenged from the earliest times. In the Eastern church, both Clement and Origen regarded the Greek Epistle as Paul's only in a secondary sense; Clement holding that it was written by Paul in Hebrew and translated by Luke. Origen knew only that some held Clement of Rome and some Luke to be the author. Its position and designation in the Peshitto Version shows that it was regarded as not strictly one of Paul's epistles, but as an appendix to the collection. Eusebius's testimony is inconsistent. He holds a Hebrew original, and a translation by Clement, and cites the letter as Pauline (H.E. 38). Again, he expressly classifies it with antilegomena (vi. 13); but in iii. 25 he evades the question, naming the Pauline Epistles as homologumena, but without stating their number.
In the West the epistle was known to Clement of Rome, who frequently quotes it, but without naming the author. The Pauline authorship was expressly denied by Hippolytus: the Muratorian Canon does not mention it, and reckons only seven churches to which Paul wrote: Tertullian in Africa apparently knew nothing of a Pauline Epistle to the Hebrews, but spoke of an Epistle of Barnabas to the Hebrews. It was not recognized by Cyprian. From the fourth century its canonical authority was admitted in the West, partly on the assumption of its Pauline authorship; but the influence of the earlier suspicion remained, and Jerome declared that the custom of the Latins did not receive it as St. Paul's. Augustine agreed substantially with Jerome. It was authorized as canonical by two councils of Carthage (397, 419 a.d.); but the language of the former council was peculiar: "Thirteen Epistles of Paul, and one of the same to the Hebrews." The decree of the latter council was "fourteen Epistles of Paul."
From this time the canonical authority and authorship of the epistle were generally accepted until the age of the Reformation, when the old doubts were revived by Cajetan and Erasmus. The council of Trent (1545-1563) decreed fourteen Pauline Epistles; yet different views have been current among Roman Catholic theologians, as Bellarmine, Estius, and others. Luther denied the Pauline authorship, and placed the epistle along with James, Jude, and Revelation, after "the right-certain, main books of the New Testament." Melanchthon treated it as anonymous. The Magdeburg Centuriators (1559-1574) denied that it was Paul's, as did Calvin. Under Beza's influence it was separated from the Pauline letters in the Gallican Confession (1571). The Belgic and Helvetic Confessions declared it Pauline. The hypothesis of the Pauline authorship was conclusively overthrown by Bleek in 1868.
The conclusion of modern scholarship rests upon:
(1) The Style and Diction. - While Paul's style is marked by frequent irregularities, anacolutha, unclosed parentheses, and mixed metaphors, this epistle is written in a flowing, symmetrical, and artistically elaborated style. The difference is as marked as that between a chapter of Gibbon and one of Sartor Resartus. The rhetorical art of Hebrews appears in the careful arrangement of the words, the rhythmical structure of sentences, and the sonorous compounds. The paragraphs are sometimes arranged in a regular series of premises and conclusions, with parentheses which do not lose their connection with the main topic, while the whole is developed in regular sequence, without anacolutha.
(2) The Methods of Thought and the Points of View. - These differ from those of the Pauline Epistles. The two do not materially disagree. They reach, substantially, the same conclusions, but by different processes and from different positions. The points of emphasis differ. Topics which, in the Pauline letters, are in the foreground, in Hebrews fall into the shade or are wholly passed over.
(a) The conception of faith. In Paul, faith is belief in Jesus Christ as a means of justification, involving a sharp opposition to the works of the law as meriting salvation. In Hebrews, faith is trust in the divine promises as distinguished from seeing their realization, a phase of faith which appears rarely in Paul. Both agree that faith is the only true medium of righteousness; but Hebrews sets forth two great factors of faith, namely, that God is, and that he is a rewarder of them which diligently seek him.
(b) The mode of presenting the contrast between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace through faith. Both Paul and the author of Hebrews recognize a relation and connection between the two covenants. The one prefigures and prepares the way for the other. The Christian church is "the Israel of God," "the people of God," "the seed of Abraham." Both teach that forgiveness of sin and true fellowship with God cannot be attained through the law, and that Christianity represents the life-giving Spirit, and Judaism the letter which killeth. Both assert the abrogation of the old covenant by Christ. Paul, however, views Judaism almost entirely as a law to be fulfilled by men; while our writer regards it as a system of institutions designed to represent a fellowship between God and his worshippers. Paul, accordingly, shows that the law cannot put man into right relation with God, because man cannot fulfill it; while Hebrews shows that the institutions of the old covenant cannot, by reason of their imperfection, establish a real fellowship with God. To Paul, the reason why the old covenant did not satisfy lay, not in the law, which "is, holy and just and good," but in the relation of man to the law, as unable to fulfill its demands. It cannot effect justification, and it works to make man conscious of his sin, and to drive him to the true source of righteousness. To our writer the reason is to be sought in the fact that the atoning and purifying institutions of the law cannot remove the sins which prevent fellowship with God.
From Paul's point of view he might have been expected to show that, in the Old Testament economy, it devolved on the sacrificial institution, centered in the high-priesthood, to meet the want which was not met by legal obedience. To his assertion that men could not fulfill the demands of the law, it might have been answered that the sacrifices, not in being works of the law, but in being ordained by God himself as atonements for sin, changed men's defective righteousness into a righteousness which justified them before God. But Paul does not meet this. He nowhere shows the insufficiency of the Old Testament sacrifices. He does not treat the doctrine of the high-priesthood of Christ. He regards the system of sacrifices less as a divinely-ordained means of atonement than as a work performed by men, and therefore in the line of other works of the law.
This gap is filled by the writer to the Hebrews, in showing that the ceremonial economy did not and could not effect true fellowship with God. He, no doubt, perceived as clearly as Paul that the observance of the ritual was of the nature of legal works; but he speaks of the ritual system as only a presumed means of grace intended to define and enforce the idea of fellowship with God, and to give temporary comfort to the worshipper, but practically impotent to institute and maintain such fellowship in any true and deep sense. Therefore he emphasizes the topic of the priesthood. He dwells on the imperfect and transient nature of the priestly office: he shows that the Levitical priesthood was only a foreshadowing of a better and permanent priesthood. Christ as the great high priest, who appears nowhere in the Pauline Epistles, is the central figure in the Epistle to the Hebrews. He treats of the ritual system and its appliances as mere types of an enduring reality: he characterizes the whole body of Levitical ordinances and ceremonies as fleshly; and through all runs the one, sad note, accentuated again and again, "they can never take away sins:" "they can never make the comers thereunto perfect:" "they are mere ordinances of the flesh, imposed until the time of reformation."
(c) The view of the condition in which the subject of the law's dominion is placed. To Paul it is a condition of bondage, because the law is a body of demands which man must fulfill (Romans 7). To our writer it is a condition of unsatisfied longing for forgiveness and fellowship, because of the insufficiency of the ritual atonement. Accordingly, Hebrews points to the satisfaction of this longing in Christ, the great high priest, perfecting by one offering those who are being sanctified, purging the conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Paul points to the fact that Christ has put an end to the tyranny of the law, and has substituted freedom for bondage. The conception of freedom does not appear in Hebrews. Neither ἐλεύθερος, ἐλευθερία, nor ἐλευθεροῦν occur in the epistle.
(d) The doctrine of the resurrection of Christ. This emerges everywhere in Paul's epistles. There is but one allusion to it in Hebrews (Hebrews 13:20), although it is implied in the doctrine of Christ's high-priesthood, he being a priest "according to the power of an indissoluble life" (Hebrews 7:16).
(e) The Gentiles. There is no mention of the Gentiles in relation to the new covenant, a topic which constantly recurs in Paul.
(f) Sin. Sin is not treated with reference to its origin as by Paul. The vocabulary of terms for sin is smaller than in the Pauline writings.
(3) The Use of Divine Titles. - Κύριος Lord, very common in Paul, is comparatively rare in Hebrews. Similarly, Ἰησοῦς Χριστός Jesus Christ, which occurs thirty times in Romans alone. Χριστός Ἰησοῦς, which is characteristically Pauline, does not appear at all, neither does σωτὴρ savior, which is found in Ephesians and Philippians.
(4) The General Scheme of Treatment. - This is broader than that of Paul, viewing man not only in his relation to the law, but to God's original ideal, and to the harmony with God's entire economy in nature and revelation. Man, nature, history, alike illustrate the incarnation. The Son of God, through whom the worlds were made, is the heir of all things, and, as creator and heir, interprets all life. He not only creates, but bears on all things by the word of his power toward the consummation - complete harmony with the divine archetype. As high priest he makes God and man at one in every sphere of being. He stands for the solidarity of humanity. He is not perfected without the community of sons (Hebrews 11:40). He is himself a son, a partaker of human nature.
With Paul, the law is chiefly a law of ordinances to be replaced by the gospel. It is abolished in Christ. It cannot be perfectly observed. It generates the knowledge of sin. It cannot generate righteousness. Christianity is a manifestation of the righteousness of God apart from the law. Faith is counted for righteousness to him that worketh not but believeth. The law works wrath, and is unto death. It is subsidiary, with a special view to the concrete development of sin. Equally our epistle shows the insufficiency of the law to reconcile men to God, but in a different way. Paul emphasizes the substitution of the gospel for the law: Hebrews the germ of a saving economy contained in the law, and the necessity of its development by the gospel. Paul does not overlook the fact that the law was our pedagogue to bring us to Christ, but he does not show how, as our writer does. The latter emphasizes the unity of the divine plan, shows how the Levitical institutions pointed forward to Christ, and how the heavenly archetype was foreshadowed in the ritual system. With all Paul's strong assertion of the holiness of the law, he never dwells on it with the sad tenderness for the vanishing system which marks the Epistle to the Hebrews. With Paul the break with the law was sharp and complete. The law, as a champion of which he had been a persecutor of Christ, is thrown into sharp relief against Christ and the gospel. With James and Peter the case was different. It would not be strange if some writing should issue from their circle as "the last voice of the apostles of the circumcision," contemplating with affectionate sympathy that through which they had been led to see the meaning of the gospel, and finding in it "a welcome, though imperfect source of consolation, instead of a crushing burden, as in Paul's case" (Westcott).
(5) The Personal Authority of the Writer Is Wholly in the Background. - This is in marked contrast with the epistles of Paul. He appears to place himself in the second generation of believers to whom the salvation preached by Christ had been certified by ear-witnesses; while Paul refuses to be regarded as a pupil of the apostles, and claims to have received the gospel directly from the Lord, and to have been certified of it by the Spirit.
If Paul was not the author, who was? One claim is about as good as another, and no claim has any substantial support. That of Apollos is founded solely upon Acts 18:24 f.; 1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 2:4 ff. The most that can be deduced from these is that Apollos might have written it. There is no evidence that he wrote anything, and that he was learned and mighty in the Scriptures might easily have been true of others. Some modern critics incline to Barnabas, on the strength of the words of Tertullian alluded to above, but this is as unsatisfactory as the rest.
As regards the destination of the epistle, we are equally in the dark. By ecclesiastical writers from the earliest time it is cited under the title to the Hebrews, a fact which is entitled to some weight. It is evidently addressed to a definite circle of readers, and that circle could hardly have been a mixed church of Jews and Gentiles, since it would have been impossible in that case for the letter to avoid allusions to the relations between the two, whereas it contains no allusion to Gentile Christians.
An hypothesis which has obtained considerable currency in modern criticism is, that the epistle was not addressed to Jewish Christians at all, but to Gentile Christians, as a warning against relapsing into heathenism, by showing them from the Old Testament the superiority of Christianity to Judaism.
But this hypothesis presents formidable difficulties. This would seem to be a roundabout way of impressing Gentiles with the superior claims of Christianity. It would appear to have been the more natural course to institute a direct comparison between Christianity and paganism. See on Hebrews 13:7-15.
It is true that Gentile Christians were familiar with the Old Testament, and that Paul's epistles to Gentile readers contain frequent allusions to it; and, further, that Clement of Rome, in his epistle to the Gentile church at Corinth, makes much use of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and cites freely from the Old Testament. But to illustrate one's thoughts and arguments by occasional references to the Old Testament is a very different thing from drawing out an elaborate argument on the basis of a contrast between a new and an older order, designed to show, not only that the new is superior to the old, but that the new is enfolded in the old and developed from it. To this there is no parallel in the New Testament in writings addressed to Gentiles. It would have been superfluous to prove, as this epistle does, that the old order did not satisfy. The Gentiles never supposed that it did.
Moreover, in almost every case of Paul's allusion to the Jewish institutions, the reference is called out by some feature of the Mosaic economy which lay directly in his track and compelled him to deal with it. Thus, in Romans, he is forced to discuss the doctrine of salvation by faith with reference to the Jewish doctrine of salvation by the works of the law. The Galatians had been tempted by Judaising emissaries to return to the law of circumcision. In Corinth, Paul's authority and teaching had been assailed by Jewish aggressors. In Philippians we have no allusion to the law until the writer comes to deal with "the dogs," "the evil workers," "the concision." In Colossians, Jewish ceremonialism is a distinct factor of the heresy which is attacked; but nowhere in Paul's epistles is there a didactic development of a thesis from the point of view of the Old Testament economy collectively.
The same remarks will apply to the case of Clement of Rome. In his Epistle to the Corinthians there are about twenty allusions to the Epistle to the Hebrews or quotations from it. Two of these relate to the majesty of God; one to Christ as high priest; in two or three there is a mere imitation of the phraseology of Hebrews, and the most of the passages are practical exhortations to the cultivation of moral virtues, enforced by allusions to the Old Testament worthies. Any of these passages might have occurred in an address to either Jews or Gentiles. They prove nothing as to the point in question. If we did not know from other sources that Clement's epistle was addressed to a Gentile church, we could not infer that fact from these quotations and allusions. Moreover, Clement's fondness for the Old Testament and the Epistle to the Hebrews is easily explained, if, as there is very good reason for believing, Clement himself was of Jewish origin, a Hellenist.
The whole argument of the Epistle to the Hebrews is technically Jewish, and not of a character to appeal to Gentile readers. The argument, for example, for the superiority of Christ to the angels, would have much force addressed to Jews, since the doctrine of the communication of the Mosaic revelation through the ministration of angels was a familiar tradition. Between the writer and Jewish readers there would be no question as to the angelic mediation of the Sinaitic legislation; but the point would have no interest and no pertinency for the average Gentile. The Jew would readily apprehend that no theophany is a direct manifestation of God to the physical sense. The Gentile mode of thought would be the other way. The Jew would understand that angels were the administrators of the old covenant, and would instinctively catch the turn of the whole argument to the effect that with the exaltation of Christ the angelic sway of the old dispensation ceased.
The same thing might be said of the doctrine of the high-priesthood of Christ. If this was a point to make with Gentiles, it is strange that Paul nowhere alludes to it; and what did the Gentile care about Melchisedec or the relation of Christ's priesthood to his?
It is indeed true that, in the practical warnings of the epistle, nothing is directly said about apostasy to Judaism; but the admonitions are enforced by distinctively Jewish references, as, for example, the warning against failure to enter into God's rest, which is pointed by the example of the Israelites in failing to enter Canaan. Would a writer have said to a Gentile convert that, in case of his committing willful sin, there was no expiation for him? But he might properly say to a Jewish Christian who was tempted to return to Judaism: "If you abandon Christ, and return to Judaism, you have no more sacrifice for sins. Your whole system of Levitical sacrifices is abolished. It is Christ or nothing."
It is very strongly urged that the warning against departing from the living God (Hebrews 3:12) might very properly be given to Gentiles as against a relapse into heathenism, while it would be utterly inappropriate to a Jewish Christian, because the living God is common to both Jews and Christians; and a relapse into Judaism could not, therefore, be a departure from the living God. But the objection overlooks the intent of the whole epistle, which is to show that the living God of the Jewish economy has revealed himself in the Christian economy, thereby superseding the former. It is the God of the Christian dispensation who is commended to the readers; the living God under a new and grander manifestation of life. God who spake by the prophets, now speaks by his Son the effulgence of his glory and the very image of his substance To go back to the old economy of types and shadows, the economy of partial access to God, would be literally to depart from the living God. It would be, practically, to deny him as a living God by denying all development and expansion in his revelation of his own life, and confining that revelation to the narrow limits of the Mosaic system, in other words to identify the living God with the dead system. To depart from Christ, the Life, and to seek the God of the Old Testament revelation, would be to fall back from a living to a dead God.
Again, it is claimed that the words at the beginning of Chapter 6 could not be properly addressed to Jewish Christians: that only a heathen would need to lay such a foundation on his first acceptance of Christ. On the contrary, all the points here enumerated would have had to be expounded to a Jew on becoming a Christian. See notes on that passage.
A still more difficult question is the local destination of the epistle. By those who supposed it to be the work of Paul, attempts were made to place this destination within the circle of Paul's recorded missionary labors; and it was accordingly assigned to almost every place visited or supposed to have been visited by him, - Macedonia, Corinth, Antioch, Spain, etc.
A plausible hypothesis assigned its destination to Jewish Christians in Alexandria. This was based on the fact that the Muratorian Canon (170-210), while omitting Hebrews, notes an Epistle to the Alexandrians (Ad Alexandrinos). It was argued that, since the Canon contains a list both of Paul's genuine epistles and of those falsely ascribed to him, and since Hebrews is not mentioned, the Alexandrian epistle can mean only the Epistle to the Hebrews. It was further urged that Alexandria had, next to Jerusalem, the largest resident Jewish population in the world, and that at Leontopolis in Egypt was another temple, with the arrangements of which the notices in Hebrews corresponded more nearly than with those of the Jerusalem temple. Moreover, the Alexandrian character of the phraseology of the epistle was supposed to point to Alexandrian readers.
But, (a) We have no positive history of the church in Egypt in apostolic times. (b) Although there are numerous notices of the epistle by early Alexandrian writers, there is no hint of its having been addressed to their own church. (c) In the Muratorian Canon the Epistle to the Alexandrians is distinctly stated to be a forgery in the name of Paul. (d) It cannot be shown that the temple at Leontopolis exercised the same power over the Alexandrian Jews as the temple at Jerusalem did over the Palestinian Jews. Even in Egypt the Jerusalem temple was recognized as the true center of worship. Moreover, the Christian church at Alexandria was a mixed church. (e) The furniture of the temple at Jerusalem was more like that of the tabernacle described in Hebrews than that of the Egyptian temple.
A widely-accepted view is that the epistle was addressed to Jewish Christians in Palestine and Jerusalem. Unmixed Jewish-Christian churches were to be found nowhere else; and only there would there be likely to exist that attachment to the old worship which is assumed in the epistle, while it treats only incidentally of those rites to which, in the Dispersion, the greatest importance was naturally assigned - ablutions, etc. The claim that the epistle was addressed to Rome involves a mixed church. The Roman church became more Gentile after Paul's residence in Rome. On the assumption that Jewish Christians were addressed, it is difficult to account for the Roman destination, unless the letter was intended for a distinct circle of Jewish Christians in Rome, which is not impossible. That the epistle was used by Clement proves nothing. The phrase ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς οἱ ἀπὸ τῆς Ἰταλίας they from Italy salute you might seem to point to Rome as the residence of the parties saluted; but that is by no means certain. The meaning of the expression must first be settled. It may mean "those in Italy send greeting from Italy," or, "those who are from Italy (whose home is there, but who are now with me) send greeting to you (whoever may be addressed)." The latter meaning is the more probable; but on that supposition the words afford no reliable indication of the residence of those addressed. They mean merely that certain Italians in the writer's company greet the writer's correspondents, who may have been in Palestine, Asia, or Egypt.
The Palestinian hypothesis is not free from difficulty. It appears, at first sight, unlikely that the author would have written in Greek to Palestinian Jewish Christians, whose language was Aramaic, and would have used the Septuagint exclusively in citations from the Old Testament. Nevertheless, Greek was understood and spoken in Palestine: many Greek-speaking Jews resided in Jerusalem (Acts 6:9), and there were in that city synagogues of the Cyrenians and Alexandrians, in which Greek and the Septuagint would certainly be used. The Hellenists were numerous and influential enough to carry their point in the matter of ministration to their widows (Acts 6:1 ff.). Finally, it is not impossible that the writer of the epistle was not sufficiently acquainted with Aramaic to write effectively in that language.
The decisive settlement of the date of the epistle is practically given up by critics. The most that can be done is to try and fix approximately the limits within which the composition was possible. Only one point is definitely fixed. It must have been written before Clement's Epistle to the Corinthians (95). If addressed to Jewish Christians, or indeed to Gentiles, it is highly probable that it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem (70), since it is most unlikely that the writer would have omitted an allusion to an event which furnished such a striking confirmation of his teaching. This probability would be strengthened if it could be proved that the Jewish sacrifices were still being offered at the time when the epistle was composed: but this cannot be conclusively shown. The use of the present tense in Hebrews 8:4 ff.; Hebrews 9:6, Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 10:1 ff.; Hebrews 13:10 ff., is not decisive. Attempts to identify the persecution alluded to in Hebrews 10:2 are the merest guess-work. To refer it to the Neronian persecution (64) is to assume that it was addressed to Rome, and is, therefore, to beg the question. The reference of Hebrews 10:36 and Hebrews 12:3 to the persecution of Domitian (95), is utterly without foundation, to say nothing of the fact that it is not certain that those two passages refer to persecution at all. Against a date near 95 is the use of the epistle by Clement, unless the Roman address can be proved. Otherwise, some time would be required for it to obtain such currency and recognition as would account for Clement's familiarity with it. Against a very late date is also the fact that Timothy appears as an active evangelist, which could hardly have been the case if the letter was written as late as 90. Against a very early date is the admitted fact that a second generation of Christians is addressed; and that the references to persecution apparently point to a comparatively distant time. If we are to lay stress on the omission of all reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, as I think we must do, it seems to me that the epistle was written not far from 67.
There is no reason for disputing the author's acquaintance with the writings of Paul, as there is none for asserting his dependence upon them. There are lexical resemblances and resemblances in thought and phrasing, but nothing to show that the writer of Hebrews drew upon Paul to any considerable extent. The coincidences with Galatians which are pointed out are superficial, and may be fairly traced to common Jewish ideas with which both writers were familiar. As to Romans, Ephesians, and Corinthians, the resemblances are, in a number of cases, due to quotation from the same source; in other cases they occur in warnings from the example of the Israelites; in others again there is a coincidence of a current phrase, such as "if God permit," which any author might use. In some other instances cited the resemblance is too remote to be significant.
As to the influence of Philo, we may freely admit the evidences of the writer's Alexandrian training, and the possibility, probability, of his acquaintance with Philo's writings. The epistle does exhibit certain points of resemblance to Philo, such as similar forms of quotation, similar use of Old Testament passages and narratives, and statements like those of Philo, such as those respecting the sinlessness of the Logos-Priest, the heavenly home of the patriarchs, and the λόγος τομεύς the dividing word (Hebrews 4:12): but Philo's meaning differs radically from that of the epistle. Our writer's Christology has no affinity with that of Philo. On certain leading topics, such as the two ages of the world, the mediation of the law by angels, the Sabbath-rest, the heavenly sanctuary, and the heavenly Jerusalem, he exhibits more affinity with Palestinian than with Alexandrian thought. The most that can be claimed is that the Epistle to the Hebrews returns echoes of Philo, and exhibits formal and limited resemblances to him.
Words Which Occur Only in Hebrews
ἀπόστολος (of Christ)
Words Found in Hebrews and Elsewhere, But Not in Paul
[Words which occur in the Pastorals are marked *.]
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
Both stages of the revelation were given by God.
At sundry times (πολυμερῶς)
Rend. in many parts. N.T.o. olxx, but πολυμερής Wisd. 7:22. In the first stage of his revelation, God spake, not at once, giving a complete revelation of his being and will; but in many separate revelations, each of which set forth only a portion of the truth. The truth as a whole never comes to light in the O.T. It appears fragmentarily, in successive acts, as the periods of the Patriarchs, Moses, the Kingdom, etc. One prophet has one, another element of the truth to proclaim.
In divers manners (πολυτροπῶς)
Rend. in many ways. N.T.o. lxx, 4 Macc. 3:21. This refers to the difference of the various revelations in contents and form. Not the different ways in which God imparted his revelations to the prophets, but the different ways in which he spoke by the prophets to the fathers: in one way through Moses, in another through Elijah, in others through Isaiah, Ezekiel, etc. At the founding of the Old Testament kingdom of God, the character of the revelation was elementary. Later it was of a character to appeal to a more matured spiritual sense, a deeper understanding and a higher conception of the law. The revelation differed according to the faithfulness or unfaithfulness of the covenant-people. Comp. Ephesians 3:10, the many-tinted wisdom of God, which is associated with this passage by Clement of Alexandria (Strom. i. 4, 27). "Fitly, therefore, did the apostle call the wisdom of God many-tinted, as showing its power to benefit us in many parts and in many ways."
See on Matthew 28:18. Often in the Epistle of the announcement of the divine will by men, as Hebrews 7:14; Hebrews 9:19; by angels, as Hebrews 2:2; by God himself or Christ, as Hebrews 2:3; Hebrews 5:5; Hebrews 12:25. In Paul, almost always of men: once of Christ, 2 Corinthians 13:3; once of the Law, personified, Romans 3:9.
In time past (πάλαι)
Better, of old. The time of the Old Testament revelation. It indicates a revelation, not only given, but completed in the past.
Unto the fathers (τοῖς πατράσιν)
By the prophets (ἐν τοῖς προφήταις)
Rend. "in the prophets," which does not mean in the collection of prophetic writings, as John 6:45; Acts 13:40, but rather in the prophets themselves as the vessels of divine inspiration. God spake in them and from them. Thus Philo; "The prophet is an interpreter, echoing from within (ἔνδοθεν) the sayings of God" (De Praemiis et Poenis, 9)
Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
In these last times (ἐπ' ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων)
Lit. at the last of these days. The exact phrase only here; but comp 1 Peter 1:20 and Jde 1:18. lxx, ἐπ' ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν at the last of the days, Numbers 24:14; Deuteronomy 4:30; Jeremiah 23:20; Jeremiah 25:18; Daniel 10:14. The writer conceives the history of the world in its relation to divine revelation as falling into two great periods. The first he calls αἱ ἡμέραι αὗται these days (Hebrews 1:2), and ὀ καιρὸς ὁ ἐνεστηκώς the present season (Hebrews 9:9). The second he describes as καιρὸς διορθώσεως the season of reformation (Hebrews 9:10), which is ὀ καιρὸς ὁ μέλλων the season to come: comp. ἡ οἰκουμένη ἡ μέλλουσα the world to come (Hebrews 2:5); μέλλων αἰών the age to come (Hebrews 6:5); πόλις ἡ μέλλουσα the city to come (Hebrews 12:14). The first period is the period of the old covenant; the second that of the new covenant. The second period does not begin with Christ's first appearing. His appearing and public ministry are at the end of the first period but still within it. The dividing-point between the two periods is the συντέλεια τοῦ αἰῶνος the consummation of the age, mentioned in Hebrews 9:26. This does not mean the same thing as at the last of these days (Hebrews 1:2), which is the end of the first period denoted by these days, but the conclusion of the first and the beginning of the second period, at which Christ appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. This is the end of the καιρὸς ἐνεστηκώς the present season: this is the limit of the validity of the old sacrificial offerings: this is the inauguration of the time of reformation. The phrase ἐπ' ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων therefore signifies, in the last days of the first period, when Christ was speaking on earth, and before his crucifixion, which marked the beginning of the second period, the better age of the new covenant.
Hath spoken unto us (ἐλάλησεν ἡμῖν)
Rend. spake, referring to the time of Christ's teaching in the flesh. To us God spake as to the fathers of old.
By his son (ἐν υἱῷ)
Lit. in a son. Note the absence of the article. Attention is directed, not to Christ's divine personality, but to his filial relation. While the former revelation was given through a definite class, the prophets, the new revelation is given through one who is a son as distinguished from a prophet. He belongs to another category. The revelation was a son-revelation. See Hebrews 2:10-18. Christ's high priesthood is the central fact of the epistle, and his sonship is bound up with his priesthood. See Hebrews 5:5. For a similar use of υἱός son without the article, applied to Christ, see Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 5:8; Hebrews 7:28.
Whom he hath appointed heir of all things (ὃν ἔθηκεν κληρονόμον πάντων)
For ἔθηκεν appointed, see on John 15:16. For κληρονόμος heir, see on inheritance, 1 Peter 1:4; and comp. on Christ as heir, Mark 12:1-12. God eternally predestined the Son to be the possessor and sovereign of all things. Comp. Psalm 89:28. Heirship goes with sonship. See Romans 8:17; Galatians 4:7. Christ attained the messianic lordship through incarnation. Something was acquired as the result of his incarnation which he did not possess before it, and could not have possessed without it. Equality with God was his birthright, but out of his human life, death, and resurrection came a type of sovereignty which could pertain to him only through his triumph over human sin in the flesh (see Hebrews 1:3), through his identification with men as their brother. Messianic lordship could not pertain to his preincarnate state: it is a matter of function, not of inherent power and majesty. He was essentially Son of God; he must become Son of man.
By whom also he made the worlds (δι' οὗ καὶ ἐποίησεν τοὺς αἰῶνας)
Διὰ commonly expresses secondary agency, but, in some instances, it is used of God's direct agency. See 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 4:7. Christ is here represented as a mediate agency in creation. The phrase is, clearly, colored by the Alexandrian conception, but differs from it in that Christ is not represented as a mere instrument, a passive tool, but rather as a cooperating agent. "Every being, to reach existence, must have passed through the thought and will of the Logos" (Godet); yet "the Son can do nothing of himself but what he seeth the Father doing" (John 5:19). With this passage Colossians 1:16 should be studied. There it is said that all things, collectively (τὰ πάντα), were created in him (ἐν αὐτῷ) and through him (δι' αὐτοῦ as here). The former expression enlarges and completes the latter. Δι' αὐτοῦ represents Christ as the mediate instrument. Ἐν αὐτῷ indicates that "all the laws and purposes which guide the creation and government of the universe reside in him, the Eternal Word, as their meeting-point." Comp. John 1:3; 1 Corinthians 8:6. For τοῦς αἰῶνας the worlds, see additional note on 2 Thessalonians 1:9. Rend. for by whom also he made, by whom he also made. The emphasis is on made, not on worlds: on the fact of creation, not on what was created. In the writer's thought heirship goes with creation. Christ is heir of what he made, and because he made it. As πάντων, in the preceding clause, regards all things taken singly, αἰῶνας regards them in cycles. Ἀιῶνας does not mean times, as if representing the Son as the creator of all time and times, but creation unfolded in time through successive aeons. All that, in successive periods of time, has come to pass, has come to pass through him. Comp. 1 Corinthians 10:11; Ephesians 3:21; Hebrews 9:26; 1 Timothy 1:17; lxx, Tob. 13:6, 10; Ecclesiastes 3:11. See also Clement of Rome, Ad 1 Corinthians 35, ὁ δημιουργὸς καὶ πατὴρ τῶν αἰώνων the Creator and Father of the ages. Besides this expression, the writer speaks of the world as κόσμος (Hebrews 4:3; Hebrews 10:5); ἡ οἰκουμένη (Hebrews 1:6), and τὰ πάντα (Hebrews 1:3).
Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
Representing absolute being. See on John 1:1. Christ's absolute being is exhibited in two aspects, which follow:
The brightness of his glory (ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ)
Of God's glory. For brightness rend. effulgence. Ἀπαύγασμα, N.T.o. lxx, only Wisd. 7:26. oClass. It is an Alexandrian word, and occurs in Philo. Interpretation is divided between effulgence and reflection. Effulgence or outraying accords better with the thought of the passage; for the writer is treating of the preincarnate Son; and, as Alford justly remarks, "the Son of God is, in this his essential majesty, the expression and the sole expression of the divine light; not, as in his incarnation, its reflection." The consensus of the Greek fathers to this effect is of great weight. The meaning then is, that the Son is the outraying of the divine glory, exhibiting in himself the glory and majesty of the divine Being. "God lets his glory issue from himself, so that there arises thereby a light-being like himself" (Weiss). Δόξα glory is the expression of the divine attributes collectively. It is the unfolded fullness of the divine perfections, differing from μορφὴ θεοῦ form of God (Philippians 2:6), in that μορφὴ is the immediate, proper, personal investiture of the divine essence. Δόξα is attached to deity. μορφὴ is identified with the inmost being of deity Δόξα is used of various visible displays of divine light and splendor, as Exodus 24:17; Deuteronomy 5:24; Exodus 40:34; Numbers 14:10; Numbers 16:19, Numbers 16:42; Ezekiel 10:4; Ezekiel 43:4, Ezekiel 43:5; Ezekiel 1:28, Ezekiel 3:23; Leviticus 9:23, etc. We come nearer to the sense of the word in this passage in the story of Moses's vision of the divine glory, Exodus 33:18-23; Exodus 34:5, Exodus 34:7.
The express image of his person (χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ)
Rend the very image (or impress) of his substance The primary sense of ὑπόστασις substance is something which stands underneath; foundation, ground of hope or confidence, and so assurance itself. In a philosophical sense, substantial nature; the real nature of anything which underlies and supports its outward form and properties. In N.T., 2 Corinthians 9:4; 2 Corinthians 11:17, Hebrews 3:14; Hebrews 11:1, signifying in every instance ground of confidence or confidence In lxx, it represents fifteen different words, and, in some cases, it is hard to understand its meaning notably 1 Samuel 13:21. In Ruth 1:12, Psalm 37:8, Ezekiel 19:5, it means ground of hope: in Judges 6:4, Wisd. 16:21, sustenance in Psalm 38:5; Psalm 136:15, the substance or material of the human frame: in 1 Samuel 13:23; Ezekiel 26:11, an outpost or garrison: in Deuteronomy 11:6; Job 22:20, possessions. The theological sense, person, is later than the apostolic age. Here, substantial nature, essence. Χαρακτὴρ from χαράσσειν to engrave or inscribe, originally a graving-tool; also the die on which a device is cut. It seems to have lost that meaning, and always signifies the impression made by the die or graver. Hence, mark, stamp, as the image on a coin (so often) which indicates its nature and value, or the device impressed by a signet. N.T.o. lxx, Leviticus 13:28; 2 Macc. 4:10; 4 Macc. 15:4. The kindred χάραγμα mark, Acts 17:29; Revelation 13:16, Revelation 13:17. Here the essential being of God is conceived as setting its distinctive stamp upon Christ, coming into definite and characteristic expression in his person, so that the Son bears the exact impress of the divine nature and character.
And upholding all things (φέρων τε τὰ πάντα)
Rend. maintaining. Upholding conveys too much the idea of the passive support of a burden. "The Son is not an Atlas, sustaining the dead weight of the world" (quoted by Westcott). Neither is the sense that of ruling or guiding, as Philo (De Cherub. 11), who describes the divine word as "the steersman and pilot of the all." It implies sustaining, but also movement. It deals with a burden, not as a dead weight, but as in continual movement; as Weiss puts it, "with the all in all its changes and transformations throughout the aeons." It is concerned, not only with sustaining the weight of the universe, but also with maintaining its coherence and carrying on its development. What is said of God, Colossians 1:17, is here said or implied of Christ: τὰ πάντα ἐν αὐτῷ συνέστηκεν all things (collectively, the universe) consist or maintain their coherence in him. So the Logos is called by Philo the bond (δεσμὸς) of the universe; but the maintenance of the coherence implies the guidance and propulsion of all the parts to a definite end. All things (τὰ πάντα) collectively considered; the universe; all things in their unity. See Hebrews 2:10; Romans 8:32; Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:16.
By the word of his power (τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ)
The phrase N.T.o., but comp Luke 1:37, and see note. The word is that in which the Son's power manifests itself. Ἀυτοῦ his refers to Christ. Nothing in the context suggests any other reference. The world was called into being by the word of God (Hebrews 11:3), and is maintained by him who is "the very image of God's substance."
When he had by himself purged our sins (καθαρισμὸν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ποιησάμενος)
Omit by himself; yet a similar thought is implied in the middle voice, ποιησάμενος, which indicates that the work of purification was done by Christ personally, and was not something which he caused to be done by some other agent. Purged, lit. having made purification. The phrase N.T.o lxx, Job 7:21. Καθαρισμός purification occurs in Mark, Luke John, 2nd Peter, oP., and only here in Hebrews. The verb καθαρίζειν to purify is not often used in N.T of cleansing from sin. See 2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 John 1:7, 1 John 1:9. Of cleansing the conscience, Hebrews 9:14. Of cleansing meats and vessels, Matthew 23:25, Matthew 23:26, Mark 7:19, Acts 10:15; Acts 11:9. Of cleansing the heart, Acts 15:9. The meaning here is cleansing of sins. In the phrase "to cleanse from sin," always with ἀπὸ from. In carrying on all things toward their destined end of conformity to the divine archetype, the Son must confront and deal with the fact of sin, which had thrown the world into disorder, and drawn it out of God's order. In the thought of making purification of sins is already foreshadowed the work of Christ as high priest, which plays so prominent a part in the epistle.
Sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high (ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς μεγαλωσύνης ἐν ὑψηλοῖς)
Comp. Psalm 110:1, Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12; Hebrews 12:2; Ephesians 1:20; Revelation 3:21. The verb denotes a solemn, formal act; the assumption of a position of dignity and authority The reference is to Christ's ascension. In his exalted state he will still be bearing on all things toward their consummation, still dealing with sin as the great high priest in the heavenly sanctuary. This is elaborated later. See Hebrews 8:1-13; Hebrews 9:12 ff. Μεγαλωσύνη majesty, only here, Hebrews 8:1; Jde 1:25. Quite often in lxx. There is suggested, not a contrast with his humiliation, but his resumption of his original dignity, described in the former part of this verse. Ἐν ὑψηλοῖς, lit. in the high places. Const. with sat down, not with majesty. The phrase N.T.o. lxx, Psalm 92:4; Psalm 112:5. Ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστοις in the highest (places), in the Gospels, and only in doxologies. See Matthew 21:9; Mark 11:10; Luke 2:14. Ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις in the heavenly (places), only in Ephesians. See Ephesians 1:3, Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 2:6; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12.
Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
The detailed development of the argument is now introduced. The point is to show the superiority of the agent of the new dispensation to the agents of the old - the angels and Moses. Christ's superiority to the angels is first discussed.
Being made so much better than the angels (τοσούτῳ κρείττων γενόμενος τῶν ἀγγέλων)
The informal and abrupt introduction of this topic goes to show that the writer was addressing Jewish Christians, who were familiar with the prominent part ascribed to angels in the O.T. economy, especially in the giving of the law. See on Galatians 3:9. For being made, rend. having become; which is to be taken in close connection with sat down, etc., and in contrast with ὢν being, Hebrews 1:3. It is not denied that the Son was essentially and eternally superior to the angels; but his glorification was conditioned upon his fulfillment of the requirements of his human state, and it is this that is emphasized. After having passed through the experience described in Philippians 2:6-8, he sat down on the right hand of the divine majesty as messianic sovereign, and so became or proved to be what in reality he was from eternity, superior to the angels. Τοσούτῳ - ὅσῳ so much - as. Never used by Paul. Κρείττων better, superior, rare in Paul, and always neuter and adverbial. In Hebrews thirteen times. See also 1 Peter 3:17; 2 Peter 2:21. Often in lxx. It does not indicate here moral excellence, but dignity and power. He became superior to the angels, resuming his preincarnate dignity, as he had been, for a brief period, less or lower than the angels (Hebrews 2:7). The superiority of Messiah to the angels was affirmed in rabbinical writings.
He hath by inheritance obtained (κεκληρονόμηκεν)
More excellent (διαφορώτερον)
Διάφορος only once outside of Hebrews, Romans 12:6. The comparative only in Hebrews. In the sense of more excellent, only in later writers. Its earlier sense is different. The idea of difference is that which radically distinguishes it from κρείττων better. Here it presents the comparative of a comparative conception. The Son's name differs from that of the angels, and is more different for good.
Than they (παρ' αὐτοὺς)
Lit. beside or in comparison with them. Παρα, indicating comparison, occurs a few times in Luke, as Luke 3:13; Luke 13:2; Luke 18:4. In Hebrews always to mark comparison, except Hebrews 11:11, Hebrews 11:12.
For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?
The writer proceeds to establish the superiority of the Son to the angels by O.T. testimony. It is a mode of argument which does not appeal strongly to us. Dr. Bruce suggests that there are evidences that the writer himself developed it perfunctorily and without much interest in it. The seven following quotations are intended to show the surpassing excellence of Christ's name as set forth in Scripture. The quotations present difficulty in that they appear, in great part, to be used in a sense and with an application different from those which they originally had. All that can be said is, that the writer takes these passages as messianic, and applies them accordingly; and that we must distinguish between the doctrine and the method of argumentation peculiar to the time and people. Certain passages in Paul are open to the same objection, as Galatians 3:16; Galatians 4:22-25.
To which (τίνι)
First quotation from Psalm 2:7. The Psalm is addressed as a congratulatory ode to a king of Judah, declaring his coming triumph over the surrounding nations, and calling on them to render homage to the God of Israel. The king is called Son of Jahveh, and is said to be "begotten" on the day on which he is publicly recognized as king. Words of the same Psalm are quoted Acts 4:25, and these words Acts 13:33.
Thou art my Son
Note the emphatic position of υἱός son. See on Hebrews 1:4. In the O.T. son is applied to angels collectively, but never individually. See Psalm 29:1; Psalm 89:6. Similarly, son is applied to the chosen nation, Exodus 4:22; Hosea 11:1, but to no individual of the nation.
Have I begotten (γεγέννηκα)
Recognized thee publicly as sovereign; established thee in an official sonship-relation. This official installation appears to have its N.T. counterpart in the resurrection of Christ. In Acts 13:33, this is distinctly asserted; and in Romans 1:4, Paul says that Christ was "powerfully declared" to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead. Comp. Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5.
Second quotation, 2 Samuel 7:14. The reference is to Solomon. David proposes to build a temple. Nathan tells him that this shall be done by Solomon, whom Jahveh will adopt as his son. In 2 Corinthians 6:18, Paul applies the passage to followers of the Messiah, understanding the original as referring to all the spiritual children of David.
A father - a son (εἰς πατέρα - εἰς υἱόν)
And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.
Third quotation, marking the relation of angels to the Son.
And again, when he bringeth in, etc. (ὅταν δὲ πάλιν εἰσαγάγῃ)
Const. again with bringeth in. "When he a second time bringeth the first-begotten into the world." Referring to the second coming of Christ. Others explain again as introducing a new citation as in Hebrews 1:5; but this would require the reading πάλιν δὲ ὅταν and again, when. In Hebrews, πάλιν, when joined to a verb, always means a second time. See Hebrews 5:12; Hebrews 6:1, Hebrews 6:2. It will be observed that in this verse, and in Hebrews 5:7, Hebrews 5:8, God is conceived as spoken of rather than as speaking; the subject of λέγει saith being indefinite. This mode of introducing citations differs from that of Paul. The author's conception of the inspiration of Scripture leads him to regard all utterances of Scripture, without regard to their connection, as distinct utterances of God, or the Holy Spirit, or the Son of God; whereas, by Paul, they are designated either as utterances of Scripture in general, or of individual writers. Very common in this Epistle are the expressions, "God saith, said, spake, testifieth," or the like. See Hebrews 2:11, Hebrews 2:13; Hebrews 3:7; Hebrews 4:4, Hebrews 4:7; Hebrews 7:21; Hebrews 10:5, Hebrews 10:8, Hebrews 10:15, Hebrews 10:30. Comp. with these Romans 1:17; Romans 2:24; Romans 4:17; Romans 7:7; Romans 9:13; Romans 10:5, Romans 10:16, Romans 10:20, Romans 10:21; Romans 11:2. Ὅταν εἰσαγάγῃ whenever he shall have brought. The event is conceived as occurring at an indefinite time in the future, but is viewed as complete. Comp. John 16:4; Acts 24:22. This use of ὅταν with the aorist subjunctive never describes an event or series of events as completed in the past.
The first-begotten (τὸν πρωτότοκον)
Mostly in Paul and Hebrews. Comp. Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15, Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5. Μονογενής only-begotten (John 1:14, John 1:18; John 3:16, John 3:18; 1 John 4:9, never by Paul) describes the unique relation of the Son to the Father in his divine nature: πρωτότοκος first-begotten describes the relation of the risen Christ in his glorified humanity to man. The comparison implied in the word is not limited to angels. He is the first-born in relation to the creation, the dead, the new manhood, etc. See Colossians 1:15, Colossians 1:18. The rabbinical writers applied the title first-born even to God. Philo (De Confus. Ling. 14) speaks of the Logos as πρωτόγονος or πρεσβύτατος the first-born or eldest son.
And let all the angels of God worship him (καὶ προσκυνησάτωσαν αὐτῷ πάντες ἄγγελοι θεοῦ)
Προσκυνεῖν to worship mostly in the Gospels, Acts, and Apocrypha. In Paul only 1 Corinthians 14:25. Very often in lxx. Originally, to kiss the hand to: thence, to do homage to. Not necessarily of an act of religious reverence (see Matthew 9:18; Matthew 20:20), but often in N.T. in that sense. Usually translated worship, whether a religious sense is intended or not: see on Acts 10:25. The quotation is not found in the Hebrew of the O.T., but is cited literally from lxx, Deuteronomy 32:43. It appears substantially in Psalm 96:7. For the writer of Hebrews the lxx was Scripture, and is quoted throughout without regard to its correspondence with the Hebrew.
And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.
Fourth quotation, Psalm 103:4, varies slightly from lxx in substituting a flame of fire for flaming fire.
Who maketh his angels spirits (ὁ ποιῶν τοὺς ἀγγέλους αὐτοῦ πνεύματα)
For spirits rend. winds This meaning is supported by the context of the Psalm, and by John 3:8. Πνεῦμα often in this sense in Class. In lxx, 1 Kings 18:45; 1 Kings 19:11; 2 Kings 3:17; Job 1:19. Of breath in N.T., 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 11:11. In Hebrew, spirit and wind are synonymous. The thought is according to the rabbinical idea of the variableness of the angelic nature. Angels were supposed to live only as they ministered. Thus it was said: "God does with his angels whatever he will. When he wishes he makes them sitting: sometimes he makes them standing: sometimes he makes them winds, sometimes fire." "The subjection of the angels is such that they must submit even to be changed into elements." "The angel said to Manoah, 'I know not to the image of what I am made; for God changes us each hour: wherefore then dost thou ask my name? Sometimes he makes us fire, sometimes wind."' The emphasis, therefore, is not on the fact that the angels are merely servants, but that their being is such that they are only what God makes them according to the needs of their service, and are, therefore, changeable, in contrast with the Son, who is ruler and unchangeable. There would be no pertinency in the statement that God makes his angels spirits, which goes without saying. The Rabbis conceived the angels as perishable. One of them is cited as saying, "Day by day the angels of service are created out of the fire. stream, and sing a song, and disappear, as is said in Lamentations 3:23, 'they are new every morning.'" For λειτουργοὺς ministers, see on ministration, Luke 1:23, and see on ministered, Acts 13:2.
But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.
Fifth quotation, Psalm 45:7, Psalm 45:8. A nuptial ode addressed to an Israelitish king. The general sense is that the Messiah's kingdom is eternal and righteously administered.
Thy throne, O God (ὁ θρόνος σου ὁ θεὸς)
I retain the vocative, although the translation of the Hebrew is doubtful. The following renderings have been proposed: "thy throne (which is a throne) of God": "thy throne is (a throne) of God": "God is thy throne." Some suspect that the Hebrew text is defective.
Forever and ever (εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος)
Lit. unto the aeon of the aeon. See additional note on 2 Thessalonians 1:9.
A sceptre of righteousness (ἡ ῥάβδος τῆς εὐθύτητος)
Rend. the sceptre. The phrase N.T.o. olxx. Ἐυθύτης, lit. straightness, N.T.o. It occurs in lxx.
Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
Hath anointed (ἔχρισεν)
See on Christ, Matthew 1:1. The ideas of the royal and the festive unction are combined. The thought includes the royal anointing and the fullness of blessing and festivity which attend the enthronement.
Oil of gladness (ἔλαιον ἀγαλλιάσεως)
With exception of Luke 5:7, only in Hebrews. Lit. partakers. In the Psalm it is applied to other kings: here to angels.
And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:
Sixth quotation (Hebrews 1:10-12), exhibiting the superior dignity of the Son as creator in contrast with the creature. Psalm 102:26-28. The Psalm declares the eternity of Jahveh.
And - in the beginning (καὶ - κατ' ἀρχάς)
And connects what follows with unto the Son he saith, etc., Hebrews 1:8. Κατ' ἀρχὰς in the beginning, N.T.o. Often in Class., lxx only Psalm 119:152. The more usual formula is ἐν ἀρχῇ or ἀπ' ἀρχῆς.
Hast laid the foundation (ἐθεμελίωσας)
They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment;
The heavens: not heaven and earth.
Note the present tense: not shalt remain. Permanency is the characteristic of God in the absolute and eternal present.
And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.
Only here and 1 Corinthians 11:5. From περιβάλλειν to throw around: a wrapper, mantle.
Shalt thou fold them up (ἑλίξεις αὐτούς)
Rather, roll them up. A scribal error for ἀλλάξεις shalt change. After these words the lxx repeats ὡς ἱμάτιον as a garment from Hebrews 1:11.
Shall not fail (οὐκ ἐκλείψουσιν)
But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?
Seventh quotation, Psalm 109. No one of the angels was ever enthroned at God's right hand.
Or be sitting, as distinguished from ἐκάθισεν, Hebrews 1:3, which marked the act of assuming the place.
On my right hand (ἐκ δεξιῶν μοῦ)
Lit. "from my right hand." The usual formula is ἐν δεξίᾳ. The genitive indicates moving from the right hand and taking the seat. The meaning is, "be associated with me in my royal dignity." Comp. Daniel 7:13, Daniel 7:14, and the combination of the Psalm and Daniel in Christ's words, Mark 14:62. Comp. also Matthew 24:30; Acts 2:34; 1 Corinthians 15:25; 1 Peter 3:22.
Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
Ministering spirits (λειτουργικὰ πνεύματα)
Summing up the function of the angels as compared with Christ. Christ's is the highest dignity. He is co-ruler with God. The angels are servants appointed for service to God for the sake of (διὰ) the heirs of redemption. Λειτουργικὰ ministering, N.T.o. See on ministers, Hebrews 1:7.