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The New World Translation, gives us a very contrary translation of this verse, that sets the stage for this question.! It's translators have this rendering to offer as a legitimate rendering of Hebrews 1:8

"But with reference to the Son: "God is your throne" forever and ever, and [the] scepter of your kingdom is the scepter of uprightness." Heb 1:8

The majority of other versions are along the lines of the NASB where it is written..

8 "But of the Son He says,

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, And the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom."

At first glance there seems to be a considerable difference between these translations and we are immediately led to ask the question, why have the NWT Translators taken such a course?

Is such a translation justified in any way at all, either linguistically or scriptually.

We read in John 1 14-15:

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18*No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.*

In view of the above, how can we see the NWT as an accurate translation of Hebrews 1:8?

From a layman's perspective, an analysis, from a cursory appraisal, of the English set before me, is that the NWT translation actually says, that Christ Jesus, is sitting on God. To say, "God is your throne," reads that Jesus is sat on God. A throne is less than the person that sits on it. A throne is a symbol or sign of authority. Without a King to sit on it, or a people to give authority to it , it is nothing. Is it correct to say that God is a throne? Further, is it correct to say that a created being sits on that throne, that a created being sits on God, as we have it with the NWT translation.

God says the Earth is His footstool and "heaven is His throne" as in Mathew 5:34.

34 "But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:

35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King."

If heaven is Gods throne how can, "God is your throne" be an accurate English translation?

I cannot find any scripture that would confirm or justify this translation

Tell me if I am wrong, but where can I find an instance in scripture, where God takes, a secondary position, to a created being, when discussing Deity and describes Himself as less than a created being, by using the Word "throne" as an allegory for God.

There is one other explanation maybe, that the translation, "God is your throne", can be understood in some other cultures, as if the throne represented the person. When you speak of the throne in effect you speak of it as the king and vice versa.

John 17:10 "All I have is yours, and all you have is mine."

Is it important, for the true sense of this scripture, to have the translations that we have, from a protestant tradition, and are the protestant traditions translations of this scripture, Hebrews 1:8, accurate in terms of its true sense?

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One way to resolve these translational questions is to just look up the list of translators, and (if they are still alive) simply write them a letter and politely ask them why they translated a passage a certain way. Unfortunately, the NWT translators were too "humble" to put their name to their translation. –  cdjc Nov 13 '13 at 18:30
@cdjc I heard a story 20 years ago to the effect that Mr Russel claimed that he understood koine Greek. Apparently he was taken to court and asked to read the alphabet in Greek which he failed to do. Maybe it was just propaganda !watchman.org/jw/jwcourt.htm Just found this..!it was true after all..! –  John Unsworth Nov 26 '13 at 18:41
Is this supposed to be a doctrinal question about a specific passage or a doctrinal question about the nature of Jesus based on the whole NT? Right now it has elements of both and we really need to work out exactly what you're after. –  Caleb Dec 10 '13 at 16:38

4 Answers 4

The NWT translation rests on two quirks of Greek.

Ὁ θρόνος σου ὁ θεὸς εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος, ...(SBLGNT)

the throne of you the God into the age of the age, ...(my nearly word-for-word translation)

First, the nominative case and the vocative case often share the same forms. So the original passage has two occurrences of the word form "ὁ" ("the") followed by a noun. The first pair ("the throne") is considered nominative by all translations.

The second pair ("the God") is considered vocative in most translations. Under this reading, "the throne" is the subject of the sentence and "the God" is the one to whom the sentence is addressed, and may be rendered "O God" (even though it doesn't have a preceding "ὦ" like some occurrences do).

Apparently, the NWT translators chose to attempt to render them both as nominative, reading "the God" as the subject and "the throne" as the predicate, which leads us to our second quirk: sometimes the verb "to be" is omitted but implied. This is rare but not without precedence (see e.g. http://inthesaltshaker.com/drills/eimi.htm). A couple of examples from the NT:

James 3:6 καὶ ἡ γλῶσσα πῦρ (and the tongue [is] a fire)

Philippians 3:19 ὧν τὸ τέλος ἀπώλεια, ὧν ὁ θεὸς ἡ κοιλία (of whom the end [is] destruction, of whom the God [is] the stomach)

However, it is far more common to have two nouns like this be connected by "and", "or", "as", etc. or have an explicit verb.

Therefore, there is perhaps a linguistic opportunity for the NWT reading if the passage were isolated. But it is a quote of Psalm 45:6:

ὁ θρόνος σου ὁ θεὸς εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος, ...(LXX)

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever (NASB)

...which tracks word for word in Greek. But the LXX is a translation of the Hebrew (and we are in a book addressed to Hebrews). Therefore, it might make sense to find Hebrew versions of the passage to get at the original intent:

ז כִּסְאֲךָ אֱלֹהִים, עוֹלָם וָעֶד; שֵׁבֶט מִישֹׁר, שֵׁבֶט מַלְכוּתֶךָ.

Thy throne given of God is for ever and ever (JPS)

Your divine throne is everlasting (NJPS)

Your throne, O judge, [will exist] forever and ever (CJB (Messianic))

Although there is some ambiguity there (and I'll let someone with more Hebrew knowledge than I comment), it doesn't appear to favor the NWT translation.

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Without taking sides in this debate I would maintain that the Hebrew of Ps 45,6 is ambiguous in exactly the same way as the Greek: אֱלֹהִים can be either vocative ("Thy throne, oh God"), or nominative ("God is thy throne"). –  fdb Aug 25 '14 at 13:38

Take note that Hebrew 1 shows that Jesus is different from the angels in that he is related ontologically with God the Father that is why it's really more probable that the author of Hebrews wanted to convey that Jesus is God (in the strictess sense of the word) who sits on an everlasting throne because the immediate context shows that Jesus is God's only begotten Son, of same nature with God the Father.

Hebrews 1:3-5 (ESV)

3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”?

Furthermore, Hebrews 1:8-9 is a direct quotation from the Greek Version ( The Sepuagint) of Psalm 45:6-7 wherein the one being address as ὁ θεὸς is a human king.

Note that angels as well as humans were called 'gods' in the Scriptures.

Exodus 15:11 (ESV)

Who is like unto thee, O Jehovah, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders?

Psalm. 82:6-7 (NIV)

I said, "You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High."Nevertheless you will die like men And fall like any one of the princes."

But Hebrews 1:8 is not calling Jesus ὁ θεὸς because he is 'a god' like other human rulers or angelic beings but rather, he is called 'God' -- in the strictest sense of the word -- because he is ontologically ( by nature) God himself.

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Yeah, Jesus is eternal but he isn't Yahweh. He was with Yahweh before anything was created, since nothing was created without Him(Jesus, The Messiah, Yashua, etc.) The Word and God were with each other in the beginning. They are both from everlasting to everlasting, and there was even a prophecy about it. 'His origins will be from days of old, from everlasting to everlasting' - when Jesus The preeminent Son of God is referred to. Just because he is eternal does not mean He is Yahweh. He told that before Abraham was He is, but that just means he is eternal and not created, but exists as One that cannot be taken away, or always was. I am not sure why scriptures have been poisoned so much it makes it harder to convert someone and it's quite frustrating when the very tool that should give aide is spoiled and destroys the true message of the Gospel. Ephesians 1:3 and other parts clearly state that the God of Jesus is Yahweh, who is literally the one and only God. The Greek proskuneo is used for obeisance and is somehow translated as worship when referred to Jesus. I mean he is The Messiah so he is to be given honor above all things created and is rightly so by those who follow Him. He is Lord. I mean I think I am still learning and at this point I do not trust easily the information I receive, but there are contradictions in published bibles that oppose the said perceptions of religious sects and sort of oppose the ones that are stated in the very same thing. Jesus is the very image of God in a sense, because He is like God in very character. That is why if you see Him you have seen The Father. But people making Him out to be Yahweh - I do not think they believe in Him, but something else.

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Welcome to BH. This answer seems to be an attempt to address the question in a general way, but seems to be opinion. Inparticular, it does not address the meaning of Hebrews 1:8, which is really the crux of the question. The Help Center advises: "Read the question carefully. What, specifically, is the question asking for? Make sure your answer provides that – or a viable alternative." –  Dick Harfield Feb 15 at 7:31
Augustine - thank you for your input. Each and every one of us comes from different traditions (to include Jewish). We want to know what the text says so that we can come to our own conclusions about the ethical and theological results. In other words, we dig into the texts and let the texts speak for themselves. Remember: these Biblical texts have existed and survived for millennia, so it is important to be careful that we interpret them to the best of our ability (but with not so much reliance on the opinions of opinions of opinions which form much of what we call our own traditions). –  Joseph Feb 15 at 15:12
After being freed by Jesus from being controlled by the control of my lustful sin I tried to learn the truth more and prayed about it. God gave me the understanding that Jesus is not Him literally. They are one in mind, heart, and He and God are One that way(I and my Father are One). God gave Jesus authority over all things that are created. The texts have been violated like they were in Jeremiah's day, so it's better to pray hard that God will show you The Truth. In fact, Jesus worshiped God and told the Devil that Yahweh alone is to be worshiped. Jesus also prayed to Yahweh to be glorified. –  Augustine Feb 16 at 4:03
Jesus even said that, there would be a time when the disciples would ask him for nothing. They, after this time had passed, still prayed to God however, and if Jesus was Yahweh then that means that they prayed to Him which contradicts what he said. Hence why one should pray to The Father in the name of the Son. The Pharisees thought Jesus made himself out to be God, but they did not understand his divinity. They did not understand He was sent from God, and that all of these things He's able to do were done through Yahweh, which is why He even told them He did many good deeds through Yahweh. –  Augustine Feb 16 at 4:08
The Pharisees did not understand Him so they assumed He was claiming to be Yahweh. He was and is called many things He isn't. They also thought He came to destroy the Law, but He came on earth to show The Way, which fulfills the Law more than adequately. The Godhead Trinity concept thing (The belief that Yahweh is The Father, Son and Holy Spirit), is something that I think was accepted many years after The Twelve preached, which doesn't make sense since people were saved by their faith in Jesus (which was done after He was preached to the people who put their faith in Him). –  Augustine Feb 16 at 4:20

Yes, that translation does carry some weight to it and although I disagree with much of what the JW's put forth, the interpretation of that verse does have credence. The phrase "Thy throne IS God" was not said as a literal westernized meaning such as an object that someone sits on. Rather it's an idiom describing WHERE the power comes from. The Son's power comes FROM Yahuweh (aka God). This is exactly the way that the Hebrews of the Tanakh/Old Testament times understood it. When they read Psalm 45 they were not reading it as "God" coming in the flesh, but rather the coming Messiah who would reign as king on earth whose power and authority came FROM Yahuweh (aka God). In fact, immediately after verse 6 in Psalm 45, verse 7 states, just like Hebrews 1, that the Messiah HAS a god. So if Messiah were God Himself, that would make two Gods by God HAVING a God and the Scriptures are clear that there is only one God.

So in conclusion, yes, the NWT was not entirely off base here to translate Hebrews 1 as "Thy throne IS God". The idiom or metaphor here is relating to the source of power as the symbol of the power is the "throne". We know that the Son was the first creation (Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:6, Revelation 3:14), that Yahuweh (aka God) is the God and Father of the Messiah (Revelation 1:6, etc), and that there is only one god. The idea of the trinity in Christendom wasn't really introduced until nearly the fourth century. Do some further study into that John 1:18 that you posted. The phrase "who is Himself God" or "who is the same as God" is actually an insertion that is not there in the original manuscripts.

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The question for me really is why they deviated from the accepted standard translations. The Answer is that The New World translators, were following a doctrinal position, when translating and this is Just another example of their Denial that the unborn God was born of a woman an walked among us. They have deliberately obscured a very clear text because it categorically declares the Godhood of Jesus of Nazareth! Those who have met Him know who He is, The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end..Colossians 1:15 says, "first born over all creation" not "first creation" as you say.! –  John Unsworth Nov 11 '13 at 21:47
That actually makes it rather loaded semantically. The new world translators may have very well been following a doctrinal position, but so does every translator/translation team. Your usage of 'accepted standard translations' just means "what's popularly understood". Bias is available all over the place. The KJV used the phrase "...in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." in 1 John 5:7 in order to perpetuate the myth of the trinity and others followed suit although modern translations have done away with it. Hebrews 1:8 is the same either way. No trinity. –  The Duke Of Marshall שלם Nov 12 '13 at 1:41
The word "trinity" might not have come about until later, but the concept was certainly around from the first century. It didn't come to the fore as an issue until later. –  Lance Roberts Nov 18 '13 at 19:54
I don't disagree that the theory of the trinity might have been around in the first century. In fact, the ancient Egyptians had a trinity as well. The relevant fact, though, is that it wasn't mingled in with the true believers. Jesus wasn't a trinitarian. Neither was Peter, Paul, Matthew, John, Barnabas, James, etc. Neither were the first century believers. So the idea may have been there in the first century and before hand, but the theory of trinity wasn't forced upon christians until much later on. At the very least starting with the council of constantinople. –  The Duke Of Marshall שלם Nov 24 '13 at 0:49
To say that every translator team is biased doctrinaly is to deny that a serious christian is only interested in making clear the truth and I think most of them have done a decent job. There is a big difference between protestant traditions and a cult that would deny the Godhood of God. Clarity is the purpose of a good translator. The protestant tradition has accomplished that in every area necessary for the furtherance of the Gospel and the good news. As regards the Trinity, They the Godhead are something every child of God feels and knows. Once they are known it seems pointless to question! –  John Unsworth Dec 10 '13 at 19:17

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