8

Heb 1:3 He is the reflection of God's glory [shining?] and the exact likeness of his being, and he holds everything together by his [God's] powerful word. After he had provided ["performed"] a cleansing from sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Highest Majesty [God]

Heb 1:3 ος ων απαυγασμα της δοξης και χαρακτηρ της υποστασεως αυτου φερων τε τα παντα τω ρηματι της δυναμεως αυτου δι εαυτου καθαρισμον ποιησαμενος των αμαρτιων Aποιησαμενος ημων εκαθισεν εν δεξια της μεγαλωσυνης εν υψηλοις

Modern Trinitarian "Bibles" render χαρακτηρ της υποστασεως αυτου as "the exact likeness of his being" or "express image" and the like implying that his substance is just like God's. I really don't think χαρακτηρ indicates "exact likeness" as it is used for the simple rendering of Caesar's head on a coin:

χαρακτήρ, ῆρος, ὁ (fr. χαράσσω ‘engrave’ via χάραγμα; Aeschyl., Hdt.+; ins, pap, LXX; TestSol 11:6; TestSim 5:4 [‘copy’, of the Book of Enoch]; ApcSed 7:4; EpArist; Philo; Jos., Ant. 13, 322; Just.; Tat. 17, 2 [in the two last, of letters of the alphabet]; loanw. in rabb.). ① a mark or impression placed on an object ⓐ of coinage impress, reproduction, representation (Eur., El. 559; Aristot., Pol. 1, 6, Oec. 2; Diod S 17, 66, 2; OGI 339, 45; in imagery Polyb. 18, 34, 7; Philo, Plant. 18) in imagery IMg 5:2ab. p 1078 ⓑ of a distinguishing mark trademark τὸ κεφαλοδέσμιον … χαρακτῆρα ἔχει βασιλικόν the headpiece bears a royal trademark (i.e. the logo of a manufacturer for the imperial establishment; s. deStrycker ad loc. and AJohnson, Roman Egypt to the Reign of Diocletian ’36, 332–33; 626–27) GJs 2:2. S. 3 below. ② someth. produced as a representation, reproduction, representation, fig., of God ἄνθρωπον ἔπλασεν τῆς ἑαυτοῦ εἰκόνος χαρακτῆρα (God) formed a human being as reproduction of his own identity/reality (s. εἰκών 2) 1 Cl 33:4 (cp. OGI 383, 60 of a picture χ. μορφῆς ἐμῆς; 404, 25; Philo, Det. Pot. Ins. 83 calls the soul τύπον τινὰ καὶ χαρακτῆρα θείας δυνάμεως). Christ is χαρ. τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ an exact representation of (God’s) real being Hb 1:3 (ὑπόστασις 1a). ③ characteristic trait or manner, distinctive mark (Hdt. et al.; Diod S 1, 91, 7; Dionys. Hal., Ad Pomp. 3, 16; 2 Macc 4:10) ἐν ἀποστολικῷ χαρακτῆρι in apostolic fashion of an epistolary greeting ITr ins; cp. 1b above. ④ an impression that is made, outward aspect, outward appearance, form (ApcSed 7:4 ὁ δὲ ἥλιος καὶ Ἀδάμ, μίαν χαρακτῆρα ἦσαν perh. read without the comma: ‘Now, the sun and Adam were alike in appearance’, in contrast to Eve who was more brightly beautiful than the moon) εὐειδέσταται τῷ χαρακτῆρι exceptionally beautiful in appearance Hs 9, 9, 5.—JGeffcken, Character: ET 21, 1910, 426f; AKörte, Her 64, 1929, 69–86 (semantic history).—DELG s.v. χαράσσω II 4. M-M. TW. Sv.

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., pp. 1077–1078). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

As far as I can tell it is the word we would use today for an "avatar" or "an icon" or "sketch".

But all that aside, assuming it means "an exact image" isn't it clear that God is the original and Jesus is a copy? An "impression"? Adam is the image of God yet that does not make him God himself. So too Jesus is called "the image of God".

The big battle of the fourth century was whether Jesus was ομοουσιος (same substance) or ομοιουσιος (similar substance). What does της υποστασεως αυτου indicate about that question if anything?

Helpful reference:

ὑπόστασις, εως, ἡ (ὑφίστημι; Hippocr.+; Polyb. 4, 50, 10; 6, 55, 2; Diod S 16, 32, 3; 16, 33, 1; M. Ant. 10, 5; ins, pap, LXX; PsSol 15:5; 17:24; TestReub 2:7; TestZeb 2:4; Tat.; Ath. 21, 3; Iren. 5, 36, 1 [Harv. II 426, 1]; Hippol., Ref. 10, 17, 2; Did., Gen. 128, 11 in widely different meanings. See Dörrie 4 below.) ① the essential or basic structure/nature of an entity, substantial nature, essence, actual being, reality (underlying structure, oft. in contrast to what merely seems to be: Ps.-Aristot., De Mundo 4 p. 395a, 29f; Plut., Mor. 894b; Diog. L., Pyrrh. 9, 91; Artem. 3, 14; Ps 38:6; Wsd 16:21; TestReub 2:7; SJCh 78, 30; Philo, Aet. M. 88; 92; Jos., C. Ap. 1, 1; Tat. 6, 2; Ath. 21, 3; cp. the answer of a certain Secundus, who, when asked ‘Quid fides?’, answered: ‘ignotae rei mira certitudo’=a marvelous certainty about someth. otherwise unknown [FPhGr I 516]; s. also Lexicon Sabbaiticum: Lexica Graeca Minora ’65, 53) ⓐ of the Son of God as χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ a(n) exact representation of (God’s) real being (i.e. as one who is in charge of the universe) Hb 1:3. Sim. of polytheists’ deities, whose basic reality is someth. material like stone, metal etc. Dg 2:1. ⓑ of things: among the meanings that can be authenticated for Hb 11:1 a strong claim can be made for realization (Diod S 1, 3, 2 of the realization of a plan; Cornutus 9 p. 9, 3 of the realization of humanity; Jos., C. Ap. 1, 1 that of the Jewish people, both by a divine act; Tat. 5, 1 of God τοῦ παντὸς ἡ ὑπόστασις): ἔστιν πίστις ἐλπιζομένων ὑπ.=in faith things hoped for become realized, or things hoped for take on (but s. 3 and 4 below) reality. Conversely, ‘without faith things hoped for would have no reality’. HKöster (s. bibliog. 4 below) argues for this sense also in 3:14, but s. 2. Cp. the rendering ‘substance’ (e.g. KJV, REB). ② a plan that one devises for action, plan, project, undertaking, endeavor (Diod. Sic 15, 70, 2; 16, 32, 3; 16, 82, 6; 17, 69, 7; Ezk 19:5) ἐν τῇ ὑποστάσει ταύτῃ in connection with this undertaking i.e. the collection for Jerusalem 2 Cor 9:4. The fact that meeting a financial obligation is the main theme (vss. 1–2) might well suggest association of ὑπ. with its use e.g. as a t.t. of expectation of rent due PTebt 61b, 194. To emphasize the importance of steadfast commitment to professed obligation (opp. p 1041 καρδία πονηρὰ ἀπιστίας ἐν τῷ ἀποστῆναι), the author of Hb 3:14 uses ὑπ. in a way that invites an addressee to draw on the semantic component of obligation familiar in commercial usage of the term (s. PTebt above), an association that is invited by use of μέτοχος, a standard term for a business partner (PHib 109, 3; PCairZen 176, 102 [both III B.C.]), μέχρι τέλους (s.v. τέλος 2bβ), and βέβαιος (s. M-M s.v.). S. Köster 1b above for focus of ὑπ. on ‘reality’.—Satirically, ἐν ταύτῃ τῇ ὑποστάσει τῆς καυχήσεως in this boasting project of mine 2 Cor 11:17. ③ The interp. situation, condition (Cicero, Ad Attic. 2, 3, 3 ὑπόστασιν nostram=our situation), also specif. frame of mind (Dio Cass. 49, 9; Themist., Or. 13 p. 178b; Jos., Ant. 18, 24 of determination in desperate circumstances; sim. Polyb. 6, 55, 2) has been suggested for some of the passages cited in 1 and 2 above: 2 Cor 9:4 (explained in a v.l. via the epexegetical gen. καυχήσεως); 11:17; Hb 3:14 (s. Dörrie [bibliog. 4 below], p. 39: the frame of mind described in Hb 3:6). The sense ‘confidence’, ‘assurance’ (based on LXX [Ruth 1:12; Ps 38:8; Ezk 19:5], where it renders תִּקְוָה etc.) favored by Melanchthon and Luther (also Tyndale, NRSV, but not KJV) for Hb 11:1 has enjoyed much favor but must be eliminated, since examples of it cannot be found (s. Dörrie and Köster [4 below]). More prob. for Hb 4:11 is ④ guarantee of ownership/entitlement, title deed (Sb 9086 III, 1–11 [104 A.D.]; Spicq III 423 n. 14; cp. M-M s.v.) Hb 11:1 (cp. 2 above for commercial use of ὕπ.).—ASchlatter, Der Glaube im NT4 1927, 614ff; MMathis, The Pauline πίστισ-ὑπόστασις acc. to Hb 11:1, diss. Cath. Univ. of Amer., Washington, D.C. 1920, also Biblica 3, 1922, 79–87; RWitt, Hypostasis: ‘Amicitiae Corolla’ (RHarris Festschr.) ’33, 319–43; MSchumpp, D. Glaubensbegriff des Hb: Divus Thomas 11, ’34, 397–410; FErdin, D. Wort Hypostasis, diss. Freiburg ’39; CArpe, Philologus 94, ’41, 65–78; HDörrie, Ὑπόστασις, Wort-u. Bedeutungsgeschichte: NAWG 1955, no. 3, ZNW 46, ’55, 196–202; HKöster, TW VIII 571–88 (Köster prefers plan, project [Vorhaben] for the passages in 2 Cor, and reality [Wirklichkeit] for all 3 occurrences in Hb, contrasting the reality of God with the transitory character of the visible world). S. also the lit. s.v. πίστις 2a.—DELG s.v. ἵστημι. M-M. EDNT. TW. Spicq. Sv.

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., pp. 1040–1041). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

4

What does Jesus' being the χαρακτὴρ of the substance of God mean for Paul and his readership?

St. Paul is making what is an obvious (somewhat praphrastic) reference to, and development upon, the familiar personification of Wisdom in the Old Testament: namely, that 'theology' of Wisdom contained in the book of Wisdom of Solomon.

This book falls into the Wisdom Literature (Job, Ecclesiates etc.) of the Bible, considered canonical Scripture among most Christians (notably Catholics, Orthodox), but not among the Protestant and 'post-Reformation' communities.

This book, being in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament), was in any case familiar reading to St. Paul, and is quite possibly the inspiration for his theology involving Christ being "the power and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24. cf. Wisdom 7:25-26). And I think, inarguably the source for His Hebrews 1:3 (and elsewhere) theology on the Word of God, Jesus Christ.

[cf. Wisdom 7:27: Hebrews 13:8; Revelation 21:5]


Firstly, the Greek of both, followed by how I would translate them:

Wisdom 7:25-26

25 ἀτμὶς γάρ ἐστιν τῆς τοῦ θεοῦ δυνάμεως καὶ ἀπόρροια τῆς τοῦ παντοκράτορος δόξης εἰλικρινής διὰ τοῦτο οὐδὲν μεμιαμμένον εἰς αὐτὴν παρεμπίπτει 26 ἀπαύγασμα γάρ ἐστιν φωτὸς ἀϊδίου καὶ ἔσοπτρον ἀκηλίδωτον τῆς τοῦ θεοῦ ἐνεργείας καὶ εἰκὼν τῆς ἀγαθότητος αὐτοῦ

25 For She is a breath of the power of God, and an emanation of the pure glory of the Almighty, on account of which no polluted thing can enter into Her: 26 she [Wisdom—v. 24] is the effulgence* of the eternal light; and a spotless mirror of the power of God and image of His goodness.


Hebrews 1:3

ὃς ὢν ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ, φέρων τε τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως ‹δι’› αὐτοῦ, καθαρισμὸν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ποιησάμενος ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς Μεγαλωσύνης ἐν ὑψηλοῖς,

Who, being the effulgence* of His glory and the very aspect of His substance; upholding all things by the word of His power; having made purification of [all] sin, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.


  • *ἀπαύγασμα—[the] shining forth [of something]; radiance; effulgence; refulgence (exactly synonymous with Latin refulgere). Only used here and in Wisdom 7 in the whole Bible! So it's almost impossible to be coincidence to find this word used in only these two places, speaking about the same Wisdom, in almost exactly the same terms.*

A useful witness to its meaning for the early Church is the Latin Vulgate (4th century) translation, which interprets it:

Hebrews 1:3 Latin Vulgate

Qui cum sit splendor glóriæ, et figúra substántiæ ejus, portánsque ómnia verbo virtútis suæ, purgatiónem peccatórum fáciens, sedet ad déxteram majestátis in excélsis

Who, being the brightness of His glory, and the figure of His substance; and upholding all things by the word of His power; making purgation of sins, is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high.


Between these three I think we find a common truth being related: Jesus, the Wisdom and the Power of God, derives directly, and intrinsically, His nature and being from the being of God the Father; He is 'begotten' from all eternity, just as light is 'begotten' from a fire.

He reflects—or displays Him—Him perfectly. That is, "the Son is the image of the invisible God" (Col 1:15; cf. Wisdom 7:26)—just as light is the visible aspect of fire.

The image of the invisible God tells us much. Because it is not speaking about a mere depiction of God. But rather and intrinsic element to the very substance of God, which is definitional to Him. Just as a body is defintional to a human (composed of invisible soul and body, although there is no 'compostion' in God).

"No man has seen God at any time: the Only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, has made Him known" Jn 1:18).


"The big battle of the fourth century was whether Jesus was ομοουσιος (same substance) or ομοιουσιος (similar substance). What does της υποστασεως αυτου indicate about that question if anything?"

Well, της υποστασεως αυτου means "the substance of Him"—"His substance". So when you qualify or get specific with that, i.e. you say someone is the χαρακτὴρ caraktir (i.e. imprint, mark, or distinctive mark by which a thing is known; figure; likeness—image?) of someone's very substance, you are saying that the referent of 'caraktir' is too intrinsic to the referent of 'substance' to be anything other than, well, what Christians teach about the Word, or Son of God: an intrinsic natural relationship, a sharing of the one Being and Substance: God.

As seen from Wisdom 7:25, this Wisdom is the "emanation of the pure glory of the Almighty". He isn't a partaker, but rather someone who lives as the "emanation" or "effluence" (ἀπόρροια) and the "effulgence" or brightness—'visible aspect' so to speak—of the invisible God.

That is, the Word of God, Jesus Christ, is "in the bosom of the Father".

The word χαρακτὴρ in this context

It cannot mean simply, or merely, 'image-bearer of God' or 'copy of God', as you suppose, not only because of context, but because it is markedly (no pun intended) metaphorical/similaic in function: Jesus isn't actually an inscription of someone. St. Paul compares how conveyed-representation-of-person such as that on a coin, is kind of like how Jesus emanates from and 'shows forth' God, being "the image of the invisible God" (Col 1:15).

Jesus, or rather the Evangelists who records His sacred words, equate the words εἰκών (image) with what we would primarily consider a χαρακτὴρ (marking; impression; stamp; imprint) in Matthew 22:20 and Mark 12:16.

But then He further equates this χαρακτὴρ-bearing with representing the authority himself (Caesar).

In this context (Hebrews 1, and arguably Wisdom 7) the χαρακτὴρ of someone's very substance is more than the simple 'resemblance' or 'copy' of them.

Conclusion

The χαρακτὴρ of God's ὑποστάσεως is defintional to His eternal nature—His "glory," "power," His "upholding all things" etc. Thus, Jesus is ομοουσιος—"consubstantial with the Father".

| improve this answer | |
  • Your conclusion is eisegetical, not exegetical. You introduce a bogus, irrelevant term "consubstantial" and all of the ecclesiastic baggage of that in your "conclusion" in complete opposition to the text itself. You leap from a "figure" and a "reflection" to identity with no justification at all. -1 – Ruminator Jul 11 '19 at 13:10
3

Definition

The Greek word χαρακτηρ denotes "an engraving" (source).

Translation

The modern day translation "imprint" of ESV perfectly corresponds to this meaning.

The translation "exact likeness" is actually not a literal translation but a dynamic equivalence.

Exegesis

The Lord Jesus is a copy of God's being. It means that Jesus is not the original being but a mere copy of another's being.

However, copies contain everything the original contains. Therefore, the Lord Jesus owns everything God owns.

The ESV translation has faithfully preserved the meaning of the Greek in contemporary 21st century English:

"...exact imprint of his nature..." [χαρακτηρ της υποστασεως αυτου]

Q & A: In Hebrews 1:3 does χαρακτηρ της υποστασεως αυτου say that Jesus is the same substance or similar substance to God?

Based on the exegetical analysis we have, the interpretation that Jesus is of similar substance with the Father is open to Hebrews 1:3

Likewise, Jesus is of same substance with the Father is also a possible interpretation.

It seems that both the Unitarian and the Trinitarian can equally hold onto Hebrews 1:3 in supporting their differing Christological views. Therefore, it depends on one's tradition/faith to consider what interpretation is preferred.

| improve this answer | |
  • (-1) Your argument is committing the "begging the question" fallacy: nizkor.org/features/fallacies/begging-the-question.html – user10231 May 11 '16 at 12:42
  • @WoundedEgo, Could you please demonstrate how did I commit the fallacy of begging the question in my answer? – Radz Matthew C. Brown May 11 '16 at 16:02
  • The evidence you cite suggests "engraving" but what you settle on is a theology based on unrelated texts. That's eisegesis and special pleading. – user10231 May 11 '16 at 16:07
  • I have edited my answer. I have removed the part on the Nicene Creed. I revised my answer to reflect purely on the analysis of Heb 1:3. – Radz Matthew C. Brown May 11 '16 at 16:30
  • 1
    I removed my down vote based on the improved answer. But where, exegetically do you get "exact"? An "exact engraving"? The example of the coin with the engraving of Caesar... hardly exact. – user10231 May 11 '16 at 17:48
3

I would render Hebrews 1:3 as:

Who, not only while being a distinctive brightness of his glory and a perfect expression of the depth of his steadfastness, but also while upholding everything there is by the word of his power, having made a purification of sin, sat down at right hand of the Majesty on high.

The reasoning for this is shown below:

enter image description here

Notes:

Conclusion

ὑποστάσεως is about "substance" only in so far as it pertains to God's "fixed and unshakable stability", i.e. a trustworthy place to which one might fix the anchor of his/her soul.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    I've added the BDAG entry to my question. Can you somehow relate your usage of the word ὑποστάσεως to the usages supplied by BDAG? The appeal to the etymology is pseudo-linguistic. Also, what is the source of the image? Thanks. – user10231 May 8 '16 at 12:52
  • I've written an HTML/Javascript tool to allow me to present the analysis of a verse as you see it. As far as the BDAG stuff is concerned, good luck to you. You have my heart felt sympathy if you are studying for an academic credential. – enegue May 8 '16 at 13:26
  • 1
    Nice job with the tool. With etymology being the entire ὑποστάσiς of your case I'm going to have to resort to my least favorite tool... the down vote. – user10231 May 8 '16 at 13:41
  • That's your prerogative. I've just submitted what I think would be helpful to anyone whose struggling to understand the verse you've asked about, as you seem to be. – enegue May 8 '16 at 13:58
  • LSJ doesn't say anything about "stability" either. What is your problem with BDAG? Are you against all lexicons or just that one? – Ruminator Jul 11 '19 at 13:15
1

First: ΑΠΑΥΓΑΣΜΑ

The ἀπαύγασμα is better to be rendered into English as "effulgence", "emanated light", "radiance", that is to say, light that comes from a luminous body, a body that represents the source of this radiance. And it is usually given exactly this correct dictionary definition, for example, J. Strong gives the following definition: "a light flashing forth", "radiation","gleam" (The New Strong's Expanded dictionary of Bible Words. Ed. J. Strong. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001); Liddell and Scott (I use the following edition: Greek-English Lexicon with a Revised Supplement. Eds. H.G. Liddell, R. Scott, H.S. Jones & R. McKenzie. Clarendon Press, Oxford: 1996) have it worded as: "efflux of light", "effulgence", from the verb ἀπαυγάζω - "to beam forth". (For concrete examples, see, e.g. Plutarch, Quomodo quis suos in virtute sentiat profectus Ch. 1, 55, in which he speaks about that the progress in virtue produces outshinings (ἀπαυγασμοῦς) in one’s life’s conducts; or in his treatise on shapes appearing on the moon, where in section 21 he says that sun’s reflections (ἀνακλάσεις – a different word! from ἀνακλάω - "bend back" /L.G./) on earth emit or give off effulgences -ἀπαυγασμοῦς.) Thus, to translate this word as "reflection" can be extremely misleading and providing a reason for one lapsing into a heretical tendency of relativizing and belittling the Son; it is for that reason that also Vulgate does not translate ἀπάυγασμα as re-flexio, but as splendor ("sheen","brightness", "brilliance"). Therefore, when it is written that "Jesus is the effulgence of God's glory" it clearly asserts the co-eternity and co-unoriginatedness of Jesus with God, because God's Glory is His eternal, intrinsic feature (cf. Isaiah 42:8), and Paul's assertion of Jesus being the effulgence of this Glory can mean but 2 alternative things:

a) He is the very Glory of the Father, that is to say, He is identical with the Glory, for the expression "effulgence/radiance of Glory" can mean the Glory itself, as in the expression "wetness of the water" or “flame of fire” the wetness is identical with the water, and flame with fire; or in "radiation of light" or "cleverness of thought" the radiation is identical with light and cleverness with the thought; in this understanding, Jesus is co-eternal of God as His intrinsic Glory that emanates from Him, i.e. from God, as from the source, and since God is ever-emanating source, then the same “ever” absolutely applies to that what is emanated also - the Glory, and therefore Jesus, being identical with this Glory, is necessarily co-eternal to God, as ever radiating from Him;

or

b) it can be understood that Jesus is the radiance/effulgence of this Glory, so that, in this wording Glory is not identified with Jesus, but is His source, whereas Glory in this instance can be identified with God himself, or a feature of God, which is always with Him, intrinsically; and in this interpretation also, Jesus is co-eternal with God and His Glory, for Glory cannot but shine and Jesus is this shining radiating from Glory, this emanation of ever-emanating Glory, for it is an utmost stupidity even to let lurk such an idea in one's mind that God's Glory was at a certain stage of His eternal existence not radiating and, all of a sudden, say out of boredom, He decided to switch on His Glory's radiation and only then Logos gushed forth as this radiation! Thus before this decision God and his Glory must have not been radiating; but, again, this is absurd, for Glory is not Glory if it does not radiate, the latter feature being intrinsic to the very meaning of it, and Jesus is this eternal radiation and effulgence of the eternal Glory of God. Thus, in both possible interpretations Jesus is co-eternal to God.

Second: ΧΑΡΑΚΤΗΡ

The same holds with the term χαρακτήρ. It is an imprint, a type, a stamp, thus defining the very thing of which it is the stamp and one can bring many examples from Greek literature that this is so; metaphorically it also has become a character of man, that is to say, that which defines that man; in this sense it is interchangeable with the ἤθος like in the proverb "τὸ ἤθος τῶν γονιῶν κτίζει τὸ χαρακτήρα τῶν παιδῶν" (“the demeanor/character of parents gives birth to the character/demeanor of children”), or in Heraclitus’ enigmatic saying: “ἤθος ἀνθρώπῳ δαίμων” – “man’s character is his destiny”.

(Liddell&Scott Lexicon gives an array of meanings witnessed in multiple texts from a) engraver himself; the tools he uses; the distinctive mark on this tool; stamp; branding iron; in all those instances the word entails someone or something by whose agency or instrumentation a mark is made on something; b) the very mark made; engraving; impress or stamp on coins etc.; brand; from there c) an impression on smth. as its distinctive feature, character, that distinguishes it from the rest; d) also, writing style. In case of Paul’s Hebrews 1:3, the lexicon gives explanation of “impress”, “image”, and brings as parallel examples expressions from Longinus, who speaks about a distinctive aspect of a writer’s style as “impress of his passion” and from Eunapius’ “Lives of Philosophers”, the similar expression about the impress of virtue, that simply mean the revelation or manifestation of some inner quality in a deed that embodies this quality, in fact itself being this quality in the mode of manifestation, which wonderfully expresses also the Pauline idea: for the Son can be seen as exactly such impress of the Father. To make the vision clearer: imagine an Athenian sentry, who loves his city more than himself, that is to say, who has the essence of this love in his heart, sees that the enemy attacked it stealthily, when the city’s defenders are not prepared and the only way to save Athens is for him to face the enemy’s army alone and detain it until the Athenian soldiers get ready. But he knows that he will 100% die because of this. He still does this heroic deed, and now, the essence of his wondrous love is impressed fully in this heroic deed, thus the deed bearing the impress/character of the essence of love, thus being, in fact, this very love in action, in expression, so that love cannot but express itself in this deed, which is the character or impress of its essence. In this sense, the love possessed in the heart of the sentry and that same love both impressed and expressed in his heroic deed represent one reality, as also in the case of the Father and the Son: for the deed of the sentry is the perfect imprint of the essence of love, and this essence cannot but be expressed in this imprint in order for the city to be saved. It is in this sense that also Jesus says “I and the Father are one”, for He is the full and unique expression of Father's love to humanity, so that Father is absolutely, ontologically unable to do anything for humanity and express His love to it, but through His only Begotten Son - the imprint of His very being, much more emphatically so than that our Athenian sentry is totally unable to save the city unless through imprinting the essence of his love in the self-sacrificial deed. But at the same time, this example must not lead anybody into the heresy of modalism, otherwise called also Sabelianism, that is a crypto-Judaism that downplays and ultimately abolishes the difference between the Father and the Son, but this difference is also no less important than the oneness and identity of the Father and His only Begotten Son.

Thus, the word χαρακτήρ denotes a feature that is intrinsic to a thing, defining it as such. It is not that the χαρακτήρ means a label (or mark, or engraving) on something that can be divested of this mark and it will still remain that thing - no! It will not remain that thing without its distinctive feature, which is the χαρακτήρ. Thus, a coin will not remain a coin unless there is a stamp on it: it will be destroyed as a coin without stamp and turn into a non-coin, a formless metal in this case. Now, when Paul says that Jesus is stamp, or imprint, or mark of God’s hypostasis (and hypostasis here simply means reality) he says that Jesus defines God as God, for it is as impossible to imagine God without His ever-radiating Son who is always with Him (cf. John 1:1), as it is impossible to imagine a coin without its stamp in our recent example, or fire without its heat, for the very χαρακτήρ of the hypostasis of fire is to exude heat.

CONCLUSION

Therefore, to answer the question “does Paul in the given passage assert that the Son is homousious with the Father?” – one should start with a little but important terminological caveat, that the philosophical terms “οὐσία” and “ὑπόστασις” had not the specific distinctive meanings they got after the Arian controversy, and even in the Nicaean Creed of Faith, which stated the ὁμοούσιος-ness of the Son with the Father, the two terms were used synonymously and interchangeably: “Τοὺς δὲ λέγοντας, ἦν ποτε ὅτε οὐκ ἦν, καὶ πρὶν γεννηθῆναι οὐκ ἦν, καὶ ὄτι ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων ἐγένετο, ἢ ἐξ ἑτέρας ὑποστάσεωςοὐσίας φάσκοντας εἶναι, ἢ κτιστόν ἢ τρεπτόν ἢ ἀλλοιωτὸν τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ, ἀναθεματίζει ἡ καθολικὴ ἐκκλησία.” Only later, especially through the genius of the Capadocian fathers, Basile and two Gregories, the two terms were sharply distinguished, and in this way established in the Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in 381, never to be intermingled henceforth.

However, we can safely say, that Paul in the given passage plainly asserts that it is impossible to think about God’s eternal reality (hypostasis) without Jesus, which makes Jesus also eternal, co-eternal with the reality of God, and if reality can be termed also as οὐσία, which is very reasonable, then yes, one can freely affirm that Paul regards Jesus as homoousios to the Father.

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  • If you are going to define words please cite a lexicon. – Ruminator Oct 14 '17 at 1:48
  • Heb 1:3 is an allusion to the Wis. of Sol. 7: "24 For wisdom is... 25 For she is the breath of the power of God, and a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty: therefore can no defiled thing fall into her. 26 For she is the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness. 27 And being but one, she can do all things: and remaining in herself, she maketh all things new: and in all ages entering into holy souls, she maketh them friends of God, and prophets." - Brenton LXX The created reflection not source. – Ruminator Oct 14 '17 at 13:02
  • Your notion that the Greek word χαρακτήρ suggests that by being a χαρακτήρ means that he gives God his nature is absurd. As is your assertion that we are not to understand Hebrews by the meaning of the Greek but rather by the way the word was redefined during the "Arian controversy". Your entire post is utter nonsense borne of a perverse addiction to dogma. – Ruminator Oct 14 '17 at 13:13
  • Yes, you quote a wonderful quotation from the Wisdom: "brightness of everlasting light" means that this brightness is as everlasting as light itself, for it is absurd to even phanatsize about light without brightness. And I made lexicon entries too, at your suggestion, thanks. – Levan Gigineishvili Oct 14 '17 at 13:47
  • And I have never said anywhere, God forbid, "he gives God his nature", but even other way about, God Father is the only Source and Principle who emanates from Himself His Imprint - the Son, but since this emanation is inseparable from Him, ergo also the Son is co-eternal to His eternal being. If one can say that Son gives nature to Father, then only in a qualified sense, not to damage the logic of causation, that Father is Father only in virtue of having Son. An analogy: rays do not give nature to the sun their source, but since no sun is without rays, so in a way they define the sun's nature. – Levan Gigineishvili Oct 14 '17 at 14:02
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As has been pointed out there is evident literary dependence between Hebrews 1:3 and this text:

Wisdom 7:25-26 Good News Translation (GNT) 25 She is a breath of God's power—a pure and radiant stream of glory from the Almighty. Nothing that is defiled can ever steal its way into Wisdom. 26 She is a reflection of eternal light, a perfect mirror of God's activity and goodness.

Good News Translation (GNT) Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society

If we look at the descriptive phrases we see that they are not describing Wisdom/Sophia's intrinsic attributes but rather praising her as a faithful representation of the "activity and goodness" of God:

She is a breath of God's power —a pure and radiant stream of glory from the Almighty. Nothing that is defiled can ever steal its way into Wisdom. 26 She is a reflection of eternal light, a perfect mirror of God's activity and goodness.

"To the Hebrews" likewise describes the son in completely derivative and dependent terms:

[Heb 1:1-5 NASB] (1) God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, (2) in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. (3) And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (4) having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. (5) For to which of the angels did He ever say, "YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU"? And again, "I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM AND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME"?

As the "mirror" the "reflects" the "substance" of God, so I can picture the Father's substance shining gloriously on the left side of the view while on the other side of my view the shining is diverted toward me, by Christ. So God's glory is reflected toward me as if in a mirror.

Now, God's glory is too much for a man to be exposed to and live so the left side of the view is concealed and all I have is the reflection which is endurable. Paul describes that here:

[2Co 4:6 KJV] For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

So not only is Christ a mirror reflecting God's glory, he does not reflect it full strength (or the apostles would have killed everybody that saw them). I like to point out that there are two great lights; the sun and the moon. The sun is too bright to be looked at, too hot to approach, but the moon, at most, reflects about 20% of the sun's light so it is appropriate for viewing, touching, etc.


It should be noted that the "one substance with the father" creedal formulation is Gnostic in origin.

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