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Hebrews 5:8-10 (ESV)

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Wasn't the Son of God already perfect? How could he become more or better than he was?

5

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect (τελειωθεὶς), he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:8-10 ESV)

How this applies to Jesus who was already perfect can be seen in how the word is used elsewhere:

And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course (τελειοῦμαι). (Luke 13:32 ESV)

It is possible to start something yet stop before it is unfinished: Jesus finished the course He chose.

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish (τελειώσω) his work. (John 4:34 ESV)

It is possible to go where you are sent and fail to accomplish the task, either by stopping or by substituting personal purpose in place of the one who sent: Jesus accomplished the work He was sent to do. Jesus did not change the course or change objectives.

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect (τελειῶσαι) through suffering. (Hebrews 2:10 ESV)

It is possible to be the founder of something which has been established by less than perfect means: Jesus is the founder of a salvation made perfect through suffering.

In addition, the proper understanding of terms must be consistent with Scripture. Truth is not an intellectual or abstract concept:

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)

Truth is a process which begins with a belief which is affirmed (or proven false) by abiding, or doing what it says. What this means is that even a correct belief does not bring knowledge of truth unless it is applied. The knowledge of every truth in the Kingdom of God is experiential.

Jesus who is God yet takes up life in human form is described as the truth (John 14:6). Like all mankind this can only be demonstrated by doing. In other words, despite having all knowledge He must still do what it says. When He does, He does not gain some new knowledge or truth; rather He has proven that what He said was always true. So the latter state compared to the initial has been perfected, even though it was the same truth from beginning to end.

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At least since Plato (pronounced "Play-Doh") Western philosophers have been discussing what constitutes "perfection":

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/perfectionism-moral/#TwoVerPer

Philosophic ideas of perfection have led to the "textbook" list of attributes of God that start with the prefix "omni", such as "omniscient" and "omnipotent":

http://www.theattributesofgod.org/list-of-attributes.html

Among these philosophy supplies the following precept:

Self-Sufficiency of God - God has no needs, cannot improve and does not change. We, on the other hand, as created beings rely completely on God for our every breath. [ibid]

So, if God were to learn something new it would reveal that he was not previously "perfect" (in the philosophic definition) and that is unacceptable. This gives logical rise to the Calvinist view that absolutely everything in all eternity, forward and back is an emanation of God's eternal will. He never learns anything at any time because from eternity past he has not changed, improved or admitted to any imperfection, lack, etc.

Trinitarians claim that Jesus has all of the qualities and attributes of the Western philosophers. Therefore it is deemed impossible that Jesus would learn anything, have anything ever out of his absolute control, have any lack, need, or want, etc. Hence the question.

However, it is evident from the scriptures that Jesus is utterly dependent on God at all times and for all things:

Joh 14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.

Mar 13:32 "But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Mat_27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Luk 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

Luk_23:46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

So since Jesus is utterly dependent on God, learns and even dies he obviously does not feature the attributes of God and is not God.

To get around this we are told that he temporarily "emptied himself" of his divine attributes (while retaining "divinity" in a more abstract sense) and/or temporarily emptied himself of the prerogative to use his super powers. Yet conversely, in the scriptures, Jesus always confesses that whatever super powers he has he has them from God:

Joh 5:19 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. Joh 5:20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. Joh 5:21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. Joh 5:22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, Joh 5:23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Joh 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Joh 5:25 "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. Joh 5:26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. Joh 5:27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Joh 5:28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice Joh 5:29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. Joh 5:30 "I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

So, the scriptures have no problem with Jesus learning, but Trinitarians have a yuge problem with it.

So in what way does the author of To The Hebrews depict Jesus as not being self-sufficient?:

Self-Sufficiency of God - God has no needs, cannot improve and does not change. We, on the other hand, as created beings rely completely on God for our every breath. [ibid]

So obviously Jesus is not God since he is utterly dependent on God for all things, including his every breath:

Rom 6:9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

That is, God raised him from the dead and freed him from death's dominion over him. Therefore Jesus breathes because of God.

So this segues nicely into the ways that God "perfected" Jesus, per Hebrews:

  • he appointed Jesus and raised him from the dead:

Act 17:31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."

Heb 5:1 For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. Heb 5:4 And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. Heb 5:5 So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you"; Heb 5:6 as he says also in another place, "You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek."

  • God beset Jesus with weaknesses:

Heb 5:2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.

ISV Heb 2:10 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering as part of his plan to glorify many children, Heb 2:11 because both the one who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified all have the same Father [εξ ενος]. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers Heb 2:12 when he says, "I will announce your name to my brothers. I will praise you within the congregation." Heb 2:13 And again, "I will trust him." And again, "I am here with the children God has given me." ... Heb 2:17 thereby becoming like his brothers in every way, so that he could be a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God and could atone for the people's sins. Heb 2:18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

  • Jesus was obligated to offer sacrifices for his own sin in addition to that of the People (the Jews) because of his moral vulnerability:

Heb 5:3 Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people.

  • because of his moral vulnerability he experienced great anguish and relied upon God in a life-or-death struggle against sin and death:

Heb 5:7 As a mortal man, he offered up prayers and appeals with loud cries and tears to the one [God] who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his devotion to God. Heb 5:8 Son though he was, he learned obedience through his sufferings Heb 5:9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him,

So to answer the question, it is crystal clear that Jesus was a man chosen, ordained, providentially appointed to suffer, utterly dependent and who became a more compassionate person by his moral vulnerability and utter dependence on God. No amount of "workarounds" can change this depiction of a non-divine savior. He underwent a process to improve him by making him more compassionate through suffering.

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The fact of Jesus's obedience, could only be ascertained after he died, because of the wording of "he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect..." implies that he became "perfected" only as a result of him being "obedient unto death", since it is also written "he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death". In short, his obedience was proven by his sufferings, which could only end at the moment of his death, and it was his obedience that perfected Him, meaning that had he not been sinless, he would not be in the position to have all sin removed from him after he died, see more on this further.

The real question here is, how could he become perfect after he died? Zechariah 3 reveals this to us, when we see that Jesus, here "Joshua", who is brought before God, bearing the sin of the world as illustrated by his dirty garments, gets the coat of world's sin taken off him and new garments given to him, which symbolizes him regaining the perfection he lost through acquiring the world's sin. The word "perfect" here, I believe, is used in the sense of having no sin.

So, again, it is not that Jesus was not perfect. He had to be perfect and sinless in order to not die for his own sin, but for the world's sin only, otherwise he would never regain perfection, since the presence of his own sin would mean that this removal of dirty of garments from him in heaven would not anymore be justified. The sin that he acquired was made his only temporarily, to cause him to experience all the sufferings and condemnation for it which were meant for us, so that we wouldn't have to.

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The Greek text of Heb. 5:9 states,

Θʹ καὶ τελειωθεὶς ἐγένετο τοῖς ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ πᾶσιν αἴτιος σωτηρίας αἰωνίου TR, 1550

The Greek word τελειωθεὶς is a participle declined in the nominative case, masculine gender, singular number and conjugated in the aorist tense, passive voice, from the lemma τελειόω. The lemma τελειόω occurs 9 times in the Epistle to the Hebrews, which accounts for more than 1/3 of its total occurrences.

In this particular context, it is linked to the preceding aorist verb ἔπαθεν (“he suffered”), producing the following thought in English: “...from the things he suffered, and when he was perfected...” In other words, the perfection of the Lord Jesus Christ—at least in this particular context—coincided with his sufferings. Earlier in the same epistle, we see his suffering and perfection explicitly connected to his death:1

9 But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. 10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. NASB

Θʹ τὸν δὲ βραχύ τι παρ᾽ ἀγγέλους ἠλαττωμένον βλέπομεν Ἰησοῦν διὰ τὸ πάθημα τοῦ θανάτου δόξῃ καὶ τιμῇ ἐστεφανωμένον ὅπως χάριτι θεοῦ ὑπὲρ παντὸς γεύσηται θανάτου Ιʹ Ἕπρεπεν γὰρ αὐτῷ δι᾽ ὃν τὰ πάντα καὶ δι᾽ οὗ τὰ πάντα πολλοὺς υἱοὺς εἰς δόξαν ἀγαγόντα τὸν ἀρχηγὸν τῆς σωτηρίας αὐτῶν διὰ παθημάτων τελειῶσαι TR, 1550


Wasn’t the Son of God already perfect? How could become more or better than he was?

Of course the Son of God, being God, is perfect, but the Epistle to the Hebrews emphasizes that the same Son of God became man, and as the Son of Man, he was not perfected in his humanity until after his death, resurrection, ascension, and finally, glorification.


Footnotes

1 Heb. 2:9–10

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The western idea of perfection is 'flawless'. The biblical idea of perfection is 'complete'. Jesus was sent to perform specific works assigned by the Father. He completed those works on the cross. James tells us faith is made perfect by works. In other words, faith becomes complete when it manifests itself through works.

  • Welcome to BHSX. I think this misses the verb sense in verb "teleiotheis" = have been [already] made perfect/complete. Thus, Jesus did not become complete, He was already complete/mature and this enabled others to become obedient (v9) because Jesus was the source of eternal salvation. Your comment about works is theologically valid (from other places) but not evident in this verse. My literal translation: "Having been made complete, he became to those obeying Him [the] source of eternal salvation." – user25930 Aug 7 '18 at 0:23
-1

As a non-Christian, I take it to mean, "manufactured perfectly" in the that he was "produced" from Mary's womb. The people who translated the English quote you provide thought of God (Jesus) as eternal, unchanging, so your question makes a lot of sense but I think if you look at it like an imperfect translation you'll see the slightly different angle on "made." As the "[helpful three point test]1" (from a comment) suggests,

For example the slightly different language in NASB:

And having been made perfect

Comparing translations is always risky, here's the Orthodox Church's chosen version of the New Testament, NKJV:

And having been perfected

And the 1599 Bible:

8 And though he were the Son, yet learned he obedience, by the things which he suffered.

9 And being consecrated, was made the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him:

10 And is called of God an high Priest after the order of Melchizedek.

So bottom line I would start with what virtually all Christians agree on, that God is Trinity, Jesus is God, and God is eternal and everlasting, and you come to a consistent understanding of "made"

Or as my local Orthodox priest likes to say, "God did learn, God always knew."


Per a comment that links to the "helpful three-point test" I am not presenting my own beliefs, I am 1) focusing on what the English translations meant to their original authors, 2) looking at the production of various translations and the different nuances in the language chosen to reflect the original non-English texts, and 3) I am not telling anyone what to believe.

Further when I say "my local Orthodox priest" I am not saying I am Orthodox, I am saying the original church historically set up by Jesus Christ teaches an unchanging God, most all Christian denominations believe in that, and the text should be interpreted in that light.

Thanks for the feedback, any other suggestions welcome.

-1

Jesus Christ neither existed as a Son nor a human being before his incarnation. He existed as 'Word' the God of the Old Testament. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (Jn1:1). Two separate God beings of the one God family existing together. 'Word' was with God who became Father later when 'Word" became flesh. God created everything through 'Word' (Jn1:3). 'Word' created everything in the world. When Word became flesh he emptied himself, he ceased to exist as Word or God. He became a man like any other human being, tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin (Philippines 2:7, Hebrews 4:15). He was not perfect as God but resisted all the temptations and overcame them by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit whereas we fail mostly. Through his sufferings he built the Godly characters as a man, became perfect. We are to imitate and to become perfect like him to enter his divine Family in the resurrection.

  • S. Tham, Thanks for the answer. Some hints to help you in the future. This site deals with hermeneutics. They are interested in responses that deal specifically with the texts being referenced by the questioner. So, your answer should at least begin with grammatical or contextual support for the referenced test. While some people may agree with your general response here, the questioner has asked a specific question to the text referenced. We should at least start with that context. – alb May 1 '18 at 23:29
  • Ok I wil. I overlooked the primary question but what caught my eye was the second sentence below the question - 'Wasn't the Son of God.......". and answered that question accordingly. I regret the error and my apologies. – S.Tham May 3 '18 at 1:00

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