2

ESV Heb 1:2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

Westcott and Hort / [NA27 variants] ἐπ' ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων ἐλάλησεν ἡμῖν ἐν υἱῷ, ὃν ἔθηκεν κληρονόμον πάντων, δι' οὗ καὶ ἐποίησεν τοὺς αἰῶνας·

Shouldn't it read:

but in the last days of these he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

ISTM that the idea is that Jesus arrived during the last of the days of God's speaking by the prophets:

Luk_16:16 The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.

The time of God speaking in a son has arrived and the son has been appointed by God to be the heir of the law and the prophets. In so doing he establishes the ages of "law/prophets" and "son".

  • Sorry, I don't speak English apparently. Could you say how you understand the difference between those two? – Susan May 29 '16 at 22:40
  • Is your question about the translation of the Heb.1:2 phrase, as suggested by the title question, or are you looking for support for your claim about the meaning of Lk.16:16, which has no bearing on the translation question? – Schuh May 30 '16 at 0:41
  • @Susan Is "these" referring to "these current days which are the last days"? Or to "these days of which we were just speaking, which were the last days of the prophets"? – user10231 May 30 '16 at 1:51
2

As you mentioned, two significant textual variants exist:

  1. ἐπ᾽ ἐσχάτων τῶν ἡμερῶν
    • ἐσχάτων is declined in the genitive case, plural number
  2. ἐπ’ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν
    • ἐσχάτου is declined in the genitive case, singular number

Old Testament

The English phrase “in the last days” is commonly used to translate the Hebrew phrase בְּאַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים (bĕʾaḥărît hayyāmîm) in the Hebrew Tanakh. This Hebrew phrase occurs 14 times in the Westminster Leningrad Codex (WLC), but it is translated a variety of ways in the LXX, as the following table demonstrates:

Occurrences of בְּאַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים and Corresponding Translation in LXX

These Greek phrases are also used to translate a few other Hebrew/Aramaic phrases in the WLC, including:

  • בְּאַחֲרִיתֶךָ (bĕʾaḥărîtekā)
  • בְּאַחֲרִית יוֹמַיָּא (bĕʾaḥărît yômayyāʾ)

New Testament

The phrase “in the last days” occurs 5 times in most English translations, and it is used to translate a variety of Greek phrases, as the following table demonstrates:

Occurrences of “in the last days” in the NT and Corresponding Greek Texte

The following is Constantin Tischendorf’s critical apparatus on Heb. 1:1:1

Tischendorf, Vol. 2, p. 780-781, Heb. 1:1

Hebrews 1:2

It seems that neither ἐπ᾽ ἐσχάτων τῶν ἡμερῶν nor ἐπ’ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν can be determined to be the actual reading based on the preponderance of occurrences in the LXX or Greek NT, for both phrases occur, although ἐπ᾽ ἐσχάτων τῶν ἡμερῶν occurs three times as often as ἐπ’ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν in the LXX (9 v. 3). That being said, preponderance of occurrences alone cannot always be used to determine the likely reading.

ἐπ’ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν does appear to be the favored reading based on the preponderance of early witnesses, according to Tischendorf’s critical apparatus.

Furthermore, in his commentary on Heb. 1:1, Franz Delitzsch wrote,2

Delitzsch, Vol. 1, p. 40

Exegesis

Recall that both variants are used in the LXX to translate the Hebrew phrase בְּאַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים; thus, regardless of the favored reading, both mean (or at least, can mean) “in the last days.” Aside from that, the rest of the verse seems pretty clear. God formerly spoke by the prophets “in many parts” - many relevations before the last days - and “in many ways” - by similitudes, visions, dreams before the last days (cp. Hos. 12:10) - but now “in the last days,” the final revelation occurred by the Son who spoke only what the Father gave him to speak, but more importantly, the revelation is complete and perfect. No further revelation is needed, and no further revelation can be given, because the Son is God, and there can be no greater messenger (deliverer of a revelation) than God Himself (e.g., not Muhammad, not Joseph Smith, not Ellen White, etc.).

In the original question, it is said,

ISTM that the idea is that Jesus arrived during the last of the days of God's speaking by the prophets:

That is quite contrary to the sense the author conveys, for he certainly delineates time into two revelatory eras, the past (πάλαι) in which God spoke to the fathers by the prophets, and the present (from the perspective of the author), “these last days” (ἐπ’ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων), the eschaton in which God spoke by His Son. As Lünemann commented, ἐπ’ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων is in antithesis to πάλαι.3


Footnotes

1 Vol. 2, p. 780-781

2 Vol. 1, p. 40

3 p. 392

References

Delitzsch, Franz. Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Trans. Kingsbury, Thomas L. Vol. 1. Edinburgh: Clark, 1871.

Huther, Johann Eduard; Lünemann, Georg Konrad Gottlieb. Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, and to the Epistle to the Hebrews. Trans. Hunter, David; Evans, Maurice J. New York: Funk, 1885.

Tischendorf, Constantin. Novum Testamentum Graece. Vol. 2. Lipsiae: Giesecke, 1872.

  • But none of those examples end with τούτων. – user10231 Jun 24 '16 at 6:52
  • Because it doesn't change the meaning, since both phrases are equivalent to בְּאַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים, “in the last days.” So, the addition of τούτων merely indicates that the author included himself and his audience as those living in “the last days.” To them, the last days were “these last days.” Is there some significant meaning you are attempting to extract from that sole word? I guess I’m not the only one who can’t really make sense of your question, then. – user862 Jun 24 '16 at 7:07
  • Is "these" (τούτων) referring to "these current days which are the last days"? Or to "these days of which we were just speaking, which were the last days of the prophets"? – user10231 Jun 24 '16 at 7:31
  • @WoundedEgo The prophets spoke πάλαι (formerly, in the past). Clearly you see that the author distinguishes that time (in the past) with “these last days,” the present, don’t you? – user862 Jun 24 '16 at 7:33

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