What is meant by the phrase "through whom also he created the world." in Hebrews 1:2? This phase seems to say that Jesus had an active role in creation. I would appreciate some clarification as to the literal meaning.
That the Son was the agent of creation is witnessed elsewhere in Scripture, especially in the Gospel According to John:
John 1:1–3 (RSV)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.
This is also the Christological interpretation of the Psalm:
Psalm 33:6 (RSV)
By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made,
and all their host by the breath of His mouth.
Paul also affirms this in one of his Epistles:
Colossians 1:15–17 (RSV)
He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
I believe this phrase should be translated:
"Hath in these last days spoken unto us by [his] a son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by (δι': because of) whom also he made the worlds (ages)."
According to Thayer's Lexicon, δι᾽ means:
"through, on account of, by reason of, for the sake of, because of"
Note that the concordances say δι' means "by, through" when the noun is in the genitive, but it means "because of" in the accusative. I do not believe this is true. Here are a few examples of δι' with a genitive noun:
"By the which will we are sanctified through (because of) the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Hebrews 10:10
"And these all, having obtained a good report through (because of) faith, received not the promise" Hebrews 11:39
"When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby (because of) it." John 11:4
"For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through (because of) him might be saved." John 3:17
"Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through (because of) this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins" Acts 13:38
The first two chapters of Hebrews is about mankind. The author is arguing that it wasn't angels, or any other divine being, that God made the world for. This is explained in Genesis:
"And God said, Let us make (נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה: accomplish; H6213) man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." Genesis 1:26
This is why the next verse in Hebrews says:
"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 (δι': because of) himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they."
The author then goes goes on to explain how the Scriptures prove that God has always favored mankind. He ends his prologue in the next chapter with verses 5-18:
"For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.
But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?
Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands:
Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
For it became him, for whom are all things, and by (δι': because of) whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,
Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.
And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
For verily he took not on [him the nature of: italics not in original Greek) angels; but he took on [him] the seed of Abraham.
Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted."
The author never mentions Yeshua until Hebrews 2:9, and notice right before he says "but we see Jesus", the author says "but now we see not yet all things put under him". This is because the first two chapters are about mankind- all of mankind. Yeshua is a man, and God put all things in subjection to him because this was God's purpose from the beginning.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the son of God: and they that hear shall live.
For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the son to have life in himself;
And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the son of man." John 5:25