10

In Hebrews 5:7 Jesus has his 'prayer heard in what he feared' or 'heard in respect to what he feared' - 'εισακουσθεις απο της ευλαβειας'.

The ESV had his prayer was heard 'because of his reverence' implying a godly fear of God. However some few translations seem to render this fear to be the nervous sort, indicating his prayer was answered in that he was 'relieved and from his serious nervousness'. That nervous fear was obviously over the task of bearing the sins of the world and wrath of God.

The ESV has it:

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. (Hebrews 5:7, ESV)

A version that makes more sense to me:

who in the days of his flesh both prayers and supplications unto Him who was able to save him from death -- with strong crying and tears -- having offered up, and having been heard in respect to that which he feared (Hebrews 5:7, Young's Literal)

These two versions all seem to be based on the understanding of this word 'ευλαβειας' in the context and both are easy to defend doctrinally. My question is what evidence could be raised from the original Greek that understands this fear as Christ's fear of death (not his fear of God)? I ask as the overall context of the chapter seems to me to support this alternate view, but I can't determine how it is derived from the Greek alone.


Note: This question seems very close to this: In what way was Jesus' prayer heard (Hebrews 5:7)?. However it is not really the same as I am only interested in the translation of 'απο της ευλαβειας' and how that may be interpreted to indicate Christ's fear of enduring the wrath of God.

5

This is not the standard word for fear, which would be phobos. Rather eulabeia, ultimately comes from the verb lambano, which has various meanings, but here captures the meaning of "to take."

Eulabeia has at its root the meaning of to take hold of, in the sense of devotion, taking hold of God. It is not a fear based thing, but a conscious choice. Examining the uses in the NT of the word and its close cognates it is used in Luke, and Paul. Luke in Lk 2:25; Act 2:5; 6:2 and Paul here and Heb 12:28. In all the Lucian texts it plainly means devout, and I see no reason to think it different here in Hebrews.

One other point: phobos in classical Greek does have the meaning of fear, as opposed to reverence. However, the common Hebrew word for fear yare' has both meanings. It seems to me that this dual sense has bled into the usage of phobos in the Koine, most likely via the LXX, and its strong influence on the corpus of the NT.

  • +1 for taking a stab at it. However I do not think this is a cut and dry easy answer as some very knowledgable theologians very familiar with the greek have translated this as not reverent fear of God but reverent fear of death. Eg. John Owen in his commentary of Hebrews. What I am looking for is the reason why they would translate it this way based on Greek secular usage of the word or maybe the particular order of the words together in the context? I do not know? – Mike Nov 10 '12 at 7:18
  • also Kittel admits this might be appropriate (i.e. fear of death) but them argues against it without fully showing the logic of those who take that side. – Mike Nov 10 '12 at 7:20
  • 1
    @Mike, you know one thing that I didn't comment on here is the proposition apo used before eulabeia. YLT give it with the mouthful "in respect to that which he...", which I don't quite see the justification for. Normally apo denotes a point of origin, "from". ESV's "because" seems good. The source of God's listening was Jesus' reverence. Are we to believe that God listened because Jesus was scared to die, or because he was a faithful servant. I think the testimony of both Hebrews and the NT clearly tells us which is right. I don't find this ambiguous, theological machinations notwithstanding. – Fraser Orr Nov 11 '12 at 2:08
  • Thanks for the tip that might help me understand Owen's view. BTW Owen would never suggest the fear was fear of physical death but a serious reverence and nervous respect of taking the whole universe of sin upon his soul and to suffer the infinite wrath of God for it. If Jesus was merely afraid of death he would be more cowardly than a courageous martyr. No, the concept is that as he sweat drops of blood, ready to take on hell, his crying an tears were answered. Like I said both translations are easily defended theologically. – Mike Nov 11 '12 at 3:48
2

After pondering for some time I think it is fair to say that regardless of how the Greek is translated the answer may possibly be both at the same time. For in the context when Christ was to have all the sin of the world put upon him and then face the creator of the law and vindictive judge of all who break it what kind of reverence would he have of God if not chiefly a fear of how terrible this wrath was going to be. If he did not fear such an incomprehensible and infinite death that alone could approach breaking that indissoluble union that the Son eternally had with the Father, then he had no reverence for God at all.

Therefore, being heard in that he feared must have meant his prayer to sustain that wrath and obtain redemption of the elect, being victor over death. He was heard in answer to his fear of the eternal death he was about to bear for us, which is a religious fear central to his apprehensions of God's wrath and willing obedience to his moral Lordship. The answer to his prayer was that his offering of himself as an atoning sacrifice did survive that wrath and his obedience did overcome sin and death.

All these ideas seem implicit in one of his prayers very relevant to the meaning which these verses must mean:

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42, NIV)

0

The following comparison of various English versions might add to the conversation about the text of Hebrews 5:7:

Note that "fear" is not the only way it is translated. Other translations:

piety – NASB, Darby.

reverent submission – NIV, NRSV, Berean Literal Bible.

godly fear – NKJV, RSV, ASV, NWT.

reverence – ESV; CSB; Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA); New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE); Wycliffe Bible (WYC), 2001 by Terence P. Noble.

he feared – YLT, KJV/KJB, King James 2000, American King James, King James Bible: Purple Letter Edition, Webster Bible Translation, "Inspired Version of the Bible".

reverent fear – Jubilee Bible 2000; The Scriptures (ISR 1998) [Institute of Scripture Research].

he had God in reverence – Tyndale New Testament in Modern Spelling.

reverentia [in Latin] – Vulgate.

And some of these versions are pretty interesting:

and he was obeyed – Aramaic Bible in Plain English (also called The Original Aramaic New Testament in Plain English).

chasidus – Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB), most of which is in English.

the terror from which he shrank – Weymouth.

He truly worshiped God.... – Contemporary English Version (CEV).

devotion – NET Bible.

devotion to God – Names of God Bible (NOG).

godliness – New Matthew Bible (NMB).

That's an amazing amount of variety!

So, was it fear, or something else?

The Greek at the end of Hebrews 5:7 says:

καὶ εἰσακουσθεὶς ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας – In a version of "Textus Receptus" (TR) and in the MGNT (Morphological Greek New Testament).

Note that there are a number of words in the Greek that are not translated into English; this might also mean something, but I am uncertain what at this time. Perhaps someone here might notice something about that.

Here is the text from the TR ("Textus Receptus"); and I believe the Morphological GNT matches it:

5:7 ὃς ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ δεήσεις τε καὶ ἱκετηρίας πρὸς τὸν δυνάμενον σῴζειν αὐτὸν ἐκ θανάτου μετὰ κραυγῆς ἰσχυρᾶς καὶ δακρύων προσενέγκας καὶ εἰσακουσθεὶς ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας.


One other thing, it is conceivable that verse 7 isn't in reference to Christ but to Melchizedek, like so:

[6] As [He] also says in another [place]:

"You [are] a priest forever 
According to the order of Melchizedek."

[7] He, in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save him from death, and was heard because of the godly fear/reverence/piety/devotion of his.

—Hebrews 5:6-7.

IF verse 7 is in reference to Melchizedek, which seems at least conceivable, then there is no theological difficulty.


On the other hand, there is a passage in the Isaiah that has been interpreted to be in reference to the coming Messiah, which passage says his delight will be in the fear of YHWH/YHVH (verse 3):

Isaiah 11:1-10 NKJV - [1] There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. [2] The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.

[3] His delight [is] in the fear of the LORD, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears; [4] But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. [5] Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, And faithfulness the belt of His waist.

[6] "†The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. [7] The cow and the bear shall graze; Their young ones shall lie down together; And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. [8] The nursing child shall play by the cobra's hole, And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper's den. [9] They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea.

[10] "And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people; For the Gentiles shall seek Him, And His resting place shall be glorious."

† This quotation mark seems out of place. It was there at two different Websites.


The fear of YHWH/YHVH is a deep subject, as Psalms and Proverbs indicate:

Psalm 34:11 NASB - [11] Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

And how about this "promise":

Psalm 34:9 NASB - [9] O fear the LORD, you His saints; For to those who fear Him there is no want*. *i.e., (great) lack.

Some of the passages that refer to significant results via the fear of YHWH/YHVH:

Psalm 19:9a NASB - The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; ...

Psalm 111:10a NASB - The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; ...

Proverbs 1:7 NASB - The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 8:13 NASB - "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate.

Proverbs 9:10 NASB - The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 14:27 NASB - The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, That one may avoid the snares of death.

Proverbs 15:33 NASB - The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor [comes] humility.

Isaiah 33:6 NASB - And He will be the stability of your times, A wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge; The fear of the LORD is his treasure. Isaiah 33:6 NIV - He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.

Other interesting tidbits:

Near the end of Ecclesiastes:

Ecclesiastes 12:13 - The end/conclusion of the matter, after all has been heard: Fear elohiym, and keep his commandments: for this [is] the whole of Man.

Job 33:12-13a - [12] "Look, in this you are not right. I answer you, for elohiym is greater than Man. [13] Why do you contend against him...?

And an interesting one, just a tad out of context:

Deuteronomy 14:23 - "You shall eat in the presence of YHWH your elohiym... so that you may learn to fear YHWH your elohiym always.

Searches done:

  • "fear of the LORD" occurs 25 times in 25 verses in the NASB.
  • "fear God" occurs 18 times in 18 verses in the NASB.
  • "fear the god" occurs 1 times in 1 verses in the NKJV, but not in the NASB.
  • "fear of Jesus" occurs 0 times in 0 verses in the NASB.
  • "fear Jesus" occurs 0 times in 0 verses in the NASB.
  • "fear of the Christ" occurs 0 times in 0 verses in the NASB.
  • "fear of Christ" occurs 1 times in 1 verses in the NASB.
  • 1
    Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics. You can learn more about this site here. Currently, this answer is just a list of different translations. It would be good if you could relate them to each other, and in that way actually answer the question (because as it stands, this post doesn't). You can always edit your post. Thanks! – Keelan May 10 '18 at 10:09
  • 1
    Thank you for your observations, Stephen. Please ignore the idiotic -1 that usually shows up (I added a +1 to even it out). – Dieter May 19 '18 at 15:09
  • Edited today. :) – Stephen DeVore Mar 10 at 9:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.