5

Hebrews 1:5-14 should prove that Jesus is superior to angels, citing several Old Testament sources:

5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,

“You are my Son; today I have become your Father”?

Or again,

“I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”?

6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,

“Let all God’s angels worship him.”

7 In speaking of the angels he says,

“He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire.”

8 But about the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”

10 He also says,

“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 11 They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. 12 You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.”

13 To which of the angels did God ever say,

“Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?

14 Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

In some cases it's clear, but in the bold passages I'm not sure how Jesus is involved.

Verses 8-9 are the easier ones - by God is meant Jesus (the Son, second person of Trinity) in this context. Is it OK, or is it more complicated?

For 10-12, I understand that the Son was present and active in the creation of the world as the Word through which everything was created, and that death of the body didn't mean that Son ceased to be God. I'm not absolutely sure about the first part and I'm confused by the second one.

Can you help me to understand it?

4

The ones you have in bold are from two Psalms which were considered to have Messianic applications by the writer of Hebrews. He was arguing from the nature of Messiah that he was greater than angels. It seems that at the time the recipients of the letter had a high view of angels as above every possible person outside of God himself. As the writer really wanted to prove that Jesus was far above Moses (in order to establish the New Covenant) all he had to do is prove that Jesus was even higher than that, as we was even above the very angels of God.

The first section you have bolded is this Psalm:

Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. 7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. (Psalms 45:6-7, NIV)

According to Alfred Edersheim the Jewish historian ancient Rabbinic literature can easily be found that takes these verses to apply to the expected Messiah.

Ps. 45 is throughout regarded as Messianic. To begin with, the Targum renders verse 2 (3 in the Hebrew): ‘Thy beauty, O King Messiah, is greater than that of the sons of men.’...while the words, ‘Thy throne is for ever and ever’ are brought into connection with the promise that the sceptre would not depart from Judah in Ber. R. 99, ed. Warsh. p. 178 b, line 9 from the bottom. On verse 7 the Targum, though not in the Venice edition (1568), has: ‘Thou, O King Messiah, because Thou lovest righteousness,’ &c. Comp. Levy, Targum. Wörterb. vol. 2. p. 41 a. (Alfred Edersheim Life and Times of Jesus, Appendix 9)

Basically what we have here then is after showing the angels are just 'servants' Messiah has a 'throne'. As a king on his throne is above the servants that attend him, so Messiah must be above the angels.

The next Psalm you have bolded is more difficult to gather evidence of a Messianic application from ancient Rabbinic literature, although verses 12-13 have records of being Messianicly applied. However this is a trivial matter, due to the legitimacy and authenticity of the letter itself. In other words we can gather as much from the fact that the author is using it to prove the Messiah's superiority to angels. Therefore the recipients of the letter must have considered this portion of the Psalm also Messianic as verses 12-13, otherwise the author would not refer to this Psalm to prove the superiority of Messiah to the angels. Besides when one reads the Psalm and understand Messiah to be spoken of in 12-13 then it seems more natural to presume he is also being referred to in in 25-27.

In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 26 They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. 27 But you remain the same, and your years will never end. (Psalms 102:25-27, NIV)

Basically as applied to the Messiah the writer of Hebrews is saying that no angels created the world and will one day abolish it and recreate it all anew. Therefore Messiah is also here denoted as much superior to the angels. The argument seems strong and impossible to evade considering these Psalms are both referring to the Messiah that was to come and restore Zion.

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1

Hebrews 1 is comparing and contrasting the title that Jesus received ("son") to that of angels ("messenger"). A "son", being a royal term rather than a servile position gives Jesus rulership and other connotations of significantly greater exaltation than a mere angel:

KJV Heb 1:4  Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.  Heb 1:5  For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?  Heb 1:6  And again, when he bringeth in [again] the firstbegotten into the [populated] world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.  Heb 1:7  And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.  Heb 1:8  But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Heb 1:9  Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. 

[Note that in verse 9 the Psalm distinguishes "O god" from "God" in that "God" is referred to "God, even thy God" (IE: "Almighty God") is the one who anointed and therefore appointed the son, clearly identifying "O god" as inferior to "God, thy God".]

In verses 10-12, only verse 12b is about Jesus, signifying that Jesus, like God himself will have no end.

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I’d like to suggest a possible alternative suggesting that “angels,” as we conceive them as spirit beings, is actually secondary; and that Bible characters in general, which obviously includes angels of the spirit kind, is the primary focus. In other words, I believe the author (s) of Hebrews meant “anybody in the OT that we Hebrews hold in high esteem” or “anybody bearing a message directly from YHWH”. This would include David, Samson, Elisha, along with Gabriel, Michael, the Angel of the Lord, and so on.

Why do I say this?

To answer the meaning of any particular passage, such as Heb 1:5-14, we need to make sure we fully understand the flow of thought out from which they came.

Heb 1:1-2 sets up a “first way” and a “second way” scenario, a dichotomy, which I believe penetrates the book as a thesis. The peak statement of the thesis is explicitly stated in Heb 10:9, “He does away with the first in order to establish the second.”

Hebrews opens up by describing the “first way”:

Formerly, in many-varied degrees and in many-varied ways, (in the OT Age), God, having spoken with, by, in, to our (fore-) fathers, “in the prophets”

(Heb 1:1, author’s translation and parenthetical statements).

“In the prophets” like other terms, “in the Law,” refer to the Bible in general, those specific areas or sometimes a general term. The author(s)’ particular usage here seems to be “all the OT” as they go on to grab verses and comparisons from all over the OT, including the life stories of these “Bible characters that people tend to esteem” in chapter 11.

Therefore, since we don’t really talk this way, a paraphrase is warranted, simply just to explain how all the OT is meant and to explain the thesis, which is supported by the author(s) regarding types and shadows as “the first way”; the “second way” being the substance = faith.

In the Old Testament times, God spoke to our Hebrew forefathers in the mode of Bible stories by exposing the nature of a “thing” and communicating it to others through earthly means. But they did not receive the underlying nature of that “thing.”

(Heb 1:1, author’s paraphrase).

This “first way” pictured a reality. The “second way” is the reality, which is Christ: Him in us, us in Him. To stress this reality, the Hebrew author(s) use a specific phrase in 1:2, which most translations insert an extra word into, however in my opinion, this addition obscures the force of the opening thesis statement. Allow me again to offer a translation of Heb 1:2 followed by a paraphrase:

has fittingly in these final-outcome days (of NT reality) been speaking “within the realm of Son” / “in Son” (mode), Whom He established-as Heir of All Things and-also through Whom He brought-forth (to make) these ages.

(Heb 1:2, author’s translation and parenthetical statements).

Now in New Testament times, in the days of the final outcome, God speaks to us in Son-mode by inwardly expressing the very nature that was only pictured before.

(Heb 1:2, author’s paraphrase)

εν υιω = “en Huiō” = “in Son” is the reality of the “second way.” As we abide in Christ, we “enter today” in the reality such as in chapters 3-4 of the Promised Land pictured in the OT stories among other ideas. This is what I think the author(s) primarily meant.

For example, I think we are generally aware of how there are quite a few “first and second” scenarios in various OT Bible stories. The one I wish to focus on is the “first and second generation” leaving Egypt. Simply put, Moses led the first generation, but that generation could not enter under Moses’s leadership. This is the Mosaic Law. It’s way can only direct us to the need. As Paul essentially said in Gal 3:21, if the Law could give life, then there would have been no need of anything further. This takes us to the “second generation” as the further reality. Who leads that generation? Joshua does. The second generation entered the land by “sharing Joshua’s view”. The first generation rejected Joshua and Caleb’s view of how to enter.

I think we all know that Joshua is the same name as Jesus. “Jesus” is the English way of saying the Greek way of saying “Yeshua”, while “Joshua” is the English way bypassing Greek entirely. I believe this thing was so obvious to a Hebrew audience that all the author(s) needed to do was quote a passage from that point in Israel’s history that punctuated the great divide between this “first and second”. We find that quote from Deuteronomy in Heb 1:6.

Before I quote Heb 1:6, I’d like to point out that it was not common practice to quote vast swaths of Scripture to an audience quite familiar with the Scriptures. Writing materials were expensive and delivering a message also needed to take into account deliverability of the letter. Therefore, size was also important. Thus, it was standard practice to quote a key section of a passage, expecting the audience to fill in the rest of the context, sentence, or thought. The passage quoted from Deuteronomy explains who these messengers are if we simply keep reading. Although, like I said, this passage from a song would have been very familiar to any person nurtured by the Mosaic Law. Here is my translation and paraphrase of Heb 1:6:

And moreover when He brings in His (begotten) Firstborn (Son, Israel per Exodus 4:22) to (go) into the Habitable Land (of the “Promised Land”), He says (by the Bible story song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:43 ), “And let the messengers worship Him. (Be glad, O nations with His people! And grow in strength in Him all, O sons of God! For the blood of His sons, He shall avenge…and the Lord shall clear out the land for His people.)”

(Heb 1:6, author’s translation and parenthetical statements).

And so when God again brings His Firstborn to the edge of the Promised Land, the land they were to inhabit, Moses taught them a song in the “Second Law” of Deuteronomy 32, “And let God’s messengers worship Him! Be glad, O nations with His people! And grow in strength in Him all, O sons of God! For the blood of His sons, He shall avenge…and the Lord shall clear out the land for His people.”

(Heb 1:6, author’s paraphrase)

I suppose the thought of Heb 1:6 could carry on as follows, “God’s true messengers are “in Son”. But we all know this was shown to us in Bible stories. They showed what it looked like to have the “in Son” reality, which was “sharing Joshua’s view,” but they didn’t actually get that underlying reality. And that is why God told Moses to teach them this song about how all God’s messengers worship Him, which we now know is in “Spirit and Truth.”

So in answer to the original question, I’m suggesting that perhaps the premise of the question should be broadened to include the idea of “figures from Hebrew history that a Hebrew person would be tempted to hold in high esteem over Jesus”, which of course, includes angels, but as among all others such as Solomon in Psalm 2 / 2Sam 7:14. … Moses over his household, and so on.

Thus, in Heb 1:6, the standard translation envisions Jesus being born on planet earth, which I can agree to as an interpretive idea, but when we look at the quote’s source, then we are faced with God’s perspective quite clearly stated in Exodus 4:22 as , “Israel, My Son, My Firstborn”. In other words, God sees all these people as “in Son”, just as the Greek says it in Heb 1:2.

As a Hebrew, picture in your mind what the Exodus event looked like from God’s heavenly perspective. “Out of Egypt, God called His Son”. Yes, it is Jesus, praise the Lord! And yet, let’s see what God saw from above. He saw a great multitude of people, a “corporate Son” if you will. I think this kind of picture captivated Hebrew Christians, especially Paul, who was essentially told in the vision in Acts 9, “persecuting Christians is persecuting Christ”. It is a corporate body reality, the church as the body of Christ.

Furthermore, since I mentioned Paul, I believe this heavenly view of the Exodus event was firmly in his mind when he penned 2Cor 4:10-12 about bearing in our midst the deadening process of Jesus so that live goes out to others. That is exactly what this corporate Son looked like from the heavenly perspective due to Joseph’s bones being carried in their midst. The dead bones of one man planted in Egypt like a seed, lost their shell (the sarcophagus), and were carried out within the midst of Israel, My Son, My Firstborn, leaving captivity behind. We all know who Jacob loved as “firstborn”, and yet we see the corporate expression of this seed coming up out of “the clay brick building mentality of Egyptian slavery” into a flourishing resurrection of a Son begotten. “Today I have begotten you”. Right? There is even a bloody doorway provided by the spotless lamb!

In any case, I’m suggesting here that the case for messengers is bigger and grander than just saying Jesus is higher than angelic beings, but that He far exceeds any Bible character that was charged with giving us a specific message from YHWH. In fact, Jesus is the EXACT Expresser of YHWH’s underlying reality (hypo-stasis). The context of messengers is bigger than just referring to angels. That is what I think the meaning of Heb 1:5-14 is and for the remainder of the book going on.

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  • Welcome here! This answer is definitely well researched and novel, even though it may seem unclear in the beginning; adding a short summary in the beginning (on SE, this summary paragraph is often marked by acronym "TL;DR" - "too long; didn't read"). I'll check whether "oikoumene" is ever used for "the Promised Land" in Septuagint; your theory depends on this. Also, Heb 2:16 says that "angels" are not from the descendance of Abraham, so their understanding as "spirits" seems most likely. – Pavel Feb 12 '19 at 8:51
  • I appreciate your comments. I'll try to work on my communication. Regarding 1:6, I was really focusing on where the quote comes from, which is the Song of Moses. As to which word appears in the Septuagint, you will note that it depends on which version look at. For instance, ABP (an entirely Greek Bible) says Heb 1:6 used G3611οικουμένην while biblehub's interlinear identifies the word as G3625. So when you search, use G3611 instead of G3625. Happy hunting! – Cam F Feb 14 '19 at 4:26
  • I don't know the G + number convention, but I searched for οικουμένη (any form) in a Septuagint lexicon and found nothing at all. This means that οικουμένη wasn't a jewish term for "the Promised Land", so even Hebrews were likely to understand the word in its usual meaning, as "the world" (except for heaven, hades and other parts uninhabitable by living humans). I'm sure there are many OT references in the epistle to Hebrews, but your theory seems to go too far. – Pavel Feb 15 '19 at 8:44
  • Like I said it depends on which Septuagint text you are using. Searching the ABP-LXX for the OT only results in 103 instances. A quick, free, and easy way to get a variety of LXX versions and search them with a PC is by going to www.e-sword.net and then to www.biblesupport.com. – Cam F Feb 16 '19 at 2:51
  • As to the G#s you will see that some of the translation include a "+". That means they are keyed to the Strong's numbering system (G for Greek, H for hebrew), which is a great way to help others search who may not read Greek or Hebrew. – Cam F Feb 16 '19 at 2:53

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