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What is the correct English translation from Greek and meaning of Hebrews 1:6 ?

A few translations are:

( AKJV ) And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.

&

( ESV ) And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

In the above translations the use of "again" seems to give an impression that is it used to give a notion that the former speech/topic/point in verses above it is being continued in this verse.

But the translations below give an impression that the "again" is used for the second coming of Christ. That is when God brings His firstborn "again" into the world.

( YLT ) and when again He may bring in the first-born to the world, He saith, 'And let them bow before him -- all messengers of God;'

&

( Weymouth New Testament ) But speaking of the time when He once more brings His Firstborn into the world, He says, "And let all God's angels worship Him."

A lot of translations can be seen in parallel here

The considerations are:

1. Does the usage firstborn ( prōtotokon ) in Hebrews 1:6 signify another truth about the Son of God when compared to only begotten ( monogenē ) in John 3:16 if so what is it?

My understanding is that Jesus was the only begotten ( monogenē ) from Eternity as stated in

John 1:1 ( AKJV ) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

but Jesus became the firstborn ( prōtotokon ) only by His Resurrection as said in the scripture.

Colossians 1:18 ( AKJV ) And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

2. If the above understanding is correct, when talking about bringing the firstborn ( prōtotokon ) into the world, since Jesus became the firstborn ( prōtotokon ) only by resurrection the "again" in Hebrews 1:6 should refer to the bringing again of Jesus into the world by the Father which is the second coming of Jesus.

The bounty was started due another comment in another question which gives a feeling that Jesus became the firstborn when God created Jesus as wisdom.

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A key word in addition to πρωτότοκος (prōtotokos; prōtotokon is the accusative case) is also perhaps οἰκουμένη (oikoumenē) - rendered simply as world in the translations you cite. The word occurs 16 times in the New Testament and 49 in the Old (Septuagint), and in all cases refers to the inhabited, earthly world.


The "again" (πάλιν; palin) does not refer to the prototokos being brought into the world again, but rather is used as a sort of conjunction related to another Scriptural reference. The RSV translation and punctuation might make this a little clearer:

For to what angel did God ever say, “Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee”? Or again (καὶ πάλιν), “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? And again (δὲ πάλιν), when he brings the first-born into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

The three verses in succession that are being quoted/referenced here are Psalm 2:7 LXX, Psalm 88:26-27 LXX, and Deuteronomy 32:43 LXX.


The phrase ὅταν εἰσαγάγῃ τὸν πρωτότοκον εἰς τὴν οἰκουμένην (RSV: when he brings the first-born into the world) was understood by Greek Church Fathers in antiquity to refer to Christ's Incarnation and not to some future coming.

John Chrysostom (Constantinople; d. 407), for example, explains:

Our Lord Jesus Christ calls His coming in the flesh an exodus [or going out]: as when He saith, The sower went out to sow (Matthew 13:3). And again, I went out from the Father, and am come (John 16:28) And in many places one may see this. But Paul calls it an [eisodus or] coming in, saying, And when again He bringeth in (εἰσαγάγῃ) the First-Begotten into the world, meaning by this Bringing in, His taking on Him flesh.


Another Greek Father, Cyril of Alexandria (378-444), writes:

She had no other son but Him Who is of the Father: concerning Whom God the Father also proclaims by the voice of David, And I will set Him Firstborn (πρωτότοκος) high among the kings of the earth (Psalm 88:27 LXX). Of Him also the all-wise Paul makes mention, saying, But when He brought the First-begotten into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him. How then did He enter into the world? For He is separate from it, not so much in respect of place as of nature; for it is in nature that He differs from the inhabitants of the world: but He entered into it by being made man, and becoming a portion of it by the incarnation. For though He is the Only-begotten as regards His divinity, yet as having become our brother, He has also the name of Firstborn; that, being made the first-fruits as it were of the adoption of men, He might make us also the sons of God (Commentary on Luke)

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The OP's question can (I think!) be distilled to the question: In Heb 1:6 which is the correct translation - is it:

  1. "And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world … " (eg, as per ESV, NIV, BLB, etc). That is, πάλιν (palin = "again") introduces more evidence for the point already made by quoting another OT Scripture; or,
  2. "And when He again brings the firstborn into the world … " (eg, as per NASB, HCSB, NAS1977, etc). That is, πάλιν (palin = "again") refers to the (future) time when Jesus will be brought into the world a second time.

Both are possible given the Greek construction. If the second translation is correct, it is possible (though not essential) that it refers to Jesus' second advent rather than His first. Since both are grammatically possible, we must decide this question on the basis is semantics rather than syntax. I would argue that the first translation is correct for the following reasons:

  • The context of Heb 1:6 is Jesus' first advent and how great Jesus had already become
  • If the intent was to discuss a future time when Jesus would be introduced and brought into the world again, then the verb should be future tense, but it is not - it is aorist.
  • Every other instance of the use of πρωτότοκος (prototokos = "firstborn", singular) in the NT unambiguously refers to Jesus' pre-eminent position as a result of His incarnation, that is, the first advent. Luke 2:7, Rom 8:29, Col 1:15, 18, Heb 11:28, Rev 1:5.
  • The sequence of logic of the previous verses is simply a series of OT quotes beginning in v5 and ending in v12 from the OT. Even the phrase, "and again" appeared previously (halfway through v5) to introduce another verse of Scripture to provide a mounting pile of evidence that Jesus is much greater than the angels. This appears repeatedly (in abbreviated form, simply "and") in v7, v10, etc.

The Pulpit Commentary reaches the same conclusion:

The most obvious translation of the Greek here seems at first sight to be, "But whenever he [i.e. God] shall again bring [or, 'bring back'] the Firstborn into the inhabited world, he saith;" ὅταν εἰσαγάῃ denoting the indefiniteness of future time, and the position of πάλιν connecting it most naturally with εἰσαγάγῃ. If such be the force of πάλιν, the reference must be to the second advent; which, however, is not suggested by the context, in which there has been no mention of a first advent, but only of the assignation to the Messiah of the name of Son. This supposed reference to a second advent may be avoided by disconnecting πάλιν in sense from εἰσαγάγῃ, and taking it (as in the verse immediately preceding, and elsewhere in the Epistle) as only introducing a new quotation. And the Greek will bear this interpretation, though the order of the words, taken by themselves, is against it. The "Firstborn" (πρωτότοκος) is evidently the Son previously spoken of; the word is so applied (Psalm 89:27) in a passage undoubtedly founded on the text last quoted. The same word is applied in the New Testament to Christ, as "the Firstborn among many brethren," "the Firstborn of every creature," "the Firstborn from the dead" (Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15, 18). And the idea conveyed by these passages may have been in the writer's mind, and intended to be understood by his Christian readers. But for the immediate purpose of his argument he may be supposed to refer only to this designation as applied in the Old Testament to the SON already spoken cf. Thus the meaning may be, "But, again, with reference to the time when he shall introduce this SON, the Firstborn, into our inhabited world, he speaks thus of the angels." Or it may be, "But whenever he shall bring a second time into the world the Firstborn who has already once appeared, he speaks thus of the angels." But the first meaning seems more suitable to the general context.

Now to the second question about monogenes and its relation to prototokos. Monogenes does not appear in this passage and should be the subject of a different question, but for the sake of completeness I will add a few comments.

Monogenes is a word of the Greek New Testament that occurs 9 times, whose meaning is contentious because of the Arian vs Trinitarian controversy. The contention is best illustrated by its translation in the earliest version, Jerome’s Vulgate of 400 AD.

  • 3 times it applies to a parent’s only child (Luke 7:12, 8:42, 9:38) and is translated “unicus”, unique.
  • once it is used to describe Isaac (Heb 11:17) and is translated “unigenitus”, only begotten.
  • 5 times it is used to describe Jesus (John 1:14, 18, 3:16, 18, 1 John 4:9) and is translated “unigenitus”, only begotten.

Thus, the Vulgate (both Jerome and Clementine texts) adopted an uneven practice when rendering monogenes which was followed by Tyndale, the KJV, NKJV and many more until the late 20th century. Many modern versions since the late 20th century including NIV, NRSV, ESV, etc, uniformly translate this word as “only”, “unique” or equivalent. The point at issue here is the cognate root of the second part of the word – is it related to gennao (beget, bear), or to genos (class, kind)? Modern linguistic analysis is firmly of the view that the latter is correct (see BDAG which draws this conclusion). Indeed, if the New Testament writers had intended “only begotten” then they would have used the word, monogennetos; but they did not. This conclusion is further shown in other instances of monogenes in the LXX such as Ps 21:21 (LXX)/ 22:20 (NASB), Ps 24:16 (LXX)/ 25:16 (NASB) where the meaning cannot be “only begotten”.

Further, the correct meaning of monogenes is clear from its use in Heb 11:17. Isaac was neither Abraham’s first nor only child; however, Isaac was, by virtue of his miraculous conception and birth, and being a progenitor of Christ, unique among Abraham’s numerous children.

  • Thank you. So instead of using "only begotten" is it better to use "uniquely begotten"? – Siju George May 29 at 3:30
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    Monogenes means "only type" or "unique" - there is no begotten about it. It literally means "only one of its kind/type". Prototokos means "first born", or more broadly, most important. – user25930 May 30 at 2:32
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Separating scripture from the immediate surrounding verses will cause confusion. Heb. 1:6 is linked to Heb. 1:4 and through Heb. 1:8.

"4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they." (KJV)

A comparison begins in vs. 4, comparing the glory of Christ to any other "angel" / messenger of God.

"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?

6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him." (KJV)

The question begins in vs. 5. With each "again" the Holy Spirit was referring back to the original form of the question... "unto which of the angels said he at any time". If we paraphrase, then the meaning reads as:

For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my son...? [For unto which of the angels said he at any time] I will be to him a Father....? [For unto which of the angels said he at any time] ...Let all the angels worship him.

When did the Father say any of those three things to any of the other angels/ messengers. With the understanding of the definition of the Gr. "angelos" as messengers, we should consider that the use in vs. 5 & 6 may also include the earthly messengers of the prophets, priests, and judges of the OT. This is not limited to just the heavenly messengers.

The use of "again" in vs. 6 links back to the use in vs. 5. It is not speaking of the timing of Christ's return. The intent is to distinguish the Messenger / Word of God, the Angel of the Lord (OT) from every other "son" of God.

Strong's Gr. 4416, "protokos" as first-born, eldest, and ...

"(from 4413 /prṓtos, "first, pre-eminent" and 5088 /tíktō, "bring forth") – properly, first in time (Mt 1:25; Lk 2:7); hence, pre-eminent (Col 1:15; Rev 1:5). " Source: Biblehub

Thayer's Gr. Lexicon has:

"... In the same sense, apparently, he is called simply ὁ πρωτότοκος, Hebrews 1:6; πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν, the first of the dead who was raised to life, Colossians 1:18; also τῶν νεκρῶν (partitive genitive), Revelation 1:5 (Rec. inserts ἐκ); πρωτότοκος ἐν πολλοῖς ἀδελφοῖς, who was the Son of God long before those who by his agency and merits are exalted to the nature and dignity of sons of God, with the added suggestion of the supreme rank by which he excels these other sons (cf. Psalm 88:28 (); Exodus 4:22; Jeremiah 38:9 (), Romans 8:29;..." Source: Ibid.

Each use of "again" in Heb. 1:5-8 is referring back to the original statement "For to which of the angels / messengers..."

Heb. 1:6 was not referring to the "second appearance" of Christ. However, Heb. 1:1-3 is a very large clue to consider the time of Christ's return, and as this question has attempted to bring that up through a misapplication of the word "again" from vs. 6, it is appropriate to point out the timing in the first three vs. of this chapter.

"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

3 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 himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:" (KJV)

Heb.1:1 introduces the method of communication between God and man in times past.

Heb. 1:2 states that the communication between God and man came through Jesus (Yeshua) who "spoke" - past tense - "unto us" in "these last days". The way, the who, and the when. Through Christ in His manifestation on earth, to them.. to those living in the first century AD, during their generation, during their lifetime which the Holy Spirit called "these last days".

Heb. 1:3 "...when he had by himself purged our sins...." He purged our sins at the cross in that generation approx. 30-31 AD, during their lifetime, and that is when He sat down at the right hand of the Father.

When were the last days? A=B=C. He spoke to them in "these last days" and He spoke to them in the first century AD. Therefore, the first century AD were the last days!

The last days were those days during which Christ spoke directly to them, during the time in which HE was sacrificed as the Lamb slain, and during the time in which He sat down at the right hand of the Father. All of that occurred in the first century AD.

We are not living in the last days. They were. Every present tense verb, every future tense verb, every demonstrative "this" age, and "this generation" was their present tense, their future, and their age, their time.

"since it had behoved him many times to suffer from the foundation of the world, but now once, at the full end of the ages, for putting away of sin through his sacrifice, he hath been manifested;" (Heb. 9:26, KJV)

Hebrews told us which age was ending, the age in which the writers of the books and letters of the NT all point to.... the Mosaic age (Heb. 8:13). The last days were the days that would end the Mosaic sacrificial temple worship system, and those were the days in which Christ was manifested, was sacrificed and would return to finish and completely fill up that Mosaic temple in Jerusalem.

The last days were never discussing the end of the physical world, nor the end of time.

His return was to them, to those living in those last days of that end of the Mosaic age in order to destroy Jerusalem (Ezek. 22:20-22), and that temple which had become profane once He was the last sacrifice that would ever be needed.

Today, we are living in the Messianic age, the Christian age which has no end (Isa. 45:17; Eph. 3:21). As we read and study the NT today, we are not living in the "last days". They were. His second appearance was promised to them (Heb. 9:28), to those who had seen Him, touched Him, and spoke with Him directly (Heb.1:1-3). They were the only generation that had seen His first appearance, and they were the only ones who could therefore see Him a second time.

Now, today, almost 2,000 years later, we have to read the scriptures with first audience perspective. "This age" and "these last days" belong to them, to those of the first century AD. And His second return was not His second coming in judgment, as a "coming of the Lord" happened many times before in the OT. (See "The Days of His Visitation" here)

This is all discussed at my blog in the ten parts of It's Not The End of The World beginning at ShreddinTheVeil.

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What is the correct English translation from Greek and meaning of Hebrews 1:6

A correct and explicit translation by Dr Edgar J Goodspeed, points to the second coming of the Messiah.

Hebrews 1:6: “But of the time when he is to bring his firstborn Son back to the world he says, ‘And let all God’s angels bow before him.’”

Jesus is correctly called the "firstborn"of all creation:

Colossians 1:15 NRSV) The Supremacy of Christ.

15 "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." He is the beginning of God's creation:

Revelation 3:14 (KJV)

14 "And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God."

Jesus existed before the creation of the universe and other spirit beings, and by means of Him all other things in heaven and on earth were created.

Colossians 1:16 (KJV)

16 "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:"

WORSHIP OR BOW BEFORE HIM.

In view of what Jesus said to Satan. “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” (Matthew 4:10 NASB)Therefore , a more correct translation in harmony with the scriptures , the verse should read instead of "worship"- "pay him homage", "do obeisance to him" or "bow before him" as translated by YTL that you have already mentioned. Goodspeed also translates the verse, "bow before him".

Hence any worship given to God's Son by the angels should be viewed as directed to God through Jesus.

( YLT ) "And when again He may bring in the first-born to the world, He saith, 'And let them bow before him -- all messengers of God;"

That God calls his angels to "bow before him" should be of no surprise to us, when we read, that Jesus humbled himself, suffered death in the flesh and made alive in the spirit.

1 Peter 3:18 (NASB)

18" For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit."

Hebrews 2:9 (NASB)

Jesus Briefly Humbled

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."

In line with the rights of the privileges of the firstborn, God gave his firstborn all authority and power in heaven and on earth.

Philippians 2:9-10 (NASB)

9 "For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth"

Matthew 28:18 (NASB)

18 "And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth".

CONCLUSION.

In Hebrews 1:1-2 (NRSV) we read that Paul speaks of Jesus first coming, as a human being and that God spoke to his generation by means of his Son.

God Has Spoken by His Son

1 "Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds."

In verse 6 Paul points to Jesus second coming ,or turning his attention to the world of humankind to consummate his work. Jesus taught his followers to pray, "‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:9) Jesus as heir was given all authority in Heaven and on Earth,and so as Ruler of God's Kingdom ,He will establish God's will on earth.

Notes: For the signs of Christ's return, read Matthew chapter 25

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