απαυγασμα is radiance:
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1:3, NIV)
I see three possible ways radiance can be understood by the context:
The Son is like beams of light fully representing the Father. This would imply radiance in an active sense of radiating, as lightwaves move across the universe.
The Son is like light reflecting in a mirror by which we see the Father. Again this would imply active wavelengths of light hitting our retina in order for us to see the original source of the reflection.
The Son is a person embodying the full light of the Father. This would be like a Sun, giving birth to another Sun, so that the representation of the born Sun is just like the original Sun.
What I am wondering is, does the sense of the word απαυγασμα from a pure languages analysis lend itself more towards one of these three understandings, or must a decision be made between them be purely based from a theological and contextual ground?
NOTE: This is the entry from BDAG lexicon for ἀπαύγασμα:
ἀπαύγασμα, ατος, τό (s. αὐγάζω; Heliod. 5, 27, 4 φωτὸς ἀ.; TestAbr A 16 p. 97, 17 [Stone p. 42]; Philo; Wsd 7:26; Tat. 15, 3 τῆς … ὕλης καὶ πονηρίας [of hostile spirits]; Plut. has ἀπαυγασμός Mor. 83d and 934d; PGM 4, 1130 καταύγασμα) act. radiance, effulgence, in the sense of brightness from a source; pass., reflection, i.e. brightness shining back. The mng. cannot always be determined w. certainty. The pass. is prob. to be preferred in Plut. The act. seems preferable for Wsd and Philo (Op. Mundi 146, Spec. Leg. 4, 123, Plant. 50), corresp. to Hesychius: ἀ.=ἡλίου φέγγος. Philo uses the word of the relation of the Logos to God. Christ is described as ἀ. τῆς δόξης radiance of his glory Hb 1:3 (the act. mng. in the Gk. fathers Orig.; Gregory of Nyssa; Theodoret; Chrysostom: φῶς ἐκ φωτός. Likew. Theodore of Mopsu.; Severian of Gabala; Gennadius of Constantinople: KStaab, Pauluskommentare ’33, 201; 346; 421). For this ἀ. τῆς μεγαλωσύνης 1 Cl 36:2.—FDölger, Ac I 1929, 269ff. DELG s.v. αὐγή.
Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 99). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.