8

In Hebrews 1:8-9, ὁ θεός appears in the nominative spelling in both verses. The question is this; should ὁ θεός be treated as a nominative or more as a vocative of address as it is every other place in the NT where God is addressed? For example, Mark 15:34, ὁ θεός μου ὁ θεός μου. Please, this is not intended to be a theological question but strictly a question on Greek grammar.

[Heb 1:8-9 MGNT] (8) πρὸς δὲ τὸν υἱόν ὁ θρόνος σου ὁ θεός εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος καὶ ἡ ῥάβδος τῆς εὐθύτητος ῥάβδος τῆς βασιλείας σου (9) ἠγάπησας δικαιοσύνην καὶ ἐμίσησας ἀνομίαν διὰ τοῦτο ἔχρισέν σε ὁ θεός ὁ θεός σου ἔλαιον ἀγαλλιάσεως παρὰ τοὺς μετόχους σου

[Psa 45:6-7 LXX] (6) ὁ θρόνος σου ὁ θεός εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος ῥάβδος εὐθύτητος ἡ ῥάβδος τῆς βασιλείας σου (7) ἠγάπησας δικαιοσύνην καὶ ἐμίσησας ἀνομίαν διὰ τοῦτο ἔχρισέν σε ὁ θεὸς ὁ θεός σου ἔλαιον ἀγαλλιάσεως παρὰ τοὺς μετόχους σου

1
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Soldarnal
    May 17, 2020 at 22:32

9 Answers 9

6

Is ὁ θεός nominative or vocative?

The question is a bit simplistic. The answer is that all occurrences of θεός in Heb. 1:8–9 are in fact nominative. Anyone who can read a declension table can tell you that. But, that isn’t actually the real question, which is, “Are all occurrences of θεός in Heb. 1:8–9 functioning as nominatives?” The answer to that question is, “No.”

Ηʹ πρὸς δὲ τὸν υἱόν ὁ θρόνος σου ὁ θεός εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος καὶ ἡ ῥάβδος τῆς εὐθύτητος ῥάβδος τῆς βασιλείας σου Θʹ ἠγάπησας δικαιοσύνην καὶ ἐμίσησας ἀνομίαν διὰ τοῦτο ἔχρισέν σε ὁ θεός ὁ θεός σου ἔλαιον ἀγαλλιάσεως παρὰ τοὺς μετόχους σου

We should note that the author explicitly states that verse 8 is said “to the Son” (πρὸς τὸν υἱόν). In v. 8, both «ὁ θρόνος σου» and «ὁ θεός» are declined in the nominative case, which, unless they are in apposition, is nonsensical, as both could not be the subject of the sentence. It is highly improbable that «ὁ θρόνος σου» is a nominative functioning as a vocative, but quite possible (and indeed, likely) that «ὁ θεός» is, especially considering the preceding «πρὸς τὸν υἱόν». Hence, the clause would begin:

8 O’ God (vocative address to the Son), your throne is eternal...

We have the same predicament concerning the occurrence of double nominatives in the next verse, v. 9: «ὁ θεός ὁ θεός σου». As before, one of these nominatives is functioning as a vocative, while the other is the subject of the clause (i.e., functioning nominatively).

9 You loved righteousness and hated iniquity. Therefore, O’ God (vocative address to the Son), your God (the Father) anointed you with the oil of gladness more than your companions.

If the nominative-for-vocative ὁ θεός in vv. 8–9 (one in each) refers to the Son, then the ὁ θεός functioning nominatively in v. 9 is the Father, as it is written in Acts 10:38 that the Father anointed the Lord Jesus Christ:

how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. NKJV, ©1982

3
  • 2
    @ThomasPearne: The vocative form Θεέ occurs nowhere in the entire book of Psalms, whereas its nominative form functions as a vocative dozens of times in that same book.
    – Lucian
    May 17, 2020 at 17:12
  • 1
    O Übermensch, after explaining how “the nominative-for-vocative ὁ θεός in vv. 8–9 [of Hebrews 1] (one in each) refers to the Son”, could you please explain: how do things work in Psalm 45:6-7 LXX? How could the Jews miss that those verses of the Psalm speak of the Father and the Son? Jun 9, 2021 at 0:22
  • 1
    (P.S. Rather than YHWH and the Davidic king who is about to marry a lovely princess). Jun 9, 2021 at 0:29
6

The Greek of the first part of Heb 1:8 says this:

πρὸς δὲ τὸν Υἱόν Ὁ θρόνος σου ὁ Θεὸς ... = but to the Son [He declares], "Your throne O God ...

Daniel Wallace in "Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics" has this to say about this verse (page 59):

There are three syntactical possibilities for Θεὸς here:

  • as subject ("God is your throne"), eg, Wescott, Moffatt, RSV margin, NRSV margin, NEB margin
  • predicate nominative ("your throne is God") - an excellent study of Heb 1:8, Harris could only find Hort and Nairne among the commentators to hold this view (...)
  • nominative for vocative (as the translation above)

The S and PN translations can be lumped together [see original for more details] and set off against the nominative for vocative approach. It is our view that the nominative for vocative is to be preferred for the following reasons:

  1. It is an overstatement to argue that if a writer wanted to address God he could have used the vocative Θεέ, because nowhere in the NT is this done except in Matt 27:46. The articular nom. for voc. is the almost universal choice
  2. This is especially the case in quoting from the LXX (as in Heb 1:8, cf Heb 10:7) for the LXX is equally reticent to use the voc.form, most likely since Hebrew lacked such a form
  3. The accentuation in the Hebrew is Ps 45:7 suggests that there should be a pause between "throne" and "God" (indicating that tradition took "God" as direct address) [see footnote in original]
  4. This view takes seriously the μὲν ... δὲ construction i vv 7-8, while the S-PN view does not adequately handle these conjunctions. Specifically, if we read v 8 as "your throne is God" [see footnote of original] then δὲ looses its adversarial force, for such a statement could also be made of the angels, viz, that God reigns over the angels. [see footnote in original].

Thus, in agreement with the above cogent arguments, ὁ Θεὸς is a nominative for vocative construction consistent with the rest of the NT and LXX and thus the translation of almost all modern translations is correct, "**

your throne, O God ...

NOTE: See Wallace, GGBB for many other examples of Nominative for vocative. Thus, it is NOT true that "ho" is translated "the" throughout the NT. Indeed, it is translated in various ways such as:

  • "the one", is as a pronoun
  • vocative case - see Wallace GGBB for many details, page 56-59 and the dozens of examples cited
  • sometimes it is left untranslated
  • sometimes it is translated "the"
  • etc.

The Greek article is thus not a direct equivalent of the English definite article.

4
  • Your answers are always simple. Do you have a Website where I can view all your scholarly works Sir Dec 8, 2022 at 9:16
  • 1
    @FaithMendel - Many thanks for your kind remarks. No, I do not have a website. I am just a dotty old bloke who loves the Bible message as it is written because it tells us about our loving friend, Jesus.
    – Dottard
    Dec 8, 2022 at 9:21
  • Yes. Jesus! I'm glad you are Here Sir. I am a Very Young Lover of God and his Word. I came here to be strengthened. But I saw lots of Strong Intellectual Statements against the divinity of Jesus. Till I stumbled on your Answers. It just gets clear and simple Sir. Dec 8, 2022 at 9:25
  • I will just go to your profile and go through all your answers. You can write a Commentary on scriptures and I will gladly make use of it. Many Thanks Again Sir. Dec 8, 2022 at 9:26
5

Summary
There are at least three reasons why ὁ θεός is understood to be vocative:

  • Lexical
  • Grammatical
  • Literary structure

Lexical
The Lexicons state ὁ θεός is being used as vocative in this passage:1

❷ Some writings in our lit. use the word θ. w. ref. to Christ (without necessarily equating Christ with the Father, and there in harmony w. the Shema of Israel DT 6:4; cp. Mk 10:18 and 4a below), though the interpretation of some of the pass. is in debate. In Mosaic and Gr-Rom. tradition the fundamental semantic component in the understanding of deity is the factor of performance, namely saviorhood or extraordinary contributions to one's society...Hb 1:8,9 (in a quot. fr. Ps 44:7,8) S. TGlasson, NTS 12, '66, 270-72. Jd 5 P72. But above all Ignatius calls Christ in many pass.: θεός
God in Israelite/Christian monotheistic perspective, God the predom. use, somet. with, somet. without the art.

h. ὁ θ. is used as a vocative Mk 15:34 (Ps 21:2, twice at the beginning of the invocation of a prayer. Ael. Dion. θ, 8; Paus. Attic. θ, 7; 'θεός θεός'); Lk 18:11; Hb 1:8 (Ps 44:7; MHarris, TynBull 36, '85, 129-62); Ps 39:9); AcPl Ha 3, 10; 5, 12;31. S. also 2 and 3c and the beg. of this entry.

Grammatical
The use of ὁ θεός in Hebrews 1:8-9 is vocative. The paper by Murray J. Harris cited has a detailed grammatical analysis (the full copy which can be found here). He says:

Some scholars are reluctant to express a preference as to whether ὁ θεός is nominative or vocative in v. 8, declaring that both interpretations are admissible and make good sense. But the overwhelming majority of grammarians, commentators, authors of general studies and English translations construe ὁ θεός as a vocative (O God'). Given the affirmation of v. 3 that the Son is the effulgence of God's glory and the visible expression of his being, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that when the author affirms further that God the Father addresses his Son as θεός at his resurrection he intends to signify that, equally with the Father, Jesus possesses the divine natures.2

In the footnotes Harris identifies which grammarians, commentators, authors of general studies and English translations interpret the phrase as vocative.

Literary Structure
In addition to the semantic and grammatical arguments in favor of the vocative, the literary structure should be considered. The passage (1:5-13) has seven OT quotes prefaced by who it applies to, angels or the Son. Six apply to the Son and one to angels. Of the six which apply to the Son, two are introduced as contrasting with angels; two with καὶ, and two which identify the Son. These have been arranged in a chiasmus: enter image description here

The structure begins and ends using the same introduction: angels, in contrast to the Son. The center of the chiasm is likewise introduced with angels, this time in the affirmative to demonstrate the Son's superiority.

The chiastic partner to verses 8-9 is verse 6, which says the angels will worship the Son: both describe a vocative address. This literary structure allows the reader to understand angelic worship of the Son is at the same time worship of His Father, or to God in all fullness.

An aspect of the question of why the vocative θεέ was not used. The reason is seen by comparing the citation (verses 10-12) to their OT source, LXX Psalm 102[101]: enter image description here

The LXX does use the vocative: κύριε ("Lord"). However, apparently that translator did not think it appropriate to preserve the Hebrew form יָסַ֑דְתָּ ("you laid the foundation") and replaced "you" with "Lord." This creates a more formal address than the original.

With respect to how this Psalm was used in the letter, the English obscures the fact the writer did preserve the vocative: καί σὺ κατ᾽ ἀρχάς κύριε τὴν γῆν ἐθεμελίωσας καὶ ἔργα τῶν χειρῶν σού εἰσιν οἱ οὐρανοί (v. 10). Therefore, in the chiasmus B, verse 6 and B', verses 10-12, have been linked to imply the Father is speaking:

B: I will be a Father to him...
B': And you Lord (vocative)...

This is another consideration of how the writer used structure to reinforce his intent.

Conclusion
Normally the vocative is the correct case to identify who is being addressed. However, when addressing God, the LXX consistently uses the nominative ὁ θεὸς or the vocative κύριε. This is similar to "vocalizing" the Divine Name YHVH as "Adonai" and writing "Lord."

As cited in Hebrews, the common theme in both Psalm 45[44] and 102[101] is the appropriate form of address when man addresses God. In both cases the LXX has an address which shows greater respect than was present in the Hebrew. In other words, the translator deviated from the original grammatical form to compose an address of greater respect to God. The writer of the letter preserved these in his appeal for the reader to consider who Christ is.


1. Fredrick William Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, The University Chicago Press, 2000, p. 450-451 [Also William F. Arndt F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, The University Chicago Press, 1957, p. 357-358]
2. Murray J. Harris, THE TRANSLATION AND SIGNIFICANCE OF ‘O ΘΕΟΣ IN HEBREWS 1:8-9, Tyndale Bulletin 36 (1985), pp. 146-149

2
  • Murray Harris Tindale link is dead
    – Michael16
    May 11, 2022 at 3:50
  • @Michael16 Thank you. I found another which is not a direct connection, but if you scroll to volume 36, you can open a pdf of the article. May 11, 2022 at 15:16
3

The reason why ο θεος should be regarded as vocative in Psalm 45:6 and Hebrews 1:8 is because (i) it isn't against the grammar. In fact, ο θεος as vocative is grammatically accurate, (ii) it is a consensus that in ancient Jewish sources that ο θεος was regarded as vocative.

The ordinary rendering has the support of almost all ancient authority, Jewish writers and ancient versions being apparently united in its favour (Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers, Hebrews 1:8).

At any rate, "God" is understood as a vocative in the LXX. as well as in the Epistle, in which the LXX. is quoted (for the use of the nominative form, ὁ Θεὸς, in a vocative sense, cf. Luke 18:11, 13; Matthew 27:29; Mark 9:25; Luke 8:54; Luke 12:32);' and in the Chaldee paraphrase, and all ancient versions, it is understood so also. Probably no other interpretation would have been thought of but for the difficulty of supposing an earthly king to be thus addressed. It is to be observed, however, that the other rendering would express essentially the same idea, and be sufficient for the argument. In either case the throne of the SON is represented as God's throne, and eternal. The only difference is that the vocative rendering makes more marked and manifest the ideal view of his subject taken by the psalmist. For it is most unlikely that a bard of the sanctuary, a worshipper of the jealous God of Israel, would have so apostrophized any earthly king except as prefiguring "a greater than Solomon" to come. It is true that kings are elsewhere called "gods" in the plural (as in Psalm 82:6, referred to by our Lord, John 10:35); but the solemn addressing of an individual king by this title is (if the vocative rendering be correct) peculiar to this psalm. The passage (1 Samuel 28:13) adduced in abatement of the significance of the title, where the apparition of Samuel is described by the witch of Endor as "Elohim ascending out of the earth," is not a parallel case. The word "Elohim" has a comprehensive meaning, depending on context for its precise significance. If vocatively used in a solemn address to a king sitting upon an everlasting throne, it surely implies the assigning of Divine honors to the king so addressed. In this case still more is implied than in Psalm 2, where the King is spoken of as God's Son, enthroned on Zion, the Son being here addressed as himself "Elohim." It may be that the inspiring Spirit suggested language to the psalmist beyond his own comprehension at the time of utterance (see 1 Peter 1:10, 11). It may be added that the ultimate Messianic reference of the expression is confirmed by Isaiah 9:6, where the title El-Gibber ("Mighty God," A.V.) distinctly used of God himself in Isaiah 10:21 (cf. Deuteronomy 10:17; Jeremiah 32:18; Nehemiah 9:32; Psalm 24:8), is applied to the Messiah (Pulpit Commentary).

We should note that the author explicitly states that verse 8 is said “to the Son” (πρὸς τὸν υἱόν). In v. 8, both «ὁ θρόνος σου» and «ὁ θεός» are declined in the nominative case, which, unless they are in apposition, is nonsensical, as both could not be the subject of the sentence. It is highly improbable that «ὁ θρόνος σου» is a nominative functioning as a vocative, but quite possible (and indeed, likely) that «ὁ θεός» is, especially considering the preceding «πρὸς τὸν υἱόν». Hence, the clause would begin:

8 O’ God (vocative address to the Son), your throne is eternal...

We have the same predicament concerning the occurrence of double nominatives in the next verse, v. 9: «ὁ θεός ὁ θεός σου». As before, one of these nominatives is functioning as a vocative, while the other is the subject of the clause (i.e., functioning nominatively).

9 You loved righteousness and hated iniquity. Therefore, O’ God (vocative address to the Son), your God (the Father) anointed you with the oil of gladness more than your companions.

If the nominative-for-vocative ὁ θεός in vv. 8–9 (one in each) refers to the Son, then the ὁ θεός functioning nominatively in v. 9 is the Father, as it is written in Acts 10:38 that the Father anointed the Lord Jesus Christ:

how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. NKJV, ©1982 (Der Übermensch, 2020)

"God is thy throne" - while grammatically possible, ancient Jews consistently viewed the Hebrew as vocative and this is reflected in how they translated it in Greek and how they regarded it in their Targum.

Aquila translates אלהים (Elohim) into Greek as Θεέ "O God" in the vocative case:

Ο θρονος σου Θεέ, εις αιωνα και ετι

enter image description here (Source: https://earlychurch.org.uk/pdf/hexapla/origenis-hexapla_vol2.pdf)

The Targum regards the text as vocative and even addressing Jehovah himself:

Targum regards the words as addressed to Jehovah, ‘The throne of Thy majesty, O Jehovah, abideth for ever and ever.

enter image description here (Hebrews 1:8-9 of Papyrus 46)

P46 (A.D. 200) has auto ("his").

If this were the original reading, Paul did not quote the Psalm verbatim but deviated from it, changing sou ("your") to auto ("his"). What could the author's reasons of not following the LXX? Why did Paul allude to ,instead of quoting, Psalm 45:6b?

Heb 1:8a
"your throne O God for ever and ever" 

Heb 1:8b 
The scepter of righteousness is the scepter of his kingdom. 

Logically, Paul would be only quoting the first half of Ps 45:6 (LXX) and then alluded to the second half, mostly likely making it a commentary.

NASB followed the reading of Papyrus 46 but still rendered ο θεος as vocative.

Conclusion

The vocative is grammatically possible and also strongly supported by very ancient witnesses/historical sources. It is therefore most likely the understanding of the author of Hebrews 1:8. In this case, the NASB (also following the most ancient MSS of Hebrews: P46) accurately translated the text in question:

Hebrews 1:8 New American Standard Bible 8 But regarding the Son He says, “Your throne, God, is forever and ever, And the scepter of righteousness is the scepter of His kingdom.

Notes

1.The Hebrew scholar, Aquila, who published a Greek Version of the Old Testament, in the middle of the 2nd century A.D., translates the Hebrew, “אֱלֹהִים”, by the Greek, “ο θρονος σου θεε”, which is undoubtedly the vocative, “Your throne, O God”. (Fredrick Field, Origen Hexapla, vol. II, pp. 162-163). It is clear, that as early as the 2nd century, the Hebrew, “כִּסְאֲךָ אֱלֹהִים”, was understood as the vocative, and not the nominative. The 11th century French Rabbi, Shlomo Yitzchaki, also known as Rashi, in his comments on this verse, renders it, “Your throne, O judge: Your throne, O prince and judge, shall exist forever and ever” (https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16266/showrashi/true).

2.In verse 9, the words, “ὁ θεὸς ὁ θεός σου”, is also in the vocative, and should read: “O God, your God”. This is how it was understood in the Greek Old Testament by Symmachus, published in the latter half of the 2nd century. (see, Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges). In this verse also Aquila uses the vocative, θεέ. (Fredrick Field, Origen Hexapla, vol. II, pp. 162-163)

3."Though Kim’s suggestion that Chester Beatty Biblical Papyrus II was written before the reign of Domitian (81–96 CE) has been refuted, the consensus continues that it was produced c. 200 CE."(https://danielbwallace.com/tag/p46/)

2
  • Very informative. I need to know more about Aquila's translation. You should only correct the dating of P46 that is 200AD. Don't quote misleading shady dates of any mss.
    – Michael16
    Mar 7, 2022 at 3:04
  • 1
    @Michael16 thank you. I edited my answer.
    – R. Brown
    Mar 7, 2022 at 4:28
2

But of the Son he says, 'Your throne, O God is forever and ever.” πρὸς δὲ τὸν υἱόν, Ὁ θρόνος σου ὁ θεὸς εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος,

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

There are two major questions that confront us in the structure of verse 8.

First, is the complete absence of the vocative case indicator in the opening address, πρὸς δὲ τὸν υἱόν, Ὁ θρόνος σου ὁ θεὸς.

Second, is the question of the subject.

θεὸς is the nominative spelling rather than the vocative θεέ. Yet, it still functions as a vocative. Such use is common in the New Testament. This is what Wallace refers to as a "nominative for a vocative." In his Greek grammar “Beyond the Basics - an exegetical syntax of the New Testament,” on page 59, Wallace comments on the use of the nominative for the vocative using Hebrews 1:8 as his example.

“A substantive in the nominative is used in the place of the vocative case. It is used (as is the vocative) in direct address to designate the addressee. There are three syntactical possibilities for θεός here: as a subject (“God is your throne”), predicate nominative (“your throne is God”), and nominative for vocative (as in the translation above). The Subject and Predicate Nominative translations can be lumped together and set off against the nominative for vocative approach. It is our view that the nominative. for vocative view is to be preferred for the following reasons:  It is an overstatement to argue that if a writer wanted to address God he could have used the vocative θεέ, because nowhere in the NT is this done except in Matthew 27:46. The articular nominative for vocative is the almost universal choice.  This is especially the case in quoting from the LXX (as in Hebrews 1:8; cf. Hebrews 10:7), for the LXX is equally reticent to use the vocative form, most likely since Hebrew lacked such a form.  The accentuation in the Hebrew of Psalms 45:7 suggests that there should be a pause between “throne” and “God” (indicating that tradition took “God” as direct address).  This view takes seriously the μέν … δέ construction in verses 7–8, while the Subject - Predicate Nominative view does not adequately handle these conjunctions. Specifically, if we read v 8 as “your throne is God” the δέ loses its adversative force, for such a statement could also be made of the angels, viz., that God reigns over them.” End Quote.

The nominative for the vocative is indeed a powerful argument. In all other instances where God is addressed in the New Testament (other than Matthew 27:46), God is addressed in the nominative case yet, the force of the address is vocative. In Mark 15:34, Mark rehearses this same account of the crucifixion but uses the nominative case rather that the vocative in Jesus' address to the Father as Matthew did - Ὁ θεός μου ὁ θεός μου, εἰς τί ἐγκατέλιπές με. This example give force to the use of the nominative functioning as a vocative. Hebrews 1:8 is simply another example of this type of grammatical structure. In verse 9, this same grammatical structure is found yet again in the phrase - διὰ τοῦτο ἔχρισεν σε ὁ θεὸς, ὁ θεός σου ἔλαιον – “Because of this God, your God has anointed you with oil...” Here again is a case of the nominative functioning as the vocative. The only absolute vocative spelling of address appears in verse 10 where the Father addressing the Son as Lord saying, καί, Σὺ κατ’ ἀρχάς, κύριε – “And you in beginning Lord...”?

In short, there is simply no grammatical justification for treating ὁ θεός as a nominative in these two verses.

0
1

The nominative is the normative way of rendering the Hebrew vocative in Hebraistic Jewish Greek (the majority of the Greek Old Testament):

Psalm 45:6 כסאך אלהים עולם ועד שבט מישר שבט מלכותך

Thy throne, O God, is eternal: and the sceptre of thy kingdom is righteousness, forever.

Thus, Hebrews, quoting the LXX (Greek Old Testament) is using the nominative vocatively, since it quotes the LXX.

0

Nominative, or, vocative? The answer may well be in the beholding. Names, or even titles (but not limited to these), that are being addressed directly, are said to be in the vocative case. "The Son" here is being merely referenced and is in the accusative case and is therefore the direct object and not the subject of the sentence. "God", even though the subject of the sentence, is not being addressed directly here, so does not need to be in the vocative case. Also, the definite article "the", precedes "God", in all three instances in the Greek, and in Greek, the definite article does not have a vocative case. So, as God is not being addressed directly and is preceded by the definite article, the Greek utilizes the nominative case, as is permitted.

As is often the case in the NASB, as is the case in many a modern day translation, we suffer from "Trinitarian" bias, in the translating of verse 8. The Greek for..."Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever"...(the translation being an unabashed attempt to conflate Jesus with God), is better represented in English as follows..."God is your throne for ever and ever"...and some translations even, as already pointed out in an earlier answer, lean in this direction. When then considering (in Verse 9) the other two instances, already in question, it becomes blatantly clear that God is a separate spiritual entity, and Father to (the only begotten), Jesus.... his God, who anointed him with the oil of exultation, thus singling him(not himself) out, rather than any of the other angels.

11
  • 2
    This is utter nonsense
    – oldhermit
    May 18, 2020 at 23:16
  • Would you like to explain the fact that none of my answer makes sense? May 18, 2020 at 23:41
  • 1
    Truth lies exclusively in the grammatical structure of the text. You are ignoring the rules of grammar and allowing your theology to influence your reading of the text so, I am going to stop this conversation here and now.
    – oldhermit
    May 18, 2020 at 23:57
  • 1
    Here again, the NWT and similar versions, attempt to honor the "one true God" but effectively do the reverse by making Jesus sit on God, ie, by translating, "God is your throne" a blasphemous idea! The translation completely ignores the rules of grammar and there is no example of the the vocative for theos in the NT except for Matt 27:46. In the hundreds of nominative case, very many of them use nominative for vocative. The NWT is not consistent because it often translates these in the vocative, but not in Heb 1 because it violates their theology resulting in an erroneous translation.
    – Dottard
    Mar 3, 2022 at 9:32
  • 1
    For example, in Luke 18:13 we have exactly the same construction "ho theos" (which is nominative) but the NWT gives "O God" = vocative.
    – Dottard
    Mar 3, 2022 at 9:35
0

… in the eye of the beholder …

Here are the texts, copied from the Question:

[Heb 1:8-9 MGNT] (8) πρὸς δὲ τὸν υἱόν ὁ θρόνος σου ὁ θεός εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος καὶ ἡ ῥάβδος τῆς εὐθύτητος ῥάβδος τῆς βασιλείας σου (9) ἠγάπησας δικαιοσύνην καὶ ἐμίσησας ἀνομίαν διὰ τοῦτο ἔχρισέν σε ὁ θεός ὁ θεός σου ἔλαιον ἀγαλλιάσεως παρὰ τοὺς μετόχους σου

[Psa 45:6-7 LXX] (6) ὁ θρόνος σου ὁ θεός εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος ῥάβδος εὐθύτητος ἡ ῥάβδος τῆς βασιλείας σου (7) ἠγάπησας δικαιοσύνην καὶ ἐμίσησας ἀνομίαν διὰ τοῦτο ἔχρισέν σε ὁ θεὸς ὁ θεός σου ἔλαιον ἀγαλλιάσεως παρὰ τοὺς μετόχους σου


This is an interesting exercise in exegesis, before it is an exercise in hermeneutics.

The questions I am examining are:

  1. How close is Heb 1:8-9’s quotation to the quoted couplet Psa 45:6-7 LXX (LXX 44:7-8)?
  2. How faithful is the translation of Psa 45:6-7 HEB into Psa 45:6-7 LXX (LXX 44:7-8)?

Here are the relative exams:

  1. Apart from the introductive phrase (πρὸς δὲ τὸν υἱόν), the differences are: (8<=6) Small and irrelevant differences in the phrase καὶ ἡ ῥάβδος τῆς εὐθύτητος ῥάβδος τῆς βασιλείας σου (9<=7) Identical.
  2. Here are the two verses of Psalm 45:6-7 in HEB (with word for word English translation) 45:6 (WLC 45:7) כִּסְאֲךָ אֱלֹהִים עוֹלָם וָעֶד שֵׁבֶט מִישֹׁר שֵׁבֶט מַלְכוּתֶֽךָ׃ (the throne of God, [is] for ever and ever: a sceptre of uprightness [is] the sceptre of your kingdom 45:7 (WLC 45:8) אָהַבְתָּ צֶּדֶק וַתִּשְׂנָא רֶשַׁע עַל־כֵּן מְשָׁחֲךָ אֱלֹהִים אֱלֹהֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן שָׂשׂוֹן מֵֽחֲבֵרֶֽיךָ׃ (you love righteousness and hate wickedness: therefore has anointed you God your God [with] oil of gladness above your companions)

Comment

  • As has been already commented here, “the vocative is in the eye of the beholder” (or something). This is certainly true for the HEB text.
  • Maybe the author of Hebrews (with his apparently neutral πρὸς δὲ τὸν υἱόν) has led us all into the “beholding”.
0

This answer was taken from Examining the Trinity.

Even famed Southern Baptist New Testament Greek scholar Dr. A. T. Robertson admits:

“It is not certain whether ho theos is here the vocative [‘your throne, O God’] ... or ho theos is nominative (subject or predicate) with estin (is) understood: ‘God is thy throne’ or ‘Thy throne is God.’ Either makes good sense.” - p. 339, Vol. 5, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Broadman Press, 1960.

However, there is more evidence, evidence which shows not only that Heb. 1:8 may be honestly translated “God is your throne,” but, indeed, should be so translated!

Notice the context. Heb. 1:8 and 1:9 are being quoted from Ps. 45:6 and 45:7. In Ps. 45:7, speaking to the Israelite king, it says:

“Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.” - RSV.

Just as this makes it clear that the ancient Israelite king was not God but was anointed by God, HIS God, to a position above his fellows, so does Heb. 1:9, as figuratively applied to Jesus, show that he is not God, but was anointed by his God to a position above his fellows! Context, then, shows that the person addressed in Heb. 1:8 is not God, but one who worships God and was anointed by his God!

The renowned Bible scholar, B. F. Westcott, wrote:

“The LXX [Septuagint] admits of two renderings [at Ps. 45:6, 7]: [ho theos] can be taken as a vocative in both cases (‘thy throne, O God, .... therefore, O God, thy God...’) or it can be taken as the subject (or the predicate) in the first case (‘God is Thy throne,’ or ‘Thy throne is God...’), and in apposition to [ho theos sou] in the second case (‘Therefore God, even Thy God...’) .... It is scarcely possible that [elohim] in the original can be addressed to the King. The presumption therefore is against the belief that [ho theos] is a vocative in the LXX. Thus on the whole it seems best to adopt in the first clause the rendering: ‘God is thy throne’ (or, ‘Thy throne is God’), that is, ‘Thy kingdom is founded upon God, the immovable Rock.’” - The Epistle to the Hebrews, London, 1889, pp. 25, 26.

Further evidence for the proper translation of Heb. 1:8 is found in the conclusions reached by the United Bible Societies’ (UBS) Bible Text Committee. The United Bible Societies (composed of the American Bible Society, The National Bible Society of Scotland, The Netherlands Bible Society, and the Wurttemberg Bible Society) appointed an international and interdenominational committee (but trinitarian, of course) of textual scholars to determine the most accurate text possible of the Greek New Testament.

To do this they examined hundreds of variations in the many thousands of ancient New Testament manuscripts and compared other existing texts by Westcott and Hort, Nestle, Bover, and Vogels.

In 1971 the UBS published A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament which explained why the committee had chosen certain readings as being correct and rejected others. In choosing the text they believed to be closest to the original manuscript of the book of Hebrews, the UBS committee looked at the very oldest and best manuscripts still in existence today. Several methods helped them decide what is probably the original wording. One, of course, is how many of the very oldest and best manuscripts agree.

Another method is to determine which of the variations were most likely to have been changed by later copyists. For instance, when a NT writer is referring to an OT quotation, he often has it worded slightly differently from the exact quote in the Septuagint (Paul is especially noted for this).

So, if one NT manuscript has an OT scripture quoted exactly as it appears in the Septuagint, and another has a slightly different wording, the manuscript that differs slightly is more likely to have the proper, original wording. (Later copyists strongly tended to “correct” the original NT manuscripts by making their OT quotes conform exactly to the wording in the Septuagint version.)

Another consideration is that later Church copyists would often change the wording of a scripture if it seemed to contradict a teaching of the Roman Church. Therefore, if the wording of an ancient manuscript seems to contradict a later teaching of the Roman Church, it is more likely to have the original wording than another ancient manuscript which (at the same verse) seems to agree with that Church teaching.

Using these criteria, the UBS Committee unanimously agreed with all the wording of Heb. 1:8 except for one word. They agreed that the original writing of Heb. 1:8 should read literally (in the NT Greek): “toward but the son the throne of you the god into the age of the age and the staff of the straightness staff of the kingdom [‘of him’ or ‘of you’].”

It was the very last word of Heb. 1:8 that caused a “considerable degree of doubt” among those textual scholars. This very last word was either the NT Greek word sou (translated into English as “of you” or “your”) or autou (translated “of him” or “his”).

Why is it so important? Because these trinitarian scholars agreed that if autou (“his”) were used here by the author of Hebrews 1:8, then the verse “must be” translated “God is thy throne” and not “thy throne, O God”!! If, however, sou (“your”) was the original wording, then it could be translated either way. Obviously, then, a trinitarian would strongly prefer the reading of sou.

In discussing this problem the UBS Committee noted that most of the very oldest and best manuscripts (p46 - circa 200 A.D.; 'Aleph' - 4th century; and B - 4th century) all agree that the original wording was “his (autou) kingdom.”

They also noted that later manuscripts which read “your (sou) kingdom” are now in agreement with the corresponding passage in the Greek OT Septuagint! (Remember that the UBS Committee recognizes, as do most Bible scholars, that the NT manuscript that differs slightly from the Septuagint is more likely to be correct than another one which perfectly agrees because copyists strongly tended to deliberately “correct” Septuagint quotes they found in the NT .)

Furthermore, since autou is not repeated near the word in question in this NT manuscript quote of Ps. 45:6, 7, but sou is repeated, before and after, it would have been easy for a copyist to have inadvertently miscopied sou here. Autou, then, is more likely to have been original than sou for more than one reason.

It is also important to realize that all the oldest manuscripts (which were probably written before the full trinity doctrine was officially declared by the Roman Church in 381 A. D. and certainly written well before it was popularly accepted through the efforts of such men as Augustine in the early 5th century) use the word autou which will not properly allow for the trinitarian-preferred interpretation. Whereas many of the later manuscripts now use the word sou which will allow for the trinitarian-preferred interpretation of Heb. 1:8.

Isn’t it significant that the very earliest manuscript to use the trinitarian-preferred sou is Manuscript A from the 5th century which is shortly after the trinity doctrine was fully and officially declared at the Council of Constantinople in 381 A. D. and during the highly successful efforts of Augustine and others to defend and popularize this newly established “truth” of the Roman Church? (Remember the correlation between new church doctrines and changes in later manuscripts.) .

So even though there is overwhelming evidence that “his” (autou) was in the original manuscript of Hebrews 1:8 (even the trinitarian scholars who developed the Westcott and Hort text and the Nestle text (NA21) use autou at Heb. 1:8), the UBS Committee finally agreed to choose “your” (sou) and label that choice as “having considerable degree of doubt,” anyway!

Why did they bend their own rules of evidence? Because (1) they said there were so many later manuscripts that used sou, and (2) they admitted that they didn’t like what that verse actually said if autou had really been used in the original!

Oh, they did soften the arbitrariness of their choice slightly by labeling it as “having considerable degree of doubt,” but if any honest impartial scholar will examine their own comments on the evidence, he must agree that the UBS Committee’s choice is purely an emotional one and the evidence rules otherwise (as other trinitarian texts noted above admit).

Sou not only has “considerable degree of doubt,” it is nearly impossible. The UBS Committee’s own comments on the evidence make autou virtually certain as the original word, and, therefore, in the committee’s own word’s, Hebrews 1:8 “must be” translated “God is thy throne” and not “thy throne, O God.” - (study pp. 662-663 in A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, United Bible Societies, 1971.)

Some trinitarians have objected that “it does not make sense [or even, ‘it’s ridiculous’] to call God a ‘throne.’”[2] However, to any serious Bible student, it is entirely reasonable and appropriate. Calling God “the throne of Jesus” is an excellent figurative way to show that God approves and upholds Christ’s kingly reign (as in Westcott’s comment previously quoted).

New Testament texts produced by trinitarians in which Autou (“His”) was chosen as part of the original text ("... the scepter of his [autou] kingdom":

Westcott and Hort

Nestle’s

It has been admitted by respected scholars (UBS text writers) that if autou ("his") were in the original writing of Heb. 1:8, the proper rendering earlier in the same verse must be “God is your throne”! – p. 663, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, United Bible Societies, 1971.

Even the highly respected NASB renders this as "... the scepter of his kingdom." The Jerusalem Bible; New Jerusalem Bible; The New English Bible; Revised English Bible; AT (Smith and Goodspeed); Rotherham; Byington; C.B. Williams; etc. also render it using "his."

10
  • 2
    @Cork88. "Jesus is being referred to as God" would result in this translation sounding like God has a God and God's God anoints God so that God's God would make God to be above God's peers (taken from Angelfire.com). As noted in this answer,"autou" was in he original manuscript of Hebrews 1:8 (even the trinitarian scholars who developed the Westcott and Hort text and the Nestle text (NA21) use autou at Heb. 1:8), the UBS Committee finally agreed to choose “your” (sou) and label that choice as “having considerable degree of doubt,” anyway! Mar 2, 2022 at 16:05
  • 1
    Well done Alex!! What a superb investigated exposition, + 1. Mar 3, 2022 at 0:00
  • 1
    @AlexBalilo I’ve studied textual criticism to the extent that I would understand that just because certain translators committees made a “choice” for a particular word to be used in a verse doesn’t make it the “original”. The likely hood of the phrase “God is thy throne” is unintelligible & against the context. Hebrews 1:8 Says “but of the Son he says…”. This isn’t a reference to God’s Throne, but instead it is a reference to Jesus Christ. The UBS committee would have erred in that translation. The Doctrine of the Trinity teaches One God in 3 persons. There is no contradiction with that.
    – Cork88
    Mar 3, 2022 at 2:06
  • 1
    @Cork88. The doctrine of the trinity is not in the bible.. Mar 3, 2022 at 5:19
  • 1
    @AlexBalilo The offer remains on the table with that book^ I linked. It’s only $10.99 plus shipping for the paperback. The author (Dr. Edward L. Dalcour) has knowledge of Greek & Hebrew, including that of Grammatical structures and he puts it to use refuting the Oneness position very cogently. By contrast, he also shows how the Scriptures actually do teach Monotheistic Trinitarianism. It never hurts to read a book, especially a cheap book with rich content. Nevertheless, Alex, my challenge remains open to you concerning this Book on the Trinity. Peace. ;)
    – Cork88
    Mar 3, 2022 at 7:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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