Is the article ο in ο θεός at Hebrews 1:9 anaphoric to θεός at Hebrews 1:8? If not, what grammatical reason prevents it?

Note: Keep in mind and address that Wallace says "Most individualizing articles will be anaphoric" [b] if the answer is no.

The answer to this question must be grammatical, not merely mention grammatical terms. It should also directly address the Greek anaphoric article.

Hebrews 1:5-9 is a cohesive argument that demonstrates the superiority of the Son as King over angels who are merely “ministers.”

In verse 8, there is a reference to θεός which is debated as being a reference to either God the Father from Hebrews 1:1-2 or the Son. In our English versions it is split between the two. [b]

In this quotation from the Greek LXX at Hebrews 1:8-9 we find two examples of the articular θεός that closely follow the anarthrous θεός in verse 6.

Is the article ο in ο θεός at Hebrews 1:9 anaphoric to θεός at Hebrews 1:8? If not, what grammatical reason prevents it?

Note: For those using Wallace, see the Excursus on the article below.

[a] Hebrews 1:8

  • "God is thy throne for ever and ever" (Moffatts)

  • "Your throne is like God's throne" (NEB)

  • "God has enthroned you for all eternity." (REB)

  • "Your throne,God, is for ever and ever." (New Jerusalem Bible)

  • "or God is your throne" (NRSV footnote)

  • "Thy throne is the throne of God" (ASV footnote)

[b] “Practically speaking, labeling an article as anaphoric requires that it have been introduced at most in the same book, preferably in a context not too far removed…Most individualizing articles will be anaphoric in a very broad sense. (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Wallace 1996, p 218). [Quoted as a hostile witness]

Excursus on Wallace’s definition of the Article

The article can "conceptualize”, that is, turn any part of speech into a noun. Since θεός is already a noun, this cannot ever be the “force” in view for the noun θεός and therefore not at at Hebrews 1:1-9. [Wallace Syntax, b.2.a]

What is the predominant function of the article? The same source says:

In terms of predominant and most frequent function, it is normally used to identify an object. That is to say, it is used predominantly to stress the identity of an individual or class or quality. (Wallace, ExSyn 207–9) [b.2.b]

Therefore, when ο θεός is found one must “identify” the referent. Identification is not the same thing as “making definite.” [b.2.c]

In fact Wallace calls mere definiteness the drip-pan category of last resort. [d]

Wallace also says:

The anaphoric article has, by its nature, then a pointing force to it reminding the reader of who or what was mentioned previously. It is the most common use of the article

In order to identify “who” θεός refers to at Hebrews 1:8 requires an antecedent. The identification in our commentaries based on whether the article is nominative or vocative. This limits the identification to “who is θεός at Hebrews 1:8.


The Article Wallace, ExSyn 207–10

  1. What it IS

a. At bottom, the article intrinsically has the ability to conceptualize. In other words, the article is able to turn just about any part of speech into a noun and, therefore, a concept. For example, “poor” expresses a quality, but the addition of an article turns it into an entity, “the poor.” It is this ability to conceptualize that seems to be the basic force of the article. b. Does it ever do more than conceptualize? Of course. A distinction needs to be made between the essential force of the article and what it is most frequently used for. In terms of basic force, the article conceptualizes. In terms of predominant function, it is normally used to identify an object. That is to say, it is used predominantly to stress the identity of an individual or class or quality.

b. The anaphoric article is the article denoting previous reference. (It derives its name from the Greek verb ἀναφέρειν, "to bring back, to bring up.") The first mention of the substantive is usually anarthrous because it is merely being introduced. But subsequent mentions of it use the article, for the article is now pointing back to the substantive previously mentioned. The anaphoric article has, by its nature, then a pointing force to it reminding the reader of who or what was mentioned previously. It is the most common use of the article and the easiest usage to identify. (Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, Zondervan, 1996, p. 217-218)

c. The Greek article also serves a determining function at times—i.e., it definitizes. On the one hand, although it would be incorrect to say that the article’s basic function is to make something definite, on the other hand, whenever it is used, the term it modifies must of necessity be definite. These three relationships (conceptualize, identify, definitize) can be envisioned as concentric circles: all articles that make definite also identify; all articles that identify also conceptualize (Wallace, ExSyn 207–10)

[d] (1) SIMPLE IDENTIFICATION ExSyn 216–17 (a) Definition. The article is frequently used to distinguish one individual from another. This is our “drip-pan” category and should be used only as a last resort..


3 Answers 3


The writer is quoting the Old Testament. We should consider how the LXX translator(s) used the article with θεὸς to determine if grammatical axioms such as anaphora were seen as rigid translation principles:

In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν

The first mention of God in the Bible includes the article, which cannot be anaphoric. Rather, it is a form of identification: either as "the" God in contrast to pagan gods, or as a name.

This approach is demonstrated in Psalm 45 (44 in the LXX) where all four renderings of "God" are with the article:

44:3 Youthful in beauty you are, beyond the sons of men; grace was poured upon on your lips; therefore God blessed you forever....44:7 Your throne O God, is forever and ever. A rod of equity is the rod of your rule; you moved righteousness and hated lawlessness. 44:8 Therefore, God, your God, anointed you with oil of rejoicing beyond your partners. (LXX-Psalms 44 [45])

44:3 ὡραῗος κάλλει παρὰ τοὺς υἱοὺς τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐξεχύθη χάρις ἐν χείλεσίν σου διὰ τοῦτο εὐλόγησέν σε ὁ θεὸς εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα...44:7 ὁ θρόνος σου ὁ θεός εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος ῥάβδος εὐθύτητος ἡ ῥάβδος τῆς βασιλείας σου 44:8 ἠγάπησας δικαιοσύνην καὶ ἐμίσησας ἀνομίαν διὰ τοῦτο ἔχρισέν σε ὁ θεὸς ὁ θεός σου ἔλαιον ἀγαλλιάσεως παρὰ τοὺς μετόχους σου

Moreover, throne, is with the article, ὁ θρόνος, despite being mentioned just once: the article cannot be anaphoric.

The best explanation for how it is used in Hebrews, is that writer continued the practice found in the LXX. Regardless of later grammatical conventions (if any), the later writer was content to let the meaning conveyed by LXX translator(s) stand.

  • 1
    +1 Fine answer. Simple. Technical.
    – Austin
    Jun 18 at 19:08

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


Is the article ο in ο θεός at Hebrews 1:9 anaphoric to θεός at Hebrews 1:8? If not, what grammatical reason prevents it?

Following the chart, figure 1 from Wallace's grammar below:

  • Start chart.
  • Does θεός at at Hebrews 1:9 distinguish class from class? - No, not generic (ie Deity)
  • Does it distinguish individual from individual? - Yes, He is θεός of the Son
  • Does it refer to a noun mentioned previously? Yes, at 1:8, 1:6 and 1:1, so it cannot be “well known” and is therefore = Anaphoric

Θεός at Hebrews 1:9 is a renewed mention of θεός at 1:8 and identified as the same individual. It is anaphoric to θεός at verse 8 which is its antecedent.

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  • Assuming God is not triune. Your whole argument hinges on that assumption which is not grounded in OT inspired Scripture. Ironic that you quote H1:1 wherefore that refers to the triune God. Exo 3:2&4 explicitly shows God being the Angel of the Lord in the burning bush. We could go to Hagar’s promise from the Angel of the Lord/God and to Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac and to Jacob wrestling with the Angel and seeing God and to Joshua... You have assumed v1 is referring to the Father God only but it’s evident Paul is referring to God echad. Jun 10, 2020 at 13:28
  • hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/q/44701/33125
    – user33125
    Jun 10, 2020 at 13:40
  • Your link/opinion is still wrong today Thomas. if you can’t see the assumptions you, Harris and Wallace are making and the blatant overriding of simple reading of OT text there is no hope you will see anything but what you want it to say. At a minimum you have to concede it doesn’t say God the Father, it doesn’t even say God the Father who has a Son, and even that idea doesn’t nullify the possibility for Jesus being God because a board can have a representative that is also a board member with full rights and privileges as a board member but also with the constraints of a representative. Jun 10, 2020 at 14:24

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