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He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3 ESV)

I am interested in the phrase ‘he upholds the universe’ My question is:- How could Christ uphold the universe as a helpless babe and also after he had died before the resurrection.

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    There's a clear answer according to Chalcedon, but it's a theological, not an exegetical answer. It might be better asked at Christianity?
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 4, 2022 at 11:30
  • Jesus spoke of 'the son of man which is in heaven', John 3:13 (TR/KJV). That is to say 'The Son (of God) -- (come) of man'. In Deity, He is unchanged, ever present, all-knowing. In humanity, he is suckled, protected, nourished ; and grows in wisdom and in stature. Thus the mystery of His Person. And herein, the answer to your question. But the answer would be termed 'theological' in regard to this site. So this is a comment (not an 'answer'). Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 4, 2022 at 13:00
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    Interesting translation, the greek text has no 'universe' but only the word 'παντα' which means 'all things', translating 'upholds all things' to 'upholds the universe' is quite drastic. Specially that the Bible has no direct translation to the word 'universe', which is only seen in Hebrews 11-3 but translated from the word 'αἰῶνας' which means 'ages'
    – user35803
    Feb 4, 2022 at 18:54

7 Answers 7

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It is impossible to answer this question as we are not told so we cannot know. Indeed, if we knew the answer to this question, we would be God.

Equally mysterious, is the the fact that

  • twice in the Gospel of John, we are told the Jesus raised Himself from the dead, John 2:19-21 and 10:17, 18.
  • However, we are also told that the Father raised Jesus from the dead as well, Rom 6:4, Gal 1:1, Eph 1:17-20.
  • Further, we are also told that the Holy Spirit is the source of life as well, Rom 1:4 & 8:11, 1 Peter 3:18.
  • Acts 2:24, 3:15, 4:10, 5:30, 10:40, 13:30, 17:31, Rom 4:24, 1 Cor 15:15, Col 2:20, Heb 13:20, 1 Peter 1:3, 1 Thess 1:10 simply say that “God” raised Jesus without specifying any specific member of the Godhead.

All this simply illustrates the fact that the Godhead acts in complete unison. Just how that occurs we are not told. The same is presumably true of God upholding the universe.

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  • +1 a difficult question to answer
    – Perry Webb
    Feb 4, 2022 at 12:38
  • Very interesting, thank you
    – Bonnie
    Feb 4, 2022 at 13:28
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    @Dottard Sorry, but your post is against your own assertion that "we do not know", for if we know that He resurrects Himself and that the Father resurrects Him, it can but be that both denote the same and that Father neither can create nor resurrect without His Logos. Therefore, we know that Logos dies not as God, which is an ontological impossibility. But He died, indeed, as human, for He adopted humanity. We know this most clearly after Chalcedon 451 and even before, Gospels show this no less clearly in fact. You are clearly of sound vision on that, then why this apophaticism in Christology? Feb 5, 2022 at 19:53
  • @LevanGigineishvili - I agree - Christ died as a human but not as God but we know nothing of the details about how this and many other aspects of the incarnation worked.
    – Dottard
    Feb 5, 2022 at 22:11
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    @Dottard The mystery of Incarnation, or mystery of Trinity, is mystery and cannot be cracked by reason, but that the Person/Hypostasis of Logos cannot cease to exist even for a heartbeat of an angel, for then world will immediately cease to exist and also Father Himself will cease to exist for He is Father only in virtue of eternally having with Him the Son-Logos, this is not at all mystery ungraspable by reason but graspable by reason and obligatory for any Christian or any conscientious believing philologist reading Gospels, to grasp by reason and embrace by reason and heart as well. Feb 6, 2022 at 5:11
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The simple answer is that He did not uphold the universe as a helpless baby. Hebrews 1:1-3 speaks of His deity/nature BEFORE He was born as a man with a human nature.

In fact, if you read the rest of Hebrews 1 you will discover His own Father acknowledges Jesus as God, vs8. Also at vs10, "And, Thou Lord in the beginning did lay the foundation of the earth and the heavens are the woks of Thy hands.

Moreover Luke 2:11, "for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, WHO IS Christ the Lord." John 17:3,5, "And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ WHOM THOU HAS SENT." vs5, "And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee BEFORE THE WORLD WAS."

Lastly, Philippians explains at verses 6-8 His pre-existence as God (And so does John 1:1-3) but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant/man, and being made in the likeness of men, And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." And btw, God the Father and God the Holy Spirt did not go anywhere after Jesus died as a man before His resurrection. I think it's important to put things in perspective.

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How could Christ uphold the universe as a helpless babe?

He didn't.

Correctly, Jesus, upholding all things (πάντα panta) by the power of His word. Nothing to do with 'universe' and a very sloppy/biased attempt of the ESV to render the Greek into English by inserting a word that is not there.

whom He (God) appointed heir of all things, through whom He also made the ages (not world or universe). 3And he is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of his power. Heb 1:2-3

The context gives us the timeline of when Jesus became the one who, "upholds all things by the word of his power".

This power was not always his to use - being given to him at his resurrection and exaltation to the 'right hand of God' who made him heir, and through whom God finished the creation of man in His image. Jesus being the "representation" of God's nature.

Jesus is ‘the image of the invisible God’ and ‘the firstborn of all creation’ Col 1:15.

2 Cor 4:4 ‘Christ, who is the image of God’, 3:18 ‘we… are being transformed into the same image’, Rom 8:29 also.

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  • @stevenowen. You made a good point when you said, "The context gives us the timeline of when Jesus became the one who, "upholds all things by the word of His power". To add to that comment I think it's important to see the following verse that amplifies what He did that made Him able make this powerful declaration as to why he could continue to carry the universe on. It was only after He made a cleansing of sins. (1:3) Sin has to be taken out of the universe so it will not continue to destroy everything.
    – Sherrie
    Apr 18, 2022 at 15:37
  • Even though it's finished as He said upon the cross it will take time and eons to see the final the victory of this one act that completed His work… Therefore he was able to finally sit down. He calls things that are not as though they were. +1
    – Sherrie
    Apr 18, 2022 at 15:37
  • When using/ quoting the title “Lord”, one must be very clear whether you are referring to “Adoni” (the Messiah), OR to “ADONAI” (YHWH). It is not right to quote the words of ADONAI and say that they are the words of the Messiah!
    – Gim
    Apr 25, 2022 at 4:40
  • I don’t understand the relevance of your comment nor to whom it was directed. You are correct of course.
    – Steve
    Apr 25, 2022 at 5:00
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His Son has been appointed heir of all things. That being the case He upholds, carrying on, prevents it from falling, sinking, By the word, #4487

Strong's Concordance rhéma: a word, by impl. a matter Original Word: ῥῆμα, ατος, τό Part of Speech: Noun, Neuter Transliteration: rhéma Phonetic Spelling: (hray'-mah) Definition: a word, by implication a matter Usage: a thing spoken, (a) a word or saying of any kind, as command, report, promise, (b) a thing, matter, business

The whole operation of the universe is in his hands. The entrance and presence of sin in the universe is all accounted for by one word… He has made a cleansing of sins.

Upholds:

To hold aloft; raise. To prevent from falling or sinking; support. To maintain or affirm: synonym: support.

He is holding and maintaining and propelling all things [the entire physical and spiritual universe] by His powerful word [carrying the universe along to its predetermined goal]. When He [Himself and no other] had [by offering Himself on the cross as a sacrifice for sin] accomplished purification from sins and established our freedom from guilt, He sat down [revealing His completed work] at the right hand of the Majesty on high [revealing His Divine authority],

It is because that He completed the work of making a cleansing of sins and therefore is seated at the right hand of the majesty.

That is how he keeps the universe going and upholding by His declaration of His work being finished because he sat down at the right hand of Majesty on high.

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Read all 14 verses of Heb chapter 1, in its original Hebraic context and key terminologies, then ask WHO is the CREATOR and ABBA of the Son.

Hebrews 1:1-14 “ELOHIM, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 1:2 has at the end of these days spoken to us by HIS Son, Whom HE appointed heir of all things, because of Whom also HE created the ages. 1:3 Who, being the radiance of HIS glory and the expression of HIS essence. And upholding all things by the power of His imrah, when He had by Himself made purification for our sins, sat down on the right hand of the MAJESTY on high; 1:4 having become so much better than the shamayim malachim - as He has inherited a more excellent name than they have. 1:5 For to which of the malachim did HE say at any time, You are MY son. Today have I begotten you; and again, I will be to him an ABBA, and he will be to ME a son? [Ps 2:7; 2Sa 7:14; 1Chr 17:13] 1:6 Moreover, when HE brings in the Firstborn into the world HE (WHO makes HIS malachim spirits and HIS servants flames of fire) says concerning the malachim, 1:7 Let all the “malachim of ELOHIM shachah Him. [Ps 104:4] 1:8 But of the Son HE says, Your throne, O Elohim, is forever and ever. You will rule Your Kingdom with the scepter of uprightness.518 1:9 You have loved righteousness and hated Torah-lessness; therefore ELOHIM, Your ELOHIM, has anointed You with the oil of gladness above Your fellows. [Ps 45:6-7] 1:10 And, YOU, ADONAY, in the beginning, laid the foundation of the earth. The shamayim are the works of YOUR hands. 1:11 They will perish, but YOU continue. They all will grow old like a garment does. 1:12 As a mantle, YOU will roll them up, and they will be transformed; but YOU are the same. YOUR years will not fail. [Ps 102:25-27] 1:13 Moreover, to which of the malachim has HE told at any time, Sit at MY right hand, until I make your enemies the footstool of your feet? [Ps 110:1] 1:14 Are not they all ministering spirits, sent out to do service for the sake of those who will inherit yeshuah?”

  • extract from Book of The Covenant - An integrated translation & transliteration of the Hebraic scriptures. Note: full caps refer to ADONAI-YHWH.
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  • You will get a better response to your posts if you spend some time formatting them - in this Q, Dottard's answer is a good example. Reading your answer just seems like too much effort to decipher the wall of text. Simply quoting scripture is pointless as there are a lot of ways to understand based on the bias that each may bring. If you do not explain the scriptures you present, the answer is practically meaningless.
    – Steve
    Apr 18, 2022 at 13:36
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It’s a beautiful question for it is raw and sincere

Let’s first assess the components

  • All things
  • The one who upholds the ages/universe
  • His temporal state as a human

The context of the question is in The book of Hebrews, therefore there are clues in the surrounding verses.

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power δύναμις. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭1:3‬ ‭

The Son became the Son on day one of Creation before anything existed. Otherwise the last part of v2 makes no sense and this fits into psalm 2.

All things

means all things Created. God being uncreated. Therefore this means time, space, natural laws, supernatural laws, earthly bodies, heavenly bodies, earth and the heavens, visible or invisible.

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭1:16‬ ‭

The one who upholds the ages/universe

In Hebrew understanding the Mimra concept is from the Aramaic Old Testament expository known as Targum Onquelos. It is the direct equivalent to the Greek logos used by John in John 1:1. The mimra was with God before Creation. It was the Word of God, it was God. If the mimra stopped existing for a split second, and reappeared the next, everything that was, would disappear and not reappear. For everything exists because of the mimra. It remains through the mimra.

His temporal state as a human

The one we know as Jesus, aka Yeshua, aka the Son, existed before Creation according to John 17:5,24. To exist before Creation means you had to be God. Nothing existed before Creation, for there was no time, space to exist in before that, with the exception of God. And God is echad Deuteronomy 6:4 meaning united, that is three persons.

God is Spirit John 4:24 but a Spirit can take on a body, be it a heavenly body or an earthly body. When Jesus became a human, the Holy Spirit placed the kenosised (the voluntarily nullified/‘switched off’ divine attributes) spirit of the Son and placed it inside the baby inside virgin Mary

Answer

How could Christ uphold the universe as a helpless babe and also after he had died before the resurrection

The answer is rather simple He the Word NEVER ceased from existence. Sure as a human He was murdered but the spirit of the Son that inhabited the body of the human we know as Jesus from Nazareth was not killed

He didn’t come into existence at the incarnation and didn’t phase out at the crucifixion. He remained full of POWER δύναμις

“who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power δύναμις that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭3:21‬ ‭

And now that He has redeemed Creation and regained legal rights to His own Creation He has all the ἐξουσία authority and the δύναμις power

“All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” ‭‭John‬ ‭1:3‬ ‭

And the Word, the mimra, the begotten Son of psalm 2 decided to come live as a man

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” ‭‭John‬ ‭1:14‬ ‭

Partly explains why He called Himself the son of man, it was an exciting new experience for Him, He could now experience life as a human

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭4:15‬ ‭

He is the Word and the Word is right there in the Hebrew text in Genesis 1:1

בראשׁית ברא אלהים את השׁמים ואת הארץ

In beginning created God the Word, the heavens, the same Word the earth

Conclusion

“that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭2:2-3‬ ‭

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One thing is to simply be helpless babe and another thing is to make oneself to be a helpless babe. Just as the Lord made Himself to adopt human nature with all its features of need of food, drink, air, feeling of pain etc., so also He made Himself needful also of parental care and caressing. Having put upon Himself voluntarily all human features except for the falledness with its innate sinfulness and proclivity to sin, He put upon Himself also growth from babe-hood to childhood and to adulthood. The same Logos who took upon Himself the babe-hood of His human nature, created the universe together with the Father and always upheld it.

It is simply a complete outlandishness to think that having adopted human nature and having made Himself to be a babe He, the Logos, took vacation from the Father and did not hold the universe into existence together with Him! How long then those vacations lasted? Ten years? Thirteen, before His bar mitzvah? And after that maybe also the Father indulged Himself in going to vacations saying “My dear Son-Logos, for thirteen years I did the job of sustaining the universe alone, now it’s my turn to take some rest, not much, just two-three weeks, I will go hiking outside the universe in company with the H.Ghost not to feel myself alone”. But why to entertain such funny things on this respectable site of the biblical exegesis?

But more seriously, it is a Christological issue: He is the co-eternal and co-unoriginated Son of the Father-God, who "was" with God, that is to say, in infinity, as the praeteritum imperfectum of this verb indicates (John 1:1); and as all things are created by Both Father and the Son (ibid. 1:3), so also are sustained through the Father and the Son (and H.Ghost for that matter), (Heb. 1:3), because as Descartes well says in 3rd metaphysical meditation, "sustaining is just another word for creating, for exactly the same amount of energy is exerted for sustaining as for creating".

Therefore, Logos, the Father's co-eternal and co-infinite Son-God ontologically cannot die, not any less than Father cannot die also, for it is impossible for God to die or commit suicide. If Logos or the Father slumber just a second, the world will cease to exist.

Now, Logos adopted human nature and human nature dies. Since this human nature became nature of the Person/Hypostasis of Logos, who also has had divine nature before the incarnation, we can freely say that God-Logos died according to His human nature, that God-Logos suckled breast of his mother, the Virgin Mary, as a child, according to His human nature, but at age 12 was instructing and bewildering expert elderly theologians without having learned the Scripture as God (Luke 2:41-52); getting tired and thirsty according to His human nature, but giving food in desert from two fishes and five breads to five thousands, without counting also women and children, for their full satiation as God (Matthew 14:13:21).

But those questions are so well trodden and this sound Orthodox/Catholic teaching comes from the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon 451, that stroke a middle ground between heresies of Monophysitism and Nestorianism.

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  • @Down-voter Hey, Sir Downvoter, I have labored a lot to write this post, I guess you also have labored to read it carefully; if so, then labor a bit more and lay down your objections. If you have them not, then it is so ignoble to down-vote somebody’s work from the cowardly curtains of anonymity. In any case, wish you all the best and have a good day! Apr 19, 2022 at 1:52

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