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Hebrews 1:3 Smith's Literal Translation

Who being the brightness of glory, and the figure of his foundation, and bearing all things by the word of his power, having made by himself the purification of our sins, he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty among the highest ones;

The Greek corresponding to "bearing all things by the word of his power", φέρων τε τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως, has been translated in many different ways.

For example, in addition to the above "bearing all things by the word of his power," we have

ESV - he upholds the universe by the word of his power

NIV - sustaining all things by his powerful word.

Literal Emphasis Translation - carrying all by the word of the power through Himself,

Young's Literal Translation - bearing up also the all things by the saying of his might

What's really interesting to me is the accusative noun or direct object, τὰ πάντα (all things), is connected to the dative noun or indirect object, τῷ ῥήματι (the word/saying), without any preposition to govern the relationship, yet uniformly τῷ ῥήματι (the word/saying) is interpreted as an instrumental dative.

Why is this? Why does it seem be universally ruled out that τῷ ῥήματι (the word/saying) could be interpreted as some other type of dative such as a locative dative or a dative of reference?

In other words why can't Jesus, instead of bearing all things (The universe? Heaven and Earth? Everything that he experiences?) by means of the word/saying of his power, in fact, bear all things that are found in the word/saying of his power? Or why couldn't he not bear all things in reference to the word/saying of his power?

Instead of saying Jesus is holding together every physical molecule and nonphysical matter by the word/saying of his power the Hebrew writer would be communicating that Jesus has fulfilled within himself everything the scripture has to say regarding his power/authority having had made by himself the purification of our sins when he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Am I missing something or is translating τῷ ῥήματι (the word/saying) as a dative of reference or a locative dative a legitimate interpretative option even though it seems universally interpreted as an instrumental dative by all translations shown on biblehub.com for this verse?

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  • The Creator does not need to exert His own energy to 'hold together' that which He created. Prior to the creation of substance, there was the placing of principalities and powers in the (second) heavens. Therefore by His word (of command) others exert themselves. Thus the instrumental nature of the dative expressed. Up-voted +1 for a thoughtful question.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 11, 2022 at 9:11

2 Answers 2

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Heb 1:3 should not be divorced from V2. Note the whole text of Heb 1:2, 3 -

But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature, upholding all things by His powerful word. ... (BSB)

Note the direct reference to Jesus as creator. Thus, the "powerful word" is a reference to Ps 33:6, 9 -

6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the stars by the breath of His mouth. ... 9 For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.

Heb 1:3 is a parallel teaching to Col 1:17 -

He [Jesus] is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

All this is consistent with the record in gen 1 of the creation account - God's word is (among other things) a creative word. FURTHER - God's word is not only creative, but re-creative word as well because God's word sustains all things.

2 Cor 5:17 - Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.

We also have -

John 17:17 - Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.

Thus, God's word is:

  • creative word
  • sustaining word
  • recreative word
  • sanctifying word

Little wonder that Hebrews says that the word of Jesus is a "powerful word"!

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In Hebrews 1:3, the author states that Jesus is the "exact representation" of God's being and the "sustainer of all things" through the "word of his power." This suggests that Jesus (as one of 3 of the Holy Trinity) has a close relationship with the word of God's power, and that he is able to use this power to maintain and uphold all things. This passage highlights the divinity of Jesus and his role as the Son of God in Christianity.

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  • Hi Nick, we're making a renewed effort to discourage using comments to debate theology, rather than provide constructive feedback. Feel free to flag things like this in future
    – Steve can help
    Commented Dec 24, 2022 at 0:23

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