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Given the topics covered in Hebrews chapter 1, when, in verse one, it says "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the..." I expected the following word to be 'angels' in contrast to the Son.

Indeed such a contrast is made in Hebrews 2:2,

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
-Hebrews 2:1-4

But instead of contrasting angels and the Son, the writer contrasts the Son with the prophets and ignores the contribution by the angels:

"1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,..." Hebrews 1:1-2

Assuming this is done purposefully and meaningfully, what is the significance of the contrast that the writer makes between the prophets and the Son given that what immediately follows in context is so heavily focused on the contrast between angels and the Son?

Ultimately, my question is what can we know about the author's understanding of the contrast between the prophets and the son, such that the specific exclusion of the role of angels here (Hebrews 1:1-2) is the logical consequence? In otherwords, what's true about prophets in contrast to Jesus that isn't true about angels in contrast to Jesus that reinforces the point that the author is trying to make in the first couple of verses?


Note: It's also the case that God speaks to us today through the prophets from the NT (Eph 4:11-12). This too seems to me somewhat informative to the writer's point that the contribution from these are also not acknowledged in Heb 1:1-2.

6 Answers 6

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Hebrews is making the case that the Messiah in fact came and he is King of kings and Lord of lords. The superior authority sent to fulfill the law. The old covenant vs the new covenant is the theme of Hebrews.

It would seem the context of Hebrews 2:2 is referencing Mosaic Law, with the entire book of Hebrews continuing to contrast the two covenants. Paul clearly says that the law was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator (Moses). Galatians 3:19 is noted below.

Acts 7:38

This is he (Moses), that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:

Acts 7:53

Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

Galatians 3:19

Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

Note: “Ordained” (Gr: “diatasso“) “frequently denotes to arrange, appoint, prescribe”

Hebrews 2:2

For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward. (Obviously speaking of the old covenant Mosaic Law).

Knowing that the law given to Moses was the covenant made with Israel, it is clear to see why it had glory, was unalterable, etc. It (the law) is bringing Israel to Christ.

The emphasis on Christ’s supremacy is glaring. The question is asked, Hebrews 1:5 “For to which of the angels did God ever say: “You are My Son; today I have become Your Father”? Or again: “I will be His Father, and He will be My Son”?” The answer is none! Putting on full display the accuracy of the confession of Peter, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)

Deuteronomy 5:2-3

The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today.

Exodus 34:28

Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.

Deuteronomy 4:13

He declared to you His covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets.

This covenant was made with Israel for the purpose of carrying the Christ-line, the seed Paul refers to as the one receiving the promise. The first covenant was always intended to be temporary until the time the Messiah arrived. At which time he would bring the “end of the age” and usher in a new age. This was the Hebraic understanding until the priesthood became corrupt in Babylon. Hebrews is describing how this was fulfilled. The spiritual (superior) kingdom arrived through the completed work of the Christ and the gift of the holy spirit given.

Paul's writings fall gloriously into place with the author of Hebrews:

2 Corinthians 3:7-11

7 The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. 8 Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? 9 If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! 10 In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. 11 So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever!

2

Both Heb 1:1 (message delivered by prophets) and Heb 2:2 (message delivered by angels) are correct for two reasons:

  1. Message variously delivered

There are many messages delivered by God's prophets in the OT and NT, see 2 Peter 1:19-21. There are also many instances where a divine message was delivered by an angel of God such as the messengers (ie, angels, Gen 19:1) that visited Abraham in Gen 18; See also Gen 31:11, 32:1, Num 22:31, etc.

  1. Chain of Revelation

John, in the book of revelation, describes the process by which he received his visions: God -> Jesus -> angel -> prophet -> people

Thus, if this occurred normally (there is no reason to suggest otherwise) then some or many of the prophets' messages came via an angel delivering the message from God.

CONCLUSION

Therefore, BOTH Heb 1:1 and Heb 2:2 are correct. Therefore, Heb 1;1 is discussing the contrast of "indirect" revelation via the "chain of revelation" vs direct revelation directly from God in the person of Jesus.

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  • Very informative, however, I think you misunderstood the nature of my question, which isn't as to which of the two verses is correct, as if scripture can contradict scripture, but why the intentional omission of the role of angels in the first two verses. What's true about prophets in contrast to Jesus that isn't true about angels in contrast to Jesus that reinforces the point that the author is trying to make in the first couple of verses?
    – Austin
    Mar 30 at 19:50
  • @Austin - I will add something to my answer.
    – Dottard
    Mar 30 at 19:53
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Literary Structure
The writer establishes two pairs: prophets-Son and angels-Lord.

Hebrews (ESV)

Prophets-Son
1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 1:2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world ...

Angels-Lord
2:1 Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2:2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution. 2:3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard.

Considering just angels, prophets, and Son there are three possible historical sequences:

angels - prophets - Son
prophets - angels - Son
angels & prophets - Son

The Son spoke after both prophets and angels. The message declared by angels likely refers to the Law at Sinai (cf. LXX-Deuteronomy 33:2, Acts 7:53, Galatians 3:19 and Josephus Antiquities xv. 5.3.). Biblically angels may have declared things at times other than Sinai, but the separation established by the writer implies a singular message, λόγος, from angels contrasting with multiple to πολυμερῶς και πολυτρόπως from prophets.

When the message declared by angels is understood as the Law or about the Law, then the writer also has made a distinction between salvation and the Law.

Superiority of the Son
A main theme of the letter is to show the superiority of the Son and the New Covenant to the Old. The writer immediately interrupts the flow of thought of messages and messengers to begin the theme of the Son's superiority:

Hebrews 1:

4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. 5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son” 6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God's angels worship him.”

The writer postpones speaking of angels as messengers and immediately states the Son, despite speaking last, or perhaps on the basis of speaking last, is much superior to angels. Before addressing what angels declared in the past, the writer describes what they are doing in the present: worshipping the Son.

Before speaking of angels as messengers, the writer then one further distinction:

Hebrews 1:

13 And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

By separating and then deferring angels as messengers, the writer ensures the reader will not follow the human tendency to elevate angelic encounters. Not only do they worship the Son; they are serving those who have inherited salvation. Moreover, what was declared by angels is inferior in time, it was first declared by the Lord and in content, the Law not salvation.

1

Why begin with prophets? Because the author is concerned that instead of listening to the message of the gospel, Christians are returning to the message of the "old" covenant, which was given by prophets. An introduction in the NABRE says:

The author saw the addressees in danger of apostasy from their Christian faith... The author’s main theme, the priesthood and sacrifice of Jesus (Heb 3–10), is not developed for its own sake but as a means of restoring their lost fervor and strengthening them in their faith.

Thus, the author's ultimate contrast will be between Christ and the high priest. He begins with the prophets (rather than the angels) because he believes it is important for his readers to recognize the inferiority of the prophets' message to that of Christ. This is because the "old covenant" - given by the prophets - is flawed and passing away:

7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, no place would have been sought for a second one. 8 But he finds fault with them and says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will conclude a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah... 13 When he speaks of a “new” covenant, he declares the first one obsolete. And what has become obsolete and has grown old is close to disappearing.

It is true that most of Heb. 1 deals with the contrast between the Son and the angels, and this continues in Heb. 2. However, the author then turns to contrast the Son with Moses:

Hebrews 3

Reflect on Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2 who was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was “faithful in [all] his house.” 3 But he is worthy of more “glory” than Moses, as the founder of a house has more “honor” than the house itself. 4 Every house is founded by someone, but the founder of all is God. 5 Moses was “faithful in all his house” as a “servant” to testify to what would be spoken, 6 but Christ was faithful as a son placed over his house.

Throughout the book, the author demonstrates the superiority of Christ: to prophets, to angels, to Moses and - most significantly of all - to the high priest.

Hebrews 8

1 The main point of what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up.

Conclusion: Beginning this book with a contrast between the prophets and Christ is part of a consistent pattern by the author, showing that Christ's message and person are superior to prophets, angels, the lawgiver Moses, the high priest Aaron, and - most of all - to the high priest's office generally. In the end it is the role of the high priest that will be the author's primary focus. He begins with prophets because he is concerned that Christians are returning to the prophets' message (the old covenant) as opposed to that of the gospel (the new covenant).

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  • +1 After rereading a couple times I think you might essentially have the answer somewhere, however, this response seems a bit unfocused. It seems you answered a related question, Why begin with prophets? Instead of the specific question What can we know about the author's understanding of the contrast between the prophets and the son, such that the specific exclusion of the role of angels here (Hebrews 1:1-2) is the logical consequence? I don't think the high priests are essential to answering that specific question. If you could focus your response accordingly it would be most useful.
    – Austin
    Apr 6 at 7:41
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He did not speak to Israel's father's through the law.
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are considered Israel's fathers.

The angels were the mediators between Israelites and God at a particular time in their history. The angels mediated the law in a way that is similar as being God's policeman, rewarding those who broke the law, as well as blessing those who kept the law. They were trying to keep the Israelites in line with the law through fear.

The angels never revealed the Father's heart to them. Jesus brings them true redemption through the cross. He is revealing a new way to connect with God, this time as their Father and how He truly provided for for their biggest problem of sin, guilt and death.

The contrast now is through the Father of Jesus Christ, God's Son who He is speaking to them through. He is no longer a shadow as in the past, but is the reality now seen in flesh and blood.

He is showing how much greater Jesus Christ's voice is compared to the prophets voice that He spoke to them at one time through.

The specific exclusion of the role of the angels is because they were only temporary, they were implementing the law only until the time the Son came. Their job has been completed.

The prophets foretold about the coming one. Jesus was the reality of who they were talking about. The law implemented by the angels, were showing true righteousness that Christ alone fulfilled. Their job was done. They were like a schoolmaster to bring them to Christ who alone fulfilled their law on their behalf of God, the Father. A new way has been opened up to them to come into the Father's presence.

-1

Hebrews 1:1-2 or the rest of the bible does not show the son/Jesus speaking at any time before his birth. Hebrews 1:1 shows that the son has only recently came. There was a period of time which the son/Jesus, was not active in the divine revelation.

Thus, according to Hebrews 1:1-2, God did not speak to the fathers through His son until these "last days".

The context of Hebrews 1:1-2, show that God rearranged the hierarchical interrelationships of power and authority of the ages (aion) when he elevated Jesus to his right hand.

Because of this, by God's command, the angels are now under Jesus. Hebrews 1:3, Ephesians 1:17-21.

The contrast between the prophets and Jesus is that Jesus was the first to be resurrected while the prophets looked to the coming Kingdom of God to be resurrected and be members of this new kingdom. Hebrews 11:39, Luke 16:16; 20-37-38. God has not crowned the prophets like He crowned Jesus with glory and honor and placed him over all the works of His hands subjecting everything, including the angels, to Jesus, Hebrews 2:5-8.

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