1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high, 4 having become so much better than the angels, as he has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

5 For to which of the angels did he ever say: "You are my Son, today I have begotten you"? And again: "I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son"? 6 But when he again brings the firstborn into the world, he says: "Let all the angels of God worship him." 7 And of the angels he says: "Who makes his angels spirits and his ministers a flame of fire." 8 But to the Son He says: "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your Kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you With the oil of gladness more than your companions." 10 And: "You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 11 They will perish, but you remain; and they will all grow old like a garment; 12 like a cloak you will fold them up, and they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will not fail." 13 But to which of the angels has he ever said: "Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool"?

14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?  Version: New King James Version

COMMENTS

General:

  • Hebrews is a grand document, a letter or treatise bridging the testaments, making point-wise comparisons between N.T. realities and their O.T. counterparts.
    • The author (identity unknown!) argues that in every point Christ and the new covenant are superior to the old religion.
    • Main idea of Hebrews : Jesus, as the priest of new covenant, by his self-sacrifice, will bring us to the end of the Christian race. The new covenant is superior to the old covenant. Jesus fulfills the Law. Therefore we will lose our salvation if we turn our backs on Jesus. Despite our sufferings, the fight is worth it. Don’t give up!
    • This is a “bridge” book between the testaments. Along with Romans and perhaps 1 or 2 other N.T. documents, Hebrews helps us make sense of the two testaments, and how Jesus Christ spans them both.
  • The prologue, perhaps the finest Greek in the N.T., emphasizes that:
    • Prologue has a sevenfold description of ministry of Christ (heir, role in creation, radiance, representation, sustainer, purification, ruling). These themes set the stage for the rest of Hebrews.
    • Revelation during O.T. times was less direct than in N.T. times. Then, he spoke through prophets (v.1); now, through a Son (v.2).
    • The Son was his agent in creation (v.2 -- see Colossians 1:16). He also sustains the creation (v.3 -- see Colossians 1:17).
    • The Son gloriously expresses God, so we can be sure we are seeing divine truth clearly (v.3).
    • Last, the Son provided forgiveness of sins (see 10:4).
    • If he sustains the universe, he is certainly able to sustain us to the end -- to bring us across the finish line (ch.12)!
    • For these reasons, he is superior to the prophets (v.1) and to the angels (v.4).
  • The rest of the chapter compares Christ to the angels. (Were some of the recipients tempted to worship angels, as in Colossians 2:18?)
    • Seven (perfect number) citations appear, mainly from the Psalms.
    • V.8 refers to Jesus as God (God in nature). In v.9 we read the God (the Father) is Jesus' God. This makes sense since the Son is begotten of the Father.
    • Taking into account all the evidence, and the relevant O.T. scriptures, there really is no comparison!
  • At the end of the day, angels are mere servants (v.14).
    • (Note: minister is a formal Latin word meaning servant.) Although we do not see them, they are there, God's agents working divine purposes for the sake of his human creatures
    • The emphasis of v.14 is Christological; readers who don’t get the sense and flow of the passage tend to make it sensational.

Advanced:

  • Scholars agree that Hebrews is a sermon that has been converted into an epistle.
  • Who wrote this letter? Click here.
    • No one knows who wrote this letter; currently Apollos is scholars' favorite guess. But the evidence is weak, and no one in the early church suggested Apollos as the author.
    • About the possible Pauline authorship of the epistle, click here. The earliest attribution to Paul is in p46 (before c.200 AD).
    • Apparently the author was not anonymous to his readers (13:19).
  • The audience are Jewish Christians, probably living in Rome.
    • "Forefathers" suggests they share a common religious heritage.
    • More than 35 O.T. quotations, assumed to be familiar to the readers, also suggests a common Jewish background. In fact, there are more than 100 O.T. citations and allusions in all!
    • These Jewish Christians are familiar with the LXX (Greek version of the O.T.), and it seems every O.T. quotation comes from the LXX.
    • Evidence points to Rome as location of the Christian community: expulsion by Claudius 49 AD (10:32-34); use of hegoumenoi (leaders), also used by Clement of Rome (96 AD), who draws heavily on Hebrews; reference to fellow Christians from Italy (chapter 13).
  • As for the date, it is tempting to put Heb before 70 AD, since the temple system is described as currently in operation. And yet it isn't the temple that Heb describes, but the tabernacle (pre-Solomonic). And other ancient writers describe the temple as in full swing, even though they wrote well after its destruction (like Justin Martyr, 1 Clement, and the Talmud). Still, if the temple had fallen, mentioning the fact would have served the Heb writer's purpose well; in fact, it's nearly inexplicable why he didn't. For this reasons, I lean towards a date in the late 60s.
  • The flow of Hebrews:
    • Prologue—Revelation through Son (1:1-4)
    • Jesus superior to the angels (1:5-2:18)
    • Jesus superior to Moses (3:1-19)
    • Jesus [Joshua] superior to Joshua (4:1-13)
    • Jesus superior to OT priests (4:14-9:14)
    • Jesus our mediator (9:15-10:18)
    • Exhortation (10:19-39)
    • Faith (11:1-40)
    • Discipline (12:1-29)
    • Further exhortation (13:1-25)
  • The structure of Hebrews centers round an exposition of seven main O.T. texts.Psalm 8:4-6 (in Hebrews 2:5-18)
    • Psalm 95:7-11 (in Hebrews 3:7-4:13)
    • Psalm 110:4 (in Hebrews 4:16-7:28)
    • Jeremiah 31:31-34 (in Hebrews 8:1-10:18)
    • Psalm 40:6-8 (in Hebrews 10:1-18)
    • Habakkuk 2:3-4 (in Hebrews 10:32-12:3)
    • Proverbs 3:11-12 (in Hebrews 12:4-13)
  • Notice how often the words “superior” / “better” – appear in Hebrews (15 times in all!). In face, 1:1-10:18 is a continuous exposition of the superiority of the Christian faith.
  • 1:3 is based on Wisdom of Solomon 7:26 ("For she [Wisdom] is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness.")
  • The catena of verses (5-13) is drawn from the O.T. This "anthology" (as biblical scholars call it) comes from:
    • The first two were very important Messianic texts for Jews and Christians alike:
      • Psalm 2:7 -- Just as the new king "became God's son" in ancient Near Eastern theology, so the Messiah is God's son.
      • 2 Samuel 7:12-14 -- The Messiah will be a son (descendant) of David.
      • They often appear together, for example in the DSS. See 4QFlor 10:11,18-19.
    • Psalm 97:7 (96:7 in the LXX) -- The angels are to worship him. Note: This works in the Greek and Latin only -- not the Hebrew. The Jewish translators of Alexandria (those who created the LXX) rendered "gods" as "angels."
    • Psalm 104:4 -- Angels are mere servants (not sons). The rabbis taught that angels could appear as flames of fire.
    • Psalm 45:6-7 -- The Son is deity! Oil of joy implies Jesus is the anointed one, the Messiah.
    • Psalm 102:25-27 -- God's eternal qualities characterize the Son.
    • Psalm 110:1 -- God gave the Messiah (David's Lord) a position of exalted authority.  Only in Psalm 110 (out of all the OT verses) do we see another reigning alongside God. Psalm 110:1 is the most commonly quoted OT passage in the NT (cited 20x).
  • For an understanding of the term "firstborn," see Psalm 89:27, Colossians 1:15. It is about inheritance privilege, right, not necessarily chronology or birth order.
  • Surprisingly, "the world" probably does not refer to the incarnation, but to Jesus' arrival in the heavenly world (after his exaltation). The Hebrew writer uses two separate words for world: kosmos, for the earthly creation, and oikoumene, for the heavenly realm.
  • Deuteronomy 32:43  LXX – “sons of God.” Also Odes 2:43.
  • Re: v.14, click to read about guardian angels. Yet the point is not the we have specially appointed guardian angels. The point is that the angels are mere servants; Christ is far superior!
  • Be sure to listen to my 10-part in-depth audio series on Hebrews.

Thought questions:

  • Do I appreciate the fact that although all the Bible is God's written word, what is expressed in the N.T. is superior to what is written in the O.T.
  • Do we  live our lives with confidence and gratitude, realizing God not only provides forgiveness of our sins (v.3), but sends his angels to work his purposes on our behalf (v. 14)?
  • Do I give Jesus the honor due him?  Do I ever use his name flippantly or just as an expression?  How do I respond to others who do?
  • Have I underestimated Jesus Christ? To me is he just another one of God's heavenly creatures (along with the angels, powers, cherubim...), or do I appreciate his uniqueness?