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God (ο θεος). This Epistle begins like Genesis and the Fourth Gospel with God, who is the Author of the old revelation in the prophets and of the new in his Son. Verses 1-3 are a proemium (Delitzsch) or introduction to the whole Epistle. The periodic structure of the sentence ( 1-4) reminds one of Lu 1:1-4, Ro 1:1-7, 1Jo 1:1-4 . The sentence could have concluded with εν υιω in verse 2, but by means of three relatives (ον, δι' ου, ος) the author presents the Son as "the exact counterpart of God" (Moffatt).
Of old time (παλα). "Long ago" as in Mt 11:21 .
Having spoken (λαλησας). First aorist active participle of λαλεω, originally chattering of birds, then used of the highest form of speech as here.
In the prophets (εν τοις προφηταις). As the quickening power of their life (Westcott). So 4:7.
By divers portions (πολυμερως). "In many portions." Adverb from late adjective πολυμερης (in papyri), both in Vettius Valens, here only in N.T., but in Wisdom 7:22 and Josephus (Ant. VIII, 3, 9). The Old Testament revelation came at different times and in various stages, a progressive revelation of God to men.
In divers manners (πολυτροπως). "In many ways." Adverb from old adjective πολυτροπος, in Philo, only here in N.T. The two adverbs together are "a sonorous hendiadys for 'variously'" (Moffatt) as Chrysostom (διαφορως). God spoke by dream, by direct voice, by signs, in different ways to different men (Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, etc.).
At the end of these days (επ' εσχατου των ημερων τουτων). In contrast with παλα above.
Hath spoken (ελαλησεν). First aorist indicative of λαλεω, the same verb as above, "did speak" in a final and full revelation.
In his Son (εν υιω). In sharp contrast to εν τοις προφηταις. "The Old Testament slopes upward to Christ" (J. R. Sampey). No article or pronoun here with the preposition εν, giving the absolute sense of "Son." Here the idea is not merely what Jesus said, but what he is (Dods), God's Son who reveals the Father (Joh 1:18 ). "The revelation was a son-revelation" (Vincent).
Hath appointed (εθηκεν). First aorist (kappa aorist) active of τιθημ, a timeless aorist.
Heir of all things (κληρονομον παντων). See Mr 12:6 for ο κληρονομος in Christ's parable, perhaps an allusion here to this parable (Moffatt). The idea of sonship easily passes into that of heirship (Ga 4:7; Ro 8:17 ). See the claim of Christ in Mt 11:27; 28:18 even before the Ascension.
The worlds (τους αιωνας). "The ages" (secula, Vulgate). See 11:3 also where τους αιωνασ=τον κοσμον (the world) or the universe like τα παντα (the all things) in 1:3; Ro 11:36; Col 1:16 . The original sense of αιων (from αε, always) occurs in Heb 5:20 , but here "by metonomy of the container for the contained" (Thayer) for "the worlds" (the universe) as in LXX, Philo, Josephus.
Being (ων). Absolute and timeless existence (present active participle of ειμ) in contrast with γενομενος in verse 4 like ην in Joh 1:1 (in contrast with εγενετο in 1:14) and like υπαρχων and γενομενος in Php 2:6f .
The effulgence of his glory (απαυγασμα της δοξης). The word απαυγασμα, late substantive from απαυγαζω, to emit brightness (αυγη, αυγαζω in 2Co 4:4 ), here only in the N.T., but in Wisdom 7:26 and in Philo. It can mean either reflected brightness, refulgence (Calvin, Thayer) or effulgence (ray from an original light body) as the Greek fathers hold. Both senses are true of Christ in his relation to God as Jesus shows in plain language in Joh 12:45; 14:9 . "The writer is using metaphors which had already been applied to Wisdom and the Logos" (Moffatt). The meaning "effulgence" suits the context better, though it gives the idea of eternal generation of the Son (Joh 1:1 ), the term Father applied to God necessarily involving Son. See this same metaphor in 2Co 4:6 .
The very image of his substance (χαρακτηρ της υποστασεως). Χαρακτηρ is an old word from χαρασσω, to cut, to scratch, to mark. It first was the agent (note ending =τηρ) or tool that did the marking, then the mark or impress made, the exact reproduction, a meaning clearly expressed by χαραγμα (Ac 17:29; Re 13:16f. ). Menander had already used (Moffatt) χαρακτηρ in the sense of our "character." The word occurs in the inscriptions for "person" as well as for "exact reproduction" of a person. The word υποστασις for the being or essence of God "is a philosophical rather than a religious term" (Moffatt). Etymologically it is the sediment or foundation under a building (for instance). In 11:1 ψποστασις is like the "title-deed" idea found in the papyri. Athanasius rightly used Heb 1:1-4 in his controversy with Arius. Paul in Php 2:5-11 pictures the real and eternal deity of Christ free from the philosophical language here employed. But even Paul's simpler phrase μορφη θεου (the form of God) has difficulties of its own. The use of Λογος in Joh 1:1-18 is parallel to Heb 1:1-4 .
And upholding (φερων τε). Present active participle of φερω closely connected with ων (being) by τε and like Col 1:17 in idea. The newer science as expounded by Eddington and Jeans is in harmony with the spiritual and personal conception of creation here presented.
By the word of his power (τω ρηματ της δυναμεως αυτου). Instrumental case of ρημα (word). See 11:3 for ρηματ θεου (by the word of God) as the explanation of creation like Genesis, but here αυτου refers to God's Son as in 1:2.
Purification of sins (καθαρισμον των αμαρτιων). Καθαρισμος is from καθαριζω, to cleanse (Mt 8:3; Heb 9:14 ), here only in Hebrews, but in same sense of cleansing from sins, 2 Peter 1:9; Job 7:21 . Note middle participle ποιησαμενος like ευραμενος in 9:12. This is the first mention of the priestly work of Christ, the keynote of this Epistle.
Sat down (εκαθισεν). First aorist active of καθιζω, "took his seat," a formal and dignified act.
Of the Majesty on high (της μεγαλοσυνης εν υψηλοις). Late word from μεγας, only in LXX (De 32:3; 2Sa 7:23 , etc.), Aristeas, Heb 1:3; 8:1; Jude 1:25 . Christ resumed his original dignity and glory (Joh 17:5 ). The phrase εν υψηλοις occurs in the Psalms (Ps 93:4 ), here only in N.T., elsewhere εν υψιστοις in the highest (Mt 21:9; Lu 2:14 ) or εν τοις επουρανιοις in the heavenlies (Eph 1:3,20 ). Jesus is here pictured as King (Prophet and Priest also) Messiah seated at the right hand of God.
Having become (γενομενος). Second aorist middle participle of γινομα. In contrast with on in verse 3.
By so much (τοσουτω). Instrumental case of τοσουτος correlative with οσω (as) with comparative in both clauses (κρειττων, better, comparative of κρατυς, διαφορωτερον, more excellent, comparative of διαφορος).
Than the angels (των αγγελων). Ablative of comparison after κρειττων, as often.
Than they (παρ' αυτους). Instead of the ablative αυτων here the preposition παρα (along, by the side of) with the accusative occurs, another common idiom as in 3:3; 9:23 . Διαφορος only in Hebrews in N.T. except Ro 12:6 .
Hath inherited (κεκληρονομηκεν). Perfect active indicative of κληρονομεω (from κληρονομος, heir, verse 2), and still inherits it, the name (ονομα, oriental sense of rank) of "Son" which is superior to prophets as already shown ( 1:2) and also to angels ( 1:4-2:18) as he now proceeds to prove. Jesus is superior to angels as God's Son, his deity ( 1:4-2:4). The author proves it from Scripture ( 1:4-14).
Unto which (Τιν). "To which individual angel." As a class angels are called sons of God (Elohim) (Ps 29:1 ), but no single angel is called God's Son like the Messiah in Ps 2:7 . Dods takes "have I begotten thee" (γεγεννηκα σε, perfect active indicative of γενναω) to refer to the resurrection and ascension while others refer it to the incarnation.
And again (κα παλιν). This quotation is from 2Sa 7:14 . Note the use of εις in the predicate with the sense of "as" like the Hebrew (LXX idiom), not preserved in the English. See Mt 19:5; Lu 2:34 . Like Old English "to" or "for." See 2Co 6:18; Re 21:7 for the same passage applied to relation between God and Christians while here it is treated as Messianic.
And when he again bringeth in (οταν δε παλιν εισαγαγη). Indefinite temporal clause with οταν and second aorist active subjunctive of εισαγω. If παλιν is taken with εισαγαγη, the reference is to the Second Coming as in 9:28. If παλιν merely introduces another quotation (Ps 97:7 ) parallel to κα παλιν in verse 5, the reference is to the incarnation when the angels did worship the Child Jesus (Lu 2:13f. ). There is no way to decide certainly about it.
The first-born (τον πρωτοτοκον). See Ps 89:28 . For this compound adjective applied to Christ in relation to the universe see Col 1:15 , to other men, Ro 8:29; Col 1:18 , to the other children of Mary, Lu 2:7 ; here it is used absolutely.
The world (την οικουμενην). "The inhabited earth." See Ac 17:6 .
Let worship (προσκυνησατωσαν). Imperative first aorist active third plural of προσκυνεω, here in the full sense of worship, not mere reverence or courtesy. This quotation is from the LXX of De 32:43 , but is not in the Hebrew, though most of the LXX MSS. (except F) have υιο θεου, but the substance does occur also in Ps 97:7 with ο αγγελο αυτου.
Of the angels (προς τους αγγελους). "With reference to" (προς) as in Lu 20:9 . So "of the Son" in verse 8. Note μεν here and δε in verse 8 in carefully balanced contrast. The quotation is from Ps 104:4 .
Winds (πνευματα). "Spirits" the word also means. The meaning (note article with αγγελους, not with πνευματα) apparently is one that can reduce angels to the elemental forces of wind and fire (Moffatt).
A flame of fire (πυρος φλογα). Predicate accusative of φλοξ, old word, in N.T. only here and Lu 16:24 . Lunemann holds that the Hebrew here is wrongly rendered and means that God makes the wind his messengers (not angels) and flaming fire his servants. That is all true, but that is not the point of this passage. Preachers also are sometimes like a wind-storm or a fire.
O God (ο θεος). This quotation (the fifth) is from Ps 45:7f . A Hebrew nuptial ode (επιθαλαμιυμ) for a king treated here as Messianic. It is not certain whether ο θεος is here the vocative (address with the nominative form as in Joh 20:28 with the Messiah termed θεος as is possible, Joh 1:18 ) or ο θεος is nominative (subject or predicate) with εστιν (is) understood: "God is thy throne" or "Thy throne is God." Either makes good sense.
Sceptre (ραβδος). Old word for walking-stick, staff (Heb 11:21 ).
Fellows (μετοχους). Old word from μετεχω, partners, sharers, in N.T. only in Hebrews save Lu 5:7 . Note παρα with accusative here, beside, beyond, above (by comparison, extending beyond).
Lord (Κυριε). In the LXX, not in the Hebrew. Quotation (the sixth) from Ps 102:26-28 through verses 10-12. Note emphatic position of συ here at the beginning as in verses 11-12 (συ δε). This Messianic Psalm pictures the Son in his Creative work and in his final triumph.
Hast laid the foundation (εθεμελιωσας). First aorist active of θεμελιοω, old verb from θεμελιος (foundation) for which see Col 1:23 .
They (αυτο). The heavens (ουρανο).
Shall perish (απολουντα). Future middle of απολλυμ. Modern scientists no longer postulate the eternal existence of the heavenly bodies.
A mantle (περιβολαιον). Old word for covering from παριβαλλω, to fling around, as a veil in 1Co 11:15 , nowhere else in N.T.
Shalt thou roll up (ελιξεις). Future active of ελισσω, late form for ειλισσω, in N.T. only here and Re 6:14 , to fold together.
As a garment (ως ιματιον). LXX repeats from 11.
They shall be changed (αλλαγησοντα). Second future passive of αλλασσω, old verb, to change.
Shall not fail (ουκ εκλειψουσιν). Future active of εκλειπω, to leave out, to fail, used of the sun in Lu 23:45 . "Nature is at his mercy, not he at nature's" (Moffatt).
Hath he said (ειρηκεν). Perfect active common use of the perfect for permanent record. This seventh quotation is proof of the Son's superiority as the Son of God (his deity) to angels and is from Ps 110:1 , a Messianic Psalm frequently quoted in Hebrews.
On my right hand (εκ δεξιων μου). "From my right." See 1:3 for εν δεξια "at the right hand."
Till I make (εως αν θω). Indefinite temporal clause about the future with εως and the second aorist active subjunctive of τιθημ with αν (often not used), a regular and common idiom. Quoted also in Lu 20:43 . For the pleonasm in υποδιον and των ποδων (objective genitive) see Mt 5:35 .
Ministering spirits (λειτουργικα πνευματα). Thayer says that λειτουργικος was not found in profane authors, but it occurs in the papyri for "work tax" (money in place of service) and for religious service also. The word is made from λειτουργια (Lu 1:23; Heb 8:6; 9:21 ).
Sent forth (αποστελλομενα). Present passive participle of αποστελλω, sent forth repeatedly, from time to time as occasion requires.
For the sake of (δια). With the accusative, the usual causal meaning of δια.
That shall inherit (τους μελλοντας κληρονομειν). "That are going to inherit," common idiom of μελλω (present active participle) with the infinitive (present active here), "destined to inherit" (Mt 11:14 ).
Salvation (σωτηριαν). Here used of the final salvation in its consummation. Only here in the N.T. do we have "inherent salvation," but see 6:12; 12:17 . We do not have here the doctrine of special guardian angels for each of us, but simply the fact that angels are used for our good. "And if so, may we not be aided, inspired, guided by a cloud of witnesses--not witnesses only, but helpers, agents like ourselves of the immanent God?" (Sir Oliver Lodge, The Hibbert Journal, Jan., 1903, p. 223).
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