Last week we have been looking at the first four verses of the book called Hebrews. Today we want to go on and see how the author further develops his argument of the Son’s superiority over the angels. Lane shows an interesting relation of the passages of 1:1-4 and 1:5-13 (22).
A. Appointment as Royal Heir (2b) A.’ Appointment as Royal Heir (5-9)
B. Mediator of the Creation (2c) B.’ Mediator of the Creation (10)
C. Eternal Nature and preexisting Glory (3) C.’ Unchanging, Eternal Nature (11-12)
D. Exaltation to God’s Right Hand (3) D.’ Exaltation to God’s Right Hand (13)
As already stated the focus of this passage (1:5-13) is the superiority of Jesus over the angels. There are three pairs of quotations found in this passage (i.e., 1:5-13; Guthrie, NIVAC, 67)
1) Ps. 2:7; 2 Sam. 7:14 this “proclaims the Son’s superiority by virtue of his unique relationship to the Father (Heb. 1:5)”
2) Ps. 97:7; 104:4 this “focuses attention on the angels’ positive, but inferior, position and ministry (Heb. 1:6 – 7)”
3) Ps. 45:6-7; 102:25-27 here the Son’s eternality and unchanging nature are highlighted
And as a concluding verse the author quotes Psalm 110. “The enthronement of the Son as Messiah, God’s anointed king, is focal; the climactic quote of Psalm 110:1 at verse 13 is most fitting as a summary of this chain of Old Testament texts” (Guthrie, NIVAC, 67).
Let us now take a closer look at the passage at hand. To show Christ’s superiority over the angels (especially in his revealing character) the author of Hebrews now engages in a comparison-style argument.
The catch-word which links the citations of Ps. 2:7; 2 Sam. 7:14 together is “son”. At the baptism of our Lord we hear the heavenly voice saying “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” which resembles Ps 2:7. This Psalm has been seen as being Messianic by the early Christian community. In Acts 13:33-34 it is understood in reference to the resurrection. Thus the phrase “today I have begotten you” is not in relation to any kind of “creation” of the Son, but refers to his resurrection, exaltation, and enthronement.
Guthrie explains that “the early church understood these passages to refer to Jesus’ induction into his royal position as King of the universe at the resurrection and exaltation. With these events God vindicated Jesus as Messiah and established his eternal kingdom (see Acts 13:32 – 34; Rom. 1:4)” we further see that “God’s becoming the Son’s Father, then, refers to God’s open expression of their relationship upon Christ’s enthronement, an interpretation that fits both Old Testament contexts in question” (NIVAC, 69). We understand therefore that the expression “today I have begotten you” is not referring to a time when Christ was not, but to the enthronement of our Messiah in the heavenlies.
In v. 6 the term for “world” (oikoumenē) needs to be seen in light of 1:13 where the author quotes Psalm 110 there “it becomes clear that he is thinking of ‘the coming οἰκουμένη’ as the reign of Christ during the time of the defeat of all the enemies of God (cf. 2:7f.; 6:5; 12:26–29)” (EDNT 2:504). The term is also used that way in 2:5. Thus we see that he is the firstborn (prōtotokos) of the new creation – the inauguration of the eschaton, or as Langkammer writes:
[T]he bringing of the firstborn into the world likely does not refer to the incarnation, but rather to the parousia. His filial rights as Son guarantee to Christ the rights of primogeniture promised to him as a member of the line of David (2 Sam 7:14) and (v. 6b) the angels’ adoration (cf. Deut 32:43 LXX; Ps 96:7 LXX). Here the Son’s unique relationship to God is esp. emphasized (EDNT 3:191).
We further read in Psalm 89:27 “And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” expressing a title of honor and priority. The term “firstborn” was used to “denote one who had a special place in his father’s love” (O’Brien, 70) – see e.g. Exod 4:22 where Israel is called “my beloved son” (LXX: Huios prōtotokos mou Israēl).
The author then proceeds in v.7 to make a contrasting statement. These angels are “ministers” (leitourgous) who minister to the saints (see v. 14 where the angels are said to be “ministering spirits” – Gr.: leitourgika pneumata).
The Davidic king, however, is a “viceregent” of YHWH on earth thus his authority is derived from God Himself. In Psalm 45 (quotes here in vv. 8-9) the king is addressed as God in a way Moses is addressed as such in Exod 7:1 in regards to his role as representative of the ruler of the universe! See also that the rule of the king is characterized by justice and righteousness very fitting for the Messianic ruler.
In vv. 10-12 we see vv. 2-3 reiterated. The preexistent Son was the agent of creation as he is the “firstborn” of the “new creation”. The beginning of this quotation is concerned with the act of creation whereas the second part looks to the final days. Unlike creation, the Son, is not subject to change – which anticipates the great statement in Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
As we mentioned already v. 13 builds climax of the argument. This is the seventh (!) and final quotation of this argument and brings us back to v.5 where the author via Psalm 2:7 pronounced the enthronement of the Messianic king – the Son (cf. O’Brien, 77). Again we have the perfect tense being used to add prominence to this statement. The quotation of Psalm 110 has present and future significance. Jesus is already seated as ruler of creation which awaits its final consummation when his rule will fill the earth.
In the last verse (v. 14) of this section the author makes use of a rhetorical question with the expected answer “yes” as indicated by ouchi. Even Gabriel who stood before the Lord (Luke 1:19) was never allowed to sit beside the Heavenly Father, but is still a servant of YHWH on behalf of the heirs of salvation (cf. O’Brien, 78). Since Christ is bringing us to glory (2:10) the angels are ministering us. Here, again we see the inheritance theme (cf. v. 2, 4). Jesus is the “founder” of our salvation in which we partake (2:10).
These seven OT quotations give grounds to see the superiority of the Son over the angels which then leads the author to his first exhortation of the readers (2:1-4) – a topic we will tackle next week.
Balz, Horst R. “Oἰκουμένη” in Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990.
Bruce, F. F. The Epistle to the Hebrews. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990.
Guthrie, George H. Hebrews in the NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998.
Langkammer, H. “Πρωτότοκος,” in Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990.
O’Brien, Peter T. The Letter to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; 2010.