Heb 1:1-2:18

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Discussion[edit]

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  • Heb 1:1: Sundry times and in divers manners. In Greek, the beginning of this verse reads "Polumeros kai polutropos palai" (In many parts and in many ways of old). The emphatic polu- prefix on two of these opening words is a somewhat common literary device for texts of this period. Here these words seem to be emphasizing either the extent of the Old Testament prophecies or the fragmentary or varied natures of these writings. If the former, this can be taken as pointing to how the prophecies are incomplete until the coming of Christ; if the latter, this can be taken as pointing toward the way in which Christ unifies these various prophecies, or how Christ is yet another of these diverse prophets. (Cf. the NET notes for this verse).
  • Heb 1:5-14: Overview. Verses 5-14 begin include a series of seven Old Testament quotations. First, Ps 2:7 is quoted in vese 5a establishing divine sonship of Christ. This passage is interpreted as messianic by others as well (e.g. Acts 4:25-26; Acts 13:33; Rev 12:5; Rev 19:15). Second, 2 Sam 7:14 is quoted in verse 5b, also in establishing the sonship of Christ. This passage also seems to be interpreted or at least applied messianically in John 7:42; Acts 13:23; Luke 1:32-33 (interestingly, 2 Sam 7:14 is applied to the sonship of believers in 2 Cor 6:18 and Rev 21:7). Third, Ps 97:7 is (seemingly) quoted in verse 6 (or, this might be a quotation of the LXX version of Deut 32:43 which is longer than the MT and has an interesting parallelism between "sons of God" and "angels of God"). This passage depicts the angels worshipping the son. Fourth, Ps 104:4 is quoted in verse 7, again following the LXX instead of the MT which has God making the natural elements into servants rather than the reverse which we read here and in the LXX. Fifth, Ps 45:6-7 is quoted in verse 8, although here God is speaking to the Son promising him an everlasting kingdom whereas in the psalm the psalmist is addressing the king as God. Sixth, in Ps 102:25-27 is quoted in verses 10-12 describing God's role in creation and endlessness (again, the psalmist is addressing God whereas here the words are applied to Christ). Seventh, Ps 110:1 is quoted in verse 13, a passage commonly applied messianically, here establishing the sonship of Christ once again, with an emphasis on the "right hand," sitting position of the son relative to God.

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  • Heb 1:1. Though this does not reflect the Greek, the English text begins with "God," set off from the remainder of the sentence by a comma. What does this accomplish in feel and tone as one begins to read? Why would the translators do this?
  • Heb 1:1. The language of this first verse is generally exalted in English, with a rhetorical flair. How well does this style reflect the oratorical nature of the Greek? Is this translation justified? What does this rhetorical style accomplish?
  • Heb 1:1. Why does the author mention "the fathers" instead of "our fathers"? Does this reflect the cultural orientation of the author? Does it rather suggest that "the fathers" here are not the general ancestors of the Jews at the time of the writing/speaking of this text? What might one read into the phrase?
  • Heb 1:1. If "the fathers" does not mean "the ancestors of the Jews," but something more specialized, which "prophets" spoke to "the fathers"? Is there a set of particular stories in mind here?
  • Usually time is paired with place in the scriptural idiom. Why is "times" paired with "manners" in this opening of the story? Is there some uniformity of place to be posited here?
  • Heb 1:1. If "God" is the subject of the first sentence, the verb that describes the action God performs does not appear at all until verse 2. What does this relativization do to the material of verse 1? Why would the author postpone the action? Why would the author at once make parenthetical and yet give priority to the contents of this first verse?
  • Heb 1:2. Why would the author call his times the "last days"?
  • Heb 1:2. Verse 1 mentions "the fathers," while this verse mentions "his Son." Though verse 1 marks "the fathers" as the ones being taught and this verse marks the "Son" as the one teaching, is there meant to be any implicit connection between these terms?
  • Heb 1:2. What does "heir of all things" entail for the "Son"? Is it significant that the Son was "appointed heir" and not born to be heir?
  • Heb 1:2. Why would the author bother to mention the creation in this verse at all, especially when the theme seems to be so completely unconnected with the other themes of the verse?
  • Heb 1:2. The word translated "worlds" in verse 2 is literally the word "eons." What does it mean to make eons? How is it that the Son was involved in making eons?
  • Heb 1:2. Is it significant at all that the "he" who appoints and who takes up the Son in making the worlds is only called "God" and not at all "the Father"? Does this suggest a different understanding in Hebrews of the relation between Christ and God?
  • Heb 1:3. Why is the Son called "the brightness of his [God's] glory"? What sort of a relationship does this imply between the Son and God?
  • Heb 1:3. If the "his" that is italicized in the first phrase of the verse does not reflect the Greek, the phrase might be read "Who being the brightness of glory." How does this change the meaning of this phrase?
  • Heb 1:3. What does the author of Hebrews mean by glory? Where else does this author use the term, and do any other instances provide a basis for understanding what the term means here?
  • Heb 1:3. The phrase "express image" is a translation of a single Greek word: character, obviously the word behind the English "character." How should this word be understood here?
  • Heb 1:3. Is it important that the Son is said here to be the "character" of God's person, rather than the icon? Does this imply something besides physical appearance or representation?
  • Heb 1:3. The Greek word translated "person" is also rather difficult, and is a word that was involved in the hottest theological debates about Trinitarianism anciently. It could be translated "person," "substance," or even "reality." How is this term best read here?
  • Heb 1:3. How does the Son uphold all things by the word of his power? Is it significant that "word" here reflects a different Greek word from John's famous "In the beginning was the Word"? What is "the word of his power"? Whose power is it?
  • Heb 1:3. Does "by himself" imply that the author believes Jesus to have completed the atonement without the help of the Father? Why would the author bother to add this emphatic "by himself"? Might it emphasize lack of help from other sources, perhaps the angels mentioned in the next verse?
  • Heb 1:3. What is the significance of the right hand? Does Ps 110:1 help here?
  • Heb 1:3. Does this act of being seated by God imply some kind of return? Is it significant that the author of Hebrews seems to have understood Jesus to have been first a man and then a God, rather than a God, then a man, and then a God?
  • Heb 1:4. What does it mean to be "so much better than the angels"? Why is this important to the author?
  • Heb 1:4. It seems clear that "inheritance" is key to understanding the distinction between Jesus and the angels. But how should this be read against the Old Testament tradition of calling the angels the "sons of God"?
  • Heb 1:4. How is the name the Son inherits "more excellent" than the name the angels inherit? Does "more excellent" ultimately imply that the angels also inherit names? Was this author familiar with Phil 2:9-10?
  • Heb 1:4. Why is the "name" so important here? What kind of a name could the author have in mind? Might this be connected with the Old Testament traditions about the tetragrammaton (YHWH)?
  • Heb 1:5. Is the direct relation of begetting of great importance here? Is it this begetting literal? If it is, does the author understand this to be the difference between this "Son" and the angels or "sons of God"?
  • Heb 1:5. The phrase the author reports God as saying to the Son is a quotation of Ps 2:7. Why would the author focus on that verse specifically? What is so significant about the psalms for the author? Is his reading of the psalm justified in modern terms? What is the relation--even at this early point--between Hebrews and the Old Testament?
  • Heb 1:5. Only in this verse is God first called a "Father" to the "Son." Why does the author wait so long to draw this point out?
  • Heb 1:5. The latter part of the verse (following "And again") is a quotation of 2 Sam 7:14. Why would the author take that text as referring to the Son/Jesus? Is this a justified reading? How does this second quotation in a single verse adjust one's understanding of the relationship between Hebrews and the Old Testament?
  • Heb 1:5. The language of the second quotation seems to imply a covenant that comes later, rather than something implicit in birth, as does the language of the first quotation on closer inspection. What is the significance of taking up these verses for the Son when they seem to imply that He only became the Son, only came to be begotten?
  • Heb 1:5. Both of the quotations in this verse come from royal settings in the Old Testament. How does this royalty theme play into the theme the author is addressing here?
  • Heb 1:5. What is the relation between "the angels" in this verse and "the prophets" in the first verse?
  • Heb 1:6. What is the rhetorical function of "And again"? In the scriptures translated/dictated by Joseph Smith, this phrase seems to mark breaks in the text. Does it do so here?
  • Heb 1:6. What is the significance of calling the Son the "firstbegotten," which constitutes something of a departure from the theme to this point (simply "begotten")?
  • Heb 1:6. The quotation the author draws on here does not appear in the Masoretic text (Deut 32:43), though it does appear in both the (Greek) Septuagint and the Qumran manuscripts (the Dead Sea Scrolls). Does this suggest anything about the theological position of the author?
  • Heb 1:6. The quotation is lifted from the "Song of Moses." Is it significant that the author draws on that most important piece of Old Testament literature?
  • Heb 1:6. Why does the author attribute the phrase to a situation of bringing "the firstbegotten into the world"? What does such an event have to do with the "Song of Moses"?
  • Heb 1:6. What is the significance of the image presented here as a whole (the firstbegotten being presented before so many angels who sing and shout praises to him)? How might this be connected with other scriptures?
  • Heb 1:6. Why would God make an announcement to the angels if He is introducing the Son to the world?
  • Heb 1:6. Might this be connected with the angelic chorus visiting the shepherds?
  • Heb 1:7. This verse quotes Ps 104:4. Why would the author choose to take up that psalm in particular?
  • Heb 1:7. The point of this verse (when it is read against the next verse) is to suggest a difference between the angels and the Son. How is the word "ministers" significant in this comparison?
  • Heb 1:7. Is it significant that the author quotes God as saying something "of" the angels, but (in the next verse) something "unto" the Son?
  • Heb 1:7. The verse from Psalm 104 sets up two parallelisms: "angels" is parallel to "ministers," and "spirits" is parallel to "a flame of fire." What can be drawn from these parallelisms?
  • Heb 1:7. Wouldn't one assume that God makes spirits into angels, not angels into spirits? And wouldn't one assume that God makes flames of fire into ministers, not ministers into a flame of fire? What does it mean for the author of the psalm to put the other way around?
  • Heb 1:7. How does this verse (and the next as well) relate to verse 6? Might these two verses be read as fleshing out the worship scene described there?
  • Heb 1:7. What does this verse suggest about the author's attitude towards the Old Testament?
  • Heb 1:8. This verse and the next quote Ps 45:6-7, where the psalmist is quite clearly the speaker. Why would the author attribute these words to God Himself?
  • Heb 1:8. What is the difference (implied by the "But") between the one on the throne and the angels? What does it mean that these angels or ministers would worship Him?
  • Heb 1:8. Is it significant that the throne of the Son is here described as being "for ever and ever"? Does this contradict the earlier implication that the Son had only become the Son?
  • Heb 1:8. How might the tenor of this verse suggest a connection with D&C 121:45-46? What might the content of that cross reference suggest for the meaning of this verse?
  • Heb 1:8. Why, in this quoted psalm, does the song address the nature of the throne and of the sceptre, but not of "God" (the Son?) Himself?
  • Heb 1:8. Why is this the first time the Son is specifically called "God"? What is the significance of that naming? Should it be understood strictly? Is there any other way to understand it (especially in light of the following verse)?
  • Heb 1:9. If the former verse only addresses the royal accoutrements, this verse addresses the nature of "God" directly. What is significant about this shift or about the order in which these addresses are made?
  • Heb 1:9. Why would the psalmist bother to point out what "God" loves and hates? What is meant here by righteousness? Is it significant that the sceptre described in the last verses was a "sceptre of righteousness"?
  • Heb 1:9. How might this language be connected with Mount Sinai (cf. Ex 20:5-6?
  • Heb 1:9. The author gets some mileage out of the word "therefore." Should it be read so strictly? What does its presence here ultimately signify? How else might this psalm be read? Could there be two different singing parts at work in the original?
  • Heb 1:9. t appears that the author reads "thy God" to imply that "God" has a "God." Is this a justified reading of the original psalm? What does this reading suggest about the author's relation to the Old Testament?
  • Heb 1:9. What would it mean for a God to have a God? How is the Son a God and the Father a God also? Did the author of Hebrews have as brought a theology as Latter-day Saint do today?
  • Heb 1:9. Why would one God anoint another? How is this anointing connected with the throne and sceptre of the previous verse?
  • Heb 1:9. Why does the psalmist call the oil "the oil of gladness"? What does this phrase mean?
  • Heb 1:9. How does anointing set one "above [one's] fellows"? Who would the Son's "fellows" have been? What relation obtains between angels and gods here? Might this have been an influence on Joseph Smith's thinking?
  • Heb 1:10. The word "And" here is meant to mark a leap from one quotation to another (this and the following two verses quote Ps 102:25-27). Why doesn't the author make this leap clearer? Would the author be content with a conflation of two very different psalms?
  • Heb 1:10. How does this near conflation of two psalms affect one's reading of them? Does one sense a disruption in flow? Is there any way to read them as a continuous thought? Is this what the author intended?
  • Heb 1:10. Is one to assume that the author understands these words also to be spoken by God to the Son (as God)? Why would God call the Son Lord?
  • Heb 1:10. This quotation imputes to the Son the work of creation. Where else might such an idea be found in the Bible? Does the apparent split between Father and Son imply a kind of division of labor here?
  • Heb 1:10. The author picks up the psalmist's parallel of "earth" and "heaven," a double structure the author uses over and over again through the text. This same double structure is very prevalent in the JST. What significance is there to the pairing of heaven and earth? Why would it appear so much in the JST? Why does the author take the pair up so thoroughly in his own text?
  • Heb 1:10. What does it mean to lay "the foundation of the earth"? Should this be understood in physical terms or in spiritual terms? What kind of a cosmological picture is being drawn here?
  • Heb 1:10. Is it significant that the psalmist, and hence the author, takes the Son back to "the beginning"? How might this point be read?
  • Heb 1:10. The psalmist mentions the "hands" of the Son. How should one read this anthropomorphism?
  • Heb 1:10. How might this creation business be read against the apparent becoming of the Son?
  • Heb 1:10. How might the phrasing of this verse generally be connected up with the content of Moses 1?
  • Heb 1:11. This verse (and the next as well) continues a quotation of Ps 102:25-27. How does the author's quotation of these verses reveal his relation to the Old Testament in general?
  • Heb 1:11. If the previous verse revealed the Son to be the creator, this verse compares that creation to Him and to the detriment of the creation. Why would the author make that comparison? Why would the author spend more time describing the creation and the dissolution of that creation and so little time on the relative permanence of the Creator?
  • Heb 1:11. If the pair of heaven and earth are so prevalent in Hebrews (and in the JST), how should the fact that this verse declares that "they shall perish" be read? Does this mark a kind of devaluation of one of Hebrews' most important themes?
  • Heb 1:11. What does it mean to say "but thou remainest"? It is clearly set in parallel to "they shall perish." Does this offer any insight into what this phrase means?
  • Heb 1:11. hat kind of a relation is implied between the Creator and His creation here? Might this be a source for traditional theological understandings of that relation?
  • Heb 1:11. hat does it mean to say that the heaven and the earth will "wax old as doth a garment"? What does this metaphor accomplish? Is it a good comparison? Might there be allusions in this metaphor (to ancient temple clothing perhaps)?
  • Heb 1:12. The first part of this verse sets up a parallelism to the last phrase of the previous verse. How does this phrase expand on the former? How should one think about the differences in imagery?
  • Heb 1:12. Again the heaven and the earth are pictured as clothing. Why would the author choose to employ this imagery? What would it mean to "fold... up" or to "roll... up" (NRSV) the heaven and the earth? Does this imply some kind of intertwining or continuity between the heaven and the earth?
  • Heb 1:12. Why does this phrase suggest action on the part of the Lord, whereas the former seems to suggest something beyond the will of the Lord? Might the former be related to space while this phrase is related to time?
  • Heb 1:12. What does it mean to say that the Son is "the same"? How is this phrase related to the phrase "but thou remainest"? Can this phrase be understood temporally, or does it imply some kind of non-temporality?
  • Heb 1:12. Parallel to the last phrase is "thy years shall not fail"? If the first part of the parallel suggests some kind of non-temporality, why does this suggest temporality? What does it mean to say the Son's "years shall not fail"?
  • Heb 1:12. This verse concludes a five-verse stretch meant to set up the Son as over against the angels (who are described in quotation as well in verse 7). Why would the author have quoted especially these last three verses, when they seem to have little relation to the author's assertions about the angels?
  • Heb 1:12. How do verses 10-12 expand verses 8-9? If the earlier verses present the exaltation of an earthly figure, these last three verses present an unchangeable God from all eternity. How can these be reconciled? Why would the author choose to put these side by side?
  • Heb 1:12. What can all of these verses together tell us about the theological presuppositions of the author? Why can they tell us about the author's relationship to the Old Testament?
  • Heb 1:13. After five verses on the Son, the author returns to question of the angels. Why would the author come back to the lesser? Is there a need to make a stronger case still?
  • Heb 1:13. Why does the author make this verse a question rather than an assertion? Does this weaken the argument or strengthen it? Should this question be understood to be rhetorical? What effect do rhetorical questions have on thinking? What appeal does a rhetorical question make, and what presuppositions guide it?
  • Heb 1:13. How should one read the particularity of the question asked here? That is, why does the author put the question in terms of "to which of the angels" rather than something like "Has He ever said to an angel"? What does this particularity accomplish? Why is it significant that the reader is called on to identify? Might there be a positive answer? Might that answer be the Son Himself (an angel exalted)?
  • Heb 1:13. he saying that concludes the verse is a quotation of Ps 110:1, and that psalm will become central to the argument of the whole book. Why would the author introduce this most central psalm in a question, and an ambiguous one at that? What effect does this have on the argument that will come?
  • Heb 1:13. Taking up a quotation of the Old Testament within so particular a question is really a unique literary device. How does this further articulate the author's relationship to the Old Testament? What else might this tell us about the author's thinking?
  • Heb 1:13. There may be an allusion to this same verse in the psalms in verse 3. What connection is there between this verse and that one? Why would there be a connection made here? Does this full-blown quotation strengthen the possibility of verse 3 being an allusion?
  • Heb 1:13. What is the significance, again, of the right hand? What would it mean to sit there?
  • Heb 1:13. If verse 3 mentions the right hand, it does not mention this question of enemies. How should one interpret the saying about the enemies? What would it mean for enemies to become a footstool?
  • Heb 1:13. If God (apparently the Father) is the one who will put the enemies of the Son under His feet, what is the work of the Son? Does this verse suggest a kind of absolute exaltation without any effort on the Son's part?
  • Heb 1:13. Because of the question-structure of this verse, the author seems to assume that angels would have enemies. What would an angel's enemy be? Might this be connected with Joseph Smith's teachings about spirits seeking power over one another?
  • Heb 1:14. This verse adds a second question to the first, this one phrased negatively. What is the difference between the negative and positive questions? Does this follow-up with a negative question affect the foregoing positive question? Does it function in any way as a kind of answer? If it does, how can an author answer a positive question with a negative question? What are the literary consequences of this?
  • Heb 1:14. f the previous verse focuses on particularity, this verse moves to universality. Does this question answer the first question by making that shift? Does this verse amount to a denial of any kind of particularity amongst angels?
  • Heb 1:14. This verse is the first since verse 4 that does not contain a quotation of the Old Testament. Why would the author leave off the Old Testament here? How does a question without quotation differ from a question with quotation? Why would the author choose to place the quotation within the positive question?
  • Heb 1:14. That this verse leaves off quotation highlights how lengthy a stretch of varied quotations there are in this chapter. Why would the author string so many together at the very beginning of the book (something the author never does again so continuously)? How do these quotations strengthen the argument? How might they weaken it? What is the significance of quotation or allusion?
  • Heb 1:14. What does it mean to speak of "ministering spirits"? Why would this title apply to "all" angels?
  • Heb 1:14. If the angels are all "sent forth," does this verse imply that God does say something to the angels, though none of them is chosen to sit on the throne?
  • Heb 1:14. Who are the "heirs of salvation"? What kind of a theology is implied in this statement? Is it significant that this phrase is introduced within a rhetorical question? How does the question format of the verse alter the nature of that theology?
  • Heb 1:14. Is there any significance in the phrase "who shall"? Why are the heirs displaced to the future? How might this affect the theology behind the phrase "heirs of salvation"?
  • Heb 1:14. What kind of a worldview (view, perhaps, of the plan of salvation) is behind this question? What is the function of angels? How do they relate to the Son in these terms?

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Notes[edit]

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