A Study of Hebrews Chapter 1: Part 7

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The express image of His person

I remember in my youth when I worked at a retail outlet and at one point we were having issues with counterfeit money. Our storeowner provided to us a machine with a special light to detect that which was authentically printed in contrast with that which was a counterfeit. Either way, these two bills, either true or false, were an exact representation of the stamp and there was certainly a need of a gadget to sort out the good from the bad. Not only is the Son the “brightness of His glory” but also the writer then furthers an even greater statement concerning the Son, mainly that He is “the express image of His person”. The New American Standard Bible translates it “the exact representation of His nature in which we feel would be in greater accordance with the original meaning.

The term “express image” or “exact representation” is a translation of the term “charakter” which, in its original form would have referred to an instrument used to engrave a coin. The term then progressed in its meaning during the time of the writing of this epistle in which it would have found it’s meaning as that of a stamp or the print of a signet ring. Whatever it was that you saw on the coin or stamp was exactly what was on the ring. There was no difference at all; it was identical![i]  In other words the Lord Jesus is the exact nature of the Father. Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest explains:

The words “express image” are the translations of charakter. This word was used in classical Greek of an engraver, one who mints coins, a graving tool, a die, a stamp, a branding iron, a mark engraved, an impress, a stamp on coins and seals. Metaphorically it meant “a distinctive mark or token impressed on a person or thing, by which it is known from others, a characteristic, the character of.” It was a Greek idiom for a person’s features. It was used of the type or character regarded as shared with others. It meant also an impress or an image. The classical usage of this world should throw some light upon its use in the New Testament.[ii]

Dr. A.T. Robertson continues:

Charakter is an old world from charasso, to cut, to scratch, to mark. It first was the agent (note ending=ter) or tool that did the marking, then the mark or impress made, the exact reproduction, a meaning clearly expressed by chargma (Acts 17:29, Rev. 13:16f.)[iii]

The next portion defines exactly what the term exact representation is linked to. The relation of this perfect image is with His “person” or “nature” (NASB). The term used is “hupostasis” which seems to imply the nature, essence or substance of someone. It denotes “that which has actual existence; a substance, real being” and “the substantial quality, nature, of any person or thing”[iv]. It must be stated that this is not His bare essence, but His whole nature with a correspondence as close as that which an impression gives back to a seal[v]. Greek scholar W.E.Vines explains its relation to the former:

Hupostasis came to denote essence, substance, the inner nature. Christ is the very representation of the divine essence. The whole phrase expresses the fact that the Son of God is a distinct person from the Father and yet one with Him in the Godhead. He is His equal, as being the perfect representation of His essence.[vi]

The terminology used reflects much of what Paul was conveying in Philippians 2 with the expression “form of God”. Paul used the term “morphe” which denotes the very nature all that God is. Truly, In Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9 NASB) The Lord Jesus proclaimed He who has seen Me has seen the Father;(John 14:9) since only the Son could manifest the Father to these disciples.


[i] Some have come to the conclusion that this expression is actually evidence that the Lord Jesus Christ is not God. The argument states that in order for there to be an print or engraving there had to be something that existed firstly to have engraved or made the print. This argumentation fails to take into account that the term charakter is in a noun form and not a verb. The term charakter is not the act of printing or engraving but the fact that there is perfect resemblance between the two.

[ii] Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Kenneth Wuest, Eerdmans, Pages 37-38

[iii] Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. V, A.T. Robertson, Broadman, Page 336

[iv] Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Joseph Thayer, Hendrickson, Page 645

[v] The Lord of Glory, B.B. Warfield, Solid Ground Christian Books,  Page 279

[vi] The Collected Writings of W.E. Vine, W.E. Vine, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Page 254


Written by shawnkjmcgrath

July 27, 2009 at 9:26 am

Posted in Hebrews Ch.1

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