THE CHRONICLES OF THE ELECT

A Study of Hebrews Chapter 1: Part 16

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But to the Son He says:“ Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;

We can almost feel the overwhelming excitement when the writer penned these next phrases. The contrast in regards to the Son to the angels begins with the small conjunction “but” (de) which is meant to bring about the thought of distinction. Jesus Christ the Son of God is no angel or archangel. Our great heavenly Father after having expressed Himself regarding His angelic creation now turns His attention towards a much better and greater being; mainly the Son. The entire focus of the next few verses will be on demonstrating the superiority of the Son to the angels in both being and function.

What the Father says regarding the Son is certainly one of the most blatantly clear evidences to the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ ever written in the New Testament or anywhere in scripture. The Father now makes reference to the grounds by which the Lord Jesus is contrasted to the angels. In His first statement to the angels He makes reference to their being and in v.8 parallels this by explaining the nature of the Lord Jesus in referring to Him as “God” (ho theos). 20th Century writer A.W. Pink writes:

This supplies us with one of the most emphatic and unequivocal proofs of the deity of Christ to be found in the scriptures. It is the Father Himself testifying to the Godhead of Him who was despised and rejected of men.[i]

But with such a clear statement how then are there so many in our generation past and present who still deny this glorious biblical truth? Much like any other passage of scripture there is an attempt to deny the plain meaning of this text. There are two different methods that are produced in their disagreement: firstly that the term “God” (Theos) shouldn’t be taken literally in this case and merely defined as a demi-god or secondly there are those in liberal circles who would challenge the translation of the text.

The first argument truly has no basis since when we examine the terminology used by the writer[ii] we must come to the conclusion that he is referring to full deity and not merely a likeness of God.[iii] The thought that Christ would have held a nature that is “in between” God and angels is not compelling since these Jews would have found great comfort in this. The reason for their console is because they could have held both views and escaped persecution however the writer makes it clear throughout the epistle that there couldn’t merely be a compromise and these believers were forces in a “all or nothing” situation.

The second argument however carries with it a little more weight. Some have translated the opening words of v.8 as “God is thy throne” instead of the traditional “thy throne, O’ God”. The difference is in how we interpret the writer’s intention when quoting the psalm. Some have come up with some strange arguments to hinder the traditional translation that we feel should be ignored.[iv] If the writer meant to use the nominative case then “God is thy throne” is the proper translation however if the vocative is used then the traditional translation should be rendered. Some scholars have expressed that there is some uncertainty as to how exactly the Greek should be deciphered[v] however we feel as many other scholars[vi], that the evidence for the vocative is stronger because of certain points.

  1. Stemming from the issues surrounding the LXX translation of Psalm 45:7 which seems to point to the vocative reading.[vii]
  2. The vocative seems much more natural due to the word order utilized by the writer.
  3. A study of the evidence relating to legein proV is more naturally rendered as “say to” than “spoken about”.
  4. The context has as it primary point to demonstrate the superiority of Christ over the angels which would be ineffective.
  5. When we look further at vs.10-12, the reading of “thy throne, O’ God” is more probable given that the writer uses the Psalm 102 to define God with His unique attributes.[viii]

The writer quotes from the very well known 46th Psalm, which would have certainly been recognizable to his audience. The 46th psalm was written for the marriage of Solomon to the daughter of the king of Egypt. When dealing with the terminology surrounding the throne we are venturing on the grounds of sovereignty and authority. Dr. R. Bowman Jr. writes:

The Psalm speaks in the immediate “horizon” about the Jerusalem king who also prefigured the Messiah, the ultimate descendant of David and the true eternal king. We should note that the Psalm does not identify the specific king, and the whole psalm may be interpreted messianically…the nuptial imagery that dominates the second half of the psalm (vv 8-15) is window dressing (likely occasioned by an actual wedding of the king) for a messianic vision of the future. The richest representatives of the nations of the world will attend to and bow before the Davidic king, and the peoples of the world will attend to him (note especially vv. 9-12, 17). Language about the king that would be hyperbolic in reference to any of Israel’s merely human kings ultimately applies to the Messiah. Thus, although none of those kings was literally God, Psalm 45 points forward to a coming king who really would be God[ix]

The thought of the throne of the Lord Jesus Christ isn’t a foreign idea conjured up by Christians. The Lord Jesus shall sit on the throne of His glory (Matthew 25:31) which is the same throne He shares with the Father and by which He will be worshipped by all creation (Revelation 22:1). It is truly fitting to read these words and meditate upon the great conquering authority of our God expressed mainly in these passages as the Father and the Son.

 


[i] An Exposition of Hebrews, A.W. Pink, Baker Book House, Page 58-59

[ii] The writer uses o qeoV with the definite article. There is no question that the writer’s words are meant to present pure deity and that which is the Father in nature.

[iii] This would have been the view of the early heresy that was challenging the church in its primitive years called gnosticism. Paul refutes this heresy in his letter to the Colossians by stating that “in Him all the fullness (pleroma) of deity dwells in bodily form” (2:9) which was a sharp rebuke to their belief system.

[iv] Some have attempted to argue for the traditional view from the analogy that Christ would have been sitting on God if the rendering “God is thy throne”. This is very poor argumentation especially when we see this type of peculiar language used in other areas of scripture (Psalm 90:1; 91:1-2,9)

[v] Robertson notes that “it is not certain whether ho theos is here the vocative (address with the nominative form as in John 20:28 with the Messiah termed theos as is possible, John 1:18) or ho theos is nominative (subject or predicate) with estin (is) understood “God is they throne” or “thy throne O’ God”. Either makes good sense. -Word Pictures of the New Testament, A.T. Robertson, Broadman, Page 339 

[vi] D. Wallace writes: “there are three synthatical possibilities for qeoV here: as a subject (“God is your throne), predicate nom. (your throne is God), and nom. For voc. ( as in the translation above). The S and PN translations can be lumped together and set off against the nom. For voc. approach. It is our view that the nom. For voc. view is to be preferred for the following reasons: (1) It is an overstatement to argue that if a writer wanted to address God he could have used the vocative qee, because no where in the NT is this done except in Matt 27:46. The articular nom. For voc. is the almost universal choice. (2) This is especially the case in quoting from the LXX (as in Heb. 1:8; cf. Heb 10:7), for the LXX is equally reticent to use the voc. form, most likely since Hebrew lacked such a form. (3) The accentuation in the Hebrew of Ps. 45:7 suggests that there should be a pause between “throne” and “God” (indicating that tradition took “God” as direct address). (4) This view takes seriously the men…de construction in vv7-8, while the S-PN view does not adequately  handle these conjuctions. Specifically, if we read v.8 as “your throne is God” the de loses its adversative force, for such a statement could also be made of the angels, viz., that God reigns over them.— Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Daniel Wallace, Zondervan, Page 59

[vii] Dr. Morey writes: “o qeoV is found sixty-three times in the vocative in the Psalms. Why then deny it here? Nowhere in Scripture is God ever said to be someone’s throne. The language “God is your throne” is rather odd and out of place in Psalm 45 and Hebrews 1. How does such a phrase prove that Jesus has a superior name and nature to the angels?– The Trinity: Evidence and Issues, Robert Morey, Christian Scholar’s press, Page 349

[viii] For a full treatment of the grammatical and synthaxical issues surrounding this text, see “Jesus as God” by Murray J. Harris, Baker Book House, Pages 187-227

[ix] Putting Jesus in His place, R. Bowman jr. and Ed. Komoszewski, Kregel Publications, Page 149

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Written by shawnkjmcgrath

August 13, 2009 at 8:41 am

Posted in Hebrews Ch.1

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