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Archive for June 20th, 2014

 

Paul1_001

 

Hebrews 1:8

  • Last week I provided a brief introduction to Hebrews concerning the titles used for the second person of the Trinity.  For today’s post, I will attempt to interact more with Hebrews 1:8.
    • Scriptural statement: “But of the Son He says, ‘YOUR THRONE, O GOD IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM'”
      • Negatively stated: New World Translation has it differently from other biblical translations.  NWT says this for Hebrews 1:8, “But about the Son, he says: ‘God is your throne forever and ever, and the scepter of your Kingdom is the scepter of uprightness.'”
        • Question: What is the difference between the prior and latter translation?
        • Answer: NWT treats the Father as the subject of the sentence (nominative) in order to avoid the association between the Father and the Son.  They do that so that they can safeguard their doctrine that Christ is not God, but a god.  Hence, to them, God the Father is the subject whereby He states that He is merely the source and throne of the Son.
          • To do so would make Jesus to be understood negatively in a ontological manner.  Meaning that Christ is not equal to the Father in His nature and essence.
      • Some technical background:  Technically both renderings (nominative and vocative) of Hebrews 1:8 are “grammatically feasible” (even though JW have a unbiblical view of Christ’s deity), because the Greek form of address (vocative [“Your throne O God is forever and ever”]) in Hebrews 1:8 is the identical form of the subject (subject nominative [“God is your throne forever and ever”]). In order to deal with this particular statement concerning the form of address between the Father and the Son, one must note that it was not originally in Greek, but in the OT.
        • What you have in Hebrews 1:8, is the Greek translation (LXX [Septuagint]) of Psalm 45:6, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.”  Psalm 45:6 is applied to the Son and the Son is directly addressed as God in an ontological manner (Reymond, 273).
        • Quote: “The fact that the noun ὁ θεὸς ho theos, appears to be nominative in its inflected form means nothing.  The so-called articular nominative with vocative force is a well-established idiom in classical Greek, the Septuagint, and New Testament Greek.  So the case of the noun in Hebrews 1:8 must be established on other grounds than its case form, and that it is vocatival is apparent for the following reasons” (273-274).
        • Here are some of the following reasons why ὁ θεὸς should be taken as a vocatival (Reymond, 274).
          • First–If ὁ θεὸς was to be treated as a subject nominative (“God is your throne”), the ὁ θεὸς  would of  appeared before “your throne.”  But you do not see that.  Or if it is to be perceived as a predicate nominative then it wold be more conceivable that “God” would be written anarthrously (without the article); and appearing before  “your throne” or after “forever and ever.”  However, you do not have that.
          • Second–In the LXX of Psalm 45, the king is addressed in the vocative.
            • In verse 6, you see the nominative being employed.  But a few verses earlier, you see that Psalm 45:3, saying this, “Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One, In Your splendor and Your majesty!”  Verse 3 is directly addressing the recipient (vocative being employed) who is Jesus Christ.  So grammatically we see two different cases being used: nominative and the vocative.  But to treat them separately as if not having any relationship is to do violence to the text. Contextually we see an interplay of the Father and the Son.  The Son is addressed as not being anything more or less than God the Father in deity.  They are equal.  To perceive it differently is to do violence to the context and to undermine Hebrew parallelism in poetic writing.  
            • Implication: So if verse three reads it as a vocative: “O mighty One,” it would be doctrinally and theologically inconsistent to approach Hebrews 1:8 as something different than “O God.”  Jesus is God.
            • Textual and syntactical features seem to be in favor of the vocative case.  As a result, the Father is not addressing the Son by implying that He is His throne and source, but He is addressing the Son as God. Like God the Father, Jesus is supremely powerful and above all creatures, including angels.  He is Yahweh of the OT (John 8:58; Exodus 3:14).
          • Third–Take Hebrews 1:7 into account because it is syntactically connected to verse 8.  In addition, the formula (1:13; 5:5; 7:21) used in the book of Hebrews concerning πρὸς (1:7) suggests that ὁ θεὸς would fit well in the vocatival manner.  In light of the Hebrew formula concerning πρὸς (“from,” “concerning,” “about”), it makes sense that Jesus is being addressed as God, which runs harmoniously with “ὁ θεὸς.”
          • Fourth–The quotation in Hebrews 1:10-12 (cf. Ps. 102:25-27) uses “καὶ” (“and”).  In other words vv. 10-12 is connected by the conjunction “and.”  Hebrews 1:8-9 is also connected with “καὶ.”  Hence, since we have already established that Jesus Christ is God, the καὶ only corroborates it more–giving more of a reason why Jesus is referred to as, “O Lord.”  God the Father is addressing the Son as God.
      • Exhortation: Although I believe the original languages are helpful and vital, you do not need to know Greek or Hebrew in order to be able to defend the faith. Understanding the context will provide you a well rounded arsenal to guide you in battle. Contextually the author of Hebrews is echoing the supremacy of Christ, not a ontological subordination of Christ. For the JW to argue merely that God is the source of Jesus fails to account for the explanation concerning Jesus’ supremacy.  Brethren, preach the Gospel.  Preach it with confidence, knowing that Christ is king and is the redeemer.

 

 

 


*Some concepts adapted from:

Murray J. Harris, “The Translation and Significance of Ὁ θεὸς in Hebrews 1:8-9,” Tyndale Bulletin 36 (1985) 129-162.

Mike Ricarddi, Behold, They Stand at the Door and Knock: a Presuppositional Refutation of the Worldviewof the Jehovah’s Witness (unpublished research paper, The Master’s Seminary, 2011), 1-18.

Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd ed. (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 272-274.


 

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