Comments on Hebrews (1:1-2a)

When I am doing a study, I often find it helpful to write down a succinct summary of various noteworthy conclusions I make so that I can remember them and refer to them in the future. So, as I work my way through Hebrews, I will be making notes from time to time on things that particularly stand out to me. These notes will not be exhaustive or consistent; just occasional thoughts, quotes, insights, questions, comparisons, etc.

My first reading was on 1:1-1:2a:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (ESV).

Verses 1-2 contain several parallel contrasts:

long ago —> in these last days
to our fathers —> to us
by the prophets —> by his Son
at many times and in many ways —> ?

The speech of God is the prominent thrust of this section. It is the only constant in the two contrasting phrases: “God spoke (v. 1) … he has spoken (v. 2).” There is both continuity and discontinuity between God’s Old Testament revelation and his revelation in Christ, and the profoundest and most basic point of continuity is, they are both revelation. The other phrases all highlight discontinuity. God’s speech was long ago (palai), now it is in these last days; it was to our fathers, now it is to us; it was by the prophets, now it is by his Son. What, however, corresponds to “at many times and in many ways” (which Ellingworth notes is emphatic due its placement, length, and alliteration in the Greek)?

Lane comments: “only one expression descriptive of the old revelation is not taken up and developed in setting forth the distinctive character of the new revelation. It is the adverbial phrase ‘at various times and in many ways.’ The omission of this phrase implies that when God spoke his word through the Son he spoke with finality” (31, italics his).

There is thus one more contrast which is implicit in 1:1-1:2a, in addition to the contrasts mentioned above which are explicit. It is this: diversity —> unity. Or perhaps better: diversity —> climactic singularity.

My conclusion: the writer of Hebrews begins his letter with a comparison of God’s former speech (v. 1) and his Son-speech (v. 2) which highlights the finality and importance of this latter revelation. This contrast anticipates and undergirds his further argumentation throughout the letter for the superiority of the revelation of Jesus Christ to everything which proceeded him in redemptive history.

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