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Comments on Hebrews (1:5-14)

Hebrews 1:5-14 consists of a series of quotes from the Old Testament serving to establish the superiority of Christ over angels. My initial thought in tackling this section was, why so many OT quotations? Wouldn’t one or two have sufficed to prove his point, instead of seven (Psalm 2, I Samuel 7:14, Deuteronomy 32, Psalm 104, Psalm 45, Psalm 102, Psalm 84)? I don’t know the answer to this, and Ellingworth (my primary commentator) did not address it. Some cautious but vague suggestions would be (1) for greater emphasis on Christ’s supremacy and (2) to show how his presentation is thoroughly grounded in the Old Testament (especially relevant if writing to Jewish Christians). Beyond this I am uncertain and will continue to think about it.

Another question that arises is, what is the author’s logical flow of thought throughout this section? Lane (35) summaries it in four groupings:

1) Christ’s name is greater than that of angels, since he is acclaimed as Son (v. 5)
2) Christ’s dignity is greater than that of angels, since He is worthy of worship (v. 6)
3) Christ’s status is greater than that of angels, since He remains unchanged (vv. 7-12)
4) Christ’s function is greater than that of angels, since He reigns at God’s hand (vv. 13-14).

While this might be overly schematic, I do think the different quotes highlight different aspects of Christ’s supremacy, and distinct nuances can be noted. The two most interesting quotes, in my opinion, are the quote of Psalm 45 in 8-9 and the quote of Psalm 102 in 10-12. The emphasis in 8-9 is on Christ’s royalty, His Kingly rule (hence words like throne, scepter, kingdom, and annointed), while the emphasis in 10-12 is on Christ’s eternality and unchanged nature in relation to ever-changing creation. What strikes me most is that, of all OT texts he could have chosen to stress the latter point, he chose Psalm 102. While Psalm 45 may be a messianic text, it is very difficult to read Psalm 102 as such. It is amazing (and perplexing) that the author applies to Christ a non-Messianic text speaking of YHWH!

Side note: Hebrews 1:11-12 is one passage that makes me think that the original concluding verse of Newton’s hymn Amazing Grace (“the earth shall soon dissolve like snow…”) is not too dispensational, and more generally that it is not unbiblical for Christians to speak of the universe fading away or being consumed (in some sense). Biblically, we can say the heavens “will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed.” Its beautiful to think of Christ shedding the universe like a garment while He endures unchanged eternally! Ellingworth, 128: “the Son will change one order of creation for another as easily as a human being changes one cloak for another, while remaining himself unchanged.” My overall benefit from Hebrews chapter 1 is a deeper sense of the worth, weight, and magnitude of Christ.

After finishing 2:1-4, I am going to pause in Hebrews for a while, primarily because I want to order a new commentary. Ellingworth is masterful on analyzing the Greek syntax and grammar, but he is not as helpful on theological construction and application, and therefore I don’t think I am getting as much out of my study as I could. I will continue to consult him as a supplement, but I think I will order F.F. Bruce (NICNT) or Lane (WBC) as my primary commentary for 2:5ff.

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