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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Hebrews 1

Verse 1

God (ο τεοςho theos). This Epistle begins like Genesis and the Fourth Gospel with God, who is the Author of the old revelation in the prophets and of the new in his Son. Hebrews 1:1-3 are a proemium (Delitzsch) or introduction to the whole Epistle. The periodic structure of the sentence (Hebrews 1:1-4) reminds one of Luke 1:1-4, Romans 1:1-7, 1 John 1:1-4. The sentence could have concluded with εν υιωιen huiōi in Hebrews 1:2, but by means of three relatives (ον δι ου οςhon class="normal greek">παλαι — di' hou class="normal greek">λαλησας hos) the author presents the Son as “the exact counterpart of God” (Moffatt).

Of old time (λαλεωpalai). “Long ago” as in Matthew 11:21.

Having spoken
(τοις πατρασινlalēsas). First aorist active participle of εν τοις προπηταιςlaleō originally chattering of birds, then used of the highest form of speech as here.

Unto the fathers
(πολυμερωςtois patrasin). Dative case. The Old Testament worthies in general without “our” or “your” as in John 6:58; John 7:22; Romans 9:5.

In the prophets
(πολυμερηςen tois prophētais). As the quickening power of their life (Westcott). So Hebrews 4:7.

By divers portions
(πολυτροπωςpolumerōs). “In many portions.” Adverb from late adjective πολυτροποςpolumerēs (in papyri), both in Vettius Valens, here only in N.T., but in Wisdom 7:22 and Josephus (Ant. VIII, 3, 9). The Old Testament revelation came at different times and in various stages, a progressive revelation of God to men.

In divers manners
(διαπορωςpolutropōs). “In many ways.” Adverb from old adjective polutropos in Philo, only here in N.T. The two adverbs together are “a sonorous hendiadys for ‹variously‘” (Moffatt) as Chrysostom (diaphorōs). God spoke by dream, by direct voice, by signs, in different ways to different men (Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, etc.).

Verse 2

At the end of these days (επ εσχατου των ημερων τουτωνep' eschatou tōn hēmerōn toutōn). In contrast with παλαιpalai above.

Hath spoken (ελαλησενelalēsen). First aorist indicative of λαλεωlaleō the same verb as above, “did speak” in a final and full revelation.

In his Son
(εν υιωιen huiōi). In sharp contrast to εν τοις προπηταιςen tois prophētais “The Old Testament slopes upward to Christ” (J. R. Sampey). No article or pronoun here with the preposition ενen giving the absolute sense of “Son.” Here the idea is not merely what Jesus said, but what he is (Dods), God‘s Son who reveals the Father (John 1:18). “The revelation was a son-revelation ” (Vincent).

Hath appointed
(ετηκενethēken). First aorist (kappa aorist) active of τιτημιtithēmi a timeless aorist.

Heir of all things
(κληρονομον παντωνklēronomon pantōn). See Mark 12:6 for ο κληρονομοςho klēronomos in Christ‘s parable, perhaps an allusion here to this parable (Moffatt). The idea of sonship easily passes into that of heirship (Galatians 4:7; Romans 8:17). See the claim of Christ in Matthew 11:27; Matthew 28:18 even before the Ascension.

Through whom
(δι ουdi' hou). The Son as Heir is also the Intermediate Agent (διαdia) in the work of creation as we have it in Colossians 1:16.; John 1:3.

The worlds
(τους αιωναςtous aiōnas). “The ages” (secula, Vulgate). See Hebrews 11:3 also where τους αιωναστον κοσμονtous aiōnas = τα πανταton kosmon (the world) or the universe like αιωνta panta (the all things) in Hebrews 1:3; Romans 11:36; Colossians 1:16. The original sense of αειaiōn (from aei always) occurs in Hebrews 6:20, but here “by metonomy of the container for the contained” (Thayer) for “the worlds” (the universe) as in lxx, Philo, Josephus.

Verse 3

Being (ωνōn). Absolute and timeless existence (present active participle of ειμιeimi) in contrast with γενομενοςgenomenos in Hebrews 1:4 like ηνēn in John 1:1 (in contrast with εγενετοegeneto in John 1:14) and like υπαρχωνhuparchōn and γενομενοςgenomenos in Philippians 2:6.

The effulgence of his glory (απαυγασμα της δοχηςapaugasma tēs doxēs). The word απαυγασμαapaugasma late substantive from απαυγαζωapaugazō to emit brightness (αυγη αυγαζωaugē class="normal greek">χαρακτηρ της υποστασεως — augazō in 2 Corinthians 4:4), here only in the N.T., but in Wisdom 7:26 and in Philo. It can mean either reflected brightness, refulgence (Calvin, Thayer) or effulgence (ray from an original light body) as the Greek fathers hold. Both senses are true of Christ in his relation to God as Jesus shows in plain language in John 12:45; John 14:9. “The writer is using metaphors which had already been applied to Wisdom and the Logos” (Moffatt). The meaning “effulgence” suits the context better, though it gives the idea of eternal generation of the Son (John 1:1), the term Father applied to God necessarily involving Son. See this same metaphor in 2 Corinthians 4:6.

The very image of his substance
(Χαρακτηρcharaktēr tēs hupostaseōs). χαρασσωCharaktēr is an old word from τηρcharassō to cut, to scratch, to mark. It first was the agent (note ending = χαραγμαtēr) or tool that did the marking, then the mark or impress made, the exact reproduction, a meaning clearly expressed by χαρακτηρcharagma (Acts 17:29; Revelation 13:16.). Menander had already used (Moffatt) υποστασιςcharaktēr in the sense of our “character.” The word occurs in the inscriptions for “person” as well as for “exact reproduction” of a person. The word ψποστασιςhupostasis for the being or essence of God “is a philosophical rather than a religious term” (Moffatt). Etymologically it is the sediment or foundation under a building (for instance). In Hebrews 11:1 μορπη τεουhypostasis is like the “title-deed” idea found in the papyri. Athanasius rightly used Hebrews 1:1-4 in his controversy with Arius. Paul in Philippians 2:5-11 pictures the real and eternal deity of Christ free from the philosophical language here employed. But even Paul‘s simpler phrase Λογοςmorphē theou (the form of God) has difficulties of its own. The use of περων τεLogos in John 1:1-18 is parallel to Hebrews 1:1-4.

And upholding
(περωpherōn te). Present active participle of ωνpherō closely connected with τεōn (being) by τωι ρηματι της δυναμεως αυτουte and like Colossians 1:17 in idea. The newer science as expounded by Eddington and Jeans is in harmony with the spiritual and personal conception of creation here presented.

By the word of his power
(ρημαtōi rēmati tēs dunameōs autou). Instrumental case of ρηματι τεουrēma (word). See Hebrews 11:3 for αυτουrēmati theou (by the word of God) as the explanation of creation like Genesis, but here καταρισμον των αμαρτιωνautou refers to God‘s Son as in Hebrews 1:2.

Purification of sins
(Καταρισμοςkatharismon tōn hamartiōn). καταριζωKatharismos is from ποιησαμενοςkatharizō to cleanse (Matthew 8:3; Hebrews 9:14), here only in Hebrews, but in same sense of cleansing from sins, 2 Peter 1:9; Job 7:21. Note middle participle ευραμενοςpoiēsamenos like εκατισενheuramenos in Hebrews 9:12. This is the first mention of the priestly work of Christ, the keynote of this Epistle.

Sat down
(κατιζωekathisen). First aorist active of της μεγαλοσυνης εν υπσηλοιςkathizō “took his seat,” a formal and dignified act.

Of the Majesty on high
(μεγαςtēs megalosunēs en hupsēlois). Late word from εν υπσηλοιςmegas only in lxx (Deut 32:3; 2Sam 7:23, etc.), Aristeas, Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 8:1; Judges 1:25. Christ resumed his original dignity and glory (John 17:5). The phrase εν υπσιστοιςen hupsēlois occurs in the Psalms (Psalm 93:4), here only in N.T., elsewhere εν τοις επουρανιοιςen hupsistois in the highest (Matthew 21:9; Luke 2:14) or en tois epouraniois in the heavenlies (Ephesians 1:3, Ephesians 1:20). Jesus is here pictured as King (Prophet and Priest also) Messiah seated at the right hand of God.

Verse 4

Having become (γενομενοςgenomenos). Second aorist middle participle of γινομαιginomai In contrast with on in Hebrews 1:3.

By so much (τοσουτωιtosoutōi). Instrumental case of τοσουτοςtosoutos correlative with οσωιhosōi (as) with comparative in both clauses (κρειττωνkreittōn better, comparative of κρατυςkratus διαπορωτερονdiaphorōteron more excellent, comparative of διαποροςdiaphoros).

Than the angels
(των αγγελωνtōn aggelōn). Ablative of comparison after κρειττωνkreittōn as often.

Than they
(παρ αυτουςpar' autous). Instead of the ablative αυτωνautōn here the preposition παραpara (along, by the side of) with the accusative occurs, another common idiom as in Hebrews 3:3; Hebrews 9:23. ΔιαποροςDiaphoros only in Hebrews in N.T. except Romans 12:6.

Hath inherited
(κεκληρονομηκενkeklēronomēken). Perfect active indicative of κληρονομεωklēronomeō (from κληρονομοςklēronomos heir, Hebrews 1:2), and still inherits it, the name (ονομαonoma oriental sense of rank) of “Son” which is superior to prophets as already shown (Hebrews 1:2) and also to angels (1:4-2:18) as he now proceeds to prove. Jesus is superior to angels as God‘s Son, his deity (1:4-2:4). The author proves it from Scripture (Hebrews 1:4-14).

Verse 5

Unto which (ΤινιTini). “To which individual angel.” As a class angels are called sons of God (Elohim) (Psalm 29:1), but no single angel is called God‘s Son like the Messiah in Psalm 2:7. Dods takes “have I begotten thee” (γεγεννηκα σεgegennēka se perfect active indicative of γενναωgennaō) to refer to the resurrection and ascension while others refer it to the incarnation.

And again (και παλινkai palin). This quotation is from 2 Samuel 7:14. Note the use of ειςeis in the predicate with the sense of “as” like the Hebrew (lxx idiom), not preserved in the English. See Matthew 19:5; Luke 2:34. Like Old English “to” or “for.” See 2 Corinthians 6:18; Revelation 21:7 for the same passage applied to relation between God and Christians while here it is treated as Messianic.

Verse 6

And when he again bringeth in (οταν δε παλιν εισαγαγηιhotan de palin eisagagēi). Indefinite temporal clause with οτανhotan and second aorist active subjunctive of εισαγωeisagō If παλινpalin is taken with εισαγαγηιeisagagēi the reference is to the Second Coming as in Hebrews 9:28. If παλινpalin merely introduces another quotation (Psalm 97:7) parallel to και παλινkai palin in Hebrews 1:5, the reference is to the incarnation when the angels did worship the Child Jesus (Luke 2:13.). There is no way to decide certainly about it.

The first-born (τον πρωτοτοκονton prōtotokon). See Psalm 89:28. For this compound adjective applied to Christ in relation to the universe see Colossians 1:15, to other men, Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:18, to the other children of Mary, Luke 2:7; here it is used absolutely.

The world
(την οικουμενηνtēn oikoumenēn). “The inhabited earth.” See Acts 17:6.

Let worship
(προσκυνησατωσανproskunēsatōsan). Imperative first aorist active third plural of προσκυνεωproskuneō here in the full sense of worship, not mere reverence or courtesy. This quotation is from the lxx of Deut 32:43, but is not in the Hebrew, though most of the lxx MSS. (except F) have υιοι τεουhuioi theou but the substance does occur also in Psalm 97:7 with οι αγγελοι αυτουhoi aggeloi autou f0).

Verse 7

Of the angels (προς τους αγγελουςpros tous aggelous). “With reference to” (προςpros) as in Luke 20:9. So “of the Son” in Hebrews 1:8. Note μενmen here and δεde in Hebrews 1:8 in carefully balanced contrast. The quotation is from Psalm 104:4.

Winds (πνευματαpneumata). “Spirits” the word also means. The meaning (note article with αγγελουςaggelous not with πνευματαpneumata) apparently is one that can reduce angels to the elemental forces of wind and fire (Moffatt).

A flame of fire
(πυρος πλογαpuros phloga). Predicate accusative of πλοχphlox old word, in N.T. only here and Luke 16:24. Lunemann holds that the Hebrew here is wrongly rendered and means that God makes the wind his messengers (not angels) and flaming fire his servants. That is all true, but that is not the point of this passage. Preachers also are sometimes like a wind-storm or a fire.

Verse 8

O God (ο τεοςho theos). This quotation (the fifth) is from Psalm 45:7. A Hebrew nuptial ode (επιταλαμιυμepithalamium) for a king treated here as Messianic. It is not certain whether ο τεοςho theos is here the vocative (address with the nominative form as in John 20:28 with the Messiah termed τεοςtheos as is possible, John 1:18) or ο τεοςho theos is nominative (subject or predicate) with εστινestin (is) understood: “God is thy throne” or “Thy throne is God.” Either makes good sense.

Sceptre (ραβδοςrabdos). Old word for walking-stick, staff (Hebrews 11:21).

Verse 9

Hath anointed thee (εχρισεν σεechrisen se). First aorist active indicative of χριωchriō to anoint, from which verb the verbal ΧριστοςChristos (Anointed One) comes. See Christ‘s use of εχρισενechrisen in Luke 4:18 from Isaiah 66:1.

With the oil of gladness (ελαιον αγαλλιασεωςelaion agalliaseōs). Accusative case with εχρισενechrisen (second accusative besides σεse). Perhaps the festive anointing on occasions of joy (Hebrews 12:2). See Luke 1:44.

(μετοχουςmetochous). Old word from μετεχωmetechō partners, sharers, in N.T. only in Hebrews save Luke 5:7. Note παραpara with accusative here, beside, beyond, above (by comparison, extending beyond).

Verse 10

Lord (ΚυριεKurie). In the lxx, not in the Hebrew. Quotation (the sixth) from Psalm 102:26-28 through Hebrews 1:10-12. Note emphatic position of συsu here at the beginning as in Hebrews 1:11-12 (συ δεsu de). This Messianic Psalm pictures the Son in his Creative work and in his final triumph.

Hast laid the foundation (ετεμελιωσαςethemeliōsas). First aorist active of τεμελιοωthemelioō old verb from τεμελιοςthemelios (foundation) for which see Colossians 1:23.

Verse 11

They (αυτοιautoi). The heavens (ουρανοιouranoi).

Shall perish (απολουνταιapolountai). Future middle of απολλυμιapollumi Modern scientists no longer postulate the eternal existence of the heavenly bodies.

But thou continuest
(συ δε διαμενειςsu de diameneis). This is what matters most, the eternal existence of God‘s Son as Creator and Preserver of the universe (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:14.).

Shall wax old
(παλαιωτησονταιpalaiōthēsontai). First future passive indicative of παλαιοωpalaioō from παλαιοςpalaios for which see Luke 12:33; Hebrews 8:13.

Verse 12

A mantle (περιβολαιονperibolaion). Old word for covering from παριβαλλωpariballō to fling around, as a veil in 1 Corinthians 11:15, nowhere else in N.T.

Shalt thou roll up (ελιχειςhelixeis). Future active of ελισσωhelissō late form for ειλισσωheilissō in N.T. only here and Revelation 6:14, to fold together.

As a garment
(ως ιματιονhōs himation). lxx repeats from Hebrews 1:11.

They shall be changed
(αλλαγησονταιallagēsontai). Second future passive of αλλασσωallassō old verb, to change.

Shall not fail
(ουκ εκλειπσουσινouk ekleipsousin). Future active of εκλειπωekleipō to leave out, to fail, used of the sun in Luke 23:45. “Nature is at his mercy, not he at nature‘s” (Moffatt).

Verse 13

Hath he said (ειρηκενeirēken). Perfect active common use of the perfect for permanent record. This seventh quotation is proof of the Son‘s superiority as the Son of God (his deity) to angels and is from Psalm 110:1, a Messianic Psalm frequently quoted in Hebrews.

Sit thou (κατουkathou). Second person singular imperative middle of κατημαιkathēmai to sit, for the longer form κατησοkathēso as in Matthew 22:44; James 2:3.

On my right hand
(εκ δεχιων μουek dexiōn mou). “From my right.” See Hebrews 1:3 for εν δεχιαιen dexiāi “at the right hand.”

Till I make
(εως αν τωheōs an thō). Indefinite temporal clause about the future with εωςheōs and the second aorist active subjunctive of τιτημιtithēmi with ανan (often not used), a regular and common idiom. Quoted also in Luke 20:43. For the pleonasm in υποδιονhupodion and των ποδωνtōn podōn (objective genitive) see Matthew 5:35.

Verse 14

Ministering spirits (λειτουργικα πνευματαleitourgika pneumata). Thayer says that λειτουργικοςleitourgikos was not found in profane authors, but it occurs in the papyri for “work tax” (money in place of service) and for religious service also. The word is made from λειτουργιαleitourgia (Luke 1:23; Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:21).

Sent forth (αποστελλομεναapostellomena). Present passive participle of αποστελλωapostellō sent forth repeatedly, from time to time as occasion requires.

For the sake of
(διαdia). With the accusative, the usual causal meaning of διαdia

That shall inherit
(τους μελλοντας κληρονομεινtous mellontas klēronomein). “That are going to inherit,” common idiom of μελλωmellō (present active participle) with the infinitive (present active here), “destined to inherit” (Matthew 11:14).

(σωτηριανsōtērian). Here used of the final salvation in its consummation. Only here in the N.T. do we have “inherent salvation,” but see Hebrews 6:12; Hebrews 12:17. We do not have here the doctrine of special guardian angels for each of us, but simply the fact that angels are used for our good. “And if so, may we not be aided, inspired, guided by a cloud of witnesses - not witnesses only, but helpers, agents like ourselves of the immanent God?” (Sir Oliver Lodge, The Hibbert Journal, Jan., 1903, p. 223).

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Hebrews 1". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.