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Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews, Part 1: The Last Prophet is Christ
Several things about this epistle to the Hebrews have been a subject of debate throughout Christian history, including the identity of the author, where and when it was written, and to whom it was addressed. We will rather confidently answer all of those questions here, even if some of our proofs are only circumstantial. First, it is evident from the closing salutation in the final verses of Hebrews chapter 13 that Paul of Tarsus is the author. There he says “23 Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you.” This promise is similar to others made by Paul elsewhere in his epistles, however that alone does not prove Paul’s authorship. Unlike all of his other epistles, this one has no opening salutation. But that too is for an important reason.
Now many of those who acknowledge that Paul is the author of this epistle claim that it was written while he was under arrest in Rome, however that is not true. They base that claim on the next verse of Hebrews chapter 13, where it says “Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints”, which is also a statement sounding very much like Paul although we would translate it differently, and then “They of Italy salute you.” Now, on the surface that last phrase seems to support the assertion that the epistle was written in Rome, however it actually does precisely the opposite. In the original Greek wording of that statement there is a preposition, ἀπό, which denotes separation and origin. If Paul were in Italy, he did not need that preposition, but only the Genitive Case noun to denote the origin of those whom he meant to describe. Using ἀπό, he is actually saying that these individuals were from Italy, and it becomes evident that he is describing people who had originated from Italy but were not necessarily in Italy as he was writing.
Paul was indeed allowed to receive visitors as he was detained in Judaea, and many Judaeans from abroad frequently visited Jerusalem, especially for the feasts. Caesareia, being on the coast, was the usual port of call for people going to and from Jerusalem, which we also see in Paul’s own travels. And Caesareia was also the place where Paul was held in bonds for two years, as it is recorded in Acts chapters 23 through 27, during which the opportunities for visits from traveling Christians of the circumcision, who continued to keep the feasts as Paul had also done, must have been frequent. The conditions under which Paul were held are recorded in Acts chapter 24, where it states that Felix would keep him detained, “23 And he commanded a centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty, and that he should forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him.” So all of the circumstances under which Paul could have written this epistle in Caesareia, and had visitors from Italy as he wrote it, are fully evident.
In verse 23 of Hebrews chapter 13, which we have just cited, we see that Timothy must have been under arrest, and then by the time Paul wrote this epistle, Timothy was released. While the accounts of Paul’s arrest in the Book of Acts are very concise, it is evident from the records that Paul was not arrested alone. It is also evident that Timothy and others were with Paul when he was arrested. From Acts chapter 20 we see both Timothy and Aristarchus in the company of Paul as he travels with Luke and his other companions, from the Troad through Miletus and on to Judaea and Jerusalem where his arrest had occurred. Then in Acts chapter 27, two years after his arrest, Paul is sent to Rome in chains and Aristarchus is a prisoner being transported along with him. Aristarchus, a Roman citizen of Makedonia, also had a right to have his case heard by Caesar rather than in Judaea. Luke had written “2 And entering into a ship of Adramyttium, we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia; one Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us.” If Timothy were in bonds with them, surely Luke may have also mentioned him, since he was much closer and dearer to Paul than Aristarchus.
This is the same Aristarchus of Acts chapter 19, where Paul had the troubles in Ephesus and Luke wrote: “29 And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul's companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre.” So Aristarchus must have been arrested with Paul in Jerusalem, being with Paul in his travels as it is described in Acts chapter 20, and remained imprisoned along with Paul until they were both sent to Rome. But Luke’s concise accounts usually only follow the central character, and we have no details concerning Timothy because he was released. (We can conjecture that he was released because he was not a Roman citizen, and therefore perhaps Agrippa was not lying where Luke wrote in Acts 27 “32 Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.”) Then, when Paul writes his prison epistles from Rome he mentions Aristarchus where he describes those who were with him, in Colossians and in the epistle to Philemon. But Timothy was not with Paul when he was sent to Rome, because as it says in that passage of Hebrews chapter 13, Timothy had been released. So Timothy did not go in chains with Paul to Rome, although Aristarchus did. Therefore Timothy was released from imprisonment in Judaea, not in Rome. Once Paul was settled in at Rome, being under house arrest and managing his own affairs, he wrote to Timothy and asked him to come to Rome to assist him, and that letter we now have in our Bibles as 2 Timothy.
All of this means that Paul wrote the epistle to the Hebrews from Caesareia, where he was under arrest for two years, and he probably wrote it early in that period since he expected to be released, so he had evidently not yet been forced to assert his right to appeal to Caesar. Once he appealed to Caesar, he could not possibly be released until going in bonds to Rome for his case to be heard there, and Paul must have understood that circumstance. The year in which Paul travelled to Jerusalem and was imprisoned was 57 AD, as we have established in our chronologies throughout our presentation of the Book of Acts, and Paul was arrested that same year after arriving in Jerusalem. So the best estimation for the writing of this epistle is either late 57 or early 58 AD.
Luke was with Paul during this entire period, as the Book of Acts informs us, and that accounts for the style of the epistle. Hebrews is a very eloquent letter, written in the hand of one who was educated in Greek, and Luke is the ideal candidate for its authorship. The opening verses of all three works, the Gospel of Luke, the Book of Acts, and the epistle to the Hebrews, are all very eloquent works of literature written in a style which we esteem is very similar, and the similarities extend throughout each of these works. Many so-called scholars, based on epigraphical evidence alone, reject the notion that Paul had authored all fourteen of the epistles attributed to him, but they also seem to be purposely ignorant of the fact that these epistles were mostly written by Paul’s companions, under Paul’s guidance, and for that reason the writing style varies from one epistle to the next. For instance, the epistle to the Romans is also very eloquently written, it also contains the thoughts and ideas of Paul of Tarsus, and Luke was with him when it was written. But it was written by Tertius, another of Paul’s company of whom little else is known.
And this leads us to another issue, which is why the epistle to the Hebrews had no salutation. As we see in Acts chapter 21, the people of Judaea were confused as to why Paul taught many of the things which he did, especially concerning the rituals, or as he called them, the “works of the law”. There Luke records the words of James as he addressed Paul after Paul gave an account of his ministry, where he wrote “20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Judaeans there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: 21 And they are informed of thee [meaning Paul], that thou teachest all the Judaeans which are among the Nations to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. 22 What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.” This contention had been brewing among the apostles for some years. Paul addressed it in his epistle to the Galatians, which was written some time during 52 or 53 AD, as Paul had been in Antioch and was planning to visit Galatia. The record of this journey is given briefly in Acts chapter 18. We established this sequence of events and the dating for them in Part 2 of our presentation of the epistle to the Galatians. Before writing the epistle to the Galatians, Paul encountered Peter in Antioch and contended with him, Barnabas and the other apostles over this very matter, and then wrote about the encounter a short time later in Galatians chapter 2. In that chapter Paul contrasted justification in Christ to the justification which is by the works of the law, and that issue is of primary import throughout this epistle to the Hebrews.
The epistle to the Hebrews sets out to explain Paul’s position in answer to those very issues which are raised by James in the records of the Book of Acts. While asserting and demonstrating through the Scriptures that Yahshua is the Christ, the author of the epistle has the expectation that his readers have already accepted the fact that Yahshua is the Christ, so the intended audience is a Christian audience. He then seeks to establish the consequences of recognizing Yahshua as the Christ, and he gives the reasons for the abolition of the rituals once it is accepted that Yahshua is the Christ, according to the Scripture. The epistle to the Hebrews is clearly Paul’s answer to the words of James which are recorded in Acts chapter 21, and a clarification of the issue with the apostles at Antioch described in Galatians chapter 2. This context further stands to prove that Paul is the author of the epistle. Theoretically, if Paul placed his name in a salutation at the front of this epistle, he risked its neglect. If he used his name, it is probable that those many Judaeans of the faith which James had described in Jerusalem would have discarded it before reading its arguments, since according to the statement of James recorded in Acts chapter 21, they had already rejected Paul. Therefore, instead of a salutation as he had made in all of his other epistles, the epistle to the Hebrews instead presents an immediate argument that the Son, referring to Yahshua Christ, is the vessel through which the Word of God now comes into the world, and at great length it proceeds to describe the consequences of the Gospel of Christ for those who remained in the Old Covenant traditions.
Finally, with this understanding of why the epistle was written, we may see to whom it was written. Just before writing this epistle, as we have previously established, and not long before his arrival in Jerusalem and his resulting arrest, Paul had written his epistle to the Romans from the Troad. In Romans chapter 9, Paul offered a prayer for his “kinsmen in regards to the flesh; those who are Israelites, whose is the position of sons, and the honor, and the covenants, and the legislation, and the service, and the promises”. In Acts chapter 21, while James must have addressed Paul specifically, Luke’s words describe a plurality of those who were with James and who evidently shared and expressed his sentiments. These are the Hebrews, Paul wrote to them as if they had known Timothy, and Paul wrote to them addressing them as Hebrews because the word was used to describe those in Judaea who clung to the Hebrew traditions of their fathers rather than adopting the ways of the Greeks. But we cannot rule out the Christians of Antioch, who were following the lead of those with James in Jerusalem, and among whom were also many of these same Hebrews.
The many Judaeans who adopted the ways of the Greeks during the Herodian period were naturally called Hellenists. Even Josephus mentioned the Hellenization of many Judaeans during this period, and there are mentioned in the New Testament people in Judaea who had Greek names, a sign of at least a mild Hellenization. The King James Version translated the word for Hellenists as Grecians in Acts chapters 6, 9 and 20. In Acts chapter 6, long before Paul of Tarsus appears, there is a dispute between Hellenists and Hebrews, and evidently the cultural divide was strong among Judaeans who were liberals and Judaeans who were traditionalists. But all of the Christians of Acts chapter 6 were Judaeans, as Peter had not yet been called to the household of Cornelius. So Paul’s Hebrews were the traditionalists among the Judaeans, who, as we see in Acts chapter 21, were persuaded to one degree or another by Christ, but who nevertheless insisted that they should maintain the Old Testament customs which distinguished them from the scattered Israelites of the wider Roman world. Examining the times subsequent to Paul’s writing, we can assess both the necessity and the efficacy of such an epistle having been written in the manner in which it was.
In the writings of Justin Martyr, in his Dialogue with Trypho written about 140 AD, about 80 years after this epistle to the Hebrews was written, we see two groups of Hebrew Christians described: those who clung to the Laws of Moses and despised all other Christians, and those who clung to the Laws of Moses and nevertheless got along well with other Christians, not forcing the Mosaic Laws upon them. Some of these early Christians of either party were certainly forerunners of the group later known as the Ebionites, a sect which generally despised Paul of Tarsus. However it seems that Paul’s methods in writing Hebrews were indeed successful. While Justin Martyr did not cite Paul personally or even seem to be familiar with any of his other epistles, the early Christian writer did employ the epistle to the Hebrews, he cited it in his writings, and he was persuaded along the same lines which Paul had been concerning the Law of Moses. Justin, who was probably of a Greek family but born and raised in Samaria, seems not to have known much of Paul or of the epistles in his name, and they are not mentioned in his First or Second Apology of Justin or in his Dialogue of Trypho. Ostensibly, if this is true, because many of his other writings are lost, Justin’s ignorance of Paul can indeed be attributed to the rejection of Paul in Judaea. (We have yet to read all of Justin’s work, but we had access to these surviving works that we mentioned here by which to make this general assessment.)
However, in spite of his seeming ignorance of Paul’s other works, and contrary to the doctrines of the Ebionites or those espoused by James and the others in Acts chapter 21, Justin Martyr’s persuasion in agreement with the content of the epistle to the Hebrews is evident in that same description from the Dialogue of Trypho, chapter 47, where Justin said in part: “But if some, through weak-mindedness, wish to observe such institutions as were given by Moses, from which they expect some virtue, but which we believe were appointed by reason of the hardness of the people's hearts, along with their hope in this Christ, and [wish to perform] the eternal and natural acts of righteousness and piety, yet choose to live with the Christians and the faithful, as I said before, not inducing them either to be circumcised like themselves, or to keep the Sabbath, or to observe any other such ceremonies, then I hold that we ought to join ourselves to such, and associate with them in all things as kinsmen and brethren.”
Ostensibly, Paul wrote this epistle to the Hebrews to persuade his brethren in Judaea that circumcision and the rituals and ceremonies of the Laws of Moses were no longer necessary in Christ, and that their virtue could not be derived from those things. Of course, Paul did teach that a keeping of the commandments of the law is necessary, as Christ Himself also taught. And we may further conjecture that evidently Paul was also concerned for them, as he had expressed in the epistle to the Romans (9:1-6), because if they did not break away from the temple and from the Edomite-controlled administration in Jerusalem, they would suffer likewise when Jerusalem was destroyed, which he understood was about to happen as he also indicated to the Romans (16:20). Where we see that Justin Martyr had cited Hebrews although he had apparently not been familiar with Paul’s other epistles, we see that Paul’s strategy in writing Hebrews was indeed successful, as it did indeed have an impact on at least some of the Christians in Judaea.
All of these opinions of this epistle to the Hebrews we have developed exclusively from our own studies of Paul and the other New Testament writings, and we generally despise commentaries written by the Christians of the denominational sects. But looking for assessments of this epistle from certain early Christian writers, we happened upon an introduction to the epistle to the Hebrews from A Commentary, Critical, Practical, and Explanatory on the Old and New Testaments, by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, published in 1882. Here we will quote from the first paragraph only, because although there are a few statements with which we disagree, we found that it independently supports many of our own assertions where it summarizes what some early Christian writers thought of this epistle:
CANONICITY AND AUTHORSHIP. – CLEMENT OF ROME, at the end of the first century (A.D), copiously uses it, adopting its words just as he does those of the other books of the New Testament; not indeed giving to either the term "Scripture," which he reserves for the Old Testament (the canon of the New Testament not yet having been formally established), but certainly not ranking it below the other New Testament acknowledged Epistles. As our Epistle [meaning Hebrews] claims authority on the part of the writer, CLEMENT'S adoption of extracts from it is virtually sanctioning its authority, and this in the apostolic age. JUSTIN MARTYR quotes it as divinely authoritative, to establish the titles "apostle," as well as "angel," as applied to the Son of God. [Note that neither of these men are said to have attributed the writing of Hebrews to Paul.] CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA refers it expressly to Paul, on the authority of Pantaenus, chief of the Catechetical school in Alexandria, in the middle of the second century, saying, that as Jesus is termed in it the "apostle" sent to the Hebrews, Paul, through humility, does not in it call himself apostle of the Hebrews, being apostle to the Gentiles [or Nations, but we do not agree with Clement’s interpretation of Hebrews 3:1 – Paul is not saying that Christ is the apostle to the Hebrews, but that He is the chief apostle of the faith regardless of who professed it]. CLEMENT also says that Paul, as the Hebrews were prejudiced against him, prudently omitted to put forward his name in the beginning [as we have also deduced]; also, that it was originally written in Hebrew for the Hebrews, and that Luke translated it into Greek for the Greeks, whence the style is similar to that of Acts [here we would disagree that Paul ever wrote it in Hebrew, and assert that Luke alone penned it in Greek as the style is entirely Luke’s]. He [meaning Clement], however, quotes frequently the words of the existing Greek Epistle as Paul's words [so he really had no Hebrew copy, and only a Greek copy, and that defeats his own argument]. ORIGEN similarly quotes it as Paul's Epistle. However, in his Homilies, he regards the style as distinct from that of Paul, and as "more Grecian," but the thoughts as the apostle's; adding that the "ancients who have handed down the tradition of its Pauline authorship, must have had good reason for doing so, though God alone knows the certainty who was the actual writer" (that is, probably "transcriber" of the apostle's thoughts). In the African Church [meaning the church of the Roman and Greek Christians in Africa], in the beginning of the third century, TERTULLIAN ascribes it to Barnabas [and of course we must disagree]. IRENAEUS, bishop of Lyons, is mentioned in EUSEBIUS, as quoting from this Epistle, though without expressly referring it to Paul. About the same period, Caius, the presbyter, in the Church of Rome, mentions only thirteen Epistles of Paul, whereas, if the Epistle to the Hebrews were included, there would be fourteen. So the canon fragment of the end of the second century, or beginning of the third, published by MURATORI [who discovered it and published it in 1740], apparently omits mentioning it. And so the Latin Church did not recognize it as Paul's till a considerable time after the beginning of the third century. Thus, also, NOVATIAN OF ROME, CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE, and VICTORINUS, also of the Latin Church. But in the fourth century, HILARY OF POITIERS (A.D. 368), LUCIFER OF CAGLIARI (A.D. 371), AMBROSE OF MILAN (A.D. 397) and other Latins, quote it as Paul's; and the fifth Council of Carthage (A.D. 419) formally reckons it among his fourteen Epistles.
In reference to our assertion that the writing is similar to that of Luke, this same source agrees, but in an odd way, where it later says: “As to the similarity of its style to that of Luke's writings, this is due to his having been so long the companion of Paul.” We would agree that Hebrews is similar to Luke’s writing, but that is because we would assert that it is Luke’s writing. Paul’s other letters are not similar because they were written by other hands, but also on Paul’s behalf and under Paul’s guidance.
This leads us to discuss one more aspect of the style of this epistle. There are frequent claims that this epistle could not belong to Paul, because it is so different in its tone and perspective from his other thirteen epistles. However this epistle is not much different at all, as we shall see. Paul teaches all of the same things here concerning Christian doctrine which he had taught in his previous epistles. However the difference is that here, he is teaching those things from an entirely different perspective, to people who from childhood had heard the Old Testament Scriptures read to them each and every Sabbath, as well as on the several feasts each year. These people were expected to be much more familiar with the Scriptures, and these people were actually practicing all of the rituals and ceremonies of the law. All of the differences between Hebrews and the other epistles are accounted for in that simple understanding.
In this translation of the epistle to the Hebrews which we had made from the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece in March and April of 2003, and revised in May of 2004, we observed the readings of the following manuscripts: The Codices Sinaiticus (א) and Vaticanus (B), both of the 4th century AD; the Codices Alexandrinus (A), Ephraemi Syri (C) and Freerianus (I 016), all of the 5th century AD; and the Codices Claromontanus (D 06) and Coislinianus (H 015), both from the 6th century AD. Aside from these were observed readings from the following papyri, designated only by their numbers as they are listed in the Novum Testamentum Graece: P12 (3rd c.), P13 (3rd or 4th c.), P17 (4th c.), P46 (ca. 200 AD), and P89 (4th c.). Of course, some of the manuscripts and papyri are dated from the archaeological provenance underlying their discovery, but many are dated mainly by epigraphical means, by the style of writing employed in their creation.
With this, we will turn to the text of Hebrews chapter 1:
1 1 On many occasions and in many ways in past times Yahweh had spoken to the fathers [P12 apparently reads “to our fathers”, though the reading is not certain; likewise a revision made to P 46] by the prophets. 2 At the end of these days He speaks to us by a Son, whom He has appointed heir of all, through whom He also made the ages.
Firstly, the idea that Christ the Son is the heir of Yahweh God is expressed in the parables of Christ in the Gospels, in Matthew 21, Mark 12 and Luke 20. However in Romans chapter 4 Paul describes Abraham himself and his seed, or collective offspring, as the heirs of the world. There is no discrepancy, but the apparent conflict may cause confusion in the minds of some casual readers of Scripture. It is also exploited by those who would seek to corrupt the meaning of the promises which God assured to Abraham. However Paul clarifies the relationship in Galatians chapter 4: “1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; 2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
So the heirs are all those who through the loins of Abraham were at one time under the Law, were at one time the servants of God in Israel, as Yahweh in Isaiah declared Israel to be his servant, but who are now better than servants, and heirs of the world through Christ. Any who reject Christ have no part in the inheritance, just as any who are not of the seed of Abraham have no promise of any inheritance. The advent of Christ does not nullify the promises to Abraham or to his offspring, but as it is explained in the opening chapter of the Gospel of Luke, and as Paul also explained in Romans chapter 4, the advent of the Christ is to confirm the promises made to Abraham and to his offspring.
In Romans chapter 4, Paul said that “the promise is to be certain to all of the offspring”, and in Romans chapter 9 Paul had explained that the seed of the promise was Isaac, and explains that “the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” Those who assert that Christ alone is the seed of the promise, so that they can annul the promise to Abraham, they are are lying. Using the plural children as well as the plural for heirs in Galatians chapters 3 and 4, Paul does not mean to intend here that Christ is the only heir. Rather, in Galatians chapter 3 Paul is excluding Abraham’s other children, those through Ishmael and the sons of Keturah, and showing that the promises were narrowed down to Isaac, and ultimately Jacob received them while Esau was excluded, as Paul also explained in Romans chapter 9. So Christ is the heir of all, but the children of Israel retain their promised inheritance through Christ, and He indeed confirms the promises to the fathers, as it is announced in the Scripture.
Christ is also the ultimate Prophet of God, in all senses of the word. Ostensibly, Paul had written this epistle to the Hebrews around 57 or 58 AD, and it would be at least another 35 or so years before the apostle John was able to record the Revelation of Yahshua Christ. So Paul did not have the benefit of reading the Revelation. Nevertheless, here Paul informs his readers that Yahweh at one time spoke to their fathers through the prophets, but now He speaks to them through the Son, Yahshua Christ.
As we described this very passage in a recent presentation from the prophecy of Zechariah:
To the Greeks, there were different uses of the word prophet. In the New Testament we see all of these employed. First, from a Christian perspective rather than from the pagan, a prophet is an interpreter of the Word of God, and that is fine. Second, a prophet is a revealer of things otherwise unknown, the secrets of men’s hearts, which Paul describes in the epistles to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 14:23-25), and we see New Testament prophets of that sort as well. But for those who would give oracles foretelling the future, their time is past. As Paul of Tarsus had said in Hebrews chapter 1 [quoting the King James Version], “1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds...” So the last of that sort of prophet is Yahshua Christ Himself, and His Word is set forth in His Revelation. It is proper to repeat the words of Christ regarding what we perceive to be in the future, but it is not proper to prophecy future events, or when they will occur, when Christ Himself did not reveal them explicitly. When Babylon finally falls, we shall all know it with certainty.
So Yahshua Christ is the last of men who may say “Thus saith the Lord”, the last of men who may authoritatively dictate the will of Yahweh God to men. All others after Him can only hope to determine the will of God through the interpretation of the Scriptures, through the Gospel, and through the Revelation of Christ. Then with good intentions they may edify their brethren by application of those interpretations, the best example of which is found in all of Paul’s epistles.
The apostle Peter also shared Paul’s opinion in this matter, where he had written in the opening chapter of his first epistle: “17 And if you call upon the Father, who without respect for the stature of persons judges each according to work, you must conduct yourselves in fear for the time of your sojourn, 18 knowing that not with corruptible things - with silver or gold - have you been redeemed from out of your vain conduct handed down by your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb blameless and spotless, 20 indeed having been foreknown before the foundation of Society, but being made manifest upon the last times on account of you, 21 those who through Him believe in Yahweh who has raised Him from among the dead and has given honor to Him, consequently for your faith and hope to be in Yahweh. 22 Your souls having been purified in the obedience of the truth for brotherly love without hypocrisy, from of a pure heart you should love one another earnestly, 23 being engendered from above not from corruptible parentage, but from incorruptible, by the Word of Yahweh who lives and abides, 24 since ‘All flesh is as grass and all of its glory as a flower of grass; the grass withers and the flower falls off, 25 but that which is spoken by Yahweh abides for eternity.’ Now this is that which is spoken, which is announced to you.” So according to Peter, the Word of God which abides forever is the Gospel of Christ which was then being announced to the Nations.
Likewise, in Revelation chapter 19 we see that the angel of Yahweh had told the apostle John that “thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” This also agrees with the opening statement of this epistle to the Hebrews, where we see that Yahweh now speaks to men through the Son. Therefore we must conclude that in this day and age God does not speak to us through men, but continues to speak to us through Yahshua Christ. Men may be prophets in the Greek senses of the word which describe one who interprets the Word of God, or of one who has the remarkable ability to reveal the secrets which are stored in other men’s hearts, but not in the sense where one is speaking for God or predicting forthcoming events as the will of God. This does not diminish the repute of the former prophets, but those things are now left exclusively to Christ Himself. Since Christ, men can only hope to explain what He has already proclaimed.
Paul continues to describe Christ, and to magnify Him:
3 Who being the radiance of the honor and the express image of His substance, and bearing [B has “manifesting”] all things in the word of His [P46 wants “His”] power, bringing about a purification of errors has sat [P46 and D have “of errors by it has sat”; H has “of our errors has sat” the MT has “of our errors by himself has sat”; the text follows א, A, and B] at the right hand of the majesty in the heights.
In Isaiah chapter 52, in a passage which is clearly a Messianic prophecy directly connected to the Gospel of Christ, we read “6 Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I. 7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” So as it is recorded in John chapter 14, when Philip, an apostle of Christ, said “Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us”, Christ responded in turn and said in part “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” Isaiah had explained in advance, that in that day related to the proclamation of the Gospel of Salvation, it would be Yahweh Himself who would be doing the speaking. By this also we should recognize that Yahshua Christ is God, as both Isaiah and the Revelation assert that He is the first and the last.
The Adamic man was created in the likeness and image of God, and there is much philosophical dispute as to the distinction of those terms. However the image of God is described in chapter 2 of the Wisdom of Solomon where it says: “23 For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity.” With that it should be understood that while the likeness of God may refer to the physical appearance which God created for man, the image of God is the reflection of the eternal spirit within the Adamic man, of which Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians chapter 15. So Paul tells his readers in that chapter: “49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”
But Yahshua Christ is God Himself, and Paul says in Colossians chapter 2 “9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Divinity bodily….” Then in 2 Corinthians chapter 4 Paul described Christ and the Gospel where he mentioned “the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God”. Earlier in Colossians Paul had written that Christ is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature”, and we will see the subject of Christ as firstborn raised again later in this epistle. Christ could only be the firstborn of Creation if indeed He is Yahweh God. Christ could only be “the radiance of the honor and the express image of His substance” if indeed He is Yahweh God. The throne of God is also the throne of the Lamb of God, as it is described in Revelation chapter 22. Where in verse 2 here Paul says of Christ that by Yahweh God He was “appointed heir of all, through whom He also made the ages”, we see that once again the ages of this world were created on account of Christ and through Christ, and in Colossians chapter 1 Paul wrote of Christ that “he is before all things, and by him all things consist”, where we see once again that Yahshua Christ must be a manifestation of Yahweh God Himself. There will be many other statements which are made in this epistle which inform us that Yahshua Christ was a manifestation of God Himself. So this epistle is consistent with all of Paul’s other epistles in this respect.
Where it is announced that the world, or the ages, were created through Christ, by Christ, and that He is firstborn of that Creation, we see expressions of the foreknowledge of Yahweh, that from the foundation of the world He knew that He Himself would have to take an active part in His Own Creation. This idea, we believe, will also be expressed in different ways later in this epistle.
Paul continues to describe and extol Christ:
4 Becoming so much better than the Messengers, He has inherited a name so much more distinguished beyond them. 5 To which of the Messengers did He ever say: “You are My Son, today I have engendered You”?
In chapter 1 of his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul spoke of Yahweh God where he said in reference to His power: “20 which He produced in the Christ, having raised Him from the dead, and sat Him at His right hand in the heavenly places 21 over every realm and authority and power and dominion, and every name being named, not only in this age, but also in the future.” So we may imagine that the messengers, or angels, of which Paul speaks here are heavenly angels, and that is fine. But we may also imagine that they are inclusive of earthly angels, and that is also correct. The prophets were messengers, so they are also angels in that sense. The messengers of God have been both heavenly – as the burning in the bush which Moses had witnessed – or earthly, as the prophets were messengers. Here Christ is distinguished from them all, as only Christ among all of the messengers of God was described as being directly begotten as the Son of God.
As for the word engendered, which is a synonym of the archaic word begotten, because of its technical precision we preferred it when we made our own translation.
Here in verse 5 Paul informs his readers of the result of the earthly ministry of Christ, while quoting from the 2nd Psalm (Psalm 2:7) in relation to Christ. The Psalm is a Messianic prophecy in its entirety, but the pertinent verses read: “6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. 7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” Then the final line of the Psalm demonstrates its Messianic nature, where it says “12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” So here we see that the Son is the king set upon Zion, and all they who despise Him are doomed. The immediate application of this prophecy is in reference to king David. However David was a type for Christ, and long after David’s death his name was invoked in reference to the prophesied Messiah, who would rule over Israel forever. Ultimately, Christ is likewise set as King over Zion, which is an allegory representing the people of Yahweh, the children of Israel, regardless of their geographic location.
An overarching theme of Scripture is found first with 1 Samuel chapter 8, where the children of Israel reject Yahweh as their King. The people demanded an earthly king, and Yahweh told Samuel that doing so, they were rejecting Him. Then in Ezekiel chapter 20, in one of many places where the punishment of Israel is described, Yahweh says “33 As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you”, and the purpose of their punishment is revealed. Ultimately, Yahweh will rule over the children of Israel in the person of the earthly King they originally insisted upon having, and that earthly King is Yahshua Christ. So in the provenance of God, the people will get their way and be ruled over by a man, but that man will nevertheless be God Himself. God is the Father, and God is the Son, but Paul continues:
And again: “I will be a Father to Him, and He will be a Son to Me”?
Here Paul quotes from 2 Samuel 7:14 in relation to Christ: “12 And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. 14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men….” The same promise is repeated in 1 Chronicles 17:13: “12 He shall build me an house, and I will stablish his throne for ever. 13 I will be his father, and he shall be my son: and I will not take my mercy away from him, as I took it from him that was before thee: 14 But I will settle him in mine house and in my kingdom for ever: and his throne shall be established for evermore.”
While these Scriptures immediately applied to Solomon as Yahweh spoke to David, many of the events in the lives of David, Solomon, Joshua, and others were cited in Scriptures as types for the ultimate Messiah who would be the true salvation of Israel. So, for example, where Yahweh had spoke to the children of Israel and in the immediate sense the words apply to Joshua the son of Nun, in a transcendental sense they were interpreted as having referred to Yahshua Christ, where it says in Exodus chapter 23: “20 Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. 21 Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him.” The same is true of the words which immediately applied to Joshua the son of Nun in Deuteronomy chapter 18: “18 I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. 19 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.” This very passage was cited in reference to Christ in the Book of Acts (chapter 7).
So here in Hebrews 1:5 we see words which applied to Solomon in the immediate sense, as it was Solomon who would build the House of Yahweh in Jerusalem. But Solomon could not build the house of God in the transcendental sense, as that was the task of the Christ, who was the ultimate son promised to David, as He is the only son that could establish the kingdom forever, something which Solomon failed to do. And it was prophesied that Solomon could not do it. It was prophesied in Deuteronomy that all of the children of Israel would be carried away captive. So in the provenance of God, these words applied to Solomon in the immediate sense, but they applied to Christ alone in the transcendental sense.
Paul again referred to Christ as the builder of the House of God in Hebrews chapter 3 where he compared Christ to Moses and he wrote “1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; 2 Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. 3 For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house [referring to God as Christ] hath more honour than the house [referring to Moses as an element of the Creation].” So Moses was only a part of the house, but Christ is worthy of more honor because Christ is “he who hath builded the house”. By that reference in Hebrews chapter 3, we also know that Solomon is a type for Yahshua Christ in that aspect, for which Paul cites this passage from 2 Samuel 7:14 and 1 Chronicles 17:13 in reference to Christ here.
King Solomon built a temporary house, but Yahshua Christ builds a house that shall stand forever. The prophet Zechariah, as we have recently explained, informs us that the house built for the woman in judgement would be built in her captivity, the woman being Israel. So the apostle Peter in chapter 2 of his first epistle refers to Christians from among the nations of scattered Israel and turning to Christ as “...lively stones ... built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” That spiritual house is the Body of Christ found in the children of Israel scattered abroad who accept His gospel.
Paul continues to extol Christ even further:
6 Then again, when He introduces the First Born into the inhabited world He says: “and all Messengers of Yahweh must worship Him.”
This reference seems to be obscure, but it is not necessarily so. First, the phrase “inhabited world” is from the Greek word οἰκουμένη (Strong’s # 3625), which referred to the dwelling-place of man on the planet, and not to the planet itself. The word appears in Luke chapter 2 and it is translated as world in the King James Version where it says that “there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.” But the reference is only to the Roman world, which is the small part of the planet that Caesar had the authority and ability to tax. That is is the world of the Scriptures. Christ is the First Born of that same Adamic world, which is the world of Daniel 2:38 where the prophet saw a succession of four great kingdoms that would rule “wheresoever the children of men dwell”, and those kingdoms ruled over practically all of the White nations of the earth, who were considered the “children of men”. Rome was the fourth in line of those great kingdoms, preceded the Babylonians, Persians and Greeks. So the concept of the “world” in the time of Christ must also be limited to the way in which the corresponding words were used both in Daniel 2:38 and in Luke chapter 2. We today cannot honestly take the concept of world in Scripture and force an application of it which exceeds those bounds that it originally described.
The phrase “and all Messengers of Yahweh must worship Him” is a quote from the Septuagint version of either Deuteronomy 32:43 or Psalm 97:7. In the Psalm, which in the Septuagint is actually numbered as the 96th Psalm, the reference is not as complete, but in a Psalm of David we read: “7 Let all that worship graven images be ashamed, who boast of their idols; worship him, all ye his angels.” However the reference made by Paul here is more than likely taken from the passage found in Deuteronomy.
In Deuteronomy, the appropriate passage is found in the Song of Moses. The Song of Moses recounts the sins of the children of Israel, and Yahweh says through the prophet that He will scatter the people on account of those sins, something which had happened to the children of Israel many centuries before Christ, and many centuries after Moses. So as the remedy for that scattering, the Song also holds out a promise of hope and salvation, which we read from verse 35: “35 In the day of vengeance I will recompense, whensoever their foot shall be tripped up; for the day of their destruction is near to them, and the judgments at hand are close upon you. 36 For the Lord shall judge his people, and shall be comforted over his servants; for he saw that they were utterly weakened, and failed in the hostile invasion, and were become feeble: 37 and the Lord said, Where are their gods on whom they trusted? 38 the fat of whose sacrifices ye ate, and ye drank the wine of their drink-offerings? let them arise and help you, and be your protectors. 39 Behold, behold that I am he, and there is no god beside me: I kill, and I will make to live: I will smite, and I will heal; and there is none who shall deliver out of my hands. 40 For I will lift up my hand to heaven, and swear by my right hand, and I will say, I live for ever. 41 For I will sharpen my sword like lightning, and my hand shall take hold of judgment; and I will render judgment to my enemies, and will recompense them that hate me. 42 I will make my weapons drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh, it shall glut itself with the blood of the wounded, and from the captivity of the heads of their enemies that rule over them. 43 Rejoice, ye heavens, with him, and let all the angels of God worship him; rejoice ye Nations, with his people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him; for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and he will render vengeance, and recompense justice to his enemies, and will reward them that hate him; and the Lord shall purge the land of his people [cleanse the land which belongs to His people].” It may be, that this is what Paul is referring to where he had written these words, “when He introduces the First Born into the inhabited world”, because for the sins of His people, it is evident that Yahweh God knew all along that only He could save His children, and knew from the beginning that He would have to come as a man into His Own Creation in order to accomplish that Salvation.
In Psalm 89, in part, we see that David is a type for Christ, and it says “26 He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. 27 Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. 28 My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him.” Paul in turn described Christ in Colossians chapter 1 as “… the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature … the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” Throughout the Law, the firstborn has the preeminence, and Christ is firstborn because He is Yahweh God Himself, manifest as an element of His Own Creation. In Romans chapter 8 Paul speaks of Christ as firstborn in relation to the children of Israel and he says “29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
“And all Messengers of Yahweh must worship Him:” Christ is the last of the prophets, as He is the Son through which God now speaks to man. There no longer arising any other prophets who may speak for God, all of the angels, or messengers of God, must worship Christ, or else they are not legitimate messengers of God. With this, Christians should know that there is absolutely no validity in Judaism, which seeks a different messiah, or in Islam, which proclaims yet another prophet besides Christ, and neither Judaism nor Islam worship Christ. Rather, they are both completely opposed to Christ.
Neither is there any validity in any other so-called religion, or any alternative path to God, as Christ Himself had said, as it is recorded in John chapter 14: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one goes to the Father except through Me!” In the end, Christ is God, there is no other path to God, and Christ came only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel, so no other people have a path to God.
To close with a digression, the Jewish concept of a Messiah is represented in Scripture in Luke chapter 4, where we see a devil, ostensibly some proto-Jewish international banker, point out all of the nations of the world and say to Christ “All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.” The Jew wants power over all the world’s nations, and to have even God worship the Jew. But the Christian concept of a Messiah may best be summarized in the 86th Psalm: “9 All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name. 10 For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.” The Christian wants God to rule over the Nations, and to be free of the Jew.