Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honour at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is greater than their names. [NLT]Hebrews 1:1-4
The only thing I would change about the New Living Translation is to preserve the reading ‘a son’, but to capitalise the Son.
Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets but now in these final days, he has spoken to us through a Son.Hebrews 1:1-2
The point of the writer was to capture the perfect way in which God has spoken in the last final days. Personally, intimately, up close and personal in a Son. I have told Deeper Biblers before that Hebrews contains the theme word [teleioō]. Young’s Concordance gives us the references to the number of times this word is used in the book of Hebrews listed under the root word [teleioō].
- Heb 2:10 – to make the captain of their salvation perfect . . .
- Heb 5:9 – being made perfect he became the author . . .
- Heb 7:19 – For the Law made nothing perfect; . . .
- Heb 9:9 – make him that did the service perfect, as . . .
- Heb 10:1 – can never . . make the comers thereunto perfect . . .
- Heb 10:14 – For by one offering he has perfected for . . .
- Heb 11:40 – they without us should not be made perfect . . .
- Heb 12:23 – and to the spirits of just men made perfect
This same word is used 14 times in the whole of the New Testament, eight of those are found in the Letter to the Hebrews. The writer to the Hebrews uses this word “perfect” more times than all of the other writers of the New Testament put together. You can bet this is a theme word of the letter. However take note also of what the opening sentence tells us about the Son God chose to speak through.
- He promised everything to THIS Son as an inheritance.
- Through THIS Son he created the universe.
- THIS Son radiates God’s own glory.
- THIS Son expresses the very character of God.
- THIS Son sustains everything (the universe) by the mighty power of his command.
- THIS Son sat down in the place of honour at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.
- This shows that THIS Son is far greater than the angels.
Do you understand now why the Jehovah’s Witness interpretation of ‘a son’ is untenable? It is clear Who the Son is that the writer to the Hebrews is talking about. But let me take you one more step. Take note of the phrase “is far greater”. Or as other translations put it: “so much better than”, “much greater than”, “much superior to”, “is more excellent than”, “far higher than”, “far stronger than”.
THIS Son is the final means of God’s communication to human kind because He is so much greater than
- The prophets
- The angels
- The priests / Melchizedek / The High Priest
- The covenant
- The sacrifices
- The mighty ones of faith
- The ancient righteous ones
- The patriarchs
- The judges
- The best king
- In fact all others.
There is a natural division in the text of the letter after verse four because the thought which makes a comparison with the angels is followed by the development of the argument of the rest of the letter. This fourth verse is the hinge point of the purpose of the letter. It arises out of the previous words about the Son’s enthronement in heaven and develops the contrast between THIS SON and the angels and so much more over the rest of the letter. The comparative statements can be applied to each of the above categories I have listed to show that this Son, Jesus, is above all else. Now you have a framework for following the thread of the letter to the Hebrews. Need I remind you to fix your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith? Throughout the letter we shall see the writer urges the Jewish Christians to not shrink back; not to turn back to Judaism in the midst of persecution. Press on to the end to gain your salvation. Jesus Christ is the only one greater than all of these foundational elements of Jewish tradition. Cling on to Him, don’t turn back.
These first four verses of Hebrews, one sentence in Greek which falls out in layers, make it very clear who we are talking about, even why the writer talks about these things comparing each of them to THIS SON God has chosen to communicate with mankind. Jesus Christ has the ultimate message, indeed He even embodies the message. The Son is the Message of God. He is the embodiment of the promises of God and the trailblazer and pioneer and the One who perfects the system of Judaism. After all He is the Christ, the Messiah and the One who would embody the Message of God to all mankind to perfect God’s work in each one of us.
I am aware that it is like I am summing up the Letter to the Hebrews at the beginning of our investigation into the Letter. I could close now. Let’s move on to the next book to gem. No! We are only just beginning to plumb the depths of this very significant letter. What I am doing is laying out for you the schema of what is ahead of us. It is good for us to have a road map in our hands when we are embarking on a significant journey. I have just given you the road map with which to navigate Hebrews. But at the same time I have demonstrated why the JW approach to the interpretation of the anarthrous use of “a son” in Hebrews 1:2 is flawed and misses the point and purpose of the Letter to the Hebrews completely. As do many of us as we try to understand this letter and its implications for us. Just like the Jews, we then need to work out how we can apply it to ourselves personally. After all, God spoke to us in these last days in a personal way through THIS Son so we too would not forsake Jesus Christ, the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever.
I will say it again, this opening statement is the PERFECT way to begin the Letter to the Hebrews. Come with me as we begin our investigation into the depths of this letter.
There are scholars who regard the first sentence of Hebrews, the first four verses, as the best Greek in the New Testament.David Pawson
This fourth verse is the hinge point of the purpose of the letter. The comparative statements can be applied to each of the categories I have listed to show that this Son, Jesus, is above all else.Ian Vail
Hebrews deals with the question of how the Old Testament and the New Testament relate: The New in the Old concealed; The Old in the New Revealed.David Pawson
Hang on to your hat as we now begin an attempt to unlock some of “the riddles of the New Testament” found in the letter to the Hebrews.Ian Vail
Fix your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:2