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Hebrews 1:1-4

Context
Introduction: God Has Spoken Fully and Finally in His Son

1:1 After God spoke long ago 1  in various portions 2  and in various ways 3  to our ancestors 4  through the prophets, 1:2 in these last days he has spoken to us in a son, 5  whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he created the world. 6  1:3 The Son is 7  the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence, and he sustains all things by his powerful word, 8  and so when he had accomplished cleansing for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. 9  1:4 Thus he became 10  so far better than the angels as 11  he has inherited a name superior to theirs.

1 tn Or “spoke formerly.”

2 tn Or “parts.” The idea is that God’s previous revelation came in many parts and was therefore fragmentary or partial (L&N 63.19), in comparison with the final and complete revelation contained in God’s Son. However, some interpret πολυμερῶς (polumerw") in Heb 1:1 to mean “on many different occasions” and would thus translate “many times” (L&N 67.11). This is the option followed by the NIV: “at many times and in various ways.” Finally, this word is also understood to refer to the different manners in which something may be done, and would then be translated “in many different ways” (L&N 89.81). In this last case, the two words πολυμερῶς and πολυτρόπως (polutropw") mutually reinforce one another (“in many and various ways,” NRSV).

3 tn These two phrases are emphasized in Greek by being placed at the beginning of the sentence and by alliteration.

4 tn Grk “to the fathers.”

5 tn The Greek puts an emphasis on the quality of God’s final revelation. As such, it is more than an indefinite notion (“a son”) though less than a definite one (“the son”), for this final revelation is not just through any son of God, nor is the emphasis specifically on the person himself. Rather, the focus here is on the nature of the vehicle of God’s revelation: He is no mere spokesman (or prophet) for God, nor is he merely a heavenly messenger (or angel); instead, this final revelation comes through one who is intimately acquainted with the heavenly Father in a way that only a family member could be. There is, however, no exact equivalent in English (“in son” is hardly good English style).

sn The phrase in a son is the fulcrum of Heb 1:1-4. It concludes the contrast of God’s old and new revelation and introduces a series of seven descriptions of the Son. These descriptions show why he is the ultimate revelation of God.

6 tn Grk “the ages.” The temporal (ages) came to be used of the spatial (what exists in those time periods). See Heb 11:3 for the same usage.

7 tn Grk “who being…and sustaining.” Heb 1:1-4 form one skillfully composed sentence in Greek, but it must be broken into shorter segments to correspond to contemporary English usage, which does not allow for sentences of this length and complexity.

8 tn Grk “by the word of his power.”

9 sn An allusion to Ps 110:1, quoted often in Hebrews.

10 tn Grk “having become.” This is part of the same sentence that extends from v. 1 through v. 4 in the Greek text.

11 tn Most modern English translations attempt to make the comparison somewhat smoother by treating “name” as if it were the subject of the second element: “as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs” (cf. NAB, NIV, NRSV, CEV). However, the Son is the subject of both the first and second elements: “he became so far better”; “he has inherited a name.” The present translation maintains this parallelism even though it results in a somewhat more awkward rendering.

sn This comparison is somewhat awkward to express in English, but it reflects an important element in the argument of Hebrews: the superiority of Jesus Christ.



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