Hebrews 1:8

From: John Albu (tunon@phantom.com)
Date: Mon Sep 25 1995 - 08:12:30 EDT


Dear David:

        On September 20 you wrote in answer to a posting by Paul Moser:

> There is no reason, grammatically speaking, not to take hO QEOS as
> vocative in both the Hebrews passage and in the LXX. The use of the
> nominative forms for the vocative is easily established for NT Greek. In
> reference to this usage in the LXX, Conybeare and Stock, in their _Grammar
> of Septuagint Greek_ say, "QEOS has a vocative QEE.... Usually, however,
> the nominative is employed for the vocative...." ([Peabody: Hendrickson]
> p. 26). The vocative fits the Hebrew of Ps. 45:6 equally well.

> It is the context, however, to which Paul Moser is appealing; but
> his exegesis, IMO, misses the mark. "God is your throne," is without
> parallel, as a concept, in all of the OT. But reference to rulers as
> 'ELOHIYM (Are they cases of hyperbole?) are not difficult to find (eg. Ps.
> 82:1,6). There is nothing in the surrounding context of Ps. 45:6 (or of
> Heb. 1:8 for that mattter) that stands against taking QEOS ('ELOHIYM) as
> vocative. In fact, that most translations render these passages, "Your
> throne, Oh God," or something similar, suggests that this is the most
> natural way to take the Greek (and the Hebrew) here.

> The son's identification with God as stated by Heb. 1:8 (if we
> take it that way) is also echoed in the immediate context both in v. 6 and
> v. 10. It seems to me that the context doesn't support anything but a
> vocative understanding of hO QEOS either in Ps. 45:6 or in Heb. 1:8.

        Hebrews 1:8, 9 is a quotation taken from Psalm 45:6, 7.
When this entire Psalm is considered, it is evident that the king
mentioned in verse 1 who has God's blessing is a different one
than God himself who does the anointing, as shown in verse seven.
However, it is mentioned in this same verse that God has anointed
this one with the oil of exultation more than his partners. If
the Son is the one addressed here as God, then who are the
partners that "God, _your_ God," anointed his King-son to excel in
his gladness? At Hebrews 1:9, when many translations read "God,
your God, anointed you," clearly the one addressed in verse eight
is not God, but the one who worships God and the one who is anointed
by him.

        Also the context shows that the contrast between Hebrews verses
7 and 8 is not to _essential being_ but to _function_. This fact is
brought out in that Christ, and not the angels, was bestowed divine
kingship, as stated in verses 8 and 9. Thus James Moffatt's translation
reads at Hebrews 1:8, 9: "God is thy throne for ever and ever, and thy
royal sceptre is the sceptre of equity; thou hast loved justice and hated
lawlessness, therefore God, thy God, has consecrated thee with the oil
of rejoicing beyond thy comrades."

        Commenting on Hebrews 1:8, 9, B. F. Westcott wrote in his work
"The Epistle to the Hebrews," London, 1892, pp. 25, 26:

        "ho thronos sou ho theos...dia touto...ho theos, ho theos sou...
It is not necessary to discuss here in detail the construction of the
original words of the Psalm. The LXX admits of two renderings: ho theos
can be taken as a vocative in both cases (_Thy throne, O God,...
therefore, O God, Thy God..._) or it can be taken as the subject
(or the predicate) in the first case (_God is Thy throne,_ or _Thy
throne is God..._), or in apposition to ho theos sou in the second
case (_Therefore God, even Thy God..._). The only important
variation noted in the other Greek versions is that of Aquila, who
gave the vocative thee in the first clause (Hieron. _Ep._ lxv. _ad
Princ._ 13) and, as it appears, also in the second (Field,
_Hexapla ad loc._). It is scarcely possible that 'elohim in the
original can be addressed to the king. The presumption therefore
is against the belief that ho theos is a vocative in the LXX. Thus
on the whole it seems best to adopt in the first clause the
rendering: _God is Thy throne_ (or, _Thy throne is God_), that is,
'Thy kingdom is founded upon God, the immovable Rock'; and to take
ho theos as in apposition in the second clause.

        "The phrase 'God is Thy throne' is not indeed found elsewhere,
but it is in no way more strange than Psalm lxxi. 3 _[Lord] be Thou to
me a rock of habitation...Thou art my rock and my fortress._ Is xxvi. 4
(R.V.) _In the LORD JEHOVAH is an everlasting rock._ Ps xc. 1 _Lord,
Thou hast been our dwellin-place._ Ps xci. 1 _He that dwelleth in the
secret place of the Most High..._ v. 2 _I will say of the Lord, He is my
refuge and my fortress,_ v. 9; Deut. xxxiii. 27 _The eternal God is thy
dwelling-place._ Comp. Is. xxii. 23.

        "For the general thought compare Zech. xii. 8. This interpretation
is required if we adopt the reading autou for sou.

        "It is commonly supposed that the force of the quotation lies in
the divine title (ho theos) which, as it is held, is applied to the Son.
It seems however from the whole form of the argument to lie rather in the
description which is given of the Son's office and endowment. The angels
are subject to constant change, He has a dominion for ever and ever; they
work through material powers, He--the Incarnate Son--fulfils a moral
sovereignty and is crown with unique joy. Nor could the reader forget the
later teaching of the Psalm on the Royal Bride and the Royal Race. In
whatever way then ho theos be taken, the quotation establishes the
conclusion which the writer whishes to draw as to the essential
difference of the Son and the angels. Indeed it might appear to many that
the direct application of the divine Name [actually divine title] to the
Son would obscure the thought."

                        Sincerely yours,

                        John Albu <tunon@phantom.com>

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