Part 1: Introduction | Part 2: “Prepare Ye the Way” | Part 3: “I Have Seen the LORD” | Part 4: “Call upon the Name of the LORD” | Part 5: “He Ascended Up on High” | Part 6: Excursus—Descent into Hell | Part 7: “The LORD Will Come in Fire”
Nobody knows who wrote Hebrews. Many potential authors have been suggested; my personal favorite suggestion is Apollos, “mighty in the Scriptures” (Ac 18.24), but nobody thought of him for centuries, a fact that doesn’t bring historical confidence. But whoever the author was, this epistle / sermon rings with divine authority and rhetorical beauty.
The author’s purpose is to demonstrate to Jewish believers, who were apparently wavering in their Christian faith and considering returning to traditional Judaism, that Jesus is far superior to anything in the old system. He’s superior to the angels (ch 1); to the Mosaic system (ch 3); to the Levitical priesthood (ch 5-7); and to the Old Covenant (8-10). He’s just better; there’s no reason to go back.
The author begins with a series of quotations from the OT to demonstrate that Jesus is superior to the angels (He 1.4), who in Jewish tradition were the ones who brought the Law from God to Israel (Ac 7.53).
- “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee” (He 1.5, quoting Ps 2.7).
- “I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son” (He 1.5, quoting 2Sa 7.14, the Davidic Covenant).
- “Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire” (He 1.7, quoting Ps 104.4).
- “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. 9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows (He 1.8-9, quoting Ps 45.6-7).
- “Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: 11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; 12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail” (He 1.10-12, quoting Ps 102.25-27).
- “Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (He 1.13, quoting Ps 110.1).
“Mighty in the Scriptures,” indeed.
It’s noteworthy that this list includes the direct statement that the Father calls the Son “God” (He 1.8). This is a clear affirmation of the deity of Christ, though it’s not an example of calling the Son “YHWH.”
Speaking of which, where is that ascription in this list?
Well, if you were paying close attention, you might have noticed that I skipped a verse:
- “Let all the angels of God worship him” (He 1.6).
I skipped it because for years it was a serious interpretational problem. For centuries we had no Hebrew manuscripts that contained that verse anywhere in the Old Testament. It was in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the OT, in Deuteronomy 32.43, the ending of the song of Moses. But with absolutely zero Hebrew manuscripts containing it, and with the Septuagint’s reputation as of, well, uneven quality, textual scholars didn’t have the kind of evidence they like in order to view the passage as genuine.
Some suggested that it was a loose paraphrase of Psalm 97.7, but that was a stretch, for both textual and contextual reasons.
So. What to do?
And then, in 1947, a Palestinian shepherd boy was amusing himself by throwing rocks at the entrance to a cave some distance up the face of a cliff, and he was delighted when he hit his target. The rock entered the cave—and the boy heard something break.
Long story short, behold, the Dead Sea Scrolls. Which included multiple ancient copies of Deuteronomy, including several that contained the phrase at Dt 32.43—
Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: let all the angels of God worship him; for he will avenge the blood of his servants …
Whaddaya know. It’s genuine.
And so, to our point. Who is the “him” that the angels of God are being ordered to worship? You need to go back through the context quite a ways to find the antecedent, but it’s right there in Dt 32.36:
For the LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left.
Moses orders the angels to worship YHWH.
The author of Hebrews cites the order as the Father’s statement on the incarnation of the Son (He 1.6): “Let all the angels worship him!”
As, indeed, they did:
Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. … Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men! (Lk 2.11, 14).
Jesus is Jehovah.
By the way, I notice that this is my 400th post on this blog. I can only hope that the writing has been anywhere near as profitable for you as it has been for me.
Part 9: “Your Years Shall Not Fail” | Part 10: Other Possibilities
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
Lucille Fisher says
Thank you…very profitable!
Mary A. Speed says
This has been fascinating and very informative.