Lecture 05: Hebrews 2:5-9
Lecture: Hebrews 2:5-9
First, just a review; the introduction of Hebrews is in verses 1:1-4. The two things that the introduction accomplishes are to get your attention by using rhetorical techniques through highly crafted structure and in this case it uses a periodic style or string of clauses put together. The next thing is to introduce the major topics or themes such as in this case the theme of God and the Son and God’s Word and Jesus’ sacrifice. The introduction covers areas of Christology and in this instance; it is Christ in relation to the angels. In 1:5-14, we have Christ being superior to the angels by which the author uses three pairs of quotations plus a climax which is Psalm 110:1. In being superior to the angels, it is the unique relationship that the Son has to the Father from Psalms and 2nd Samuel that celebrates the enthronement of the Davidic monarch. The second pair focuses on the angels themselves and their status as servants and ministering spirits. The third pair which is 1:8-12 where the Son is superior by virtue of his exalted status as Lord of the universe; he is creator of the universe. As mentioned, there is the climax in Psalm 110:1. Chapters 2:1-4 and 2:2-13 have a specific relationship to each other. The genre of 2:1-4 is exhortation and the change that comes about from this is a change in pronouns to the 3 rd person we and 2nd person you. This involves powerful preaching through the use of this movement from exposition to exhortation. As we move back into exposition. When you have units, one right after another in Hebrews, hook words ties these units together. In 1:4 the hook word is angels; this ties the two units together. So, you could end with chapter 1 and continue reading with 2:5-9 as if it is a continuation.
II. Hebrews 2:5-9
So, again I want to take this unit and look at its purpose and its process. This relates to Psalm 8. In constructing a sermon from these units, you want to communicate what is going on in these passages. Sometimes, I go to the last verse and work backwards. Sometimes I group my points according to the
different character qualities rather than the structure of the passage. Any sermon should communicate the heart of what is going on in the unit. I preach energetically almost all the time. You want to bring it in a forceful way to communicate clearly. The temptation for us is try to throw all the things that you have studies onto people. So, let’s read this passage: It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified: “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their feet.” In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
Let’s look at this in Greek and translate it as we go along:
Verse 5: ου γαρ (For not) αγγέλοις (to angels) υπέταξε (he submitted) την the οικουμένην (inhabitable world,) την (the one) μέλλουσαν (about to be,) περί (concerning) ης (of which) λαλούμεν (we speak.) - (Translation Notes: υπέταξε (he submitted) - He did not submit at the coming world.)
Verse 6: διεμαρτύρατο δε (But testified) που (3 somewhere) τις (one) λέγων (saying,) τι (What) εστιν (is) άνθρωπος (man) ότι (that) μιμνήσκη (you remember) αυτού (him,) η (or) υιός (a son) ανθρώπου (of man) ότι (that) επισκέπτη (you visit) αυτόν (him?) (Translation notes: Someone has born witness or testified somewhere. This indicates a kind of ongoing situation; something that is characteristic of God’s action toward humanity. This is quoting the Septuagint which was written in the same general type of Greek of the New Testament; however some of the forms do feel a little different,)
Verse 7: ηλάττωσας (You lessened) αυτόν (him) βραχύ τι (some a little) παρ΄ (than the) αγγέλους (angels;) δόξη (with glory) και (and) τιμή (honor) εστεφάνωσας (you crowned) αυτόν (him,) και (and) κατέστησας (established) αυτόν (him) επί (over) τα (the) έργα (works) των χειρών σου (of your hands.) (Translation Notes: You made him temporally or specifically. The temporal is the better way to understand this, meaning for a short time. There is a comparison to the angels here. He has crowned him with a manner.)
Verse 8: πάντα (All things) υπέταξας (you submitted) υποκάτω (underneath) των ποδών αυτού (his feet.) εν γαρ (For in) τω (the) υποτάξαι (submitting) αυτώ (to him) τα πάντα (all things,) ουδέν (nothing) αφήκεν (he left) αυτώ ανυπότακτον (unsubmissive to him.) νυν δε (But now) ούπω (not yet) ορώμεν (do we see) αυτώ (to him) τα πάντα (all things) υποτεταγμένα (being submitted.) (Translation notes: Note that here the word order to the Greek is almost the same as the Hebrew; however be careful not to make assumptions that this is automatic. You need to realize that the author is a master of koine Greek. One of the things that you see here; in verse 7 you have a textual criticism saying that a part of the quotation is actually left out. So, why did the author leave this out? ‘You have appointed him over the works of your hands, speaking of God here. Earlier, we see that Christ was the agent of creation but in this part of the quotation, theologically, it is speaking of God the Father. There is no conflict here, however. Other scribes may have thought there could have been a conflict and thus leaving it out. It also may be that the author of Hebrew dropped the phrase out due to the flow of the passage. You have an adjective in the un-submitted. What is the form of ‘we do not yet see’?)
Verse 9: τον δε (But) βραχύ τι (a little) παρ΄ (than) αγγέλους (the angels) ηλαττωμένον (being lessened) βλέπομεν (we see) Ιησούν (Jesus,) διά (on account of) το (the) πάθημα (suffering) του θανάτου (of death,) δόξη (with glory) και (and) τιμή (honor) εστεφανωμένον (being crowned;) όπως (that) χάριτι (by favor) θεού (of God) υπέρ (for) παντός (all) γεύσηται (he should taste) θανάτου (death.) (Translation notes: The one being made lower for a little while than the angels; a description of Jesus, then Jesus’ name and another description of Jesus. It reads, ‘namely, Jesus, who through the suffering of death having been crowned with glory and honor so that by the grace of God, he might taste death on behalf of all.’ Syntactically, it reads, ‘we see the one made lower for a little while.’ This is the object of the verb; then it is follows by another accusative. The reason for translating it ‘namely’ is because the syntax is appositional. An apposition is a restatement of something.)
So you have the introduction in verse 5; so what is the concerning world in which he is speaking? In what way has it been submitted? He is introducing his quotation in Psalm 8. If you turn it around; he is saying that he (God) submitted the coming world to Jesus. Concerning in which we are speaking refers to Psalm 110:1; he is talking about the submission of the coming world. The exhortation of the right hand of God is Jesus being placed over all of creation. That is him being made heir of all there is. He is tying the quotation of Psalm 8 back to Psalm 110:1. From a rabbinic point of view, a technique that is called a verbal analogy is in reference to his feet. We have two other places where Psalm 110:1 and Psalm 8 are pulled together in Christological context. We have it in 1 st Corinthians 15 and also in Ephesians 1:20. So these two quotations are pulled together by virtue of the common phrase, ‘under his feet.’ So, in terms of purpose verses 2:5-9 is transitional between 1:5-14 on the superiority of Christ to the Angels and 2:10-18 on the incarnation. It makes a smooth transition christologically from the superiority of Jesus in 1:5-14 to the incarnation in 2:10-18. So why is Psalm 8 so fitting to make a transition from the two points? In looking at the form of the quotation, he was made lower than the angels only for a little while: incarnation. You have crowned him with glory and honor and put all things under his feet: exhortation and superiority. So it makes this nice transition from speaking of the superiority of Jesus over the angels to incarnation of Jesus where he was lower than the angels.
So the process is the use of Psalm 8 and then he does a commentary on parts of the passage. It is a form of Midrash when an author will give a quotation and then briefly comment on elements found in that quotation.
C. Psalm 8:
For someone has born witness somewhere saying. This is somewhat of a vague introduction because he wanted to keep the focus on the fact that God said this. He has Jesus speaking Scripture and then the Spirit speaking Scripture. This is a trinity of the text here. You can’t read the passage as being
spoken by God because it is spoken to God, ‘Oh God, what is man that you take thought of him?’ Some understands this as an anthropological passage rather than Christological. I don’t agree with this. They say that you don’t get to the Christology of the passage until verse 9. Rush Squin, a new PhD student
here; we did a paper for the Society of Biblical Literature this year on this passage. We talked about five different reasons why this needs to be understood as Christological. You look at the Old Testament passage; the context is interpreting Genesis and saying that all things have been put under the feet of
human beings. I think that anthropological backdrop is taken up into Christology. So, it is not that it isn’t anthropological but you must read it as Christological. The Christology has taken the anthropological orientation up into itself where Christ is the fulfillment of that dominion type of theology that you have in the Old Testament that man being given rule of the earth.
I want to mention two translations in reference to this which are good; the first, the NLT revision has made this passage more anthropological in orientation by changing the pronouns to reflect the same as the Old Testament passage, making it clear that it is referring to all humanity. But this isn’t the way that the author of Hebrews is using it. Instead he is using it as a passage that specifically talks about Christ. If you change the pronouns to plural for example, ‘what are human beings that you take thought of them?’ You are changing the essence of the way the author was using this passage speaking of Christ himself. The other translation that does this is TNIV. I think the TNIV is sound translation theory. So, I think the passage is Christological, not anthropological and I think making the pronouns plural in the TNIV is problematic. From the very beginning, the author of Hebrew is reading this passage christologically. This has become a big issue in translation theory now. Don Carson has argued in favor of the TNIV at this point, thus shifting the Christology to verse 9; even Crag Blomberg and Darrell Bock support this. And Don Carson says that a valid interpretation is to read it as anthropological until you get to verse 9. But for me, I just think that it is a poor interpretation of the passage. I think the author is reading it as Christological and using it christologically. So, any translation will have problems if they look at it this and I think this is the case with the TNIV. I think that the author originally knew that this passage was speaking about human beings. I am not making a clear break between the anthropological and the Christological here, however, I do want to argue that you must read it as being fulfilled in Christ. It isn’t that he shifts to Christ in verse 9; it is with Christ right from the beginning. You have the anthropology in the Old Testament context but that is taken up into Christology and fulfillment in Christ.
He is saying that when Christ was exalted, all things were submitted to him but now we don’t yet see all things submitted to him. In verse 8, he is dispelling confusion; he is using rabbinic techniques when he says that all things have been submitted but we don’t see this yet. I think that author is addressing this
situation. So what is the difference between Psalm 110:1: ‘until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’ and Psalm 8: ‘all things have been placed under his feet?’ What is the difference in those two? There is a timeframe difference. Psalm 8 seems to be saying that it is an accomplished fact, but Psalm 110 is saying that it is out there in the future. So, what rabbis would do in putting two passages together like this that seems contradictory; they would explain how they weren’t, in fact, contradictory. From a practical standpoint, those to whom Hebrews was written might have been saying this to assure them that Christ is in control and that all things indeed have been put under Christ now and in the future. So, Psalm 8 says that they have, but we don’t yet see all these things in Psalm 110:1. There is a present reality and consummation of that reality at the end of the age. There is a tension between the now and the not yet. Christ is the Lord of the universe; this is an accomplished fact, but that will not be consummated until the end of the age when Christ returns.
This has tremendous implications in terms of ministry. We have this time between the cross and the second coming. If with the death and exaltation of Jesus at that point, all things had been consummated in terms of everything being placed under his feet, you and I would not be here now. There would not have been any opportunity for sinners to come New Covenant faith in Christ. We live in this now and not yet age between the Cross and the coming in which there is opportunity for those who live in a sinful broken world to come faith in Christ. So we live and minister in an age which is an age of tension between the now and the not yet. We experience the present reality of the Lordship of Christ; the transformation that takes place through salvation and we are members of the New Covenant. We have also tasted of the heavenly gifts and powers of the age to come and yet we live in an age that involves death, struggle with sin, persecution; this is a time of tension in which we live in. And we ministry to people who are in the midst of this; those who have lost family, jobs and love ones and people who are hurting both physically and spiritually. And therefore it doesn’t feel that all things are submitted to Jesus. So, how do you use this theologically to have people understand? The author says that as I am walking this veil of tears, I see Jesus in his perseverance and his incarnation and also in his exaltation. His exaltation tells me that there is a not yet and all of these evil powers will be completely submitted to him. They will bow down before him and confess him as Lord. There day is coming and that gives me hope. We have a basis for hope as Christians that other people don’t have.