THE LETTER TO THE HEBREWS

Lesson 3, Chapters 1:5 -2:4, The Exordium continued:

The Son is Greater Than the Angels

 

God of all the Angels and Saints,

It was through the message of an angel that you revealed the Incarnation of Your only begotten Son. Throughout salvation history these heavenly spirits have played a unique role in Your plan of salvation,watching over the promised seed preserved through the line of Adam, guiding the children of Israel on their wilderness journey, announcing the birth of the Savior, comforting Jesus in His last moments before the Passion, announcing His glorious Resurrection, and as the companion of both little children and valiant Saints. At the close of the Final Age of man You, Lord, will give angels the honor of announcing the Second Advent of Christ the King when they herald His coming with the sound of the shofar as Jesus the Bridegroom comes to collect His Bride the Church, And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet to gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other [Matthew 24:31]. Guide us in our study, Lord, as we explore the role of angels in the life of the Church and their service to Christ who is now as far above the angels as the title which he has inherited is higher than their own name [Hebrews 1:4]. We pray in the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

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Look, I am sending an angel to precede you, to guard you as you go and bring you to the place that I have prepared. Revere him and obey what he says. Do not defy him: he will not forgive any wrong-doing on your part, for my name is in him. Exodus 23:20-21

 

See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven. Matthew 18:10

 

At the signal given by the voice of the Archangel and the trumpet of God, the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise... 2 Thessalonians 4:16

 

In the first sentence of his address [the first 4 verses in the English translation] the inspired writer of the Letter to the Hebrews has established the superiority of God the Son:

1.      The superiority of the Son as the climax of the revelation of God the Father to mankind

2.      The superiority of the Son as God's heir and the force behind creation

3.      The superiority of the Son over God's heavenly messengers, the angels

 

It is because of His superiority that the Son has been exalted by God the Father and conquering sin and death has taken His place at the right hand of God, the right hand being the place of power and authority and from where the Son rules as King of all the nations of the earth.

 

Notice that the inspired writer has not mentioned the name Jesus in his opening remarks but only identifies Him by the title "Son." The human name of God enfleshed will not be introduced until Hebrews 2:9 and yet the inspired writer has no doubt that his audience has identified "the Son" as Jesus of Nazareth. It is clear that this address was being delivered to those who had received instruction in the doctrine of salvation of the New Covenant in Christ Jesus.

 

Having announced the Son's superiority over the angels, the inspired writer continues by offering proof from passages of Old Testament Sacred Scripture, illustrating the continuity between God's revelation in the past and the climax of God's revelation to man in the Son. St. Thomas Aquinas taught in verses 5-14 St. Paul showed how the Son exceeds the angels by listing four aspects of the Son's superiority:

  1. By His divine sonship
  2. By His dominion
  3. By His origin
  4. By God's declaration

 

Please read Hebrews 1:5-14, The Son's name is higher than the angels' Scriptural proofs:

5 To which of the angels, then, has God ever said: "You are my Son, today I have fathered you," or "I shall be a father to him and he a son to me?" 6 Again, when he brings the First-born into the world, he says: "Let all the angels of God pay him homage." 7 To the angels, he says: "Appointing the winds his messengers and flames of fire his servants." 8 But to the Son he says: "Your throne, God, is for ever and ever"; and "the scepter of his kingdom is a scepter of justice; you love uprightness and detest evil.

9 This is why God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness, as none of your rivals." 10 And again "Long ago, Lord, you laid earth's foundations, the heavens are the work of your hands. 11 They pass away but you remain, they all wear out like a garment. 12 Like a cloak you will roll them up, like a garment, and they will be changed. But you never alter and your years are unending." 13 To which of the angels has God ever said: "Take your seat at my right hand till I have made your enemies your footstool?" 14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

 

Old Testament Passages quoted in Hebrews 1:5-13 Offered as Proof

of the Son's Superiority over the Angels

Bold type = portion of passage quoted in Hebrews

1. Psalm 2:7-8, I will proclaim the decree of Yahweh: He said to me, 'You are my son, today have I fathered (begotten) you. Ask of me, and I shall give you the nations as your birthright, the whole wide world as your possession.

2. 2 Samuel 7:14-16a, I shall be a father to him and he a son to me; if he does wrong I shall punish him with a rod such as men use, with blows such as mankind gives. But my faithful love will never be withdrawn from him as I withdrew it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your throne and your sovereignty will ever stand firm before me and your throne be for ever secure.

3. Deuteronomy 32:43, Heavens, rejoice with him, let all the children (literal O.T = sons; Hebrews has "angels") of God pay him homage! Nations, rejoice with his people, let God's envoys tell of his power! For he will avenge the blood of his servants, he will return vengeance to my foes, he will repay those who hate him and purify his people's country.

4. Psalm 104:3-4, You stretch out the heavens like a tent, build your palace in the waters above, making the clouds your chariot, gliding on the wings of the wind, appointing the winds your messengers, flames of fire your servants.

5. Psalm 45:6-7a, Your throne is from God (literal = O God is) for ever and ever, the scepter of your kingship a scepter of justice, you love uprightness and detest evil.

6. Psalm 45:7b-9, This is why God, your God, has anointed you with oil of gladness, as none of your rivals, your robes all myrrh and aloes.

7. Psalm 102:25-27, Long ago you laid earth's foundations, the heavens are the work of your hands. They pass away but you remain; they all wear out like a garment, like outworn clothes you change them; but you never alter, and your years never end.

8. Psalm 110:1, Yahweh declared to my Lord (Adonai), "Take your seat at my right hand, till I have made your enemies your footstool."

All these Scripture passages quoted in the Letter to the Hebrews are from the Greek translation of Hebrew God inspired Sacred Scripture known as the Septuagint. In the lesson these quotations from the Greek translation of the Old Testament will be designated by the symbol LXX. All eight quotes in Hebrews 1:5-13 are from the LXX.

 

It is interesting that the inspired writer uses 8 quotes from 7 different passages. In the significance of number for the Jews the number 8 represented rebirth (as in the 8 people saved in the Great Flood), regeneration (on the 8th day a boy baby was circumcised and became an official member of the Covenant family of God) and for Christians symbolized resurrection (Jesus was resurrected on Sunday the 1st day of the week (the first day of the old Creation) which was also the 8th day, the day after the 7th day which was the Jewish Sabbath. For the Jews the number 7 was one of the 4 "perfect" numbers, representing fullness and completeness; it was also the number of covenant (the first covenant formed with Adam was on the 7th day of creation). For Christians it was also the number of God the Holy Spirit. St. John does something similar with numbers in the last 7 visions in the Book of Revelation. St. John has 7 last visions [Revelation 19:11, 17, 19; 20:1, 4, 11; 21:1] but the Greek phrase which introduces each vision kai eidon, "And I saw" is repeated 8 times in the literal Greek translation [Revelation 19:11, 17, 19; 20:1, 4, 11; 12 (additional phrase); 21:1].

See CCC # 349 for the significance of the number 8 as the number of the Resurrection.

 

In quoting each of these passages as part of the rhetorical question: To which of the angels then has God said...? the inspired writer expects his audience to answer in the negative by recalling the context of each of these Biblical passages which affirms that God never called any of His ministering spirits His "Son". Notice that the series of quotations begins and ends with nearly identical rhetorical questions:

Hebrews 1:5: To which of the angels then has God said...

Hebrews 1:13: To which of the angels has God ever said...

 

Question: In the Old Testament was the title "sons of God" used of any creature in God's creation?

Answer: Yes, angels and humans were sometimes called "sons of God."

 

It is true that both the Jewish translation of the Old Testament Scriptures known as the Massoretic Texts, which were transcribed from Greek back into Hebrew in the 800s AD and the translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek known as the Septuagint [LXX], first translated circa 230BC and which was the dominant translation during the time of Jesus' mission on earth, sometimes refers to God's created heavenly beings as "sons of God":

 

But the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, in used from 250BC, also sometimes translated the Hebrew "sons of God" as "angels of God" [see Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Daniel 3:25]. Both the 1st century AD secular documents of Philo, the Jewish philosopher of Alexandria, Egypt and the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also translate some of these passages "angels of God" instead of "sons of God" [see Philo, Giants 6-7; Unchangeable 1-2; Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 1.73]. And, more importantly, the expression "sons of God" when used for angels is only used collectively. A single angel is never referred to as "a son of God" in the singular.

 

This designation "son/sons of God" was also used to refer to the line of Davidic Kings [2 Samuel 7:14], and to those who lived within God's covenant family as the children of Israel were "sons of God", and to the elect who are blessed with intimacy with God [see Hosea 1:10 (2:2); Wisdom 5:5; Romans 8:14, 19]. It is a title which may also have been extended to the line of Adam through Seth which was the bearers of the "promise seed" of Genesis 3:15, as the phrase may be used in Genesis 6:2 and 6:4. It is unlikely that the "sons" referred to in Genesis 6:2 and 4 could have been angels since these "sons" intermarried with women and begat sons who were men of violence. Jesus established in His teaching in Matthew 22:23-30 that angels are spiritual beings who cannot reproduce offspring [Matthew 22:30; Mark 12:25]. It is more likely the Genesis 6 passages is referring to the "sons of God" who were descendants of Seth in covenant union with God while the women were daughters of men who had abandoned the worship of Yahweh. These "mixed marriages" produced men who craved power and domination over both groups of peoples.

 

Quote #1: You are my Son, today I have fathered (begotten) you: The context of the quote from Psalm 2:7, taken from the Greek translation known as the Septuagint [LXX], is God's Son inheriting the nations of the earth. The Apostles and disciples of the New Covenant faith community in Jerusalem attributed this psalm to King David in Acts 4:24-31. In Acts chapter 4 St. Peter vigorously defended the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a hearing before the Jewish Law court known as the Sanhedrin, the same law court that had condemned Jesus. After their release Peter and John returned to the faithful disciples and Apostles waiting for them. When the faith community heard of Peter's defense of Jesus as the Messiah they lifted their voice to God with one heart [Acts 4:24]. Then they cried out to God, quoting Psalm 2, verses 1-2 and proclaiming that its prophecy had been fulfilled in Jesus: "This is what has come true: in this very city Herod and Pontius Pilate plotted together with the Gentile nations and the peoples of Israel, against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, to bring about the very thing that you in your strength and your wisdom had predetermined should happen" [Acts 4:27-28]. The Book of Acts records that As they prayed, the house where they were assembled rocked and from that time forward they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to proclaim the word of God fearlessly [4:31].

 

Later in Acts 13:32-37 St. Paul, in preaching to the Jews in the Synagogue in Antioch, Pisidia, quotes from this same passage saying We have come here to tell you the good news that the promise made to our ancestors has come about. God has fulfilled it to their children by raising Jesus from the dead. As Scripture says in the psalms: "You are my son, today I have fathered you." The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to return to corruption, is no more than what he had declared: "To you I shall give the holy things promised to David which can be relied upon." In this last quote Paul is citing Psalm 16:10.

Question: Which claim made by the inspired writer in Hebrews 1:2 is supported by the quotation from the Psalms 2:7?

Answer: In Hebrews 1:2 the Son is declared to be the "heir" of all things in creation which includes the nations of the earth.

Question: Doesn't this passage refer to King David's son Solomon?

Answer: Yes and no. Solomon, like all the Davidic kings who will follow him, will be referred to as "God's son," however, the promise of this verse is not fulfilled in Solomon or any other Israelite or Judahite King. None of David's descendants as Kings of Israel (or Judah) ever attained a universal reign over all the Gentile nations. This promise was only fulfilled in David's descendant Jesus of Nazareth who, upon His Ascension to the Heavenly Kingdom assumed kingship over all nations of the earth and rightly was given the title "King of kings and Lord of lords" : I charge you to do all that you have been told, with no faults or failures, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who at the due time will be revealed by God, the blessed and only Ruler of all, the King of Kings and the Lord of lords...St. Paul's first letter to St. Timothy, 6:14-15. The point which must not be missed is that Jesus' sonship is eternal and not dateable within history. That Jesus is the eternal Son begotten by God the Father is also a central theme of St. John's Gospel. However, the inspired writer of Hebrews uses the Greek word gennao "begotten" or "fathered" while St. John uses the more distinctive Greek word "only-begotten", monogene.

 

Please read The Gospel of St. John, verses 1:14-18: The Incarnation of Christ and John's Witness of Christ.

John writes in John 1: 14: The Word became flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth."

A more literal translation is "only begotten from the Father". The use of the word "only- begotten" [monogene] is significant. It is only used 5 times in the New Testament of Christ as the Son of God, and it is used this way only in the writings of John the Apostle.

 

Jesus Christ the "only begotten Son" of God (New Jerusalem translation)

John 1:14

"the glory that he has from the Father as the only [begotten/monogene] Son of the Father,.."

John 1:18

"No one has ever seen God; it is the only [begotten/monogene] Son, who is close to the Father's heart..."

John 3:16

"For this is how God so loved the world: he gave his only [begotten/monogene] Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."

John 3:18

"No one who believes in him will be judged; but whoever does not believe is judged already, because that person does not believe in the name of God's only [begotten/monogene] Son."

1John 4:9

"This is the revelation of God's love for us, that God send his only [begotten/monogene] Son into the world that we might have life through him."

In each case the Greek texts use the word "monogene" = mono/only and gene/begotten.

 

Question: Why is the meaning of this word "only begotten" so crucial to a correct understanding of these passages?

Answer: This word clearly signifies that Jesus is not one of many gods/sons and that He comes directly from God the Father and not from an earthly father. He is "begotten," He is not created; men and animals are "created" creatures while angels are "created" spirits.

Question: What theological truth does this verse teach about the nature of Jesus: "The Word became flesh.....the only begotten Son of the Father"?

Answer: That the Word who is God became man. Jesus is completely God and completely man: two natures and two wills existing in perfect harmony in the one Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity. This passage expresses the unfathomable fact of the Incarnation and divinity of the Son of God: Galatians 4:4, "..but when the completion of the time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born of a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law, so that we could receive adoption as sons." It is what Christians profess in the Nicene-Constantinople Creed: "We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, on in Being with the Father..."

 

In the 5th century the Church met in a Great Council to address the heresies that denied either Christ's true humanity or His true divinity. The Council pronounced the Church's teaching on the divinity and humanity of Christ: The Council of Chalcedon 451: "Following the holy Fathers, therefore, we all with one accord teach the profession of faith in the one identical Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We declare that he is perfect both in his divinity and in his humanity, truly God and truly man, composed of body and rational soul; that he is consubstantial with the Father in his divinity, consubstantial with us in his humanity, like us in every respect except for sin (cf Heb. 4:15). We declare that in his divinity he was begotten in this last age of Mary the Virgin, the Mother of God, for us and for our salvation."

 

Quote #2: I shall be a father to him and he a son to me: The context of this LXX translation of Sacred Scripture from 2 Samuel 7:14 is the prophecy given to King David by the prophet Nathan in which Yahweh forms an unconditional covenant with David which promises his dynasty will be established and his throne be secure forever! This covenant is similar to the unconditional covenant made with David's ancestor Abraham in which God promised Abraham descendants, a kingdom, and a world-wide blessing, covenantal blessings that were ultimately fulfilled in David's descendant Jesus of Nazareth [see Genesis 12:1-3; Luke 1:32-33; John 7:42; Acts 13:23; ] and in the inheritance all New Covenant believers receive as co-heirs with Christ [see 2 Corinthians 6:18; Revelation 21:7].

 

Notice that the Scripture quotations which the inspired writer is using as proofs of what was introduced in the first 4 verses also follows the structure of those verses: first the exaltation of the Son and the description of the Son as exalted heir in Hebrews 1:2 and the quotations in 1:5-6 and ending with the announcement His superiority to the angels in 1:4 and the quotations which support that claim in 1:7b-13.

 

Quote #3: Let all the angels of God pay him homage (give him worship): This quote in Hebrews 1:6 corresponds exactly to Deuteronomy 32:43 in the LXX except Hebrews has "angels of God" instead of the Deuteronomy "sons of God." The inspired writer may have been using a translation of the Old Testament that had "angels of God" or he may have interpreted the passage in Deuteronomy to mean "angels" and used that translation to support his argument. Introducing the third quote from Deuteronomy 32:43 [and a possible connection also to the LXX in Psalms 96:7 which is 97:7 in the New American and New Jerusalem Old Testament], the inspired writer puts the Scripture passage into the context he wants his audience to connect with by prefacing the quote with the statement in Hebrews 1:6: Again, when he [God] brings the First-born into the world he says: "Let all the angels of God pay him homage," a statement that develops the theme of divine begetting as well as Christ's exalted status as the divine Firstborn, a status that came with special prerogatives in the culture of the times and in Jesus' case, as the Resurrected "firstborn" from the dead assured His exalted position above men and angels.

 

Question: When did God bring Jesus, the only begotten firstborn Son "into the world"? What is the significance of the title "firstborn" in His relationship with God the Father, and in His status as a descendant of King David?

Answer: Jesus came into the world at the Incarnation when God became enfleshed in the womb of the Virgin Mary [see Luke 1:26-38]. As the only begotten firstborn He is not only the divine heir but the Davidic heir promised by the prophets like Ezekiel in Ezekiel 37:25: David my servant is to be their prince for ever. I shall make a covenant of peace with them, an eternal covenant with them...; and Ezekiel 34:11 and 23-24: For the Lord Yahweh says this: "Look, I myself shall take care of my flock and look after it. [...]. I shall raise up one shepherd, my servant David, and put him in charge of them to pasture them; he will pasture them and be their shepherd. I, Yahweh, shall be their God and my servant David will be ruler among them. I, Yahweh, have spoken. I shall make a covenant of peace with them..." [these prophecies were written four hundred after David's death]; and as testified to by Matthew and Luke in their genealogies of Jesus of Nazareth, tracing his lineage to King David and beyond to Abraham whose unconditional covenant is also fulfilled in Jesus through whom all nations of the world are blessed: all the clans of the earth will bless themselves by you [Genesis 12:3b; 18:18; 22:18; Galatians 3:14; Ephesians 1:3].

 

Quote #4: This fourth quote is preceded by the statement: To the angels he says, followed by the quote from Psalm 104:4 [103:4 in the LXX]: appointing the winds his messengers and flames of fire his servants. Psalm 104 is one of the "Creation Psalms" which describes the miracle of creation in a series of beautiful poetic images. Verses 3-4, like Zechariah 6:1-7, picture the four winds of the earth as God's chariots driven by His angels who pass back and forth across the earth, patrolling God's creation. This passage is behind the imagery of the infamous "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in Revelation 6:1-8. Also see Psalm 18:10 where the "wings of the wind" are connected with the class of angels known as cherubim. Four is the number of the earth which is viewed symbolically as God's four-cornered altar. The line and flames of fire his servants is a reference to the fiery ones who attend Yahweh in the heavenly sanctuary. These beings are described by Isaiah in his encounter with the Seraphs [the etymology of the name seraphim is "burning ones"] when he is drawn up into the heavenly court in Isaiah 6:1-3: I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne; his train (literally: the fringe of his garment) filled the sanctuary. Above him stood seraphs, each one with six wings: two to cover its face, two to cover its feet and two for flying... These marvelous creatures stand before the throne of Yahweh continually worshiping and singing praise: Holy, Holy, Holy is Yahweh Sabaoth [see the hymn in Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8]; a hymn of praise in which we participate during the joining of heaven and earth in the liturgy of the Mass in the Sanctus.

 

Quote #5: Contrasting the changeable elements of nature over which angels are given charge as well as their position of divine service in the heavenly throne room with the unchangeable and eternal sovereignty of the Son, the inspired write prefaces the next quote with but to the Son he says: And then quotes from the Royal wedding song of the Davidic King in Psalm 45:6a [in the LXX it is 44:7-8]: Your throne, God, is for ever and ever! A Messianic promise which recalls the unconditional covenant Yahweh made with King David in 2 Samuel 7:14 [also see 1 Chronicles 17:13 and Acts 13:33 from quote #1].

 

Quote #6: Continuing with the Messianic psalm 45:6b and verse 7 the inspired writer quotes, The scepter of his kingdom is a scepter of justice; you love uprightness (righteousness) and detest evil. This is why God, your God, has anointed your with the oil of gladness, as none of your rivals. A rod or staff symbolized leadership and authority. A shepherd had authority over the flock he protected; Moses and Aaron carried a staff/rod in the leadership positions [Exodus 7:19-20; 14:15-16]. A scepter is a short ceremonial club symbolizing the power of a ruler while the longer version is a ceremonial staff, both emblems of kingly authority. Both are mentioned in the prophecy of Genesis 49:10. The one to whom the Psalms is addressed is said to be righteous—one who is righteous is defined in Scripture as one who is obedient to the will of God [Deuteronomy 6:25; Psalm 23:3; 118:19-20]. Perfumed oil was used in celebrations like weddings but also in investiture ceremonies. Prophets, priests, and kings were anointed into their holy offices. This passage was originally addressed to God but now in Hebrews God is addressing this passage to the Son as a Divine King [Romans 9:5; John 20:28; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter1:1] who is the only one qualified to be anointed the eternal Davidic King who will rule the Kingdom of heaven and the Kingdom of heaven on earth. Quoting these passages in the context of Jesus the King, the royal wedding hymn becomes not just the song of the bride of a Davidic Israelite king but the song of the Church, the Bride of Christ for Jesus her Bridegroom. Both New Covenant Christians and Old Covenant Jewish tradition understood psalm 45 as celebrating the marriage of the Messianic King, for the Jews it was the union of God with Israel and for Christians the union with Christ and the New Israel, the Universal Church.

 

Quote #7: Cementing his point the inspired writer offers: And again, and then as his seventh proof quotes from Psalm 102:25-27: Long ago, Lord, you laid earth's foundations, the heavens are the work of your hands. They pass away but you remain, they all wear out like a garment. Like a cloak you will roll them up, like a garment, and they will be changed. But you never alter and your years are unending. Returning to God's unaltered state and the constant changing of the natural world the inspired writer affirms that the world will not end in a natural disaster but only through a divine act of God will the earth perish: like a cloak you will roll them up. At the same time the perishing of the world at some future date can be compared to the perishing of the Son on the altar of the Cross. He perished as all men perish, but unlike all men he arose from the dead and his in His Resurrection He overcame death, part of the natural order since sin first came into the world. The death of all things in the natural world is attested to in Ecclesiasticus (Sirach)14:17-19: Like clothes, every body will wear out, the age-old law is, 'Everyone must die.' Like foliage growing on a bushy tree, some leaves falling, others growing, so are the generations of flesh and blood: one dies, another is born. Every achievement rots away and perishes, and with it goes its author. But not Jesus of Nazareth! God the Son through His victory over sin and death will remain forever.

 

Quote #8: The inspired writer sums up his argument by demanding: To which of the angels has God ever said: Take your seat at my right hand till I have made your enemies your footstool. This verse from Psalm 110:1 is the most often quoted psalm in the New Testament. Jesus quoted this passage and applied it to Himself in Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36; and Luke 20:43. St. Peter quotes it in his first great homily in Acts 2:34, attributing the prophecy to Jesus the Messiah when he said: For David himself never went up to heaven, but yet he said: "the Lord (literally = Yahweh) declared to my Lord (literally = Adonai), take your seat at my right hand, till I have made your enemies your footstool." Peter's argument is that David, whose tomb is believed to be the lower floor of the Upper Room—probably across from where Peter was speaking on Pentecost Sunday—was still lying dead in his tomb and did not ascend into heaven; therefore, God's summons could not be for David in the psalm but to the only One who came forth alive from the tomb and ascended to the Father in heaven, Jesus of Nazareth. The inspired writer of Hebrews will quote this passage a second time in Hebrews 10:13; Psalms 110:1 is quoted 7 times in the New Testament [Psalm 110:1; Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:43; Acts 2:34; Hebrews 1:13; 10:13].

 

And then driving home his argument that the Son is superior to the angels, the inspired writer asks, Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?, defining the role of angels as ministering or servant status and as messengers of God meant to assist Jesus Christ, the Firstborn Son in His mission to bring salvation to mankind.

 

The exhortation is brought to a conclusion in Hebrews 1:13; Hebrews 2:1-4, affirming the Son's superiority over the angels, and affirming the Son's credential within the context of the miracles and signs He worked and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

 

Please read Hebrews 1:13; Hebrews 2:1-4: Conclusion of the Exordium

1 We ought, then, to turn our minds more attentively than before to what we have been taught, so that we do not drift away. 2 If a message that was spoken through angels proved to be so reliable that every infringement and disobedience brought its own proper punishment, 3 then we shall certainly not go unpunished if we neglect such a great salvation. It was first announced by the Lord himself, and is guaranteed to us by those who heard him; 4 God himself confirmed their witness with signs and marvels and miracles of all kinds, and by distributing the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the various ways he wills.

 

Just as the exordium opened in one long complex sentence it concludes in another long complex sentence, Hebrews 1:13; verses 2:2-4 comprise one long sentence in the Greek text. The inspired writer concludes his argument using the proof of Sacred Scripture to support his argument of the superiority of Christ over the angels by reminding his audience that if the messages send by God through His angels carried the power of God to punish or reward according to the obedience to that message, what then is the burden as well as the grace bestowed upon us through the message of the One who is superior to the angels—a witness confirmed by the miracles and signs of Jesus during His earthly ministry, and an acceptance of which upon hinges our very salvation?

 

Question: In Hebrews 1:13; 2:1 there is a reference to what we have been taught concerning the message of the Son. The literal translation refers to holding fast to what we have "heard." Jesus orally taught the Gospel of salvation during 3 years of earthly ministry, to the crowds of "heard" Him. Who is it who orally taught Christ's message of salvation to those who heard? See Hebrews 1:13; Matthew 18:18; Hebrews 1:13; 28:18-20; Hebrews 1:13; John 20:22-23; Hebrews 1:13; 1 Corinthians 11:23; Hebrews 1:13; 15:3.

Answer: The Son's emissaries, the Apostles-the only ones given the Son's authority to transmit the Gospel of salvation as initiated by Jesus' preaching.

 

This verse reminds us of the prophecy in Hebrews 1:13; Deuteronomy 18:17-20 that God would send a prophet to whom the covenant people must listen: Anyone who refuses to listen to my words, spoken by him in my name, will have to render an account to me, was God's warning.

 

Question: In the event on the Mount of Transfiguration the Apostles Peter, James and John Zebedee witnessed the pre-resurrection glorified Jesus Christ and heard a voice from heaven. What was the message of the heavenly voice? Hint: see Hebrews 1:13; Matthew 17:5

Answer: This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favor. Listen to him.

 

Question: First century Christians listened to Christ through the words of the Apostles. How do we listen to the voice of Christ today?

Answer: Through Mother Church-in the teachings of the universal Magisterium-the Pope and the Bishops of the world-wide Church of Jesus Christ. They are the only ones to carry the authority of Jesus' unaltered message of salvation through these past 2000 years.

 

Question: Verse 2 mentions the message transmitted by the angels. What message is the inspired writer referring to? See Acts 7:38, 53; Galatians 3:19.

Answer: The Law of the Sinai Covenant.

 

Question: In Hebrews1:1, 1:2 and now in 2:4 the inspired writer has made a reference to what great mystery concerning the nature of God that revealed by the Son?

Answer: The mystery of the Triune God—one God in 3 persons.

 

Question: What was the significance of the signs and miracles Jesus worked during His earthly ministry and the miracle of His Resurrection?

Answer: The supernatural works preformed by Jesus attested to His divine nature and the authority of His message. They were in essence His credentials.

 

Question: Did verification of the legitimacy of the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ continue in the Apostles?

Answer: Yes. The Apostles, empowered by God the Holy Spirit, continued to work the same miracles Jesus worked during His ministry: they raised the dead and healed the sick [Acts 3:4-8; 4:31; 8:7; 9:40-41; 10:44; 14:8-10; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; etc].

 

Question: For the first time the inspired writer uses a title other than "Son" to refer to Jesus. What is that title?

Answer: Lord, Kyrios, in the Greek which is a reflection of the Hebrew divine name which expresses Yahweh's Kingship over all creation, Adonai.

 

The superiority of the Son over the angels is a theme which will continue to be developed up to the end of the second chapter and which will be expanded as the discourse continues to include the Son's identity not only as the royal Son and heir but as a Priest-King superior to the old earthly covenantal order of both kings and priests and whose "name" as God's only begotten firstborn Son is superior to the angels. Next week we will continue with the inspired writer's defense of the Son superiority based on the fact that redemption is brought only by Jesus Christ and not by angels.

 

Question for group discussion:

Question: What does it mean to be a son or a daughter of God? In human terms to be a son or a daughter one must be either born a physical son or daughter or one must be adopted? What did Jesus say about divine birth in John chapter 3? How

did St. Paul define our unique relationship with God through divine adoption in Romans chapter 8? How did you become God's child? See CCC# 1213-15; 1265; 1996-97;

 

Question: Why does the faith of all Christians rest on belief in the Trinity?

See CCC# 232-34; 240; 244.

 

Catechism references for Hebrews 1:1-2:4 [*indicates Scripture quoted in citation]

Verse

Catechism references

Verse

Catechism references

1:1-3

53; 69; 107; 108

102*

1:6

333

1:1

65

1:13

447*

1:2

65*

1:14

331

1:3

241; 320; 2502*; 2777; 2795*

2:4

156*

 

Resources used in this Lesson:

  1. The Documents of Vatican II: Dei Verbum
  2. The Navarre Bible: Hebrews, Four Courts Press, 1991.
  3. Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine's Press, South Bend, Indiana 2006
  4. Hebrews, St. John Chrysostom, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, first series, Hendrickson Publishers, 1995.
  5. Kinship by Covenant: A Biblical Theological Study of Covenant Types and Texts in the Old and New Testaments, Dr. Scott Hahn, UMI Dissertation Services, 1995
  6. The Anchor Bible Commentary: To the Hebrews, George Wesley Buchanan, Doubleday, New York, 1972.
  7. The Anchor Bible Commentary: Hebrews, Craig R. Koester, Doubleday, New York, 2001.
  8. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Hebrews, InterVarsity Press, 2005
  9. The Faith of the Early Fathers, William Judgens, volumes I III, Liturgical Press, 1970.
  10. Church History, Father Laux, Tan Books & Publishers, reprinted 1989

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