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2 - Intra-Divine Discourse (1)

The Father Addresses the Son

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 August 2020

Madison N. Pierce
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Teds)


This chapter examines passages in Hebrews where the Father or God is portrayed as the speaker of Scripture quotations (Heb 1:5–13; 5:1–10; 7:1–28; 8:1–13). In Hebrews 1, the Father speaks 7 quotations to the Son or to/about the angels. These quotations show the Son’s superiority. In Hebrews 5, the quotations show how the Son is called to be a priest and how that is linked to his Sonship. In Hebrews 7, the author’s important quotation of Ps 110:4 establishes Jesus as a high priest in the likeness of Melchizedek. Finally, in Hebrews 8, the Father speaks and establishes a “new covenant.” In most instances, a pattern emerges where the Father speaks to the Son and confers authority upon him. These speeches are then “overheard” by the addressees.

Divine Discourse in the Epistle to the Hebrews
The Recontextualization of Spoken Quotations of Scripture
, pp. 35 - 90
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

The first speaker in the Epistle to the Hebrews is the Father. But he is in a sense the default speaker throughout scripture. This is illustrated by the fact that the passages interpreted by means of prosopological exegesis in which the Father speaks do not exhibit any changes in speaker. The Father always spoke the things that he speaks in Hebrews. Rather than altering the speaker of these texts, the author of Hebrews changes the addressee or the subject. The Father speaks to and about the Son in almost every instance. This chapter will explore the speech of the Father in the first two major sections of Hebrews. First, he speaks seven times to or about the Son and/or angels in Hebrews 1. Then, he speaks Greek Psalm 2:7 and Psalm 109:4 to the Son again in Hebrews 5 and repeats the quotation of Psalm 109:4 throughout Hebrews 7. Finally, he declares that he will establish a new covenant in Hebrews 8. With these speeches the Father confirms the Son’s identity and calling and announces his plans for the rest of his children.

2.1 Hebrews 1:1–14: The Father Speaks to the Son

Dialogue typically involves a speaker and an addressee. When the latter is specified, and thus limited, some are left outside the conversation. In the seven instances of prosopological exegesis in Hebrews 1:5–13, three types of characters are identified. The first character is the speaker, God the Father, which flows from Hebrews 1:1–4, where the author begins:

At many times and in various ways, God, who formerly spoke to our ancestors through the prophets, in these last days speaks to us through the Son.


Immediately in Hebrews, God speaks. While in Hebrews 1:2 he speaks through the Son, in 1:5–13 he speaks to the Son (1:5, 8–9, 10–12, 13), as well as to another group (1:6, 7) never explicitly named. These addressees are the second characters in these texts. The third and final characters are the angels. They are the “non-addressees” of the texts addressed to the Son, “for to whom among the angels did [God] ever say” these things (Heb 1:5)? The author anticipates the answer: absolutely no one.Footnote 1 Although in most conversations those not addressed are of no consequence to the discourse, in Hebrews 1 these “non-addressees” are of the utmost importance. The author highlights those to whom God did not speak, thereby making clear that the words he speaks to his Son are truly distinct. Through the identification of these three entities in relationship to these texts, the author uses his citations to begin his definition of the Son, telling his audience to heed what they say because the Father himself has spoken.Footnote 2

2.1.1 Hebrews 1:1–4 and the Introduction to the Son

While Hebrews is often praised for its elaborate prose and advanced argumentation, few portions are exemplified beyond Hebrews 1:1–4 where the “rhetorical artistry … surpasses that of any other portion of the New Testament.”Footnote 3 The author utilizes alliteration among other literary devices to introduce one of his main characters: the Son. Although the primary identification of the Son occurs in Hebrews 1:5–14, before allowing the Father to explain who the Son is through his own words, the author offers several summary statements of his own. To name a few, this Son is the means by which God speaks to “us” (1:2), is the radiance of God’s glory (1:3a), and is seated at the right hand of God in heaven (1:3d). In his last statement, the author reveals the most striking characteristic about this Son. He has become as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs (1:4).

A preliminary interpretive matter is the relationship between Hebrews 1:1–4 and Hebrews 1:5–14. In the former, the author presents the Son who is the ideal revelation to God’s people. This text foreshadows several themes in Hebrews, such as the high priestly christology (1:3), the comparison between God’s revelation in the past and present (1:1–2), and the Son’s superiority to the angels (1:4). Directly after the last verse, the author continues to elaborate the Son’s superiority to the angels through a series of seven citations from scripture. While some have tried to maximize the structural relationship between 1:1–4 and 1:5–14,Footnote 4 a thematic relationship is to be preferred. Hebrews 1:1–4 likely offers an introduction to the identity and actions of the Son that will be proved and expanded by the catena, as well as the rest of Hebrews.Footnote 5 This section closes with the primary assertion of the series of quotations: Jesus is superior to the angels. In order to make this claim, the author of Hebrews forms his discourse as epideictic synkrisis (or “comparison”).Footnote 6

Several examples of synkrisis can be found in Hellenistic funeral orations, such as Isocrates’ Evagoras.Footnote 7 Throughout this text Isocrates asks (paraphrasing): “Who can compare to Evagoras on this matter?” (e.g., 9.66). The effect of this implicit question compares Evagoras with any possible example, but his most thorough comparison is between Evagoras and Cyrus (see esp. 9.37–39, 58–59). He also provides some rationale for his choice:

of those who lived later, perhaps indeed of all, the one hero who was most admired by the greatest number was Cyrus, who deprived the Medes of their kingdom and gained it for the Persians. But while Cyrus with a Persian army conquered the Medes, a deed that many a Greek or a barbarian could easily do, Evagoras manifestly accomplished the greater part of the deeds that have been mentioned through strength of his own mind and body.

By selecting this example, Isocrates produces a comparison that elevates his subject above his audience’s exemplar. Similarly, the author of Hebrews selects the angels, it seems, in order to elevate the Son above his audience’s model among the heavenly beings (that are not God).Footnote 9

In ancient handbooks, rhetoricians suggested that encomia (praise) of any sort should contain several specifically outlined characteristics about the persons or entities that they were praising (or deposing). Among the most basic lists, such as the one found in Quintilian’s Institutio oratoria, these consisted of describing “times before they were born, their own lifetimes, and … the time after their death” (3:7). Each of these categories also seems to be present within the catena of Hebrews 1 in the author’s comparison of Jesus and the angels. In fact, Martin and Whitlark argue that the rhetorical device is not only found in this chapter, but also is the key to the structure of Hebrews as a whole. It is through five comparisons that the author of Hebrews compares the “old” and “new” covenants. Using five of the classically prescribed categories, they provide the following outline for Hebrews:
  1. (1) Origins: Synkrisis of Covenant Heavenly Mediators (1:1–14; 2:5–18)

  2. (2) Birth: Synkrisis of Covenant Earthly Inaugurators (3:1–6)

  3. (3) Pursuits – Education: Synkrisis of the Priestly Apprenticeships of Each Covenant (5:1–10)

  4. (4) Pursuits – Deeds: Synkrisis of the Priestly Deeds of Each Covenant


  5. (5) Death/Events after Death: Synkrisis of Covenant Eschata (12:18–24)Footnote 10

When paired with Hebrews’ instances of deliberative synkrisis (comparison with the purpose of persuasion found primarily in the so-called “warning passages”), they claim that this structure accounts for most of the rhetorical turns in Hebrews.Footnote 11 That is, the author moves through the “life” of the covenants to demonstrate that the “new” is and always has been superior to the “old,” thereby using this comparison to exhort his audience to remain faithful. This superior covenant comes with greater benefits for those who follow it and greater punishments for those who abandon it.

Rather than being the key to the structure of Hebrews, it seems more helpful to think of this framework as the foundation for much of the content of Hebrews—the “rhetorical and compositional categories and strategies … that would have guided the compositional practices of the author and informed the expectations of his audience.”Footnote 12 In their study, Martin and Whitlark go one step further and argue that the shifts from one comparison to the next are also the boundaries for the author’s units of discourse, but their proposal does not appear to directly contradict the major structural proposals outlined in the final chapter of this study. We will return to this later but, for now, let us assume that Martin and Whitlark have illumined the key role of synkrisis in Hebrews, but have not sufficiently demonstrated its necessity – or superiority – with regard to the structure of Hebrews. The structure of this chapter, however, will proceed through Quintilian’s three stages, or categories, of synkrisis in order to examine Hebrews 1:5–14 and its comparison of the heavenly mediators of the two covenants.Footnote 13 In the catena, the author moves from (1) the timeless begetting of the Son and his re-entrance into the heavenly space (1:5–6) to (2) the office and attributes of the Son (1:7–12) to (3) the “posthumous” submission to the Son (1:13–14).Footnote 14

2.1.2 Hebrews 1:5–14 and an Introduction to the Catena

In Hebrews 1:5–14, the predominant structure appears to be pairs of statements that contain both an address to the Son and a statement about the angels (sometimes in the reverse order):Footnote 15


To the Son: Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14 (Address: “Son”)


To/about the angels: Deuteronomy 32:43


About the angels: Greek Psalm 103:4


To the Son: Greek Psalm 44:7–8 (Address: “God”) and Greek Psalm 101:26–28 (Address: “Lord”)


To the Son: Greek Psalm 109:1 ([Implied] Address: “Lord”)


About the angels: the author’s rhetorical question about their position

With these citations, the author allows the Father to establish the superiority of the Son to the angels. In this chapter, I will discuss the Father’s presentation of the exalted Son by dealing with each scripture citation and expanding upon each speech’s contribution to his character.

2.1.3 Hebrews 1:5–6: The Begetting of the Son Hebrews 1:5
While in Hebrews 1:1–4 the author presents the Son with several superlative characteristics, this text also leaves several items unaddressed. This figure initially has no genealogy or explicit identification; he remains mysterious, but by presenting him as a “son,” a parent is expected. Verse 5 is the point at which a parent identifies himself:
For to whom among the angels did [God] ever say,
“You are my son;
              today I have begotten you”?
And again,
“I will be his father,
              and he will be my son”?Footnote 16

With these two citations, the author makes clear what he has hinted at in the previous section: this is the Son of God. If the author has formed this synkrisis in accordance with the rhetorical handbooks, then the first topic to cover is the subject’s birth or origins. For this, the author reveals his remarkable lineage, but what is the “today” of the cited text?Footnote 17

Many have suggested that this quotation occurs at the exaltation of the Son. As a coronation psalm, it is fitting that God might speak this proclamation when the Son takes his seat at God’s right hand. The consensus is that “today” is the day of the exaltation, but whether a change in status occurs “today” also is a matter on which interpreters are divided. Some think the “begetting” and the “speech” both take place at the exaltation.Footnote 18 Others claim that this speech is located at the exaltation, but do not locate the begetting explicitly.Footnote 19 Curiously, these latter scholars explicitly state that their view is incompatible with the doctrine of “eternal generation,” but do not think that the Son is begotten or appointed Son at the exaltation.Footnote 20

Locating this speech at the coronation of the Son does not necessitate that the “begetting” or appointment takes place at that time also. If the author is using σήμερον consistently throughout the Epistle, then this suggests that a finite time is not in view at all. In Hebrews 3–4, “today” is a relative designation, lasting from the time of David’s declaration (4:7) until the point when “today” can no longer be referred to as “today” (3:13). Similarly, in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today [σήμερον], and forever.” Each of these spans of time is left open, and here as elsewhere “today” is an unspecified present reality. If this is the case in Hebrews 1:5 also, then this does not exclude the view that the Father spoke this at the exaltation, but it does make it unlikely that Jesus actually became Son at his exaltation because the day that he is, or even became, Son is always “today.”Footnote 21

This metaphorical understanding of the word “today” also has ancient attestation. In Augustine’s Psalms commentary, for example, he writes of this passage:

[T]he word today denotes the actual present, and as in eternity nothing is past as if it had ceased to be, nor future as if it had not yet come to pass, but all is simply present, since whatever is eternal is ever in being, the words, “Today I have begotten you,” are to be understood of the divine generation. In this phrase, the orthodox catholic [i.e., universal] belief proclaims the eternal generation of the Power and Wisdom of God who is the only-begotten Son.

(Enarrat. Ps. 2:6)Footnote 22

Similarly, in the Confessions when he comments on Psalm 102:27, also spoken about Jesus in Hebrews 1:12, Augustine says to God:

Your years are but a day, and your day is not recurrent, but always today. Your “today” yields not to tomorrow and does not follow yesterday. Your “today” is eternity. Therefore, you did generate the Co-eternal to whom you said, “Today I have begotten you.”

(Conf. 13.16)Footnote 23

For Augustine, God’s day lasts forever.

This is likewise the case for Philo. Commenting on Deuteronomy 4:4, he writes:

[Moses] adds, “You are alive to this day [ἐν τῇ σήμερον]”; and today is interminable eternity, from which there is no departure …the unerring proper name of eternity [αἰῶνος] is “today.”

(Fug. 11.56–57)Footnote 24

Philo’s comment is particularly salient for understanding Hebrews since he and the author both show the influences of similar traditions. Philo attests to the possibility of a more metaphorical and eternal understanding of “today” in the first century, as does Augustine in later centuries. These writers corroborate the author of Hebrews’ reading of Psalm 2:7 as an eternal event, as though he says: “You are my Son; forever I have begotten you” (emphasis added).

While the author uses his quotation of Psalm 2:7 to assert who the Son is, he uses the introductory formula to make a point about who the Son is not. This brings us to a discussion of prosopological exegesis in this text. In this verse, the addressee (the Son) and the “non-addressees” (the angels) are both of great importance. The author makes clear that this speech is exceptional; however, even though part of the author’s purpose is to elevate the Son over the angels, by calling him “Son,” he actually introduces a correlation, rather than a contrast. This is because the angels sometimes are called “sons of God” in scripture,Footnote 25 as in Genesis 6:1–4 (LXX):

Then people began to become numerous on the earth, and daughters were born to them, and the sons of God, seeing that the human daughters were beautiful, took for themselves wives from all whom they chose … when the sons of God had intercourse with the human daughters, they gave birth.

Interpreters typically identify the “sons of God” here with the angels;Footnote 26 if the angels are “sons,” then how is this Son distinct? While the author does not explicitly acknowledge this potential counterpoint for his readers, a few clues in the text answer the hypothetical objection. First, no singular angel is ever called “son,” just as the author suggests with his introductory formula. Further, Jesus is not simply Son; he is the “firstborn” (Heb 1:6). With this more specific designation, the author minimizes any lingering counterarguments about another “son of God.” Even if one claimed that the texts from scripture that refer to the angels as the “sons of God” suggested a multiplicity of sons, this Son has supremacy.

Even though no single angel was called “son,” a single human is referred to in this way, namely the Davidic king. He bears this title in Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14 (cf. parallels in 1 Chr 17:13; 22:10).Footnote 27 Further, in Greek Psalm 88:28, the king is called the firstborn (πρωτότοκος), which is likely referred to in the next introductory formula in Hebrews 1:6: “but again when he brings the firstborn (πρωτότοκον) into the world, he says…”Footnote 28 Within the Psalms, these texts can plausibly be applied to someone within the Davidic line, but the author of Hebrews has made certain that his readers know these texts are about the exalted Son. The author has reinterpreted them with prosopological exegesis.Footnote 29

As I have suggested, this technique often takes place when an interpreter finds a tension with a common reading of a text. In this case, the author of Hebrews, perhaps in line with a previous tradition,Footnote 30 proposes that nearly every text that refers to a human king as the “son of God” (or “firstborn”) is about or addressed to Jesus. It is possible, in other words, that within his cognitive framework an ordinary human cannot be the Son of God, so he looks for another character behind these texts. What he finds is the Christ.Footnote 31 As a result, the author suggests that something is distinct about God’s bestowal of the title son here – it is not even fit for a (human) king. For this reason, arguments that cite the previous attribution of these texts to the human Davidic monarch are not applicable when a prosopological reading strategy is acknowledged.

So what is exceptional about this Son? This question is initially answered in the statements about him in Hebrews 1:2–4:

[God] speaks to us through the Son, whom he appointed heir of all things and through whom he made the world [αἰών], who, being the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact imprint of his being and bearing all things by the power of his word after making purification for sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Together these statements contribute to a near consensus that the Son was in some way pre-existent.Footnote 32 For James D. G. Dunn, this is the “special” contribution of Hebrews to christology: “it seems to be the first of the NT writings to have embraced the specific thought of a pre-existent divine sonship.”Footnote 33 Dunn and others reach this conclusion largely because they perceive that the author’s depiction of the Son is dependent upon existing Logos- and Wisdom-traditions, in which Logos and Sophia were pre-existent entities or manifestations of God’s power, and, indeed, several correspondences are present between the Son and these figures.Footnote 34 Like the Son, it is “through [the Logos] that the world was put together” (δι’ οὗ σύμπας ὁ κόσμος ἐδημιουργεῖτο, Leg. 1.81), and the sacred Logos cleanses (ἐκάθηρεν) “us” (Somn. 1.226). Also like the Son, Sophia is the “radiance” (ἀπαύγασμα) of God (Wis. 7:26), and just as the Son bears (φέρω) all things (Heb 1:3b), she holds all things together well (διοικεῖ τὰ πάντα χρηστῶς, Wis. 8:1).

This correlation between the Son and the Logos or Sophia has caused some to doubt the personal nature of the Son’s pre-existence. They argue, like these entities, he is an extension of God, but not a distinct “person” prior to the incarnation.Footnote 35 But this extends the author’s underlying metaphors beyond what is presented in the text. Why should the author’s comparison at some points necessitate a near equation of these figures? Further, other evidence suggests a personal dimension to the Son in Hebrews 1 chapter, such as the filial metaphor itself. A Father–Son relationship is by definition personal.Footnote 36 Hebrews 1:6
With each citation addressed to the Son, the author develops his character with the titles and attributes ascribed to him by the Father. Hebrews 1:6 furthers his claim about Jesus being the Son (now the “Firstborn”), but also introduces another facet: the angels worship him. Here by utilizing the introductory formula as a transition, the author contrasts the previous verse (note the δέ), but also ties this text to the preceding:

And again, when bringing the firstborn [πρωτότοκον] into the world [οἰκουμένη], he says …


Unlike the other texts in Hebrews 1, this citation and the one that follows do not have any explicitly identified addressees. In other words, rather than speaking “to” the Son or even the angels, the Father speaks “about” (πρός) the angels,Footnote 37 a pattern that continues with the three pairs of contrasting statements noted above.Footnote 38 Although nearly every word in the introductory formula to this citation has been contested, in this space I can deal only with the meaning of οἰκουμένη and the impact of this lexical form for the timing of this statement.Footnote 39

The usual meaning of οἰκουμένη is the “inhabited earthly realm” or its “inhabitants,” which is represented by nearly all of its New Testament occurrences; however, Hebrews 2:5 provides an example of “extraordinary” usage in which the term signifies the “inhabited heavenly realm.”Footnote 40 To make this clear, the author further characterizes this as "the world to come, concerning which we have been speaking" (τὴν οἰκουμένην τὴν μέλλουσαν, περὶ ἧς λαλοῦμεν). The use of this lexical form in Hebrews 2:5 and the backward reference has caused many to ask: does the author also intend the inhabited heavenly world in Hebrews 1:6? The weakness of this view is, of course, its appeal to a very rare use of οἰκουμένη – one perhaps so rare that the author clarified his irregular usage with the participle μέλλουσαν in 2:5. This point should not be taken lightly; however, evidence that “οἰκουμένη” was used to signify the “heavenly realm” can be found in the Greek Psalter.Footnote 41 Two texts of particular interest in Hebrews are (1) Greek Psalm 92:1:
The Lord reigns;
                he is clothed in dignity;
the Lord is clothed with power and girds himself,
                for he also makes firm τὴν οἰκουμένην, which will not be shaken [ἥτις οὐ σαλευθήσεται] …
and (2) Greek Psalm 95:9–10:
Worship the Lord in his holy court;
                let all the earth [γῆ] be shaken [σαλευθήτω] before him.
Say among the nations:
                “The Lord reigns,
for he will also set right τὴν οἰκουμένην,
                which will not be shaken [ἥτις οὐ σαλευθήσεται]…”

While one might argue that γῆ and οἰκουμένη are representative of the same realities presented in parallel, one is shaken and the other “will not be” (future). For the author of Hebrews, this contrast between the shaken and unshaken is integral to his argument in Hebrews 12:

at that time the voice shook [ἐσάλευσεν] the earth, but now it promises: “Once more I will shake [σείσω] not only τὴν γῆν but also τὸν οὐρανόν.” But the “once more” reveals the removal [μετάθεσιν] of the shakable things—the created things—in order that what remains is not shakable.


Rather than utilizing the verb for “shaking” from Haggai 2:6 (σείω) in the introductory formula, the author instead selects σάλευω, which, as Lane (among others) argues, is used “as an expression for the effect of divine judgment” in the Greek Psalter.Footnote 42 Within that corpus, what is “not shaken” refers to YHWH (9:6; 20:8; 45:6; 111:6), the one who trusts or obeys him (14:5; 15:8; 16:5; 29:7; 61:3; cf. 35:12), or Mount Zion (124:1), as well as the οἰκουμένη, but the earth (γῆ) is never described as “unshakable.”

Another text of interest to this discussion is (3) Greek Psalm 96:4, 7:
His lightning illuminates τῇ οἰκουμένῃ;
             the earth [γῆ] sees and is shaken [ἐσαλεύθη] …Footnote 43
Worship him, all his angels [προσκυνήσατε αὐτῷ, πάντες οἱ ἄγγελοι αὐτοῦ]…

Previous scholars have also noted the thematic correspondence between this text and Hebrews 1:6. In fact, some posit that this is the text cited by the author,Footnote 44 a view far more common prior to the discovery of the Qumran library.Footnote 45 Within those texts lay 4QDeuteronomy, which attested a Hebrew version of Deuteronomy 32:43 much closer to the form in Hebrews than the LXX of Deuteronomy 32:43 or Greek Psalm 96:7.Footnote 46 For this reason, I prefer to see Hebrews 1:6 as a citation of Deuteronomy, but this does not rule out a secondary allusion to Psalm 96:7. This text, after all, provides a reasonable explanation for why the author introduces the word οἰκουμένη here.Footnote 47 Even so, Psalm 96:7 on its own does not present a strong contrast between the earthly and heavenly realm since the two stand in parallel. But the author’s use of σαλεύω in the introductory formula of Hebrews 12:26 could suggest a desire to allude to this broader tradition in the Greek Psalter. While this discussion cannot move beyond speculation, this proposal appears to cohere best with the internal evidence of Hebrews.

Therefore, it is possible that the author uses οἰκουμένη in Hebrews 1:6 to signify the “inhabited heavenly realm.” A final point makes the possibility even more likely. In Hebrews 2:5, the author clarifies the phrase τὴν οἰκουμένην τὴν μέλλουσαν with the relative clause περὶ ἧς λαλοῦμεν. When has he been speaking about the world to come? While this could refer only broadly to the eschatological elements in 1:1–2:4, it is also possible that the author refers not only generally but also specifically to his previous use of the term. In this case, the author might add μέλλουσαν in order to make certain his readers have not missed this nuance. It would not be the only instance when the author introduces a word or theme that will only later be explained (e.g., “son” in 1:2 or “purification of sins” in 1:3).Footnote 48

With this preponderance of evidence, it seems likely that the author is discussing the introduction of the Firstborn into the “inhabited heavenly realm.” If this is the case, then the likely time reference for the saying is the Son’s exaltation or enthronement after his death and resurrection.Footnote 49 When the Son enters the heavenly realm, all of its inhabitants are told that (even) God’s angels worship him. The degree of this adoration, though disputed,Footnote 50 within the context of Hebrews 1 (and Hebrews as a whole) is the worship deserved by one who bears the titles “Son of God” (1:5), “Lord” (1:10), and “God” (1:8), as well as the one who is described as Creator (1:7; 1:10–12; cf. 1:2).Footnote 51 Elsewhere in the New Testament, the angels worship Jesus also. Revelation 4–5 begins by portraying the four mysterious creatures and the twenty-four elders worshipping God, continuously singing “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come” (4:8). The scene continues with the Lamb being presented as the one worthy to take (and open) the scroll (5:7–8). When he takes it, they fall before him and sing a new song (5:8–10). Soon the thousands of angels join in: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain …” (5:12). Together they praise the Lamb. Hebrews also presents a celebration of angels in 12:22. At Mount Zion, the people “have come to … innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven.”Footnote 52

In terms of a prosopological reading of Hebrews 1:6, the selection of Deuteronomy 32:43 is not as straightforward as the texts examined in Hebrews 1:5. In those texts, God is already speaking and addressing someone as his son. The fact that he was interpreted as directing this to an ordinary human posed a tension for the author of Hebrews that caused him to reinterpret these texts as an address from the Father to Jesus. The author’s reading of Deuteronomy 32 instead appears to capitalize upon the ambiguity of the base text with regard to speakers.Footnote 53

Deuteronomy 32 speaks of God in the third person in speech typically attributed to Moses, but also reports speech where God speaks in the first. Within Greek traditions we find the following possible shifts:

Moses speaks


God speaks (introduced by καὶ εἶπεν in 32:20)


Moses speaks (introduced by εἶπα in 32:26)Footnote 54


God speaks (introduced by καὶ εἶπεν κύριος in 32:37)


Moses speaks (no introductory formula)?]

The ambiguity found in identifying the speaker of 32:43 is precisely the one utilized by the author of Hebrews. Typically, Deuteronomy 32:43 is interpreted as Moses’ speech about God, but no explicit indication of a shift in speech takes place within the Greek Song. Instead, the shift in person – from first to third – is thought to be a signal of a new speaker. But what if the author of Hebrews interpreted this verse, not with a new speaker, but with a new subject? Deuteronomy proceeds in this way:
42 I [the Lord] will make my arrows drunk with blood—
             and my dagger will devour flesh—
With the blood of the wounded and the captives,
             from the head of the commanders of the enemies
43 Be glad with him, O Heavens;
             let all the angels of God worship him.

The last line, interpreted by Hebrews as speech spoken by the Father about the Son, can in fact be read in this way in the original context, if a reader is content to refer to two characters as “God.” The author of Hebrews makes clear that he is with his citation of Greek Psalm 44:7–8, where the Father says to the Son, “Your throne, O God, is forever.” Thus, by having YHWH continue to speak, rather than introducing another line in the Song spoken by Moses, the author is able to make this passage a command from the Father to the angels to worship the Son.

2.1.4 Hebrews 1:7–12: The Timelessness of the Son Hebrews 1:7
In the second set of contrasting statements, the order reverses, and the Father speaks first about the angels:

Then, on the one hand, he says concerning the angels, “This one makes his angels winds and his servants flames of fire.”

This text, for the most part consistent with Greek Psalm 103:4 [104:4 MT], potentially intends three contrasts between the Son and the angels, which the author outlines with the use of this citation and the next. The first contrast is the difference in office. The angels are servants, but the Son is the anointed king.Footnote 55 The second is a contrast between permanence and mutability.Footnote 56 The angels are not in control; God can change them as he wishes. Looking ahead to the next two citations about the Son and his eternality, this depiction of the angels as changeable or transient appears to be one of the author’s reasons for selecting this text, and it, as we shall see, coheres with a few early Jewish presentations of the angels also.Footnote 57 But who is the agent – ὁ ποιῶν? If the agent is God the Father, then this citation is exceptional as the only text in Hebrews 1 not related to the Son in some way, which is not a problem in itself;Footnote 58 however, if the author wanted to make clear that this text was not about the Son, then it seems that he would need to clarify the agent more expressly, particularly due to the third person language. In other words, unless told otherwise or unless the material could not reasonably be applied to the Son, it seems most logical within the flow of the discourse to assume that the author is following the same formula throughout – especially since nothing in this text suggests a role that is not attributable to the Son within the author’s schema.

A final contrast highlighted by scholars is the potential difference in essence or ontological status between the Son, who is flesh and blood, and the angels, who are spirit.Footnote 59 A related (though not always correlated) contrast of essence is predicated upon the origins of these figures. Many (either implicitly or explicitly) suggest that Hebrews 1:7 also describes the creation of angels, reading this into ὁ ποιῶν.Footnote 60 This reading is corroborated by the fact that Psalm 104:4 is linked to the creation of angels in some early Jewish texts. For example, Jubilees describes the first day of creation as the day when “[God] created … all of the spirits that minister before him” including “the angels of the spirit of fire” and “the angels of the spirits of the winds” (2:2). This allusion is not definitive, but a similar collocation of “angels,” “spirits,” “winds,” and “fire” is present.Footnote 61 Comparable readings of Psalm 104:4 are also attested elsewhere (e.g., 2 Baruch 21:6–7; 2 Enoch 29:3); however, an alternative reading, attested by 4 Ezra, offers another helpful interpretive tradition. In 4 Ezra 8:20–22, Ezra prays to God and in praise describes him as the one “at whose command [angels] are changed to wind and fire …”Footnote 62 For this author, God has command over even the angels. This reading offers a useful parallel to Hebrews where the author’s contrast between the Son and these beings is likely predicated not on the basis of angel worship within the community, but instead on an assumption that the angels occupy a place of prominence in the hierarchy of heavenly beings. As we saw with Isocrates’ comparison of Evagoras and Cyrus, authors utilizing synkrisis select the most impressive possible foil for their subjects. Nevertheless, the two readings just mentioned, represented by Jubilees and 4 Ezra, are not mutually exclusive. The angels serve as an impressive literary foil. So without any additional commentary from the author, it is unclear whether Hebrews should be read in accordance with either (or both) of these traditions.Footnote 63 Still, if elements from these readings are present, they are likely secondary to the author’s contrast between the permanence of the Son and the mutability of the angels, which remains a focus in the next two citations also. Hebrews 1:8–9
The second half of the author’s second pair of contrasting quotations comes in verses 8–9. In this unit, the citation of Greek Psalm 44:7–8 is linked to the prior by the particle “δέ,” as well as the points of contrast mentioned above:
On the other hand, to the Son [he says]:
              “Your throne, O God, is forever,
              and the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
You loved righteousness and hated lawlessness,
              which is why your God, oh God, has anointed you
              with the oil of gladness over your companions.Footnote 64

In its original context, this psalm is thought to address the Davidic king (likely at a marriage ceremony), commending his character and extending his dominion “forever” (εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος).Footnote 65 For many, the psalm in its original setting attributes a metaphorical divine status to a human Davidic monarch, but in Hebrews, it attributes an actual divine status to Jesus.Footnote 66 How can this text without any commentary from the author obviously accomplish something so different than it did in its original setting?Footnote 67 The short answer is: it does not. By utilizing prosopological exegesis, the author suggests instead that this psalm was spoken about Jesus. For him, the usual reading attributing even metaphorical divine status to the Davidic monarch requires clarification: this is a text about the Son. Justin also reads Greek Psalm 44:7–8 prosopologically. It “speaks in this way of Christ” (Dial. 38.3) and “expressly shows that he is to be worshipped as both God and Christ” (63.5). Justin, like the author of Hebrews, cannot conceive of applying this text to anyone else. Thus, in Hebrews 1:8–9, the Father (according to the author) establishes not only Jesus’ divinity but also his perpetuity and upstanding moral character, and by extension he confirms his anointing as king “over his companions” (παρὰ τοὺς μετόχους σου).Footnote 68

The “companions” in verse 9 are identified by some as either (1) the angels, (2) believers (i.e., the “sons and daughters” whom he will bring to glory; 2:10), or (3) some combination of the two.Footnote 69 Although some have argued that focus on the angels in Hebrews 2 makes them the obvious referent,Footnote 70 this fails to acknowledge its argument. The Son is not like the angels, as each citation demonstrates;Footnote 71 he is, however, “made like his brothers and sisters in every way” (2:10–18) – his “siblings,” who are later described as those who are sharers (or become sharers) in the “heavenly calling” (κλήσεως ἐπουρανίου μέτοχοι, 3:1), Christ (μέτοχοι … τοῦ Χριστοῦ γεγόναμεν, 3:14), the Spirit (μετόχους γενηθέντας πνεύματος ἁγίου, 6:4), and perhaps also discipline (παιδείας ἧς μέτοχοι γεγόνασιν πάντες, 12:8).Footnote 72 Although the Son is placed over them, the author consistently utilizes this lexical form to demonstrate their unity – both with the Son and with each other. Hebrews 1:10–12
The author then moves to a citation of Greek Psalm 101:26–28 in Hebrews 1:10–12. The introductory formula is only καί, but presumably, Hebrews 1:8 provides the necessary information about the characters involved. The Father speaks again to the Son:
You from the beginning, Lord, laid the foundations of the earth,
              and the heavens are the works of your hands.
They will be destroyed, but you remain,
              and all things will wear out like a garment,
And like a cloak you will roll them up,
              and they will be changed like a garment,
But you are the same, and your years will not run out.Footnote 73

At first glance, this is a particularly interesting selection by the author of Hebrews. In most other instances, he has selected a text where God the Father was already the speaker and identified other unspecified participants (e.g., the addressees); here, however, the author has selected a psalm that appears to be without any dialogue. Instead, it is just a Psalmist’s cry to the Father. But this is not the case in Greek traditions. Throughout Greek Psalm 101 (MT 102), the speaker describes his affliction and plight as a temporary, mortal being, while praising God for his permanence. Verse 24 of the MT contains the consonants ענה, which can designate one of two verbal roots. The MT seems to favor one option (I: “to oppress or humiliate),” while the Greek favors another (II: “to answer”), represented by ἀπεκρίθη.Footnote 74 The latter introduces a dialogue between the speaker and God:

He [God] answered him by means of his strength [ἀπεκρίθη αὐτῷ ἐν ὁδῷ ἰσχύος αὐτοῦ], … “You are from the beginning, Lord …”


Greek traditions not only introduce the curious “answer,” but also another potential participant. Who is the one who receives the answer (the “him”)? Throughout this psalm, the speaker has referred to himself in the first person, and God in the second, as well as the third. But in verse 24, we have two third-person references. Who is the other participant? Perhaps the author of Hebrews was also intrigued by this question. Nevertheless, he seems to either overlook 101:24b–25, where the one answering laments his own temporal existence,Footnote 75 or reason that the answer does not begin until verse 26. In other words, the author, seeing that he is to expect some answer, may then look forward to the portion that can be read with God (or in this case more specifically the exalted Christ) in mind. If this is the strategy utilized by the author, then it is not the most straightforward interpretation in Hebrews 1, but even if this insight is not the best explanation, then this still does not minimize the result of the text’s application to Christ in Hebrews.

In Hebrews, the addressee of Greek Psalm 101, the Son, is called “Lord” (κύριε), a title attributed to Christ elsewhere in Hebrews also (2:3; 7:14; 12:14; 13:20).Footnote 76 Thus between this citation and the prior (Ps 44:7–8), the author has presented Jesus as both God and Lord. Although some quibble with the meaning of these titles being applied to Jesus – arguing they hold little more significance for him than they did for the previous royal recipient, for instance – the rest of this citation does little to undermine his authority. In it, the author continues to contrast the evanescence of the angels and the eternality of the Son by presenting first the Son’s role in creation (1:10), and then his stability from the time when the world is “rolled up” and “destroyed” until eternity (1:11–12). Like the angels, particularly in contrast to the Son, the earth is temporary (in its current “shakable” state; cf. 12:25–29),Footnote 77 but Jesus is always the same (cf. Heb 13:8).

Even so, the Son’s presence at or role in creation presented by the author, for some, does not allow for the necessary “distinction between his eternal and his temporal existence.”Footnote 78 As Caird argues, when Christ is exalted to his “cosmic role,” he is raised above the angels; he is praised for his role in creation simply because “he is the man in whom the divine Wisdom has been appointed to dwell, so as to make him the bearer of the whole purpose of creation.”Footnote 79 He was not present at creation, but is “figuratively deemed so” (emphasis original).Footnote 80 Now near the end of the catena, it seems even clearer that the author has presented the Son as a personal, embodied entity.Footnote 81 He is a Son to the Father (1:5–6), and he is a companion to humans (1:9). Further, he is in conversation. The Father speaks to him (1:5–13; 5:5), and he speaks back (2:12–13; 10:5–7). No single citation (or speech) or title proves this definitively, but the evidence taken as a whole suggests it.Footnote 82

2.1.5 Hebrews 1:13–14: The Submission to the Son Hebrews 1:13
Another text that early interpreters used to ascribe lordship to Jesus was Psalm 109:1: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘sit at my right hand’.” Some Christian writers explain this text as the Spirit (through David) describing the Father’s speech to the Son (e.g., Tertullian, Prax. 11; Irenaeus, Haer. 3.6.1).Footnote 83 Justin, exceptionally, quotes the entire psalm (twice: Dial. 32; 83). In Dialogue with Trypho 32, he uses an abbreviated prosopological introductory formula to communicate that David spoke “on behalf of the holy prophetic Spirit” (ὑπὸ τοῦ ἁγίου προφητικοῦ πνεύματος). In the Synoptic tradition, Jesus highlights the tension that arises from identifying the son of David as the second lord:

Also, continuing [his previous response] while teaching in the temple courts, Jesus said, “How do the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the Son of David? … David himself calls him ‘Lord,’ so how is this his son?”

(Mark 12:35–37; cf. Matt 22:41–46; Luke 20:41–44)

Although only implicitly, the author of Hebrews appears to make this same interpretive move; he, however, only quotes the content of the discussion between the “lords,” drawing upon the application of κύριος introduced in 1:10–12. Thus, while the author’s citation of Psalm 109:1 does not call Jesus “Lord,” it underlies the logic of his reading.

Hebrews 1:13 begins this citation with essentially the same introductory formula as the first in the series in 1:5. The author asks again:
But to whom among the angels did God ever say:
              “Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies a footstool under your feet”?Footnote 84

With the repetition of the citation formula, the author brackets the catena, giving the first and last texts prominence.Footnote 85 In Hebrews 1:13 the citation formula (as in 1:5) implies that no angel would be given this seat at the Father’s right hand (nor in the Synoptic Gospels would the “son of David”). This text is essential to understanding the author’s argument in Hebrews 2:6–8, which cites Greek Psalm 8:5–7 where the “Son of Man” is made lower than the angels. Even though this figure (whether Jesus or humanity, of which Jesus is a part) is made lower, the angels’ “rank” moves only because humanity’s status is in flux; at no point are the angels ever “exalted” (only temporarily higher). Hebrews 1:13 and other references to Psalm 109 present Jesus in his exaltation. For the author, his session is representative of his completed, efficacious work (10:11–12).Footnote 86 It is a sign of his once-for-all sacrifice that he no longer stands at the altar, but takes a seat next to his Father. It also, as the author makes clear in Hebrews 2, is a presentation of the Son awaiting the submission of all things. Even though “we” do not yet (οὔπω) “see all things being submitted, we do see Jesus … crowned with glory and honor” (2:8–9). The kingly imagery found in that verse (i.e., Jesus is “crowned”) is also found within the text of Psalm 109, particularly verse 1 that emphasizes his enthronement.Footnote 87 Hebrews 1:14
To round out his well-crafted catena, the author finishes with a question: “Are not [angels] all ministering spirits sent for service on behalf of those who are to inherit salvation?”Footnote 88 This question, while serving as both a summary and a transition, is dependent upon Hebrews 1:13. After asking if any angel has ever been addressed by the words of Greek Psalm 109:1, knowing the answer is “no,” the author reinforces his point by reminding his audience that it would be absurd to address the angels in this way because they are “ministering spirits” (λειτουργικὰ πνεύματα). This phrase is also a likely allusion to Greek Psalm 103:4, found in Hebrews 1:7:
ὁ ποιῶν τοὺς ἀγγέλους αὐτοῦ πνεύματα
             καὶ τοὺς λειτουργοὺς αὐτοῦ πῦρ φλέγον.

The parallelism in this verse suggests that the λειτουργοί are the angels. Thus, in Hebrews 1:14 the author merges the two terms used to refer to angels in Hebrews 1:7 in order to remind his readers of the content of this text: the angels are ministering spirits. But here in 1:14 the author goes beyond mere summary. He presents the angels not only as servants of Christ (as they are presented in 1:6), but also as servants of humanity. They are “sent” to serve those “who are to inherit salvation.”Footnote 89 Thus while angels occupy a higher position in the author’s hierarchy of heavenly beings (as 2:7 confirms), their principal purpose (as presented in 1:14) is to serve on behalf of humanity. Even when the Son occupies his lower position, he is always served by the angels.

2.1.6 Summary

In a sense, Hebrews 1:1–14 provides a preliminary statement of the author’s understanding of the divinity of the Son. In it the author introduces his text as a whole and presents his primary argument about the Son’s position over the angels. To give his argument a particular level of authority he utilizes prosopological exegesis, presenting several scripture citations being spoken by God to the Son and about the angels. This method allows the author to present the Son as superior not only to the angels, but to all those not addressed by this speech. By reinterpreting these texts previously applied to a human Davidic monarch, the author also excludes any person identified before now. They present Jesus as the Son of God (1:5), more specifically the Firstborn, whom the angels worship (1:6). Although they are transient servants, whom God orders, the Son is everlasting – particularly in comparison to the angels and the entire created realm (1:7–12; cf. 1:14). The Son sits at the Father’s right hand, waiting for the time when he will receive all things as his inheritance (1:13). The Father calls this Son “God” (1:8–9) and “Lord” (1:10) and recalls his role in the creation of the heavens and earth (1:10–12).Footnote 90 Hebrews elevates the Son above the angels and all of creation.

2.2 Hebrews 5:1–10 and 7:1–28: The Father Speaks to the High Priest

The seven quotations spoken by the Father in Hebrews 1 recall how the Son is unlike any other, besides perhaps his Father. This one set over his companions (1:9) is truly remarkable, even in comparison to the angels. But how does he fare within humanity? Hebrews 2, as we shall see, outlines how Jesus is like those who are his “siblings” (2:12) and how he acts on their behalf (2:17). Though he is exemplary among them, the Son is not ashamed to call them “brothers and sisters” – another point that the author makes by means of prosopological exegesis. This interplay between the differences and similarities for Jesus and the rest of humanity also helps to set up the divine discourse in Hebrews 5 and 7. Here the Father speaks again; however, this time Jesus’ role as son is secondary to another role that the Father confers. He is also a high priest. Jesus is like the human high priests, but as one who is without sin (4:15) and who lives forever (7:24), his priesthood is of another kind. Jesus is a high priest “in the order of Melchizedek” (κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισέδεκ), but what does this entail? The author explores this question through his use of various traditions in addition to the quotations spoken by the Father. The section to follow will discuss the Father’s quotations of Greek Psalms 2:7 and 109:4 throughout Hebrews 5 and 7. Unlike Hebrews 1 where the author quotes seven texts with little comment, in these chapters the author explains the relevance of the Father’s speech at length.

2.2.1 Hebrews 5:1–10: God Calls His High Priests

Before discussing the quotations themselves, let us first trace the argument leading up to them. Hebrews 5:1, though typically cited as the beginning of a new unit, is logically and syntactically dependent upon what precedes it (note the γάρ).Footnote 91 The comparison of Aaron and Christ as high priests is offered in support of the author’s prior claim: “Therefore, [because we have a great high priest who can empathize with our weaknesses (4:15)], let us approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we might receive mercy and find grace for help in our time of need.” The first clause describes that which is only true of one priest, Jesus: “we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God.” This distinct aspect of Jesus’ work grounds the hortatory subjunctive that follows: “let us hold firmly to our confession.” This exhortation is supported by the next sentence: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tested in every way, like we are, [yet is] without sin.” This explanation is typically interpreted as a contrast between the other high priests and Jesus, despite the author’s mention of “every high priest” being able to “deal gently” (5:2: μετριοπαθεῖν) with both those who are ignorant and those who are going astray. Rather than understanding συμπαθέω and μετριοπαθέω as near synonyms, Harold Attridge identifies a subtle difference between these two verbs: “The ordinary high priest controls his anger; Christ actively sympathizes.”Footnote 92 While Christ also controls his anger, the other priests are unable to experience “our weaknesses” to the extent that Christ does since he has been tested in every way. In other words, Jesus experiences every human weakness (and test), while each high priest only experiences his own individual weakness.

Every earthly high priest that God appoints is human because the human propensity to sin (per Hebrews) ensures that the priest is able to deal gently with those on whose behalf he ministers. In theory, then, all earthly high priests are obligated to offer sin offerings that correspond to their own sins (5:3: περὶ αὐτοῦ προσφέρειν περὶ ἁμαρτιῶν). But as the author makes clear in 4:15, this is not necessary in application for Jesus; he was tested in every way, but remained χωρὶς ἁμαρτίας. Thus in this section the focus is on Jesus’ solidarity with his priestly brothers, making attempts to untangle what is true of all high priests and what is true of only Aaronic high priests unnecessary; all are in view in Hebrews 5:1–4.Footnote 93 After telling readers what is true of high priests (5:1–3), Hebrews 5:4 tells what is not true of them. Whereas every high priest is taken from humanity (5:1), no priest takes the honor of the role upon himself (5:4: οὐχ ἑαυτῷ τις λαμβάνει τὴν τιμήν), but instead he is called by God, just like Aaron was (καθώσπερ καὶ Ἀαρών).Footnote 94 The author continues:
Thus Christ also did not glorify himself to become high priest, but the one who spoke to him [ἀλλʼ ὁ λαλήσας πρὸς αὐτον] [glorified him]:
“You are my son;
            today I have begotten you.”
So also in another place he says:
“You are a priest forever in the likeness of Melchizedek.”

Just as he does in Hebrews 1, the author grounds his claims about who the Son is by quoting the Father.

Another common feature between these two passages is the material quoted. The catena in Hebrews 1 begins with the same citation of Psalm 2:7 and ends with a citation of Greek Psalm 109:1. The pair of citations in Hebrews 5 also begins with Psalm 2:7, but instead ends with Psalm 109:4. Arguably, by repeating these particular texts, the author draws upon the prior quotations, while also developing the material.Footnote 95 The author’s desire to refer back to the first citation in Hebrews 1 is also confirmed by the introductory formula to Psalm 2:7: ἀλλʼ ὁ λαλήσας πρὸς αὐτόν. The first feature of note is the aorist tense-form verb, only used three times in active introductory formulas where the Father speaks in Hebrews (1:5; 5:5; 11:18); in the remaining majority, the author uses the present tense-form (1:6; 1:7; 3:7; 5:6; 6:14; 7:21; 8:8).Footnote 96 While, granted, the aorist can certainly be used to describe a non-past action, here a past time-reference fits best with both the context and the contrast between this speech and the next that follows.Footnote 97

Similarly, by referring to the participants involved with this level of reference, the author expects that the readers will use their additional knowledge to fill in the gaps.Footnote 98 He has told them who speaks these words to whom in Hebrews 1, and rather than repeating the participants here, which might cause this citation to be read independently of the other, he elides that information. As such, the author reminds his readers of the prior contrast, and presumably does not introduce another between the Son and the other high priests. In other words, the author might have introduced the quotation, “To whom among the priests did God ever say,” but instead, he employs another strategy. Whereas the Son is unlike the angels, particularly as one who is flesh and blood, he is like the humans and thereby like the other high priests. The author begins to draw out the special nature of this high priest, but only after he makes clear how Jesus thoroughly stands within a tradition of the human high priests. This difference between the two chapters further illustrates some of the flexibility found in prosopological readings. Hebrews 1 explicitly emphasizes the non-addressees of the Father’s speech, but here they are only implied. It still certainly seems to be the case that God would not say these things to the Levitical priests, or anyone else for that matter, but here the importance is placed on whom he does address, rather than whom he does not.

Nevertheless, in Hebrews 5 when the author refers back to the seven quotations that the Father spoke in Hebrews 1, the author’s claim that the Son does not bestow honor upon himself allows readers to infer that the Father addressing Jesus as “God” (1:8–9) and “Lord” (1:10–12) as well as “Son” (1:5–6a) also is of his own accord. The conferral of these titles, in addition to calling Jesus to be a high priest, is also an example of how the Father glorifies the Son (5:5).Footnote 99 The second citation of Psalm 109:4 introduces the new priesthood where Christ serves – in the likeness of Melchizedek. Following from a more passive portrayal of the Son, one who is “called” and “glorified” and “appointed,” the author transitions into a presentation of his obedience while on earth. Hebrews 5:7–10 in a sense justifies God’s selection of the Son, while also reminding readers just how his priesthood connects to their salvation (5:9). This section leads to a slight digression (5:11–14) and exhortation (6:1–12) that then reminds the readers of the “unchangeable” nature of God’s promise (6:13–20). The promise was confirmed by an oath, and so, as we shall see, is Christ’s priesthood.

2.2.2 Hebrews 7:1–28: The Son Like Melchizedek

While Hebrews’ focus on Christ as both priest and offering is relatively distinct within the New Testament, the mention of Melchizedek is without parallel. Since this figure elsewhere appears only twice within scripture, but received increased attention in Second Temple literature,Footnote 100 theories about the source material for Melchizedek’s depiction in Hebrews are innumerable. This discussion, therefore, will by no means be exhaustive, but instead will progress through the most salient details for how divine discourse presented by means of prosopological exegesis contributes to the argument of Hebrews 7. Nevertheless, some attention to the potential sources is in order. Genesis 14:18–20

Genesis 14 recalls Abraham’s encounter with warring kings. In this account, Abraham has an encounter with two kings in particular – the King of Sodom and the King of Salem (Gen 14:17–24). Just as Hebrews recounts, Melchizedek is both king and priest of the God Most High (Heb 7:1; Gen 14:18). He met Abraham “when returning from the defeat of the kings” (Heb 7:1; cf. Gen 14:1–16), blessed him (Heb 7:1; Gen 14:18–20), and received a tithe from him (Heb 7:2; Gen 14:20). What is not recounted in Hebrews is Melchizedek’s gift of bread and wine (Gen 14:18), which presumably Abraham accepts; conversely, the King of Sodom attempts to offer Abraham a gift or exchange of goods for his nephew Lot and some others within his party, which Abraham sternly rejects (Gen 14:21–24). Another detail that the author of Hebrews notes is that the name Melchizedek, a name translated from its Hebrew equivalent, can be interpreted as though this refers to a general, even axiomatic, “king of righteousness” (7:2: βασιλεὺς δικαιοσύνης), or to a more specific individual named Melchizedek. Whereas in this context (Gen 14) the construct relationship between מלך and צדק clearly refers to the name of this king (מלכי־צדק מלך שׁלם), elsewhere this is not necessarily so.Footnote 101 Hebrew Psalm 110:4 and Greek Psalm 109:4
The second place where מלך and צדק occur in a construct relationship is Hebrew Psalm 110:4. Here, while Greek traditions read Μελχισεδεκ, obviously interpreting the words as a name, the consonantal Hebrew text does not dictate this. Psalm 110 may depict the specific “King of Salem” also found in Genesis 14, or it may depict a “righteous king” who otherwise remains anonymous.Footnote 102 A related interpretive issue is the question of the role of this noun phrase (“Righteous King”) within the sentence. It can be read in construct with the phrase that precedes it (על־דברתי), resulting in the more standard interpretation, “You are a priest forever in the likeness of the Righteous King,” or this phrase can be read vocatively as though the king is being addressed by the words of the Psalm, represented by the JPS Tanakh translation, “You are a priest forever by my decree, Righteous King.”Footnote 103 As a result of the latter reading, not just the words of 110:4, but all of the second person language within the psalm is addressed to this figure, and similarly, this king is also the “lord” (אדני) to whom YHWH speaks in 110:1. While even within Greek traditions of this psalm (enumerated 109) the vocative reading remains grammatically possible, this interpretation of the LXX is unattested (to my knowledge), perhaps due to the translation of על־דברתי as κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισέδεκ, as well as the messianic/christological interpretations of 110:1. To grasp the significance of YHWH speaking to Melchizedek in this psalm, let us read the relevant portions of Psalm 110 again with this interpretation in place:
  1. 1 Sit at my right hand

    until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.

  2. 2 The Lord shall send out the staff of your might from Zion;

    you shall rule in the midst of your enemies.

  3. 3 Your people offer themselves willingly,

    on the day you lead your forces on the holy mountains.

From the womb of the morning, your dew will come to you.

  1. 4 The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind,

    “You are a priest forever according to my words, Melchizedek.”

To summarize, this text presents Melchizedek sitting at the right hand of the Father, presumably in judgment (110:1), ruling over his enemies (110:2), and serving as a priest forever in accordance with YHWH’s decree (110:4). The Qumran Library

Both canonical texts from the Greek tradition about Melchizedek explicitly appear in Hebrews 7. As mentioned above, Hebrews 7:1–2 draws upon Genesis 14:18–20, and of course, the author quotes Psalm 110:4 in 5:5, 7:17, and 7:21. Up until the evaluation of some of the pertinent texts from Qumran, the argument of Hebrews 7 was thought to be derived solely from the details of these two sources. Previously, those details that went beyond the explicit claims of the base texts were posited to be arguments from silence (more specifically, the Rabbinic principle, quod non in thora non in mundo).Footnote 104 The author’s presentation of Melchizedek in Hebrews 7:3 is the premier example: “Without father, mother, or genealogy, having neither a beginning of days nor an end of life, as one resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.” These striking characteristics noted by the author suggest that Melchizedek is not a purely human figure and may instead be divine, or perhaps even an angel. Support for this view is found in the Qumran library, though in these texts, just as in Psalm 110, the reference may be to the individual named Melchizedek or to another righteous king.Footnote 105 In Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, the Righteous King serves as a priest in the “assembly” or “council” of God (4Q401 11 I, 1–2). In 4Q Visions of Amramb ar, the King, if the reconstruction in consensus is accurate, is placed in parallel with Michael the archangel (4Q544 3 IV, 2–3). This grouping of judgment, leadership, and priesthood all appears within Psalm 110, quoted above. While we find no quotations or even strong allusions in the extant portions of these texts, the collocation of ideas suggests it has indeed influenced their authors.

A final text from Qumran that features this figure is of course 11QMelchizedek,Footnote 106 which presents “a heavenly figure bringing eschatological judgment.”Footnote 107 While Melchizedek is not explicitly called a priest, this text features a familiar exegetical method. In the extant portions, we see Melchizedek identified as the subject of several scriptural passages. To accomplish this, the author utilizes ambiguity in terminology that refers to God and heavenly beings. So whereas the MT interchangeably refers to YHWH with אל and אלוהים, the author of 11QMelchizedek appears to differentiate between the two forms. When referring to YHWH, he prefers to use אל, even where the MT reads יהוה or אלוהים, but he prefers to use אלוהים when referring to Melchizedek.Footnote 108 With this lexical preference in mind, interpreters can differentiate between the author’s references to God and to Melchizedek and see his method of identifying Melchizedek within his base texts more clearly. One likely place where this occurs is the reading of Psalm 82:1 in 11QMelchizedek II, 9–10:

it is time for the year of grace of Melchizedek, and of his armies—the nations of the holy ones of God—of the rule of judgment, as is written about him in the songs of David that say: “God [אלוהים] will stand in the assembly of God [אל] …”

[Ps 82:1]

Grammatically, the reference to the one spoken about by David is almost certainly Melchizedek, suggesting that this author envisions him as the Elohim in the counsel of El. This interpretation is thus also a parallel for those texts discussed above that signaled prosopological exegesis due to the presence of two lords (κύριοι) interacting (e.g., Ψ 109:1). Another reading later in the text is pertinent, though more conjectural:

[…] in the judgment[s of] God [אל], as is written about him: “Saying to Zion, your God [אלוהיך] reigns.” “Zion” is [the congregation of all the sons of justice, those] who establish the covenant, those who avoid walking [on the pa]th of the people. And “your God” is [… Melchizedek, who will fr]e[e them from the ha]nd of Belial …

(11QMelch II, 23–25)

In addition to the support of this reconstruction from Qumran scholars,Footnote 109 we likewise find support for Melchizedek as the one who frees the captives from Belial in line 13: “Righteous King will carry out the vengeance of Go[d’s] judgments, [and on that day he will fr]e[e them from the hand of] Belial and from the hand of all the sp[irits of his lot.]” The parallels at least in part confirm the reading above where the author identifies Melchizedek as אלוהים and the community as Zion. Thus, as noted in Chapter 1, within 11QMelchizedek we see something akin to the prosopological reading strategy utilized throughout Hebrews, as well as the elevation of the priest-king Melchizedek to one counted among the אלוהים. These texts offer a glimpse of the approbation of Melchizedek within Second Temple literature, a glimpse that makes his appearance in Hebrews somewhat less surprising, though the author of Hebrews draws upon this figure in a distinctly Christian way. Melchizedek in Hebrews

Returning to the text of Hebrews, we now must consider to what extent the traditions represented in these texts may have influenced the author of Hebrews. This raises a number of relevant questions, such as: Is this prosopological reading of Greek Psalm 109:4 a Christian response to the Jewish traditions that address this psalm to Melchizedek? Does the author of Hebrews count Melchizedek among the angels? What is the relationship between Melchizedek and Christ? Pertaining to the first question we have very little evidence, but the fact that Jesus associates this text with a reading about the “Son of David” rather than the Righteous King in the Synoptic Gospels suggests that viewing Melchizedek as a participant in this dialogue was less common by the first century (e.g., Mark 12:35–37; Matt 22:41–45; Luke 20:41–44).Footnote 110 The next two questions about Melchizedek in Hebrews are related. If Hebrews presents Melchizedek as an angel, then the author’s discussion of Jesus’ superiority to the angels in Hebrews 1 applies here also. But an angelic Melchizedek presents a number of problems for the author’s program. If Melchizedek is an angel, then he is a servant of humanity (1:14), those who are only temporarily “lower than the angels” (2:9). If this is the case, then how can Melchizedek’s priesthood be superior to the priesthood of the human high priests?

While this potential objection to the author’s argument might cause one to abandon the notion of an angelic priest-king, some features of the discourse in Hebrews 7 do point at the very least to a non-human Melchizedek. For example, as we have seen, his lack of parentage does point toward a heavenly figure, and though we do not know to what the author is referring, the testimony that Melchizedek “lives” affords him mythical status (7:8: μαρτυρούμενος ὅτι ζῇ). Jerome H. Neyrey has even suggested that the author describes Melchizedek with topoi characteristic of Greco-Roman deities in order to depict him as a “true god.” True deities, per Neyrey’s reading of Greco-Roman literature, are “ungenerated” (ἀγέννητος); “eternal in the past; imperishable in the future”; and “eternal” (ἀΐδιος) or “always existing” (ἀεί ὦν). In the same way, in Hebrews Melchizedek “remains forever”; is “without father or mother or genealogy”; and is “without beginning … or ending.”Footnote 111 Rather than limiting his inquiry to Melchizedek, Neyrey also extends this claim to Jesus:

Whatever the author says of Melchizedek must be understood as stated in service of Jesus. The assertions about complete eternity in Heb 7:3 are made apropos of Jesus in the rhetorically significant places of the document, its beginning [Heb 1:10–12] and end [Heb 13:8].Footnote 112

Unfortunately, Neyrey overstates his case for both figures. One easily identified issue is the fact that Jesus does have a genealogy (7:14) and a Father (albeit divine; 1:5).Footnote 113 If these particular characteristics were essential to divinity for the author of Hebrews (for either character), then they would presumably not contradict those that he presents elsewhere.Footnote 114 Rather than being without a genealogy, Christ’s descent from the line of Judah is “well-known” or “clear” (7:14: πρόδηλος). Further, since Melchizedek’s priesthood cannot be on the basis of genealogy for now obvious reasons – the author substantiates the new priesthood in a new way: “on the basis of the power of an indestructible life” (7:16: κατὰ δύναμιν ζωῆς ἀκαταλύτου). Thus, the mismatch between the two origin stories is essential for his claim.Footnote 115 If both were without genealogy, then one might argue this common factor was the basis for their priesthood. Instead, the new priest must be qualified on the basis of an “indestructible life” because (γάρ), the author says, it is testified: “You are a priest forever in the likeness of Melchizedek” (7:17). He seems to direct his readers to the adverbial phrase εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα (“forever”) in order to establish the “indestructibility” of Christ’s life; however, translating this phrase adjectivally, stating that Christ is a perpetual priest, may offer more clarity.

Before returning to our discussion of an angelic Melchizedek, let us explore this further. Jesus is a priest forever, and it is certainly the case that εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα cannot be applied to the other human high priests “because death prevented them from continuing” (7:23: διὰ τὸ θανάτῳ κωλύεσθαι παραμένειν). Whereas the author began with an extended discussion of how Jesus was like these human priests, he ends with this discussion of how they are unlike him:

For such a high priest [as Jesus] is fitting for us since he has been separated from sinners and has been exalted over the heavens, who has no need each day, like the [other] high priests, first to offer sacrifices on behalf of his own sins and then on behalf of the people’s. For he has done this once-for-all when offering himself. For the Law appoints human high priests, who have weakness, but the oath, which was after the Law, appoints forever the Son who has been perfected.

(Heb 7:23–28)

These Levitical priests are implicitly then the “non-addressees” of the author’s oath to the Son. Toward the end of Hebrews 7, the fact that Christ became a high priest on the basis of an oath is substantiated with new material from Psalm 109 that the author has not quoted to this point:

For indeed when those others became priests it was without an oath, but [Christ became a priest] with an oath by the one who said to him:

“The Lord swore and will not change his mind:

‘You are a priest forever.’”

(Heb 7:20–21)

Here the author explicitly claims that the oath is evidence of further superiority for the priesthood of Melchizedek, but implicitly, readers would likely recall his recent discussion of how God’s oaths are “unchanging” (6:17: ἀμετάθετος). Lest anyone think that this priesthood too will be replaced by something superior, God confirmed this priesthood with an oath. The priesthood and the promise now fulfilled or being fulfilled will endure for two reasons: (1) They are confirmed with an oath and (2) their guarantor, Jesus, “remains forever” (7:24).

While one of the explicit comparisons in this section is between Jesus and the earthly priests, it is possible that other priests are also implicitly in view: the heavenly priests. In several Second Temple sources, references are found to a heavenly cult, which is typically populated by angelic priests.Footnote 116 It is very plausible, therefore, that Hebrews envisions the angels serving in the heavenly tabernacle also.Footnote 117 David Moffitt has even suggested that they too are priests in the likeness of Melchizedek.Footnote 118 After all, the angels do possess the one quality required: a life that endures. But how does this cohere with the author’s presentation of Christ as one unlike the angels? Is he merely one heavenly priest among many? Of course not. Jesus is not simply a priest – he is a high priest – and according to the presentation in Hebrews, he is the only Melchizedekian high priest.Footnote 119

But the initial objection raised for an angelic Melchizedek likewise stands: can an angelic priesthood really be superior to a human priesthood if angels serve humanity (Heb 1:14) and if humanity is lower than the angels only temporarily (Heb 2:6–8)? The key to this objection is the chronology; when the levitical priests serve, they have not yet been fully perfected, and thus, they are indeed still lower than the angels. According to Hebrews 1:14, the angels serve on behalf of those are “going to inherit salvation” in the future (διὰ τοὺς μέλλοντας κληρονομεῖν σωτηρίαν), but once humanity is perfected, the heavenly and (former) earthly priests worship together (12:22–24).

We now come to the question of how Melchizedek relates to Jesus. In the history of interpretation, Hebrews’ Melchizedek has been identified as a type of Christ,Footnote 120 and even as Christ himself,Footnote 121 but these options do not fully take the author’s language into account. Within Hebrews 7, two statements describe the relationship between these two priests:

Hebrews 7:3

Without father, mother, or genealogy, having neither a beginning of days nor an end of life, as one resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.ἀπάτωρ ἀμήτωρ ἀγενεαλόγητος, μήτε ἀρχὴν ἡμερῶν μήτε ζωῆς τέλος ἔχων, ἀφωμοιωμένος δὲ τῷ υἱῷ τοῦ θεοῦ, μένει ἱερεὺς εἰς τὸ διηνεκές.

Hebrews 7:15

And this is even more clear if another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedekκαὶ περισσότερον ἔτι κατάδηλόν ἐστιν, εἰ κατὰ τὴν ὁμοιότητα Μελχισέδεκ ἀνίσταται ἱερεὺς ἕτερος…

Hebrews 7:15 is also thought to be the author’s restatement of Psalm 109:4, particularly since κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισεδεκ can be translated in much the same way.Footnote 122 English translations tend to translate τάξις as “order,” presumably due to the fact that the two “priesthoods” or “priestly orders” are being contrasted; however, an “order” implies continuity – a succession – but Jesus does not succeed Melchizedek.Footnote 123 Instead, it is likely that τάξις should be glossed “arrangement, nature, manner, condition, outward aspect.”Footnote 124 In other words, Jesus is a priest forever just like Melchizedek. But how then does Melchizedek “resemble” (ἀφωμοιωμένος) the Son of God (Heb 7:3)?

This lexical form (ἀφομοιόω) has a broad range of glosses, likely due to a diachronic shift in meaning. Prior to the first century, it was defined negatively: “to be unlike”; however, over time the word was used to describe that which was “made like” something else. By the first century, the negative definition of ἀφομοιόω does not appear to be in use; even within the LXX, we see one of its cognate nouns (ἀφόμοιος) used to denote a “copy” of a document (Sirach Prologue 29).Footnote 125 Likewise the verbal form could be used for comparisons or even paintings.Footnote 126 Therefore, perhaps much like τύπος, ὑποδεῖγμα, and a range of other terms, ἀφομοιόω is yet another word that the author uses to demonstrate connections between past and present or earthly and heavenly realities. This is well-summarized by Eric Mason’s claim that:

the author of Hebrews was thinking of the relationship of Jesus and Melchizedek in terms akin to his conception of the sanctuaries, but with one further component. The eternal, divine Son was the model, and the angelic Melchizedek was the copy who encountered Abraham and established a non-Levitical priestly precedent in ancient Israel. This in turn prepared the way for the incarnate Son—both the model for Melchizedek yet now also resembling him—to be comprehended as priest.Footnote 127

Indeed, Melchizedek sets a “precedent” for a priest whose genealogy is of no consequence. Nicholas Moore highlights an almost reciprocal dimension to the relationship between Christ and Melchizedek: “Psalm 110 is not so much reversed but extended backwards as well as forwards.”Footnote 128 He is high priest in the likeness of Melchizedek in that he has become a priest, not on the basis of genealogy, but on the basis of an indestructible life. He is a high priest who endures.

2.2.3 Summary

While Hebrews 1 focused primarily on the role of Christ as Son, Hebrews 5 and 7 focus on his role as high priest. This focus relies upon the author’s prosopological readings of various texts that identify the Son as the addressee or subject of words previously attested in scripture. Though the author turns to the Son’s role as high priest, his priestly work is not yet outlined in detail in Hebrews; instead, the author describes his qualifications to be a high priest. This is largely defined in terms of the Son’s relationships and the spheres to which he belongs. Just as in Hebrews 1, one important relational dimension is his role as the Son of God. The author refers back to the point when the Father said to Christ, “You are my Son.” Another dimension that carries over from the previous chapters is the Son’s role as a human and his fraternal relationship with his siblings. As we shall see in the next chapter, when the Son responds to the Father, he speaks to him about his brothers and sisters – those who are also God’s children (2:11–13). A further implication of the Son’s humanity is it qualifies him to be high priest. As the author says, “every high priest, being taken from humanity, is appointed by God to serve on behalf of humanity” (5:1). Jesus shares in solidarity with all of humanity, but here the author identifies a subset of that population with whom he shares further: the priests. Jesus is in many ways like the other humans who precede him, but not in all ways. Jesus is not a Levitical priest, but one like Melchizedek. This too is confirmed by the Father, when he “swore”: “You are priest forever in the likeness of Melchizedek” (Heb 5:7; 7:17).

2.3 Hebrews 8:1–13: The Father Speaks of a New Covenant

In between the Father’s quotation of Psalm 109:4 and Greek Jeremiah 38:31–34, the author offers a comprehensive summary statement beginning at Hebrews 8:1:

But the main point [κεφάλαιον] of what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, who sits at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary – the true tent – which the Lord has set up, not a human being.


“Such a high priest” is the one described in Hebrews 7:26–28 – one who is holy, blameless, set apart from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He is one who has been made perfect forever. But he is also one taken from humanity to serve on their behalf (5:1) and one who has been made like his brothers and sisters in every way (2:17). This is the Son who sits at the right hand of the Majesty – the Father (1:1; 8:1) – who as such is exalted above the angels (1:5–14). We come now to the last of the Father’s speeches. The Father desires and promises a new covenant, one with a superior mediator that is based on “better” promises (8:6). In the section that follows we will proceed through the text-form of the author’s quotation of Greek Jeremiah 38:31–34 analyzing the variations in form among its versions, discuss the content of the quotation and its contribution to the surrounding context (esp. Hebrews 8–10), and finally identify the participants in this quotation in light of the text-form and its new context.

2.3.1 Text-form of Quotation

Since a majority of the differences between the Hebrew and Greek traditions are relatively minor in these verses,Footnote 129 we will begin with the differences between the quoted text in Greek Jeremiah and Hebrews:

Greek Jeremiah 38:31–34Footnote 130Hebrews 8:8–12
31 Ἰδοὺ ἡμέραι ἔρχονται, φησὶν κύριος, καὶ διαθήσομαι τῷ οἴκῳ Ισραηλ καὶ τῷ οἴκῳ Ιουδα διαθήκην καινήν,
32 οὐ κατὰ τὴν διαθήκην, ἣν διεθέμην τοῖς πατράσιν αὐτῶν ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ἐπιλαβομένου μου τῆς χειρὸς αὐτῶν ἐξαγαγεῖν αὐτοὺς ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου, ὅτι αὐτοὶ οὐκ ἐνέμειναν ἐν τῇ διαθήκῃ μου, καὶ ἐγὼ ἠμέλησα αὐτῶν, φησὶν κύριος·
33 ὅτι αὕτη ἡ διαθήκη, ἣν διαθήσομαι τῷ οἴκῳ Ισραηλ μετὰ τὰς ἡμέρας ἐκείνας, φησὶν κύριος· Διδοὺς δώσω νόμους μου εἰς τὴν διάνοιαν αὐτῶν καὶ ἐπὶ καρδίας αὐτῶν γράψω αὐτούς, καὶ ἔσομαι αὐτοῖς εἰς
θεόν, καὶ αὐτοὶ ἔσονταί μοι εἰς λαόν,
34 καὶ οὐ μὴ διδάξωσιν ἕκαστος τὸν πολίτην αὐτοῦ καὶ ἕκαστος τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ λέγων· γνῶθι τὸν κύριον, ὅτι πάντες εἰδήσουσίν με ἀπὸ μικροῦ αὐτῶν καὶ ἕως μεγάλου αὐτῶν,
ὅτι ἵλεως ἔσομαι ταῖς ἀδικίαις αὐτῶν καὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν οὐ μὴ μνησθῶ ἔτι.
8 ἰδοὺ ἡμέραι ἔρχονται, λέγει κύριος, καὶ συντελέσω ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον Ἰσραὴλ καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον Ἰούδα διαθήκην καινήν,
9 οὐ κατὰ τὴν διαθήκην, ἣν ἐποίησα τοῖς πατράσιν αὐτῶν ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ἐπιλαβομένου μου τῆς χειρὸς αὐτῶν ἐξαγαγεῖν αὐτοὺς ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου, ὅτι αὐτοὶ οὐκ ἐνέμειναν ἐν τῇ διαθήκῃ μου, κἀγὼ ἠμέλησα αὐτῶν, λέγει κύριος·
10 ὅτι αὕτη ἡ διαθήκη, ἣν διαθήσομαι τῷ οἴκῳ Ἰσραὴλ μετὰ τὰς ἡμέρας ἐκείνας, λέγει κύριος·διδοὺς νόμους μου εἰς τὴν
διάνοιαν αὐτῶν καὶ ἐπὶ καρδίας αὐτῶν ἐπιγράψω αὐτούς, καὶ ἔσομαι αὐτοῖς εἰς θεόν, καὶ αὐτοὶ ἔσονταί μοι εἰς λαόν

11 καὶ οὐ μὴ διδάξωσιν ἕκαστος τὸν πολίτην αὐτοῦ καὶ ἕκαστος τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ λέγων· γνῶθι τὸν κύριον, ὅτι πάντες εἰδήσουσίν με ἀπὸ μικροῦ ἕως μεγάλου αὐτῶν,
12 ὅτι ἵλεως ἔσομαι ταῖς ἀδικίαις αὐτῶν, καὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν οὐ μὴ μνησθῶ ἔτι.
Represented by the underlined portions above, the textual variations from the LXX in Hebrews are:
  1. (1) “Says” (φησίν) reads “says” (λέγει) three times.

  2. (2) “I will ordain” (διαθήσομαι) reads “I will carry out or fulfill” (συντελέσω).

  3. (3) “With the house of Israel” (τῷ οἴκῳ Ισραηλ) and “with the house of Judah” (τῷ οἴκῳ Ιουδα) reads “with the house of Israel” (ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον Ἰσραήλ) and “with the house of Judah” (ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον Ἰούδα).

  4. (4) “I ordained” (διεθέμην) reads “I made” (ἐποίησα).

  5. (5) “And I” (καὶ ἐγώ) reads “and I” (κἀγώ).

  6. (6) “I will give” (δώσω) is not found in Hebrews.

  7. (7) “I will write” (γράψω) reads “I will write upon” (ἐπιγράψω).

  8. (8) “Among them” (αὐτῶν) is not found in Hebrews.

Due to the number of variations, those with little perceived significance to the interpretation of Jeremiah 38 in Hebrews (1, 3, 5, 6, 7, and 8) will not be discussed here.Footnote 131 This leaves us with the following readings found in Hebrews: συντελέσω for διαθήσομαι and ἐποίησα for διεθέμην.

Evidence for these variations within extant manuscripts is sparse,Footnote 132 which has led some to suggest that the author of Hebrews is their most likely source.Footnote 133 Each of these readings moves away from the term in Jeremiah 38:31–34 LXX – “to ordain or decree” (διατίθημι) – but in opposite directions. The first evinces a more specific term: συντελέω. The most relevant sets of glosses offered by BDAG for this verb are “bring to an end, complete, finish, close” or “carry out, fulfill, accomplish.”Footnote 134 This lexeme also relates to the twenty-four other forms from the root τέλος in Hebrews – many of which serve to highlight the author’s theme of “perfection.”Footnote 135 Teasing out the relationship among these terms we might say that the “perfecter of faith” (12:2) is “perfected through sufferings” (2:12) so that the new covenant, when “brought to perfection” (8:8), can “perfect the conscience of the worshippers” (9:9). The second variation in the quotation of Jeremiah 38 evinces a more general term: ποιέω. While it often can be translated simply as “do or make,” here the most relevant set of glosses may be “do, cause, bring about, accomplish, prepare.”Footnote 136 Thus, simply at a lexical level, with this text-form in place, the author has in view the start of the “old” and the finish of the “new.” We will continue our discussion of these variations in the next section bringing them into conversation with the content of the quotation as a whole.

2.3.2 The New (or Renewed) Covenant

“Behold the days are coming,” says the Lord,
     “And I will fulfill a new covenant
  with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,
not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors
  on the day when I took them by the hand …”
(Heb 8:8–9)

This translation of the quotation in Hebrews further illustrates the potential significance of the author’s text-form. This reading may also mitigate the concerns of some that the use of this quotation in Hebrews necessarily leads to a negative construal of Judaism. This concern is well-represented by Walter Brueggemann’s reading of Hebrews:

The use of this text in [Hebrews] provides a basis for a Christian preemption of the promise. This preemption, however, misreads and misinterprets the text. Thus we arrive at a profound tension between the OT text and the NT quotation, a tension reflective of a long history of Jewish-Christian competitive acrimony. The matter is not easily adjudicated, because the supersessionist case is given scriptural warrant in the book of Hebrews. My own inclination is to say that in our time and place the reading of Hebrews is a distorted reading …Footnote 137

Further, these concerns are not isolated to “Old Testament” scholars, such as Brueggemann, as even interpreters primarily concerned with the New Testament have levelled this critique against our text.Footnote 138 Among those concerned, the author’s conclusion to the quotation is often cited:

In saying “new,” he has declared the first “old,” and what is made obsolete and growing old is near its disappearance.


Here the author of Hebrews draws upon the relative quality of the word “new” (καινός), and while we might claim that the lexeme itself does not necessitate a comparison, it is certainly the case that the quotation, even in its original context, invites the comparison raised by the author. The prophecy in Jeremiah says this is a covenant that is “not like the one [God] made with their ancestors” (38:32). This suggests that this proclamation is a distinct moment in God’s relationship with his people, whether continuity or discontinuity is to be emphasized. The author understands this to be a break with the terms of the first, which is “near its disappearance” (8:13: ἐγγὺς ἀφανισμοῦ), but his quotation, even with the emendations discussed above, still describes a covenant with Israel and Judah (8:8) – a renewal of YHWH’s relationship even with those who “did not remain” (8:9, οὐκ ἐνέμειναν). The primary dissonance between these two covenants for the author of Hebrews is the mediator or guarantor – Jesus. The dissonance then is whether scripture can (or should?) be read christologically.Footnote 139

Given the length of this quotation, we may expect an extended discussion of its claims; after all, it is twice as long as the second longest quotation in Hebrews (Ψ 94:7–11). Nonetheless, the author comments directly on only one word in the immediate context: “new” (καινός). In the second quotation of Jeremiah 38 (10:16–17), the emphasis comes into explicit focus:
“I will put my laws in their hearts,
              and I will write them on their minds.”
Then, he adds,
“Their sins and lawless deeds
              I will remember no more.”Footnote 140

While the internal nature of the new covenant must certainly underlie the author’s argument about its efficacy (see esp. 9:6–14), as we shall see, forgiveness appears more often throughout the discussion. Even as early as the initial quotation, we find likely hints of the author’s accent on forgiveness. At least two variations between the LXX and the quotation of Jeremiah 38 noted above – the two replacements of διατίθημι with forms of συντελέω and ποίεω – could represent another local manuscript tradition or could be attributed to the author of Hebrews himself.Footnote 141 One explanation for this supposedly “stylistic” change is the author’s (unintended?) assimilation to Jeremiah 41:8 and 41:18.Footnote 142 But since the author typically deviates from the LXX only when such a move is in his interest, a further examination of the content of this chapter is in order.

In Jeremiah 41, the prophet receives a word from YHWH after Zedekiah “completes” (συντελέω) a covenant with the people to declare their “release” (ἄφεσις) from slavery (41:8). Having mentioned the covenant with Jeremiah’s ancestors (41:13), YHWH then speaks of the covenant “made” (ἐποίησαν) before him that was broken. Thus within this passage we have a reference to a “recent” covenant that is “completed” (or “fulfilled”), as well as a previous covenant “made” with their ancestors that was broken. This seems to solidify the lexical link between the two texts, but if this passage is intentionally being brought into view by our author, then why? The content of Zedekiah’s covenant, intended to free Israelite slaves, may initially appear to be of no interest to our discussion; however, the word for “release” used throughout this passage (ἄφεσις) is primarily used in the New Testament to denote a “release” or “forgiveness” from sins. Perhaps this passage about a covenant of “release” has led the author of Hebrews to expand their release from slavery to their release from the bondage of sin.Footnote 143 This reading of the Jubilee texts is not without precedent. For example, in one of the passages discussed above, 11QMelchizedek, we see an eschatological reading of these texts where Melchizedek offers more than a mere release of earthly debts:

“Every creditor shall release what he lent [to his neighbor. He shall not coerce his neighbor or his brother, for it has been proclaimed] a release for God” [Deut 15:2]. Its interpretation for the last days refers to the captives … from the inheritance of Melchizedek … And liberty will be proclaimed for them, to free them from [the debt of] all their iniquities.

(11QMelch II, 3, 5–6; emphasis added)

This more eschatological or spiritual reading of the Jubilee passages increases the likelihood that the author of Hebrews is utilizing Jeremiah 41 to emphasize the role of forgiveness in the efficacy of the new covenant. The author develops the theme of forgiveness throughout Hebrews 8–10, for example, when he says that:

[Christ’s] death became a redemption [ἀπολύτρωσιν] of the transgressions committed during the first covenant …


without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness [ἄφεσις]


Where there is forgiveness [ἄφεσις] of [sins and lawless deeds], sacrifice for sins is no more.


If sacrifice is the primary metaphor used by the author with regard to Christ’s atoning work, then these strong links between sacrifice and forgiveness are striking. To support this link, we could also include several quotations from Hebrews 9–10 that address the sin offering that Christ gave “once-for-all” on behalf of humanity (e.g., 9:28) or the “cleansing of the conscience” that removes guilt (e.g., 10:2) among other things, but these examples suffice to show that the remission of sins and their corresponding guilt is of the utmost importance in these chapters.

So then what does this focus on forgiveness communicate about the “new-ness” of the covenant? Discussions of Jeremiah 31 (38 LXX), even in its original context, are often interested in determining the level of “continuity” between this covenant and the one prior. Those advocating for a high level of continuity prefer to call Jeremiah’s covenant “re-newed,” a recommitment between YHWH and his people, whereas those wanting to emphasize a higher level of discontinuity prefer to call the covenant “new.” On the side of continuity, we see the same actors within the proclamation of the covenant in Jeremiah (YHWH; Israel and Judah) as well as some of the same terms. For example, despite claims to the contrary, the Law was not merely written on tablets of stone, but was also meant to be internalized within the old covenant. Even within the Shema, we read:

Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart and all of your soul and all of your might, and these words that I command to you today shall be on your hearts.

(Deut 6:4–6)

Similarly, God promises forgiveness within the old covenant (e.g., Exod 34:6–7), which also lends plausibility to claims of continuity. Nonetheless, Hebrews tells us that the sacrifices of the first covenant had to be repeated because the cleansing did not remove the people’s guilt (Heb 10:2). The people of the old covenant were commanded to keep the Law upon their hearts (Deut 6:4–6), but their hearts were not yet “sprinkled clean” (Heb 10:22) because the “blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer” is “for the cleansing of the physical body [τῆς σαρκὸς]” (9:13). The new covenant is written by God on their hearts and is put by God on their minds. It is wholly effective.

2.3.3 Covenant Participants

Of all the quotations that this study will address, this long citation of Jeremiah 38:31–34 – the longest in the New Testament – offers fewer clues than any other about the participants involved. The speaker and addressees are disputed. Our task then is to perform our own modern form of prosopological exegesis – we must identify the characters within the author of Hebrews’ discourse. Beginning first with the speaker, the Father, Son, and Spirit are all viable agents. Let us begin first with the Spirit, who is identified as the speaker of a truncated version of this quotation later in Hebrews 10:16–17. But, on the contrary, the most proximate general reference to the Spirit occurs in Hebrews 6:4, and the most proximate reference to his speech is in 4:7. This distance between references, along with the lack of other signals, makes it unlikely that he is the speaking agent here. Second, the Son, or “mediator” (μεσίτης), is the most proximate participant in view, but he is a relatively passive participant in this section.Footnote 144 Apart from sitting (8:1), and being appointed like the other high priests to offer gifts (8:3), he “receives” or “gains” (τέτυχεν) the ministry of which he is a mediator (8:6).

This level of agency certainly does not exclude him from speaking the words of Jeremiah 38:31–34, but it does raise enough doubt for us to move to evaluating the next alternative. Therefore, third, the speaker may be the Father. Returning to those actions just mentioned, we find that the Father is the active agent who enables the more passive participant, Jesus. Jesus serves in a sanctuary “set up” (ἔπηξεν) by YHWH (Heb 8:2), and when Jesus is “appointed” and “gains” his priestly ministry, who implicitly appoints and gives? The answer is certainly: the Father. If the Father is the one acting, then he is also likely the one who seeks a place for a second covenant (8:7: οὐκ ἂν δευτέρας ἐζητεῖτο τόπος). This makes him the most likely to speak to the people and proclaim the covenant’s future advent (8:8).Footnote 145 This identification is supported by the three occurrences of λέγει κύριος. Κύριος can certainly refer to the Son and Spirit in Hebrews, but within a quotation from scripture the Father is typically in view. This is perhaps also one place where God speaks “in the prophets” (1:1: ἐν τοῖς προφήταις).

Another set of queries relates to the addressees, namely: Is this speech addressed to someone? If so, to whom? The first question hinges in part on textual variant in this verse. Some manuscripts read αὐτούς (e.g., א* A D* I K P Ψ),Footnote 146 while others read αὐτοῖς (e.g., P46 א2 B D2 L).Footnote 147 If the pronoun is the object of the lexeme μέμφομαι, then either option is grammatically suitable. The noun is found with the dative more frequently in biblical literature, but is found more often with the accusative elsewhere.Footnote 148 Thus if the pronoun is read with the participle, the variant does not affect the meaning of the verb, nor its interpretation;Footnote 149 however, if the dative is the preferred reading, then this also allows the pronoun, which sits directly between the two verbs, to be taken as the indirect object of λέγει. William L. Lane, the primary proponent of this interpretation, contends that reading αὐτοῖς as a masculine pronoun with the participle μεμφόμενος is logically inconsistent since the author takes issue with the Old Covenant and not those who adhere to it.Footnote 150 This is supported, he says, by the line just prior (8:7):

For if the first was blameless, then a place for the second would not be sought.

Εἰ γὰρ ἡ πρώτη ἐκείνη ἦν ἄμεμπτος, οὐκ ἂν δευτέρας ἐζητεῖτο τόπος.

As the protasis of this conditional implies, the first covenant was not blameless, and so surely the participle should be read as a reference to the first covenant. But since the pronoun is plural, and according to Lane, the dative reading is preferable, αὐτοῖς cannot refer to the first covenant. Thus it must be read as the indirect object of λέγει.

This interpretation is again grammatically defensible, and it also adheres to the logical progression of the discourse in a way that faulting “the people” does not since the author’s critique is of the old order, and not of the people (yet). And still, Lane’s position, in addition to its minority status, has a number of minor problems that together render this reading less probable than the alternative. First and foremost, one of the more likely explanations for the variant reading in 8:8 (αὐτοῖς rather than αὐτούς) is the attempt to assimilate the common construction λέγει with a dative indirect object.Footnote 151 This paired with the preference for μέμφομαι with the dative in biblical literature makes αὐτούς the more difficult and thus more likely reading. Another factor is the lack of second person verbs and pronouns within the quotation. Readers of the quoted material have no signals that anyone particular is addressed by this text. For example, the ancestors are not “yours” as they were in Hebrews 3:9 or “ours” as they were in Hebrews 1:1, but instead “theirs” (8:9). The covenant is not with “you” or with “us,” but with the “house of Israel and Judah” (8:8). If the people are being addressed by this proclamation, then it is not in the same direct way that they are in Hebrews 3–4. Additionally, if the people are addressed by this proclamation, then it is exceptional among the Father’s speeches in the first two speech cycles of Hebrews.Footnote 152 In terms of the quoted material in Hebrews, the Father primarily speaks to his Son.

Though these factors weigh against Lane’s reading, the problem of the author rather abruptly introducing God’s dissatisfaction “with the people” remains. To address this concern, let us return again to the preceding context – Hebrews 8:1–6. This section both serves to introduce the quotation of Jeremiah 38:31–34 and to recapitulate several key themes in the author’s argument to this point, such as the Christ’s session at God’s right hand (cf. esp. 1:4) and the nature of his priesthood. Regarding the latter, let us remember that Hebrews 5–7 introduces Christ’s identity as a priest, but does not in fact introduce an extended discussion of his priestly work. He delays that until this very passage, which begins in precisely the same way as Hebrews 5:2 (Πᾶς γὰρ ἀρχιερεύς …). This phrase points backward and also introduces another layer of his comparison:

For every high priest is appointed in order to offer gifts and sacrifices. So then, it is also necessary to have something that may be offered. Therefore, if he [Christ] was on earth, he would not be a priest because of those who were offering gifts according to the Law … But now he has gained a more excellent ministry that is superior to the same extent that he is also mediator of a superior covenant, which has been legislated on better promises.

(8:2–4, 6–7)Footnote 153

Within this passage, the critique is primarily not against the covenant alone, but against several of its components, and as it happens, the component referred to most often within this section is the priests. After 7:28, the author does not explicitly critique the men themselves or their office, but by presenting Jesus as a superior priest and mediator, he does bring their work into question. This work is in service of the first covenant, which is precisely why the author brings it into view. This transition allows him to show that their “blame” relates to their lack of a “blameless” covenant, while also introducing the featured quotation. It seems therefore that it is upon “finding fault with the priests” that God speaks (“Behold the days are coming …”). This reading is grammatically plausible and attends to the logic of the author’s argument in this section. This reading in part remains in line with the majority of interpreters, but nonetheless seeks to correct the common identification of the antecedent of the third person pronoun (αὐτούς/αὐτοῖς). Rather than the people, it is far more likely that God is finding fault with the priests. Therefore, reading the pronoun with the participle, if the people, or even the priests, are not the addressees in mind for this speech by the Father, then its auditory recipients (in a manner of speaking) are unclear. This speech may be proclaimed to the whole inhabited realm (cf. 1:6), or perhaps only to the Son. No matter the extent of the scope of the recipients, as we shall see, Hebrews seems to present a single response; the Son says, “I have come to do your will” (10:7).

2.3.4 Summary

Hebrews 8–10 presents Christ as the high priest whose self-offering accomplishes an effective once-for-all cleansing of guilt and sin. Grounding most of his argument in scripture, the author utilizes its authority again by presenting God the Father speaking Greek Jeremiah 38:31–34. Upon finding fault with the priests, as well as the covenant they represent, God promises that a day will come with a new covenant. This promise, given at some point in the past, speaks of the time when this second covenant will be fulfilled, not just inaugurated. Hebrews tells us the first covenant was “made obsolete” (or “old”; πεπαλαίωκεν) when the second was called “new” (καινός). But it has not yet disappeared (8:13). For the author of Hebrews, the “first covenant” was the first one made with the people, but it was made as a sign of what was to come. The priests, their ministry, and their sanctuary were a “blueprint” or a “copy” (ὑπόδειγμα) of that which really existed prior. Thus to accuse the author of “replacing” these parts of the covenant with their ancestors is to forget that they are representative of the “better” things above. Even so, for those addressed by Hebrews, the relationship between these covenants is dialectical; the practices and elements involved in the first covenant are representative of their heavenly counterparts, but without these earthly implements, Christ’s offering in the heavenly sanctuary would be incomprehensible.

2.4 Conclusion

Through his use of prosopological exegesis, the author of Hebrews presents a characteristic Father who cares for his children. First, he speaks to his Firstborn in Hebrews 1 and plies him with honorable titles not fit for any angel or purely human king. The author upends typical interpretations of the passages by inserting new “faces.” By distancing the Son from the angels and any others who were previously thought to be addressed by these texts, the author demonstrates that he is extraordinary, in many ways beyond compare; however, the Son has companions (1:9). He is not like the angels, but he is like humanity. Hebrews 5 shows how the Son connects to the others within his profession – the priests. The Son’s qualifications for high priestly ministry are found within the combination of his sonship (Ps 2:7) and God’s oath (Ps 109:4) along with the rest of his qualities outlined of the catena of Hebrews 1. Hebrews 7 compares Jesus to the enigmatic priest-king Melchizedek who appears without warning in Genesis 14. This character has an enduring priesthood not substantiated by genealogy. Drawing upon the silence of scripture paired with other Jewish traditions, the author describes Jesus as one more like Melchizedek than any other in Jewish history – besides of course his Father. When the Father speaks his last major quotation in Hebrews 8:8–12, the author presents it without commentary. God will establish a new covenant. Each of these speeches develops the author’s characterization of the Father, while simultaneously setting up the speech of the Son to follow. He confirms his solidarity with his companions – those he calls siblings in Hebrews 2 – and then accepts God’s new covenant mission in Hebrews 10. Let us turn now to his response.


1 Ellingworth summarizes these verses: “God never made to any angel any declaration comparable to Ps. 2:7 and 2 Sa. 7:14” (Epistle to the Hebrews, 110).

2 Peeler, You Are My Son, 31–32.

3 Harold W. Attridge, Hebrews, Hermeneia (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1989), 36.

4 Most notably, John P. Meier, “Structure and Theology in Heb 1,1–14,” Bib, 66:2 (1985), 168–89; “Symmetry and Theology in the Old Testament Citations of Heb 1,5–14,” Bib, 66:4 (1985), 504–33; Victor Rhee, “The Role of Chiasm for Understanding Christology in Hebrews 1:1–14,” JBL, 131:2 (2012), 341–62.

5 William Lane suggests a synthetic parallel between these texts (Hebrews 1–8, WBC 47a [Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991], 22) noting, for example: “The angels in v. 4 are the counterpart to the prophets in v. 1” (p. 17). Another interesting parallel to Hebrews 1:1–14 is Wisdom of Solomon where the author first describes Wisdom (7:22–8:1), then after recalling his quest for her (8:2–9:18), he moves to a discussion of her work on Israel’s behalf (10:1–19:22).

6 Michael W. Martin and Jason A. Whitlark, “The Encomiastic Topics of Syncrisis as the Key to the Structure and Argument of Hebrews,” NTS, 57:3 (2011), 415–39.

7 For a more thorough discussion comparing funeral orations and Hebrews, see Thomas H. Olbricht, “Hebrews as Amplification,” in Stanley E. Porter and Thomas H. Olbricht (eds.), Rhetoric and the New Testament, JSNTSup (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993), 375–87.

8 Translation via Isocrates, vol. 3 of LCL 373 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), 23.

9 While it is possible that the author is presenting a polemic against angel veneration or an angelomorphic christology, I think it is most likely that the angels serve as a literary foil throughout Hebrews. For a more thorough discussion and evaluation of these views, see Loren T. Stuckenbruck, Angel Veneration and Christology: A Study in Early Judaism and in the Christology of the Apocalypse of John, WUNT II 70 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1995), 125–28.

10 Apart from the spelling of “synkrisis,” this chart is replicated verbatim from Martin and Whitlark (“Encomiastic Topics of Syncrisis,” 425). The verse references appear within another parallel chart in the article (“Encomiastic Topics of Syncrisis,” 423).

11 See also the follow-up piece: Michael W. Martin and Jason A. Whitlark, “Choosing What Is Advantageous: The Relationship between Epideictic and Deliberative Syncrisis in Hebrews,” NTS, 58:3 (2012), 379–400.

12 Martin and Whitlark, “Encomiastic Topics of Syncrisis,” 416.

13 This is one further point of divergence with Martin and Whitlark, who use four categories; I am, however, largely indebted to the insights of their study.

14 Hebrews 1:14 serves as a summary statement and forms an inclusio about the function of the heavenly mediators with 1:1–2a. The angels are ministering spirits; the Son is God’s final revelation. See Victor Rhee,“The Role of Chiasm for Understanding Christology in Hebrews 1:1–14,” JBL, 131:2 (2012), 342.

15 The decisions about text-form in this chart will be discussed below. This structure is adapted from J. Swetnam, “Hebrews 1,5–14: A New Look,” Melita Theologica, 51:1 (2000): 51–68.

16 The speaker is not explicitly identified in this verse, but God (ὁ θεός) is the most proximate agent (1:1).

17 This argument in its entirety can be found in Madison N. Pierce, “Hebrews 1 and the Son Begotten ‘Today,’” in Fred R. Sanders and Scott W. Swain (eds.), Retrieving Eternal Generation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017), 117–31.

18 James D. G. Dunn, Christology in the Making: A New Testament Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation, 2nd edition. (London: SCM Press, 1989), 35–36; L. D. Hurst, “The Christology of Hebrews 1 and 2,” in L. D. Hurst and N. T. Wright (eds.), The Glory of Christ in the New Testament: Studies in Christology (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987), 151–64; Rhee, “The Role of Chiasm,” 360–61; Kenneth L. Schenck, “Keeping His Appointment: Creation and Enthronement in Hebrews,” JSNT, 19:66 (1997), esp. 104.

19 F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 54; Joshua W. Jipp, “The Son’s Entrance into the Heavenly World: The Soteriological Necessity of the Scriptural Catena in Hebrews 1.5–14,” NTS, 56:4 (2010), 559; Lane, Hebrews 1–8, 25–26. Koester cites this as the consensus view but does not explicitly give support (Hebrews, AB 36 [New York, NY: Doubleday, 2001], 191).

20 Cockerill, Epistle to the Hebrews, 103–4; Ellingworth, Epistle to the Hebrews, 113–14; Meier, “Symmetry and Theology,” 505.

21 Nevertheless, the Son does become superior to the angels (1:4) and become a priest. The Son’s final possession of resurrection life does result in a change in status. For more, see Moffitt, Atonement and the Logic, esp. 48–50.

22 This is a more modern version of the translation offered here: Augustine, St. Augustine on the Psalms, ed. Scholastica Hebgin and Felicitas Corrigan, vol. 1: Psalms 1–29 of ACW 29 (New York: Paulist Press, 1960), 27.

23 Augustine, Confessions and Enchiridion, ed. Albert Cook Outler, Revised, LCC (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2006), 254.

24 See Philo, On Flight and Finding. On the Change of Names. On Dreams., trans. F. H. Colson and G. H. Whitaker, LCL 275 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1934), 40–41. This translation is primarily based upon: C. D. Yonge, ed., The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1993), 326.

25 In Greek traditions, this phrase occurs in Genesis 6:2, 4, as well as Psalms 28:1, 88:7 – sometimes referring to angels or other heavenly beings (Gen 6:2, 4; Ps 88:7) and sometimes to humans (Ps 28:1). In the MT, three additional references in Job also contain this phrase (1:6; 2:1; 38:7), but the Greek tradition translates בני as ἄγγελοι in each instance. These alterations in LXX Job may suggest a growing reticence among some to refer to the angels in this way. Psalm 88:7, conversely, reads “holy ones” in the MT, but υἱοί θεοῦ in the Greek.

26 Sven Fockner and others have challenged the identification of these sons with angels (“Reopening the Discussion: Another Contextual Look at the Sons of God,” JSOT, :4 [2008], 435–56); however, this potential misinterpretation does not account for the texts in Job and the Psalms or later “Watcher” traditions. If it is a misreading of the Genesis text, then it is an influential one.

27 One additional text to note is 4Q246 that refers to the “Son of God” and the “Son of the Most High.” While the text is traditionally interpreted to be messianic, it is fragmentary and could, with more material, reveal a possible exception. For more, see John J. Collins, Scepter and the Star (New York: Doubleday, 1996).

28 This additional messianic king text is likely in view since it not only fits the author’s argument but is also the only context in which πρωτότοκος is used of an individual firstborn of God in the LXX. For more on this reading, see Peeler, You Are My Son, 52–55. See also George B. Caird, “Son by Appointment,” in William C. Weinrich (ed.), The New Testament Age: Essays in Honor of Bo Reicke, vol. 1 (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1984), 75; Ardel B. Caneday, “The Eschatological World Already Subjected to the Son: The Οἰκουμένη of Hebrews 1.6 and the Son’s Enthronement,” in Richard Bauckham et al. (eds.), A Cloud of Witnesses: The Theology of Hebrews in Its Ancient Contexts, LNTS 387 (London: T&T Clark, 2008), 33.

29 One text that the author cannot reinterpret easily is 1 Chronicles 28:6: “He said to me, ‘Solomon, your son, will build my house and my courts, for I chose him as my son, and I will be his father.’” The explicit addressee makes recontextualization more difficult. Nevertheless, this text does not diminish the author’s argument, as he does not say, “To whom among the humans …?”

30 Even setting aside the question of Hebrews’ use of a testimonia, which most now reject, 4QFlorilegium demonstrates that a number of texts similar to those Hebrews uses (e.g., Ps 89:23; 2 Sam 7:11–14; Isa 8:11) were being read with the messiah in view.

31 This seems even more likely with the introduction of Psalm 89:26–29, which provides an allusion to (or citation of) every necessary text (except 1 Chr 28:6; see Footnote n. 29).

32 Attridge, Hebrews, 34; Ellingworth, Epistle to the Hebrews, 72; Koester, Hebrews, 104–5; Lane, Hebrews 1–8, 25–26; Hans-Friedrich Weiß, Der Brief an die Hebräer, KEK 13 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1991), 143. Kenneth Schenck allows that Hebrews presents Christ as pre-existent “in some sense” (“Keeping His Appointment,” 92).

33 James D. G. Dunn, Christology in the Making: A New Testament Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation, 2nd edition (London: SCM Press, 1989), 55.

34 For a more treatment of the relationship between Hebrews and Philo, see Ronald Williamson, Philo and the Epistle to the Hebrews (Leiden: Brill, 1970).

35 Dunn, Christology, esp. 219; Schenck, “Keeping His Appointment,” 56.

36 Dunn, rightly, points out that Philo also called the Logos the “firstborn of God” (though πρωτόγονος: Conf. 146; Somn. 1.215; see Christology, 15), but he minimizes the personal dimension in Philo and Hebrews by claiming that the authors rarely call God “Father” (eliminating the interrelationship). Not only does Dunn not list Psalm 2:7 as a text where Hebrews does not “avoid” the term Father (Christology, 54), but he also fails to realize that the two texts in Hebrews 1:5 form a chiasm (Son-Father-Father-Son) that gives equal weight to both halves of the relationship. For more on the filial metaphor in Hebrews generally, as well as the issue of God’s “muted” paternity, see the useful study by Peeler (You Are My Son, esp. 25–26, 51–52).

37 The addressees of these verses are rarely discussed. A few argue that verse 6 is directed to the angels (Koester, Hebrews, 193; Lane, Hebrews 1–8, 23; Kenneth L. Schenck, Cosmology and Eschatology in Hebrews: The Settings of the Sacrifice, SNTSMS 143 [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010], 121). Most argue that verse 7 is “about” the angels, rather than “to” them (citing πρός + accusative; see e.g., Attridge, Hebrews, 57, Footnote n. 80; Cockerill, Epistle to the Hebrews, 108; Ellingworth, Epistle to the Hebrews, 120; Peeler, You Are My Son, 54). The angels are certainly intended to hear the performative utterance, but I wonder if the lack of explicit address is intentional.

38 The second is vv. 7–12; the third, vv. 13–14, though in verse 14 the author makes the statement.

39 See especially Cockerill, Epistle to the Hebrews, 104–8; Ellingworth, Epistle to the Hebrews, 116–20.

40 BDAG, 699–700.

41 These texts were first alluded to in Albert Vanhoye, “L’οἰκουμένη dans l’Épître aux Hébreux,” Bib, 45:2 (1964), 248–53. But my discussion is primarily indebted to Moffitt, Atonement and the Logic, 70–81.

42 William L. Lane, Hebrews 9–13, WBC 47b (Dallas, TX: Word, 1991), 481.

43 This line is very similar to Greek Psalm 76:19, which is another useful example.

44 Those arguing that Greek Psalm 96 is the source of this text are: Attridge, Hebrews, 57; Stephen Motyer, “The Psalm Quotations of Hebrews 1: A Hermeneutic-Free Zone?,” TynBul, 50:1 (1999), 18–19.

45 For a discussion of the texts from Qumran as a “library,” see Sidnie White Crawford and Cecilia Wassen, eds., The Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran and the Concept of a Library, STDJ 116 (Leiden: Brill, 2015).

46 This text is also attested in Greek in Odes 2:43. While this position is commonly held, the best case is presented in: Gareth Lee Cockerill, “Hebrews 1:6: Source and Significance,” BBR, 9 (1999), 51–64.

47 For other parallels between Hebrews 1:6 and Psalm 96, see Allen, Deuteronomy and Exhortation, 44–46.

48 Another argument, put forth by P. C. B. Andriessen, suggests the introductory formula to this verse is an allusion to Deut 6:10 where YHWH brings the people into the Promised Land (ὅταν εἰσαγάγῃ σε κύριος ὁ θεός σου εἰς τὴν γῆν, cf. 11:29). While I disagree with Andriessen’s insistence that the Deuteronomy allusion excludes an allusion to Psalm 89, the allusion to Deuteronomy is difficult to deny. The “Land” associated with “rest” in Hebrews’ theology would also fit better with a reference to the heavenly realm. See “La Teneur judéo-chrétienne de He 1:6 et 2:14b–3:2,” NovT, 18:4 (1976), 293–313; as well as its precursor “De betekenis van Hebr. 1.6,” StC, 35:1 (1960), 2–13.

49 Others have argued that this refers to the parousia (arguing that πάλιν modifies εἰσαγάγῃ). The strongest case is presented in: Lukas Stolz, “Das Einführen des Erstgeborenen in die ‘οἰκουμένη’ (Hebr 1,6a),” Bib, 95:3 (2014), 405–23.

50 For a more “reserved” account of what “προσκυνέω” entails in this text, see Kenneth L. Schenck, “The Worship of Jesus among Early Christians: The Evidence of Hebrews,” in B. J. Oropeza, C. K. Robertson, and Douglas C. Mohrmann (eds.), Jesus and Paul: Global Perspectives in Honor of James D. G. Dunn for His 70th Birthday, LNTS 414 (London: T&T Clark, 2009), 114–126.

51 For more on the worship of Jesus in this text, see David M. Allen, “Who, What, and Why? The Worship of the Firstborn in Hebrews 1.6,” in Dieter Roth and Chris Keith (eds.) Mark, Manuscripts, and Monotheism: Essays in Honor of Larry W. Hurtado, LNTS 528 (London: T&T Clark, 2015), 159–75.

52 Epistula Apostolorum attests to this phenomenon as well: “And after he had said this and had ended the discourse with us, he said again to us, ‘Look. After three days and three hours he who sent me will come that I may go with him.’ And as he spoke there was thunder and lightning and an earthquake, and the heavens divided, and a bright cloud came and took him away. And we heard the voice of many angels as they rejoiced and praised and said, ‘Assemble us, O priest, in the light of glory.’” For this translation and notes on the text, see J. K. Elliott, ed., The Apocryphal New Testament: A Collection of Apocryphal Christian Literature in an English Translation, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993).

53 For more on the Song of Moses and its use in early Christianity, see Allen, Deuteronomy and Exhortation, chap. 2.

54 Moses also reports the speech of the “enemies” in 32:27, but appears to resume speaking afterward.

55 For those who hold this to be the primary contrast, see Ellingworth, Epistle to the Hebrews, 120–21; Martin and Whitlark, “Encomiastic Topics of Syncrisis,” 428.

56 The LXX reads πῦρ φλέγον, rather than πυρὸς φλόγα. This verse is an instance where the author of Hebrews’ reading would not be possible with the MT (contra Ellingworth, Epistle to the Hebrews, 120).

57 So Jipp, “The Son’s Entrance,” 564; Lane, Hebrews 1–8, 28; Kenneth L. Schenck, “A Celebration of the Enthroned Son: The Catena of Hebrews 1,” JBL, 120:3 (2001), 473–74; James W. Thompson, “Structure and Purpose of the Catena in Heb 1:5–13,” CBQ, 38:3 (1976), 357.

58 Even so, this is the majority view, held by Ellingworth, Epistle to the Hebrews, 120; Jipp, “The Son’s Entrance,” 562–63; Lane, Hebrews 1–8, 29; Peeler, You Are My Son, 55. The question is left open by Koester, Hebrews, 194. For an argument for the Son’s agency, see Meier, “Symmetry and Theology,” 511–13.

59 For a discussion of this contrast, see Moffitt, Atonement and the Logic, 49–52.

60 See Cockerill, Epistle to the Hebrews, 108; Meier, “Symmetry and Theology”; possibly also Lane, Hebrews 1–8, 29. The evidence against this reading is the wide semantic range that the author evidences for ποιέω. For a summary of its use in Hebrews, see Eric F. Mason, “Hebrews and Second Temple Jewish Traditions on the Origins of Angels,” in Gabriella Gelardini and Harold W. Attridge (eds.), Hebrews in Contexts, AGJU 91 (Leiden: Brill, 2016), 86.

61 In support of this allusion see, Jacques van Ruiten, “Angels and Demons in the Book of Jubilees,” in Friedrich V. Reiterer, Tobias Nicklas, and Karin Schöpflin (eds.), Angels: The Concept of Celestial Beings – Origins, Development and Reception, Deuterocanonical and Cognate Literature Yearbook 2007 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2007), 587–89; Raija Sollamo, “The Creation of Angels and Natural Phenomena Intertwined in the Book of Jubilees (4QJuba): Angels and Natural Phenomena as Characteristics of the Creation Stories and Hymns in Late Second Temple Judaism,” in Charlotte Hempel and Judith Lieu (eds.) Biblical Traditions in Transmission: Essays in Honour of Michael A. Knibb, JSJSup 11 (Leiden: Brill, 2006), 274–76.

62 Michael E. Stone and Matthias Henze, 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch: Translations, Introductions, and Notes (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2013), 53–54.

63 For more on traditions about the origins of angels, and these texts in particular, see Mason, “Origins of Angels”; as well as his “2 Baruch, 4 Ezra, and the Epistle to the Hebrews: Three Approaches to the Interpretation of Psalm 104:4,” in Gabriele Boccaccini and Jason Zurawski (eds.) Interpreting 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch, Library of Second Temple Studies 87 (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), 61–71.

64 Most manuscripts differ only slightly from the LXX. In the second line, the LXX reads ῥάβδος εὐθύτητος ἡ ῥάβδος τῆς βασιλείας σου, rather than καὶ ἡ ῥάβδος τῆς εὐθύτητος ῥάβδος τῆς βασιλείας σου, as represented by Hebrews. The most substantive textual issue pertains to the second σου in verse 8. P46, א, and B read αὐτοῦ. This reading is certainly the more difficult and is attested by some substantial manuscripts, but the resulting reading, “Your (the Son’s) throne is God (the Father) and the (Son’s) sceptre of uprightness is a sceptre of the (Father’s) kingdom” (via Ellingworth, Epistle to the Hebrews, 123), is very confusing.

65 See Attridge, Hebrews, 58; Herbert W. Bateman IV, “Psalm 45:6–7 and Its Christological Contributions to Hebrews,” TJ, 22 (2001), 16; Murray J. Harris, “The Translation of ‘Elohim’ in Psalm 45:7–8,” TynBul, 35 (1984), 66.

66 While most agree that ὁ θεός is vocative in Greek traditions, as well as in Hebrews, some maintain that it is nominative, rendering the text: “Your throne is God [or is of God] forever.” For a summary of this and other positions, see Harris, “The Translation of ‘Elohim’ in Psalm 45.” Attridge writes, “[i]f there is any doubt that our homilist wants to have Ps. 45:7–8 construed as an address to the Son as θεός, the next citation, from Ps. 102:27–29 dispels that doubt” (“The Psalms in Hebrews,” in Steve Moyise and Maarten J. J. Menken (eds.),The Psalms in the New Testament [London: T&T Clark International, 2004], 202).

67 For this argument in another form, see James D. G. Dunn, Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?: The New Testament Evidence (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2010), 138; Hurst, “The Christology of Hebrews 1 and 2,” 159–60; Schenck, “A Celebration of the Enthroned Son,” 474–75.

68 Bates argues that this is the Spirit speaking to the Son about the Father (Bates, The Birth of the Trinity, 163–65). While this reading is possible, as attested in Irenaeus (Haer. 3.6.1) and Justin (Dial. 56.14–15), it seems unlikely. The Father, on occasion, clearly speaks of himself in the third person (see Heb 1:6).

69 So Ellingworth, Epistle to the Hebrews, 124, citing Albert Vanhoye, Situation du Christ: Hébreux 1–2 (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1969), 193–94.

70 Attridge, Hebrews, 60; Bateman, “Psalm 45,” 16; David A. deSilva, Perseverance in Gratitude: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 99; Lane, Hebrews 1–8, 30; Meier, “Symmetry and Theology,” 516.

71 This point is emphasized by Moffitt (Atonement and the Logic, 51–52).

72 Cockerill, Epistle to the Hebrews, 111; Matthew C. Easter, Faith and the Faithfulness of Jesus in Hebrews, SNTSMS 160 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 67; Koester, “The Epistle to the Hebrews in Recent Study,” 195.

73 Several differences are present between Hebrews’ quoted text and the LXX. The most substantial found in Hebrews are: (line 1) σύ is farther forward; (line 5) ἀλλάξεις reads ἑλίξεις; and (line 6) ὡς ἱμάτιον is present (a second time from line 4). While many Hebrews scholars have tended to claim that the author made these changes, each of the readings is found in other traditions. (Most notably, (3) is found in 11QPsa.) For a summary of this evidence, see Docherty, Old Testament in Hebrews, 136.

74 No variant readings are attested in Alfred Rahlfs, ed., Psalmi cum Odis, Vetus Testamentum Graecum 10 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1979).

75 The difficult portion is: “Report to me the paucity of my days. Do not take me at the midpoint of my days; forever are your years.” Bruce (essentially following Bacon) argues that the “days” are the time when Jerusalem will be restored (cf. verses 13–15; Bruce, Epistle to the Hebrews, 62; Benjamin W. Bacon, “Heb. 1,10–12 and the Septuagint Rendering of Ps. 102,23,” ZNW, 3 [1902], 283). This view is not without its difficulties, as noted by C. F. D. Moule, The Birth of the New Testament, 2nd ed. (London: Black, 1966), 79; Schenck, “Keeping His Appointment,” 104. Bates postulates that the speaker is anonymous or the Spirit, but the latter option retains the difficulty of the verses above (The Birth of the Trinity, 170–71).

76 In Hebrews “Lord” primarily refers to the Father and is found in other scripture citations (7:21; 8:8, 9, 10, 11; 10:16, 30; 12:5, 6; 13:6; cf. 8:2). As Docherty points out, the two lords presented by this verse (the speaker and the addressee) set up the quotation to Greek Psalm 109:1 where “the Lord said to my Lord …” despite the author’s omission of this portion of text. See Docherty, Old Testament in Hebrews, 166–67.

77 James W. Thompson argues that the earth and heavens are representative of the created realm that the angels inhabit. See “Structure and Purpose of the Catena in Heb 1,” 359. In the remainder of that article, Thompson argues that the author’s primary motive for the catena is to present “Christ [as] the one who abides” (p. 363).

78 Caird, “Son by Appointment,” 76.

79 Caird, “Son by Appointment,” 76.

80 Schenck, “Keeping His Appointment,” 106. Schenck to an extent is summarizing Caird.

81 For a more thorough discussion of Jesus as “embodied” both on earth and in heaven, see Moffitt, Atonement and the Logic.

82 For those who argue against the Son’s active or actual role in creation, this citation is selected for its explanation of the Son’s permanence, as discussed above. If this is the author’s primary point, and the references to creation and the address of “Lord” are incidental, then why did he not begin the quotation at the next verse (αὐτοὶ ἀπολοῦνται …)? This quotation is much longer than the others, and his use of the previous introductory formula and citation to clarify participants makes this verse unnecessary, per their argument.

83 For more on the use of Psalm 109 in early Christian traditions, see Marie-Josèphe Rondeau, “Le ‘Commentaire des Psaumes’ de Diodore de Tarse et l’exégèse antique du Psaume 109/110,” RHR, 176:1 (1969), 5–33.

84 This introductory formula is introduced with the perfect verb εἴρηκεν, highlighting this speech and alluding to an antecedent event or assumption, possibly the citation in 1:5. See Steven E. Runge, “The Discourse Function of the Greek Perfect Indicative in Romans” (presented at the Evangelical Theological Society, San Diego, CA, 2014). For a broader introduction to the current debates on Greek tense, see also Madison N. Pierce and Benjamin E. Reynolds, “The Perfect Tense-Form and the Son of Man in John 3.13: Developments in Greek Grammar as a Viable Solution to the Timing of the Ascent and Descent,” NTS, 60:1 (2014), 149–55.

85 Cockerill, Epistle to the Hebrews, 114; Lane, Hebrews 1–8, 32.

86 Contra Mark Saucy, “Exaltation Christology in Hebrews: What Kind of Reign?,” TJ, 14:1 (1993), 41–62. He sees this image as a “passive” symbol of the Son waiting for the subjection of his enemies.

87 For more on the imagery behind this verse, see David R. Anderson, The King-Priest of Psalm 110 in Hebrews, Studies in Biblical Literature 21 (New York: Peter Lang, 2001).

88 Unlike the questions in verses 5 and 13, this question grammatically expects a “yes” (Friedrich Blass and Albert Debrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, trans. Robert W. Funk [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961], §427).

89 Ellingworth, Epistle to the Hebrews, 132–33.

90 The Father is not saying that Jesus is his God and Lord, but instead is conferring titles to be used by the people. One near parallel in modern language usage is sometimes one parent will refer to the other as “Dad” or “Mom” when speaking to their children, but this of course does not imply that s/he is the other parent’s mom or dad.

91 “Γάρ introduces explanatory material that strengthens or supports what precedes. This may consist of a single clause, or it may be a longer digression” (Steven E. Runge, Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2010], 39). The connection is recognized by Lane, Hebrews 1–8, 116.

92 Attridge, Hebrews, 144.

93 The author uses a similar strategy in Hebrews 9:22–23.

94 Though the author may be referring to a more general tradition, the most likely point of reference is Numbers 18. It is here that God speaks directly to Aaron (and not to Moses, e.g.) and outlines his priestly duties, as well as his sons’.

95 Lane, Hebrews 1–8, 118.

96 He also on a few occasions uses the perfect tense-form (1:13; 12:26; 13:5; cf. 8:5).

97 Additionally, the other two aorist forms might be explained by other aspects of the context. Hebrews 11:18 clearly refers to a prior, historical event for the author. Hebrews 1:5 with the adverb πότε could point to a gnomic aorist, referring not to the time at which the Son was addressed, but the enduring time of the angels not being addressed.

98 Attridge, Hebrews, 145. For a more thorough discussion of participant reference theory in New Testament linguistic analysis, see Stephen H. Levinsohn, Discourse Features of New Testament Greek: A Coursebook on the Information Structure of New Testament Greek (Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2000), 135–49; Runge, Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament, 257–61.

99 As the only occurrence of δοξάζω in Hebrews, this verse presents a distinct facet of the Father–Son relationship, though one that is comparable to the God-priest relationship. (Note the use of καθώσπερ/οὕτως.)

100 For example, 2 Enoch 71–72; Philo, Leg. 3.79–83, 99. Targumic sources include Targum Neofiti, the Fragment Targum, and Targum Pseudo-Jonathan.

101 Gard Granerød posits that this text has been influenced by the others discussed in this section. For more, see Abraham and Melchizedek: Scribal Activity of Second Temple Times in Genesis 14 and Psalm 110, BZAW 406 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2010).

102 Hereafter when allowing for either interpretive option, “Righteous King” (note the capitalization) will be used.

103 Jewish Publication Society, ed., JPS Tanakh: The Jewish Bible, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1999). Granerød among others recommend that this phrase be translated “because of me” or “for my sake.” For an extended discussion of the wide range of grammatical options, see Abraham and Melchizedek, 196–205.

104 Fred L. Horton, Jr. advocates for this position even after an evaluation of the Qumran library (The Melchizedek Tradition: A Critical Examination of the Sources to the Fifth Century AD and in the Epistle to the Hebrews [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976], 157). Joseph A. Fitzmyer likewise contends that Melchizedek’s lack of genealogy is based on the silence of Genesis 14 (“‘Now This Melchizedek’ (Heb 7:1),” CBQ, 25:3 [1963], 316–17; see also “Further Light on Melchizedek from Qumran Cave 11,” JBL, 86:1 [1967], 25–41).

105 Here מלכי צדק appears as two words – with no maqqeph (־); however, in the discussion of Genesis 14 in 1QapGen ar XII, the proper name appears as one word (מלכיצדק). For an excellent discussion and evaluation of these texts and more Second Temple literature pertinent to Hebrews, see Eric F. Mason, “You Are a Priest Forever”: Second Temple Jewish Messianism and the Priestly Christology of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Leiden: Brill, 2008); Eric F. Mason, “Hebrews 7:3 and the Relationship Between Melchizedek and Jesus,” BR, 50 (2005), 41–62.

106 Since this text is typically read as though מלכי צדק is a proper name, I will opt in this discussion to refer to this figure as Melchizedek, despite the ambiguity within the MT itself.

107 Mason, “You Are a Priest Forever, 200.

108 For Mason’s useful discussion of each use of these terms, see Mason, “You Are a Priest Forever, 177–83.

109 Florentino García Martínez, Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, and A. S. van der Woude, eds., Manuscripts from Qumran Cave 11 (11Q2–18, 11Q20–31), DJD 23 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1998), 229–30; Mason, “You Are a Priest Forever, 180–82.

110 It is possible that reading this as an address to the “Righteous King,” and not the individual Melchizedek, is compatible with the “Son of David” tradition.

111 Jerome H. Neyrey, “‘Without Beginning of Days or End of Life’ (Hebrews 7:3): Topos for a True Deity,” CBQ, 53:3 (1991), 454. The characteristics of Melchizedek are Neyrey’s translations also.

112 Neyrey, “Topos for a True Deity,” 455.

113 Moore, Repetition in Hebrews, 162–63.

114 Despite her focus on the role of familial language in Hebrews, Peeler commends Neyrey, concluding: “By highlighting the importance of genealogy in the Melchizedek discussions, I reinforce this argument. The author utilizes the story of Melchizedek to point to the divine nature of Jesus by using it to highlight Jesus’ status as God’s Son” (You Are My Son, 187).

115 Moffitt makes a similar claim (Atonement and the Logic, 202).

116 By my estimate, the best summary of this material is found in Benjamin J. Ribbens, Levitical Sacrifice and Heavenly Cult in Hebrews, BNZW 222 (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2016), chs. 2–Footnote 3.

117 In addition to Ribbens, see also Moffitt, Atonement and the Logic, for more on the angels as priests in Hebrews. One rather convincing claim is: “in the Septuagintal traditions nearly every instance of a word from the group based around the λειτουργ- root occurs in a context related in some way to the activity of the priests in the tabernacle/temple” (Atonement and the Logic, 204). This suggests the reference to the angels as “ministering spirits” (λειτουργικὰ πνεύματα) in Hebrews 1:14 may well refer to their priestly service.

118 Moffitt, Atonement and the Logic, 204.

119 Moffitt, Atonement and the Logic, 205–6. Also, as Moffitt notes, the quotation from Psalm 109:4 only confirms that Jesus is a priest; however, the author refers to Jesus as a “high priest” several times (2:17; 3:1; 4:14; 5:5, 10; 6:20; 7:26, 27, 28; 8:1, 3; 9:11).

120 Koester, Hebrews, 352–62. Koester translates τάξις in the psalm as “type” throughout but does not offer a further explanation of what this entails.

121 “[T]he identification of Christ with Melchisedech is definitely implied here [in Hebrews 7:8], because our author applies to Christ the only passage in the OT where the eternal priesthood is referred to, Psalm 110 … the author of Hebrews actually identifies Melchisedech with Christ” (Anthony T. Hanson, Jesus Christ in the Old Testament [London: SPCK, 1965], 70–71).

122 Attridge, Hebrews, 202; Ellingworth, Epistle to the Hebrews, 378; Lane, Hebrews 1–8, 183; Koester, Hebrews, 355; James W. Thompson, Hebrews, Paideia (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 156; Weiß, Der Brief an die Hebräer, 398–99.

123 Luke 1:8 also uses τάξις in a sacerdotal context: “Once when [Zechariah] was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty …” (NRSV; ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ ἱερατεύειν αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ τάξει τῆς ἐφημερίας αὐτοῦ ἔναντι τοῦ θεοῦ). A succession is indeed implied here, but due to the lexeme ἐφημερία. A more suitable translation that accounts for the full phrase in question (ἐν τῇ τάξει τῆς ἐφημερίας αὐτοῦ) might be: “in the manner of his division” or “by the proper procedure of his division.”

124 This range of glosses is put forward by BDAG as the most suitable for Hebrews’ quotations of Psalm 109:4 (BDAG, 989). This is also compatible with the author’s discussion of how Jesus relates to Aaron: “why was there still a need to speak of another priest arising in the likeness of Melchizedek and not in the likeness of Aaron?” (τίς ἔτι χρεία κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισέδεκ ἕτερον ἀνίστασθαι ἱερέα καὶ οὐ κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Ἀαρὼν λέγεσθαι). Since earlier in the verse the author refers to the “levitical priesthood” (ἱερωσύνη), τάξις could be used to refer to the levitical “order”; however, either option is possible. The author might even be playing on the double meaning (as he does with διαθήκη in Heb 9:16–20).

125 Takamitsu Muraoka, A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint (Louvain: Peeters, 2009), 108.

126 H. G. Liddell, Robert Scott, and Henry Stuart Jones, eds., A Greek-English Lexicon, 9th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 292.

127 Mason, “You Are a Priest Forever, 202. Mason’s quote and discussion is also highlighted by Moore, Repetition in Hebrews, 163.

128 Moore, Repetition in Hebrews, 163.

129 In addition to the rearrangement of material in the Greek, only one difference is relatively significant to the interpretation of this text. Whereas in verse 32 the MT reads “I was a husband [or master] to them” (בעלתי בם), Greek traditions read “I did not care for them” (ἐγὼ ἠμέλησα αὐτῶν). The most plausible explanation is that the Greek translator misread געלתי  (“abhor”) for בעלתי. For a discussion of the other stylistic variations, see Gert J. Steyn, A Quest for the Assumed LXX Vorlage of the Explicit Quotations in Hebrews, FRLANT 235 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011), 253–56.

130 Joseph Ziegler, ed., Ieremias; Baruch; Threni; Epistula Ieremiae (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1957).

131 Variation (1), which reads λέγω for φημί, may be due to the author’s preference for λέγω when referring to God’s speech that has an enduring message. Evidence for this may be found in Hebrews 8:6: “Then [God] said [to Moses] (ὅρα γάρ φησίν): ‘You shall do everything according to the pattern shown to you on the mountain.’” But as the only occurrence of φημί, a definitive conclusion cannot be reached.

132 Συντελέσω is also found in Symmachus and the Syrohexapla. Ἐποίησα is also found in Marchalianus.

133 Lane (followed by Ellingworth) claims that these are mere “stylistic variations” (Lane, Hebrews 1–8, 209; Ellingworth, Epistle to the Hebrews, 416).

134 BDAG, 975.

135 Attridge, Hebrews, 227; Cockerill, Epistle to the Hebrews, 368–69; deSilva, Perseverance in Gratitude, 285; Koester, Hebrews, 385–86; David Peterson, Hebrews and Perfection: An Examination of the Concept of Perfection in the Epistle to the Hebrews, SNTSMS 47 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

136 BDAG, 839.

137 Walter Brueggemann, A Commentary on Jeremiah: Exile and Homecoming (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 294–95.

138 For example, “Indeed, the typological strategy in the Letter to the Hebrews is relentlessly christological and relentlessly supersessionist” (Richard B. Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul [New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989], 98). Hays later critiques his own reading as “superficial” (“‘Here We Have No Lasting City’: New Covenantalism in Hebrews,” in Richard Bauckham, Daniel R. Driver, Trevor A. Hart, and Nathan MacDonald (eds.), Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009], 151), but it nevertheless shows that Hebrews can be read “supersessionistically.”

139 Michael Theobald offers an interesting perspective on this question. See “Vom Text zum ‘lebendigen Wort.’”

140 In Hebrews 8:6, the author claims that the new covenant “is legislated” (νενομοθέτηται) on better promises than the old. These promises, according to Harold W. Attridge, are found in these verses testified by the Spirit (“The Uses of Antithesis in Hebrews 8–10,” HTR, 79:1 [1986], 6). While the internal nature of the new covenant must certainly underlie the author’s argument about its efficacy (see esp. 9:6–14), forgiveness appears more often throughout the discussion.

141 Regarding the prior, Docherty concludes: “The author’s citations of scriptural texts are generally faithful to his source. There are more variations between the form in Hebrews and the standard Septuagint text in the case of the longer citation from Ps 94:7–11 than Gen 2:2, but most of those differences can be explained as genuine variant readings” (Old Testament in Hebrews, 194).

142 Ellingworth, Epistle to the Hebrews, 416; Lane, Hebrews 1–8, 209.

143 Similar language is arguably found in Hebrews 2:14–15: “Therefore, since the children share blood and flesh, he also partakes of those things in like manner in order that through [his] death he might destroy the one who holds power over death – namely, the Devil – and release those who by fear of death throughout their lives were subject to slavery.” In Hebrews 2, however, no explicit link is made to sin.

144 Pamela Eisenbaum argues that the Son is speaker (The Jewish Heroes of Christian History: Hebrews 11 in Literary Context [Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1997], 110–11).

145 Attridge, Hebrews, 227; Cockerill, Epistle to the Hebrews, 366; Ellingworth, Epistle to the Hebrews, 415; Lane, Hebrews 1–8, 209; Koester, Hebrews, 385; Spicq, L’Épître aux Hébreux, 2.240.

146 This reading is preferred by Attridge, Hebrews, 225; Cockerill, Epistle to the Hebrews, 366; and Ellingworth, Epistle to the Hebrews, 415.

147 This is preferred by Lane, Hebrews 1–8, 208–9. For a more thorough discussion of the evidence, see Johannes L. P. Wolmarans, “The Text and Translation of Hebrews 8:8,” ZNW, 75 (1984), 139–44.

148 BDAG, 628.

149 So Koester, Hebrews, 385.

150 Lane, Hebrews 1–8, 202, 209.

151 So Attridge, Hebrews, 225.

152 As we shall see in Chapter 5, God (the Father?) speaks explicitly to the audience only once: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (13:5), which seems to be a fitting culmination to the theme of divine speech.

153 The influence of Koester’s translation of Hebrews 8:6 is reflected above (Hebrews, 374).

Figure 0

Hebrews 7:3

Figure 1

Hebrews 7:15

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  • Intra-Divine Discourse (1)
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