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BlBLiOTHECA SACRA 168 (July-September 2011): 334-46

THE TRINITY IN THE BOOK OF HEBREWS


Nathan D. Holsteen

PPROACHES TO BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION TODAY a r e legion.

Linguistic theorists, philosophers, and theologians rightly wrestle with weighty questions of textual meaning and reader response. Varying perspectives on a host of issues lead to a variety of hermeneutical recommendations.1 One idea that sometimes gets lost in current discussions of biblical hermeneutics, however, is that of internal coherence. Simply put, any written work that conveys a message makes implicit assertions in constructing its overall message, and these implicit assertions give shape to the coherence of the work. Denying these implicit assertions makes the whole work either incoherent or less coherent. The Book of Hebrews constructs implicitly a perspective from which its contents, while varied, must be read.
HEBREWS PORTRAYS GOD AS TRIUNE BY AFFIRMING BOTH ONENESS AND "THREE-NESS"

The necessary components of Trinitarianism are both oneness and "three-ness." Though Hebrews does not include explicit Trinitarian statements, one may assert that the author of Hebrews portrayed God as triune if one finds clear evidence of the oneness of God and also evidence of three distinct persons. 2
Nathan D. Holsteen is Assistant Professor of Theological Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.
1 See, for example, Kevin Vanhoozer, Is There a Meaning in This Text? The Bible, the Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998); and Daniel J. Treier, Introducing Theological Interpretation of ScriptureRecovering a Christian Practice (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008).

Defining Trinitarianism as oneness of essence with three-ness of persons is validated by Trinitarian thinking throughout Christian history. Gregory of Nazianzus

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HEBREWS AFFIRMS THE ONENESS OF GOD BY CONNECTING GOD'S PAST AND PRESENT WORK

Everywhere in Hebrews the Old Testament understanding of the oneness of God is assumed. For example Hebrews 3 weaves together several passages from the Old Testament in describing the rebellion of the Israelites after the Exodus. Hebrews mentions the rebellion at Meribah and Massah, and reviews God's act of judgment during forty years in the wilderness. In discussing this God, Hebrews portrays Him as acting in unity. While this argument may not seem persuasive at first, it actually carries great weight. If one of the major purposes of Hebrews is to persuade Jewish believers to remain faithful to Christ by eschewing a return to Judaism, 3 then an affirmation of divine unity makes good sense. This is as if the author of Hebrews were saying, "Do not return to Moses, for the same God who spoke through Moses has spoken again by way of supersession through Christ."
HEBREWS AFFIRMS THAT THREE DISTINCT PERSONS ARE DIVINE

The second element in support of Trinitarianism in Hebrews is the evidence of three distinct persons. Hebrews affirms the deity of the Father, the deity of the Son, and the deity of the Holy Spirit. And this affirmation is judged necessary to the argument of the book, for if God is not triune, then the letter's argument fails. The Father is identified with Yahweh and is therefore divine. The entire epistle presupposes the deity of the Father. He is the subject of the first sentence of the letter, He is invoked in the benediction at the end, and everywhere in between the God of Hebrews is portrayed as the God of the Old Testament. In speaking of the God of the Old Testament the author of Hebrews describes the first person of the Trinity, the divine person who is called "God the Father." The appellation "Father" for this divine person might seem
(329-389), archbishop of Constantinople, wrote, "This I commit unto you today; with this I will baptize you and make you grow. This I give you to share, and to defend all your life, the One Godhead and Power, found in the Three in Unity, and comprising the Three separately, not unequal, in substances or natures, neither increased nor diminished by superiorities or inferiorities; in every respect equal, in every respect the same; just as the beauty and the greatness of the heavens is one; the infinite conjunction of Three Infinite Ones, Each God when considered in Himself; as the Father so the Son, as the Son so the Holy Ghost; the Three One God when contemplated together; Each God because Consubstantial; One God because of the Monarchia" (Oration XL, The Oration on Holy Baptism, sec. 41, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, 2nd series [1890; reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994], 7:375).
3 This statement of purpose is a recurring theme among conservative commentators. One example is Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 78-80.

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tenuous, but the text of Hebrews gives a reasonable basis for this practice. For example Hebrews describes the first person of the Trinity in relation to the Son whom He has begotten (1:5), and also as the Father of those who believe (12:9). But the most compelling argument for identifying the Father as Yahweh is the practice in Hebrews of applying language unmistakably referring to Yahweh as the first person of the Trinity. One of the clearest examples of this practice is in 12:29, where the Father is described as a "consuming fire," language clearly reminiscent of Deuteronomy 4:24, which refers to Yahweh. Hebrews uses the same phrase, , as does the Septuagint (Deut. 4:24; 9:3). The context of Hebrews 12:29 differentiates between the person of Jesus and the person of the Father (here referred to as simply "God"). First, the two persons are distinguished by separate lists of things and as persons to whom the recipients of the letter are portrayed as having come ("But you have come to," v. 22). The list that follows includes Mount Zion, myriads of angels, the congregation of the firstborn, God, the spirits of the righteous, Jesus, and the sprinkled blood (w. 22-24). The fact that God and Jesus are listed separately distinguishes the two. But more than this, the two persons are described differently. God is "the judge of all" (v. 23) and is portrayed as speaking at Sinai (v. 19), and Jesus, on the other hand, is portrayed as "the mediator of a new covenant" (v. 24). Since the Son (Jesus) is the Mediator of a new covenant, two other parties must be involved: God (i.e., the Father), and some portion of humankind. Thus the "God" of verse 29 is the Father, portrayed in terms associated with the Old Testament description of Yahweh. The Son is depicted as the agent of creation and is therefore divine. Hebrews also affirms the deity of the Son. The purpose of 4 the letter, according to most commentators, is to warn the audience (Jewish believers) against returning to Judaism. The primary basis for that warning is related to the Son's nature and work. Further, the Son's nature and work must be divine in order for the warning to be as robust as the author made it. In fact the argument of Hebrews necessitates an affirmation of Jesus' deity. For

Some examples include Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 80; David A. DeSilva, Perseverance in Gratitude: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Epistle "to the Hebrews" (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 18-20; Craig R. Koester, Hebrews: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: Doubleday, 2001), 71-88; and William L. Lane, Hebrews 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary, (Dallas: Word, 1991), c-ci.

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example Hebrews unambiguously demonstrates the deity of the Son by suggesting that the work of creation, attributed to Yahweh in the Old Testament, was carried out by the Son. This is seen clearly in 1:10, "You founded the earth in the beginning, Lord, and the heavens are the works of your hands." 5 In this citation of Psalm 102:25 the author of Hebrews took a description of Yahweh's role in creation from the Old Testament and changed the subject so that the Son is portrayed as the agent of creation. This makes a powerful statement of the Son's deity. A similar argument can be framed by comparing Hebrews 1:2 (which explicitly states that the Son is the agent of creation) and the creation account in Genesis. Hebrews 1:2 explains that the One through whom the Father worked to perform the act of creation ( , lit., "made the ages) is the Son. Since the Old Testament clearly affirms that Yahweh is the Creator (Gen. 1) and since Hebrews indicates that the Son is the Creator, this is another strong suggestion of the Son's deity. The Spirit is the agent of revelation and is therefore divine. Hebrews also affirms the deity of the Holy Spirit. While the Spirit is mentioned less often than the Son, nevertheless Hebrews includes significant evidence for the deity of the Spirit. Compelling evidence comes from the same logic as that employed in arguing for the deity of the Son, that is, activity explicitly attributed to Yahweh by the Old Testament is now said to be the activity of the Spirit. Repeatedly throughout Hebrews, the Spirit is presented as the person whose "voice" was heard in the text of the Old Testament. And the "voice" of God in the Old Testament is that of Yahweh. A few examples show the preference in Hebrews for portraying the Old Testament as the voice of the Spirit. In 3:7 the author cited Psalm 95:7-11 after introducing the citation with the words "as the Holy Spirit says [ ]." This obviously portrays the Holy Spirit as the author of Scripture. In Hebrews 9:7 the author spoke of the rituals commanded by Yahweh for the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). The author then attributed the spiritual point of the ritual to the Holy Spirit Himself (Heb. 9:8). If the levitical rituals were divinely ordained, and the author of Hebrews attributed these rituals to the Spirit, then the author of Hebrews was suggesting that the Spirit is divine. Similarly in 10:15-17 the author of Hebrews quoted Jeremiah 31:33-34 and attributed these words to the Holy Spirit. The question of the Spirit's personality. Is there enough eviUnless indicated otherwise, all Scripture quotations are from the NET Bible.

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dence in Hebrews to conclude that the Holy Spirit is a person? Or is the Holy Spirit in Hebrews simply a depiction of divine agency? Several responses to this question are in order. First, one must admit that the evidence for the personality of the Holy Spirit is relatively scarce in Hebrews. Second, the evidence for the Spirit's personality, however, is not limited to the Spirit's role as the agent of revelation. Beyond this, there is evidence for the personality of the Spirit as one considers the Spirit's relationships and His works (to be discussed later). Third, the divine personhood of the Son makes the divine personhood of the Spirit much more likely in Hebrews. There is much greater evidence in Hebrews for the divine personhood of the Son. The recognition of two divine persons (Father and Son) makes it more probable that seemingly oblique descriptions of the Spirit's personality should be construed in that way. The statements about the Spirit and His work that could potentially be viewed in an impersonal way then take on a far more personal hue.
SUMMARY OF TRIUNE TEACHING IN HEBREWS

The author of Hebrews adequately affirmed the oneness of God, and abundantly displayed that three distinct personsFather, Son, and Holy Spiritcan be discerned in the Godhead. This picture of one God subsisting in three persons forms the foundation for the following discussion of intra-Trinitarian relationships and of the actions of the Trinity.
HEBREWS PORTRAYS GOD AS TRIUNE BY AFFIRMING PERSONAL INTRA-TRINITARIAN RELATIONSHIPS

Hebrews depicts all three persons of the Godhead as involved in intra-Trinitarian relationships. Each person is portrayed as uniquely related to the others, but the significant point here is that each is portrayed as being in relationship. The presence of relationship implies a distinction of persons, and so an understanding of these relationships forms a powerful argument for Trinitarianism.
THE FATHER BEGETS THE SON AND HONORS THE SPIRIT

Hebrews provides information sufficient to assert that the Father is involved in intra-Trinitarian relationships. While most of the attention here is devoted to the relationship between the Father and the Sonwhich is entirely reasonable, given the author's purposethere is also a hint of the relationship between the Father and the Spirit. One of the primary aspects of the relationship between Father

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and Son according to Hebrews is the Father's "begetting" of the Son. This is the , from , of Hebrews 1:5a. While variously translated, this verb certainly forms the cornerstone for a discussion of the relationship between the Father and the Son. Hebrews does not indicate a point of beginning for this relationship. Even though the Father said, "Today I have begotten Thee" (NASB), it is difficult to assign that day with any certainty to a point in eternity past or even a point in time. Rather, the statement pertains more to the relationship itself.6 Regardless of the exact referent of "begotten" in this text, the fact remains that having been begotten, Jesus is related to God as a son is related to his father. A Trinitarian understanding of the Godhead proves helpful in assessing the point of this passageleading gently toward a relational understanding of Jesus' Sonship 7 rather than providing an opportunity for gnostic emanations. The acts of fatherly devotion portrayed in the text include the Father commanding the angels to worship the Son (1:6), the Father anointing the Son with the oil of gladness (v. 9), and the Father subjugating all things to the Son (v. 13). These acts illustrate the nature of the relationship that is summarized in the Father's words, "I will be his Father and he will be my Son" (v. 5b). In another aspect of the relationship between the Father and the Son the Father is said to have given children to the Son. Citing Isaiah 8:18, Hebrews 2:13b applies this concept to the Father-Son relationship by setting the gift of children in a new context, namely, that of the Son's humiliation. Because the Son has shared in human flesh and blood, those who likewise share in flesh and blood are in a sense His brothers

While this understanding of the Son's "begottenness" is by no means agreed to by all, it finds support from Augustine, who writes, "A divine interpretation is given to that expression, 'Today have I begotten Thee,' whereby the uncorrupt and Catholic faith proclaims the eternal generation of the power and Wisdom of God, who is the Only-begotten Son" (Augustine, Expositions on the Book of Psalms, 2.6, in Ni cene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff, 1st series [1889; reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004], 8:3). Also Thomas Aquinas seems to view this passage as affirming an eternal generation. However, a number of prominent expositors disagree, including Chrysostom (Homilies on Epistle to Hebrews, 3.1, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 14:375); and John Calvin (Calvin's Commentaries: The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews and the First and Second Epistles of St Peter, trans. William B. Johnston [reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963], 11-12). This apparently is the path taken by Athanasius in his Adversus Arianos, 1.3.9. He alludes to the text of Hebrews 1:3 (specifically the phrase TTJS ) in suggesting that Jesus is the "very Son of the Father, natural and genuine, proper to His essence."
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and sisters (2:14a).8 Curiously mixing this familial metaphor, Hebrews refers to the "children" of Isaiah 8. This delicate interplay affirms once again that Jesus possesses deity. He is the living God (and humanity comprises His "children"), but He is also the paradigmatic Man, with whom other humans (believers) share a fraternal bond. This passage also includes a unique portrayal of the Father's relationship with the Son in which the Father bestows honor on the Son because of the Son's obedience, even to death (2:9). This discussion of the Father honoring the Son leads to a related affirmation in Hebrews, namely, the Father's defense of the Son's honor (and not coincidentally, the Spirit's honor) in 10:29. Here the author of Hebrews asserted that one who tramples the Son of God underfoot (the verb here is a form of ) is worthy of worse punishment than the one who rejects the law of Mosesfor which the penalty was death. The Father is portrayed as the executor of that punishment, as the context mentions "a fury of fire that will consume God's enemies" (v. 27). This subtly insists that the Father defends the honor of the Son and also of the Holy Spirit. For it is the Son's blood that inaugurated the New Covenant, and it is the Spirit who applies divine blessing to those who are being made holy.
THE SON OBEYS THE FATHER

The two foremost examples of the Son's intra-Trinitarian relatedness to the Father are the Son's faithfulness and His obedience to the Father. Hebrews 3:1-6 articulates Jesus' faithfulness in comparison with that of Moses. In showing Jesus' superiority over Moses the author compared their faithfulness to God. Moses was faithful () in God's house as a servant (, v. 5), but Jesus is faithful over God's house as a Son ( , . 6). Obviously one of the major differences between Moses and Christ is the nature of their relationship with God the Father. The Son honors that relationship by being "faithful to the one who appointed him" (v. 2). The Son's relationship with the Father is also characterized by obedience. He "learned obedience from the things which He suffered [ ' ]" (5:8, NASB). The idea of the Son learning obedience may seem puzzling; however, this need not be troubling. As Lane suggests, "Jesus learned experientially
These "children," who are Jesus' "brothers and sisters," are also called "those being made holy" (2:11). One might also suggest that they are called "Abraham's descendants."

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what obedience entails through his passion in order to achieve salvation and to become fully qualified for his office as eternal high priest." 9 The essence of this obedience is in the Son's submission to the Father. This does not mean He has a lower rank; instead it suggests the willing submission of one person to another equal person 10 in what might be called an "order."
THE SPIRIT IS THE FATHER'S "SENT ONE"

Interestingly Hebrews portrays the Spirit's intra-Trinitarian relationships more often than one might expect. The nature of the Spirit's relationship with the Father is subtly articulated in 10:29. In that passage the Father is seen defending the honor of the Son. But the verse seems to indicate that in the same way the Father defends the honor of the Spirit (who is referred to as "the Spirit of grace"). This may not be the strongest evidence for the Spirit's relationship with the Father, but the Father's defense of the Spirit's honor in this context relates to the fact that the Spirit is vitally involved in applying divine blessing to the recipients of the covenant. The phrase most evocative of the Spirit's role is "receiving the knowledge of the truth" (10:26). He "bears witness" to believers concerning the benefits they enjoy (w. 15-18). If the Spirit's role in the context of Hebrews 10 is linked to the delivery of divine truth, it seems reasonable that the Spirit's perspective with respect to the Father is one of messenger, prophet, or "Sent One." Thus the traditional formulation of "procession" finds a degree of support in Hebrews. "Insulting the Spirit of grace" (v. 29) seems tantamount to insulting the One who delivered truth, the truth denied by anyone who might choose to live in opposition to it. The Spirit's Trinitarian relationship is also described by Hebrews with respect to the Son, for "the eternal Spirit" ( ) was involved in the Son's offering of Himself to the Father as the unblemished sacrifice (9:14).

Lane, Hebrews 1-8, 121.

Robert W. Letham affirms the order and distinction of person and role in the Trinity without denying equality of essence (The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship [Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2004], 479-88). The term "subordination" too often carries connotations of inequality. But that can easily be avoided by the use of other terms such as "order" and "submission."

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342 BiBLiOTHECA SACRA / July-September 2011 HEBREWS PORTRAYS GOD AS TRIUNE BY AFFIRMING MULTIPLE ROLES IN DIVINE WORKS

Another indication of Trinitarianism in Hebrews is seen in the way the author portrayed all three persons as active in divine works. In a sense this is the foundational premise of the letter's argument: God has acted for the benefit of humankind through Moses, but now He has acted in a surpassing fashion as God Himself has become flesh and made atonement for sins. In this superlative act of sacrifice all three divine persons are activeboth in God's selfrevelation to humankind and in God's saving work on behalf of humanity.
THE TRIUNE GOD IS ACTIVE IN SELF-REVELATION

The Epistle to the Hebrews opens with a startlingly clear affirmation of God's activity of self-revelation. In laying the foundation for his assertion of Jesus' supremacy to Moses, the author of Hebrews affirmed that God spoke in the past in many ways. The message of the prophets was of divine origin and of divine self-revelation. But now, the author wrote, God has spoken again in His Son. The Son is divine self-revelation. He is the "radiance of his [the Father's] glory and the representation of his essence [ ]," 1:3). Virtually all of Hebrews affirms that the Son is the Father's self-revelation. Perhaps more subtle is the depiction of the Spirit's involvement in divine self-revelation. Though the Spirit's role is subtle, it is nevertheless clearfor the Spirit is the authenticating agent of humanly mediated divine revelation and also the divine person who speaks in such revelation. Hebrews 2 gives the author's defense of his own authority in asserting the supremacy of Jesus. He had just asserted that the Son is divine, and so He is superior to the angels (2:5-8). Therefore the message that came both in and through Jesus has more authority than the message that came through angels (this is a stylized representation of the Mosaic Covenant, which was mediated by angels; Acts 7:38, 53; Gal. 3:19). But Hebrews did not stop there. Jesus spoke as a divine person ("salvation . . . was first announced by the Lord," Heb. 2:3), and thus His message is revelatory. This message "was confirmed to us by those who heard him" (v. 3). The phrase "those who heard him" refers to the apostles, as their witness itself was confirmed "with signs and wonders and various miracles" (v. 4). Here the author of Hebrews indicated the role of the Holy Spirit in divine self-revelation, for the signs and wonders and various miracles were accompanied by "distributions" by the Holy

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Spirit. The authority of the apostles, and by extension the authority of their message, was confirmed by signs, wonders, and the gifts of the Spirit. The Spirit's activity serves as the confirming evidencethe authenticationof God's revelation mediated by the apostles. As already noted, several Old Testament passages are presented as the words of the Holy Spirit (3:7; 9:8; 10:15). The Holy Spirit authenticates God's self-revelation when that revelation is mediated through human agency.
THE TRIUNE GOD IS ACTIVE IN SALVATION

In Hebrews all three persons of the Trinity are portrayed as taking part in God's amazing work of salvation. The Father's primary role in salvation is affirmed in 2:10, where the author of Hebrews portrayed the plan of salvation as the work of the Father. As "the author of their salvation," the Father brings "many sons to glory." Hebrews 10:10 similarly affirms the primacy of the Father, as the will of the Father is shown to be the will by which believers have been "made holy"even though the means by which this is accomplished is the offering of Jesus' body.11 Nevertheless certain aspects of the Father's activity deserve mention. First, the Father is portrayed as the transcendent One, a concept that the author drew from the Old Testament and often referred to in Hebrews. From the opening paragraph, in which the Father's creative work is depicted as being accomplished through the Son (1:1-2), to the concluding admonitions in chapter 12, the Father's transcendence is magnified. Perhaps the last clause of chapter 12 encapsulates this attitude: "our God is a consuming fire" (v. 29). The holy, transcendent Father is also propitiated by the Son's self-sacrifice. The Son's work has been accepted by the Father, and as a result those who are Christ's can have confidence in their standing before the Creator God. Such an attitude is expressly depicted in 7:25, which states that Jesus "is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them." Salvation could not be available if the Son's /
11 Again the text of Hebrews offers a delicate interplay between the Father's person and work and the Son's person and work. In 10:10 are the words, "by his will we have been made holy" ( ). The antecedent of the pronoun seems to be indisputable, for a will is clearly mentioned in verse 9. In that verse Jesus is depicted as saying to the Father, "I have come to do your will." In this way it is made clear that the will by which (or in which) believers are made holy is indeed the will of the Fathera will to which the Son voluntarily submitted Himself.

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work had not been accepted by the Father. That same attitude is seen in 4:16, which states that believers may come boldly before "the throne of grace" because they have a merciful High Priest, Jesus (vv. 14-15). This would be nonsensical if the Son's work had not been accepted by the Father. Believers have every reason to flee to the throne of grace. While some might insist that the Father's acceptance of the Son's work actually belongs in the realm of intra-Trinitarian relationshipand such an assertion certainly has meritit is also true that Hebrews portrays this acceptance almost uniformly in the context of the believer's assurance before God. The Father's acceptance of the Son's work provides the firm foundation for the believer's confidence. This leads to the second aspect of Hebrews' articulation of the Father's role in the salvation of humankind. The Father is portrayed as becoming a Father to those who are being made holy. And this acceptance as sons enables believers to persevere, knowing that God disciplines every son He loves (12:5-6). The Son's role in the accomplishment of salvation is perhaps the most significant divine work, according to Hebrews. In summarizing the importance of the Son's role in salvation 9:26-28 reveals that Christ appeared to put away sin by His sacrifice and will "appear a second time, not to bear sin but to bring salvation" (v. 28). Throughout the letter the Son is portrayed as the one who provided cleansing for sin. Even in the opening of the letter the author wrote that the Son, when He had accomplished cleansing for sins, "sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (1:3). While the Spirit's activity did not receive the attention that the author gave to the Son's activity, it is nonetheless interesting to note that the Spirit is linked to God's accomplishment of salvation. This is seen in 6:4, which refers to those who had "become partakers of the Holy Spirit" ( ). Again Hebrews ties the Spirit's work to the Son's saving work so intimately that man's rejection of the divine work of salvation is depicted as insulting "the Spirit of grace" (10:29). Clearly then the Holy Spirit is involved in the divine work of salvation.
HEBREWS PORTRAYS GOD AS TRIUNE BY AFFIRMING A MESSAGE PREDICATED ON A TRINITARIAN PERSPECTIVE

The purpose of Hebrews is to encourage the recipients to cling to their Christian faith, even in the midst of crisesfor only by faith

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in Christ can one find salvation.12 The logic of this assertionthat salvation is only in Christis itself an argument for a Trinitarian perspective in Hebrews. The salvation in Christ of which the author wrote is complete (7:25), eternal (5:9), based on Jesus' defeat of the devil through death (2:14), and cleanses even the conscience (10:22), to list just a few of the descriptions found in Hebrews. What kind of person could bring this kind of salvation? According to Hebrews' own affirmation, He is one greater than Moses and also greater than the angels. But what is this person like? If one were to assert that this Savior is something of a demiurge, that assertion would presumably encounter difficulties in explaining the way Jesus is portrayed in Hebrews. One could propose some other view that maintains Jesus' deity, but explains it in a suborthodox wayfor example Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, Eutychianism,13 or even the broader concepts of Modalism or Adoptionism.14 But these fail to account for the nature of the Savior dein explaining the purpose of the letter to the Hebrews Lane suggests that the writer of Hebrews "urges his listeners to hold loyally to their confession of Jesus Christ as the sole mediator of salvation in a time of crisis and warns them of the judgment of God they would incur if they should renounce their Christian commitment" (Lane, Hebrews 1-8, c). Arguing along similar lines, Ellingworth suggests that the danger facing the readers of Hebrews is that in a crisis they might "reject and deny the distinctively Christian dimension of their faith" (The Epistle to the Hebrews, 80). The writer of Hebrews countered this danger "by presenting Christ as the essential and inseparable culmination of God's purposes for his one people.. . . Christ as high priest, offering in perfect obedience to the Father the sacrifice of himself, accomplished once for all what the old priesthood and its animal sacrifices foreshadowed but could not effect. Anyone who abandons him has no other hope" (ibid.). DeSilva suggests that "the climactic exhortation" is "to persevere in gratitude for the benefactions bestowed by Jesus and God" (Perseverance in Gratitude, 74). This is of such significance in DeSilva's estimation that the phrase "perseverance in gratitude" is the title of his commentary. One of the central benefactions of Jesus, according to DeSilva, is that "Jesus' priestly ministry is the basis of the Christian's standing before God" (ibid., 180). In another place he states, "Jesus' chief gift is that he affords access to God" (ibid., 181). Koester suggests that the rhetorical strategy of the author involves the key observation that "through suffering, Jesus offered a complete sacrifice for sins, so that people may draw near to God with confidence" (Hebrews, 87). These errors all deny some vital aspect of orthodox Christology. Apollinarianism affirms a semi-human Jesus in order to protect the full deity of Jesus. Nestorianism creates a division or separation between the human and divine natures in Jesus. Eutychianism posits a Jesus who is both human and divine but in such a way that He becomes a third being. For a brief and helpful introduction to these errors see John D. Hannah, Our Legacy: The History of Christian Doctrine (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2001), 116-19.
14 Both Modalism and Adoptionism are errors that deny a Trinitarian concept of God. Modalism suggests that there is but one person in the Godhead, and this one

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manded by Scripture. More specifically the purpose of Hebrews elicits the famous soteriological dictum, "God alone can save us."15 This Savior, in the perspective of Hebrews, is God in the fleshand the argument used to demonstrate Jesus' superiority leads inexorably to Trinitarianism. True, Hebrews does not explicitly teach Trinitarianism. But the kind of salvation offered and the kind of Savior required to offer it necessitate a Trinitarian affirmation.16
CONCLUSION

This study has shown that the Epistle to the Hebrews affirms there is one God, revealed in three distinct personsFather, Son, and Holy Spiriteach of which is divine. Each person in the Godhead is portrayed in Hebrews as active in intra-Trinitarian relationships, and also active in divine works. Further, the purpose of Hebrews necessitates this Trinitarian affirmation. Consequently the God of Hebrews is the triune God. An implication of this study relates to the erroneous suggestion that the concept of the Trinity was a third- or fourth-century phenomenon. While this topic deserves investigation, such a study should build on the underlying affirmation of a triune Godhead as seen in Hebrews. While not always as explicit as one may wish, the implicit assertions in Hebrews about the divine persons and their works make a Trinitarian perspective indispensible to the coherence of the letter as a whole. In this respect then the Epistle to the Hebrews is in its very essence a Trinitarian work.
person manifests Himself in three modes: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Adoptionism suggests that there is one person in the Godhead, and this God adopted a man named Jesus to accomplish His plan (ibid., 75-78). This famous dictum is an adaptation of many passages; one of the most famous is in Athanasius. "What then was God to do? or What was to be done save the renewing of that which was in God's image, so that by it men might once more come to know Him? But how could this have come to pass save by the presence of the very Image of God, our Lord Jesus Christ? For by men's means it was impossible, since they are but made after an image; nor by angels either, for not even they are (God's) images. Whence the Word of God came in His own Person, that, as He was the Image of the Father, He might be able to create fresh the man after the image" (On the Incarnation of the Word, 3.13.7, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 4:43). Athanasius appealed to Hebrews 2:15 and 8:3 in noting that Jesus had to be divine (and not some kind of creature) in order to offer salvation to humankind (Letter LXI, to Maximus, 3, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 4: 579). b The argument of the letter also supports the same demand for a Trinitarian affirmation. For example according to Lane the argument of Hebrews is built on the "finality of God's revelation in his Son, whose transcendent dignity is superior both to the angels . .. and to Moses" (Hebrews 1-8, c).

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