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Does Hebrews 1:6,8 prove Jesus is God?

(By Lesriv Spencer - January 10, 2015. Last update, June, 2018)

(Bible citations unless noted are from the New International Version (NIV), 2011 Edition. Other symbols
used: ABP = Apostolic Bible Polyglot; D-R = Douay-Rheims; ESV = English Standard Version; KJV = King James
Version; NJB = New Jerusalem Bible; NRSV = New Revised Standard Version; NWT = New World Translation; RSV
= Revised Standard Version)

Table of Contents – Click links below.

1. Brief historical account as prelude to the epistle to the Hebrews.


2. Christ as ‘God's firstborn’.
3. Hebrews 1:6, Should Jesus be worshipped?
4. Does the context of Hebrews 1:6 support the rendering 'paying homage' to Christ?
5. Hebrews 1:8, Does the reference of “God” in the verse apply to God the Father or to the Son?
6. Scholars express their uncertainty around Hebrews 1:8.
7. A critic presents a typical biased view of Hebrews 1:8.
8. What does it all mean?

1. Brief historical account as prelude to the epistle to the Hebrews.

Hebrews chapter 1, verses six and eight have often been tossed around in religious forums by
traditionalists as evidence that Jesus Christ is God. But does it actually prove that?

A fair answer to this question requires at least a brief look at the biblical book of Hebrews against
the backdrop of Jewish worship. After all, the book (actually a letter) was obviously written by a
competent Jew addressed to a Jewish audience. “Hebrews” lacks the author's name, but some
scholars have speculated for a long time that Paul was the author. Others believe the writer may
have been Apollos, or some other writer. But whoever was the author, the writer shows full
command of all things related to Jewish matters on religious law and worship. To better grasp
the circumstances which led to the writing of “Hebrews,” we must consider first a few important
facets of Jewish history.

After the first pair in Eden defied God's authority, God out of benevolence prepared the way to
save Adam's offspring from the fate of death. Later, the Jewish people were honored to be
involved in this process. The Jewish people are descendants of Jacob (later named “Israel”), son of
Isaac, son of Abraham. It was to a God-fearing man, Abraham (originally, “Abram”), that God said:
“I will make of you a great nation, And I will bless you; I will make your name great, And you
shall be a blessing.” “All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants,
because you have obeyed My command.” (Genesis 12:2, 22:18, TANAKH - The Holy Scriptures. ©1985)
Abraham became the father of the Hebrews. The promises originally given to Abraham were
passed on to his son Isaac, and then to his grandson Jacob (Genesis 26:3; 28:13; 35:11,12).
Abraham was such an important figure in the history of God's people that whenever the people
of Israel ran into trouble they appealed to God to remember the covenant made with Abraham.
(Exodus 32:13; Deuteronomy 9:27; Psalm 105:9)
When the nation of Israel (Jacob's descendants) was officially formed as an independent nation
(about 15 hundred years before Christ) , the Lord Yahweh (Or, “Jehovah”) gave Moses (who mediated
between God and his people) the Ten Commandments plus other directives. A place of worship,
the tabernacle (Or, tent of meeting) was built, later replaced by the Temple. (Exodus 39:32; 1 Kings
8:10-13) These structures symbolized God's presence, for it was the place where God “met” with
his people. A complex system of priesthood service was established, detailed arrangements
were made for animal sacrifices, and a large altar and a laver were provided in the courtyard for
that purpose. Many of these details are mentioned in the book of Hebrews. Why all this?

A source explains: “The New Testament book of Hebrews points out that the tabernacle [and the
later temple arrangements] had a purpose in demonstrating important truths concerning sinful
man's approach to a holy God. The tabernacle system was a help to people in the era before
Christ, but it also pointed to something far better. The truths that the tabernacle [and the later
temple] demonstrated reached their full expression in the new era that came with Jesus Christ
(Heb 9:1-14,24; 10:19-20).” (Concise Bible Dictionary, Don Fleming, p. 427. AMG Publishers, ©1990, 2004)

This same source adds: “In the early days of Israel's existence, when it was little more than a
large family, God signified that the leadership of the future Israelite nation would belong to the
tribe of Judah. From this tribe would come a great leader who would rule the nations in a reign
of peace, prosperity and enjoyment (Gen 49:9-12). Centuries later, God developed this plan by
promising King David (who belonged to the tribe of Judah) a dynasty that would last for ever (2 Sam
7:16). The people of Israel therefore lived in the expectation of a time when all enemies would be
destroyed and the ideal king would reign in a worldwide kingdom of peace and righteousness.
This coming saviour-king they called the Messiah.” (Fleming 2004, pág. 288)

It is not surprising then to find in the New Testament frequent confirmation of Abraham's
influence in Jewish life. The book of Acts describes God as “the God of Abraham.” (7:32) Abraham
is depicted as a spiritual father, and those who exercise faith in the living God, as did Abraham,
are referred to as “children of Abraham,” and are blessed. (Galatians 3:7-9) Paul shows the seed of
Abraham being ultimately fulfilled in Christ, and those who believe in Christ are the seed of
Abraham. (Gal. 3:16,29) The blessing imparted to Abraham comes to the nations through the
redemption of Christ and is associated with the impartation of the spirit. (Galatians 3:14)

Through Moses, God had foretold the coming of a great prophet. (Deuteronomy 18:15,18) John
6:14 indicates that in Jesus' day, Jews were expecting such a prophet. There were hundreds of
prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures which did not specifically mention a “Messiah,” but the
Jewish people somehow understood that many of these prophecies were linked to the
“Messiah.”

Jesus, born in Bethlehem as predicted, was the real Messiah, “the Christ,” the Greek equivalent
of “Messiah.” (Micah 5:2) However, the Jews overall failed to acknowledge Jesus as the real
“Messiah.” Jesus clearly did not meet Jewish expectations during the first century of the Common
Era. Why would that be? The Jewish Encyclopedia observes: “They yearned for the promised
deliverer of the house of David, who would free them from the yoke of the hated foreign
usurper, would put an end to the impious Roman rule, and would establish His own reign of
peace.” (Vol. VIII, under “Messiah,” p. 508. 1976) In fact, the Jews even attempted to make Jesus an
earthly king, but he refused to do so. Hence, they rejected him. (John 6:15)

The Jews at the time failed to see that the messianic prophecies related to two distinct
appearances of the Christ occurring at widely separated times. They failed to comprehend that
many of these prophecies would be fulfilled at his second appearance, not the first. This
background information is necessary to understand why the Bible book of “Hebrews” was
written. Although the destruction of Jerusalem, their holy city, was imminent, they were being
constantly tempted to fall back to Judaism with its multiple practices, instead of Christ, who was
the “the [only] way [to the Father] and the truth and the life”. (John 14:6) There was however
opportunity for the Jewish people to approach God with a sincere heart. Every prophecy of God
was to be fulfilled at its due time. Therefore, no one had the luxury to reject God's messenger,
the promised Savior of the world.

No other book of the New Testament ties together Old Testament history and practices with the
life of Jesus Christ as thoroughly as the book of Hebrews. The book speaks of the old covenant
and a new covenant. The author of Hebrews shows that the old covenant has been fulfilled in the
new covenant, which is far “better.” (Hebrews 7:20-8:13; 7:22) The book of Hebrews emphasizes the
superiority and sufficiency of Jesus Christ over the old Jewish system. Not surprisingly, this
theme is reflected by the fact that two Greek words conveying the meaning of “better” and
“superior” occur 15 times in the epistle. And that in itself is a main point of this article. Jesus
Christ is in fact “superior” – far greater than anything previously related to the Jewish system, a
religious system which lured them back like a magnet. But even considering all the proclaimed
exaltation of the Christ found within its pages, the book of Hebrews stops short of saying that
Christ was God. As the title of this article indicates, there are a couple of scriptures which are
understood by Trinitarian advocates to support the notion that Jesus is God, namely Hebrews
1:6,8. We will address these soon.

It bears mentioning at this point of the discussion, that Jews were strict monotheists, that is,
they believed in the one true God of Israel, Yahweh (or, Jehovah). (Deuteronomy 6:4) Shortly after
the death of the apostles, a state of confusion arose where some Christians began debating the
identity of God and Jesus. The debate went on for centuries which ultimately led to the basic
formulation of the Trinity doctrine during the fourth century A.D. (See the Encyclopaedia Brittanica)
Since then, the Trinity doctrine has gained acceptance and popularity with Christian followers to
the point that the doctrine is taught by the majority of Christian Churches. Various religious
groups, do however, reject the doctrine as “unscriptural.” More interestingly, Jews themselves
have rejected the Trinity doctrine from the very start, as one in conflict with monotheism. Says
the Jewish Encyclopedia: “The Jews have always regarded the doctrine of the Trinity as one
irreconcilable with the spirit of the Jewish religion and with monotheism.” (Vol. 12. p. 261, under
“Trinity,” last sentence.)

Some, however, believe that the trinitarian concept may have either been introduced, or made
manifest in the New Testament writings. On this, professor of ecclesiastical history, LL Paine
says: “There is no break between the Old Testament and the New. The monotheistic tradition is
continued. Jesus was a Jew, trained by Jewish parents in the Old Testament scriptures. His
teaching was Jewish to the core; a new gospel indeed but not a new theology…And he accepted
as his own belief the great text of Jewish monotheism: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one
God.” (A Critical History of the Evolution of Trinitarianism, Houghton Mifflin and Co., 1900, p. 4)

The quoted statements above make very clear where Jews stood, and still stand, in relation to
the Trinity. They indicate that the Trinity doctrine is extraneous to Jewish thought throughout its
history. Consequently, there was no justifiable reason for the author of “Hebrews” to change the
Jewish monotheistic approach in worship to embrace a radically different one which teaches that
Jesus is God, the second part of a so-called “trinity.” Had the author intended his audience to
undertake a new doctrine like the “Trinity,” he undoubtedly would not have hesitated one
moment to get that message across with the greatest of convictions. Is that what we find in
Hebrews?

No. What we find is that the author labored superfluously to prove that Jesus, having established
a new covenant, was much “better” than anything the old covenant could offer. Surely, the
author would not have spent more than half the content of the letter vigorously trying to
convince Jewish converts of that very point, when all he had to do was to simply claim that Jesus
was God himself, if that was his intention in the first place.

One would reasonably expect from the author, had he intended, to focus instead in presenting
‘this new profound theology’ to deep-rooted monotheists by repeatedly making emphatic
declarations that would unequivocally prove that Christ is the Yahweh of the Old Testament, the
alleged second member of a “trinity.” The author evidently made no such attempt. The notion of
a “trinity” is fully absent from the book of Hebrews. The concept of the doctrine is actually read
into its pages by people of a later era.

Before we consider the worthiness of the claim that ‘Hebrews 1:6,8 prove Jesus is God,’ we do
well to consider various highlights of the letter:

Hebrews 1:1,2 opens up by saying: “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the
prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his
Son.” Verse 3 says: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his
being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he
sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Verse 4 says ‘he became superior to the
angels,’ but never does the author say he was God. At Hebrews 1:6, Christ is spoken of as a
“firstborn,” a term never used of God, or “holy spirit”.

Hebrews chapter 3:1,2 tells us that Jesus, as “apostle and high priest” was faithful to [God] the
one who appointed him.” Hebrews 5:7,8 states: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he
offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to [God] the one who could save
him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he
learned obedience [“to God,” Worldwide English New Testament] from what he suffered.” Hebrews 8:1
and again at 10:12, 12:2 speaks of this Jesus as a “high priest,” “who sat down at the right hand
of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,” a statement full in accord with similar ones made in
other Bible books. Hebrews 9:15 and also 12:24 mention that Christ is “the mediator of a new
covenant.” Likewise, the role of Jesus as “mediator” is also found at 1 Timothy 2:5 where we read:
“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.” The
concept of “mediatorship” would not have made any sense if Christ himself was God. Would it?
This too is made clear at Hebrews 9:24, where it says that Christ “entered heaven itself, now to
appear for us in God’s presence.” If Jesus was God himself, how could he “appear for us” before
God?

The last chapter of Hebrews (13:20) makes a distinction once again between “the God of peace,
who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that
great Shepherd of the sheep.” “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a
sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” (13:15)

So it is made clear that Jesus as the new ‘High Priest’ was far superior to the old Aaronic “high
priest” arrangement of the tribe of Levi. The author demonstrates that Jesus Christ is the Son of
God, greater than angels (1:4-6), than Abraham (7:1-7), than Moses (3:1-6), and the prophets (1:1-
2). In fact, Christ, crowned with glory and honor, is the “appointed heir of all things” made
subject to him by God the Father. (1:2; 2:7-9) Among the ‘all things’ made subject to Christ, were
the angels. (1 Peter 3:22; Hebrews 1:6) The Bible describes these angels as “mighty ones,” “mighty
in strength,” or “powerful warriors” depending on the version used. (Psalm 103:20) Scripture
says that man was made “a little lower than the angels.” (Psalm 8:4-5; Hebrews 2:6,7; 2 Peter 2:11)

The described superiority of angels over man should not to be taken to mean that they are
equal to God. Hence, the superiority of Jesus Christ and of the angels over mankind, and their
own subjection to someone else, can only be understood correctly in the light of 1 Corinthians
11:3 which states that: “The head of every man is Christ...and the head of Christ is God.” And:
“For [God] ‘has put everything under [Christ's] feet.’ Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been
put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under
Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put
everything under him, so that God may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:27,28) Do any of these
statements suggest Jesus is God? If anything, it indicates that Christ is not the Supreme God.

The account of Hebrews throughout differentiates between God and Jesus Christ, his Son, with
no discernible ‘trinitarian’ concepts anywhere within its chapters. No statement in Hebrews
declares that Christ is one and the same as God. Thus, if there is a disputable scripture or two in
Hebrews being interpreted by some to indicate that Jesus is God, but which in fact can be
translated in more than one way, we must in sincerity compare and harmonize its message in
translation with the rest of the content of the letter. Not the other way around!

2. Christ as ‘God's firstborn’:

Let us now take a look at Hebrews chapter 1, verses 5-8, which are said to prove Jesus' equality
with God. First, we'll consider Hebrews 1:5,6, which reads:

“For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father’?
Or again, ‘I will be his Father, and he will be my Son’? And again, when God brings his firstborn
into the world, he says, ‘Let all God's angels worship him.’ ”

What these Scriptures clearly demonstrate is that Jesus is superior to the angels. How so? Only to
Jesus has the Father said: “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” Elsewhere in
Scripture we are told that the angels of God were called “sons of God.” (Job 1:6; 2:1) Even humans
are referred to as ‘sons of God.’ (Luke 3:38; Galatians 4:6) But Jesus was God's son in a very unique
way. As the International Bible Encyclopedia Online aptly noted: “He [Christ] is the son of God in a
sense in which no others are.” John 1:18 proves that. Jesus as God's Son, was personally and
intimately closer to God in a way angels never were. It is therefore significant to have the Bible
call Jesus Christ out singly as, “the only begotten Son of God,” and “the first-born of all creation.”
(John 3:18; Colossians 1:15, RSV) True, various Bible versions promoted by Trinitarians, like the NIV,
convey a different meaning at Colossians 1:15 by saying that Christ is ‘the firstborn over all
creation.’ However, such rendering, although popular, is the least likely suitable interpretation of
the phrase. The basic meaning of the Greek word for “first-born,” suggests otherwise, and the
fact that the grammatical construction of the verse (a genitive, the “of” case), points to something
else, namely, that Jesus was part of the creative acts, that is, he was the first Being created by
God. If we take the genitive as a partitive genitive at Colossians 1:15, a notion declared
admissible by the Trinitarian grammarian Daniel B. Wallace, this would indicate that Jesus is part
of creation itself. See this link for further information: http://www.scribd.com/doc/209607822/Colossians-1-16-Is-
the-translation-all-other-things-appropriate

Some scholars in their effort to negate the basic literal sense of “first-born” in relation to Jesus,
seek to restrict the term to the time of his human birth, such as the “firstborn” of Joseph and
Mary. But there is nothing in the book of Hebrews to suggest that. Instead, Scripture simply says:
“...When God brings his firstborn into the world,” an indication that Jesus was already considered
‘God's firstborn’ prior to his earthly appearance. (Heb. 1:6) The context of the first chapter of
Hebrews does not actually show that Christ was the originator of the world. What it does say is
that the Son was the agency ‘through whom God made the universe.’ (Heb. 1:2) The same idea is
expressed in John 1:3; 1 Corinthians 8:6 and Colossians 1:16. It is God who has spoken to us at
the end of these days through his Son, rather than by the “prophets” as God did in times past. (v.
1) God, the Source of all energy, was then the originator of the universe. Christ was the means by
which God, accomplished the rest of the creation. On this, The Jerome Biblical Commentary
observes: “The next quotation [of Heb. 1:10-12], taken from Ps[alm] 102:26-28, attributes to the
Son the work of creation; the Ps itself addresses these words to God. Since the author [v. 2] has
spoken of the Son as the mediator of creation, this is not surprising.”

In Scripture, Christ is shown as “the beginning of the creation of God (Revelation 3:14),” a
statement that without exterior trinitarian influence, would clearly indicate that Jesus was the
‘the first creation of God.’ (Revelation 3:14, RSV) Some trinitarian versions twist these words at Rev.
3:14 to say that Christ was “the ruler of God’s creation,” as does the NIV, but the reality is that the
Inspired Writer did not actually say that. Instead, he literally called Jesus, “the beginning of the
creation of God.” (KJV) Normally, “beginning” is used in Scripture to convey the sense of, ‘the first
part of something.’ For instance in Genesis 49:3 in LXX, Jacob speaks to Reuben, his first son out
of 12, when he says: “You are my firstborn [Greek, prōtótokós], my might and beginning of my children
[archḗ téknōn mou].” (NETS = A New English Translation of the Septuagint) Was Reuben ‘the originator’ or
‘the ruler of God's creation’ in any way? Of course not! He simply was “the first” of Jacob's
children, as another translation expressed it. (Brenton, LXX)

Similarly, we find a grammatical parallel to Revelation 3:14 at Job 40:19 in LXX, where it speaks of
an extraordinary beast as “[the] beginning of [the] Lord’s creation.” (Greek: archḗ plásmatos kyríou
[arche plasmatos kyriou]. Brenton, v. 14) No one in their sane mind would argue that the Greek here
demands the interpretation that this beast initiated the Lord's creation? But that is precisely
what Trinitarians would have us believe at Rev. 3:14, namely, that Christ is ‘the initiator’ of
creation. What they fail to see is that the verse is already plain enough in stating who is the real
source of creation. The Greek genitive (the of case) points to God as the Creator, not to Christ who
is said to be “the beginning of the creation of [or, by] God.”

Unlike Revelation 3:14, where theology is involved, at Job 40:19 (LXX), translators observe the real
meaning of the Greek expression,“[the] beginning of [the] Lord’s creation.” Nevertheless, some
translators deal with the phrase differently, though both scriptures share a grammatical
resemblance. Below we have the renderings of various versions of Job 40.19 which we can use to
compare to the Greek expression found in the book of Revelation:

NETS translation (LXX): “This is the chief of what the Lord created.”
Common English Bible: “He is the first of God’s acts.”
The Message: “Look at the land beast, Behemoth. I created him as well as you.”
NABRE: “He is the first of God’s ways.”
NIV: “It ranks first among the works of God.” (Also: The NET Bible; NWT, 2013 Ed.)
VOICE: “It is one of My most marvelous creations.”
New Living Translation: “It is a prime example of God’s handiwork.”
Good News Bible: “The most amazing of all my creatures!”

None of these translations render arche (Or: “beginning”) as the “initiator”, “originator”, “source”,
or “ruler” of God's creation. So why the temptation to assign another meaning for the same
word at Revelation 3:14? Whether one takes arche as “beginning” or “chief” as its primary
meaning, the inescapable fact is that the creation was done by the Lord God, not by one who is
said to be “the beginning” of the creative acts of God. As mentioned previously, the Scriptures of
John 1:3; Colossians 1:16 and Hebrews 1:2 (favorite proof-texts of Trinitarians) , only prove that God
used Christ in the creation process, not that Christ was the supreme source of creation. 1
Corinthians 8:6 confirms that. In keeping with this, the Good News Bible brought out clearly the
mediatorial role of Jesus Christ in creation as follows: “God created the whole universe through
him [Christ] and for him.” (Colossians 1:16) The Message Bible indicates at Revelation 3:14 that
Christ was “the First of God's creation.”

Traditionalists deny that Christ was created, so any existing biblical expressions which suggest
such notion, are either maneuvered in translation to say the opposite, or explained differently
from its core meanings. We have briefly considered two terms associated with Christ: “firstborn”
(i.e., God's firstborn, Heb. 1:6, which also appears at Colossians 1:15) , and “beginning” (as the beginning of
the creation of God, Revelation 3:14). Another expression in connection with Jesus origin or
derivation, is found at John 3:18 where he is literally called “the only begotten Son of God.” The
Greek term for “only-begotten” is a compound word mono-genḗs (monogenes), and the basic
meaning of this word is adequately brought out by Greek Professor Paul R. McReynolds in his
interlinear translation as, “the only born son of the God.” (See also the translation by Richmond
Lattimore at John 1:18.)

But notice how, in the interest of promoting the Trinity, two prominent Bible versions weaken
the meaning of the original at John 3:18. The NRSV renders it: “the only son of God.” And the NIV
reads: “God's one and only Son.” The NIV reading is a bit stronger than the NRSV, but neither do
full justice to the Greek word. For how could Jesus Christ be distinctively “God's one and only
Son”, when God has many other sons? How would the rendering “the only son” in the NRSV be
an accurate rendition for monogenēs? Both the NRSV and the NIV readings avoid the idea of
“birth” or “begetting” inherent between a father and a son in regards to Christ. Why? Because
both versions represent Protestant beliefs, a prominent one being the Trinity doctrine. The
Trinity doctrine sustains that Christ was eternal, not created. This belief is reflected in their
translations of monogenes.

Trinitarians want others to believe that both mo'nos and monogenēs mean exactly the same
thing. Notwithstanding, the renderings “the only begotten,” or “the only born Son of God”, as
other translators define it, make more sense, since they properly denote the divine derivation or
origin of Jesus Christ. The International Bible Encyclopedia appropriately observes: “...Monogenēs
denotes Jesus' origin in addition to His uniqueness. Jesus is not only the ‘only’ Son of the Father:
He is the ‘begotten Son’ because He derives His being from the Father.” (Vol. III. p. 606) In review,
the term “firstborn” in Hebrews 1:6, and other biblical expressions denoting Jesus' divine status,
or derivation, serve no proof that Jesus is God.

3. Hebrews 1:6, Should Jesus be worshipped?

Tradition – plus the abundance of English Bible versions freely using the word “worship” in
relation to Jesus have contributed to many believing that Christ is deserving of full worship as
only it is due to God. The traditional understanding of “worship” is clearly seen in the following
publication, Believer's Bible Commentary, where the author, William MacDonald, wrote at Hebrews
1:6: “A third way in which Christ is greater than the angels is that He is to be the object of the
worship, whereas they are His messengers and servants. To prove his point, the author quotes
Deuteronomy 32:43 (LXX and DSS) and Psalm 97:7 ... The verse in Deuteronomy looks forward to
the time when He again brings the firstborn into the world. In other words, it refers to the
Second Advent of Christ. At that time He will be publicly worshiped by the angels. This can only
mean that He is God. It is idolatry to worship any but the true God. Yet God here commands that
the Lord Jesus Christ should be worshiped by the angels.” (Edited by Arthur L. Farstad, pp. 2159-
2160. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc.)

Now, is this is a valid interpretation? MacDonald is right by saying: “It is idolatry to worship any
but the true God.” But is he correct in his understanding of the concept of biblical “worship”? –
Should the action of Christ ‘receiving obeisance’ by angels demand that he be the true “God”?
Believers who hold the traditional understanding of “worship” often overlook these two issues:
1. First, the word worship as is used today has a different meaning than it did a few centuries
ago, as in the 16th and 17th Century when early English Bibles gained prominence. According to
the Oxford English Dictionary, the English word “worship” in the 16th century meant: “To honour;
to regard or treat with honour or respect... to salute, bow down to... To honour with gifts.... to
confer honour or dignity upon”. Various examples of that Era are provided in this work to
support those definitions. Hence, the term could be used of any human lord, noble or
magistrate. Vestiges of the old meaning are still seen in such things as calling certain English
magistrates “your worship.” The Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary acknowledges that worship
in Middle English meant: “Worthiness, repute, respect, reverence paid to a divine being.” (1984)

But, in our times, people expect it to mean narrowly: full divine worship. Thus, when people
today read Hebrews 1:6, “And let all the angels of God worship him [Christ],” in their King James
version, a translation published in the early part of the 17 th Century, they will likely understand it
quite differently than the translators themselves did back then when it had another meaning.
The meaning of “worship” in the 16 th Century was actually closer to the Greek sense than is the
contemporary use of the word in our day, which brings us to point two.

2. The meaning of biblical words for “worship” have a wider range in meaning than the narrow
sense attributed by many Bible readers today. A cursory look at the meaning of the biblical
terms for “worship” (shāḥaḥ in Hebrew, and proskynéō in Greek) will reveal that its semantic
meaning is broader than many church-goers today are likely to perceive of the word. Let's see
how academic sources define “worship” from the biblical standpoint:

The Complete Word Study Dictionary - Old Testament (p. 1119): “...shāchāh [shahah]: A verb meaning
to bow down, to prostrate oneself, to couch, to fall down, to humbly beseech, to do reverence, to
worship. The primary meaning of the word is to bow down. This verb is used to indicate bowing
before a monarch or a superior and paying homage to him or her (Gen. 43:28). In contexts such
as Genesis 24:26, šhāḥāh [shahah] is used to indicate bowing down in worship to Yahweh.”

The Complete Word Study Old Testament: “Shāchāh was not used in the general sense of worship,
but specifically to bow down, to prostrate oneself as an act of respect before a superior being.”
(“Lexical Aids to the Old Testament,” p. 2372.)

Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament: “‫( שָׁחַח‬shāḥaḥ bow down. […] There are several
extended meanings of shāḥaḥ in the Qal. One is to bow in the sense of doing obeisance before
another human being. This is illustrated in Isa 60:14 and Prov 14:19, ‘The evil bow down before
the good.’ ” (Vol II, p. 915)

Numerous NT Greek Dictionaries define proskynéō in part as:


Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: “In the NT by kneeling or prostration to do
homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make
supplication.”
The Complete Word Study Dictionary New Testament: “To worship, do obeisance, show respect, fall
or prostrate before. […] In the NT, generally, to do reverence or homage to someone, usually by
kneeling or prostrating oneself before him. In the Sept[uagint] it means to bow down, to
prostrate oneself in reverence, homage (Gen. 19:1; 48:12).” (Spiros Zodhiates)
The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: “Do obeisance (to), pay homage (to) – ...”
(Frederick William Danker)

Liddell and Scott's Greek English-Lexicon (Abridged Edition) defines proskyneō as: “1. Prostrate
oneself before in token of respect, to do obeisance to. 2. of the gods, to worship.” (Italics theirs.)

The Greek-English Lexicon to the New Testament: “([prós & kynéō], to kiss), To do reverence or
homage by kissing the hand; in N.T., to do reverence or homage by prostration, Mat, 2. 2, 8, 11; 20.
20. Lu. 4. 7; 24. 52; to pay divine homage, worship, adore, Mat. 4.10. Jno. 4. 20, 21. He. 1.6, et al.; to
bow one's self in adoration, He. 11.21 : whence.” (William Greenfield. Revised by Thomas S. Green)

The Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, by Gingrich/Danker defines proskyneō as: “(Fall
down and) worship, do obeisance to, prostrate oneself before, do reverence to, welcome respectfully
depending of the object –1. to human beings […] –2. to God […] –3. to the Devil and Satanic
beings […] –4. to angels […] –5. to Christ.” (Italics theirs.)

(See also: Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words; Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament –
Friberg-Miller; Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, by Abbot-Smith; Compact Greek-English Lexicon
of the New Testament, by Souter-House; and Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New
Testament, by William D. Mounce.)

It is evident from quoted sources above that the original words for the English “worship” have in
the biblical languages, a variety of meanings depending on the object or context. Hence, the
translator will render the original terms according to his or her understanding of the context at
hand. Trinitarian advocates sustain that Christ is God because he is “worshipped” in Scripture.
But the definitions above by biblical authorities cast doubt on such assumption. For instance,
the Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, by Gingrich/Danker shows that the Greek term
proskyneō commonly rendered “worship” in standard English versions can be applied to: ‘1. to
human beings –2. to God –3. to the Devil and Satanic beings –4. to angels and of course, –5. to
Christ.’ This is exactly what we find in Scripture. This does not mean that every time proskyneō
appears in Scripture the subject is deserving of worship in the full sense of the word. Observe
how the biblical terms were applied, and the various ways translators deal with them in these
samples:
Abraham “bowed himself toward to the earth [“and adored down to the ground,” Douay-Rheims]”
before three messengers who announced that Sarah would have a son. (Genesis 18:2)
Ruth ‘bowed [“worshipping upon the ground,” D-R]’ before Boaz. (Ruth 2:10)
David “bowed with his face to the earth, and did obeisance [“worshipped,” D-R] [to Saul, the King].”
(1 Samuel 24:8)
Bathsheba to king David: “Bathshe'ba bowed and did obeisance [“worshipped,” D-R] to the king.”
(1 Kings 1:16)
Nathan the prophet bowed [“did obeisance,” NRSV] before king David. (1 Kings 1:23)
Jesus is due “worship [“homage,” NJB; “obeisance,” ABP]” from angels. (Hebrews 1:6)
Satan asks for worship from Jesus: “Begone, Satan! for it is written, ‘You shall worship [“do
obeisance to,” ABP] the Lord [Jehovah] your God and him only shall you serve.’ ” (Matthew 4:10;
Deuteronomy 6:13, Jesus in turn warns Satan that only the Lord Jehovah is to be worshiped.)
Servant (slave) to a king (according to Jesus): “So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him
[“and worshipped him,” KJV; “did obeisance,” ABP], ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you
everything.’ ” (Matthew 18:26)
Cornelius to Peter: “When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and
worshiped him. [ESV; “did obeisance,” ABP; “fell at his feet in reverence,” NIV: “fell at his feet in order to
honor him,” Common English Bible].” (Acts 10:25)
Unbelieving and hostile Jews (“Those who are of the synagogue of Satan,” according to Jesus): “I will
make them come and bow down before your feet [“and worship before thy feet,” KJV; “do
homage,” Moffat], and learn that I have loved you.” (Revelation 3:9, Jesus' promising words that
adversaries to the faithful ones in the congregation of Philadelphia will ultimately be subdued and
brought before their feet, even ‘doing obeisance’ to them.)

4. Does the context of Hebrews 1:6 support the rendering, 'paying homage' to Christ?
Ron Rhodes, Th.D., from Dallas Theological Seminary, claims that translating the Greek term
proskyne'ō in Hebrews 1:6 as “obeisance” as it appears in one translation he dogmatically singled
out, results in “butchering the verse.” (Reasoning from the Scriptures... p. 171, Harvest House Publishers,
Eugene, Oregon (July 1, 1993) The claim is false! The Eastern / Greek Orthodox New Testament renders
Heb. 1.6, “Let all the angels of God express adoration to him,” but the translators acknowledge in
a footnote to this verse: “Proskuneo can also be translated ‘worship (in the broad sense),’
‘venerate,’ ‘fall down in reverence,’ ‘do obeisance.’ ” Likewise, another version, The Source New
Testament links Hebrews 1:6 to a footnote to Matthew 2:2, which it says of proskunéō: “General
meaning, to worship, to pay homage, to do obeisance to (someone, often a god, sometimes a
master).” The translator, Dr. A. Nyland, then supplies various classical examples of usage,
including the sense of “respect,” and “obeisance” among them.
As indicated, not only do trusted sources offer dependable definitions for proskynéō, various
Bible translations as well assign the very same meaning of obeisance, homage, or bowing down,
found in lexicons in reference to Jesus at Hebrews 1:6 – indicating the context itself of Hebrews
1:6 support such rendering?
“And let them bow before him--all messengers of God” (Young's Literal Translation)
‘Now let all messengers of God honour him’ (Ferrar Fenton's Translation)
“And let all the angels of God pay him homage” (George R. Noyes New Testament)
“And all of God's messengers should bow down to him.” (A Non-Ecclesiastical NT, Frank Daniel)
“And let all God's angels fall before Him.” (The Berkeley Version of the New Testament)
“And prostrate yourselves to him all God's angels” (21st Century New Testament)
“And let do obeisance to him all angels of God” (ABP)
“Let all God's angels do him reverence” (The Bible in Living English, S. T. Byington)
“Let all the angels of God bow down before him” (Open English Bible)
“And let all the angels of God bow down to him” (Riverside New Testament, William G. Ballantine)
“And let all of God's angels do obeisance to him” (New World Translation)
“Give him homage all angels of God [“Dénle homenaje todos los ángeles de Dios”] (Pablo Besson)
“Let all the messengers of God bow low before him.” (2001 Translation - An American English Bible)
“And let all the messengers of God bow down in deference to him.” (CGV, Joseph Morovich)
“Let all the angels of God bow down before him” (Twentieth Century New Testament)
“Let all God’s angels kneel before him.” (Cotton Patch Version, Clarence Jordan)
“And let all God's angels bow before him” (Edgar J. Goodspeed New Testament)
“Let all the angels of God do homage to him.” (A New Translation, Johannes Greber)
“And let all angels of God pay him homage” [“Et que tous les anges de Dieu lui rendent hommage”] (French Darby Bible)
“And let all God's angels pay him homage” (The Authentic New Testament, Schonfield)
“Before him shall bow all messengers of God” (Andy Gaus New Testament)
“Let all God's angels pay him homage” (Revised English Bible)
“And may all the angels pay homage to him” (Heinz W. Cassirer's New Testament)
“Let all the angels of God pay him homage” (New Jerusalem Bible)

Thus, the mere fact that God demanded “worship” from angels to Jesus in Hebrews 1:6 in the
biblical sense can not be used in itself to determine whether Jesus is God or not. Even those
Trinitarian translators above who believe Jesus is God, render proskyneō used at Hebrews 1:6 by
its lexical meaning, rather than by the contemporary religious meaning attributed to it. Did they
too ‘butcher’ this verse?
In the past, when Joseph, son of Jacob, was divinely able to reveal Pharaoh's dreams, he won the
respect and admiration of the king of Egypt to such a degree that Pharaoh put him in charge of
all Egypt. He had Joseph dressed in robes of fine linen, had a gold chain put around his neck, and
invited him to ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and wherever he went, people ahead
of Joseph were ordered to shout: ‘Make way! Bow down to him! ((Genesis 41:43; Literally: Avrékh!) If
Joseph then was paid with the highest honor by having people bow down to him, for being
second-in-command in the whole country of Egypt, our Lord Jesus Christ, being far greater than
Joseph, should fittingly receive many times more honor, not only from earth inhabitants, but
from all living creatures in the vast universe. (1 Corinthians 15:27) Certainly, Joseph by receiving
homage, did not become equal to Pharaoh. Hence, keeping with the biblical sense of the word,
Jesus Christ needed not be the equal of God to receive “worship” from angels in the old English
sense (and biblical sense, at that).
More significantly, God is the One asking angels to “worship” his Son, an indicative that Jesus is
truly divine, godlike, but not God Almighty. Hence, the meaning of proskyneō in the verse must be
logically understood in the sense of “highest honor,” “homage,” or “obeisance” being paid to
Jesus, who as God's “Firstborn” and Spokesman, was placed “at the right hand of God,” second
only to God himself in the whole universe. (1 Corinthians 11:3; Hebrews 1:3; 1:6; 10:12; Revelation
19:13) Let us not overlook the important fact that all this was done to bring ‘glory to the God and
Father of Jesus Christ’, a point ignored by Dr. MacDonald in his comments for chapter one of
Hebrews. (Philippians 2:9-11)
5. Heb. 1:8, Does the reference of “God” in the verse apply to God the Father, or to the Son?

Now, we can begin addressing the other scripture, Hebrews 1:8, which is said to cement the idea
that Christ and God are identical. Hebrews 1:8,9 is a quote of Psalm 45:6,7 in which the King
(Solomon?) is being addressed in the Psalm. The NIV translates: “Your throne, O God, will last for
ever and ever.” It is unlikely that the Davidic human king was being called “God” in the full sense
of the word. The Holy Bible: Easy-to-Read Version makes this comment in Psalm 45:6,“God This
might be a song to God as king. Or here, the writer might be using the word ‘God’ as a title for
the king.” The NIV says in a footnote: “Here the king is addressed as God’s representative.”
In view of this, various versions abstain from applying the term “God” at Psalms 45:6 to a human
king, or, do explain that the King's office was “divine” by representing God's throne:

“Your divine throne endures for ever and ever” (Revised Standard Version)
“May your throne, established by God, endure permanently” (The Psalms for Today: A New Translation
from the Hebrew into Current English, by R. K. Harrison)
“Your divine throne is eternal and everlasting” (Common English Bible)
“The kingdom that God has given you will last forever and ever” (Good News Transl.)
“Your throne is God’s throne” (The Message)
“Your throne is the very throne of God” (NIrV)
“God is your throne forever and ever” (New World Translation, 2013)
“Your throne is like God’s throne, eternal” (New English Bible)
“God has enthroned you for all eternity” (Revised English Bible)
“God is your throne forever and evermore” (The Bible in Living English, S.T. Byington)
“Thy throne given of God is for ever and ever” (The Jewish Publication Society, 1917)
“Your divine throne is everlasting” (TANAKH, The New JPS Translation, ©1985)

The Holman Christian Standard Bible reads in the main text: “Your throne, God, is forever and ever.”
However, a footnote to the verse adds two alternate readings: “Or Your divine throne is, or Your
throne is God’s.” (Italics theirs.) In the same manner, the New Living Translation reads in the main:
“Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever.” But the verse’s footnote has: “Or Your divine
throne.” (Italics theirs.) See also: The Expositor's Bible Commentary-Psalms (Tremper Longman III & David E.
Garland, general editors, pp. 399-400.)

Nevertheless, when a description of divineness is made of Jesus Christ in English Bibles, as done
in Hebrews 1:8, translators view the matter with a different twist. Various scholars have
mentioned Hebrews 1:8 as a proof text that Jesus is God. One such scholar was Adam Clarke,
who wrote: “This verse is very properly considered a proof, and indeed a strong one, of the
divinity of Christ; but some late versions of the New Testament have endeavored to avoid the
evidence of this proof by translating the word thus: ‘God is thy throne for ever and ever’; and if
this version be correct, it is certain that the text can be no proof of the doctrine.” (Adam Clarke
Commentary) Although Adam Clarke, a trinitarian, favored the traditional interpretation, he
acknowledged its uncertainty. What does the original text really say? Let's take a look at the
Greek passage under consideration in “interlinear” format:

Greek: pros de ton huión ho thronos sou ho theos eis ton aiōna tou aiōnos
toward but the son the throne of you the god into the age of the age

First of all, observe there is no verb in the above passage. This presents a problem. In Greek the
verb is often omitted as unnecessary. But in English it is necessary to employ one to make up a
sentence that makes sense. The problem is, where do we place the verb? One may choose to
misinform the public by telling them that the literal reading is: “Your throne, O God, is forever and
ever,” as Robert M. Bowman Jr., a counter-cult “expert” (Trinitarian) has done. (Why You Should
Believe in the Trinity, p.106.) Here Bowman accepts the reference as a vocative to Christ, and inserts
the verb “is” after “O God” to make Jesus appear to be God Almighty. If we seriously take
Bowman's interpretation as the correct one, we would have in verses 8 & 9 a situation where
God is speaking to God, and ‘God's God’ pouring fragrant oil on God's head, leading to ‘Christ
the God’ gaining enough ground in the Universe to inherit a throne of kingly authority, placing
him above the angels. Isn't this absurd?
Instead, the factual word-by-word reading which appears in Word Study Greek-English New Testament,
by Paul R. McReynolds, says: “To but the son, the throne of you the God into the age of the age.”
The true meaning in translation could then be: “God says to the Son: the throne of you is the
God into the age of the age.” Or, in standard English: “God says to the Son: God is your throne
forever.” Various translators render it this way, in harmony with Psalm 45:6.
Grammatically, we need to consider whether theós in the sentence is nominative (the naming case,
typically nominates the subject); vocative (direct address), or an adjective (which describes). The word
“throne” in the clause is also in nominative form. The expression “the throne of you” means
simply “your throne.” The Greek ho theós (“the god”) is the biblical way of saying “God,” and for
the most part ho theós (hundreds of times) appears as a nominative (noun) as in here, and only in a
few cases is it used as a vocative. The words, “into the age of the age” idiomatically means
“forever and ever.” So, another simpler way to express the Greek literally is: “your throne god
forever and ever.” From this, we can produce at least three legitimate translation options. The
first one makes ho theós the subject (or predicate nominative). The second is adjectival. The third
option is a vocative (or direct address), which happens to be the most popular of the group by
traditionalists:
1. “God is your throne forever and ever.” (Or: “Your throne is God, for an age of ages.”) These
readings have the support of the following scholars/translators:
(Tyndale; Matthew; Grotius; Twentieth Century NT; Mace; Wade; Moffatt; Goodspeed; Byington; NWT;
2001 Translation; New Simplified Bible; Jonathan Mitchell NT-2014; 21st Century NT; Frank Daniel;
Cassirer; Wickham; Greber; Andy Gaus; Open English Bible; F. Pfäfflin, 1965 (German); Offering alternate
translations: B. F. Wescott; A.T. Robertson; William Barclay; American Standard Version; Revised Standard
Version; New Revised Standard Version; New English Bible; Today’s English Version/Good News Translation.

2. “Thy throne is divine” (Ewald; adjectival)


3. “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.” (KJV; NRSV; ESV; NIV; TEV; NAB and others. The number
of supporters in option three is in fact greater than in option one.)

Why is the third reading above the most popular? Is it due to being perceived as the most likely
approximate of the original? If we could establish without doubt whether “God” in the verse is
an adjective, nominative, or a vocative (with few exceptions, the same form of theós is used for both
cases), we could then decide which of the translations is the correct one. But there is no clear
way to determine such on grammar grounds alone. In this passage, the interpretation of the
translator, therefore, is the decisive factor in the translation. One slight variant to group 3 above
is this one from Spanish translator Senén Vidal: “Your throne, o god, is forever [Tu trono, oh dios,
para siempre].” (Nuevo Testamento, ©2015 by Editorial Sal Terrae, Cantabria, Spain. Emphasis added.)

Dr. David Jeremiah, a Baptist scholar, exemplifies the trinitarian approach to the doctrine by
stating: “When God the Father refers to Jesus as the eternal God in this quote (Ps. 45:6,7), it is
one of the Bible's most irrefutable proofs of the deity of Christ.” (The Jeremiah Study Bible) Another
Baptist, Craig S. Keener, asserted: “The writer of Hebrews explicitly affirms Christ's deity in this
passage.” (The IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament) Other scholars have made similar
statements with equally strong convictions.
From a different perspective, God's New Covenant – A New Translation by Jewish scholar Heinz W.
Cassirer and the New World Translation are two notable advocates of the translation, “God is your
throne forever and ever.” These translators do not treat the words “the God” as a vocative or
direct address to Christ, but legitimately interpret the throne to be God the Father, as in option 1
above. Interestingly, the NWT editors acknowledge, unlike many Trinitarians, that some biblical
passages, like Hebrews 1:8, “can grammatically be translated in more than one way,” in which “a
person might draw more than one conclusion,” making biblical context the decisive factor.
(Reasoning from the Scriptures, pp. 416, 422) It should be noted that the NWT has often been chided
by the religious community at large as unorthodox, but some prominent scholars have adopted
or defended the controversial rendering of Hebrews 1:8 (which appears in the NWT), such as
Brooke Foss Wescott, James Moffatt, and Edgar J. Goodspeed.
6. Scholars express their uncertainty around Hebrews 1:8.
Due to the popularity of the pro-trinitarian view in Hebrews 1:8 reflected by reading # 3 above,
many Bible readers have taken the traditional reading for granted as “the correct one” out of the
three notable options. But is it? Not quite! Honesty compelled the editor of The One Volume
Commentary to include this disclaimer: “The Son is addressed as ‘God’ [in Heb. 1:8], but there is
some difficulty in regard to the exact reading of the first clause in the original.” (Edited by J. R.
Dummelow) Other scholars have gone public admitting that the preferred traditional reading
found in major English translations is not at all conclusive. Here is a sample:
F. F. Bruce, a Trinitarian, tentatively believed that Hebrews 1:8 calls Christ “God” while admitting
that the RSV marginal reading – “Thy throne is God – is ‘quite convincing.’ ” (The Epistle to the
Hebrews, rev ed., in NICNT, 1990, p. 19.)

Similarly, Robert Young (the author of Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible), wrote in his
commentary: “This is a clear instance where Christ is called ‘God,’ but as v. 9 speaks of God as his
‘God,’ we cannot lay stress upon it here as proving the supreme divinity of the Saviour, besides it
may be justly rendered, ‘God is thy throne – to the ages of the ages’; in either case it is applicable
to the mediatorial throne only.” (Young’s Concise Bible Commentary)
A New Commentary of Holy Scripture Including the Apocrypha conceded: “O God: see on Ps 45:6. In
the Psalm the King is addressed as God (Elohim: cf. Ps 82:6). If this translation is retained our
Lord is here proclaimed as God by the Father... The other translation ‘thy throne is God’ is equally
possible and we cannot say which of the two our writer adopts.” (Edited by Charles Gore, Henry
Leighton Goudge, Alfred Guilaume, 1946 reprint of corrected edition of March 1929. Page 605, London.)

William Barclay: “This is a passage in which no one would wish to be dogmatic. In both cases
both translations are perfectly possible … But, whatever translation we accept, we once again
see that the matter stands in such doubt that it would be very unsafe to base any firm argument
upon it.” (Jesus as They Saw Him, pp. 25-26. 1962) Barclay does offer an alternative translation of the
Greek for Heb. 1:8, “God is thy throne for ever and ever.” (The New Testament, Westminster John Knox
Press, 1999)

That said, how can we determine the most probable original rendering in the verse? Thankfully,
we have at out disposal the full context of Hebrews, and various other available clues (Ps 45:6) to
help us do that.
The Eastern/Greek Orthodox New Testament rendered ho theos' in the verse as a vocative, but
acknowledged: “There are instances where ho theos [in Heb. 1:8] means ‘O God’ (Heb. 10:7), which
is why this verse can properly be translated as indicated ... However, it should be noted that the
most statistically and linguistically probable reading is “Your throne is God, is unto ages of ages.”
(Laurent Cleenewerck, Editor, 2011)

Bible translator Jonathan Mitchell in his commentary on “Hebrews” wrote: “I think that what
needs to be kept in mind is the context of this chapter: the Son becoming the Messiah, rather
than it being an ontological statement about the Son – regardless of our personal
understanding about the Son.” In the Commentary, he himself rendered the disputed clause as:
“God [is] Your throne, on into the age of the Age,” with the variant rendering: “Your throne, O
God...” (Brackets his.) Mitchell adds: “The second half of vs. 9 argues for the first reading: still
addressing the same one, it says ‘God – Your God – anointed You.’ Recall that Jesus said to His
disciples in John 20:17, ‘I am progressively stepping back up again (or: now ascending) toward
My Father – even the Father of you folks – and My God: even [the] God of you people!’ ” (John,
Judah, Paul & ?: Comments on...Hebrews..., Harper Brown Publishing, May 1, 2013)

And William L. Lane added: “The writer's primary interest in the quotation is not the predication
of deity but of the eternal nature of the dominion exercised by the Son.” (Hebrews 1-8, p. 29.)
A. W. Wainwright: “The belief that Christ is God is not the keystone of the Christology of the
Epistle of Hebrews … the writer does not include the deity of Christ within the scheme of
thought which he presents in the epistle.” (The Trinity in the New Testament, p. 67)
Dr. Jason David BeDuhn (Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff) in his book, Truth in Translation,
compared various Bible translations for accuracy and bias, and explained the reason for his
support for the alternate readings in the following manner:
“Since there are a handful of instances in the New Testament [Luke 18:11; 18:13; and Heb. 10:7]
where ho theos [“the God”] means ‘O God,’ rather than ‘God,’ it is possible that in Hebrews 1:8 ho
theos means ‘O God.’ But since ho theos usually means ‘God,’ and there are hundreds of
examples of this, it is more probable that in Hebrews 1:8 ho theos means ‘God.’ […] Both
translations are possible, so none of the translations we are comparing can be rejected as
inaccurate. We cannot settle the debate with certainty. But which translation is more probable?
” First, on the basis of linguistics, ho theos is more likely to mean ‘God,’ as it does hundreds of
times throughout the New Testament, than ‘O God,’ a meaning it has in only three other places
in the New Testament. Furthermore, there is no other example in the Bible [i.e., in the NT] where
the expression ‘forever’ stands alone as a predicate phrase with the verb ‘to be,’ as it would if the
sentence were read ‘Your throne is forever.’ Moreover, there is no other way to say ‘God is your
throne’ than the way Hebrews 1:8 reads. There is, however, another way to say ‘Your throne, O
God,’ namely, by using the direct address (vocative) form thee rather than the subject (nominative)
form ho theos. The test of asking ‘Is there some other way the author could have expressed x if
he or she meant x?’ is an important one in translation and interpretation.
” Second, on the basis of literary context, we can say that Jesus, who is the subject being
discussed in Hebrews 1:8, is not called ‘God’ anywhere else in the Epistle to the Hebrews. In the
immediate context of Hebrews 1:7-9, the author is making a contrast between angels and Jesus.
Quotes from the Old Testament are used to make this contrast. Verse 7, quoting Psalm 104:4,
shows that God talks about the angels as ‘servants.’ The contrast is made in verse 8, which says,
‘But (God says) about the Son...’ and then quotes the words we are trying to figure out from
Psalm 45:6-7. In contrast to the angels who serve, the Son is enthroned. But is God the throne
on which the Son rests, or is the Son himself called ‘God’ here?
” Fortunately, there is another literary context to help us, namely the original psalm that is being
quoted in Hebrews 1:8. Psalm 45 is a hymn in praise of the king of Israel. God is addressed
nowhere in this psalm. Instead, we get a lengthy description of the king's ideal life. He is
described as shooting arrows, girded with a sword, perfumed, living in ivory-embellished
palaces, entertained with lutes, attended by fair princesses, and aroused by their beauty. Can
there be any doubt that the life described here is of a very human king?
” It's really quite simple: Jesus is the Messiah. The Messiah is the rightful king of Israel. What is
said about the king of Israel can be said equally of the Messiah … The psalm is about what God
has done for the person spoken to. [...]
” So we must conclude that the more probable translation is ‘God is your throne...’, the
translation found in the NW [New World Translation] and in the footnotes of the NRSV [New Revised
Standard Version] and TEV [Today's English Version]. Three giants of modern New Testament
scholarship – Westcott, Moffatt, and Goodspeed – came to the same conclusion independently.
The fact is, if this verse were quoted in the New Testament in reference to anyone else, the
translators would have not hesitated to translate it as ‘God is your throne...’ It seems likely
that it is only because most translations were made by people who already believe that
Jesus is God that the less probable way of translating this verse has been preferred.
” Let me repeat that both ways of translating Hebrews 1:8 are legitimate readings of the original
Greek of the verse. There is no basis for proponents of either translation to claim that the other
translation is certainly wrong.” (End of quote. Italics his. Emphasis added.)
7. A critic (Trevor R. Allin) presents a typical biased view of Hebrews 1:8.
Professor Jason BeDuhn, surprisingly, published a book which was quite favorable in his review
of the New World Translation, an “unorthodox” translation by traditional standards rejecting the
Trinity doctrine, so it was expected that orthodox Trinitarian scholars, would in time, counter
BeDuhn's work on those NT controversial texts where the deity of Christ is at stake. Sure
enough, two such scholars, Dr. Trevor R Allin, and Dr. Thomas A Howe, both Evangelical
Protestants, have made public their theological objections on the matter: A review of Dr Jason
BeDuhn’s “Truth in Translation” by Trevor R Allin, Ph.D. And: Dr Thomas A Howe, Bias in New
Testament Translations? A Defense of the Deity of Christ”. Both works are quite critical of BeDuhn's
book.
I will briefly focus on one of these writings, that of Dr. Trevor R. Allin (Associated with the Baptist
Church of England). Allin went on a crusade against BeDuhn's work by nit-picking minutiaes of all
sorts, especially his credentials. He criticized him, among other things, for ‘being biased in
selectively quoting academics’ in his explanation of Hebrews 1:8. Allin mentioned for example,
that BeDuhn quoted or ignored Moffatt as an authority when it suited him. Allin also said: “One
must point out that the approach [of those who engage in quoting] (selectively!) from those
commentators who appear (or can be made to appear) to agree with their claims, while ignoring
those who do not support their position...is just not worthy of a genuinely academic study,
which one would expect to present all of the possibly-contradictory arguments concerning an
issue, and all of the relevant evidence, before fairly evaluating the merits of each in order to
reach a conclusion”. (Page 10)

Going over their writings, I find that both Allin and BeDuhn made use in their writings of
selective quotes. Actually, these two scholars are not alone in doing so, because it is a common
practice in the field. Allin, for some reason though, is oblivious to the fact that he himself did so
in his article. Of the two, I find that BeDuhn presented both sides of the interpretation of
Hebrews 1: 8, unlike Allin, who, accepted the Trinitarian proposition as the only viable one.
Oddly, Allin also mentioned Moffatt when dealing with other Scriptures, but did not do so in his
consideration of Hebrews 1:8, a criticism he made of BeDuhn.

Allin brought up that the rendering “God is your throne” (found in the NWT, and which BeDuhn
defends) as “a mistranslation,” and “indefensible.” But it is so strange that a scholar who criticizes
another one of dishonesty by reason of omission, failed to mention within its 47 pages of his
article that there are other reputable scholars who interpret Hebrews 1:8 just as BeDuhn and the
NWT have done, but selectively chose to accuse only non-Trinitarians of “religious bias”. This is a
major blunder. BeDuhn's conclusion (which is actually the same as that of Barclay's, a Trinitarian), that
“both ways of translating Hebrews 1:8 are legitimate readings of the original Greek of the verse”,
and that, “there is no basis for proponents of either translation to claim that the other
translation is certainly wrong,” is certainly more honest and balanced than Allin's independent
conclusion on Hebrews 1:8, in which he ignores altogether other legitimate options for the
interpretation of the text. Ironically, Allin's article, published with the obvious intent of debasing
BeDuhn's work, cannot be considered, to use Allin's own words, “worthy of a genuinely academic
study which one would expect to present all of the possibly-contradictory arguments concerning
an issue...” (Page 10) Furthermore, I think that BeDuhn, did overall, a better representation of this
verse within the context of Psalm 45:6,7, the source of the quotation by the biblical author, than
Allin did.

A.T. Robertson wrote in Word Pictures in the New Testament the following, which disputes Allin's
slanted conclusion: “O God (ho theos). This quotation (the fifth) is from Psa. 45:7f. A Hebrew
nuptial ode (epithalamium) for a king treated here as Messianic. It is not certain whether ho theos
is here the vocative (address with the nominative form as in John 20:28 with the Messiah termed theos
as is possible, John 1:18) or ho theos is nominative (subject or predicate) with estin (is) understood:
‘God is thy throne’ or ‘Thy throne is God.’ Either makes good sense”. ( Vol 5, p.339. ©1932)
The Interpreter's Bible notes: “[Hebrews 1:] 8-9. Thy throne....is for ever and ever (from Ps. 45:6-7): The
sense in which the author uses this quotation is clear. It means for him that the Son has divine
authority in contrast to the subservient role of the angels. As the opening words stand in our
translations, they require the application of [ho theos'], ‘O God,’ to the Son. We have noted that
this epistle does not elsewhere give the name ‘God’ to the Son in this unrelieved fashion, and vs.
9 would seem to suggest another reading. The alternative is to read, ‘God is thy throne’ or ‘thy
throne is God.’ The usual translation is not impossible, however, in a poetic passage.” (pp. 605-
606)

B. F. Wescott, explained his choice of the rendering, God is Thy throne (or, Thy throne is God) over
the traditional one (citing Psalm 45:6,7 in LXX, the source of the quote in Hebrews 1:8,9) thus: “The LXX.
admits of two renderings: [ho the·os′] can be taken as a vocative in both cases (Thy throne, O God, . .
. therefore, O God, Thy God . . . ) or it can be taken as the subject (or the predicate) in the first case
(God is Thy throne, or Thy throne is God...), and in apposition to [ho the·os′ sou] in the second case
(Therefore God, even Thy God. . .). . . . It is scarcely possible that [’Elo·him′] in the original can be
addressed to the king. The presumption therefore is against the belief that [ho the·os′] is a
vocative in the LXX. Thus on the whole it seems best to adopt in the first clause the rendering:
God is Thy throne (or, Thy throne is God), that is ‘Thy kingdom is founded upon God, the
immovable Rock’; and to take [ho theos′] as in apposition in the second clause.” (The Epistle to the
Hebrews, London, 1889, pp. 25, 26.)

Don Cuppitt: “No exegete would suggest that the Hebrew writers thought of either their present
king or their ideal future king as literally and co-equally divine... the meaning is rather that the
king rules by divine right and is endued with the fullness of God's power.” (Jesus and the Gospel of
God, p. 19. Guilford, England: Lutterworth, 1979)

Vincent Taylor further contends that “the author [of Hebrews] shares the reluctance of New
Testament writers to speak explicitly of Christ as ‘God.’ ” Taylor adds that Hebrews 1:8 “supplies
no ground at all for the supposition: that the author thought and spoke of Christ as God.... Like
Paul and John the writer frequently uses the name ‘the Son,’ and he does so in introducing this
very quotation. He has no intention of suggesting that Jesus is God.” (Does the New Testament Call
Jesus God?, p. 117. 1962)

George Wesley Buchanan: “For the author [of Hebrews], the Son was the first-born, the apostle of
God, the reflection of God's glory, and the stamp of his nature (1:3,6), but he was not God
himself.” (The Anchor Bible: To The Hebrews, A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, p. 21. 1972)

8. What does it all mean?

Even if we take the reference of “God” to Christ as a vocative here in Hebrews 1:8, as
traditionalists prefer, it is not in the least mandatory to define “God” within the restricted sense
of the word as moderns tend to do. Instead, the term God can have biblically other nuances. For
instance, the New American Bible, St Joseph Edition, 1970, noted at Ps. 45:[6]7: “The Hebrew king was
called Elohim, ‘God,’ not in the polytheistic sense common among the ancient pagans but as
meaning ‘godlike’ or ‘taking the place of God.’ ”

And the TNIV Study Bible's Psalm 45:6 adds: “O God. Possibly the king's throne is called God's
throne because he is God's appointed regent. But it is also possible that the king himself is
addressed as ‘god.’ The Davidic king (the ‘Lord's anointed,’ 2 Sam 19:21) because of his special
relationship with God, was called at his enthronement the ‘son’ of God (see 2:7; 2Sa 7:14; 1 Ch 28:6;
cf. Ps 89:27). In this psalm which praises the king and especially extols his ‘splendor and majesty’
(v. 3), it is not unthinkable that he was called ‘god’ as a title of honor (cf. Isa 9:6). Such a
description of the Davidic king attains its fullest meaning when applied to Christ, as the author
of Hebrews does (Heb 1:8-9). (The pharaoh's of Egypt were sometimes addressed as ‘my god’ by
their vassal kings in Canaan, as evidenced by the Amarna letters...).”

Perhaps this is what Jewish Bible translator Hugh J. Schonfield had in mind when he, in his
translation of 1958, chose to render the standard vocative expression “O God” of other versions
at Hebrews 1:8 as, “Your throne, O mighty one, is of eternal duration…. Therefore, O mighty one,
your God has anointed you….” (The Authentic New Testament) This matter begs the question: If it was
‘possible,’ not “unthinkable” in Bible times to address a human king as “god” as a title of honor,
why would this same title when applied to Christ be interpreted that he was “God” in the
absolute sense, when Christ himself, throughout the New Testament only claimed to be “God's
Son”?

The Jerome Biblical Commentary further explains: “The reason for the author's quoting Ps [alm]
45:7-8 seems to be simply to bring out the permanence of the Son's kingdom. The application of
the name ‘God’ to him is of no great significance; the Ps[almist] had already used it of the
Hebr[ew] king to whom it was addressed. Undoubtedly, the author of Heb [rews] saw more in the
name that what was conveyed by the court style of the original, but his understanding must be
derived from what he has already said about the pre-existent Son. In any case, the tone of the
Ps[alm] and the theme of the entire section suggests that what the author envisages is the Son's
everlasting rule consequent upon his messianic enthronement.” (©1968 by Prentice Hall, Inc.)

Charle's Box Commentaries on Selected Books of the Bible summed it up well: “Hebrews [chapter]
one is designed to cause us to understand the greatness of Jesus. He is the only one through
whom God speaks today. God formerly spoke by the prophets. Now He has spoken by his Son.
This epistle or letter is designed to keep people from turning from Christianity. In order to
accomplish this goal the superiority of Jesus is shown. It is likewise clearly proven that
Christianity is superior to the Mosaic system.” That being the case, why would this “superiority”
require in any way that Jesus be God? It does not! The Bible expresses that Jesus Christ is the
“mediator” between God and mankind, not God. (1 Timothy 2:5)

Furthermore, had the Trinity doctrine been introduced to those monotheistic Jewish believers
during the 1st Century (as some have speculated), it would surely have created the greatest uproar
among the Jewish people, a matter that would not go unnoticed. In examination, why do we not
find one iota of controversy surrounding this potential premise of extraordinary assimilation
into Jewish thinking? The answer is simple: The trinitarian controversy arose centuries later, not
during the 1st Century. Any effort to trace “trinitarian” nuances in the book of Hebrews itself, is
simply anachronistic, even unrealistic, since it would force the reader to apply later theological
creeds to the earlier Christian doctrine, leading to Scriptural corruption.

In sum, arguments in favor of the traditional interpretation of Hebrews 1:6,8 fail to prove that
Jesus is God. We are better off simply adhering to inspired biblical statements as they were
penned, instead of adding language from heathen philosophies to our doctrinal base. Scripture
repeatedly tells us that Jesus Christ is “the Son of God,” not God. (Matthew 16:13-17; Luke 1:35; John
1:34, 49; 20:31; Hebrews 4:14) Why would Bible writers spend every effort to insure throughout the
New Testament that Jesus be called “the Son of God” if they really meant all along that he was
“God” in the first place? Instead of stressing the all-mightiness of God, the practice of
consistently calling Jesus “God's Son,” would rather point to his divine derivation, and
subordination. The fact is that this Son of God appears throughout Scripture as One fully
dependent on God. The Bible plainly states that Christ is ‘under the authority of God,’ and will
always be. (John 14:28; 1 Corinthians 11:3; 15:27,28)

Hebrews 9:14 tells us that Christ “offered himself unblemished to God as a sacrifice, cleanse our
consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” Here, the author
of Hebrews made a clear distinction between God and Christ, just as is done elsewhere in
Scripture. The Bible depicts Christ, not as God on the throne, but as “the Lamb of God”; “the Son
of Man”; ‘High Priest’; ‘Mediator’; and “the Word of God” – sitting “at the right hand of the throne
of the Majesty in heaven.” (John 1:29; Matthew 8:20; Hebrews 1:3; 3:1; 8:1; 9:15,24; 10:12, 12:2; Rev.
19:13) Thus, the two verses (6 & 8) of Hebrews chapter 1 considered here, do not in any way prove
Jesus is God Almighty. Bible translations, like the ones below, which offer a rendering at
Hebrews 1:8 in harmony with the statements above are more in line with what the Bible really
teaches.

“But of the Son he says, ‘God is your throne forever and ever! And a righteous scepter is the
scepter of his kingdom! You have loved right and hated wrong! That is why God, your God, has
anointed you with exhilarating oil beyond all your comrades.’” (An American Translation, Edgar J.
Goodspeed)

“But to the Son: ‘It is God who supports your dominion for all time to come, the rule that is
upright, the rule of your Kingdom. It was because you love what is right and hated what is
wrong, that God picked you from your fellows for the jubilation of being anointed as king.’” (21st
Century New Testament, Right margin)

“But to the Son: Thy throne, is God, to the age of the age…. Because of this God, thy God,
anointed thee…. (Ibid - 21st, Left margin – literal rendering)

“Of the Son he said-- ‘God is thy throne for ever and ever; The scepter of his Kingdom is the
scepter of Justice; Thou lovest righteousness and hatest iniquity; Therefore God, thy God, has
anointed thee with the festal oil more abundantly than thy peers.’ ” (Twentieth Century New
Testament)

- End -

__________________________________________

Addendum: Is the Trinity of biblical origin?:

Christian Doctrine: “The Bible does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity. Neither the word ‘trinity’ itself nor
such language as ‘one-in-three,’ ‘three-in-one,’ one ‘essence’ (or ‘substance’), and three ‘persons,’ is biblical
language.” (Shirley Guthrie, Jr., Professor of theology at Columbia Theological Seminary, 1994, pp. 76-77)
Encyclopedia International: “The doctrine of the Trinity did not form part of the apostles' preaching, as this
is reported in the New Testament. In its final form it is a product of many factors....Behind other strands in
the development of the doctrine are considerations at least partly philosophical....And this in turn implies
a Platonic view of universals and predication.” (1978)

“The New Testament does not teach the later standard doctrine that Jesus is a distinct, divine person co-
equal, co-essential and co-eternal with God the Father. It exalts Jesus as high as is possible without
compromising monotheism.” (Don Cupitt, Jesus and the Gospel of God, p. 18. London: Lutterworth, 1979)

“Jesus is not God but God’s representative, and, as such, so completely and totally acts on God’s behalf
that he stands in God’s stead before the world.” (Professor Jacob Jervell, University of Oslo: Jesus in the Gospel of
John, p. 21. 1984)

“The New Testament says that Jesus was the Word of God, it says that God was in Christ, it says that Jesus
is the Son of God; but it does not say that Jesus was God, simply like that.” (John A.T. Robinson, Honest to God,
p. 70. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963)

“Christendom has done away with Christianity without being quite aware of it.” (Soren Kierkegaard, cited in
Time magazine, Dec. 16, 1946, p. 64)

“Who can defeat the world? Only the person who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John
5:5, Good News Translation)

Other subjects by the author:

For John 1:1 (“God,” or “a god”?): http://www.scribd.com/doc/34916458/The-correct-translation-of-John-1-1


For a briefer consideration of John 1:1, with additional samples, click the following link:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/50330864/John-1-1-List-of-Alternate-Reading

For John 8:58, http://www.scribd.com/doc/35318309/The-correct-translation-of-John-8-58-List-of-alternate-readings-


to-I-am-I-have-been-I-was-I-exist
John 17:3 (‘knowledge’): http://www.scribd.com/doc/57772552/John-17-3-%E2%80%98Taking-in-knowledge-of-
%E2%80%99-God-and-Jesus

Acts 20:28, Whose blood?: http://www.scribd.com/doc/231244155/Acts-20-28-Whose-blood


Colossians 1:16 (“all other things”): http://www.scribd.com/doc/209607822/Colossians-1-16-Is-the-translation-all-
other-things-appropriate
1 Timothy 3:16: http://www.scribd.com/doc/76927834/Was-God-manifested-in-the-flesh-1-Timothy-3-16

The Trinity subject: http://www.scribd.com/doc/160286056/Does-the-Trinity-ever-make-sense


Do the NW translators know Greek?: http://www.scribd.com/doc/48234022/Did-the-New-World-Translation-
Committee-Know-Greek

Was Jesus Created First: https://www.scribd.com/document/378080373/Was-Jesus-Created-First

To read other material related to this subject by the same author, see other links to this article on this
website. (To submit comments, suggestions or corrections: lesriv000@gmail.com )
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