The letter opens with an introduction consisting of a reflection on the climax of God's revelation to the human race in his
Son. The divine communication was initiated and maintained during Old Testament times in fragmentary and varied ways through
the prophets (
), including Abraham, Moses, and all through whom God spoke. But now in these last days (
), the final age, God's revelation of his saving purpose is achieved through a son, i.e., one who is Son, whose role is redeemer and mediator of creation. He was made heir of all things through his death and exaltation to glory, yet he existed before he appeared as man; through him God created the universe.
, which may be based upon a liturgical hymn, assimilate the Son to the personified Wisdom of the Old Testament as refulgence of God's glory and imprint of his being (
3; cf Wis 7, 26
). These same terms are used of the Logos in Philo. The author now turns from the cosmological role of the preexistent Son
to the redemptive work of Jesus: he brought about purification from sins and has been exalted to the right hand of God (see Ps 110, 1
). The once humiliated and crucified Jesus has been declared God's Son, and this name shows his superiority to the angels.
The reason for the author's insistence on that superiority is, among other things, that in some Jewish traditions angels were
mediators of the old covenant (see Acts 7, 53; Gal 3, 19
). Finally, Jesus' superiority to the angels emphasizes the superiority of the new covenant to the old because of the heavenly
priesthood of Jesus.
Jesus' superiority to the angels is now demonstrated by a series of seven Old Testament texts. Some scholars see in the stages
of Jesus' exaltation an order corresponding to that of enthronement ceremonies in the ancient Near East, especially in Egypt,
namely, elevation to divine status (
); presentation to the angels and proclamation of everlasting lordship (
); enthronement and conferral of royal power (
). The citations from the Psalms in vv 5 and 13
were traditionally used of Jesus' messianic sonship (cf Acts 13, 33
) through his resurrection and exaltation (cf Acts 2, 33–35
); those in vv 8 and 10–12
are concerned with his divine kingship and his creative function. The central quotation in v 7
serves to contrast the angels with the Son. The author quotes it according to the Septuagint translation, which is quite
different in meaning from that of the Hebrew (“You make the winds your messengers, and flaming fire your ministers”). The
angels are only sent to serve … those who are to inherit salvation (
And again, when he leads: the Greek could also be translated “And when he again leads” in reference to the parousia.
O God: the application of the name “God” to the Son derives from the preexistence mentioned in vv 2–3
; the psalmist had already used it of the Hebrew king in the court style of the original. See the note on Ps 45, 7
. It is also important for the author's christology that in vv 10–12
an Old Testament passage addressed to God is redirected to Jesus.
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