Sunday, March 08, 2015

Brief Notes About Hebrews 1:8

ὁ Θεὸς in Heb 1:8 can either be construed as a subject nominative, nominative of address or a predicate nominative.

Interestingly, William Tyndale evidently understood ὁ Θεὸς as a subject nominative.

"But unto the son he saith: God thy seat shall be for ever and ever" (Tyndale's NT).

C.F.D. Moule writes: "Luke XVIII.11 ὁ Θεὸς (Heb. 1:8, which looks similar, may conceivably be a true Nominative, construed so as to mean Thy throne is God; but see commentators IN LOC.) . . ." (An Idiom Book of NT Greek, p. 32).

As is known by those familiar with issues related to the Trinity doctrine and Christology, B.F. Westcott also favored the translation "God is your throne."

In his commentary on Hebrews, he writes: "The phrase'God is Thy throne' is not indeed found elsewhere, but it is in no way more strange than Ps LXXI.3 [Lord] be Thou to me a rock of habitation . . . Thou art my rock and my fortress" (p. 26).

It is also obvious that the term "throne" applied to God in Heb 1:8 is not to be taken literally; God is understood as the one who upholds, guarantees or supports the Messiah's kingly rule.

Furthermore, in this case, God is not said to be a throne for His people. He is, according to Westcott and Tyndale, the Son's Throne. While M.J. Harris does not favor this interpretation of Heb 1:8, he nevertheless says that the expression "God is your throne" must mean "your throne is founded on (or protected by) God" since it is a metonomy not belonging to the category of the divine (see Jesus As God, p. 213).

What is so hard to understand about God being Jesus' throne in that He upholds or supports his kingship? After all, the ancient Davidic kings of Judah also had God as their throne since they sat upon the figurative throne of YHWH (1 Chron 28:5; 29:23). To me, a similar idea is being communicated in Heb 1:8.


Adam said...

Very interesting post. Moffat and Goodspeed also chose to render Hebrews 1:8 as 'God is your throne', and A.T. Robertson wrote that 'it is not certain' whether ho theos was the vocative or the nominative, and that 'either makes good sense.'

Although both are translational possibilities, I've always been amazed that anyone would attempt to make a case for Jesus' deity from Hebrews chapter 1. The context - Jesus being appointed heir of all things and becoming better than the angels - really militates against a Trinitarian interpretation.

Alethinon61 said...

I would argue that even "they throne, O God..." militates against a Trinitarian interpretation. The text clearly seems to be speaking in functional categories, just as it did in Ps 45 when the very same words were said of an earthly king.

Isa 9:6 also probably refers to an earthly king as "Mighty God," and most probably heard such language and understood its functional application without comment or concern.


JimSpace said...
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JimSpace said...

@ Adam, hi there. Yes, just how Hebrews 1:8 "really militates against a Trinitarian interpretation" is especially seen in how the OT source in Psalm 45:6 is understood by Trinitarian scholars. There, while translated in the vocative, is understood to mean the Davidic king representing God, obviously not being a person of the impersonal Godhead. But this is not applied to their Jesus in Hebrews 1:8!

See my blog post: The Throne of God where I endeavor to adroitly expose this irony of colossal proportions.

Alethinon61 said...


Have you seen this video?:

Setting aside the author's conspiracy theory, for which I have little patience, what do you think of his argument?


Edgar Foster said...


I've seen part of his videos, but have not watched any of them in toto. He has some interesting points although some edits could be made in the video and I disagree with his conspiracy thinking also.


Alethinon61 said...


Yeah, I agree that the videos need editing! In fact, it would be better if he just wrote up some articles addressing the issues he covers, because there's no reason it should take over an hour to argue his case over Heb 1:8!


Edgar Foster said...


On the bright side, he make some beneficial and interesting points about how Trinitarianism is deluding people. :)

Yes, it would help if the videos were much shorter. The only time I watch 60 minute videos are when I'm giving classroom instruction or it's summertime and I'm on vacation.



Anonymous said...

Personally I believe that the standard translation is probably correct unless there is an intended ellipse along the lines of "Thy throne [is the throne of] God."