His Distinguished Name

The Son achieved the “Purification of Sins,” thereby qualifying to “sit down at the right hand of the Majesty on High.” As the appointed High Priest “after the order of Melchizedek,” he now intercedes for his people in the very presence of God. Moreover, he inherited a “more distinguished name” than even the angels, namely, “Son.” In its first chapter, the Letter to the Hebrews demonstrates that this “Son” and High Priest is superior to even creatures as glorious as the angels of God.

The Letter uses several comparisons to demonstrate his superiority. For example, his singular priesthood and the New Covenant inaugurated by his once-for-all sacrifice accomplished what the repeated animal sacrifices and priests of the Levitical code could never do. Consequently, he received more honor and authority than even the Great Lawgiver, Moses.

Heavens alone - Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash
[Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash]

The Letter’s first contrast is between Jesus and the angels, and it employs several Old Testament passages to demonstrate his superiority:

  • (Hebrews 1:4-7) - “By so much becoming superior to the angels by as much as, going beyond them, he inherited a more distinguished name. For to which of the angels said he ever, You are my son; I, this day, have begotten you? And again, I will become his father and he shall become my Son? But whenever he again brings the firstborn into the habitable earth, he says, And let all God’s angels render homage to him! Even as to the angels, indeed, he says, Who makes his angels winds, and his ministers of state a fiery flame.” – (Passage alludes to Psalm 2:7, 2 Samuel 7:14, Deuteronomy 32:43, Psalm 104:4).

The argument proves the superiority of the Son by comparing him to persons and creatures widely recognized as excellent, and in this first instance, to the angels. If they are glorious and holy, how much more so is the Son of God?

The passage employs the Greek term kreittĂ´n or “better,” an adjective of comparison used to denote something or someone that is “better, best, nobler, noblest.” It is used thirteen times in the Letter to stress the superiority of Jesus or what God has done through him - (e.g., “Better Sacrifices” - Hebrew 7:7, 7:19, 9:23).

The reference to his “distinguished name” translates the Greek term diaphoros, meaning that which is “distinct, distinguished, different.” The point is not simply that his name is better than that of “angel,” but that it is of an entirely different order since he bears the name “son” rather than “angel” or “messenger.”

The emphasis is on his position as the “Son,” “High Priest,” and “Heir.” Certainly, the Author of the Letter is aware that this son is none other than Jesus, but his name does not appear until the next chapter when discussing his sacrificial death and qualifications for the priesthood.

The Letter does not elaborate at this point on the reference to the “habitable earth.” That subject is taken up again in Chapter 2 where the eighth Psalm is discussed – (Hebrews 2:5).

The reference to “bringing the Son” once more into the “inhabited earth” points to the future coming of Jesus at the end of the age, and this is confirmed in Chapter 9 by the declaration that Jesus “will appear a second time, apart from sin to those who are awaiting him for salvation” – (Hebrews 9:28).

The Greek noun rendered inhabited earth normally refers to land that is inhabited by men (oikoumenĂ©, Strong’s - #G3625). In the first century, it was often applied to regions that were considered civilized, places where civilization existed as opposed to uncivilized or barbaric peoples.

TO NO ANGEL


The comparison begins with the rhetorical question: “To which of the angels said He at any time?” The expected answer is “none.” At no point did Yahweh call any angel ‘son’ or elevate one of them to sit at His “right hand.”

Seven scriptural citations are used to demonstrate his superiority over angels, and the first six are divided into three pairs for literary effect:

  • Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14.
  • Deuteronomy 32:43 and Psalm 104:4.
  • Psalm 45:6-7 and Psalm 102:25-27.

The first pair concerns his status, the second, the function of angels, and the third presents the exalted reign of the Son. The seventh citation is a response to the rhetorical question. What God said to the Son He never said to any angel. The two words that link all seven scriptural citations to the Letter’s opening statement are “angels” and “Son” - (Psalm 110:1, Psalm 103:20-21, Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:1-4).

Jesus is distinct from the angels because he is God’s Son - He has a close and unique relationship with his Father, one that no other being has regardless of how powerful and exalted he, she, or it is. He alone is designated in the Letter as God’s “Son.”

Stars over beach - Photo by Sebastian Knoll on Unsplash
[Photo by Sebastian Knoll on Unsplash]

He is superior to the angels by the very fact that he is a “
Son.” Not only so, but God also commanded all the angels “to render homage” to him. His high status is the result of his High Priestly act by which he “achieved the Purification of Sins” for his “brethren” – (Hebrews 2:17-18 – “Wherefore it behooved him in all things to be made like his brethren, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest”).

The comparison to angels also anticipates the exhortation at the end of this first literary unit that describes how the Law was mediated “through angels.” That legislation was given to Moses at Mount Sinai through angels, the greatest of the prophets. In contrast, “upon the last of these days,” God has spoken His definitive word through one who is a “Son” rather than any angel or prophet.



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