Note: Please watch the video above or keep reading.
“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3, ESV).
In biblical interpretation, it’s important to consult the context. The previous two verses say:
“1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” Let’s pause here.
The author of Hebrews emphasizes that in the Old Testament God communicated primarily through the prophets. While God additionally communicated through angels, judges, and ordinary people, the author of Hebrews is setting up a contrast with verse two which starts with the word “but.” “But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”
Because of God’s unprecedented holiness, contrasted to man’s sinfulness —if God were to appear before any of us in the flesh we would die (Exodus 33:20, John 1:18, 6:46, 1 Timothy 6:16, 1 John 4:12). Before the fall, Adam walked and talked with God. After the fall, God used intermediaries who spoke for God.
The author of Hebrews is communicating that God used a different intermediary in the New Testament to speak for Himself. The verse says, “He has spoken to us by his Son.” Because Jesus spoke for God, he was God’s agent and not the God that He spoke for.
The doctrine of the Trinity wrongly teaches that God Himself came down, dwelt and spoke to us. But the verse again states that “God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he [speaking of God] has spoken to us by his Son.” Because Jesus spoke for God, He is not to be mistaken for the God He represented.
The distinction between God as absolute God and Jesus Christ as God’s representative is clear when Trinitarian presuppositions are not projected in the New Testament. “5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5).
The verse continues, “whom he [speaking of God] appointed the heir of all things.” Because God appointed Jesus as “heir,” Jesus is not the God who made him heir. Because Jesus was made heir, He formerly was not heir. If Jesus was fully God, He could not be given an inheritance that He did not already posses.
Verse two concludes, “through whom also he created the world.” Here we have a purposeful mistranslation. The word “created” should be the verb “made” and the word “world” should be the plural noun “ages.” It should say, “through whom also he created made the world ages.”
Here are some quotes from Trinitarians who acknowledge this correct interpretation:
“However, the author literally wrote, “through whom He made the ages.”
MacLeod, D. J. (2005). The Finality of Christ: An Exposition of Hebrews 1:1–4. Bibliotheca Sacra, 162, 217.
“The Son of God, “through whom also he made the ages” (ch. 1:2),…”
Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Hebrews (p. 92). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
“The Greek word translated “world” in Hebrews 1:2 (aiōnas) is better translated “ages.”
MacArthur, J. (1996). First Love (p. 22). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
“He has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe” (literally, “framed the ages”; Heb. 1:2);
Geisler, N. L. (2001). Why I Believe the God of the Bible Is the One True God. In Why I am a Christian: leading thinkers explain why they believe (p. 85). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
The Greek word rendered “worlds” in Hebrews 1:2 does not mean the material world but “the ages,” as it is usually translated elsewhere.
MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2001). God in the manger: the miraculous birth of Christ (p. 145). Nashville, TN: W Pub. Group.
“Whilst in Heb. 1:2, 11:3, He is said to have made ‘the ages’ (A. V. the worlds).
Girdlestone, R. B. (1998). Synonyms of the Old Testament: their bearing on Christian doctrine. (p. 318). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Since so many Trinitarians admit that the verse literally states, “made the ages,” why are these scholars not outraged at this mistranslation? I believe, that because the God of Trinitarians is Jesus Christ, it’s more exalting for their Jesus to be the one God who created the heavens and the earth of Genesis 1:1, than to be the intermediary agent, “through whom also He made the ages.”
The passage continues, “3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3, ESV).
The word “radiance” further identifies Jesus. This Greek word is only found once in the New Testament. According to A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Literature….In ancient Greek writings this word is usually passive. A passive meaning of radiance is a reflection from another source. For example, a mirror radiates from another source.
In Hebrews 1:3, the meaning is passives because Christ reflects the glory of God the Father. Similarly, in Philippians 2:6, Christ is in the form of God. In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Christ is the image of God.
The words, “of God” are not in the Greek as this interlinear demonstrates. While I’m not denying that God is implied here, translations should faithfully mirror the original Greek. To their credit, both the NKJV and the NASB don’t include the words “of God.”
We’ve now arrived at an extraordinary Trinitarian exaggeration which all major translations participate in. Because the doctrine of the Trinity teaches that Jesus is literarily God Himself, popular translations dishonestly mistranslated this verse to match this theology.
In the Greek, there is only one word for “representation.” The added word, “exact” is an adjective that modifies the word “representation” and strikingly changed the meaning of the verse. There is an astonishing difference between being an exact imprint and being an imprint or representation of something or someone.
We are made in the image of God. But we are not made in the exact image of God. Millions of Christians unknowingly read Trinitarian exaggerations into their Bibles.
In the Greek, BDAD assigns three possible meanings for this word. The category of meaning they assigned for Hebrews 1:3 is, something produced as a representation [or] reproduction” (2000). (3rd ed., p. 1078). Based on this definition, Jesus is a representation of God and therefore not the God He represents. This meaning is contextually in harmony with Jesus being the radiance or reflection of the glory of God which we discussed.
ESV: “the exact imprint of his nature”
NASB: “the exact representation of His nature”
NKJV: “and the express image of His person”
NIV: “and the exact representation of his being”
The ESV and the NASB translates the Greek word ὑποστάσεως as “nature.” This Greek word has a wide range of meaning. Yet it’s difficult to define with precision within the context. The word “person” which the old and new KJV’s use, or the word “being” as found in the NIV are preferred because they are more general in light of contextual ambiguity.
To follow is another consideration.
“3 He is the radiance of the glory and the exact imprint of his nature, and he [Jesus] upholds the universe by the word of his power…”
Is the word “his” the power of Jesus or of God? That is, does Jesus uphold the universe by His own power, or does He uphold the universe by God’s power? To answer this question, it’s helpful to engage the preceding embedded clause which has a similar grammatical arrangement. Please notice the similarity starting with the first clause.
“3 He [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the imprint of his [God’s] nature,“
Now lets go to the next clause:
“He [Jesus] upholds the universe by the word of his [?] power…”
The pronoun “his” in both clauses is the identical Greek word in the third person.
In the first and second embedded clause, the pronoun “He” again describes Jesus.
The word “his” in the first clause describes God. If we continue this parallelism, the word “his” describes God where Jesus upholds the universe by God’s power.
This interpretation is consistent with the context. Jesus was appointed heir by God (v. 2). Jesus is God’s agent who made the ages (v. 2). Jesus is the reflection of God’s glory (v. 3).
Because modern translations make Jesus the exact imprint of God they cloud that Jesus upholds the universe by God’s power.
The verse concludes, “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Here is another distinction between God and Jesus. God is called the “Majesty on high” which is never a title applied to Jesus. Jesus is described as the one seated on the right of the God on the central throne.
Thank you for reading this writing. Please follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ who leads his sheep to His Father’s house. May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ bless you beloved as you follow His Word and His dear Son.
Good essay. Could you continue with the other trinitarian “prooftexts” in Hebrew 1, like verse 6 (“worship him angels”), vers 8 “your throne oh God”, and 12 (the Lord creator)? I constantly have people referring me to them. Verse 12 seems the most complicated.