Search related sites

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Heb. 1:3 `He [Jesus] is the reflection of his [God's] glory'

Hebrews 1:3

     On p. 89 of The Kingdom of the Cults (36th printing - 1985) Walter Martin presents Heb. 1:3 as a supreme "proof" of the trinity doctrine:


     "4. Hebrews 1:3-
 `He [Jesus] is the reflection [apaugasma] of his [God's] glory and the exact representation [charakter] of his very being [hupostaseos], and he sustains all things by the word of his power...' (NWT).


     "This passage of Scripture, I believe, [Martin continues] clarifies beyond doubt the Deity of Jesus Christ.  It would be illogical, and unreasonable, to suppose that Christ, who is the image imprinted by Jehovah's Substance, is not of the Substance of Jehovah and hence God, or the second Person of the Triune Deity.  No creation is ever declared to be of God's very `Substance' or `Essence' (Greek upostaseos [or hupostaseos or hupostasis]) .... The writer of the book of Hebrews clearly intended to portray Christ as Jehovah, or he never would have used such explicit language as `the image imprinted [charakter] by His Substance [hupostasis]'."


---  (But consider: is the wax seal imprinted with the symbol of the king as found on a royal letter really of the same substance as the gold stamp the king used to make that impression?)


     Now notice how this poorly-understood and much-debated passage has been translated in trinitarian Bibles:


     KJV - "Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person."
     RSV - "He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature."
     MLB  - "As the reflection of God's glory and the true expression of His being."
    Moffatt - "He, reflecting God's bright glory and stamped with God's own character."
    Weymouth - "... brightly reflects God's glory...."
    New Century Version - "The Son reflects the glory of God and shows exactly what God is like."


     Even most trinitarian translations use "reflection" in their renderings of this verse since apaugasma is usually considered to have the meaning of reflected brightness (e.g. Thayer, p. 55).  We also can see that "reflection" is more parallel to the second half of this passage: "the express image of his person" - "the very stamp of his nature."


     Nevertheless, some trinitarian translators prefer, for obvious reasons, to render this word as "brightness" or "effulgence."  But even if we consider this to be a proper alternate rendering, just the fact that the more likely "reflection" meaning could have been intended by the NT writer destroys any trinitarian "evidence" that might possibly be found.  Yes, it is incredibly obvious that any person or object that is the "image" or "reflection" of something or someone else cannot possibly be that person or object. 


     Adam could not possibly be God if he were the image of God (Gen. 1:27).  And Jesus could not possibly be God if he merely reflects the Glory of God as did Moses and Christ's followers to a lesser degree - 2 Cor. 3:7-18. 


"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." - 2 Cor. 3:18 NIV.  -  Compare 1 Cor. 15:45-49, RSV.


      Furthermore, the word charakter most definitely denotes an image instead of the actuality - see Thayer, p. 665.


     The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states:


"In He 1 3 the word used is χαρακτὴρ (charakter) .... It is derived from ... (charasso), `to engrave,' .... hence, generally, the exact image or expression of any person or thing as corresponding to the original, the distinguished feature, or traits by which a person or thing is known." - p. 1451, Vol. 3, Eerdmans, 1984 printing.


     Since this word is used only in this verse in the entire NT, we need to look at its usage by other Christians and Jews of this time period.


     Clement of Rome (ca. 90 - 100 A.D.) used this term:  "[God] formed man in the impress (charakter) of His own image" -  1 Clem. 33:4, The Apostolic Fathers, Lightfoot & Harmer.

     Ignatius (ca. 70 - 117 A.D.) wrote:


"there are two coinages ... and each of them hath its proper stamp (charakter) impressed upon it, the unbelievers the [stamp] of this world, but the faithful in love the stamp (charakter) of God the father" -  Magnesians 5:2, Lightfoot and Harmer.

     We can also see that the very popular Jewish religious philosopher of the first century, Philo, used this term.  We know that he never intended to imply that The Logos (The Word) was actually God (see the LOGOS study).  Nevertheless he described The Logos as "the charakter of GOD" - The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 2, p. 288, 1986.  For Philo, then, charakter (stamp, image) certainly did not mean the image is itself the represented object.


     Like eikon [see the IMAGE study], there is no use of charakter by God's people that clearly means the image is itself the object that it represents!


     We then have Christ being described here as the image of God's ["nature," "being," "character"(?)].  Therefore we are able to "see" what God's [nature, being, character (?)] is like by observing Christ's!  The wording here (as the wording throughout the book of Hebrews) shows conclusively that Christ is not God, but that he simply reveals God more perfectly to us. - Cf. 2 Cor. 4:4.; Col. 1:15.


     Also, when we examine the word hupostaseos [or upostaseos], we find "a word very com[mon]" in ancient Greek and used "in widely different senses" - Thayer, p. 644.


     For example, hupostaseos can mean a "substructure, foundation" or "the substantial quality, nature, of any pers[on] or thing," or "firmness, courage, resolution," or "confidence, firm trust, assurance" - Thayer's, p. 645 (also see The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 712-713.)  From this we can see that Heb. 1:3 certainly does not even have to be speaking of an image of the "nature" of God.  Certainly it speaks of Jesus bearing a very accurate image of some quality of God, but it is not certain just what quality!


     Therefore, this passage could honestly be saying that Jesus reflects the glory of God and bears the image of (or "reflects") God's character (see Moffatt translation above).  Or, Jesus perfectly shows God's qualitiesOr even, Jesus reflects God's resolution or God's assurance, etc.


     No matter how hard Martin tries, this passage is certainly no proof of Jesus' Deity.  And yet Martin insists, "This passage of Scripture, I believe, clarifies beyond doubt the Deity of Jesus Christ."  This underscores the fact that no scripture clearly states the "Deity" of Jesus or the trinity doctrine.  And, to use Martin's own words concerning a much less important doctrine: "A doctrine of such momentous importance ... would certainly [if true] have been carefully defined in the New Testament; yet it is not"! - p. 120.


     "Not only is the word `Trinity' not in Scripture, but there is no isolated exposition on this attribute of God in either testament.  It is an inferred doctrine, gathered eclectically from the entire Canon." - p. 630 of the very trinitarian reference book, Today's Dictionary of the Bible, Bethany House Publishers, 1982.


     "Neither the word Trinity, nor the explicit doctrine as such, appears in the New Testament .... The doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through many controversies." - Encyclopedia Britannica, 1976 Micropedia, Vol. X, p. 126.


     "In the NT [New Testament] there is no direct suggestion of a doctrine of the Trinity." - p. 344, An Encyclopedia of Religion, 1945 ed., Ferm.


     "[The Trinity Doctrine] is not ... directly and immediately the word of God." - p. 304, The New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 14, 1967.

4 comments:

enedra said...

If Jesus is the exact representation of the Father's very 'being', he is not another 'person' of that 'being'

Timitrius said...

Liddell & Scott say the following about Charakter:

"6. impress, image, τῆς ὑποστάσεως [τοῦ θεοῦ] Ep.Heb.1.3; πάθους, ἀρετῆς, Longin.22.1, Eun.Hist.p.243 D.: abs., οἱ Σεβάστειοι χ. the imperial seal, i.e. the emperor himself, IG5(2).268.24 (Mantinea, i B. C.)."

If I have understood this correctly, it's interesting that it equates the imperial seal with the emperor himself. In other words, the seal, though not literally or ontologically the emperor, represented him and thus documents sealed with the imperial seal carried his authority as if the emperor himself. This parallels with Jesus' bearing the name and authority of Jehovah God.

Timitrius said...

How would you respond to this sentence in Hebrews 1:3:

"and [he] upholds all things by the word of His power."

Trinitarians would say that this proves that Jesus must be Almighty God as no creature could uphold all creation by the word of his power, only God could do this?

tigger2 said...

Heb. 1:1-4
“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” - NRSV.

Since God GAVE his son the inheritance of all things, and the power for creation to be made THROUGH him, it should not be difficult to understand that God can also make him capable of sustaining that creation.