Question on Heb 1:2

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Jeff Smith | Forum Activity | Posted: Wed, Jun 1 2022 12:30 PM

Hey I love the LEB!!

  • Got my whole church on it for Sunday services!
  • But when I read this verse I was stunned - can you explain
  • Hebrews 1:1–2 (LEB) Although God spoke long ago in many parts and in many ways to the fathers by the prophets, in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the world, By a Son?
  • In NKJ and KJV Hebrews 1:2... has in these last days spoken to us by His Son - a Son sounds less direct - no brackets either - His is in italics - your "a" is not italicized but seems to generalize Jesus as a mere son not the unique Son - am I wrong because I'm going to get questions on it. Because I used to read this without the added word "Himself" and actually makes more sense - God spoke to us by "Son" or the language of God, the logos! The JW's did this in John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was "a" God. He was in the beginning with God. Hmm
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Graham Criddle | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jun 1 2022 1:04 PM

Hi Jeff - and welcome to the forums

I don't know why the translators made that particular choice but a couple of things might be relevant:

Naturally, when these two factors are taken into consideration, it should not be surprising that the character of the LEB as a translation is fairly literal. This is a necessary by-product of the desire to have the English translation correspond transparently to the original language text. Nevertheless, a serious attempt has been made within these constraints to produce a clear and readable English translation instead of a woodenly literal one.

W. Hall Harris III et al., eds., The Lexham English Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012).

Rather surprisingly, God’s final word comes (lit.) ‘through a Son’, a phrase which contains no definite article. This does not suggest that Jesus is one son among many whom God may have used as agents of his final revelation. Rather, ‘Son’, without the definite article,40 emphasizes the exalted status of the final messenger and may be rendered ‘one who is Son’.41 Later Hebrews will show that this Son is seated at God’s right hand and is superior to all others through whom God has spoken, especially angels (1:4, 5, 14; 2:2–3, 18), Moses (3:1–6; 11:23–29, 39), Joshua (3:7–4:10), and Aaron (5:4). Further, to assert that God’s climactic word has come through one who is his Son means that God has spoken not simply in Jesus’ words, but also in his saving actions, especially his death, resurrection, and exaltation, which have been interpreted for his people in words that can be understood and appropriated.

Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 50–51.

With a desire to be as literal as possible this might explain why that particular choice was made.


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Lew Worthington | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jun 1 2022 2:29 PM

If I may add to Graham's always helpful response, not only is an article missing in the Greek, but there is also no possessive adjective ("His").

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DMB | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jun 1 2022 5:58 PM

Just adding, if it makes your folks more comfortable, LEB isn't unusual. NRSV, NET, ISV, YLT and so on are similar ... I'm not sure the issue is 'literal' as much as not adding to the original author.  In earlier translations, the readings are similar (eg Peshitta, Coptic, and so on).

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Jacob Sowles | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 2 2022 6:19 AM

Just to throw this in, and to speak to what I assume the motive is behind the question of the OP, is that just because this decision was made here does not mean that the translators of the LEB did not believe that the Bible teaches that Jesus is God’s unique son.. It simply means that they did not see that point being made by the author of Hebrews in this verse. There are other portions where that is clearly taught. 

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Kiyah | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Aug 6 2022 1:11 AM

I'm late to this conversation but thought I'd join in. I agree with everything others have said. I'd also add that the author is making a contrast between God speaking through prophets previously versus 'a Son' in later times. I believe the author is comparing two classes of people, a prophet (a servant) versus a son (an heir, Heb 1:2), see also Heb 3:5-6 for a similar comparison between Moses (a prophet) and Jesus. Angels are also called servants in Heb 1:7. So in each comparison, a Son (who is the heir) is superior to a servant (angel, prophet, etc.).

So, as others have said, the phrase "a Son" here is accurate to the Greek (unlike the JW translation of John 1:1, which misunderstands how the greek article and the predicate nominative work, ignores the context, and is inconsistent with how they translated the rest of the passage). "A Son" also fits the context of the author's argument in that it actually reinforces the superiority of a son, who is not only the heir but is also "the radiance of [God's] glory and the representation of [God's] essence" (Heb 1:3), something you probably wouldn't say about a mere servant. The author is emphasizing the superiority of a son over all of God's servants, a son > a servant. I actually prefer this translation because it actually got my attention and brought the author's point out more clearly for me. It brings out all the contrasts being made in the author's whole argument in Heb 1:1-3:6 more clearly.

Side note, see Dan Wallace's argument against the JW translation of John 1:1:

If θεός were indefinite, we would translate it “a god” (as is done in the New World Translation [NWT]). If so, the theological implication would be some form of polytheism, perhaps suggesting that the Word was merely a secondary god in a pantheon of deities.

The grammatical argument that the [Predicate Nominative] here is indefinite is weak. Often, those who argue for such a view (in particular, the translators of the NWT) do so on the sole basis that the term is anarthrous. Yet they are inconsistent, as R. H. Countess pointed out:

  • In the New Testament there are 282 occurrences of the anarthrous θεός. At sixteen places NWT has either a god, god, gods, or godly. Sixteen out of 282 means that the translators were faithful to their translation principle only six percent of the time.…
  • The first section of John-1:1–18—furnishes a lucid example of NWT arbitrary dogmatism. Θεός occurs eight times-verses 1, 2, 6, 12, 13, 18—and has the article only twice-verses 1, 2. Yet NWT six times translated “God,” once “a god,” and once “the god.”

If we expand the discussion to other anarthrous terms in the Johannine Prologue, we notice other inconsistencies in the NWT: It is interesting that the New World Translation renders θεός as “a god” on the simplistic grounds that it lacks the article. This is surely an insufficient basis. Following the “anarthrous = indefinite” principle would mean that ἀρχῇ should be “a beginning” (1:1, 2), ζωὴ should be “a life” (1:4), παρὰ θεοῦ should be “from a god” (1:6), Ἰωάννης should be “a John” (1:6), θεόν should be “a god” (1:18), etc. Yet none of these other anarthrous nouns is rendered with an indefinite article. One can only suspect strong theological bias in such a translation.

According to Dixon’s study, if θεός were indefinite in John 1:1, it would be the only anarthrous pre-verbal PN in John’s Gospel to be so. Although we have argued that this is somewhat overstated, the general point is valid: The indefinite notion is the most poorly attested for anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominatives. Thus, grammatically such a meaning is improbable. Also, the context suggests that such is not likely, for the Word already existed in the beginning. Thus, contextually and grammatically, it is highly improbable that the Logos could be “a god” according to John. Finally, the evangelist’s own theology militates against this view, for there is an exalted Christology in the Fourth Gospel, to the point that Jesus Christ is identified as God (cf. 5:23; 8:58; 10:30; 20:28, etc.).

Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 266–267.

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