Hebrews 1:4 Commentary

1 Sep

4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

The statement that Jesus is superior to the angels flows naturally from the idea that He has been given the seat of honor at God’s right hand as well as from all the other powerful truths shared about Him which are not shared by angels.

The Greek word kreipon is used thirteen times in Hebrews. It is usually translated “better” or “superior.”

The idea of Jesus inheriting the name and becoming superior to the angels does not mean that He was not the Son before He was raised or that somehow He became more God the longer He lived. He is called the Son even in 1:2 before He came in flesh, so is clear that His identity did not change. But what did change was His experience. One of the great truths about Hebrews is that it strongly emphasizes both the humanity and deity of Jesus. Jesus in His humanity grew in wisdom and Jesus in His humanity suffered. The author of Hebrews later says in 5:8, ‘Son though He was, He learned obedience by what He suffered.’ As Jesus in actual experience, through His life, suffering, death and resurrection, won for us redemption, He became superior to angels, the mediators of the law, because He was the mediator of grace.

One commentator explains, “In the Old Testament angels were ascribed a broad role in revelation and redemptive history. It was commonly understood that the Law had been mediated to Moses, the greatest of the prophets, through the angels. That understanding was shared by the preacher and his friends, for at a later point in this section the Mosaic Law is described as “the message declared by angels.”

Another reason for emphasizing Jesus’ superiority to the angels may be that worship of angels was part of the “all sorts of strange teaching” against which these Hebrews are warned in 13:9. Remember there seems to be some of that going on the church at Colossae so it may have been happening here in this church too, but we can’t know for sure.

So as we wrap up this wonderful first paragraph, we see it is kind of like a sandwich. Verse one tells us about the old revelation and its earthly mediators – the prophets.  Verse 4 tells us about the old revelation and its heavenly mediators – the angels. In the middle (verses 2 and 3) is God’s new revelation, Jesus, superior to the prophets and superior to the angels.

Luke Timothy Johnson says, “God’s Son has entered the plane of human existence (and sin) and has again been exalted. This pattern of descent and ascent (from God to humans and back to God) also defines the path of pilgrimage for the readers: they are to follow the one who has come to them back to the place that is properly His and, by gift, theirs.”

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