Home   About Us    Doctrinal Statement   Seminars   Products     Contact Us

 

 

 

HEBREWS 1:8 

Responding to the unitarian denial of Jesus being addressed 
as
ho theos, "the God"

 

Pros de ton huion ho thronos sou ho theos, (lit. “but regarding the Son [He says], the throne of you the God. . . .”). To deny the deity of the Son, many unitarian groups (esp. Oneness and Jehovah’s Witnesses) contest that the articular nominative theos (“God”) here carries the vocative force (as represented in most translations). The two basic arguments mounted against the nominative for the vocative are as follows:

1. To see theos as a strict subject nominative: “God is your throne” (as rendered in the Watchtower’s New World Translation).

 

2. To see theos as a predicate: “Your throne is God.”

In response to the first argument, (a) nowhere in Scripture is God called someone’s human throne, (b) if theos were the subject, then naturally ho theos would appear before ho thronos (“the throne”; cf. Reymond, Systematic Theology, 274), but it does not, and (c) the context of Hebrews chapter 1 is drawing a sharp ontological contrast between created angels and the divine uncreated Son: “For to which of the angels did He [God the Father] say . . . But of the Son He says . . .” (1:5, 8).

 

This contrast would be lost if the subject-nominative view was correct. In response to the second argument, if theos were a predicate we would certainly expect theos to be anarthrous (i.e. lacking the art. o, ho, “the”) and “appearing either before ‘your throne’ or after ‘for ever and ever’” (cf. ibid.), but it does not. Clearly, both arguments put forward by unitarians groups fall short of grammatical and contextual probability. Therefore, to see theos as a vocative of direct address: “Your throne, O God,” as all meaningful translations and grammarians render, is based on the following data:

1. “The traditional rendering, ‘your throne, O God,’ where {yhl) [Elohim] is a vocative, is found in all the ancient versions, many English translations (KJV, RV, ASV, Berkeley, NASB, JB, NAB, NIV, NRSV), and many modern commentators” (Harris, Jesus as God, 196). Moreover, the ancient Targums render the passage as an address to God Himself: “Thy throne of glory, O Lord endure for ever and ever.” Verse 3, the targumist applies to Christ: “Your beauty, O King Messiah, surpasses that of ordinary men.”

 

2. The LXX translation of Psalm 45, from which the author is quoting, the king is addressed by the vocative dunate, dunate (“O Mighty One”; vv. 4, 6; cf. Reymond, Systematic Theology, 274). Similarly, Harris observes:

 

in the LXX version it is even more probable that o qeoj is a vocative for the king is addressed a “mighty warrior” (dunate) not only verse 4 but also in verse 6. . . . This dual address heightens the antecedent probability, given the word order, that in the next verse o qeoj should be rendered “O God.” One may therefore affirm with a high degree of confidence that in the LXX text from which the author of Hebrews was quoting o qeoj represents a vocatival {yhl) [Elohim]” (Harris, Jesus as God, 215).

 

3. In Psalms (LXX) there are at least sixty-three instances where the nominative theos carries the vocative force.

 

4. The articular nominative theos with the vocative force, as in this text, is a “well-established idiom in classical Greek, the Septuagint, and the New Testament” (Reymond, Systematic Theology, 272; e.g., the articular nominative theos in the parallel passages John 20:28 and Rev. 4:11 are clearly in direct address). Commenting on the articular nominative for the vocative, Wallace points out that there are “nearly sixty examples of it in the NT” and that there are “almost 600 instances of the anarthrous nom. for the voc. in the NT” (Wallace, Beyond the Basics, 56-57, nn. 69, 72). So common was the nominative for the vocative that of all the times in the NT that  theos is being directly addressed, only in one verse does theos actually appear in the vocative case: thee mou thee mou (“My God, My God”; Matt. 27:46).

 

5. The context of Hebrews 1 is addressing the Son as God in an ontological sense (cf. Heb. 1:3) as distinguished from created angels. That the author would suddenly break the context to have the Father say in 1:8, “Your throne is God,” or “God is your throne” is contextually inconceivable.

Therefore, both grammatically and contextually is to see the articular nominative theos as carrying vocative force of direct address: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.” For this is the universal consensus among objective scholarship.

 

The prologue of Hebrews is one of the most Christologically significant prologues in the New Testament. The context of the prologue is crystal clear: The author presents a marked well-defined contrast between all created things (viz., angels and the heavens and the earth) and the eternality of the divine Son (cf. vv. 3, 6, 8), the unchangeable Creator (cf. vv. 2, 8-10), who was worshiped as God (v. 6). The author initiates his context by stating first that God’s final revelation is found in His Son alone (i.e., the New Testament), who is the Creator of all things  

 

Specifically, in verses 1-2, a contrast is drawn between the particular way God the Father spoke to His people in the Old Testament—“in the prophets in many portions and in many ways”—and how God subsequently speaks to His people today: through His Son, “through whom also He made the world”—God’s final revelation. Thus, it is the apostolic “writings,” concerning the Son, by which God speaks to us today (cf. Eph. 2:20).



[1] As seen, the Gospel of John (vv. 1-18) and Colossians also provide a high Christology praising Jesus Christ as God.  

[2] The author says that the God the Father appointed the Son as heir of all things, and “through whom also He made the world.” As we will explain in chapter 7, the wording here (and esp. v. 10) denotes in the strongest way: the Son is the agent of creation.