The Proposition, 2:5-9
Christ was made perfect through sufferingArgument
Our author has just established the superiority of Jesus: his preexistence, deity and messianic significance. In the passage before us he uses Psalm 8:4-9 to explain that Jesus was indeed lower than angels for that time when he took upon himself human flesh to suffer and die on behalf of broken humanity, but as the representative of glorified man, he now reigns over everything, and in the age to come, we will reign with him.
i] Context: See 1:1-4. We now come to the thesis, partitio, upon which Hebrews rests. As an example of first century rhetoric, the sermon falls into four main parts:
The introduction, exordium, 1:1-2:4;
Proposition / thesis, partitio, 2:5-9;
The arguments proper, probatio, 2:10-12:27;
Conclusion / Summary / recapitulation, peroratio, 12:28-13:21.
ii] Background: A general introduction; See 1:1-4.
iii] Structure: This passage, Christ made perfect through suffering, presents as follows:
In the age to come, angels do not reign, v5;
Supporting text, Psalm 8:4-6, v6-8a:
Exposition of the text, v8b-9:
"he subjected all things to him", v8b:
= nothing is unsubjected to Christ;
he "who was put lower than the angels ... was crowned with glory and honor", v9:
opwV, "in order that by God's grace he might taste death for everyone."
In a classical rhetorical schema, the speech opens with an introduction, exodrium, designed to bring the audience onside. This is often followed by a narration, narratio, possibly Hebrews 1:5-14. The narration sets out the facts upon which the argument (the body of the sermon/speech) advances. There seems little agreement as to whether the narration is present in Hebrews, or if present, its extent, eg. Von Soden, 4:14-6:20; Backhaus, 1:5-4:13; Spicq, 1:5-6:20; Nissila, 1:5-2:18, cf. Koester. Then follows the thesis / proposition on which the speech rests, the partitio. Koester argues strongly that 2:5-9 serves as the central proposition upon which Hebrews rests.
Christ, our Great High Priest, was glorified through suffering and in him we are glorified
Some commentators see no special significance in this passage. Koester, on the other hand, suggests a very particular role for these five verses. In his arrangement of Hebrews he argues that this passage serves as the central proposition of the letter: The proposition presents in the form of an exposition of Psalm 8:4-6; it "states the themes that will be developed in the remainder of the speech: Christ's movement from suffering to glory, his suffering on behalf of others, and the idea that one can see the fulfillment of God's promises in Christ, despite their apparent nonrealization in human experience", cf. v9.
v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 2:5
The proposition - the principle issue addressed in this letter: Glory and honor came to Christ on the heals of his earthly suffering - so it will be for his people, v5-9. i] In the age to come, angels do not reign, v1. As a traditional Jew, the author of the book of Hebrews gave angels an important place in God's dispensation; they are "spirits in divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation," 2:1. It was commonly held that angels actually played an important part in human affairs, even assisting in government, but irrespective of what may, or may not have been commonly believed, our writer makes the point that in the age to come, in the heavenly kingdom, angels do not reign.
gar "-" - for. Connective, serving as a Gk. paragraph marker, although there is still a causal sense present relating to the previous passage, a kind of "let me come to the nub of the issue at hand."
aggeloiV (oV) dat. "[not] to angels" - Dative of indirect object. The totality of spiritual beings may be intended, both good and evil, but it is more likely that ministering messengers of God are intended, 1:14. For the writer to the Hebrews, angels are specifically God's messengers who mediate the law to Israel. This is very much a Jewish understanding of the function of angels. Our writer seeks to establish the superiority of Jesus over the angels, 1:2-2:9. The superiority of Christ to the angels serves to establish the superiority of Christ's revelation, namely, the gospel, over the revelation mediated by the angels, namely, the law, 2:2. In our passage for study the author recognizes that when Jesus took upon himself human flesh, he was, for a short time, "lower than angels." Yet, as representative "man," the last Adam, he secured the redemption of mankind through the cross and is now "crowned with glory and honor." For the idea that the nations have angelic powers overseeing their life, see: Deut.32:8, Dan.10:21, 12:1.
uJpetaxen (uJpatassw) aor. "he has subjected" - he subjected, subordinated to one's authority. That "God," understood, has not subjected the world to come to angels, may imply that the present world is, in some way, subjected to angels. Certainly, there was a common idea among the Jews that angels assisted in the role of government, but our writer makes no comment on the matter. The point he makes is that the coming kingdom of God will not be under the governance of angels. The coming kingdom will be under the governance of "man" - Christ and believers.
thn oikoumenhn thn mellousan "the world to come" - the world the coming.
thn mellousan (mellw) pres. part. "[the world] to come" - [the world] the one coming. The participle serves as an adjective, attributive, limiting "world"; "the world which is about to come." The world to come is the new heavens and the new earth of Revelation 3:21; the "eschatological consumption of the Son's reign," which coming reality is assured through "Christ's exaltation," Attridge.
peri + gen. "about [which]" - Reference; "concerning which we are speaking."
ii] Text, Psalm, 8:4-6, v6-8a. This text proclaims the wonder of lowly humanity created to be a little lower than angels, but now exalted to a position of glory, honor and power. The author of Hebrews uses the Psalm to describe the humiliation and exaltation of the last Adam, namely, Jesus. In his humiliation, Jesus the man was less than angels, but in his exaltation all things are subject to him. Those standing with Jesus will experience a similar journey from humiliation to exaltation. It is possible that our author understands "son of man" in the terms of Daniel's "Son of Man," namely, the messiah. Yet, it is more likely that our writer is retaining the original sense of the Psalm, of a lowly man, and applying it to Christ. The point is that believers share in Christ's exaltation through identification with him, ie. believers will reign with Christ, the last Adam. Note the omission from the Psalm of the clause, "the works of God's hands".
de "but" - but, and, now. Possibly contrastive, certainly not adversative, but more likely a simple connective. The quotation from Psalm 8:4-6 supports the point made in v5, so "now it has been testified somewhere."
tou tiV "a place where someone" - somewhere someone. Our writer is probably not being indefinite, but rather presupposes a knowledge of the reference and allows the source to be identified as divine revelation, rather than the words of a particular Biblical author. "There is a passage in scripture, in which one of the sacred writers puts it on record," Barclay.
diemarturato (diamarturomai) aor. "has testified" - testified, solemnly declared. "Solemn assurance," REB.
ti "what [is man]" - what. Variant interrogative, "who."
anqrwpoV (oV) "man / mankind" - A christological interpretation of this passage is popular such that the "man" is Christ. Jesus certainly serves as the true man, the Adam type, but our writer has not abandoned the Psalm's reference to mankind. "What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals that you care for them," NRSV.
oJti "that" - It would be unsual for this conjunction, and the one following, to introduce a causal clause, "so that you", Lenski, rather, an epexegetic clause is more likely serving to explain the substance of the question;"what is man, in the sense that you are mindful of him."
autou gen. pro. "you are mindful of him/them" - [you remember] him. Genitive of direct object / complement after the verb mimnhskomai, "to remember."
h] "-" - or. Probably best taken as a conjunction, "or," although "indeed", Zuntz, is possible; "indeed, a mankind that you care for?
anqrwpou (oV) gen. "[son] of man" - The genitive is adjectival, relational. As noted above, the phrase "the son of man" is understood by many commentators as a messianic reference to Christ. This is unlikely. Even the lower case "son of man," NIV, is misleading, best "mortals," NRSV.
episkepth/ (episkeptomai) pres. "you care for" - you visit, consider. Usually in a positive sense, so "you are concerned about him."
Variant addition: "you made him ruler over everything."
auton bracu ti "a little lower" - Although debatable, a temporal sense is possibly intended. Such an interpretation fits a christological understanding of the Psalm, cf. Bruce. "You made him for a little while lower than the angels," TEV.
par (para) + acc. "than" - Comparative use of the preposition.
aggelouV (oV) "angels" - In the MT it is "God," but the LXX has "angels."
auton pro. "them" - him. The pronoun is singular, "him". Hebrews associates this "son of man" with Jesus, not mankind, "them". Jesus is the man in mind, made lower than the angels for a time in his earthly life, but now, through suffering, glorified.
doxh/ (a) dat. "with glory [and honor]" - An instrumental dative, manner or accompaniment, as NIV.
uJpataxaV (uJpotassw) aor. "put" - you subjected. "God has subjected everything under the rule of glorified mortals."
uJpakatw "under [his feet]" - under [the feet of him]. "You made him ruler over all things," TEV.
iii] Exposition of the text, v8b-9: a) First point, v8b. Translations don't always draw out the exegetical methodology of Hebrews where the writer quotes a phrase from the selected passage and exegetes. Our author does that here, so "When it says he subjected all things to him, it means he left nothing unsubjected to him," Barclay.
gar "-" - for. Expressing reason more than cause, drawing a conclusion from the quotation, "in that he subjected ...", Lenski, although possibly pointing back to v5, so Westcott; "God did not subject the future world to angels for he promised man an absolute sovereignty which has still to be assured in that coming order.",
en tw/ + inf. "in [putting ... under]" - in [to subjected]. Possibly simply a literary marker for a quote, although usually this construction forms a temporal clause, "while subjecting". None-the-less, the construction here is usually treated as causal, expressed as a participial phrase in the NIV.
ta panta adj. "everything" - all things. A cosmic sense is intended, so Ellingworth. "God excluded nothing in his act of subjecting "all things" to man", Lenski.
anupotakton adj. "that is not subjected / subject [to him]" - unsubjected. The normal meaning "undisciplined / disobedient" is shifted by the verb "subjected." Possibly "not capable of being subjected," Vahhoye.
autw/ dat. pro. "to him / them" - Dative of indirect object / interest. Note NRSV "them" taking the antecedent "man" to mean the collective, "human beings." A christological interpretation takes the antecedent of "him" to be "the Son of Man." "In subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control," NRSV.
nun de oupw "yet at the present" - but now not yet. The adversative with the adverb "not yet / however" and the temporal adverb "now" establish a strong contrast with the preceding clause; "but we do not yet see all things under his (their) control," Phillips.
b) Second point, v9: The author quotes from the Psalm and applies its truth to Christ. Again, most translations fail to identify the quotes. "What we do see is Jesus who was put lower than the angels for a little while to suffer death, and who has been crowned with glory and honor, that by God's grace he might taste of death for everyone," Moffatt. In this verse we have finally reached the center of the thesis / proposition, namely that Christ, as the perfect and eternal high priest, having fulfilled the promises of God, has moved from suffering to glory, and this on behalf of the household of God, who can now share in that glory. This statement serves as the thesis of Hebrews.
de "but" - but, and. Slightly adversative; "Yet in contrast."
blepoumen (blepw) pres. "we see" - In the sense of "realize / know / understand."
hlattwmenon (elattow) perf. pas. part. "who was made /a little / lower" - having been made lower. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "Jesus". Note the argument that since Jesus is made a little lower by taking on human flesh and since this action is expressed with the perfect tense indicating completed action, then, by implication, Jesus still retains his human, although glorified, body. Of course, Christ does indeed retain his human glorified body, although this truth cannot be substantiated by the tense of this verb. The unstated agent of the action is obviously God.
bracu (bracuV) adv. "a little [lower than the angels] / lower than the angels [for a little while]" - for a short time. As noted above, a temporal sense may apply "a little while [lower]", so TNIV. Obviously referring to Christ taking on our human nature. He is lower than the angels from the time of his incarnation to his glorification.
estefanwmenon (stefanow) perf. pas. part. "now crowned" - having been crowned. The participle is adverbial, temporal. The author clearly indicates with this anarthrous participle that the one who was made lower is crowned. It is Jesus, the representative "man," "son of man," who is crowned.
doxh/ (a) dat. "with glory [and honor]" - An instrumental dative, manner or accompaniment.
dia + acc. "because [he suffered death]" - because of, on account of. Causal. By virtue of his suffering Jesus is crowned with glory and honor.
tou qnatou (oV) gen. "[he suffered] death" - [the suffering] of death. The genitive is adjectival, limiting "death"; a suffering which was unto death.
oJpwV + subj. "so that" - in order that .... [he might taste]. Forming a purpose / hypothetical result clause. "That Jesus should experience death for all," Barclay.
cariti (iV ewV) "by the grace [of God]" - Instrumental dative, expressing means, "by". Variant "apart from God," REB note, is usually not accepted, although as the more difficult reading it is more likely to be original. In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle adds a note on the reign of Christ, indicating that his reign is not over God the Father, 1Cor.15:27. It is possible that "by the grace of God" in v9 was originally an editorial note on v8b, reading "apart from God." On the surface at least, "apart from God" doesn't seem to make sense and this could explain why the phrase was possibly changed to "by the grace of God."
geushtai (geuomai) aor. subj. "he might taste" - he might experience.
uJper + gen. "for [everyone]" - Advantage / benefaction; "for the benefit of everyone." Christ died for the advantage of all believers and this "by the grace of God" / wholly out of God's mercy and kindness.