Hebrews 1:8 refers to Jesus as “GOD.” Does this prove that He is God?

SUMMARY OF THIS ARTICLE

Hebrews 1:8-9 refers to Jesus as “GOD:”

“1:8 Of the Son He says, “YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER … 1:9 … THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.

GOD” in verse 8 refers to Jesus. “GOD” in verse 9 refers to the Father: He is Jesus’ God.  For the following reasons, this does not mean that Jesus is God in the modern sense of the word:

1. JESUS IS IDENTIFIED AS THEOS.

There is no word in the original Greek that is exactly equivalent to the modern word “God.” The word “God” in Hebrews 1:8 is translated from the Greek word theos, but this is the normal Greek word for gods such as Zeus.  When the translator understands a specific instance of theos as referring to the God of the Bible, he or she would translate theos as “God.” In other instances, it is translated as “god,” for example, the “god of this world,” referring to Satan. 

In other words, the fact that the translations refer to Jesus as “God” is the interpretation of the translator, and translators are typically Trinitarians.  If one does not assume the Trinity theory, the reference to Jesus as theos in Hebrews 1:8 may also be translated as “god,” with a lower “g.” The fact that Hebrews refers to Jesus as “God” is an implementation of the Trinity Doctrine; not proof there-of.

2. JESUS HAS A GOD.

In Hebrews 1:8-9, the phrase “GOD, YOUR GOD” means that Jesus has a God over Him. God is also Jesus’ God. 

3. THE KING IS ALSO CALLED GOD.

Hebrews 1:8-9 is a quote from Psalm 45. In that psalm, the king of Israel is also called “God.” Hebrews 1 refers to Jesus as “GOD” because it interprets the king as a symbol of (a type of) Christ and because the king is called “God” in Psalm 45. This does not prove that Jesus is “God” in the modern sense of the word, for the word that is translated “God” in Psalm 45 is elohim. This word is similar to theos in that it is used both for the true God and for certain superior human beings. This is confirmed by the fact that Psalm 45 refers to the king as “god.”

Also consider the following from the context of Hebrews 1:8-9 in Hebrews 1:

4. BETTER THAN THE ANGELS

A primary purpose of Hebrews is to exalt Jesus.  The author does this in many ways.  For example, Hebrews says that the Son has become “much better than the angels” (1:4).  If the writer of Hebrews thought that the Son was God, then there would have been no need to try so hard to show that Jesus is “better than the angels.” He could simply have said that Jesus is God.

5. DISTINCT FROM GOD

Hebrews several times explicitly distinguishes between “God” and “His Son.” For example, it says that “God … has spoken to us in His Son” (1:1).  If only the Father is “God,” then Jesus is not “God.”

6. SUBORDINATE TO GOD

In several ways, Hebrews describes the Son as subordinate to God. For example, the Son “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:3). The equality of the Father and the Son is the cornerstone of the Trinity doctrine. If the Son is subordinate to the Father, then the Trinity doctrine collapses.

The following are other aspects in Hebrews 1 that might be understood as saying that Jesus is God:

7. ONLY BEGOTTEN

In verse 5, Hebrews 1 quotes from Psalm 2, saying of Jesus, “you are my son, today I have begotten you.” 

We must not assume, since Jesus is the Only Begotten Son of God, that this means that Jesus is equal to the Father, in the same way that a human son is of the same substance as the human father.  He is called the Only Begotten Son of God to reveal to us that He has a very unique relationship with God AS FAR AS HIS ORIGIN IS CONCERNED.  To describe Jesus as the “only begotten Son” is an attempt to explain something in human language which human minds cannot comprehend, for it is hidden in the mystery of the infinity.  For a further discussion, see Only Begotten Son of God.

8. WORSHIP THE SON

According to verse 6, God commanded all angels to worship the Son. 

We must worship Jesus, for God created all things through His Only Begotten Son. The Son “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:1-3; cf. John 1:1-3; Col 1:15-17).  “In Him (Jesus) all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9).  Everything that God does, He does through the Son.

However, the word that is translated “worship” simply means to show honor.  In the Bible, there are many examples where this Greek word is used to say that one person gives honor to another human being, such as to a king. Furthermore, since God had to command the angels to worship Jesus, then Jesus is not the ultimate Source of all things.  The Son must be worshiped but He still is subordinate to the Father. 

CONCLUSION

That Jesus is called theos does not prove that He is God, for theos can also be translated as “god” with a small “g.”  But translators are Trinitarians, and therefore believe that Jesus is God.  To translate theos as “God,” with a capital “G,” rather than with a small “g,” when it refers to Jesus, is an implementation of the Trinity doctrine; not proof of it.

For a further discussion, see, God is the Head of Christ.

 – END OF SUMMARY –

PURPOSE OF THIS ARTICLE

Hebrews 1:8-9 refers to Jesus as “GOD:”

8 But of the Son He says,
“YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER,
AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER
IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM.
9 “YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS;
THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU …”

GOD” in verse 8 refers to Jesus. “GOD” in verse 9 refers to the Father: He is Jesus’ God.  Since Hebrews 1:8 refers to Jesus as “God,” the question in this article is whether this proves that He is God. 

All bold, underlining, UPPERCASE, font sizes, and italics in this article were added by myself.  Bible quotes are from the NASB.

For the following reasons, Hebrews 1:8-9 does not mean that Jesus is God in the modern sense of the word:

1. JESUS IS IDENTIFIED AS THEOS.

There is no word in the original Greek text that is exactly equivalent to the modern word “God:”

In modern English, we use the word “God,” to identify one specific Being; namely, the uncaused Cause of all things.  This word functions as A PROPER NAME FOR THE SUPREME BEING.

The word “God” in Hebrews 1:8 is translated from the Greek word theos, but this is the normal Greek word for the Greek gods, such as Zeus.  This word does not identify any specific being, but a CATEGORY OF BEINGS.  That category includes the true God of the Bible but also includes other beings.  For example, Satan is also called theos, namely “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). 

Theos can be translated either as “god” with a lower case “g” or as “God.”  It depends on who it refers to. When the translator understands a specific instance of theos to refer to the God of the Bible, theos is translated as “God.” In other instances, it is translated as “god.” 

Therefore, whether to translate theos as “God” or as “god” depends on the translator’s interpretation. Translators render theos, when it refers to Jesus, as “God” with a capital “G” because they, generally, are Trinitarians.  If one does not assume the Trinity theory, the handful of references to Jesus as theos in the New Testament may also be translated as “god.”  The fact that Hebrews refers to Jesus as “God” is an implementation of the Trinity Doctrine; not proof there-of.

It is a form of collective circular reasoning: First, the Trinitarian translator capitalizes the “G.” Then the readers exclaim, SEE, it says “God!  Therefore, Jesus is God!”  For a further discussion, see – The Meanings of the Word THEOS.

2. JESUS HAS A GOD OVER HIM.

Verse 9, actually, proves that Jesus is not God, for it says to Jesus, “GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU.”  In other words, Jesus has a God over Him.  God is also Jesus’ God.  This is similar to John 20.  That chapter also refers to Jesus as “God” (v17) but in the same chapter Jesus refers to God as His God:

I ascend to My Father and your Father,
and My God and your God” (John 20:17).

For a further discussion, see – Did Thomas call Jesus “my God” in John 20:28?

3. PSALM 45

Hebrews 1:8-9 quotes from Psalm 45:6-7. Psalm 45:1-2 reads:

1 … I address my verses TO THE KING
2 … GOD HAS BLESSED YOU forever

This makes a distinction between God and the king of Israel.  But verses 6 to 9 addresses the king of Israel as God:

6 YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER …
7 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
Therefore GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED You

9 Kings’ daughters are among Your noble ladies;
At Your right hand stands the queen.
” 

The mention of the king’s wives in verse 9 confirms that “God” in verse 6 refers to the king of Israel as God. The words, “GOD, YOUR GOD, has anointed You” means that the true God is also the God of the king of Israel.

Hebrews 1 refers to Jesus as “GOD” because it interprets the king of Psalm 45 as a symbol of (a type of) Christ and because the king is called “God” in Psalm 45.  This does not prove that Jesus is “God” in the modern sense of the word, for the word that is translated “God” in Psalm 45 is elohim and this word, similar to theos, is used for both the true God and for certain superior human beings. This is confirmed by the fact that Psalm 45 refers to the king as “god.”  Another example is in Exodus 7:1, where “The LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made you a god [elohim] to Pharaoh.” The NASB translates elohim about 250 times with a small case “g” “god” or “gods.

For more information, see the separate article on elohim.  Literally, it is a plural word (gods).  Strong’s defines elohim as “God” with a capital “G,” or “god.”   

INDICATIONS FROM THE CONTEXT IN HEBREWS 1

So far, we have discussed three aspects from verses 8 and 9, namely:

    • The word theos,
    • The fact that the Father is identified as Jesus’ God and
    • Psalm 45, which these verses quote.

The next three points are from the context of Hebrews 1:8-9 in Hebrews 1:

4. BETTER THAN THE ANGELS

A primary purpose of Hebrews is to exalt Jesus.  The letter, for example, commences by saying that:

      • God appointed His Son as “heir of all things” (1:2).
      • Through the Son, God, “made the world” (1:2).
      • The Son “is … the exact representation of God’s nature” (1:3).
      • Jesus “upholds all things by the word of His power” (1:3).
      • The Son “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:3).
      • Christ became “much better than the angels” (1:4).

If the writer of Hebrews thought that the Son was God, then there would have been no need to try so hard to show that Jesus is “better than the angels.” He could simply have said that Jesus is God.

5. DISTINCT FROM GOD

Hebrews several times explicitly distinguishes between “God” and “His Son.” For example, it says that “God … has spoken to us in His Son” (1:1) and identifies “God” as “the Majesty on high” (1:3).  If the Son is distinct from God, then the Son is not God, if we use the word “God” in the way that the New Testament normally uses it.

6. SUBORDINATE TO GOD

In several ways, Hebrews describes the Son as subordinate to God. For example, the Son “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:3).  Other examples claim that God is the:

      • Original Owner, because He “appointed” His Son as the heir of all things (1:2).
      • Creator, for He made the world “through” the Son (1:2).
      • True glory, for the Son is the radiance of His glory (1:3).

The equality of the Father and the Son is the cornerstone of the Trinity doctrine. The entire remainder of the Trinity doctrine, such as that the Son has both a human and a divine nature, has been developed to reconcile this supposition with the Bible.  If the Son is subordinate to the Father, then the entire Trinity doctrine collapses.

So far, we have discussed six aspects:

    1. The word theos,
    2. The fact that the Father is identified as Jesus’ God,
    3. Psalm 45, which these verses quote,
    4. Hebrews tries very hard to prove that Jesus is better than the angels,
    5. Jesus is distinct from God, and
    6. He is subordinate to God.

The next two points are further aspects from the context in Hebrews 1 that might be interpreted to saying that Jesus is God:

7. TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU

In verse 5, Hebrews 1 quotes from Psalm 2, saying of Jesus, “you are my son, today I have begotten you.”  We must not assume that this means that Jesus is equal to the Father, in the same way that a human son is of the same substance as the human father.  He is called the Only Begotten Son of God to reveal to us that He has a very unique relationship with God AS FAR AS HIS ORIGIN IS CONCERNED.  To describe Jesus as the “only begotten Son” attempts to explain something in human language which human minds cannot comprehend, for it is hidden in the mystery of the infinity.  He was not begotten as humans are.  We should not give a literal interpretation to this symbolic language. We should allow the Bible to interpret it for us.  For a further discussion, see Only Begotten Son of God.

8. WORSHIP THE SON.

According to Hebrews 1:6, God commanded all angels to worship the Son.  This is similar to Philippians 2:9-10, where we read,

God highly exalted Him (Jesus),
and bestowed on Him the name which is above EVERY NAME,
so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW …
and that every tongue will confess
THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD,
TO THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER.

We must worship Jesus, for God created all things through His Only Begotten Son. The Son still “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:1-3; cf. John 1:1-3; Col 1:15-17).  “In Him (Jesus) all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9).  Everything that God does, He does through the Son.

THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT JESUS IS GOD.

Firstly, in both Hebrews 1:6 and Philippians 2, it is God who commands all beings to worship Jesus.  Philippians 2, for example, says that “God exalted Him.” If Jesus was God, then there would not have been any need for God to COMMAND His creatures to worship Him.

Secondly, in Philippians, “every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”  In other words; they will NOT confess Jesus as God.

Thirdly, the word that is translated “worship” (the Greek word proskuneó) has a much wider meaning than the English word “worship.”  The word “worship” implies that the one who is worshiped is God, but there are many examples in the Bible where this Greek word is used to say that one person gives honor to another human being, such as to a king.  Proskuneó simply means to show honor.  Literally, it means “to kiss the ground when prostrating before a superior.”  For example, the three wise men came looking for the “King of the Jews” (Mt. 2:2).  When they found Him, “they fell to the ground and proskuneó Him” (v11); not because He is God, for they did not think of Him as God, but because He is “born King of the Jews.”

Fourthly, in Philippians 2, Jesus is worshiped “to the glory of God the Father.”  He is not worshiped independently from God, but “to the glory of God.”  To glorify the Son is to glorify the Father.  We worship the Father through the Son.

CONCLUSION

Even though the Son is worshiped, He is still subordinate to the Father.  For a further discussion, see Jesus is worshiped.

CONCLUSION OF THE WHOLE ARTICLE

That Jesus is called theos does not prove that He is God, for theos can also be translated either as “god” with a small “g.”  But translators, generally, are Trinitarians, and therefore believe that Jesus is God.  To translate theos as “God,” with a capital “G,” rather than with a small “g,” when it refers to Jesus, is an implementation of the Trinity doctrine; not proof of it.

For a further discussion, see, God is the Head of Christ.

TOPICS DISCUSSED IN THIS ARTICLE

      • Does Hebrews 1:8 prove that Jesus is God? (main topic)
      • The meanings of the Greek word theos (God or god)
      • Implications of the fact that Hebrews 1:8-9 quotes Psalm 45.
      • The meaning of the Hebrew word elohim (brief);
      • Jesus is distinct from God in Hebrews 1.
      • Jesus is subordinate to God in Hebrews 1.
      • Jesus is begotten by God (brief).
      • Jesus is worshiped in Hebrews 1 and in Philippians 2;
      • Why we must worship Jesus (brief).

RELATED TOPICS

Articles that discuss instances where the New Testament refers to Jesus as God are as follows:

Other related articles include:

4 Replies to “Hebrews 1:8 refers to Jesus as “GOD.” Does this prove that He is God?”

  1. You are quite correct on Jesus not being God. While it says he was made “higher than the Angels”, it is only in a representative role. Whereas in OT times, the Israelites were required to obey Angels (re: Moses law), in the NT times, Jesus is there to represent True believers (the faithful), replacing the OT Angel rulers.

    Ray

    1. Dear Ray
      It seems as if the Bible presents a higher view of Christ than what you have. Jesus, before His birth, existed in the FORM OF GOD and with EQUALITY TO GOD (Phil 2). He is WORSHIPED EQUAL TO GOD (John 5:23). He is THE FIRST AND THE LAST (Rev. 1:17). Jesus is the only being, apart from God, who has LIFE IN HIMSELF (my understanding of John 5:26). In my view you run the risk of not worshiping Jesus, and not worshiping Him equal to God.

      1. Andries,

        I don’t feel that I am seeing Jesus any different than yourself. My point is to show that, even as great as Jesus is, he is still much as the “elder brother” to those that are True believers. After all, Jesus is the Creator’s son. And if I am not mistaken, this is what I find is the promise to those whom overcome. Or, becoming the “younger brothers” of Jesus. And, by virtue of being spirit beings, will actually be God’s also.

        But another point I am trying to make is, that the Jesus of the 1st century, was also a human being in the OT times. I believe it is Enoch. Whom is also the same as the “high priest” Melchizedek. Many will say that said priest was an Angel. But there is no witness in Scripture that shows that the priests were ever any but human beings.

        Others say that Enoch died, and was taken to God in spirit. But that is not what Scripture shows. Heb. 11:5 states that Enoch was “translated”. Or, taken from earth into heaven. But note it also says that Enoch “did not see death”. Jesus, whom was Enoch “died” as it says. “It is given to all men ONCE to die”.

        Anyway, thanks for the response.
        Take care friend, and continued best.

        Ray

        1. Hi Ray,
          So you say that Enoch, Melchizedek, and Jesus are different names for the same person. I cannot see how one would be able to reconcile that with the view that the Son always existed and that God created all things through Him. Regards Andries

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