Does Hebrews 1:8 prove that Jesus is God?

Purpose

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

This does not prove that Jesus is God.

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

Evidence from Hebrews 1:8-9

Theos can be translated as ‘god’ or ‘God’.

The word “God” in Hebrews 1:8 is translated from the Greek word theos. As discussed in the article on theos, there is no word in the ancient Greek that is exactly equivalent to the modern word “God:”

God – The modern word “God” identifies one specific Being; the Almighty; the One who exists without cause and who caused all other things to exist. This word functions as a proper name for the Supreme Being.

Theos – In contrast, the word theos has a much wider range of meanings. It does not identify one specific being, but a category of beings. In the ancient Greek language, it was used for the Greek gods, such as Zeus. When Greek became the common language in Europe during the centuries before Jesus was born, the Jews used this same word also for YHVH (Yahweh – the God of the Old Testament). But theos retained its original much broader meaning. The New Testament, therefore, also uses theos for the gods of the nations (e.g., 1 Cor 8:5) and even for Satan, who is called ‘the theos of this world’ (2 Cor. 4:4).

Theos, therefore, can be translated either as ‘god’ or as ‘God’. When the translator thinks that a specific instance refers to the Almighty, it is translated as “God.” In other instances, it is translated as “god.” 

In Hebrews 1:8-9, “GOD” is in all caps because it is a quote from the Old Testament. However, in other instances where theos refers to Jesus (e.g., John 20:28), it is translated as “God,” implying that Jesus is God Almighty. But that translation is based on the assumption that Jesus is God Almighty. It is an application of the Trinity doctrine; not proof of it.

If one understands Jesus as the Son of God, through Whom God created all things, and Who still upholds all things by the word of God’s power (Heb 1:2-3), but Who received His existence from His Father, then references to Jesus as theos should not be translated as “God.”

In a Christian context, the term “god” refers to false gods. For that reason, we do not want to refer to Jesus as “god.” But the important point is that the fact that the Bible refers to Jesus as theos does not mean that He is God Almighty.

For a further discussion, see – The Meanings of the Word THEOS.

The Father is Jesus’ God.

Although Hebrews 1:8 refers to Jesus as theos, the very next verse (Heb 1:9) refers to His Father as His God. Jesus has a God over Him. God is also Jesus’ God. We find this principle in many other places in the Bible (John 20:17; Heb 1:9; 2 Cor 11:31; Eph 1:3, 17; 1 Peter 1:3; Rev 1:6; 3:2, 12). If the Father is Jesus’ God, then Christ is subordinate to the Father, which is contrary to the Trinity doctrine, in which they are co-equal. 

Hebrews 1:8-9 is similar to John 20. That chapter also refers to Jesus as “God” (John 20:17) but in that 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?

Jesus is theos because Israel’s king is theos.

Hebrews 1:8-9 is a quote from Psalm 45:6-7, which refers to Israel’s king as Elohim, translated as ‘god’. The mention of the king’s wives (Psm 45:9) confirms that “God” in verse 6 refers to the king of Israel.

Elohim, therefore, is similar to theos: Both are used for both the only true God and for certain superior human beings. 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 “god” or “gods.” For more information, see the article on Elohim. Literally, it is a plural word (gods). Strong’s defines elohim as “God” with a capital “G,” or “god.”

Hebrews 1:8, therefore, refers to Jesus as theos because the author of that letter interpreted the king of Psalm 45 as a type of Christ and because that psalm refers to the king as Elohim/Theos. In other words, the author of Hebrews did not understand Him to be the Most High.

Evidence from the rest of the letter

Hebrews explains the superiority of Christ.

One main purpose of the letter to the Hebrews is to exalt Jesus. The letter, for example, begins (Heb 1:2-4) by saying that:

    • God appointed His Son as “heir of all things,”
    • God “made the world” through the Son,
    • The Son “is … the exact representation of God’s nature,”
    • The Son “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” and
    • Christ became “much better than the angels.”

If the writer of Hebrews thought that the Son is the Almighty God, why would the writer try so hard to show that Jesus is “better than the angels?” Why not simply state that Jesus is God?

Jesus is distinct from God.

Hebrews explicitly distinguishes between Jesus and God. For example, it says that “God … has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb 1:1) and “Jesus … has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2). If Jesus is distinct from God, then He is not God.

Jesus is 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” (Heb 1:3),
    • God “appointed” His Son as the heir of all things (1:2),
    • God made the world “through” the Son (1:2), and
    • The Son is the radiance of God’s glory (1:3).

If the Son is subordinate to the Father, then the Son is not God Almighty.

Evidence used to prove that the Son is God

Begotten does not mean equal.

Hebrews 1:5 quotes from Psalm 2, saying of Jesus, “you are my son, today I have begotten you.” This is sometimes interpreted to mean that Jesus is equal to the Father, in the way that a human son eventually becomes equal with the human father.

However, this is symbolic language. He is called the Begotten Son of God to show that He has a very unique relationship with God. To describe Jesus as the “only begotten Son” explains something in human language that human minds cannot comprehend. He was not begotten as humans are. We should not interpret this symbolic language literally.

Conclusion

To translate theos, when it refers to Jesus, as “God” is an implementation of the Trinity doctrine; not proof of it.


Summary

Hebrews 1:8 refers to Jesus as “GOD.” For the following reasons, does not mean that Jesus is God in the modern sense of that term:

1. The word “God” in Hebrews 1:8 is translated from the Greek word theos, which can be translated either as ‘God’ or as ‘god’. To translate theos, when referring to Jesus, as ‘God’ is based on the assumption that Jesus is the Most High God. It is an application of the Trinity doctrine; not proof thereof.

2. Although Hebrews 1:8 refers to Jesus as theos, the very next verse (Heb 1:9) refers to His Father as His God. That the Father is His God is stated often in the Bible (e.g., John 20:17; Eph 1:3, 17; Rev 1:6; 3:2, 12).

3. Jesus is called theos in Hebrews 1:8, not because the author understood Him to be the Most High, but because this verse quotes Psalm 45:6-7, where Israel’s king is called Elohim (theos in Greek), and because that king is a type of the Messiah.

4. Hebrews explains the superiority of Christ in many ways, for example, by saying that Christ became “much better than the angels.” (Heb 1:4) If the purpose is to exalt the Son, why does Hebrews not just say that He is God?

5. Hebrews explicitly distinguishes between Jesus and God. For example, “Jesus … has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2). If Jesus is distinct from God, then He is not God.

6. In several ways, Hebrews describes the Son as subordinate to God. For example, He “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb 1:3).

7. That the Son is Begotten does not mean that He is equal with His Father. “Begotten” is symbolic language and must not be interpreted as if He has the same substance as the Father.

8. God commanded all angels to worship the Son (Heb 1:6,). This is sometimes taken as evidence that Jesus is God Almighty. But if Jesus was the Almighty God, there would not have been any need for the Father to command angels to worship Him. The Greek word that is translated “worship” (proskuneó) simply means to give honor.


Other Articles

      • The Truth about the Origin of the Trinity Doctrine 1The decision to adopt the Trinity doctrine was not taken by the church but by Roman emperors. They made Trinitarian Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire = the Roman Church.
      • Arius 2Who was he and what did he believe? Why is the Arian Controversy named after him?
      • The Nicene Creed 3Who created it, what was the role of emperor Constantine and what does the Creed say?
      • Homoousios 4Does it mean ‘one substance’ or ‘same substance’? Why was the term not mentioned, even by Athanasius, for about three decades after Nicaea?
      • Fourth-Century ‘Arianism’ 5Their theology, the Homoians, and the Homoi-ousians
      • The Pro-Nicenes 6Were Alexander and Athanasius Sabellians? In 343 at Serdica, the Western Church issued a blatantly Sabellian statement. Basil of Caesarea taught three substances.
      • Is Jesus the Most High God? 7The conclusion that Jesus is ‘God’ forms the basis of the Trinity Doctrine.
      • Trinity Doctrine – General 8Including Modalism, Eastern Orthodoxy view of the Trinity, Elohim, and Eternal Generation
      • All articles on this website

FOOTNOTES

  • 1
    The decision to adopt the Trinity doctrine was not taken by the church but by Roman emperors. They made Trinitarian Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire = the Roman Church.
  • 2
    Who was he and what did he believe? Why is the Arian Controversy named after him?
  • 3
    Who created it, what was the role of emperor Constantine and what does the Creed say?
  • 4
    Does it mean ‘one substance’ or ‘same substance’? Why was the term not mentioned, even by Athanasius, for about three decades after Nicaea?
  • 5
    Their theology, the Homoians, and the Homoi-ousians
  • 6
    Were Alexander and Athanasius Sabellians? In 343 at Serdica, the Western Church issued a blatantly Sabellian statement. Basil of Caesarea taught three substances.
  • 7
    The conclusion that Jesus is ‘God’ forms the basis of the Trinity Doctrine.
  • 8
    Including Modalism, Eastern Orthodoxy view of the Trinity, Elohim, and Eternal Generation

Elohim, translated God, is plural. Is God more than one Person?

Summary

Elohim is an Old Testament Hebrew word that is frequently translated as “God.” It is plural in form and is used hundreds of times for pagan gods. The Old Testament also uses elohim for God. Some Trinitarians, therefore, argue that the Old Testament writers used elohim for God because these writers thought of God as a multi-personal Being. But this is not true:

(1) Elohim is consistently used with singular verb forms and with adjectives and pronouns in the singular.

(2) It was general practice among the Hebrew people to pluralize nouns when they desired to express greatness or majesty. It is then not a numerical plural. For example:

Moses is also called elohim, for God made Moses very great in the land of Egypt (Exo 7:1; 11:3).

Words such as Adonim (meaning “lord” or “master”), Adonay, Baalim and Behemoth are also plural in form but frequently refer to a single person in an exalted position.

The Old Testament sometimes refers to God as “the Holy Ones,” but used together with singular verbs.

(3) The most distinguishing teaching in Judaism is that “The Lord our God is one Lord.” This firm understanding that there is only one God denies any idea that the authors of the Old Testament used elohim because they thought of God as a multi-personal Being.

(4) The New Testament writers, when they quoted the Old Testament, always translated the Hebrew word elohim with the singular noun theos.

(5) The Septuagint, which is the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, also always translates elohim with the singular theos.

(6) On the basis of this ample evidence, dictionaries define elohim as a plural of majesty. For example, the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says that “the plural ending is usually described as a plural of majesty and not intended as a true plural when used of God.

Purpose of this article

ElohimElohim (אֱלֹהִים) is an Old Testament Hebrew word that is most frequently translated “God.”  Elohim is plural in form, for it has the plural suffix im.  Plural nouns normally signify multiple instances of that noun, which is also true of elohim. The Bible applies elohim more than 400 times to pagan gods. In such instances it is translated as “gods” and is associated with plural verbs and plural adjectives.  For example, “My people have forgotten Me, They burn incense to worthless gods.

The Old Testament also uses elohim for God.  Some Trinitarians, therefore, argue that the Old Testament writers used elohim for God because they thought of God as a multi-personal Being.  The purpose of this article is to show that this is not true.

Plural of Majesty

Firstly, the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says the following about elohim:

The plural ending is usually described as a plural of majesty and not intended as a true plural when used of God. This is seen in the fact that the noun ’elohim is consistently used with singular verb forms and with adjectives and pronouns in the singular.

An example of this is Genesis 1:26: “God (elohim) said, “Let Us make man in Our image.” Here plural pronouns are used but the verb “said” is in the singular, which implies that “God” is a single Person. This further implies that the “Us” and “Our” include persons other than “God.”  In the New Testament, God made the world through His Son (Heb 1:1-2). “God” therefore refers to the Father, and the “Us” in Genesis 1:26 may include His Son.

An example where elohim is used for a human being as a plural of majesty is Exodus 7:1, where “the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made you a god [elohim] to Pharaoh.”  Here, God told Moses that He was going to make Moses appear great in the eyes of Pharaoh, as we see in Exodus 11:3:

The man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people.

IT WAS GENERAL PRACTICE AMONG THE HEBREW PEOPLE TO PLURALIZE NOUNS WHEN THEY DESIRED TO EXPRESS GREATNESS OR MAJESTY. It is then not a numerical plural.  For example, adonim is the plural form of adon, which means “lord” or “master.” In spite of its plural form, it frequently refers to a single person in an exalted position, for example to Abraham (Gen 24:9, 10, 51). Another example is Adonay, which is also a plural form of adon, and which always refers to God. Still other examples are Baalim and Behemoth. The Old Testament also sometimes refer to God as “the Holy Ones,” but used with singular verbs.

Monotheism

The distinguishing maxim in Judaism was and still is:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut 6:4)

This slogan stood in opposition to the polytheism of the day.  The Hebrew mind had a firm understanding that there is only one God.  The pervasive monotheism of the Old Testament denies any idea that the authors of the Old Testament used elohim because they thought of God as existing in multiple Persons.

Translations

The New Testament was written in Greek. In that language, the word for “god” is theos. The plural form of theos is theoi, which is used to refer to multiple “gods,” for example:

When the crowds saw what Paul had done,
they raised their voice, saying
‘The
gods (theoi) have become like men
and have come down to us.’
” (Acts 14:11).

Although theos has a plural form, the New Testament always uses the singular form for God.

This is also true when the New Testament quotes passages from the Hebrew Bible.  The New Testament writers always translated the Hebrew word elohim with the singular noun theos, for example in Mark 12:29.  If elohim really indicated that the one true god consists of multiple Persons, then the New Testament writers would have also used the plural form of theos.

SeptuagintThe Septuagint is the ancient translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek.  When used for the God of Israel, the Septuagint also always translates elohim with the singular theos.

Dictionary Definitions

On the basis of this ample evidence, dictionaries define elohim as a plural of majesty.

“Elohim is a plural form which is often used in Hebrew to denote plentitude of might.” — (Hertz, The Pentateuch & Haftorahs)

“The form of the word, elohim, is plural. The Hebrews pluralized nouns to express greatness or majesty.” — (Flanders, Cresson; Introduction to the Bible)

“The Hebrew noun elohim is plural, but the VERB is singular, a normal usage in the OT when reference is to the one true God. this use of the plural expresses intensification rather than number and has been called the plural of majesty.” — (New International Version Study Bible, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985, p. 6)

“The plural form of elohim has given rise to much discussion. The fanciful idea that it referred to the Trinity of Persons in the godhead hardly finds now a supporter among scholars.” — (Smith’s Bible Dictionary)

Counterarguments

Despite this strong evidence, some still attempt to show that elohim ‘allows for’ a plurality of divine Persons within God.  To support this claim, they point to a few exceptions where the Old Testament uses plural verbs, pronouns, adjectives, participles, etc. with elohim.  But a handful of exceptions can never negate the evidence from more than 2500 instances where the Old Testament uses elohim for God with singular verbs.  It is much more probable that the few plural verbs, etc. are part of the Jewish practice of using plurals to express greatness.

What is his son’s nameHAT IS HIS SON’S NAME

AnsweringIslam uses Proverbs 30 to support its claim that God is a Trinity:

The words of Agur son of Jakeh. … I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One (qadoshim – the NRSV renders this as “holy ones). Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name?” (Proverbs 30:1-4)

Since Agur speaks of “the holy ones,” of God’s incomprehensible acts and of “his son’s name,” AnsweringIslam concludes:

That “the holy ones” refer to the Father and the Son;
That “his son” refers to the pre-incarnate Jesus;
That they are equal;
That both incomprehensible;
That this text established the deity of the Son of God; and
That God has a multi-personal nature.

However, the Old Testament does not contain the concept that God has a Son, as we know Him from the New Testament. To find evidence of the existence of the Son in a few isolated and ambiguous verses is wishful thinking. AnsweringIslam’s conclusion is therefore astounding. To derive all of these conclusions on such an ambiguous passage is to hang a mountain on a camel’s hair.  “His son” is possibly just a metaphor to emphasize that, for Agur, as well as for us, God is utterly incomprehensible.

For a further discussion, see End Times Prophecy.

Development of the Trinity Doctrine

Christology of the persecuted church (First 300 years)
 – Introduction
 – Polycarp
 – Justin Martyr – Current Article
 – Ignatius of Antioch
 – Irenaeus
 – Tertullian – work in progress

 – Origen – work in progress
 – Jesus is our god.
Fourth Century (State Church)
 – Council of Nicaea – A.D. 325 
 – The Nicene Creed Interpreted 
 – Fourth Century Arianism 

 – What did Arianism believe in the fourth century?
 – Long Lines Creed – one of the creeds during the Arian period
 – Death of Arianism – Emperor Theodosius
Fifth Century
 – Fall of the Western Roman Empire
 – Why the Roman Empire fell 
 – The Fall of Rome proves Daniel as a true prophecy.

 – Roman Church grew in strength in spite of Arian domination 
Middle Ages

 – The massacres of the Waldensians