James Swetnam, «The Crux at Hebrews 5,7-8», Vol. 81 (2000) 347-361
Heb 5,7-8 is a classic crux. It is not clear, as the text seems to say, how Jesus could beg to be freed from death and then be heard `although He was son'. Further, it is not clear how Jesus could `learn obedience from the things He suffered' since Hebrews pictures Him as antecedently ready to do God's will. The present paper reviews some of the principal suggestions which have been made and makes its own: that the Sitz im Leben of Jesus' plea is the cross, and the words refer to Ps 22 which Jesus cites in Matthew and Mark. In the context, reference to the psalm is taken by bystanders as an allusion to God intervening through Elijah to save Jesus. Hebrews understands Jesus' citing the initial verse of the psalm as an agreement to all that the psalm implies, i.e., as an implicit petition to die. Further, the main verse alluded to in Ps 22 seems to refer to the tôdâ which Jesus celebrated with His disciples, and this explains how He could `learn' obedience: He learned by experience the benignant effect of obedience to God.
answered3. There are three difficulties with this interpretation. 1) The meaning out of seems impossible to sustain for a)po/ in the context. 2) The word eu)la/beia as found in Hebrews does not seem to have the meaning fear in the sense of terror to judge from the use of the word in 12,28 and of the related word eu)labhqei/j in 11,7, and it is difficult to conceive how Jesus could be praised for his trust in God (2,13) and proposed as the originator of faith (12,2) if, when he was tested, he became a prey to terror. 3) The context speaks of God as one able to save Him from death, which is not the same as fear of death4.
2. Jesus Was Simply Heard
Jesus was heard and then learned obedience because of His reverence, i.e., a partial stop is understood between ei)sakousqei/j and a)po_ th=j eu)labei/aj so that the phrase because of his reverence goes with e!maqen ... th_n u(pakoh/n 5. This interpretation leaves the two phrases a)po_ th=j eu)labei/aj and kai/per w@n ui(o/j dangling awkwardly before the verb e!maqen. This solution is only apparent: it still either leaves unexplained just how Jesus was heard or else implies that the learning itself was the way in which He was heard, in which case a)po_ th=j eu)labei/aj is still the reason for His being heard6.
3. Jesus Was Not Heard
Jesus was not heard, i.e., a corruption in the text is presumed and the negative particle ou)k is introduced before ei)sakousqei/j7. The logic of the existence of ou)k in the original text would seem to demand that the interpretation of eu)la/beia in 5,7 was terror, for it is too