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.
terror. Further, this interpretation does not explain how Jesus was heard. Proponents of this position claim that the author of Hebrews was not interested in knowing how Jesus was heard and was concerned only to show that Jesus had to go through the human experience of fear, and that the nature of His petition and just how it was answered were secondary concerns. But this view ignores the emphasis on the petition of Jesus in the first part of 5,713.
6. Jesus Was Heard by Learning Obedience through His Suffering
Jesus was heard by being enabled to learn obedience through what He suffered14. This interpretation takes the phrase kai/per w]n ui(o/j as referring to what follows, the phrase e!maqen a)f )w|n e!paqen th_n u(pakoh/n; this seems unlikely since it conflicts with the usage elsewhere in Hebrews and in the New Testament, which always has the phrase referring to what precedes15. Further, this interpretation understands Christs being heard not as an answer to what He is pleading for but as an answer to what is implied in His plea His willingness to obey. But it is not clear how this implicit willingness to obey is to be differentiated from the explicit obedience which He learned: In Hebrews Christ is portrayed as coming into the world to do Gods will (Heb 10,5-7), i.e., He already is obedient explicitly16.