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.
kai_ ei)sakousqei_j the word is used for answering a petition in prayer22. The passive is theological, i.e., God is the implied agent.
a)po_ th=j eu)labei/aj here the exegesis becomes more problematic. But given the usage of eu)la/beia elsewhere in Hebrews and in the New Testament, the meaning reverence seems more probable than the alternative fear23. And this, in turn, suggests that the preposition a)po/ is to be understood in a causal, rather than in a temporal sense24. The meaning is that Christ was heard because of His reverence in 12,28 eu)la/beia is paired with de/oj, awe, in a hendiadys meaning reverent awe in a context which speaks of worship25. The motive for Christs urgent pleas have to do with His reverent awe and in association with cult.
kai/per w@n ui(o/j this is the much-discussed phrase whose position is generally taken to refer to what follows, i.e., it introduces the thought expressed by e!maqen a)f' w|n e!paqen th_n u(pakoh/n26 instead of serving as a decisive pendent to what precedes, which means above all ei)sakousqei/j27.
e!maqen a)f' w|n e!paqen th_n u(pakoh/n in the context of the epistle it is clear that Jesus was already obedient when He offered up His loud petitions (cf. 10,5-10). Therefore the only way He can learn obedience is that He comes to the realization of what obedience to Gods will entails28.