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_ teleiwqei/j this perfection refers to the second, definitive stage of Christs priesthood which follows on His resurrection29.
e)ge/neto pa=sin toi=j u(pakou/ousin au)tw=| ai!tioj swthri/aj ai)wni/ou Christ is the cause of salvation for those who believe in Him in His resurrected state. The obedience of His followers mirrors His own obedience. Both are rooted in the benevolent will of the Father. The word swthri/a is related to the verb sw|/zw in v. 730.
prosagoreuqei_j u(po_ tou= qeou= here the divine passive becomes explicit. The word prosagoreuqei/j parallels the word kalou/menoj in v. 431.
a)rxiereu_j kata_ th_n ta/cin Melxise/dek Christ is designated high priest according to the order of Melchisedek at His resurrection. This has been stated in vv. 5-6 by combining Ps 2,7 (a reference to the resurrection cf. Heb 1,5) and Ps 110,4 in a gezerah shawah construction32, the common word being su/.
1. An Interpretation Based on Syntax
The main crux is the seeming impossibility of Christ being heard although He was son, i.e., taking the phrase kai/per w@n ui(o/j as referring to what precedes rather than to what follows. Even if it is granted on the basis of usage outside the New Testament that the phrase could refer to what follows, the fact that the other four uses in the New Testament refer to what precedes would seem to indicate that this is the more probable interpretation for Heb 5,7: God, who can save from death, heard Christs petitions even though Christ was Son. Unfortunately, it is not clear how this interpretation could have any reasonable meaning at all; hence the efforts to seek some other syntactical explanation. Further, Christ was heard because of His piety but learned obedience from the things He suffered e!maqen a)f' w|n e!paqen th_n u(pakoh/n. Again, it is not clear just how this is to be construed with the phrase kai/per w@n ui(o/j and with the rest of the