James Swetnam, «The Crux at Hebrews 2,9 in Its Context», Vol. 91 (2010) 103-111
The note suggests that Heb 2,9 means that Jesus died physically so that he could die in the gaze of those who believe in him and thus be freed from the fear of death (2,15). It also suggests that Heb 2,8b-9 is a subsection about Jesus as the heavenly sacrificial victim and corresponds to Heb 2,14-16 which is about Jesus the earthly sacrificial victim. Heb 2,10-12 in turn is a subsection about Jesus as heavenly high priest and corresponds to Heb 2,17-18 which is about Jesus as earthly high priest.
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The Crux at Hebrews 2,9 in Its Context
The present note will propose a solution involving the purpose clause at
Heb 2,9 introduced by opwv (opwv xariti ueoy yper pantov geyshtai
â„¢ â„¢ Â¥ ËœÎ© Ã¹ Ã¹ Â¥
uanatoy) and then, on the basis of this proposed solution, suggest a
re-reading of Heb 2,8b-14.
I. The Classic Crux at Hebrews 2,9
The normal force of the word opwv is final, i.e., it expresses the
purpose for which something happens. Thus, following the normal
meaning of opwv, the text seems to say that Jesus suffered death in order
to die. One reaction is to state that the force of the opwv is not clear and
to let it go at that 1. Another reaction is to rearrange the text so that the
apparent anomaly of Jesus dying in order to die is removed 2. Still another
reaction is to interpret opwv in a modal sense so that the verse is to be
understood as follows: â€œ...all this (the humiliation and the resurrection)
took place in order that, by the favor of God, Jesus might experience death
on behalf of everyoneâ€. That is to say, the opwv clause makes the
resurrection the vehicle for applying the expiatory death of Christ to all
mankind. The difficulty with this view is that a modal meaning for opwv â„¢
P. ELLINGWORTH, The Epistle to the Hebrews. A Commentary on the
Greek Text (NIGCT; Grand Rapids, MI â€“ Carlisle, England 1993) 155.
The reaction of one commentator is as follows. Translation of Heb 2,9:
â€œ But we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels so that
by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone, because of the suffering
of death crowned with glory and splendorâ€ (W.L. LANE, Hebrews 1â€“8 (WBC
47A ; Dallas, TX 1991) 42. Explanation of translation: â€œThe translation seeks to
reflect the sense intended by the writer rather than the order of the clauses in v.
9. It is imperative to recognize that in the Gk text the clauses have been
arranged in a chiastic fashion so that the first clause (â€˜who for a little while was
made lower than the angelsâ€™ is complemented by the fourth (â€˜so that that by the
grace of God he might taste death for everyoneâ€™). This literary arrangement
served to bring together the two inner clauses (â€˜because of the suffering of
deathâ€™ and â€˜crowned with glory and splendorâ€™). Only by rearranging the order
of the clauses in the translation can the intended sense be expressedâ€ (LANE,
Hebrews, 43). But this is hardly the way to do exegesis: decide the sense
intended by the author and then rearrange the text accordingly.