Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Does the Immediate Context of Hebrews 1:8 prove that Jesus is God? Pt. 2

Sam Shamoun

We continue with our discussion of the testimony of Hebrews concerning the Deity of Christ.

Performing The Deeds of God and Possessing God’s Uncreated Nature

Hebrews starts off the book by describing Jesus as God’s unique Son who is the exact representation of God’s uncreated essence and whom the Father used to create the entire cosmos. Hebrews even goes so far as to claim that it is the Son himself who is guiding and sustaining all things by his powerful word:

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and THE EXACT REPRESENTATION of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of HIS power…” Hebrews 1:2-3a

Yet according to the OT writings there is no creature, not even a heavenly one, that is like Yahweh or can even compare to him:

“The heavens will praise Your wonders, O LORD; Your faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the skies is comparable to the LORD? Who among the sons of the mighty is like the LORD, A God greatly feared in the council of the holy ones, And awesome above all those who are around Him? O LORD God of hosts, who is like You, O mighty LORD? Your faithfulness also surrounds You. You rule the swelling of the sea; When its waves rise, You still them.” Psalm 89:5-8 – cf. 86:8-10

Thus, the only way for Jesus to be the perfect imprint or representation of God’s very own eternal nature is if he himself is absolute Deity and co-equal with the Father in essence. After all, no finite creature is able to perfectly duplicate or mirror God’s infinite, uncreated substance.

What makes this all the more remarkable is that the author has ascribed to Christ the very works which the OT writings and extra-canonical sources say only Yahweh performs, e.g. creating and sustaining all things by his own power and word:

“Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, I, the LORD, am THE MAKER OF ALL THINGS, Stretching out the heavens by MYSELF And spreading out the earth ALL ALONE,” Isaiah 44:24

“For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another. Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called; I am He, I am the first, I am also the last. Surely My hand founded the earth, And My right hand spread out the heavens; When I call to them, they stand together.” Isaiah 48:11-13– cf. 40:21-28; 42:5; 45:12, 18; 51:13

“Because of him, each messenger succeeds, and all things hold together by his word.” Sirach 43:26

He has even taken the words of the following Psalm which refer to Yahweh as the immutable Creator and Sustainer of all things:

“This will be written for the generation to come, That a people yet to be created may praise the LORD. For He looked down from His holy height; From heaven the LORD gazed upon the earth, To hear the groaning of the prisoner, To set free those who were doomed to death, That men may tell of the name of the LORD in Zion And His praise in Jerusalem, When the peoples are gathered together, And the kingdoms, to serve the LORD. He has weakened my strength in the way; He has shortened my days. I say, ‘O my God, do not take me away in the midst of my days, Your years are throughout all generations. Of old You founded the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. Even they will perish, but You endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end.’” Psalm 102:18-27

And applied them to the Son!

And, YOU, Lord [the Son], laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of YOUR hands; they will perish, but You remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe You will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will have no end.’” Hebrews 1:10-12

Again, the only way the author of Hebrews could take OT texts which single out the unique characteristics and functions of Yahweh and apply them to Christ is if he truly believed that Jesus is Yahweh God (yet not the Father or the Holy Spirit).

Concluding Remarks – In What Sense Is Jesus God?

It is apparent from our discussion that Hebrews doesn’t categorize Jesus as one who merely functions as God, or in the role of God. Rather, the kind of works and characteristics which Hebrews ascribes to Christ shows that this author believed that Jesus is truly God in nature. 

NT scholar Murray J. Harris provides a helpful analysis of the testimony of Hebrews concerning the Person and work of Christ, one that brings out this point more clearly:

“In establishing the superiority of Jesus over angels, the author draws a series of contrasts between them in verses 4-14. The antithesis between verse 7 and verses 8-9 that is marked by the strongly adversative mende is twofold: the angels serve (tous leitourgous), but the Son reigns (ho thronos sou he rhabdos); in their service of God the angels change their form (pneumatapuros phloga), but in his rule of equity the divine Son continues forever (ho theos eis ton aiona tou aionas). One contrast relates to function, the other to nature. Over against the variability of angelic function, the author sets the stability of the Son’s throne and the constancy of his rectitude. Over against the evanescence and impermanence of angelic form, the author sets the eternality and divinity of the Son’s person. Whereas the angels are addressed by God, the Son may be addressed as God. On this view verses 10-12 reinforce and extend the antitheses. While angels are creatures of divine fiat, the Son himself is the divine Creator. While they are mutable, he is immutable (su de diameneissu de ho autos ei). Never could it be said concerning the Son, ho poion ton huion autou pneuma kai ton leitourgon autou puros phloga. From this I conclude that to interpret theos as a vocative [direct address to the Son] does full justice to the flow of argument in the immediate context… Given the affirmation of verse 3 that the Son is the effulgence of God’s glory and the visible expression of his being, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that when the author affirms further that God the Father addresses his Son as theos at his resurrection he intends to signify that, equally with the Father, Jesus possesses the divine nature. (Harris, Jesus as God, IX. The Throne of God (Hebrews 1:8-9), C. Ho Theos in Hebrews 1:8, 2. As A Vocative, d. Context, pp. 216-218; bold emphasis and comments within brackets ours)


“Just as the whole doctrinal portion of the epistle (1:1-10:30) focuses on the superiority of Jesus, so its first segment (1:1-2:18) seeks to establish the superiority of Jesus to angels. After the exordium (1:1-4) he is shown to be superior because of his godhood (1:5-14): he has obtained a vastly superior title and office (onoma, 1:4) as the divinely begotten Son (1:5); as preeminent heir (‘firstborn’) he enjoys unrivaled dignity and a unique relation to God (1:6a; cf. v. 2: ‘the heir of all things’); he is the object of angelic worship (1:6b); in his person he is divine (1:8a); in the exercise of his divine sovereignty he is scrupulously just (1:8b); he has a superior joy (1:9); he is the unchangeable Lord of creation, which includes angels (1:10-12); and he is God’s exalted coregent (1:13)… One may therefore isolate verse 8 to the argument of Hebrews 1-2 as being to show that the superiority of Jesus to angels does not reside simply in his having distinctive titles, an exalted status, or redemptive functions, but preeminently in his belonging to a different category–that of deity. Just as he is set apart from sinners because he is ‘holy and without fault or stain’ (7:26), so he is set apart from angels because he may be appropriately addressed as theos: to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘Your throne, O God, will endure for ever and ever’? No angel was ever dignified by the title theos because no angel shared intrinsically in the divine nature. This use of theos for Jesus is all the more significant because the author carefully avoids using the term unnecessarily in 1:1-14, preferring to use a circumlocution (1:3; cf. 8:1) and to leave the subject of successive verbs of saying unexpressed (1:5-7, 13)…

“But verse 8a looks backward as well as forward. When the Son is said to be ‘the radiant light of God’s glory (on apaugasma te doxes)’ (v.3 JB) and to bear ‘the imprint of God's nature (charakter tes hupostaseos autou)’ (v. 3), he is being described as the intrinsic possessor of the nature of God without actually being given the generic title of ‘God.’ What verse 3 implies, verse 8 makes explicit: the Son is rightly addressed as theos inasmuch as he is the exact representation of the very being of ho theos… It is wholly appropriate, indeed imperative, that the angels of God worship Jesus, the firstborn, for he is by nature included within the generic category denoted by theos and therefore is a legitimate and necessary object of adoration.” (Ibid., E. Significance of a Vocatival Ho Theos in Hebrews 1:8, 1. Within Hebrews 1-2, pp. 221-222; bold emphasis ours)

Harris also makes the following keen observation:

“But to suggest that verse 8a is pivotal within the chapter is not to claim that the address ho theos is the zenith or the principal affirmation of the chapter. Of the three main titles given to Jesus in Hebrews 1, huios is the title on which attention is focused (vv. 2, 5 bis, 8a), so that theos (v. 8) and kyrios (v. 10) may be said to explicate two aspects of that sonship, viz., divinity and sovereignty. The principal point in the chapter is that the exalted Son is vastly superior to the angels (vv. 4-5, 13) as a divine King who is worshiped (vv. 6-9) and as a sovereign Creator who is changeless (vv. 10-12). In that verse 4 enunciates the theme of the superiority of the Son to angels that is to be developed, it forms the focal point of Hebrews 1-2.” (Ibid., p. 223; bold emphasis ours)

What the foregoing shows is that the king of Psalm 45 merely foreshadowed the Messiah since what the former was said to be figuratively, or hyperbolically, the latter happens to be in actuality. As the following scholars explain:

“… The first line of the citation has occasioned some difficulty. In its original context, the usual rendering, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever,’ seems to address a prince of the house of David inappropriately by calling him ‘God’. In order to get around the difficulty, translators have rendered the expression ‘God is your throne’ or ‘Your throne is [a throne of] God, eternal’ (note ASV mg.). But these nonvocative renderings are unconvincing.  

“Calling the king ‘God’ was rather rare in ancient poetry. But to the Hebrew prophets and poets a prince of the house of David was the vicegerent of Israel’s God. The statement simply means that ‘this Davidic monarch receives his authority from God.’ Further, ‘Yahweh's ruling authority is extended to the Davidic king in much the same way as Yahweh's authority is extended to Moses, when he says, “See! I made you God to Pharaoh”’ (Exod. 7:1). The psalmist did not believe the king to be God any more than Israel thought Moses was God. Rather, ‘the king is praised for his rule over Israel in a manner that is supposed to resemble God's ruling authority over the universe’. Harris suggests that the Davidic king's rule is like the authority of God when: (1) he reflects God's presence, and ‘glory and majesty’ are ascribed to him (Ps. 45:5a; as it is of God, so Ps. 96:6); (2) he is declared a ‘defender and lover of truth and righteousness’ (Ps. 45:5b-8a; as God is, Pss. 33:5; 48:10-11; Isa. 61:8); (3) he ‘judges with equity’ (Ps. 45:7b; as God does, Pss. 67:4; 99:4a); and (4) his rule (i.e., his dynasty) lasts forever (Ps 45:16-17; note God's eternal rule in Pss. 10:16; 93:2; 145:13). Accordingly, the attribution of deity to the king is figurative.

“For the author of Hebrews, however, the address O God, drawn from Psalm 45, is to be understood literally of the Davidic Son. His throne endures forever; his rule knows no end. He is worshipped by angels as ‘God’ (according to v. 6; Deut. 32:43), identified as the 'Lord' who created the universe (in vv. 10-12; Ps. 102:25-27), and here hailed as God (through Ps. 45:6a). The application of O God to the Son thus declares his superiority to angels–he is divine, he is the creator of all things, including the angels, and he is worshipped by them.” (Peter Thomas 0’Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews (Pillar New Testament Commentary) [William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI 2010], pp. 72-73; bold emphasis ours)


“The Israelite king was not, of course, literally God. Like Isaiah's prophecy about a boy named Immanuel who prefigured the Messiah, who really would be ‘God with us’ (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:22-23), the psalm speaks in the immediate ‘horizon’ about the Jerusalem king who also prefigured the Messiah, the ultimate descendant of David and the true eternal King. We should note that the psalm does not identify the specific king, and the whole psalm may be interpreted messianically. The king is fairer than other human beings (v. 2), addressed as ‘mighty one’ (gibbor, v. 3a; cf. Isa. 9:6), attributed glory and majesty (v. 3b), esteemed as the champion of truth and righteousness (vv. 4-7), and assured of an everlasting throne (v. 6). The nuptial imagery that dominates the second half of the psalm (vv. 8-15) is window dressing (likely occasioned by an actual wedding of the king) for a messianic vision of the future. The richest representatives of the nations of the world will attend to and bow before the Davidic king, and the peoples of the world will all praise him (note vv. 9-12, 17). Language about the king that would be hyperbolic in reference to any of Israel’s mere human kings ultimately applies to the Messiah. Thus, although none of those kings was literally God, Psalm 45 points forward to a coming king who really would be God.

“This is exactly what the writer of the book of Hebrews claims–that the psalmist was, indeed, speaking ‘of the Son’ (Heb. 1:8a). David, Solomon, and the other kings who ruled from Jerusalem MERELY ANTICIPATED God’s true Son reigning from God’s throne (Heb. 1:2-3), the one whom angels worship (v. 6), the Lord who made the heavens and the earth (v. 10) and will outlast them all (vv. 11-12). In a passage that makes all of these astounding statements about Jesus Christ and asserts that his name is superior to that of all the angels (v. 4), the claim that the name ‘God’ also belongs to him (v. 8) should be given its full force.” (Bowman & Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place, Part 3: Name Above All Names: Jesus Shares The Names Of God, 12. Immanuel: God With Us, pp. 149-150; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Now this puts the neophyte in a dilemma since the teachings of Hebrews proves that Islam is a false religion.

According to Islamic theology, Allah does not allow any creature to sit on his heavenly throne or reign with him over all creation (tauhid al-rububiyyah), or allows any creature to be worshiped (tauhid al-uluhiyyah/ibaadah), or to share in his unique names and characteristics (tauhid al-asmaa waas-sifaat).

And yet Jesus, according to Hebrews, shares in God’s own rule over all creation, receives the worship due to God, performs the works which only God is capable of doing, and possesses the very nature and names of God!

In light of this, the greenhorn will either have to accept the fact that Jesus is a creature whom God has taken to be his partner, or that Christ is God in essence. Yet either position means that Muhammad was mistaken, and therefore a false prophet, since neither Jesus nor his followers completely agree with the Islamic view of monotheism or everything it teaches concerning the Person of Christ.

Lord Jesus willing, we have more rebuttals lined up for this neophyte which should be appearing soon on our site.

Related Articles