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Hebrews 1:3

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

The brightness of his glory - Απαυγασμα της δοξης The resplendent outbeaming of the essential glory of God. Hesychius interprets απαυγασμα by ᾑλιου φεγγος, the splendor of the sun. The same form of expression is used by an apocryphal writer, Wis. 7:26, where, speaking of the uncreated wisdom of God, he says: "For she is the splendor of eternal light, απαυγασμα γαρ εστι φωτος αΐδιου, and the unsullied mirror of the energy of God, and the image of his goodness." The word αυγασμα is that which has splendor in itself απαυγασμα is the splendor emitted from it; but the inherent splendor and the exhibited splendor are radically and essentially the same.

The express image of his person - Χαρακτηρ της ὑποστασεως αυτου· The character or impression of his hypostasis or substance. It is supposed that these words expound the former; image expounding brightness, and person or substance, glory. The hypostasis of God is that which is essential to him as God; and the character or image is that by which all the likeness of the original becomes manifest, and is a perfect fac-simile of the whole. It is a metaphor taken from sealing; the die or seal leaving the full impression of its every part on the wax to which it is applied.

From these words it is evident,

  1. That the apostle states Jesus Christ to be of the same essence with the Father, as the απαυγασμα, or proceeding splendor, must be the same with the αυγασμα, or inherent splendor.
  • That Christ, though proceeding from the Father, is of the same essence; for if one αυγη, or splendor, produce another αυγη, or splendor, the produced splendor must be of the same essence with that which produces it.
  • That although Christ is thus of the same essence with the Father, yet he is a distinct person from the Father; as the splendor of the sun, though of the same essence, is distinct from the sun itself, though each is essential to the other; as the αυγασμα, or inherent splendor, cannot subsist without its απαυγασμα, or proceeding splendor, nor the proceeding splendor subsist without the inherent splendor from which it proceeds.
  • That Christ is eternal with the Father, as the proceeding splendor must necessarily be coexistent with the inherent splendor. If the one, therefore, be uncreated, the other is uncreated; if the one be eternal, the other is eternal.
  • Upholding all things by the word of his power -

    This is an astonishing description of the infinitely energetic and all pervading power of God. He spake, and all things were created; he speaks, and all things are sustained. The Jewish writers frequently express the perfection of the Divine nature by the phrases, He bears all things, both above and below; He carries all his creatures; He bears his world; He bears all worlds by his power. The Hebrews, to whom this epistle was written, would, from this and other circumstances, fully understand that the apostle believed Jesus Christ to be truly and properly God.

    Purged our sins - There may be here some reference to the great transactions in the wilderness.

    1. Moses, while in communion with God on the mount, was so impressed with the Divine glories that his face shone, so that the Israelites could not behold it. But Jesus is infinitely greater than Moses, for he is the splendor of God's glory; and,
  • Moses found the government of the Israelites such a burden that he altogether sank under it. His words, Numbers 11:12, are very remarkable: Have I conceived all this people? Have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy Bosom - unto the land which thou swearest unto their fathers? But Christ not only carried all the Israelites, and all mankind; but he upholds All Things by the word of his power.
  • The Israelites murmured against Moses and against God, and provoked the heavy displeasure of the Most High; and would have been consumed had not Aaron made an atonement for them, by offering victims and incense. But Jesus not only makes an atonement for Israel, but for the whole world; not with the blood of bulls and goats, but with his own blood: hence it is said that he purged our sins δι ' αὑτου, by himself his own body and life being the victim. It is very likely that the apostle had all these things in his eye when he wrote this verse; and takes occasion from them to show the infinite excellence of Jesus Christ when compared with Moses; and of his Gospel when compared with the law. And it is very likely that the Spirit of God, by whom he spoke, kept in view those maxims of the ancient Jews, concerning the Messiah, whom they represent as being infinitely greater than Abraham, the patriarchs, Moses, and the ministering angels. So Rabbi Tanchum, on Isaiah 52:13, Behold my servant shall deal prudently, says, המשיח מלך זה Zeh melek hammashiach, this is the King Messiah; and shall be exalted, and be extolled, and be very high. "He shall be exalted above Abraham, and shall be extolled beyond Moses, and shall be more sublime than the ministering angels." See the preface.
  • The right hand of the Majesty on high -

    As it were associated with the supreme Majesty, in glory everlasting, and in the government of all things in time and in eternity; for the right hand is the place of the greatest eminence, 1 Kings 2:19. The king himself, in eastern countries, sits on the throne; the next to him in the kingdom, and the highest favourite, sits on his right hand; and the third greatest personage, on his left.

    Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    Who being the brightness of his glory - This verse is designed to state the dignity and exalted rank of the Son of God, and is exceedingly important with reference to a correct view of the Redeemer. Every word which is employed is of great importance, and should be clearly understood in order to a correct apprehension of the passage. First, in what manner does it refer to the Redeemer? To his divine nature? To the mode of his existence before he was incarnate? Or to him as he appeared on earth? Most of the ancient commentators supposed that it referred to his divine dignity before he became incarnate, and proceed to argue on that supposition on the mode of the divine existence. The true solution seems to me to be, that it refers to him as incarnate, but still has reference to him as the incarnate “Son of God.” It refers to him as Mediator, but not simply or mainly as a man. It is rather to him as divine - thus, in his incarnation, being the brightness of the divine glory, and the express image of God. That this is the correct view is apparent, I think, from the whole scope of the passage. The drift of the argument is, to show his dignity as “he has spoken to us” Hebrews 1:1, and not in the period antecedent to his incarnation. It is to show his claims to our reverence as sent from God - the last and greatest of the messengers which God bas sent to man. But, then it is a description of him “as he actually is” - the incarnate Son of God; the equal of the Father in human flesh; and this leads the writer to dwell on his divine, character, and to argue from that; Hebrews 1:8, Hebrews 1:10-12. I have no doubt, therefore, that this description refers to his divine nature, but it is the divine nature as it appears in human flesh. An examination of the words used will prepare us for a more clear comprehension of the sense. The word “glory” - δόξα doxa- means properly “a seeming, an appearance;” and then:

    (1)praise, applause, honor:

    (2)dignity, splendor, glory;

    (3)brightness, dazzling light; and,

    (4)excellence, perfection, such as belongs to God and such as there is in heaven.

    It is probably used here, as the word - כבוד kaabowd- is often among the Hebrews, to denote splendor, brightness, and refers to the divine perfections as resembling a bright light, or the sun. The word is applied to the sun and stars, 1 Corinthians 15:40-41; to the light which Paul saw on the way to Damascus, Acts 22:11; to the shining of Moses‘ face, 2 Corinthians 3:7; to the celestial light which surrounds the angels, Revelation 18:1; and glorified saints, Luke 9:31-32; and to the dazzling splendor or majesty in which God is enthroned; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; 2 Peter 1:17; Revelation 15:8; Revelation 21:11, Revelation 21:23. Here there is a comparison of God with the sun; he is encompassed with splendor and majesty; he is a being of light and of infinite perfection. It refers to “all in God” that is bright, splendid, glorious; and the idea is, that the Son of God is the “brightness” of it all.

    The word rendered “brightness” - ἀπαύγασμα apaugasma- occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means properly “reflected splendor,” or the light which emanates from a luminous body. The rays or beams of the sun are its “brightness,” or that by which the sun is seen and known. The sun itself we do not see; the beams which flow from it we do see. The meaning here is, that if God be represented under the image of a luminous body, as he is in the Scriptures (see Psalm 84:11; Malachi 4:2), then Christ is the radiance of that light, the brightness of that luminary - Stuart. He is that by which we perceive God, or by which God is made known to us in his real perfections; compare John 1:18; John 14:9. - It is by him only that the true character and glory of God is known to people. This is true in regard to the great system of revelation but it is especially true in regard to the views which people have of God. Matthew 11:27 - “no man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.”

    The human soul is dark respecting the divine character until it is enlightened by Christ. It sees no beauty, no glory in his nature - nothing that excites wonder, or that wins the affections, until it is disclosed by the Redeemer. somehow it happens, account for it as people may, that there are no elevating practical views of God in the world; no views that engage and hold the affections of the soul; no views that are transforming and purifying, but those which are derived from the Lord Jesus. A man becomes a Christian, and at once he has elevated, practical views of God. He is to him the most glorious of all beings. He finds supreme delight in contemplating his perfections. But he may be a philosopher or an infidel, and though he may profess to believe in the existence of God, yet the belief excites no practical influence on him; he sees nothing to admire; nothing which leads him to worship him; compare Romans 1:21.

    And the express image - The word used here - χαρακτὴρ charaktēr- likewise occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is that from which our word “character” is derived. It properly means a “engraving-tool;” and then something “engraved” or “stamped” - “a character” - as a letter, mark, sign. The image stamped on coins, seals, wax, expresses the idea: and the sense here is, that if God be represented under the idea of a substance, or being, then Christ is the exact resemblance of that - as an image is of the stamp or die. The resemblance between a stamp and the figure which is impressed is exact; and so is the resemblance between the Redeemer and God; see Colossians 1:15. “Who is the image of the invisible God.”

    Of his person - The word “person” with us denotes an individual being, and is applied to human beings, consisting of body and soul. We do not apply it to anything dead - not using it with reference to the body when the spirit is gone. It is applied to man - with individual and separate consciousness and will; with body and soul; with an existence separate from others. It is evident that it cannot be used in this sense when applied to God, and that this word does not express the true idea of the passage here. Tyndale renders it, more accurately, “substance.” The word in the original - ὑπόστασις hupostasis- whence our word “hypostasis,” means, literally, a “foundation,” or “substructure.” Then it means a well-founded trust, firm expectation, confidence, firmness, boldness; and then “reality, substance, essential nature.” In the New Testament, it is rendered “confident,” or “confidence” 2 Corinthians 9:4; 2 Corinthians 11:17; Hebrews 3:14; “substance” Hebrews 11:1; and “person” in the passage before us. It is not used elsewhere. Here it properly refers to the essential nature of God - what distinguishes him from all other beings, and which, if I may so say, “constitutes him God;” and the idea is, that the Redeemer is the exact resemblance of “that.” This resemblance consists, probably, in the following things - though perhaps the enumeration does not include all - but in these he certainly resembles God, or is his exact image:

    (1) In his original mode of being, or before the incarnation. Of this we know little. But he had a “glory with the Father before the world was;” John 17:5. He was “in the beginning with God, and was God;” John 1:1. He was in intimate union with the Father, and was one with Him, in certain respects; though in certain other respects, there was a distinction. I do not see any evidence in the Scriptures of the doctrine of “eternal generation,” and it is certain that that doctrine militates against the “proper eternity” of the Son of God. The natural and fair meaning of that doctrine would be, that there was a time when he had not an existence, and when he began to be, or was begotten. But the Scripture doctrine is, that he had a strict and proper eternity. I see no evidence that he was in any sense a “derived being” - deriving his existence and his divinity from the Father. The Fathers of the Christian church, it is believed, held that the Son of God as to his divine, as well as his human nature, was “derived” from the Father. Hence, the Nicene creed speaks of him as “begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made” - language implying derivation in his divine nature. They held, with one voice, that he was God (divine); but it was in this manner; see Stuart, Excursus III. on the Epistle to the Hebrews. But this is incredible and impossible. A derived being cannot in any proper sense be “God”; and if there is any attribute which the Scriptures have ascribed to the Saviour with special clearness, it is that of proper eternity; Revelation 1:11, Revelation 1:17; John 1:1.

    (Perhaps the doctrine of Christ‘s natural or eternal Sonship had been as well understood without the help of the term “generation,” which adds nothing to our stock of ideas on the subject, and gives rise, as the above remarks prove, to objections which attach altogether to the “word,” and from which the “doctrine” itself is free. In fairness however, it should be remembered that, like many other theological terms, the term in question, when applied to Christ‘s Sonship, is not to be understood in the ordinary acceptation, as implying derivation or extraction. It is used as making some approach to a proper term only, and in this case, as in others of like nature, it is but just to respect the acknowledged rule that when human phraseology is employed concerning the divine nature, all that is imperfect, all that belongs to the creature, is to be rejected, and that only retained which comports with the majesty of the Creator. It is on this very principle that Prof. Stuart, in his first excursus, and Trinitarians generally, have so successfully defended the use of the word “person” to designate a distinction in the Godhead. Overlooking this principle, our author deduces consequences from the doctrine of eternal generation, which do not properly belong to it, and which its advocates distinctly repudiate.

    That doctrine cannot militate against the proper eternity of the Son, since, while it uses the term “generation,” not “more human,” but with every thing of human informity separated from it, it supplies also the adjunct “eternal.” Whatever some indiscreet advocates of the eternal Sonship may have affirmed, it should never be forgotten, that the ablest friends equally with the author, contend that there is no “Derivation or communication of essence from the Father to the Son.” “Although the terms “Father” and “Son” indicate a relation analogous to that among people, yet, as in the latter case, it is a relation between two material and separate beings, and in the former, is a relation in the same Spiritual essence, the one can throw no light upon the other; and to attempt to illustrate the one by the other is equally illogical and presumptuous. We can conceive the communication of a material essence by one material being to another, because it takes place in the generation of animals; but the communication of a spiritual, indivisible, immutable essence is altogether inconceivable, especially when we add, that the supposed communication does not constitute a different being, but takes place in the essences communicating.”

    Dick‘s Theology, vol. 2, page 71. It is readily allowed that the Fathers, and many since their times, have written unguardedly on this mysterious subject: but their errors, instead of leading us to reject the doctrine entirely, should lead us only to examine the Scriptures more fully, and form our opinions on them alone. The excellent author already quoted has well remarked: “I cannot conceive what object they have in view who admit the Divinity, but deny the natural Sonship of our Saviour, unless it be to get rid of the strange notions about communication of essence and subordination which have prevailed so much; and in this case, like too many disputants, in avoiding one extreme, they run into the other.”)

    It may have been that it was by him that the perfections of God were made known before the incarnation to the angelic world, but on that point the Scriptures are silent.

    (2) on earth he was the brightness of the divine glory, and the express image of his person:

    (a)It was by him, eminently, that God was made known to human beings - as it is by the beams of the sun that that is made known.

    (b)He bore an exact resemblance to God. He was just such a being as we should suppose God to be were he to become incarnate, and to act as a man.

    He was the embodied representation of the Deity. He was pure - like God. He was benevolent - like God. He spake to the winds and storms - like God. He healed diseases - like God. He raised the dead - like God. He wielded the power which God only can wield, and he manifested a character in all respects like what we should suppose God would evince if he appeared in human flesh, and dwelt among people and this is saying much. It is in fact saying that the account in the Gospels is real, and that the Christian religion is true. Uninspired men could never have drawn such a character as that of Jesus Christ, unless that character had actually existed. The attempt has often been made to describe God, or to show how be would speak and act if he came down to earth.

    Thus, the Hindus speak of the incarnations of Vishnu; and thus Homer, and Virgil, and most of the ancient poets, speak of the appearance of the gods, and describe them as they were supposed to appear. But how different from the character of the Lord Jesus! they are full of passion, and lust, and anger, and contention, and strife; they come to mingle in battles, and to take part with contending armies, and they evince the same spirit as men, and are merely “men of great power, and more gigantic passions; “but Christ is God in human nature. The form is that of man; the spirit is that of God. He walks, and eats, and sleeps as a man; he thinks, and speaks, and acts like God. He was born as a man - but the angels adored him as God. As a man he ate; yet by a word he created food for thousands, as if he were God. Like a man he slept on a pillow while the vessel was tossed by the waves; like God be rose, and rebuked the winds and they were still. As a man he went, with affectionate interest, to the house of Martha and Mary. As a man he sympathized with them in their affliction, and wept at the grave of their brother; like God he spoke, and the dead came forth to the land of the living. As a man he traveled through the land of Judea. He was without a home. Yet everywhere the sick were laid at his feet, and health came from his touch, and strength from the words of his lips as if he were God. As a man he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane; he bore his cross to Calvary; he was nailed to the tree: yet then the heavens grew dark, and the earth shook and the dead arose as if he were God. As a man he slept in the cold tomb - like God he rose, and brought life and immortality to light.

    He lived on earth as a man - he ascended to heaven like God. And in all the life of the Redeemer, in all the variety of trying situations in which he was placed, there was not a word or action which was inconsistent with the supposition that he was the incarnate God. There was no failure of any effort to heal the sick or to raise the dead; no look, no word, no deed that is not perfectly consistent with this supposition; but on the contrary, his life is full of events which can be explained on no other supposition than that he was the appropriate shining forth of the divine glory, and the exact resemblance of the essence of God. There are not two Gods - as there are not two suns when the sun shines. It is the one God, in a mysterious and incomprehensible manner shining into the world in the face of Jesus Christ. See note on 2 Corinthians 4:6. As the wax bears the perfect image of the seal - perfect not only in the outline, but in the filling up - in all the lines, and features, and letters, so is it with the Redeemer. There is not one of the divine perfections which has not the counterpart in him, and if the glory of the divine character is seen at all by people, it will be seen in and through him.

    And upholding all things by the word of his power - That is, by his powerful word, or command. The phrase “word of his power” is a Hebraism, and means his efficient command. There could not be a more distinct ascription of divinity to the Son of God than this. He upholds or sustains all things - that is, the universe. It is not merely the earth; not only its rocks, mountains, seas, animals and human beings, but it is the universe - all distant worlds. How can he do this who is not God? He does it by his word - his command. What a conception! That one simple command should do all this! So the world was made when God “spake and it was done; he commanded and it stood fast;” Psalm 33:9. So the Lord Jesus commanded the waves and the winds, and they were still Matthew 8:26-27; so he spoke to diseases and they departed, and to the dead land they arose; compare Genesis 1:3. I do know how people can “explain away” this ascription of infinite power to the Redeemer. There can be no higher idea of omnipotence than to say that he upholds all things by his word; and assuredly he who can “hold up” this vast universe so that it does not sink into anarchy or into nothing, must be God. The same power Jesus claimed for himself; see Matthew 28:18.

    When he had by himself purged our sins - “By himself” - not by the blood of bulls and lambs, but by his own blood. This is designed to bring in the grand feature of the Christian scheme, that the purification made for sin was by his blood, instead of the blood which was shed in the temple-service. The word rendered here “purged” means “purified” or “expiated;” see notes on John 15:2. The literal rendering is, “having made purification for our sins.” The purification or cleansing which he effected was by his blood; see 1 John 1:7 “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.” This the apostle here states to have been the great object for which he came, and having done this, he sat down on the right hand of God; see Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 9:12-14. It was not merely to teach that he came; it was to purify the hearts of people, to remove their sins, and to put an end to sacrifice by the sacrifice of himself.

    Sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high - Of God; see the notes on Mark 16:19; Ephesians 1:20-23.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    God spake to his ancient people at sundry times, through successive generations, and in divers manners, as he thought proper; sometimes by personal directions, sometimes by dreams, sometimes by visions, sometimes by Divine influences on the minds of the prophets. The gospel revelation is excellent above the former; in that it is a revelation which God has made by his Son. In beholding the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ, we behold the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Father, Joh 14:7; the fulness of the Godhead dwells, not typically, or in a figure, but really, in him. When, on the fall of man, the world was breaking to pieces under the wrath and curse of God, the Son of God, undertaking the work of redemption, sustained it by his almighty power and goodness. From the glory of the person and office of Christ, we proceed to the glory of his grace. The glory of His person and nature, gave to his sufferings such merit as was a full satisfaction to the honour of God, who suffered an infinite injury and affront by the sins of men. We never can be thankful enough that God has in so many ways, and with such increasing clearness, spoken to us fallen sinners concerning salvation. That he should by himself cleanse us from our sins is a wonder of love beyond our utmost powers of admiration, gratitude, and praise.
    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, 260

    The God of heaven is constantly at work. It is by His power that vegetation is caused to flourish, that every leaf appears and every flower blooms. Every drop of rain or flake of snow, every spire of grass, every leaf and flower and shrub, testifies of God. These little things so common around us teach the lesson that nothing is beneath the notice of the infinite God, nothing is too small for His attention. 8T 260.1

    The mechanism of the human body cannot be fully understood; it presents mysteries that baffle the most intelligent. It is not as the result of a mechanism, which, once set in motion, continues its work, that the pulse beats and breath follows breath. In God we live and move and have our being. Every breath, every throb of the heart, is a continual evidence of the power of an ever-present God. 8T 260.2

    It is God that causes the sun to rise in the heavens. He opens the windows of heaven and gives rain. He causes the grass to grow upon the mountains. “He giveth snow like wool: He scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes.” “When He uttereth His voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens; ...He maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of His treasures.” Psalm 147:16; Jeremiah 10:13. 8T 260.3

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    Ellen G. White
    Education, 131-2

    “These wait all upon Thee....
    That Thou givest them they gather:
    Thou openest Thine hand, they are filled with good.
    Thou hidest Thy face, they are troubled:
    Thou takest away their breath, they die,
    And return to their dust.
    Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit, they are created:
    And Thou renewest the face of the earth.”
    Ed 131.1

    Psalm 104:27-30. Ed 131

    “He stretcheth out the north over the empty place,
    And hangeth the earth upon nothing.
    He bindeth up the waters in His thick clouds;
    And the cloud is not rent under them....
    He hath compassed the waters with bounds,
    Until the day and night come to an end.”
    Ed 131.2

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    Ellen G. White
    Evangelism, 614

    Positive Truth Versus Spiritualistic Representations—I am instructed to say, The sentiments of those who are searching for advanced scientific ideas are not to be trusted. Such representations as the following are made: “The Father is as the light invisible: the Son is as the light embodied; the Spirit is the light shed abroad.” “The Father is like the dew, invisible vapor; the Son is like the dew gathered in beauteous form; the Spirit is like the dew fallen to the seat of life.” Another representation: “The Father is like the invisible vapor; the Son is like the leaden cloud; the Spirit is rain fallen and working in refreshing power.” Ev 614.1

    All these spiritualistic representations are simply nothingness. They are imperfect, untrue. They weaken and diminish the Majesty which no earthly likeness can be compared to. God cannot be compared with the things His hands have made. These are mere earthly things, suffering under the curse of God because of the sins of man. The Father cannot be described by the things of earth. The Father is all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and is invisible to mortal sight. Ev 614.2

    The Son is all the fullness of the Godhead manifested. The Word of God declares Him to be “the express image of His person.” “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Here is shown the personality of the Father. Ev 614.3

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    Ellen G. White
    Sons and Daughters of God, 21

    Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. Hebrews 1:3. SD 21.1

    Who is Christ?—He is the only begotten Son of the living God. He is to the Father as a word that expresses the thought,—as a thought made audible. Christ is the word of God. Christ said to Philip, “He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father.” His words were the echo of God's words. Christ was the likeness of God, the brightness of His glory, the express image of His person.46The Youth's Instructor, June 28, 1894. SD 21.2

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