Christmas, Proper III
7 How beautiful upon the mountains[a]
are the feet of the one bringing good news,
Announcing peace, bearing good news,
announcing salvation, saying to Zion,
“Your God is King!”
8 Listen! Your sentinels raise a cry,
together they shout for joy,
For they see directly, before their eyes,
the Lord’s return to Zion.
9 Break out together in song,
O ruins of Jerusalem!
For the Lord has comforted his people,
has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord has bared his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations;
All the ends of the earth can see
the salvation of our God.
- 52:7–10 God leads the people back from Babylon to Zion, from whose ruined walls sentinels greet the returning exiles.
The Coming of God
1 A psalm.
Sing a new song to the Lord,
for he has done marvelous deeds.
His right hand and holy arm
have won the victory.[b]
2 The Lord has made his victory known;
has revealed his triumph in the sight of the nations,
3 He has remembered his mercy and faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the victory of our God.
4 Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth;
break into song; sing praise.
5 Sing praise to the Lord with the lyre,
with the lyre and melodious song.
6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn
shout with joy to the King, the Lord.
7 Let the sea and what fills it resound,
the world and those who dwell there.
8 Let the rivers clap their hands,
the mountains shout with them for joy,
9 Before the Lord who comes,
who comes to govern the earth,
To govern the world with justice
and the peoples with fairness.
- Psalm 98 A hymn, similar to Ps 96, extolling God for Israel’s victory (Ps 98:1–3). All nations (Ps 98:4–6) and even inanimate nature (Ps 98:7–8) are summoned to welcome God’s coming to rule over the world (Ps 98:9).
- 98:1 Marvelous deeds…victory: the conquest of all threats to the peaceful existence of Israel, depicted in the Psalms variously as a cosmic force such as sea, or nations bent on Israel’s destruction, or evildoers seemingly triumphant. His right hand and holy arm: God is pictured as a powerful warrior.
1 In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; 2 in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe,
3 who is the refulgence of his glory,
the very imprint of his being,
and who sustains all things by his mighty word.
When he had accomplished purification from sins,
he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
4 as far superior to the angels
as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
II. The Son Higher Than the Angels
- 1:1–4 The letter opens with an introduction consisting of a reflection on the climax of God’s revelation to the human race in his Son. The divine communication was initiated and maintained during Old Testament times in fragmentary and varied ways through the prophets (Hb 1:1), including Abraham, Moses, and all through whom God spoke. But now in these last days(Hb 1:2) the final age, God’s revelation of his saving purpose is achieved through a son, i.e., one who is Son, whose role is redeemer and mediator of creation. He was made heir of all things through his death and exaltation to glory, yet he existed before he appeared as man; through him God created the universe. Hb 1:3–4, which may be based upon a liturgical hymn, assimilate the Son to the personified Wisdom of the Old Testament as refulgence of God’s glory and imprint of his being(Hb 1:3; cf. Wis 7:26). These same terms are used of the Logos in Philo. The author now turns from the cosmological role of the preexistent Son to the redemptive work of Jesus: he brought about purification from sins and has been exalted to the right hand of God (see Ps 110:1). The once-humiliated and crucified Jesus has been declared God’s Son, and this name shows his superiority to the angels. The reason for the author’s insistence on that superiority is, among other things, that in some Jewish traditions angels were mediators of the old covenant (see Acts 7:53; Gal 3:19). Finally, Jesus’ superiority to the angels emphasizes the superiority of the new covenant to the old because of the heavenly priesthood of Jesus.
- 1:5–14 Jesus’ superiority to the angels is now demonstrated by a series of seven Old Testament texts. Some scholars see in the stages of Jesus’ exaltation an order corresponding to that of enthronement ceremonies in the ancient Near East, especially in Egypt, namely, elevation to divine status (Hb 1:5–6); presentation to the angels and proclamation of everlasting lordship (Hb 1:7–12); enthronement and conferral of royal power (Hb 1:13). The citations from the Psalms in Hb 1:5, 13 were traditionally used of Jesus’ messianic sonship (cf. Acts 13:33) through his resurrection and exaltation (cf. Acts 2:33–35); those in Hb 1:8, 10–12 are concerned with his divine kingship and his creative function. The central quotation in Hb 1:7serves to contrast the angels with the Son. The author quotes it according to the Septuagint translation, which is quite different in meaning from that of the Hebrew (“You make the winds your messengers, and flaming fire your ministers”). The angels are only sent to serve…those who are to inherit salvation (Hb 1:14).
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say:
“You are my son; this day I have begotten you”?
“I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me”?
6 And again, when he leads[a] the first-born into the world, he says:
“Let all the angels of God worship him.”
7 Of the angels he says:
“He makes his angels winds
and his ministers a fiery flame”;
8 but of the Son:
“Your throne, O God,[b] stands forever and ever;
and a righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You loved justice and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, anointed you
with the oil of gladness above your companions”;
“At the beginning, O Lord, you established the earth,
and the heavens are the works of your hands.
11 They will perish, but you remain;
and they will all grow old like a garment.
12 You will roll them up like a cloak,
and like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”
- 1:6 And again, when he leads: the Greek could also be translated “And when he again leads” in reference to the parousia.
- 1:8–12 O God: the application of the name “God” to the Son derives from the preexistence mentioned in Hb 1:2–3; the psalmist had already used it of the Hebrew king in the court style of the original. See note on Ps 45:7. It is also important for the author’s christology that in Hb 1:10–12 an Old Testament passage addressed to God is redirected to Jesus.
1 In the beginning[b] was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 [c]All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be 4 through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
5 [d]the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 [e]A man named John was sent from God. 7 He came for testimony,[f] to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
11 He came to what was his own,
but his own people[g] did not accept him.
12 But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, 13 [h]who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh[i]
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.