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QUESTION: Why Is Hebrews 1:5 Written As Questions?

Thank you for your question:

The following question came to me via our church web-site. It is an “easier” question than most that I post here, but it is not a question that should be taken lightly. It is a real question from a real person who really wants to know. We should always treat questions like this with respect for the person who asks them. If you can see anything patronizing in the way I handled this question, please let me know. I always want to treat all of my questioners with respect. Thank you.

Why is Hebrews 1:5 written in question marks? Was it that the writer did not know the answers or was the Holy Spirit revealing to him to write that way? Thanks very much.

Ultimately, everything in the Scripture is written with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. So, yes, the author wrote those questions under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Here is the verse in question, Hebrews 1:5, in various translations:

For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? – King James Version (1611)

For to what angel did God ever say, “Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? – Revised Standard Version (1946)

For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”? – New International Version (1973)

These questions are not asking for information. They are asked to make a point. These are called rhetorical questions. They are questions that have an implied answer. In this case, the context demands the answer, “None.”

The verse just before this says:

So he [i.e., the Christ, the Son of God – see verses 1-3] became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

The next verse follows by continuing to show the superiority of the Christ over the angels:

And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

So, the context, both before the questions and after the questions talks about how much better the Son of God is than the angels. When Hebrews 1:5 asks, “To which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father?,'” in this context the only answer possible is that God never said that to a mere angel.

The paraphrase Good News Bible puts it this way:

For God never said to any of his angels, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” Nor did God say about any angel, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son.” – Hebrews 1:5

This is not proper translation. It is a paraphrase, but it does give the actual meaning of what the writer is saying. Sometimes though, to make the meaning very clear to people who, for one reason or another, have a limited vocabulary or understanding of English this type of presentation of the text is helpful. This could be useful for people who have English as a second language or who because of deafness have a limited vocabulary. Deaf people tend to take statements very literally and do not necessarily understand things like rhetorical questions such as these.

Looking at the context of the verse, though, should make it clear to everyone that the author is using these questions to make a point, not to ask for information. This is true, even though the author wrote under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Respectfully yours,

Jerry Starling

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