- Locate the Passage
1:1-4 is the prologue to the entire letter.
Expository. There are no imperatives or imperatival forms.
- Determine the Structure of the Passage
1:1-4 is one sentence (a single sentence paragraph) in the Greek text. With the exception of the KJV and NKJV, translations break the paragraph up into two or more sentences, usually beginning with verse 3 as a new sentence.
Everything through v. 2a is dependent on the predication “God has spoken.” The subject theos (“God”) and the main verb elalēsen (“has spoken”) form the load-bearing subject/predicate wall for the entire structure of 1:1–4.
- Exegete the Passage
Note the strategic placement of huios (“Son”) in v. 2. All subsequent relative and participial clauses modify it. Each of the constituent clause elements relates directly or indirectly to the main verb of the paragraph elalēsen (“has spoken”). While theos (“God”) remains the grammatical subject until v. 3, the focus of the text shifts to the Son with the introduction of the first relative clause hon ethēken (“whom he appointed”). There are eight propositions further describing the Son in vv. 2b–4 which are expressed in participial and relative clauses.
Three propositions are encoded in the clause of v. 4. (1) The Son is superior to the angels. (2) The Son has inherited a name. (3) The Son’s name is superior to that of the angels.
The prologue begins with two propositions:
Proposition 1 God spoke to the fathers by the prophets in the past
Proposition 2 (main) God spoke to us in one who is a Son in these last days
The participle lalēsas (“having spoken”) adverbially modifies elalēsen thus, the clause with the main verb is semantically dominant and should be the focus in preaching.
The three clauses of v. 3 are closely related syntactically and semantically. The first two are coordinated with each other by kai (“and”) and the third is closely connected to the previous two by the addition of te (Greek particle untranslated).
The final two clauses of v. 3 are likewise closely linked together. The poiësamenos functions as the adverbial temporal modifier of ekathisen and expresses the idea of “after he made purification for sins, he sat down.” The two propositions “he made purification for sins” and “he sat down at the right hand” must be viewed together.
These last two clauses receive marked prominence by virtue of their relationship to the previous clauses and the fact that the enthronement is the termination of the Son’s redemptive work expressed by the finite verb ekathisen. These two concepts, atonement and exaltation, are the theological focus of the epistle.
Verse 4 begins with the participle genomenos (“having become”) and furnishes the reason for the result of exaltation in v. 3. Verse 4 expresses a subordinate idea via the adverbial participle.
The perfect indicative keklēronomēken (“he has inherited”) in v. 4 corresponds to the klēronomon (“heir”) of v. 2. The paragraph begins with the Son being appointed heir of all things and ends with him inheriting a name superior to the angels because of his completed work of atonement and subsequent exaltation.
Help for exegesis can be found in Neva Miller, The Epistle to the Hebrews: An Analytical and Exegetical Handbook (Dallas, TX: Summer Institute of Linguistics, 1988), 1-15; J. Harold Greenlee, An Exegetical Summary of Hebrews (Dallas, TX: Summer Institute of Linguistics, 1998), 9-21; David L. Allen, Hebrews, NAC (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2010), 95-139.
- Let the structure of the text drive the structure of the sermon.
Although God spoke through prophets in the past (v.1),
I. God has spoken his final word in his Son (Jesus) in these last days (v. 2a). The Son is:
A. the heir of all things
B. the agent of creation of all things
C. the radiance of God’s glory
D. the exact representation of God’s nature
E. the one who upholds all things by his powerful word
F. the one who when he had made cleansing for sins
G. He sat down at the right hand of God (note the finite verb “he sat down”)
1) Having become superior to the angels . . . .
The text has one main point which is modified by a subordinating participle in v. 1 and seven subordinating participial and relative clauses in verses 2-3, followed by a final subordinate participial clause in v. 4 further modifying “Son” in v. 2.
For preaching, this text has one main point and seven sub-points that further explain the “Son” in the main clause.