Ichthys Acronym Image

Home             Site Links

What does the Word "Character" Mean at Hebrews 1:3?

Word RTF

Question #1:  I have a question about verbal nouns in Greek, and specifically the use of charakter in Hebrews 1:3, a word which in nearly every bible translation I have looked at here has "exact" representation of His, God's, nature/being.  Where does the word "exact" come from?

Response #1:  On charakter (χαρακτὴρ) as you probably know this is where we get our English word "character", and it comes from dramatic usage, namely a person or character whose attributes are clear and resilient (as those of all the best characters in literature always are).  The word itself comes from the verb charasso (χαράσσω) which in its technical sense means to engrave or inscribe, most often on coins.  That is the essential idea behind the metaphor being used here.  Coins bore the image of persons - at this time the Caesars in particular come to mind.   God is spirit, but Jesus became flesh too, so that He provides a visible, tangible "imprint" of who God is and what He is like in a way that would be impossible for anyone who was not both man (and so visible) and God (and so displaying the attributes of divinity stamped in the flesh) could ever do.  Just as we haven't seen Caesar, but get a picture of what he is like from the precise representation of his likeness on coins, so we haven't seen God, but we get to know what He is like from His precise "imprint" on the humanity of the Son (Jn.14:8-9).  This phrase is parallel to and an added explanation of what precedes, namely, that Jesus is the "shining forth of His glory", that is, the glory of God is also something we cannot see (and live: cf. Ex.33:20), but "we beheld [Jesus'] glory" when the Word became flesh (Jn.1:14).

This is not a verbal noun.  The root is verbal, but the noun is not (big distinction).  We can make any number of different parts of speech from any root in Greek, regardless of whether the root behind it is verbal or not.  It is true that verbal roots always retain some sense of the verbal aspect, but it is the suffix that makes the difference.  For instance, the root math- is verbal, and we get manthano from it ("to learn"), but also ta mathematika ("the things which have to be learned"), mathema ("lesson"), and mathetes ("learner" or "disciple"), to name but a few.  The suffix -ter here on charakter is an agent suffix, so that etymologically a charakter is a thing or person which "represents" someone or something else.  The nature of the process of minting coins was, especially in the ancient world, as exact a science as one could have - it had to be for the value of the currency.  That is where the idea of exactitude in the representation comes from. 

In other words, there simply was no stronger way to put this that I am aware (equally true of "the [very] shining forth of His glory) - Jesus is the precise representation of the Father in His flesh.  Really, I can think of no stronger way to say that Jesus is God and Jesus is really human at the same time, without stating as Hebrews does here that Jesus' divinity is obvious also in His humanity (and that is what the use of charakter in this passage accomplishes).  Paul is, it is true, speaking in the language of men, not angels, so we have to make allowances for him putting the ineffable into terms we can understand.   That God could become man, taking on human flesh to die for our sins, is the mystery of ages.  The only way Jesus can be both God and God's exact representation is to become human as well as divine, and in doing so in His humanity He perfectly reflects, represents, shines forth the divinity of the Father who sent Him, along with the grace, mercy and truth of that mission, in a perfectly precise and "exact" way, with not a millimeter of distance between the purpose of the Father and the Son's fulfillment of that purpose.

Question #2: 

Could you please explain the "after two days He will revive us" and "on the third day He will restore us" in Hosea 6:2?

Response #2:  

This passage is talking about Israel corporately and also figuratively in the Person of the Messiah - who was raised on the third day (compare Is.49:3 where the Messiah is called "Israel").  So this verse prophesies the restoration of Israel after the age of the Church and the resurrection of the Messiah on the third day, the former being a type of the latter.  I checked to see what Unger says about this verse (in loc. in v.2 of his Commentary on the Old Testament) and he has essentially the same thing on both aspects of this prophecy, connecting the two by way of the resurrection (since Israel past and believing Israel present forms part of the echelon of the resurrection to take place at Christ's return). 

For more on the seven millennial, see the link: 

            Part 5 of the Satanic Rebellion, section II.7, “The Seven Days of Human History” 

Yours in the one for whom a day is like a thousand years, our Savior Jesus Christ. 

Bob L.

Question #3: 

In the KJV book of Genesis:

       1:1 the word "heaven" is not pluralized ('s added)

       1:5 the words "day" and "night" begin with capital letters

       1:10 the word "seas" begins with a capital letter 

  In most other translations; i.e.; NASB, LIVING, NIV:

       1:1 the word "heaven" appears as "heavens"

       1:5 the words "day" and "night" begin with lowercase letters

       1:10 the word "seas" begins with the lowercase letter 

Question:  Is there any real significance to these differences that a Christian should be concerned with? 

Thanks for responding!

Response #3:  

The second and third verses you ask about are examples of the same thing, namely, KJV capitalizing these nouns apparently because these are "naming acts" of the Lord (i.e., the first time that these things received a name from God Himself).  This is essentially the modern day equivalent of putting the noun in quotations marks (i.e., Day = "day").  There is nothing in the Hebrew text that specifically justifies this other than the context as discussed. 

The word "heaven" is a different case.  This word is in the dual form in Hebrew, and technically does mean "twin-heaven" or "twin-sky" or "heavens".  To understand what this means requires interpretation, and so I am pasting in here a section from part 1 of the Satanic Rebellion series which deals with the specifics (or see the link: The Three Heavens):

"The Three Heavens: What exactly is meant, then, by heaven? When we speak of the heavens in biblical terms, we are referring to the three-fold division of the cosmos beyond the earth: a) the earth's atmosphere ("the sky"); b) the universe at large (i.e., "space"); c) the "third heaven", the abode of God (or "heaven", as it is customarily termed). The Hebrew word for "heavens" is shamayim, a noun whose form is, significantly, dual in number (i.e., "two" of something as opposed to a single unit, or multiple units beyond a pair). 

Footnote: Although most western scholarship currently argues that the form is plural (the Hebraic tradition considers the form dual: cf. M. Mansoor's grammar), the justifications usually given for this conclusion strain credulity in light of 1) the obvious dual-type formation of the word, and 2) the biblical usage (where "two" heavens of sky and atmosphere repeatedly occur). It is no doubt due to a reluctance to accept that the Bible might indeed give a correct picture of the universe's construction that has rendered the questionable hypothesis (of reading shamayim as plural) a widespread one.

 The dual of the Hebrew word shamayim perfectly reflects the reality of the two distinct parts of the heavens (sky and space) in one continuum. We may refer to these as the first heaven (the atmosphere) and the second heaven (the universe beyond earth) respectively.

However in verse fourteen, the raqiyah, or firmament, is now the place of the sun, moon and stars. Significantly, the exact Hebrew terminology used in verse fourteen is raqiyah-hasshamyim, "firmament of the heavens". The difference is a substantial one, for it suggests that these shamayim, or "heavens", are in some sense distinct from those referred to earlier. From our earthly perspective as we look up at the night sky today (and how much more so in 1400 B.C.), the heavens that surround us (i.e., the atmosphere) and the heavens above (i.e., space, or the universe) appear as one continuum. The dual of the Hebrew word shamayim perfectly reflects this reality of two distinct elements (sky and space) in one continuum. These are the first heaven (the atmosphere) and the second heaven (the universe beyond earth) respectively and collectively.

 The third heaven is the abode of God. In 2nd Corinthians 12:2-4, the apostle Paul describes a man "snatched up" to this "third heaven"; in verse four, the location is also referred to as "paradise", a word which in biblical terms suggests the presence of and fellowship with God (see below). This third heaven is also referred to in the Old Testament as the shamey shamayim "heavens of the heavens", a Hebrew idiom for "highest heavens" (Deut.10:14; Ps.148:4; cf. Eph.4:10). Thus, in the Bible, all three parts or levels of the heavens (the sky, the universe, and the abode of God) can be and often are called "heaven" individually and collectively without the various authors of scripture feeling any need to distinguish the three, as this concept of the three-fold division of the shamayim was apparently well understood in biblical times. Angels are capable of entering all three sections of the heavens, but a word must be said at this point about their reasons for doing so."

You might also find the following three links of interest, for they also give information relevant to this topic:

1) The Heavenly Sea (from Coming Tribulation: Part 2B: "The Heavenly Prelude")

2) The Genesis Gap (part 2 of the Satanic Rebellion series)

3) The Seven Days of Re-Creation (from part 5 of the Satanic Rebellion series)

Hope you find this information useful. 

In Him who is the way, the truth, and the life, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 

Bob Luginbill

Question #4:

In Hebrews 1:8 it says, "But of the Son, He says, 'Your throne, O God, is forever and ever....'"?  I have been told that the passage really means "God is your throne." Is that possible?

Response #4:  

Hebrews 1:8 says "literally" in Greek "The throne of you, the God, to the age of the ages" - but that is translationese.  The Septuagint generally made use of the Hebrew vocative formula for its translations of vocatives, which = nominative plus the definite article (so that "the God" = "O God" in Hebrew).  The Hebrew text of Psalm 45 says "Your throne, God, forever and perpetuity".  One could translate either one, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever".  The Hebrew text does not actually have the definite article, even though that is the normal Hebrew vocative formula, but that is because in poetry the article is frequently left out in instances where it would normally stand in prose (something both Greek and Hebrew have in common).   Since this is a direct quote from the LXX, it is clear that in the text "God" was traditionally understood as a parenthetical vocative = "O God".  And by keeping it in the quotation, it is clear that this is the way the writer of Hebrews saw it too.  While it is true that theos is often ho theos in the NT, the fact that the article gets inserted here when it is not present in the Hebrew text is prima facie evidence that both the translator and the quoter are interpreting it as a vocative.  In terms of accidence, the normal Greek vocative would be o the-e.  For example, our Lord on the cross says [translated by Matthew] the-e mou, the-e mou - "My God, My God, [why hast thou forsaken Me?]" at Matt.27:46, but Mark uses the LXX formula   ho theos mou, ho theos mou in the exact same context.  Grammatically speaking, the odd "Your throne is God" you ask about is technically possible (throne comes first, so God would be the predicate nominative and should be translated second in that case), but clearly incorrect as a translation in this context.  Besides the fact that such a translation skips over the natural reading of God being vocative here, hermeneutically it would still have to reject the way the passage is understood in the LXX and in Hebrews (as evidenced by the insertion of the article).  If I may stray ever so briefly from language to interpretation, the writer of Hebrews is proving the superiority of Jesus here: He is the very Son of God in v.5; the angels worship Him in v.6 (so He must be God); in v.7 the angels are servants (so the Son is superior to angels); in v.10-12 He is eternal and the One who constructed the world (which only God could do; cf. v.2).  Therefore in vv.8-9 we are looking for something along the same lines whether we like it or not (i.e., even atheist interpreters reading out of mere curiosity would have to take it this way if they were being honest), for the context of verses 8-9 is clearly talking about the Messiah in His capacity as Ruler of the world to come (cf. Dan.2:44 and all the other messianic passages).  Therefore the proposed alternative, in addition to being suspect in sense on the face of it, fits neither the immediate context of Ps.45, nor the argument being made in Hebrews.  This is not even to mention that there is little sense in describing God as a throne (and no parallel to this anywhere in scripture though there are abundant references to the throne on which God sits - as here) - but I should think that your correspondent is less concerned with this passage making sense than he is with it not making the clear sense it makes, to wit, Jesus is being addressed as "O God".

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Ichthys Home

Bible Options
Bible Study Software