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-   -   Hebrews 1:3 Person, essence, nature or substance? (https://av1611.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1101)

Will Kinney 03-21-2009 10:24 AM

Hebrews 1:3 Person, essence, nature or substance?
Hebrews 1:3 Person, substance, essence, being or subsistence? Is the King James Bible’s “Person” a “poor translation”?

At one of the Bible clubs I belong to a certain King James Bible critic posted the following as an alleged error and poor translation. This particular man is one of the loopier Bible Agnostics I have ever run into. He does not defend any Bible in any language as being the pure words of God. For example, he thinks John 7:53 to 8:12 should be omitted from all bibles, and that whole verses (about a hundred words) not found in any Bible on earth should be added to Mark 16.

In any event, here is what this man writes:

“A classic case of supposed re-inspiration as portrayed by KJVOnlyism!

Heb 1:3 Who being the brightnesse of his glory, and the expresse image of his *person* (hupostaseos), and vpholding all things by the word of his power, when hee had by himselfe (heauton) purged our sinnes, sate down on ye right hand of the Maiestie on high, (KJV 1611)

Did the translaters/revisers receive the notion the word "person" instead of "substance" should be used for the Greek word "hupostaseos" by inspiration from God?

The Greek word "prosopon" is the most often used word rendered in English as "person". (Mat_22:16, Mar_12:14, Luk_20:21, 2Co_2:10, Gal_2:6, 2Co_1:11, Jud_1:16)

The Greek word "hupostaseos" and the Latin "substantiae" usually would be rendered "matter" or "substance".

Heb 11:1 Now faith is the *substance* (hupostasis) of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Somehow "person" just wouldn't fit!

2Co 11:17 That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence (hupostasei) of boasting.

Heb 3:14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence (hupostaseos) stedfast unto the end;

2Co 9:4 Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident (hupostasei) boasting. “

Part One of my Refutation

When this self appointed Bible critic tells us that “Somehow "person" just wouldn't fit!”, then the obvious should be pointed out to him as well. Neither would the word “confidence”. Would it make any clear sense to say that the phrase should be translated as to show that the Son of God is “the express image of his confidence”?!?

Or how about any other of the possible meanings this word can carry as listed in the various lexicons? Would they “fit”? Let’s try any of these to see how well they might do. How about the Son of God is the express image of His “assurance”, or “steadfastness”, or “placing under”, or “substructure”, or “foundation”, or “firm trust”? Would any of these possible meanings of the word “fit”?

The Bible critic continues:

“Consider other versions of Heb 1:3

Heb 1:3 qui cum sit splendor gloriae et figura *substantiae* eius portansque omnia verbo virtutis suae purgationem peccatorum faciens sedit ad dexteram Maiestatis in excelsis (Latin)

Heb 1:3 Which whanne also he is the briytnesse of glorie, and figure of his *substaunce*, and berith alle thingis bi word of his vertu, he makith purgacioun of synnes, and syttith on the riythalf of the maieste in heuenes; (Wycliffe 1385)

Heb 1:3 Which sonne beynge the brightnes of his glory and very ymage of his *substance* bearinge vp all thinges with the worde of his power hath in his awne person (?; heauton) pourged oure synnes and is sitten on the right honde of the maiestie an hye (Tyndale 1535)

Heb 1:3 Who beyng the bryghtnesse of the glorie, and the very image of his *substaunce*, vpholdyng all thynges with the worde of his power, hauing by him selfe (heauton) pourged our sinnes, hath syt on the ryght hande of the maiestie on hye: (Bishop's Bible 1568)

Heb 1:3 who being the effulgence of his glory, and the very image of his *substance*, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; (RV 1881)

Well glory be! The KJV translaters/revisers must have received this revelation by divine inspiration from God himself! Re-inspiration!!!!! But from which god?

Well not so fast! Let's see if we can find a source for such a poor translation of the Greek! Hmmmmmmmmm! Here it is!

Heb 1:3 Who being the brightnes of the glory, and the ingraued forme of his *person*, and bearing vp all things by his mightie worde, hath by himselfe purged our sinnes, and sitteth at the right hand of the Maiestie in the highest places, (Geneva Bible, 1560, 1599)

Sorry no re-inspiration here, just someone copying a poor translation!

Maybe the "Bishop's Bible revisers" would have been more accurate by following the Latin and retranslated the reading into the English as "the representation (figura) of His substance (substantiae)". Following the Bishop's Bible would have been more accurate! But then accuracy was never the issue with the KJV (revisers)!


Part Two of my Refutation:

This Bible critic only mentions a few of the various ways different Bible versions have translated the word hupostasis. His suggested reading of “substance” when referring to God the Father is the worst of the lot. God the Father does not have any substance. The Bible clearly tells us that God the Father is a Spirit and not flesh and bones, and that He is invisible Spirit. See John 4:24 “God is a Spirit”, and Colossians 1:15 tells us that Christ “is the image of the invisible God”. See also 1 Timothy 1:17 and Hebrews 11:27.

Bible versions like Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale, the Bishops’ bible, the Revised Version, American Standard Version, and Darby are just flat out wrong. The English Bible was in the process of being purified, and none of them got it right until God’s timing brought forth perfection in the Authorized King James Holy Bible.

Though I firmly believe the King James Bible is by far the best of all Bibles in any language, I do not have a serious problem with other versions that translate this phrase as something like “the express image of his BEING” (NIV, Weymouth, Berkeley), or “NATURE” (NASB, RSV, ESV, HCSB), or “ESSENCE” (NET, Complete Jewish bible), but I do have a big problem with translating it as “express image of His SUBSTANCE”.

One of the meanings of the word “substance” lends itself to rank heresy, whereas the word “person” cannot. One of the clear meanings of the word “subtance” is this as given by any good dictionary: Substance = physical material from which something is made or which has discrete existence b: matter of particular or definite chemical constitution c: something (as drugs or alcoholic beverages) deemed harmful and usually subject to legal restriction .”

The Mormons even use this translation of “substance” to support their idea that God the Father has a literal body. See one of their sites that promotes this idea based on the misleading translation this Bible agnostic promotes.


This Mormon defender states in part: “The Bible clearly teaches that God has a physical body. With serious proof-texting, many come to the conclusion that God is a spirit and hence without a physical body. New Research has shown that the scripture used for this has been misapplied. We believe that Hebrews 1:2-3 is one of the most clear, powerful and straight forward for showing that God is embodied with a divine body, with a human shape....Since the substance of Jesus is clearly flesh and bones, then the substance of the Father is flesh and bones. The scripture is quite clear on that!”

Let’s Define the Terms

Person - Webster’s Dictionary 1913 - “6. (Theol.) Among Trinitarians, one of the three subdivisions of the Godhead (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost); AN HYPOSTASIS (Caps are mine) Three persons and one God." Bk. of Com. Prayer.”

Funk and Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary of the English Language, New York, 1917. Page 1007 defines Person as: - “Theology. One of the three individualities in the Trinity; HYPOSTASIS.” Again, just as Webster’s dictionary, it uses the very word this Bible agnostic uses when he ignorantly criticizes the King James Bible. The Greek word hypostasis is used to define the theological use of the word Person when referring to the Godhead.

Definition of hypostasis.

Merriam Websters Dictionary - hy·pos·ta·sis Function: noun Etymology: Late Latin, substance, sediment, from Greek, support, foundation, substance, sediment, from hyphistasthai to stand under, support, from hypo- + histasthai to be standing

1 a: something that settles at the bottom of a fluid b: the settling of blood in the dependent parts of an organ or body 2: PERSON (caps are mine) 3 a: the substance or essential nature of an individual

CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY 1. the unique nature of the one God 2. any of the three persons of the Trinity, each person having the divine nature fully and equally 3. the union of the wholly divine nature and of a wholly human nature in the one person of Jesus Christ

The American Heritage Dictionary hy·pos·ta·ses Christianity a. Any of the persons of the Trinity. b. The essential person of Jesus in which his human and divine natures are united.

Bible Commentators

John Calvin’s commentary on Hebrews 1:3 supports the King James Bible reading of “person”. Calvin seems to be a bit mixed up and self-contradictory, but I believe one of his points is quite valid. Calvin comments: “The word (upostasis) which, by following others, I have rendered substance, denotes not, as I think, the being or essence of the Father, but HIS PERSON (caps are mine); for it would be strange to say that the essence of God is impressed on Christ, as the essence of both is simply the same. But it may truly and fitly be said that whatever peculiarly belongs to the Father is exhibited in Christ, so that he who knows him knows what is in the Father. And in this sense do the orthodox fathers take this term, hypostasis, considering it to be threefold in God, while the essence (ousia) is simply one. Hilary everywhere takes the Latin word substance for PERSON. But though it be not the Apostle’s object in this place to speak of what Christ is in himself, but of what he is really to us, yet he sufficiently confutes the Arians and Sabellians; for he claims for Christ what belongs to God alone, and also refers to two distinct PERSONS, as to the Father and the Son. For we hence learn that the Son is one God with the Father, and that he is yet in a sense distinct from him, so that a subsistence or PERSON belongs to both.”

John Gill comments on Hebrews 1:3 and the phrase “the express image of his person” saying: “And the express image of his person; this intends much the same as the other phrase; namely, equality and sameness of nature, and distinction of PERSONS; for if the Father is God, Christ must be so too; and if he is a PERSON, his Son must be so likewise, or he cannot be the express image and character of him.”

Other Bible translations

Other Bible translations that agree with the King James Bible’s “express image of HIS PERSON” are the following: The Geneva Bible 1560, 1587, 1599, 1602, John Wesley’s translation made in 1755, Webster’s bible 1833, the NKJV 1982, the KJV 21st Century Version 1994, and the Third Millenium Bible 1998.

The French Martin Bible 1744, the French Louis Segond 1910, and the French Ostervald 1996 all read just like the = KJB -”et qui, étant le reflet de sa gloire et l'empreinte de SA PERSONNE...”

The NIV Portuguese translation, put out by the International Bible Society 2000 reads just like the King James Bible - “imagem perfeita da SUA PESSOA.” (HIS PERSON)

The King James Bible is always right. Don’t let the Bible Agnostics move you from your faith in a perfect, inspired and inerrant Bible.

Will Kinney

Billie 03-21-2009 08:31 PM

Thanks, Will...I always appreciate your thoroughness to bring forth God's truth; out of the muddied, gobble-de-gunk, like this!:amen:

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