Questions From Readers
■ Does Hebrews 1:6 refer to the second coming of Jesus?
Though some Bible translations render this verse in a way that obscures the fact, there is good reason to understand this verse as referring to Christ’s second coming.
In Hebrews chapter 1 the apostle Paul drew attention to Jesus’ superiority over the angels. In this regard verses 5 and 6 contain three quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures, which Paul applies to Jesus. As you read Hebrews 1:5, 6, note in particular the two occurrences of the word “again”:
“For example, to which one of the angels did he [Jehovah God] ever say: ‘You are my son; I, today, I have become your father’? And again: ‘I myself shall become his father, and he himself will become my son’? But when he again brings his Firstborn into the inhabited earth, he says: ‘And let all God’s angels do obeisance to [or, worship] him.’”—Hebrews 1:5, 6.
In Heb 1 verse 5 Paul first quoted what God said in Psalm 2:7. Then Paul wrote “and again” before giving a second quotation (2 Samuel 7:14) and applying it to the Messiah, Jesus. But now consider Heb 1 verse 6, where the word “again” (Greek, palin) occurs also.
Was “again” used in Heb 1 verse 6 just to introduce a third quotation in a series? For instance, a person might write, ‘John contacted her by letter. Again, by telephone. And again, by telegraph.’ Is that all that Paul was doing in Heb 1 verse 6 when he used “again” and quoted Psalm 97:7 from the Greek Septuagint Version?
Some Bible translators have rendered Hebrews 1:6 this way. For example, The Jerusalem Bible reads: “Again, when he brings the First-born into the world.” Other translations render it similarly, even though doing so means taking “again” out of its natural order, for the Greek literally reads: “Whenever but again he should lead in the Firstborn (one).”
Appreciating the grammatical aspect, Dr. C. B. Moll comments: “The usage of our Epistle does not allow us to transpose palin [“again”] and make it the introduction of a citation . . . The language refers to the second introduction—yet in the future—of the First-born into the world.” Similarly, in his work The Epistle to the Hebrews, Dr. B. F. Westcott observes that “again” is more naturally understood to connect with what follows it. He also mentions that Paul had already (Heb 1 verse 2) spoken about Jesus’ first coming, as a man. So Dr. Westcott says “that there was good reason why [in Heb 1 verse 6] the writer should point forward specially to the Return in which Messiah’s work was to be consummated.”
Hence, Hebrews 1:6 is to be understood as pointing forward to the time when the glorified Jesus would again come or give special attention to the world of mankind. This is how the verse is rendered in the New World Translation and the American Standard Version, as well as the translations by R. Young and J. B. Rotherham. Dr. Edgar J. Goodspeed’s translation is even more explicit in showing that this text applies to Christ’s second coming. It renders Hebrews 1:6: “But of the time when he is to bring his firstborn Son back to the world he says, ‘And let all God’s angels bow before him.’”