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The more excellent name
(Heb. 1: 4).
pp. 86 - 91
It is a part of the argument of the epistle to the Hebrews, that the Apostle shall
establish a series of `better' things, for he is exhorting his readers `to go on unto
perfection', and having been a Pharisee by conviction and a Hebrew by birth, he knew
how strong was the hold upon the Jewish believer of the things that belonged to the past.
"Better" in the epistle to the Hebrews.
A | 1: 4. Christ at the right hand (verse 3).
Better than angels. More excellent name.
B | 6: 9. Things that accompany salvation.
C | 7: 7, 19, 22. Better priesthood, hope and covenant.
A | 8: 6. Christ at the right hand (verse 1).
9: 23. Better covenant, better promises, more excellent ministry,
B | 10: 34; 11: 16, 35, 40. Things that accompany salvation.
C | 12: 24. Better things than the blood of Abel.
In the above outline, the thirteen occurrences of the word `better' are grouped
together, and their study is of course a theme in itself. We are concerned at the moment
with the opening `better' thing, but it will be impossible for us to forget that such a word
is a key thought of the epistle, and that this must have a bearing upon its interpretation.
The first `better' thing of the epistle is the exaltation of Christ ("having become by so
much better than angels, by how much having inherited a more excellent name than
they"). This sentence has an un-English sound, and yet it brings out the comparison that
is intended. The becoming better than the angels is not by virtue of the Lord's deity.
Looked at from the divine standpoint, He Who is addressed as God (verse 8), must of
necessity be better than angels; but looked at from the human standpoint, He was made
for a little while lower than the angels, and in that capacity as Son He could be and has
been highly exalted. The measure of His excellence above angels is His inherited name:
by how much He has inherited, by so much He is greater.
The question then has to do with the inherited name. But first, we might pause to ask:
Why should such an argument be necessary, and in what way does it contribute to the
theme of the epistle?
Writing as he was to Hebrews, the Apostle had in mind their veneration of angels.
Stephen alludes to the place that angels hold in Israel, in Acts 7: 53, "who have
received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it". The epistle to the
Galatians says of the law, "it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator"
(Gal. 3: 19). Some of the Jews went so far as to contend that Malachi, the last of the
prophets was an angel, his name meaning `My messenger' or `My angel'. It is part of the