A few days ago, I indicated that my paper proposal for the “Hebrews and Theology Conference” at St. Andrews, Scotland, in July has been accepted for presentation. Here is a précis or abstract of the paper I plan to present. “The Eschatological World Already Subjected to the Son:
The Oikoumenē of Hebrews 1:6 and the Son’s Enthronement”
“The Eschatological World Already Subjected to the Son:
Of the several complexities of Hebrews 1:6 (whether palin modifies the verb eisagagē or is a connective as an introductory formula; the significance of the aorist subjunctive eisagagē; prōtotokos; the source of the citation), the meaning and significance of oikoumenē is most crucial and significant for the Epistle to the Hebrews. Attractive as it is, given the view’s longevity and endorsement by scholars such as Harold Attridge [Hebrews, Hermeneia, 56] and others, to understand oikoumenē as referring to the incarnation of the Son of God is doubtful as also is the view that oikoumenē refers to the Parousia, as argued by Westcott (Hebrews, 21-22) and Käsemann (Das wandernde Gottesvolk, 68-74) or hinted at by Hughes (Hebrews, 58-59). Rather, it is more likely that the second mention of oikoumenē (2:5), modified as it is with tēn mellousan, and clarified by the phrase “concerning which we have been speaking” (peri hēs laloumen), speaks of the Son’s enthronement. The Epistle to the Hebrews does speak of the Son’s incarnation “into the world” (eis ton kosmon, 10:5), but then the Son “was made a little lower than the angels” (2:7, 9). I will argue that eisagagē ton prōtotokon eis tēn oikoumenēn, in Hebrews 1:6, is best understood as signifying the Son’s enthronement, exaltation over the angels, and exultation by the angels when the Son entered into the heavenly world of eschatological salvation, the same world to come that God does not subject to angels (ou aggelois hupetaxen tēn oikoumenēn tēn mellousan; cf. Lane, Hebrews, 26-27; Vanhoye, “L’oikoumenē dans l’Epître aux Hébeux,” Bib 45, 248-253). Accordingly, the Epistle to the Hebrews sketches a complex eschatology that entails both temporal and spatial dimensions. The epistle makes much of the temporal axis—“long ago” and “these last days” (1:1-2), a theme oft repeated (e.g., 2:1-4)—beginning in the first verse and running through the epistle. Yet, also present in the epistle is a spatial axis that partakes in the temporal dimension by virtue of the Son’s having been brought already into the oikoumenē, the same oikoumenē which is yet to come (2:5; cf. 6:5).