by Dr. John P. Juedes
A "trump card" Trinitarians have long used in their case for the deity of Jesus Christ has been Hebrews 1:2, which reads:
"(God) hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds."
Trinitarians reason that since the worlds were made "by him," namely Jesus, He must be the creator, co-existent and co-equal with God the Father.
Hebrews 1:2: "Erroneously Interpreted"?
Victor Paul Wierwille, the late founder of The Way International, wrote in his book Jesus Christ is not God that this passage is "erroneously interpreted" and offered another interpretation. He stated that the word "by" (in Greek, dia) should be translated "for":
"The Greek word for 'by' is dia, and, in the genitive case, is translated 'on account of' or 'because of' or, according to current language, 'for.' <1>
If dia does mean "for," then the worlds were made for Jesus, not by him, and Hebrews 1:2 squares with his teaching that Jesus Christ is not God. Wierwille based his argument entirely on his definition of the Greek word dia, and it appears convincing.
What Does dia Mean?
The late E.W. Bullinger contradicts Wierwille in his Critical Lexicon, stating that dia means "by," not "for," just as the King James Version and every other major English New Testament translates it. Bullinger writes that dia means:
"a) with Gen. through, as proceeding from; by means of, denoting the instrument of an action." <2>
Every other Greek lexicon states the same meaning.
Wierwille not only contradicts respected Greek lexicons, he also contradicted himself on the meaning of dia. Only 29 pages earlier in Jesus Christ is not God, he translated dia correctly. When he commented on John 1:3, "All things were made by him," he wrote:
"The phrase "by him" further corroborates this. The word "by" is the Greek preposition dia, which, when indicating instrument or means, is translated "by," the cause of the action. God was the cause of the creation." <3>
Both John 1:3 and Hebrews 1:2 use the word dia with the genitive case; as such, both must be translated "by." This indicates that, indeed, the worlds were made by Jesus Christ.
Why did Wierwille translate dia two ways? If it was an accident or typographical error, then his production and research team -- which he thanked in the preface for checking the Greek and proof-reading -- must have overlooked it, too. But this seems unlikely. Rather, he apparently wanted Hebrews 1:2 to read his way, so he "translated" dia as "for" in this verse even though it is false and inaccurate.
What Do the Ancient Manuscripts Say?
Perhaps Wierwille was convinced that his definition could not stand, for it does not appear in the second edition of his book. Although he dropped the faulty evidence, he kept his conclusion that Hebrews 1:2 is erroneously interpreted and should read "for whom" instead of "by whom."
In the second edition, Wierwille argued that the original Greek text must have read "wherefore" (dio) or "for whom" (di' hon) instead of "by whom" (di' hou). <4> He does not specify which reading he favored, only which one he did not favor:
"The Greek words for "by whom" are di' hou. Some manuscripts have one word dio, which means "wherefore." Scholars have suggested an older reading di' hon, which means "because of whom" or "for whom." These texts and suggestions indicate the ages were structured around or for Jesus Christ rather than by him. <5>
Wierwille appeared again to have an imposing case, stating that several manuscripts and scholars supported him.
However, Wierwille raised more questions than he answered by never naming his supporting manuscripts, or specifying their quantity, age or quality. The best case would be built on many, old, high-quality manuscripts.
In an attempt to root out some answers, two questions were directed to The Way International's headquarters in New Knoxville, Ohio: Which manuscripts read "wherefore"? Who are the scholars who suggest di' hon as an older reading?
New Knoxville Scholars Reply
Walter Cummins, chairman of The Way's Research Department, referred this request to Jon Nessle, who noted, "my specialty on the research team is in the one God field." <6> Nessle's letter had all the appearances of an official reply by The Way International, since it was typed on The Way's letterhead and signed "Jon Nessle, Research Department."
"...text #109 reads dio as well as there were indications of a textual problem by Origen and Basil." It is true that the 13th century text 109 reads dio, "wherefore," though it is possible the scribe simply omitted the "u" when he wrote "diou." Accidentally omitting letters or words, or substituting one vowel or vowel combination for another was not unusual among scribes." <7>
Although Nessle implies that Origen and Basil support Wierwille, the opposite is true. Origen and Basil quote Hebrews 1:2 with "by Him" (di' hou) just as do the King James Version and Trinitarians. <8>
Nessle's letter also claims that two authors recommended an older reading, "for whom":
"1. Hugo Grotius, 1583-1645 (mentioned in Alford's Critical Greek text, The Greek Testament, Vol. 4 pg. 5, and also in The Expositor's Greek New Testament, Vol. 4, pg. 250).
2. Fausto Paulo Sozzini 1539-1604."
Nessle did not specify where to look in books by these men to find their comments on Hebrews 1:2. It is likely he neither looked them up himself, nor knows where to look. Sozzini -- also
known as the heretic Socinus -- was anti-trinitarian, and one of his disciples snapped up Grotius' idea, which is quoted in a footnote of a revised version of the Racovian Catechism. But
Sozzini never suggested that di' hon ("for whom") is an older reading, as Wierwille does.
Grotius, better known for law and politics than Bible research, also never suggests (as Nessle implies he does) that "for whom" is an older reading. Instead, he suggests that di' hou could be
translated "for whom" rather than "by whom." <9> Can it be translated "for whom"? Nessle noted that two books mention Grotius, but he did not say that the books mention Grotius only to point out how wrong his theory is. For example, Alford writes:
"The idea of Grotius, ...is only worth recording, to make us thankful that the labors of the great scholars of Germany have brought in a day when it no longer needs refutation." <10>
Qualified scholars have shown conclusively why Hebrews 1:2 must be translated "by whom."
The Way's letter was supposed to explain which manuscripts read "wherefore." It offered only one that did, and two church fathers who actually said the opposite. The Way was asked to give the names of the scholars who suggest an older reading di' hon ("for whom") and came up with none.
A letter then was sent to Wierwille himself in February 1983. John Crouch answered it, giving the same erroneous formation Nessle did. <11> However, he cited texts 109 and 460, which appear to support Wierwille's claim of more than one text. However, 109 and 460 are just two different numbers for the same text. No. 109 is from Tischendorf's numbering system which is largely outmoded. No. 460 is of the Gregory-Aland system.
Hoping that The Way International could yet produce evidence to support Wierwille's bold claims in his book, three more letters were sent to the Way research department over a three-month span.
Way Scholar's Final Response
Nessle provided a final response to the requests for evidence to support Wierwille's interpretation of Hebrews 1:2.
"My letters have in no way reflected the 'Official Position' of The Way Ministry. ...I alone cannot speak for Dr. Wierwille and I do not have access to his research files. ...I assure you that there is more than one text that reads 'dio' in Hebrews 1:2. But judging from the deceit demonstrated by your wording and definitions in your pamphlet, 'The Integrity and Accuracy of The Way's Word,' to communicate further with you would be 'casting my pearls before swine.' Thus having deduced your genus, I can say with certainty that someday one of us is going to fry. I'm betting my life it's you! Jerk file 001." <12>
Letters to The Way's Research Department politely requested simple documentation for claims made in The Way's book Jesus Christ is not God. Nessle's first letter had all the appearances of an official response. Why he later said the reply did not represent The Way's official position is never explained. It could be he realized the serious errors in the first response and wanted to protect the organization. Perhaps Nessle did not reveal the other texts that support Wierwille's claims because he knew of none. Producing evidence to support Wierwille would be more convincing than resorting to name-calling.
When Craig Martindale replaced Wierwille's foundational class with his own "The Way of Abundance and Power" class, he repeated Wierwille's false translation, though he didn't make any affort to give any sound reasons for it. He claimed that Hebrews 1:2 should say, "for whom also he made the worlds." Then he added an interpretation which contradicts central theme of the verse. While Hebrews emphasizes that Jesus Christ is unique and over all, Martindale removes Christ's uniqueness by claiming that "It was made for Jesus Christ AND those believers that would follow in his steps" (WAP Working Syllabus, p. 24, 1995; note that he leads the reader to think that this refers to a single earth-- "It"-- rather than the plural "ages" as Hebrews 1:2 actually reads).
What Does Hebrews 1:2 Say?
Leaders of The Way International would prefer that Hebrews 1:2 say, "for whom also he made the worlds." However, dia with the genitive cannot be translated "for"; "wherefore" is supported by only one questionable text and therefore is unacceptable; and no scholars suggest or have found an older reading "for whom." Di' hou is clearly a genuine part of the text and must be translated "by whom," just as it is in Hebrews 2:10, 6:7, John 1:3 and other passages. It is apparent to anyone who can follow the pronouns" -- a method of interpretation emphasized by The Way -- that verse 10 and the context of chapter one leave no doubt that the Son is superior and was active in creation.
Jesus Christ must be revered as one who was active in creating all that exists, and as one who is co-existent and co-equal with the Father, for Hebrews 1:2 clearly reads:
(God) hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds" (KJV).
1. Victor Paul Wierwille, Jesus Christ is Not God, American Christian Press, New Knoxville, Ohio; 1975; pg. 121.
2. E.W. Bullinger, A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, Zondervan Publishing, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1975; pg. 125.
3. V.P. Wierwille, op. cit., 1975; pg. 92.
4. Wierwille's treatment of Matthew 28:19 was similar: He published several different versions of it but never identified one as best. He appeared more concerned that the verses do not read in a Trinitarian way than he was about what the verses actually say.
5. Wierwille, op. cit., second edition, 1981; pp. 122-123.
6. Letter to Douglas Morton from Jon Nessle, Research Department, The Way International, dated Feb. 17, 1983.
7. Bruce Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, Oxford Publishing, Oxford University, 1968; pp. 186-195. Faulty eyesight, hearing or thinking could cause accidental errors. This text was found in Sicily and was written in the 13th century in three languages: Greek, Latin and Arabic. Hence, it may be that the scribe was less versed in Greek, making the omission of a "u" more likely. No modern Greek text has considered it significant enough to systematically cite it, partly because of its 13th century date. The Latin portion of the manuscript reads "through whom."
8. Origen, Comment. in Joan. Tomus II, 59:9 and Basil, Mexameron, 87:70. Other early churchmen also quote Hebrews 1:2 with "by whom."
9. Hugo Grotius, Annotationes in Novum Testamentum, Vol. III, Lipsiae, 1755; pg. 839.
10. Henry Alford, The Greek Testament, Vol. 4, Lee & Shepherd, 1877, pg. 5. D.C.T. Kuinoel, Daniel Whitby and others show conclusively why Grotius is wrong and why Hebrews 1:2 must be translated "by whom."
11. Letter to Douglas Morton from John Crouch, Research Department, The Way International, dated Feb. 6, 1984.
12. Letter to Douglas Morton from Jon Nessle, dated June 9, 1983. We have reports of other Way leaders using similar abusive language in such situations. Morton received only a photocopy of this hand-written response.
(c) 1986 - by Personal Freedom Outreach. Revised 1998.
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