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Hebrews 1:1-2 is

1 On many past occasions and in many different ways, God spoke to our fathers through the prophets. 2 But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe. (Berean Standard Bible)

Biblical Unitarians are broadly of a Socinian bent, denying the literal existence of the Son before his conception, and instead holding the Son is wholly human (not dual-natured).

Yet Hebrews 1:2 seems to clearly say the Son was the one through whom the universe was made. The universe was made before Jesus' conception. How do Biblical Unitarians explain this?

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  • Notional pre existence
    – Kris
    Mar 9, 2023 at 18:42
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    How does a notion create the universe? :) I hope your words 'become flesh' in an official answer. ;) Mar 9, 2023 at 18:47
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    Just for contrast, the Trinitarian formula that within the One being of God there is an eternal procession generating the Word (eternal-divine Son) while there was only God (the universe did not exist yet), the universe is then a divine outflow into space-time. This enables a natural interpretation of God creating through "speaking the word" in the sense that the eternal Word resulted in the temporal effect of the universe being created and held in existence by God's immanent presence (in the universe) in every being we can perceive. Thus a very natural reading of "through whom" in Heb 1:2. Mar 9, 2023 at 18:56
  • @GratefulDisciple Not sure if that's a 'natural reading' of the simple words 'through whom', but ya. ;) Mar 9, 2023 at 19:17
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    @OneTrueGod it's like elegant computer code in Scala, or like a tree-search algorithm coded in recursion: once the hurdle of functional syntax is mastered, the code expresses far-reaching impact. Mar 9, 2023 at 19:21

1 Answer 1

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The immediate time scope is "in these last days" (in contrast to the "past" with "prophets"), and the term translated 'universe' is incorrect - it should instead by translated 'ages'.

As Biblical Unitarian Pastor Jeff Deuble writes in Christ Before Creeds (p. 168),

In verse 2, we read that through Jesus, God (literally) "made the ages" (aionas). Many versions translate this phrase as "created the universe," even though this rendering is without literary precedent. In the Bible, the Greek word aion never refers to the material creation. On the contrary, it is a spiritual concept.

He continues,

There are two principal ages in salvation history - this age and the age to come - both converging and diverging at the pivotal point of the arrival of the Messiah (Marr. 12:32; Eph. 1:21). These correspond to the two covenants which are discussed at length later in the letter to the Hebrews: the "first covenant" and the "new covenant" (Heb. 8:7-8). Yahweh is the king of the ages (1 Tim. 1:17), who initiates and fulfills, through Christ, his eternal plan of salvation for mankind.

He concludes

Note that Jesus is the "appointed" heir (not the inherent one), with an "inherited" name and conferred position (v. 4) - the agent "through whom" God is bring about his new creation. This accords beautifully with Paul's statements in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 and Colossians 1:14-18[.]

In summary, Hebrews 1:2 should properly be understood as "through whom God has given form to this age and the age to come."

Also see the Biblical Unitarian REV commentary on this passage, here.

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  • Is Jeff Deuble's position consistent with how αἰῶνος is used in Acts? Heaven must receive him until the time of the restoration of all things—God has spoken about this by the mouth of his holy prophets who have been from ancient times. (Acts 3:21 REV) Even the REV translation does not agree with his claim that it is a spiritual concept. Mar 10, 2023 at 8:55
  • @RevelationLad Good spot. Aionos at Acts 3:21 is singular, tho', not plural (aionas). FWIW, neither the standard translation nor Deuble's carries the same sense as Acts 3:21's 'aionos', so I think this argument if it worked would blow up both translations. Mar 10, 2023 at 17:50
  • Well Deuble’s claim doesn’t line up with the lexicons and it’s a stretch to say the singular (which is also used in Hebrews) is not spiritual but the plural always is. Deuble’s position is typical of one who tries to manipulate the language to fit their message. Mar 10, 2023 at 18:01
  • @RevelationLad What do you mean, it doesn't line up with the lexicons? Strong's aion, Definition: a space of time, an age. Usage: an age, a cycle (of time), especially of the present age as contrasted with the future age. HELPs aion, properly, an age (era, "time-span"), characterized by a specific quality (type of existence). Mar 10, 2023 at 18:37
  • @RevelationLad More specifically, I just looked through all the usages of aioinas (pl.) in the NT. It never refers to the material universe, except in the idiosyncratic translation of Heb. Mar 10, 2023 at 18:39

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