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Commentary On Hebrews by Jean Calvin


Chapter 1:3 Who being the brightness, etc. The words are rendered by Beza, |the effulgence of his glory, and the impress of his person;| by Doddridge, |the effulgent ray of his glory, and the express delineation of his person;| by Macknight, |an effulgence of his glory, and an exact image of his substance;| and by Stuart, |the radiance of his glory, and the exact image of his substance.| The word |brightness,| does not adequately express the meaning of the first word, apaugasma, which signifies an emitted light, a splendor proceeding from an object. The most suitable word would be, outshining, or irradiation, |the outshining of his glory.| The |express image| of our version is the impress, the engraven or impressed form, derived from the archetype. And |impress,| as given by Beza, fully expresses it.

The words are doubtless metaphorical, but the idea is this -- that Christ, as a Mediator, as the Son of God in human nature, exactly represents what God is, being the very image of him who is invisible. |Substance,| or essence, is the divine nature in all its glorious and incomprehensible attributes of power, wisdom, holiness, justice, and goodness. These and other perfections are exhibited in Christ perfectly, and in such a way that we can look on them, and in a measure understand them. Hence he said, |He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father,| John 14:9.

The word hupostasis, does not mean a |person,| either in Scripture or in classic writers. It is a meaning invented by the fathers during the Arian controversy. As used in the Sept. and in the New Testament, it means foundation or basis, Ezekiel 43:11, -- substance, Psalm 139:15, -- expectation, Psalm 38:11, -- and confidence, 2 Corinthians 9:4. Its classic meaning, according to Stuart, is foundation, steadfastness, courage, purpose, resolution, determination, substance, essence, being. There is in Colossians 1:15, a phrase of a similar import, with |the impress of his substance,| where Christ is said to be |the image (eichon -- the likeness) of the invisible God.| The substance or essence is |the invisible God,| and |the impress| is |the image.|

|In the opinion,| says Stuart, |that the verse now under consideration relates to the incarnate Messiah, and not to the Logos in his divine nature simply considered, I find that Scott and Beza concur, not to mention others of the most respectable commentators.|

It was the mistaken view which the fathers took of the passage that led them to invent a new meaning to the word hupostasis; and many have followed them.

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