8 But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” (Heb 1:8,9 NKJV)
The NKJV is a typical translation of this passage. “He says” is in italics since it isn’t in the Greek. Yet, it is clear from the previous verses, that the writer understands God as the speaker.
It seems peculiar that God would address his Son as “God”. The verse comes from Psalm 45:6,7 where the writer addresses the king, presumably King David. But the writer to the Hebrews understands it as the Father addressing the Son. Another peculiarity is that in Greek, the word “God” in both Hebrews 1 and in Psalm 45 (Septuagint) is not in the vocative case, but in the nomative case. That is doubtless the justification that the NWT translators rended the phrase not as “Your throne, O God” but as “God is your throne.” The latter is grammatically correct. Let me explain. The nominative case of “God” is “θεος” (thĕos) while the vocative case is “θεε”(thĕ-ĕ). Here is an example of the use of the vocative case of “God”:
και εἰπα-- μηδαμως κυριε θεε του----- ἰσραηλ
and I said not so-- O, lord God of the Israel
In the text above, both “lord” and “God” are in the vocative case. But Heb 1:8 does NOT have “God” in the vocative case, but in the nominative case:
προς— δε τον υἰων ὁ θρονος σου----- ὁ-- θεος εἰς τον αἰων
toward but the son the throne of you the God into the age.
A very similar grammatical constuction can be found in Psalm 73:26
ἡ-- μερις μου---- ὁ θεος εἰς τον αἰων
the part of me the God into the age
This is translated as “My part is God into the age.”
So, a parallel translation of “ὁ θρονος σου ὁ θεος εἰς τον αἰων” could be
“Your throne is God into the age.”
There are strong objections to this translation. One person wrote, “God is on his throne. He isn’t the throne of anybody else!” Some have tried to avoid that problem by rendering it, “Your divine throne is (lasts) into the age.” This may be compared to John 1:1 in which the latter part could be translated as “The Logos was divine." This might be a valid translation of Heb 1:8 if “θεος” were not preceded by the article. In John 1:1, “θεος” is NOT preceded by the article. So for that reason (in my opinion), the translation “your divine throne” must be rejected.
It seems that the nominative IS sometimes used in a vocative sense:
I desired to do your will, O my God, and your law in the middle of my heart. (Psalm 40:8)
The phrase “O my God” is obviously vocative in meaning and yet “God” is “ὁ θεος” which is the nominative. So if I were arguing that because of the nominative case, Heb 1:8 needs to read, “God is your throne,” I would have to reluctantly concede that a possible translation is “Your throne, O God.” However, I am not arguing that. I am
seeking to know which translation is correct, and I have not settled on one or the other. I am more inclined to go with “God is your throne,” because it doesn’t seem likely that God the Father would address his Son as “God,” even though He is fully divine. But then the early Christian writers referred to Him as “God”, and Thomas seems to have addressed Him as “God,” (John 20:28) even though some say He was merely exclaiming, “My Lord and my God!” as one might exclaim, “O my God!” today. But that seems to be stretching it. Notwithstanding, the Almighty addressing Him as “God” seems less appropriate than mere human beings addressing him as “God.”
So how do I understand, “God is your throne,” without meaning that Jesus sits on the Almighty and rules into the age from that position? I think the text may be simply saying that as Jesus reigns in his Kingdom for ages, before turning the Kingdom over to the Father, He won’t be reigning independently of the Father, but is so united with the Father, that one might as well say that the Father Himself is ruling. “God is your throne.”
But let me emphasize, I am not dogmatic about this. From other uses of the nominative as a vocative, the translation, “Your throne, O God” seems to be grammatically correct, but it still seems peculiar to me that God would address his Son as “God,” and then in the very next sentence say, “God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness…”
Note: All of the OT quotes are taken from the Septuagint, a translation, several hundred yeard B.C. of a particular text type of Hebrew into Greek. This text type differs from that of the Masoretic, and was found in Cave 4 of Qumran, whereas the Masoretic text type was found in the other caves. The NT quotes from the OT, resemble the Septuagint text, and are identical in many places. They differ markedly from the Masoretic text (the text from which your OT was translated). The Septuagint itself was altered over the centuries. However, it seems that the NT quotes of the OT were quotes either of the Septuagint, or else from a Hebrew text type similar to, or identical with, that which was found in Cave 4.