The writer of Hebrews (the Holy Spirit) uses words, phrases, and themes in the book to present Jesus for who He is – the Messiah. This post will introduce “better” as one of these tools in the construction of this great book. (I have written on the phrase “let us” in a post several years ago.). Kreitton is the Greek word that is most often translated to our word “better” in Hebrews (Strong’s 2909). Polys or a form of it (4183) is the other word that is used. Diaphoras (1313) is translated to our word “superior”. The exact number and use of these words depend on the translation you use.
Kreitton is used in twelve verses and polys is used once. Twice Kreitton carries the idea of useful and twice it is used as excellent. I will point these out later as they are discussed.
For this post, I will loosely divide the times the words are used into two sections. The first section begins with 1:4 (superior/excellent, one of the variations) and goes to 10:34. I see the focus here as the work of Jesus and His ministry. Between 1:4 and 6:9 are the “elementary teaching” about Jesus that we need to “drink in” to produce a “useful crop”. From 7:7 to 10:34 we get a taste of the “solid food” of Melchizedek, the high priest, and the covenants and sacrifices that Jesus fulfilled and took the place of.
- Hebrews 1:4
- Hebrews 6:9
- Hebrews 7:7 This use of kreitton is seldom rendered better. In the NIV it is “greater”.
- Hebrews 7:19
- Hebrews 7:22
- Hebrews 8:6 (2 in KJV). In the NIV there are two superiors and one better. So, it is Diaphoras and then Kreitton, Kreitton. This verse and 1:4 will be discussed later.
- Hebrews 9:23
- Hebrews 10: 34
The second set starts with 11:4, which is the word polys and refers to Abel’s sacrifice.
- Hebrews 11: 4* great number of times.
- Hebrews 11:16
- Hebrews 11:35
- Hebrews 11:40
- Hebrews 12:24
This set deals with our faith and the things we will see because of our faith. 11:40 and 12:24 have a context of “useful” according to Strong’s Concordance.
11:4 MAY infer that Abel offered “more” than Cain. Loosely, you can get that idea in Genesis 4 depending on the translation. I do not know enough about Hebrew but there is a plural form of “firstlings” which is where I got this thought. My other thought was that Abel had offered this sacrifice before. A final thought on these sacrifices is that in the Law, grain or “fruit of the soil” was a part of the offerings at the Tabernacle. (Something to think about!)The second section begins and ends with Abel and his sacrifice. To me, that is a frame that keeps all of the “better” things in context.