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Bible Q

Hebrews 9:12 “eternal redemption [for us]”, is the KJV addition of “for us” justified?

Over the years many readers have noticed that “for us” at the end of Hebrews 9:12 in the KJV is in italics, indicating that the translators added the words to clarify the text:

Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us (Hebrews 9:12 KJV)

The general consensus in modern versions is not to add in “for us”. For example the NRSV:

11 But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), 12 he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. (NRSV)


The NRSV then leaves this as a statement of bare fact, without underlining that the context is mainly about the redemption by Christ of other men and women, who unlike himself, are sinners.

The verb is in the middle voice, one of three voices in classical Greek. English does not have this grammatical feature : English has only active or passive voice: either do, or be done to. So a standard example of the three voices would be:

  • ACTIVE: “I obtain something”
  • MIDDLE: “I obtain something myself” (the historic reflexive meaning, as used in much older Greek than Roman era Greek).
  • PASSIVE: “I have been obtained”

Some have argued that this means the Greek αἰωνίαν λύτρωσιν εὑράμενος at the end of Hebrews 9:12 should be read something like “Having obtained in himself eternal redemption”. For example the Anglican writer Rev. Richard Phayre of Norfolk, 1875, though this is a very rare, unusual and awkward reading.  The Middle Voice verb HEURAMENOS certainly does not mean “having obtained for himself first of all, and only incidentally for others” as some have misunderstood.


The middle voice has various renderings in English, corresponding to the different grammar of English, but generally emphasizing the agent not the object. These include:

  • DIRECT MIDDLE: historic reflexives such as “clothe oneself”, “wash oneself”, or in the NT examples such as “Judas hanged himself”, “Peter warmed himself”.
  • INTENSIVE MIDDLE: typically an action done for one’s own benefit. Most famously Annas in Acts 5:2 who “kept back [for himself] some of the price”. But also with many positive benefits such as Mary of Bethany who had “chosen [for herself]” a better activity than her sister Martha in Luke 10:42.
  • RECIPROCAL MIDDLE: this again is a type of reflexives found with plural verbs among groups. It tends to occur in the NT with verbs with the SUN- together prefix, “agree together”, “confer together”. But the availability of the adverb ἀλλήλων allelōn “to each other” means that most NT occurrences of reciprocal group actions use active verb voice + the adverb ἀλλήλων allelōn as the object. This is an easier and more common way of saying the same thing.

So coming back to Hebrews 9:12 it’s clear enough that the middle voice must be INTENSIVE MIDDLE, and therefore the reading is that Jesus is “obtaining [for himself] eternal redemption”. But, and here’s where context is important, that is not the same thing as the author of Hebrews emphasizing that Jesus obtained redemption “for himself, as he needed redemption first, and only incidentally for sinners”.

It is true from Hebrews 5:7-8 that Christ did learned obedience and did himself benefit from his own obedience in that his Father found Christ sinless and therefore God resurrected Christ to eternal life. But that isn’t the context of Hebrews 9. The intensive middle in Hebrews 9:12 has more to do with Jesus consciously taking hold of redemption, whether for himself or others or both, than any convoluted argument that Christ somehow needed to be redeemed from his own “sin without having sinned” (sic, not in the Bible).

Christ was indeed made sin (and the Greek says exactly that, not just a sin offering but actually made sin)

21 For our sake God made the one who knew no sin to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Co 5:21 NRSV)

This is what Hebrews 9 is about. Neither Hebrews 9:12, nor in fact 2 Co 5:21 “made sin” are saying that Jesus was made sin by being born mortal, literally sinful because he was physical. Christ was “made sin” in the same was that the bronze serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, in the representation of sin itself, and sins that he hadn’t actually sinned.

What this middle voice in Hebrews 9:12 does demonstrate is another evidence that Christ, as he himself claimed was “man who has told you the truth that I heard from God.” (John 8:40)  and not a god, or God. This is emphasised in the double repeat of man in 1 Timothy 2:5-6.

5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (1 Tim 2:5-6 ESV)


So in conclusion: the KJV addition of [for us] is not justified, which is why modern versions omit it. But by the same token adding in [for himself] as if the redemption of sinners by a sinless man was not part of Christ’s purpose is also distorting what the text says and doesn’t say.



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