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Hebrews;- The complete self-offering (Index thread)

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posted on Apr, 13 2017 @ 05:02 PM
The epistle to the Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians, perhaps to a specific Jewish church.
That is, they were people who were born and brought up as Jews, and had become believers in Christ.
That much is evident from the course of the argument.

(From time to time somebody drops in to quibble on this point.
I have already answered them twice, and the answer will be repeated further down this thread.)

I don’t have strong personal opinions on the “background” questions which commentators normally discuss, but there may be some value in sharing some of the views that I’ve come across.

Who wrote this letter?
Modern scholars tend not to think of it as one of Paul’s letters, if only because of the differences in style. However, the letter was preserved and collected by the early church, which suggests that the writer had some claims to authority in the absence of Paul.
Barnabas is one of the names that have been put forward. Indeed, one of the lesser works of the early church is a later document known as “the Epistle of Barnabas”. It is unlikely that Barnabas really wrote the other Epistle which is preserved in his name, but the very fact that it exists is a testimony to his prestige.

When was the author writing?
The sacrificial system of the Temple is taken for granted as an on-going institution. A central plank of the argument is that the whole system of the old covenant has lost its relevance, having been replaced by the work of Christ. If the Romans had already abolished the Temple sacrifice, that would have proved his point. He could hardly have resisted referring to the fact in support of his case.
Meanwhile, one of the arguments that he does use, about Christ functioning as a priest in heaven, depends on the continuing work of the Levitical priests on earth, and would be quite unusable if they had ceased to function (ch8 v4).
All this implies that the letter was written before the Temple was destroyed.

Where were the intended readers of the letter?
The most obvious location for a community of Jewish-born Christians, apparently isolated from the Gentile world, would be Jerusalem.
In the last chapter, he urges them to follow the example of Christ in going “out of the camp”. His meaning is that they should “leave Jerusalem” in a metaphorical way, by cutting loose from its religious traditions, but the appeal would be more pointed if they were also capable of making a physical departure from a literal Jerusalem.

Whatever the authorship of this letter, it is worth comparing it with the letter to the Galatians;
Their faith had saved them
And also the letter of James;
Teacher of Faith and Wisdom

Over the next couple of posts I will be presenting an “index” to these Hebrews threads, so that people can navigate their way round them more easily.

posted on Apr, 13 2017 @ 05:03 PM
Jesus, the greater revelation (ch1-ch2v4)

The beginning of the letter presents the Son in his moment of triumph.
He has completed the work of “purification for sins”, and sits “at the right hand of the Majesty on high”.
In him, God’s work has been made “perfect” or “complete”.
This means that everything that preceded him was incomplete, and that will be the main thrust of the argument that follows.

The opening point, for example, is that God speaks to us, through the Son, much more directly than he ever spoke through the prophets, revealing his intentions more clearly.
In the understanding of the time, the Law of Moses was a revelation brought by angels.
But the Son is shown to be greater than the angels, so the salvation which he brings and reveals to us must be something greater than the Law of Moses.

Jesus, suffering death by the grace of God (ch2 vv5-18)

A revelation received through angels could not have completed God’s purpose, because the work needed to be done through a man.
God has promised an inheritance to the human race, and that inheritance could only be claimed (on our behalf) by someone in human form.
Furthermore, the inheritance could only be claimed by someone submitting himself to death, and a human death would only be possible for someone in human form.

Moses and the promised rest (ch3v1-ch4v10)

The Son is also greater than Moses, the human mediator of the Law.
Moses was managing God’s household with delegated authority, as one of the servants of the household.
His main function was to “testify to the things which were to be spoken later”.
That is, the revelation he brought was pointing forward to the more final revelation of Jesus.
Whereas Jesus came under his own authority as the son of the household and one of the owners of the house.

The comparison with Moses provides a way of introducing the topic of the writer’s anxiety about the intentions of his readers. He does not want them to give up on their commitment to Christ and fall back into pre-Christian Judaism
So he moves from the Moses reference to the story of the Israelites who were saved from the Egyptians, under his guidance ,and then rebelled against God in the desert. Falling back into unbelief, they drew upon themselves God’s oath, “They shall never enter into my rest”.
The moral of the story is that his readers must beware of imitating the bad example of their ancestors.
God’s “rest” (that is, the salvation promised in Christ) will cease to be available for those who cease to believe.

Jesus, the understanding priest (ch4v11-ch5v10)

At the same time, he offers them encouragement.
In Jesus, the Son of God, we have a sympathetic High Priest who has been tested in the same way that we are being tested. He can deal gently with our weaknesses.
We can confidently approach “the throne of grace” (instead of fearing it as “a throne of judgment”), so that we “may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need”.
The writer intends to develop this theme of Jesus as the High Priest, but there is something that needs to be said first.

Dropping out of school (ch5v11-ch6v12)

The author complains that his readers have become “hard of hearing”, and slow to learn. They are still at the stage of living on milk, and do not seem ready for “solid food”.
His real concern is that they may be unwilling to listen.
He is trying to shame them, and stimulate them into a revived commitment, by presenting it as a case of backwardness in learning and challenging them to prove him wrong.

The “milk” is the elementary doctrine of Christ, covering everything that is involved in beginning to follow Jesus. It covers the change of heart (repentance and faith), the ceremonies that accompany the change of heart (such as baptism), and the reasons why the change of heart is necessary (resurrection of the dead and eternal judgement).
They will be consuming “solid food” once they understand that God’s work has been “completed” in Christ. So the following of Christ is a serious commitment which must not be abandoned.
If they fall away now, they will be aligning themselves with the enemies of God.
Nevertheless, he is confident that they will remain faithful and inherit what God has promised.

The promise to Abraham (ch6 vv13-20)

“What God has promised” prompts a reminder that God made promises to Abraham, doubly sure because they were confirmed with an oath, and we have inherited this promise.
We should therefore imitate Abraham’s patient endurance and faithfulness.

Melchizedek (ch7)

Having warned his readers about the importance of the subject, the writer returns to his explanation of Melchizedek.
The main argument of the letter will depend on the self-offering of Christ, which makes him a kind of priest. The promise of the Psalmist, “I will make you a priest after the order of Melchizedek” has already been quoted and applied, and will now be interpreted.

From his brief appearance in Genesis, we learn that Melchizedek came into the world without ancestors, that he has “neither beginning of days nor end of life”.
Obviously these observations are not about the flesh-and-blood Melchizedek.
They apply to a symbolic Melchizedek, created by the limited things that Genesis records about him.
They show that he resembles and represents the Son of God who is without beginning or end.
This confirms that the promise of “the priesthood of Melchizedek” was addressed to the Son of God.

Neither Melchizedek nor Jesus himself come from the house of Levi, which supplies the priesthood under the covenant of Moses.
In other words, they are offering a different priesthood.
This, in itself, implies that they are providing a better priesthood, a better sacrifice and a better covenant, which will supersede the old forms.

The old forms have been superseded because they were not capable of bringing anyone to “perfection” or “completeness”. That is the work of the new High Priest, who was “made perfect” when he offered up himself.

The new covenant (ch8)

The difference between the two forms of priesthood is that Levi serves in the earthly sanctuary, and the new high priest serves in the heavenly sanctuary. But the earthly sanctuary is only a copy, and the heavenly sanctuary is the real thing.
So the ministry of Christ establishes a better covenant than the covenant of Moses and Aaron, and fulfils the promise of a new covenant made in the words of Jeremiah.
The key point is the conclusion of God’s promise in that prophecy;
“I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more”.

edit on 13-4-2017 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 13 2017 @ 05:04 PM
The two sanctuaries (ch9 vv1-22)

There is a message contained in the basic arrangements of the earthly sanctuary, as described under the Law..
We find a distinction between two areas, the “outer tent” and the “Holy of Holies”.
This represents the distinction between the earthly world, “the present age”, and the heavenly world, “the age to come”.
Nobody except the High Priest is allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, and this restriction carries a symbolic meaning. It demonstrates that nobody has access to the heavenly sanctuary except Christ, as High Priest, and those who are brought in as belonging to Christ.
Even the High Priest is not allowed to enter without blood, as an offering for the sins of the people, and this restriction carries a symbolic meaning. It demonstrates that Christ himself could not enter the heavenly sanctuary without making an offering for our sins.

There are substantial differences between the two offerings.
The high priest under the covenant of Moses is also covering his own sins, and he is obliged to return every year. He offers the blood of animals, which have no real effect in dealing with sin. They cannot cleanse or make perfect the consciences of the worshippers.

Christ enters the heavenly sanctuary offering his own life.
He has no need to make an offering for sins of his own.
His offering is able to cleanse the conscience as well as the flesh.
And he only needs to enter the sanctuary once, because he has obtained for us an eternal redemption.

Another way of demonstrating the need for sacrifice is to observe that covenants in general are established by the death of a sacrificial animal. That was the case in the making of the covenant of Moses.
In the same way, the death of Jesus was an essential condition in the making of the new covenant.

The better sacrifice (ch9v23-ch10v18)

What is it that makes the death of Christ a “better offering” than the Temple sacrifice?
We need to understand that the only kind of offering which God really wants is the self-offering.
The old priest enters the sanctuary by offering the blood of animals- that is, blood which is not his own. Christ enters through the offering of his own life.
The event is foreshadowed in the words of the Psalmist, when the speaker offers to God the true sacrifice of obedience.

The fact that Christ is offering his own life is what makes the sacrifice unrepeatable.
A sacrifice which does not need to be repeated is a sacrifice which has completed the work of dealing with sin.
Christ has “made perfect” for all time those who have been set apart for God.

Draw near with faith (ch10 vv19-35)

This case has been made for a reason.
The writer wants to evoke a response.

The key word is “confidence”.
Christ has entered the sanctuary like the priests under the old covenant.
Yet we are not required to wait for him outside, like the worshippers of the old covenant.
On the contrary, we may follow him in.
We now have that freedom to enter the presence of God.
We enter under the same conditions that he entered himself, using the route that he pioneered for us.
That is, we come under the authority of “the blood of Jesus”, namely the self-offering which he made.

He warns his readers very seriously of the danger in allowing their faith to fail, and giving up their commitment to Christ. This would be tantamount to rejecting God and exposing themselves to judgement.
Then he changes his tone again and pleads with them in a more encouraging way;
“Do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward”.

The rollcall of faith (ch11)

To encourage them further, he shows then how faith runs like a thread through the story of their people in the Old Testament.
By faith Abel offered an acceptable sacrifice, and still “speaks” after his death. By faith, Enoch pleased God, and Noah built an ark. The common factor here is that righteousness is combined with different forms of “continuing life”.
Other examples of faith relate to the promises which were made to Abraham, including the faith of Sarah.

We may see, again, how faith challenges natural expectations.
The faith of Abraham in offering Isaac challenged the expectation that the dead remain dead.
The faith of Isaac and Jacob, in blessing younger sons, challenged the expectation that God favours those who are “great” in the eyes of the world.
The faith of Joseph, on his deathbed, challenged the expectation that Israel would be held in Egypt.
Faith was displayed, of course, in the story of Moses, in the redemption from Egypt, and the entrance into the promised land.

In summary, everything that was achieved by leaders and prophets was achieved through their faith.
That includes “Women received their dead by resurrection”.
These people did not fully attain the inheritance they had been promised, but that was only because they were waiting for us.
God was planning a climax, in which we were meant to be included, and therefore it was fitting that God’s people should not be brought to perfection without our participation.

Finishing the race (chs12&13)

They should be inspired by this to imitate their ancestors and “finish the race”.
They should be fearful of the precedent of Esau, who threw away his chance of an inheritance, and was never able to recover his original privileged state.
They should resist any temptation to fall back on their old allegiance to the covenant of Moses.
It would be much better, indeed, to follow the example of Jesus in his death and “go outside the camp”.
Here we have “no continuing city”, because we are waiting for “the city to come”.

The God of Hebrews, the God of the Old Testament

From time to time I take the opportunity to underline this point.
In every part of the New Testament, including the direct words of Jesus, it is taken for granted that Christians are following the same God who speaks and acts all the way through the Old Testament.
The Bible is understood as the single continuous history of the relation between the one God and his people.
In the case of Hebrews, the argument rests so heavily on the continuity of God’s activity in the two testaments that it is not rationally possible to separate them out as the work of two different gods.

posted on Apr, 13 2017 @ 05:05 PM
How James responded (perhaps) to Hebrews ch11

A comparison of this chapter with the words of James makes it difficult to avoid the conclusion that James was acquainted with this letter, or at least with this eleventh chapter.

In this chapter we read “And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (v6)
In James we read “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe- and shudder” (James ch2 v19).
In both cases, the topic is “believing something about God”.
The two arguments might appear to be in conflict, but only at first glance.
In Hebrews, the point is that believing God exists is the minimum that is necessary to please God (for without that belief, nobody would bother to try to please him).
In James, the point is that believing God exists is not the maximum that is necessary- that belief needs to become trust, which is true faith, and the faith needs to be acted out.
If James thought he was correcting the statement in Hebrews, that would have been the result of misunderstanding the statement in Hebrews.

In this chapter we read “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and when he received the promises was ready to offer up his only son” (v17).
In James we read “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?” (James ch2 v21)
The two arguments might appear to be in conflict, but only at first glance.
In Hebrews, the point is that the act of Abraham necessarily began with faith.
In James, the point is that the faith was then acted out in obedience.
Faith and obedience are both needed, but faith comes first in order of time.

In this chapter we read “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given friendly welcome to the spies” (v31).
In James we read “And in the same way was not Rahab the harlot justified by her works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?” (J25).
Again, the two arguments might appear to be in conflict, but only at first glance.
In Hebrews, the point is that the act of Rahab necessarily began with faith.
In James, the point is that the faith was then acted out in obedience.
Faith and obedience are both needed, but faith comes first in order of time.

It can hardly be a coincidence that both examples chosen by James to illustrate “justified by works” come from the list in this chapter- roughly speaking, the beginning and the end of the main account. The choice of Rahab is particularly remarkable, since it is far from being one of the more prominent stories of the Old Testament.
It looks as though James is deliberately re-presenting these illustrations in order to shift the emphasis.

One more parallel may as well be cited.
In a previous chapter of Hebrews, the elementary teachings were said to include “repentance from dead works” (ch6 v1).
While the “faith and works” passage in James is completed by the challenging claim “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead” (ch2 v26).
I suggest that “dead works” in Hebrews alludes to an otherwise unknown slogan “works apart from faith are dead”, which might have inspired what we find in James.
This appears to be confirmed by the metaphor of “body and spirit”.
The version we find in James implicitly identifies works with the spirit, but it is much more natural, surely, to take the two elements the other way round; Faith is the spirit that moves the actions of the body.
I think we have to recognise, then, that the latter version must have been the original form, which James was deliberately reversing.

In a previous thread series, I set out the analysis which led me to the conclusion that James must have been familiar with Galatians.
It is well-known that both letters quote the text “Abraham believed God. and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Genesis ch15 v6), and I argued that James was consciously responding to Paul’s interpretation.
I also found very close parallels between the teaching of James and passages found in Galatians ch5, which James was apparently re-writing in his own preferred language.

Looking in particular at the parallels of James ch2; if there is one set of material shared by James and Paul, and another set of material shared by James and Hebrews, how is this to be explained?
It seems unlikely that the writer of Galatians and the writer of Hebrews read the letter of James and decided to react to different parts of the same chapter.
The more plausible supposition, to my mind, is the James was reading, and combining his reactions to, both the other two letters.
Obviously that conclusion has implications for the dating of all three letters, because the letter of James would then have to be the last in the sequence.

posted on Apr, 13 2017 @ 05:06 PM

Hasty judgement by poster missing the point;
“Jewish Christians do not exist and never will”

Jewish Christians certainly did exist at that time. The "twelve apostles" were Jews by birth and upbringing, and they were Christians after the Resurrection. Paul was a Jewish Christian. All the first converts in Jerusalem were Jews- the story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts ch10 marks the moment when Gentiles began to be accepted. The church in Jerusalem was probably a church of Jews rather than Gentiles- Jews who believed in Christ- that is, Jewish Christians.
So I don't know on what basis you are making those denials. History disagrees with you.

posted on Apr, 13 2017 @ 07:36 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

DIS, your such a great resource, I appreciate your time and effort you put into your threads. 👍

I'll mark this one to read through later when I got more time.

Thanks again.

posted on Apr, 14 2017 @ 12:12 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

This is really a fascinating subject to me even though I'm not religious. DISRAELI, you have done a superb job with this thread and I thank you for a great read!

posted on Apr, 14 2017 @ 12:19 PM
a reply to: SBMcG
You're welcome. I've got other series available, including Revelation and those mentioned in the opening post.

posted on Apr, 14 2017 @ 02:50 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

It must have been difficult for the Jews of that time to break a way from such a culture of tradition. The religious leaders had much control over the people, Jesus was a frustration for them that they hoped would just disappear.
I know we bag on Peter for denying Jesus but man that was some extreme shift in mindset he was dealing with. Yet even with the smallest measures of faith God proves again his sovereign plan for salvation.

posted on Apr, 14 2017 @ 03:51 PM
a reply to: Observationalist
Indeed cultural influence would have been a powerful control in itself, without needing to involve deliberate manipulation.
Historically, it seems that the writer had good reason to be concerned. After A.D. 70, much of Jewish Christianity may have evolved into the sect known as the Ebionites ("the poor"), who tended to use a Hebrew version of Matthew's gospel and favour a "Judaism plus Jesus" form of Christianity, and ultimately disappeared.

edit on 14-4-2017 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 14 2017 @ 06:05 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

today they are called Mesianic Jews. Literally Jewish Christians.

Seeing there is some points of work in this letter I tend to think it will be beneficial to those believing Jews and possibly some non believing Jews in the future as they are hiding from the Anti-christ when the time of Jacobs trouble starts up and he is persecuting the Jews, until Jesus comes again to the earth to establish his earthly Kingdom. they will find great comfort in the letter to the Hebrews.

Great job Bro!

posted on Apr, 16 2017 @ 11:11 AM
a reply to: ChesterJohn
Yes, it's just a shame that there couldn't have been a direct continuity from the original Jewish churches.

posted on Apr, 22 2017 @ 10:00 AM

Thank you for this information and how you break it down. I really appreciate this work.
edit on 22-4-2017 by Created because: fixed "how you break it down."

posted on Apr, 22 2017 @ 10:16 AM
a reply to: Created
You're welcome. If you're interested, my profile has got similar series and Index threads on Galatians, James, Revelation, and the Song of Solomon.

posted on Apr, 29 2017 @ 04:52 AM
Jews for jesus!

And nowhere is a J in Hebrew language! Lack of respect towards the internet.. A sin! Lack of respect towards the Annointed: who frikking cares amiright!

posted on Apr, 29 2017 @ 04:55 AM

originally posted by: BigBangWasAnEcho
And nowhere is a J in Hebrew language! : who frikking cares amiright!

Yes, you are right. Nobody cares about these silly spelling quibbles.

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