Lecture 1 Hebrews Introduction

Keep Faith in Jesus, Son of God, Great High Priest,

Because He Exceeds All Else

An Exposition of the Book of Hebrews

.

Introduction to the Book of Hebrews

The Nature of the Book of Hebrews

Hebrews is a puzzling book. No one knows with certainty its author, date, or place of writing. And its title, “To the Hebrews” was likely added during the second century so we also have no conclusive evidence for its recipients.

.

The content of the book is also unique. It is heavily focused on Christology and is one of the most majestic presentations of Christ in the New Testament. It is definitely the most extended presentation.

.

And the content and flow of argumentation of Hebrews is just plain difficult.

.

But first, why do we need the book of Hebrews today?

.

Philip Hughes[1]

“If there is a widespread unfamiliarity with the Epistle to the Hebrews and its teaching, it is because so many adherents of the church have settled for an understanding and superficial association with the Christian faith. Yet it was to arouse just such persons from the lethargic state of compromise and complacency into which they had sunk, and to incite them to persevere wholeheartedly in the Christian conflict, that this letter was originally written. It is a tonic for the spiritually debilitated.… We neglect such a book to our own impoverishment.”[2]

.

Hebrews is the “most extensively developed and logically sustained piece of theological argumentation in the whole of the New Testament.”[3] So, it’s not an easy book.

.

What do you think Dr. Donald?

.

Donald A. Hagner[4]

“Yet undeniably, Hebrews remains one of the most difficult books of the New Testament, second perhaps only to Revelation.”

He then offers reasons for its difficulty:

  1. The book depends heavily on the Old Testament for its argumentation
    1. Because of this, it is difficult to bridge the apparent meaning of the Old Testament text and its use by the author of Hebrews.
  2. The arguments in Hebrews
    1. Employ typological similarities. These would include differences between things that are old and new, temporal and eternal, or earthly and heavenly.
    2. Are often rather elaborate and extensive, making the arguments difficult to follow.
    3. Are frequently interrupted by exhortations.
  3. The meaning of some parts of Hebrews is uncertain because the book’s background and origin are unknown.

.

William Lane

“Hebrews is a delight for the person who enjoys puzzles. Its form is unusual, its situation in life is uncertain, its argument is unfamiliar.”[5]

.

George Guthrie[6]

Citing Mt. 13:52, he writes, “Whatever the identity of the scholar who wrote the NT book of Hebrews, he fulfills this description [as scholar] admirably, bringing to his task a rich mix of skills, both rhetorical and rabbinic, drawing from the ancient texts at his disposal and presenting them in light of his received christocentric tradition, with the intention of offering strong encouragement to a beleaguered community.

.

With good reason, the book recently has been called the “Cinderella” of NT studies (McCullough 1994: 66), but its astute scholar has crafted what might be called the “Queen” when it comes to the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament. No NT book, with perhaps the exception of Revelation, presents the discourse so permeated, so crafted, both at the macro- and micro-levels, by various uses to which the older covenant texts are put, and his appropriation of the text is radically different from the book’s apocalyptic cousin.”

.

With reference to the Old Testament, he concludes that the book of Hebrews contains 37 quotations, 40 allusions, 19 summarized passages, and 13 without a specific context.

.

E. F. Scott

It is “the riddle of the New Testament.”[7]

.

So how do you feel about getting into this book? You’re not the one teaching it!

.

Circumstantial Background

Let’s investigate who wrote the book of Hebrews, when it was written, from where, to where, and to whom (again, these are all debated topics).

.

Authorship

It is interesting to note how each of Paul’s epistles begin with his name, but the book of Hebrews begins with “God.” It is no wonder then that Origen, an early church father wrote, “As to who wrote the epistle, truly only God knows” though he himself often attributes it to Paul. But this is a classic debate about the book of Hebrews, so a class on Hebrews would be incomplete without a discussion concerning its authorship.

.

“The search for the author has been going on for centuries, and is no nearer a solution than when it began. There is no scarcity of candidates, but conclusive evidence for any one candidate is lacking, and problems exist no matter who is suggested” (Homer Kent, The Epistle to the Hebrews).

.

Though we don’t, at least the author of the book of Hebrews assumes that the recipients know him (13:19, 22, 23).

.

You enter the debate. Who wrote it?

.

External Evidence for Authorship

Let’s investigate what the early church thought about the author. Since they were closer to the time of the writing of Hebrews, maybe we can note if there is any consensus.

.

First Clement first made reference to the book of Hebrews, though he does not state who wrote it.

.

Arguments in Favour of Pauline Authorship

  • Clement of Alexandria, as cited by Eusebius, held that Paul wrote the book in Hebrew and that Luke translated it into Greek.
  • Eusebius himself held that it was originally written in Hebrew and that Clement of Rome had translated it.
  • From Athanasius onward, the Greek writers universally ascribed it to Paul. Jerome and Augustine adopted the position and, afterward the authority of the Epistle was established.
  • Similar closing: The author closes the epistle like Paul (Heb. 13:25).
    • Prayer on his behalf
    • Desire for a good conscience
    • God the Father as the God of peace
    • Benediction of grace
  • Association: Timothy is associated with the author (13:23) as Paul was.
  • Structure: The structure of the epistle is seen by some as similar to Paul’s writing, i.e., first a doctrinal section followed by a practical section.
  • Paul’s viewpoints and some wording are similar, especially when compared to Galatians.
    • Preeminence of Christ (Heb. 1:1-3; Colossians 1:14-19)
    • Authentication of apostles by divine gifts and miracles (Heb. 2:3-4; cf. 1 Cor. 12-14; 2 Cor. 12:12)
    • Humiliation of Christ (Heb. 2:9-18; Philippians 2:5-11)
    • Use of Israel’s wanderings as examples to contemporary believers (Heb. 3:7-4:8; 1 Cor. 10:1-11).
    • Temporary nature of the Old Covenant (Heb. 8:1-13; 2 Cor. 3:6-18).
    • Emphasis on faith (Heb. 11; Rom. 1:17 and quotations of Habakkuk 2:4).
    • Close relationship of Timothy (Heb. 13:23; 1 and 2 Timothy).
  • Someone well-versed in the Law of Moses clearly wrote the book of Hebrews. Paul’s pharisaical training under Gamaliel gave him a thorough knowledge of the Law and Paul is definitely a candidate for authorship because of this.

.

Arguments Against Pauline Authorship

But did Paul really write it? Probably not…

  • Anonymous: The writer’s name is not mentioned. Paul always mentions his name.
  • Hebrews 2:3 teaches that the author is dependent upon “those who heard the Lord” to hear of doctrine of Christ. But Paul claims, not to have been dependent upon those who heard the Lord, but to have received the gospel directly (Galatians 1:12).
  • The writer quotes the LXX exclusively (possible exception in Heb. 10:30), whereas Paul quoted from both the LXX and the Hebrew.
  • The original Greek is complex and contains unique vocabulary to the New Testament. It is quite dissimilar to Paul’s style of writing.
  • Someone could argue…“Paul was considered the apostle to the Gentiles (Ro. 11:13). It would have been unusual for him to write to Jews only.”
    • But we’re really just assuming it was written to Hebrews.
  • The statement about Timothy’s release (Heb. 13:23) may point to a time after Paul’s death because we do not have a record of any imprisonment for Timothy during Paul’s life.

.

Just One Author?

Hebrews is possibly the work of dual authorship. “We” is employed throughout the book of Hebrews to reference the author. Heb. 2:3; 5:11; 6:9, 11; 8:1; 9:5; 13:18. The author(s) uses it to distinguish himself/themselves from the recipients as well as to identify with the recipients (E.g., “What we need to do is…”).

.

Read Hebrews 6:11; 13:18,19.

.

The author says “pray for us” and follows it up by saying v. 19 “I urge you…”

.

This is an irregular shift from “we” to “I.” This may indicate 2 authors.

.

Arguments in Favour of Barnabas

Acts 9:27

.

Barnabas was originally put forth by Tertullian.

  • As a Levite, he would be very knowledgeable of the Jewish sacrificial system.
  • If he did write Hebrews, this might explain his “word of exhortation” (13:22; cf. Acts 4:36).
  • Alexandrian and Hellenistic thought is found throughout the letter. Barnabas was from Cyprus, a center for Alexandrian and Hellenistic thought.
  • The Greek language used in the book of Hebrews is refined and “polished” which would further suggest someone who is familiar with Alexandrian and Hellenistic thought.
  • In Acts 9, Barnabas mediated between Jewish Christians and Paul. This convincing of the Jewish people may continue in the book of Hebrews.

.

Arguments in Favour of Apollos

Acts 18:24

  • Acquainted with Paul and would have been influenced by him.
  • He was connected with Alexandria, which explains the refined use of the Greek language.
  • He thoroughly knew the Old Testament as explained in Acts 18:24. Being a Greek, this would explain his use of the Septuagint.
  • Since Apollos was an “eloquent” man, this would fit well with the sermonic form of the book.
  • He was connected with Timothy.

.

Who wrote it? Perhaps two authors, Apollos and Barnabas?

.

But all we really know is … “As to who wrote the epistle, truly only God knows.”

.

Date

The contents of book of Hebrews seem to have been written in the 60s AD.

.

Necessity of a Time Lapse

(It must have been written to allow for enough time after the resurrection…)

  • It was written after one generation of Christians (Hebrews 2:3; 13:7).
  • The date has to allow time for great changes in religious feeling (10:32) and for decline in religious maturity (5:11ff).

.

The Temple

(…but it must have been before the destruction of the temple.)

  • The Levitical system is described in the present tense (cf. especially 5:1-4; 7:20, 23, 27, 28; 8:3, 4, 13; 9:6, 13; 10:2-3, 11). The Levitical system in the temple would be functioning at the time of writing. This would require a Temple and thus a pre-AD 70 date, since the temple was destroyed in AD 70.
  • To further prove this, there is no mention of the Temple being destroyed. Silence on such a big event is unlikely if the book was written after the destruction of Jerusalem because large portions of the book of Hebrews concern the sacrificial system.
    • Note that the continuance of the Levitical system during the time of writing is essential to the author’s argument.
      • See Hebrews 10:2-3.
      • Had the sacrifices ceased to be offered at the time of writing of Hebrews (which they would have after AD 70), 10:1-3 would have been an excellent place to mention their termination, because the termination of these sacrifices would have proved his point.
      • And what’s his point? Reread it…Animal sacrifices don’t perfect, they remind of sin.
      • So, if the sacrifices had ceased, then v. 3 would have said, “But in those sacrifices there was a reminder of sins… And that’s why God stopped them in AD 70.” But it doesn’t say that. If it had, it would have clinched the argument.

.

Additionally, a pre-AD 70 date is the consensus among conservatives.

Homer Kent: in the AD 60s

F.F. Bruce: Shortly before 64 (the outbreak of persecution in Rome) [*mild persecution mentioned, not death, end of ch.10]

William Lane: Between 64 (commencement of Roman persecution) and 68 (Nero’s suicide)

Morris: a date near or even during the war of 66-70 (First Jewish–Roman War).

Merrill Tenney: late AD 60s

I. Howard Marshall: Before AD 70.

.

Place and Destination

(i.e., where it was written and where it was going)

May have been written from Rome, “They of Italy salute you” (13:24).

A wide range of destinations have been speculatively suggested, ranging from Spain in the west to Galatia and Judaea in the east.[8]

No need to further surmise.

.

Recipients

  • Persecuted but not martyred (Hebrews 10:32–34; 12:4)
  • They had become “dull of hearing” (5:11), “sluggish” in conduct (6:12), weak in faith (thus need for chapter 11), and near apostasy (6:1-8 and 10:23-39).
  • The author assumed they held to the authority of the Old Testament, since the author argues extensively from it (indicates they could have been Jewish).
  • The author assumed they were very familiar with the inner workings of the Jewish system of worship in the Temple, since he argues extensively from it.
    • These points may indicate a Jewish audience.
    • However, one could argue that the author has to explain the Jewish system of worship as well, making a predominately Jewish audience unlikely.
  • Given the widespread proclamation of the gospel, it is unlikely that any church in that region was exclusively Jewish, however.

.

Textual Background

  • Theology of the book: repeated words, topics under discussion.
  • Purpose of the book: Why it was written.
  • Message of the book: Statement of application.

.

Genre and Literary Structure

At times, the book of Hebrews appears to be epistolary in nature while at other times it has a definite sermonic character. It has also been described as an essay, oration, biblical exposition and exhortation (cf. Heb. 13:22). It definitely concludes like an epistle (13:22-25).

.

It is very common to view the book of Hebrews as a written sermon. This will be the focus of these lectures, while not denying that it is also a letter. With this in mind, it is important to remember that it was originally delivered orally or meant to be read aloud to the recipients. Thus, the impact of the epistle would have been different for those listening to it than for us who read it silently.

.

Most outlines of Hebrews have divided the epistle as follows

.

Doctrine: Hebrews 1:1–10:18

Application: Hebrews 10:19–13:25

.

Those who hold to this view don’t deny there is doctrine in the application section and application in the doctrinal section. Scholars proceed, then, to divide it into various sections in order to attempt to reveal the development of the argument. In so doing, they attempt to present the conceptual structure of the book. Thus, their main goal is to highlight the main themes presented by the author. For example, the Sonship of Christ, the deity and humanity of Christ, the “rest” of God, the high priesthood of Christ, the New Covenant, the sacrifice of Christ, and the need for faithfulness and perseverance in the Christian life.

.

However, upon comparing various outlines of the book of Hebrews, you will notice that no commentator agrees on any of the particulars. The reason for this is that the author of Hebrews composed his book like a musician composes his music. Just as a musician intertwines musical themes within his music, so also the author of Hebrews composed his book by intertwining doctrinal and applicational themes.

.

For example F.F. Bruce offers his conceptual structure of the book

.

I. THE FINALITY OF CHRISTIANITY (1:1–2:18)

1. God’s Final Revelation in His Son (1:1–4)

2. Christ Better than Angels (1:5–14)

3. First Admonition: The Gospel and the Law (2:1–4)

4. The Humiliation and Glory of the Son of Man (2:5–9)

5. The Son of Man the Savior and High Priest of His People (2:10–18)

II. THE TRUE HOME OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD (3:1–4:13)

1. Jesus Greater than Moses (3:1–6)

2. Second Admonition: The Rejection of Jesus More Serious than the Rejection of Moses (3:7–19)

3. The True Rest of God may be Forfeited (4:1–10)

4. Exhortation to Attain God’s Rest (4:11–13)

III. THE HIGH PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST (4:14–6:20)

1. Christ’s High Priesthood an Encouragement to His People (4:14–16)

2. Qualifications for High Priesthood (5:1–4)

3. Christ’s Qualifications for High Priesthood (5:5–10)

4. Third Admonition: Spiritual Immaturity (5:11–14)

5. No Second Beginning Possible (6:1–8)

6. Encouragement to Persevere (6:9–12)

7. The Steadfastness of God’s Promise (6:13–20)

IV. THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK (7:1–28)

1. Melchizedek the Priest-King (7:1–3)

2. The Greatness of Melchizedek (7:4–10)

3. Imperfection of the Aaronic Priesthood (7:11–14)

4. Superiority of the New Priesthood (7:15–19)

5. Superior because of the Divine Oath (7:20–22)

6. Superior because of its Permanence (7:23–25)

7. Superior because of the Character of Jesus (7:26–28)

V. COVENANT, SANCTUARY AND SACRIFICE (8:1–10:18)

1. Priesthood and Promise (8:1–7)

2. The Old Covenant Superseded (8:8–13)

3. The Sanctuary under the Old Covenant (9:1–5)

4. A Temporary Ritual (9:6–10)

5. Christ’s Eternal Redemption (9:11–14)

6. The Mediator of the New Covenant (9:15–22)

7. The Perfect Sacrifice (9:23–28)

8. The Old Order a Shadow of the Reality (10:1–4)

9. The New Order the Reality (10:5–10)

10. The Enthroned High Priest (10:11–18)

VI. CALL TO WORSHIP, FAITH AND PERSEVERANCE (10:19–12:29)

1. Access to God through the Sacrifice of Christ (10:19–25)

2. Fourth Admonition: The Wilful Sin of Apostasy (10:26–31)

3. Call to Perseverance (10:32–39)

4. The Faith of the Elders (11:1–40)

5. Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of Faith (12:1–3)

6. Discipline is for Sons (12:4–11)

7. Let Us Then be Up and Doing (12:12–17)

8. The Earthly Sinai and the Heavenly Zion (12:18–24)

9. Pay Heed to the Voice of God! (12:25–29)

VII. CONCLUDING EXHORTATION AND PRAYER (13:1–21)

1. Ethical Injunctions (13:1–6)

2. Examples to Follow (13:7–8)

3. The True Christian Sacrifices (13:9–16)

4. Submission to Leaders (13:17)

5. Request for Prayer (13:18–19)

6. Prayer and Doxology (13:20–21)

VIII. POSTSCRIPT (13:22–25)

1. Personal Notes (13:22–23)

2. Final Greetings and Benediction (13:24–25)

.

My problem with an outline like this is that it doesn’t tell me how he got to one point from another point. And how does labelling a point “Postscript” help me? Did biblical authors really write an outline like this first and then compose their material? If not, what “outline” did he use?

.

Here’s a more helpful one…

.

I. Exposition of the Person and Priesthood of Christ (1:1–10:18)

A. The Superior Person (1:1–3:6)

1. Superior to the Invisible Agents of Old Testament Revelation — Angels (1:1–2:18)

2. Superior to the Visible Agent of Old Testament Revelation — Moses (3:1–6)

B. The Superior Purpose — to Provide Redemption Rest (3:7–4:13)

C. The Superior Priesthood (4:14–8:5)

1. Thesis: Jesus Is a Priest with Credentials like Aaron’s (4:14–5:10)

2. Parenthesis: Before discussing Melchizedek, You Need Maturity, Not Apostasy (5:11–6:20)!

3. Thesis: Jesus Is a Priest with a Calling like Melchizedek’s (7:1–8:5)

D. The Superior Program (8:6–10:18)

1. The Superior Covenant (8:6–13)

2. The Superior Sanctuary and Service (9:1–10)

3. The Superior Sacrifice (9:11–10:18)

II. Exhortation to Persevering as Christians (10:19–13:25)

A. The Peril of Faithlessness Signaled (10:19–37)

B. The Principle of Faith Illustrated (10:38–12:4)

C. The Process of Faith’s Discipline (12:5–17)

D. The Peril of Faithlessness Signaled for the Last Time (12:18–29)

E. The Practices of the Faith Life Enumerated (13:1–25)[9]

.

And another…

Overview of Christological Argument of Hebrews

1. Superiority to Prophets: Because He is a Son (1:1-3)

[gives us the ‘why’ he is superior]

2. Superiority to Angels (1:4-2:18)

Because He is a Son (1:4-2:5)

Because He is a Man (2:5-18)

.

3. Superiority to Moses: Because He is a Son (3:1-4:16)

.

4. Superiority to the Old Testament (Covenant) (5-10)

Because He Represents a Better Priesthood (Melchizedekan)

Because He Mediates a Better Covenant (New)

Because He Ministers in a Better Tabernacle (Heavenly)

Because He Offers a Better Sacrifice (Himself)

.

Conclusion: Non-Negotiability of Faith and Fealty Toward Christ (10-13)

  • Because there is no other sacrifice (10:19-31)
  • Because you have evidenced a good profession (10:32-39)
  • Because it is your heritage (11:1-40)
  • Because of Jesus’ Example (12a)
  • Because of the privileges (12b)
  • Because of the consequences (12c)

.

Let’s turn to the various literary devices the author employs.

.

  1. Announcements of Subjects[10]

These are introductory statements that introduce the main topic under discussion. “I want to talk about ….” For example…

.

  • 1:4, “much better than the angels” (and he proceeds to talk about how Christ is much better than the angels)
  • 2:17, “that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest”
  • 5:9–10, “having been made perfect…designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek”
  • 10:36–39, “you have need of endurance…we are…those who have faith”
  • 12:11, “discipline…yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

.

  1. Inclusios

An inclusio sets apart a literary unit by using similar wording at the end of a section that was used at the beginning.

.

  • 1:5–13, for example, begins and ends with the phrase “to which of the angels?”
  • 3:1–4:14 (which begins and ends with “heaven[ly],” “Jesus,” “high priest,” and “confession”)
  • 5:1–10 (“high priest”)
  • 5:11–6:12 (“dull” or “sluggish,” νωθροί)
  • Many other examples…

.

  1. Hook Words

A hook word is a word at the beginning of a paragraph repeated from the end of the preceding paragraph which links or “hooks” the two units together in a smooth transition. This occurs in nearly every chapter in Hebrews. Some examples are as follows.

.

  • 1:4-5: angels (both at the end of v. 4 and in v. 5, angels are mentioned)
  • 2:13-14: children
  • 2:17-3:2: faithful
  • 2:17-3:1: high priest

.

.

  1. Characteristic Terms

These are terms that are repeated for emphasis within a particular section. This is not unique to the book of Hebrews.

.

For example, notice how many times “angel” occurs in the first two chapters (Bibleworks*).

.

  1. Alternation of Literary Genres

.

See Hebrews Comparison

Point: Notice how the author of Hebrews switches from Exposition to Exhortation

.

  1. Symmetrical Arrangements (i.e., Chiasmus)

Chiasmus is the figure of speech in which literary sections are related to each other through a reversal of structures in order to make a larger point. There are some examples of chiasmus in the book of Hebrews. However, this does not dominate the book.

.

c. The old worship, earthly and figurative (8:1–6)

b. The first covenant, imperfect and provisional (8:7–13)

a. The old and powerless institutions of worship (9:1–10)

A. The new, efficacious institutions (9:11–14)

B. The new covenant (9:15–23)

C. The entrance to heaven (9:24–28)

.

  1. Comparatives

What does dominate the book is the volume of comparatives. The author argues that the new revelation in Christ is superior to the old revelation. Note some examples in context.

.

“more excellent,” Heb. 1:4; 8:6

“lesser,” 7:7; cf. 2:7, 9

“better,” 1:4; 6:9; 7:7, 19, 22; 8:6 [twice]; 9:23; 10:34; 11:16, 35, 40; 12:24

“more,” 9:14; 10:25; 12:9, 13, 25

“greater,” 6:13, 16; 9:11; 11:26

“even more,” 6:17; 7:15

“all the more,” 2:1; 13:19

“more,” 3:3 [twice]; 7:23; 11:4

“more perfect,” 9:11

“sharper,” 4:12

“exalted, above,” 7:26

“severer,” 10:29

.

  1. Terms Denoting Finality

Other terms suggest that the author is arguing for the finality of the new revelation as compared with the old (e.g., “new,” “once,” “eternal/forever,” “perfect”).

.

E.g., Christ has established a New Covenant which has made the first obsolete (8:13; cf. 9:15). He has inaugurated a new way into God’s presence (10:20).

.

  1. A Fortiori Arguments

A fortiori means “argument from the stronger reason.” It is often employed in Hebrews with “how much more.”

.

E.g., “My 3 year old said that she lost her toy; ‘how much more’ is she not playing with it right now.”

.

Some of these could all be under 7 (above under Comparatives).

E.g., Heb. 2:1–3; 9:13–14; 10:28–29; 12:9, 25.

.

  1. Formal Contrast

The author of Hebrews makes clear contrasts using specific terminology.

He contrasted the angels and the Son of God in 1:7–8, angels and man in 2:5–6, fallen man and messianic man in 2:8–9, etc.

.

  1. Repeated Themes

(1) the origin of the ages (1:2; 11:3)

(2) exaltation (1:3; 4:14; 7:26; 8:1)

(3) high priest (2:17; 3:1–2; 4:14–15; 6:20; 7:26; 8:1; 9:11)

(4) holding fast (3:6; 3:14; 10:23)

(5) the promises (4:1; 6:11–12, 15, 17; 8:6; 9:15; 10:36; 11:9, 13, 17, 39).

.

Occasion and Purposes

The occasion is the story behind the letter and the purpose is the reason why the book was written.

.

Occasion

The following is a possibility for the occasion of the letter.

Paul died and Timothy was in prison (Hebrews 13:23). At this point, knowing their opponent was defeated, Judaizers would have gained strength and sought to win back the Jewish converts. Jewish Christians were thus tempted to turn back to Judaism. They were persecuted and were considering the ease of life of being a Jew vs. being a Christian. (Nero’s persecution was around this time.) But, really, who knows?

.

But why was the book written?

Purposes

  1. To warn [Jewish?] Christians against apostasy [back to Judaism?].
  2. A “word of exhortation” (13:22) for them to remember the superior excellence of Jesus Christ and to hold firmly to their confession of faith and trust in Him.

.

Doctrinal Center

It almost goes without saying that the book is all about Christ. When deciding on the doctrinal centre of the book, the debate is what about Christ is the focus.

.

However, at least for this class, we will conclude that the doctrinal centre of the book of Hebrews to be the “High priesthood of Christ” (Heb. 8:1). It’s a well-supported conclusion.

.

(1) The author explicitly states his theme: “Now the main point in what is being said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (8:1). The epistle centres on a seated priest.

(2) The author relates other themes to the theme of the priesthood. For example…

  1. The person of God is related to the sanctuary (8:1–2).
  2. God’s Son is described at length in priestly terminology.
  3. God’s angels are described 1:14, lit. “liturgic spirits.”
  4. Christ’s work is described in the language of priestly sacrifice (e.g., 9:12; 10:12).
  5. The application of Christ’s work is spoken of as forgiveness through blood (9:22).
  6. God’s people are described as those who in priestly fashion enter the holy of holies (10:19) and offer sacrifices of praise (13:15).
  7. The author’s eschatology is coloured by the fact that he understands the messianic ruler of “the world to come” (2:5) to be a priest-king (cf. 7:1–2).[11]

.

See Chronological Christology in Hebrews Outline for a fuller treatment.

.

Summary

ch. 1-2 (angels & Torah): Jesus superior to Angels. Deut. 33:2, Torah given through angels. Therefore, Jesus is superior to angels and His message is superior to the Torah.

  • Jesus is superior to angels through whom came the Torah.
  • The Torah was unalterable and sin was punished.
  • Therefore, how much more will we be punished if we neglect the Son’s salvation.

.

ch.3-4 (Moses & Promised Land): Jesus superior to Moses. Moses served among God’s people, Christ served over God’s people.

  • Jesus is greater than Moses.
  • The Israelites rebelled in the wilderness and were not allowed to enter the ‘rest’ of the Promised Land.
  • Therefore, how much more will we come short of the ‘rest’ b/c of unbelief.

.

ch. 5-7 (Priests & Melchizedek): Jesus’ priesthood (Melchizedek) is superior to Aaronic priesthood. Human priests are appointed by men; Christ was appointed by the Father, after Melchizedek. Melchizedek is greater than Aaron’s priesthood since Melchizedek collected tithes from Abraham. This is challenging to understand, but you should leave elementary teachings about Christ and press on because those who are enlightened and fall away aren’t renewed to repentance.

  • Melchizedek is greater than Aaron.
  • Jesus is of Melchizedek (Gen. 14; Ps. 110).
  • Jesus’ priesthood is greater than Aaron’s.
  • Because this is challenging, press on proving you are redeemed.

.

ch. 8-10 (sacrifice & covenant):Jesus Christ High Priest ministers in a better sanctuary, offering a better sacrifice, on a better covenant.

  • Jesus is superior to OT sacrifice and covenant.
  • There is no mercy for those who set aside Moses’ law
  • How much more those who trample under foot the Son of God?

.

ch. 11-13 (Examples of those who don’t fall away; endure persecution; various commands)

Jesus is God’s very word, who ushers us into God’s rest, our Great High Priest who because He offered a better sacrifice, ministers in a better sanctuary through a better covenant. Because of the peril of falling away, examples of those who trust in the midst of suffering are given (ch.11) with (ch. 12) exhortation to endure persecution : Discipline shows you’re children of God, pursue peace, etc. Do this because you haven’t come to Sinai/Moses, but Jesus/Zion. Don’t refuse Him!

.

  • They didn’t escape who refused earthly warning.
  • Much less will they escape who refuse warnings from heaven.

.

(ch. 13) Christians exhorted on love, being led astray, separation from legalism/Judaism, true sacrifices, obeying leaders, prayer request, and closing remarks.

.

Message

Combining the purposes and the doctrinal centre for the book of Hebrews, we arrive at the message of the book, which is …

.

.

Keep Faith in Jesus, Son of God, Great High Priest,

Because He Exceeds All Else

.

  1. P. E. Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews

  2. Ibid.,1

  3. Ibid., 35

  4. Donald Hagner, Encountering the Book of Hebrews, 20.

  5. William Lane, Hebrews 1-8, vol. 47A, WBC, ed. Ralph P. Martin (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991), xlvii.

  6. G.K. Beale, Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament, “Hebrews,”919.

  7. E.F. Scott, The Epistle to the Hebrews: Its Doctrine and Significance, 1.

  8. Ellingworth, P. (1993). The Epistle to the Hebrews : A commentary on the Greek text (28). Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle [England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.

  9. Vol. 9: Emmaus Journal Volume 9. 2000 (1) (95–96). Dubuque, IA: Emmaus Bible College.

  10. Some of these from Albert Vanhoye, A Structured Translation of the Epistle to the Hebrews, trans. James Swetnam (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1964), pp. 3-7.

  11. MacLeod, David, “The Doctrinal Center of the Book of Hebrews.” Vol. 146: Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 146. 1989 (583) (290). Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary.

108 views
108 views
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap