Friday, February 19, 2010

Hebrews in Bullets

I told my students I might find myself unable not to go ahead and boil the first four chapters of Hebrews into bullets, especially since the first test is Tuesday.

Schenck thoughts on Hebrews 1-4:

Introduction (1:1-4)
  • contrast between former age and current age in verses 1-2.
  • contrast between the many and the one
  • "in these last days" an allusion to Jeremiah and the age of the new covenant
  • Son at beginning and end of creation in 1:2 (but is language of agency in creation literal or figurative for Christ as God's wisdom?)
  • "reflection of glory," "image of substance" probable allusion to Wisdom 7:26
  • timing of becoming greater than angels in 1:4 is time of Christ's exaltation to God's right hand (had been lower than them--2:9)
Christ versus Angels (1:5-14)
  • Inherited name of 1:4 probably Son, because that's what Hebrews goes on to discuss, a royal title, "Son of God"
  • Timing of Jesus most literally receiving the name, "Son," is at the time of exaltation, at the point of enthronement
  • 1:6 probably refers to the exaltation as well, not Jesus' birth or parousia
  • 1:7 is in a contrasting relationship with 1:8-12. The main points are 1) that angels' role is transitory; Jesus' is permanent and 2) angels are servants; Christ is king ("God")
  • Angels were old age/old covenant ministers (1:14)
Take Heed (2:1-4)
  • Exhortations in Hebrews are the logical consequences of the exposition, so these verses are a logical inference from 1:5-14).
  • Point here: You better watch out! Those who disobeyed the word spoken through angels (Law) got it; those who neglect Christ's word--watch out!
  • Lesser to greater argument (qal wahomer)--throughout Hebrews
  • Law spoken through angels (compare Acts 7 and Galatians)
  • Author puts himself as a second tier Christian in 2:3--heard from those who heard Jesus. This verse alone makes it very unlikely that Paul wrote Hebrews (style and thought would also be different from Paul)
  • Audience experienced charismatic events at founding (2:4)
Humanity's Problem/Jesus' Solution (2:5-18)
  • First thought at 2:5 is that the author is talking about Christ rather than angels as the one who will rule in the coming world.
  • But 2:6-8 then talks about humanity. Sounds like humanity was supposed to rule the world. Schenck thinks something like the thinking of Rom. 3:23 stands in the background here--humanity was intended for glory, but we do not see humanity with glory because all have sinned and are lacking the glory of God.
  • No evidence the author thinks of "Son of Man" as a Christological title in 2:6.
  • Hebrews has a tendency to distance the biblical text from its human authors. "Someone, somewhere" has said (2:6). It's not that Hebrews doesn't know. It's that it emphasizes God and the Holy Spirit (and Christ) as the inspired speakers of Scripture.
  • Jesus mentioned for the first time by name at 2:9. The word order builds to his name, first recapitulating the human situation (made lower than the angels for a little while)
  • Jesus tastes death for all to lead many sons to glory, as the original intent was (2:9-10)
  • 2:10 distinguishes God as agent of creation from Jesus, supporting the idea that 1:3 is figurative when it speaks of Jesus as agent of creation.
  • Perfection in relation to Jesus has to do with completeness in relation to his salvific task (2:10).
  • Rest of the chapter emphasizes the solidarity of Christ with humanity--he is just like us (except without sin).
  • Devil as the one holding the power of death; death as the obstacle to glory.
  • 2:17-18 may be key verses of the sermon. First time high priest is mentioned.
Christ versus Moses (3:1-6)
  • May begin the argument proper of the letter (3:1-10:18). Consideration of Jesus as high priest begins, although it is frequently interrupted by exhortation. The thread, however, goes 3:1-6; 4:14-5:10; 7:1-10:18.
  • Comparison of Jesus' faithfulness to Moses' faithfulness to our need for faithfulness the key theme of chapter 3, along with the implied contrast between how much worse it will be if we neglect Jesus than it was for those who did not heed Moses.
  • House used in two ways in this section, of a household and of a house building.
  • God as creator again distinguished from Jesus, again supporting the idea that 1:3 is figurative when it calls Jesus the agent of creation.
  • Moses is a servant; Christ is a Son.
  • We only remain part of Christ's household if we hold fast in faith. This is one of two signature ideas in Hebrews--it is essential to hold fast to the end in order to be saved.
The Wilderness Generation (3:7-19)
  • Switch back to exhortation--holds attention; what follows is an implication of the contrast of Christ with Moses in 3:1-6. If what follows happened to those who disregarded Moses, then what will happen to those who disregard Christ?
  • NT generally does not stick close to the original meanings of OT passages. One must not therefore bring any more of the OT context into one's interpretation than is demanded by the context of the NT passage (at least when aiming at the original meaning of the NT passage).
  • The point of the comparison is well captured by the perfect tense of 3:14--"We have become (and remain) partakers of the Christ if indeed we hold fast." The ongoing state of being a partaker is contingent on holding fast. The wilderness generation did not hold fast and so didn't enter Canaan. Their corpses fell in the desert because of their disbelief.
Entering Rest (4:1-11)
  • So there remains a "rest" for the people of God just as Canaan was initially a possibility for the wilderness generation. The parallel demands that we take this rest ultimately in relation to final salvation.
  • The author wants the audience to contrast with the wilderness generation. They did not enter; they can if they remain faithful. They did not have faith.
  • The catchword method of midrash used--Psalm 40 speaks of entering God's rest. Genesis 2 speaks of God resting. The two passages are brought together by the catchword (gezerah shewa). Obviously this is taking these texts out of context, but it's not a problem for ancient Jewish exegesis.
  • Although the ultimate rest is at final salvation, we also, in another sense, enter God's rest every day, "Today." Every today we must make a decision for faith and endurance or we will fall like the wilderness generation. The rest is thus both present and future.
The Sword of the Word (4:12-13)
  • The word is neither Christ nor the Bible here. It is God's will in action, in accordance with much Jewish background literature. Possible allusion to Wisdom 18 where God's word leaps from heaven with a sword to judge the Egyptians' firstborn.
  • The focus in these verses remains on God's judgment to those who do not remain faithful. God sees everything and will judge those who do not hold fast in faith.
  • The mention of soul and spirit may speak a tripartite division of the human person for the author of Hebrews--very rare in the New Testament. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 is probably the only other place with that conception (so Christians shouldn't consider it a "biblical" view of a person--it is just one picture, incarnated in just one ancient psychology).

1 comment:

Caleb Landis said...

Am I to take this as a study guide or are you sending us another one via email?