Monday, January 15, 2018

1. Concentrated Hebrews (1:1-4)

A couple months back I blogged my study notes on Romans. Who knows? I may self-publish them as a study Bible someday. These notes relate to the content I teach in relation to the book.

This semester I'm teaching Hebrews and General Epistles. So here is the beginning of concentrated notes on Hebrews.
1. Hebrews 1:1-4
  • Hebrews does not begin like a letter. It does not tell us its author or audience. In fact, Hebrews has numerous uncertainties: 1) unknown author, 2) uncertain destination, 3) uncertain ethnicity of recipients, 4) unknown point of origin, 4) uncertain date, 5) debated reasons for writing.
  • A majority of Hebrews experts are comfortable with a sense that this document is a "sent sermon," that is, a sermon that was sent to its destination as a letter. 
  • These verses are the introduction to the sermon, sometimes called the "exordium" or the "proemium" of Hebrews.
  • They are one sentence in Greek, one of the most beautiful Greek sentences in the New Testament. The style is generally called a "periodic" style for its balance and beauty.
  • 1:1-2. The first few words use the same letter in Greek five times (p sound), a literary feature known as "assonance."
  • The first two verses divide up all of history into two ages. "Formerly" and "these last days." Formerly, God spoke to the fathers through the prophets. In these last days, God has spoken to us through a Son. In the former age, God spoke in many and various ways. In these last days, God spoke in one way--through his Son.
  • "The last days" is a category of the prophets, especially Jeremiah. We are meant to connect this phrase to the age of the new covenant as in Jeremiah 31, which is quoted in Hebrews 8.
  • The term, "Son" is a royal term in addition to being a familial term. The primary sense of Jesus' sonship in Hebrews 1 is that of king, "Son of God," as well as heir. 
  • Jesus stands at the beginning and end of history. He is the heir of all things at the end of history, but he is also the one "through whom God made the worlds." Given that Hebrews more typically speaks of God as creator (2:10; 3:4; 11:3). This suggests that 1:2 is speaking somewhat metaphorically of Jesus as creator, probably likening him to God's wisdom (see verse 3).
  • 1:3. Some might suggest this material as hymnic or brought in from somewhere else because of the formulaic "who" followed by poetic statements about Jesus. However, it is also possible that the author himself composed it.
  • It seems certain that the author was male because of the masculine singular participle in 11:32.
  • Jesus is the "reflection of glory" and "stamp of substance." The second item is passive (stamp) suggesting the first is "reflection" rather than "radiance." The first statement is likely an allusion to Wisdom 7:26, where it also arguably has a sense of reflection. The fact that Wisdom 7:26 is talking about God's wisdom supports the sense that 1:2 has God's wisdom as the agent of creation in view.
  • "bringing all things by the word of his power" may be an allusion to the logos, also an agent of creation in Jewish logos speculation. "Bringing" may have a sense of new creation.
  • "he sat on the right hand of Majesty" - an allusion to Psalm 110:1 and Jesus' "session" at God's right hand when he had finished his atoning work, "having made a purification for sins."
  • 1:4. "having become greater than the angels." Jesus became lower than the angels for a little while (2:9) when he "partook of blood and flesh" (2:14). Now that he has accomplished atonement, he has been exalted above them.
  • He as much greater than the angels as his inherited name. This inherited title would seem to be "Son," as we will see in the next verse (1:5). It is the title of a king.


Martin LaBar said...

That's concentrated, all right! Thanks.

Martin LaBar said...

P. S. Just once, I checked. I don't seem to have shown up on the feed list at the right of your blog. Perhaps because I use a VPN. Perhaps for some other reason.