Tuesday, January 16, 2018

3. Concentrated Hebrews (2:1-18)

So far in this series:

I. Sermon Introduction (1:1-2:18)
     A. Exordium (1:1-4)
     B. Celebration of the Enthroned Son (1:5-14)
C. Background of Salvation (2:1-18)
     1. exhortation interruption 1 (2:1-4)
  • 2:1-4 is an interruption of the flow of teaching (the exposition) with a warning to the audience (exhortation). Hebrews regularly alternates between teaching and preaching. This helps keep the attention of the audience.
  • 2:2-3. The argument is a "lesser to greater" argument (also known as a qal wahomer argument in Hebrew or an a minore ad minore argument in Latin, also an a fortiori argument). The sense is that if you were punished for disobeying the old covenant, you will really be punished for ignoring the new one. 
  • This goes against the Protestant sensibilities of many. This is not "in the new covenant we get away with things we didn't get away with in the old." Rather, the sense is that we should be much more careful in the new than the old, because the stakes are higher. The punishment for disobeying the new covenant--for the people of God--is even greater than the punishment was for Israel in the old covenant.
  • 2:2. The idea that angels mediated the Law to Moses is mentioned three times in the New Testament (here, Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19).
  • 2:3. This verse does not sound like Paul. Paul typically argued that he received his revelation directly from the Lord and that he was a first tier apostle. This verse seems to put the author in a second tier.
  • 2:4. We remember that miracles, signs, and wonders were a regular feature of the early church.
     2. the story of salvation
  • 2:5-18 gives us the logic of salvation, the background to the subsequent argument, a general sense of why atonement was necessary.
  • 2:5-9 seems to have the following train of thought: 1) God created humanity to have glory and honor in the creation but 2) humanity does not have this status--all things are not under its feet. The reason for this fact may be found in Romans 3:23--"All have sinned and are lacking the glory of God." 3) Therefore Jesus became human to fulfill this destiny. 4) Having suffered death for everyone, he can finally lead humanity to glory.
  • The logic of these verses seems to match the inner logic of Paul, perhaps suggesting that the author of Hebrews had some connection to the Pauline circle. The mention of Timothy in 13:23 may support this sense. 
  • 2:5. Some take these verses purely Christologically--solely in reference to Jesus. However, the inner logic, not to mention the original meaning of Psalm 8, suggests that humanity in general is first in view. This fact implies that humans will rule in the coming age alongside Jesus and that they will be superior to angels like Christ.
  • 2:9. Jesus tasted death potentially for everyone. This seems to connect with the fact that Jesus has defeated the Devil, the one with the power of death (2:14).
  • 2:10-13. These verses indicate the solidarity of Jesus with humanity, another indication that humanity has been in view with the quoting of Psalm 8.
  • 2:10. The perfection of Jesus in Hebrews has to do with him being made complete in relation to his ability to function as a priest and sacrifice. He is "locked and loaded" to bring atonement through his suffering.
  • God is the one for whom and through whom all things exist.
  • 2:11. Jesus sanctifies. He sanctifies, which has a sense here of purifying and cleansing, through his blood.
  • 2:12. This verse quotes Psalm 22, which was a highly generative psalm for the earliest Christians, likely having been quoted by Jesus from the cross. We are not surprised then that the author of Hebrews heard verse 22 on the lips of Jesus.
  • 2:13. A key take-away here is that Jesus had faith in God just as we are to put faith in him.
  • 2:14. This is Hebrews' incarnation verse. Jesus took on blood and flesh. 
  • This is the Christus Victor angle on atonement. Jesus defeated the Devil with his death.
  • There may be a "last Adam" logic in the background here like Romans 5. Death entered the world through Adam. Jesus frees us from death.
  • 2:16 is a curious verse that makes us think back to Hebrews 1. Were some in the audience suggesting that Jesus had come as an angel? Are there hints of early Gnosticism here or the precedents of Gnosticism? Were some of the audience worshiping angels as in one interpretation of Colossians 2:18 (not mine, actually)? At the very least, Hebrews associates angels with the administration of the old covenant. I am open to the possibility that the church was experiencing some rumblings of an angel Christology.
  • "Seed of Abraham" probably includes Gentiles here. Otherwise Hebrews would seem to exclude Gentiles from salvation. This suggests a time after Paul when this question was no longer much in play--at least not for the author and audience. Earlier, Paul has to argue that Gentiles are part of the seed of Abraham (Rom. 4:16). Hebrews assumes it. So once again, we have a connection to Paul but seemingly an extension of Paul, post-Pauline situation. I think it is a minor data point toward a Gentile audience--that Gentiles can be included and assumed to be in the seed of Abraham without comment or argument.
  • 2:17-18. These may very well be the key verses of Hebrews. It is also the first mention of Jesus as high priest in the sermon. 
  • These verses imply that Jesus was fully human. He identifies with human suffering and temptation. We therefore have a priest who sympathizes with us.

1 comment:

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for this, and, again, for the series.