Saturday, February 17, 2018

8. Superior Sanctuary and Sacrifice (Hebrews 8:1-10:18)

See bottom.

2. A Superior Sacrifice and Sanctuary (8:1-10:18)

     a. The Main Point (8:1-2)
  • Nice that Hebrews tells us what the main point of its argument is. The main point is that we have a great high priest.
  • Jesus is high priest in a heavenly sanctuary rather than an earthly one. There are four basic approaches to the sanctuary in Hebrews: 1) a Platonic archetype (few would accept this option even if Hebrews may use some quasi-Platonic language; 2) an actual structure (like Jewish apocalyptic literature--commands a lot of support right now although I am very unconvinced); 3) the temple of the cosmos (this comes closest to any literal referent on the part of the author; 4) a somewhat shifting metaphor (my choice).
  • I assume the "Lord" here is God the Father, who made all things (3:4).
     b. Mediator of a New Covenant (8:3-13)
  • 8:3. Reiterates the function of a high priest--to offer gifts and sacrifices.
  • 8:4. If Jesus were on earth, he would not be a priest because he is not descended from Levi. He is a heavenly high priest.
  • 8:5. This is the key verse for those who argue for a Platonic tabernacle in heaven as the archetype for the earthly sanctuary. The verse is often translated "copy" and "shadow." But the argument for "copy" is very weak. The word has the sense of an example (cf. 4:11). So the heavenly sanctuary is a "shadowy example."
  • Moses does make the earthly sanctuary after the "type" shown him in the mountain, but we are not told how exact a correspondence there is between heavenly pattern and earthly antitype.
  • It should also be mentioned that Philo mixes to together Exodus 25:40 and 25:9 together in the same exact way that Hebrews does here.
  • 8:6. The new covenant is superior to the old covenant, and Jesus is the mediator of it.
  • 8:7. It would be wrong to think that God only instituted the new covenant because the first covenant failed, even though one could take the verse this way. Jesus was always the plan.
  • 8:8-12. This is the longest Old Testament quote in the New Testament. It is re-quoted in an inclusio in 10:16-17. The key points reiterated are about putting God's laws on our hearts and remembering our sins no more. This would seem to be the main points of the quote, aside from the idea of a new covenant itself.
  • 8:13. This verse places us in the "now" and "not yet." The old is disappearing but we still are on earth. The new has started but is not yet fully here. What is sure is that the old Levitical system is disappearing. This verse does not prove that the temple is still standing because few Jews would have thought the temple was gone forever at this time. After all, it was rebuilt after the Babylonians destroyed it.
     c. The Two Atonement Systems (9:1-28)
  • 9:1-5. This paragraph contrasts with 9:6-10 by way of a "men-de" construction in Greek ("on the one hand," "on the other"). The first paragraph describes the contents of the earthly wilderness tabernacle.
  • 9:2. Curiously, Hebrews speaks of the two rooms of the tabernacle as the "first tent" and the "second tent." Quite possibly, this language sets up the allegory the author will make in 9:6-10, where the first tent is removed to make clear the way into the second.
  • 9:5 says that "it is not now to speak in detail." The author could mean that these items are not around any more to know in detail. Perhaps more likely, the author could say quite a bit more about the allegorical meaning of these items, but now is not the time to do so.
  • 9:4 puts the altar of incense inside the veil, which is not its location in the Old Testament. However, if this altar relates to prayers, then the author may be signifying that prayer still relates to the new covenant.
  • 9:6-10. This paragraph now talks about the operations of the wilderness tabernacle at their allegorical significance. 
  • 9:6-7. Regular priests went into the first tent continually. But once a year, the high priest alone went into the second tent. Here we hear an allusion once again to the "many" versus "singular" contrast of Christ with the old covenant.
  • 9:7. "Sins committed in ignorance" is a reminder that the atonement system was not really set up for intentional sins. So the audience was "enlightened" when they came to Christ (6:4). There is no particular atonement for those who continue to sin willfully after receiving a knowledge of the truth (10:26).
  • 9:8. Now we get the allegorical significance of the two tents, the two rooms to the tabernacle, revealed by way of the Holy Spirit. The way of the Most Holy Place, the way into God's presence, is not apparent while the first tent, the first room to the sanctuary, is still standing. The first tent seems to represent the first covenant, the Levitical system, perhaps the created realm. Perhaps it represents the "first tent" as the first tabernacle itself.
  • 9:9. Here is the clear connection of the first room of the tent to this present age. The author also reiterates that the earthly Levitical system was not actually able to take away sins. It was not able to "perfect the conscience" of the one worshiping. 
  • Perfection of humans in Hebrews again means to cleanse them of sin (see 10:1-2). 
  • The conscience in Hebrews is a consciousness of sins (see 10:2-3). It is like a sin "inbox." When your conscience is cleansed or perfected in Hebrews, there are no emails in your inbox.
  • 9:10. Hebrews connects the earthly atonement system to mere external cleansing of the body.
  • 9:11-14. Having presented the earthly tabernacle and its operation, Hebrews now proceeds to contrast it with the priestly accomplishment of Jesus.
  • 9:11. Jesus is a high priest of "good things that have come to be." This is in contrast to the Law, which had a "shadow of good things about to be" (10:1).
  • The expression, "made with hands" is used twice in this chapter (9:11, 24). 8:2 had emphasized that the Lord is the one who pitched the true tent. Also significance is the fact that the true tent is "not of this creation."
  • "through the greater and more perfect tent" could be spatial (he went through the outer room) but is more likely instrumental or modal (by way of the greater and more perfect tent).
  • 9:12. This verse completes a chiasm: a) through, b) not, c) not, d) through.
  • The reference to heavenly "holies" does not seem to picture a two-part structure in heaven. Rather, the highest heaven itself is the heavenly Most Holy Place.
  • 9:13. The earthly system could only cleanse the flesh, the body. But the blood of Christ is effective to purify the conscience, actually to take away sins.
  • 9:14. Christ's offering was "through eternal spirit." It does not seem likely that the author wants us to picture Christ taking blood into heaven. Could it be that it is the nature of Christ's eternal spirit that makes his sacrifice superior?
  • 9:15-22. This paragraph returns to a theme introduced in 8:6--Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, a covenant that is based in the promises of God. 
  • 9:15. Redemption is connected to Christ's death here. Redemption is liberation from the paying of some price or ransom. The redemption has to do with transgressions "in the first covenant." This reminds us that Christ's atonement, for Hebrews, was not meant to target sins Christians might commit going forward. It was meant for the sins of the past.
  • 9:16-17. In these verses, Hebrews shifts from one meaning of diatheke to another. The word primarily means "covenant," but it can also mean a "will" or "testament." Paul does the same thing in Galatians 3:15. Jesus' "will" goes into effect after he dies.
  • 9:18-21. These verses have to do with the inauguration of the two covenants. The first covenant was inaugurated with blood sacrifices. 
  • There is some amalgamation of different Old Testament sacrifices here. For example, the red heifer and hyssop rituals had to do with skin impurities. The implication is that the many and various sacrifices under the old covenant all find their fulfillment in Christ.
  • 9:22. Here is the bottom line. The old covenant required blood to be shed for forgiveness to take place. However, 10:4 will take away this sentiment with the other hand. Ultimately, the author of Hebrews does not believe that any Old Testament sacrifice actually took way sins. They were merely anticipations of the one offering of Christ.
  • 9:23-28. Now the contrast. If the earthly sanctuary had to be inaugurated with sacrifices, so the new sanctuary did as well. The word "examples" (hypodeigma) is used again. It does not mean "copy" but something more like "illustration."
  • It is an awkward image, for surely nothing in heaven actually needs cleansed! It is perhaps another hint that the idea of a heavenly sanctuary is ultimately metaphorical. There is no literal structure in heaven that needs cleansed. We are talking about the cleansing of human consciences.
  • 9:24. Christ did not enter a hand made sanctuary (cheiropoites again) but into heaven itself. This is an argument that entering the heavenly sanctuary is more or less the metaphorical equivalent of entering heaven.
  • Christ now appears before the face of God for us, a tie back to passages like 4:14-16.
  • 9:25-26. Again, the "many versus one" theme appears, a recapitulation of verses like 7:27.
  • 9:26. Mention of need for suffering since the foundation of the world may be hyperbole, but it shows the close association the author makes between the creation itself and the need for atonement. He is not Gnostic, but you can see how it could develop.
  • 9:27-28. We die and then are judged. So Christ died and will have a "second coming" in judgment. The parallelism here places Jesus' offering at the time of his death. But his second coming is to bring salvation to those who are awaiting him.
     d. System Replaced! (10:1-18)
  • These verses finish the central argument of the sermon, ending with an inclusio in 10:16-17 that recapitulates the quote of Jeremiah in Hebrews 8.
  • 10:1. The bottom line is that the Jewish Law only had foreshadowings of the realities in Christ. However, they were not an exact image of Christ.
  • 10:1-2. These two verses get us a fair view of what perfection means in Hebrews in relation to a human. The second verse implies that to be perfected means that sins are cleansed and there is no more sin.
  • 10:2-3. These two verses make it clear what the conscience is for Hebrews. It is the faculty of the mind that "remembers" sins. It is closer to "consciousness" than to the popular sense of an angel and a devil on your shoulders. You might liken it to a sin inbox. It says, "You've got sin." When the conscience is cleansed, all the sin emails are deleted. You are clean.
  • 10:4. Here is the bottom line that the sacrifices themselves in the Old Testament were not able to take away sins. Only Jesus' sacrifice is.
  • 10:5-10. These verses indicate the complete replacement of the Levitical system.
  • 10:5-7. This quote of Psalm 40 is taken to be a prophecy of sorts of the replacement of the Levitical system with the singular sacrifice of Christ. Jesus is pictured speaking the psalm as he comes into the world.
  • The text quoted here follows the Septuagint ("a body you prepared for me") versus the original Hebrew text ("my ears you have opened"). It is key evidence that the author was a Greek-speaker who did not know Hebrew.
  • 10:8-9. Here is the midrashic interpretation. Jesus' body replaces the sacrifices of the Levitical system.
  • 10:10. The offering of Christ's body on the cross we have been sanctified. The sanctification is complete and the sanctified state is continuing.
  • 10:11-18. The central argument closes with recapitulation and summarization. 
  • 10:11-12. None of the sacrifices of the old covenant could actually take away sins. But Jesus is done. He has taken his seat (session) at God's right hand, another allusion to Psalm 110:1.
  • 10:13. As he sits, Christ waits for his enemies to be made a footstool for his feet. In contrast to Hebrews 1 Corinthians 15:26 indicates that death is the last enemy. Hebrews probably has in mind the judgment (cf. 10:27).
  • 10:14. Here is truly the bottom line of the entire theological argument of Hebrews. With one offering, Jesus has accomplished perfection, with is the sanctification of sins, their cleansing. 
  • "Those who are being sanctified" is not talking about continual or progressive sanctification. It refers to the collection of individuals sanctified. "Here one is sanctified." "There one was sanctified." "People are being sanctified." In Hebrews, sanctification is a one time event that is to remain completed once it occurs.
  • 10:15-17. Here is the repeat of Jeremiah 31, showing the the key point of interest, beyond the new covenant in general, is the forgiveness of sins and the writing of God's Law on the heart, presumably through the Holy Spirit.
  • 10:15. The Holy Spirit is the one who speaks in a living way through Scripture.
  • 10:18. Again, there is supposed to be a finality of a need for atonement and forgiveness. Once we are cleansed there should be no more sins to cleanse. The offering of Jesus takes care of it.

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)

II. The Argument (3:1-10:18)
     A. Enter into God's Rest (3:1-4:13)

     B. The High Priestly Argument (4:14-10:18)
          1. A Superior Priest (4:14-7:28)
               a. Hold Fast (4:14-16)
               b. Appointed High Priest (5:1-10)
               c. Central Exhortation (5:11-6:20)
               d. The Order of Melchizedek (7:1-28)

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