Monday, February 26, 2018

5.1 Fully Human, Fully Divine

1. The central tenets of the Nicene Creed and Chalcedonian definition are that 1) God is three distinct persons but one substance and 2) Jesus is one person with two natures. Further, Jesus' human nature is not trivial. His temptations were real, meaning that there was a genuine tension between his human desires and his divine will.

These positions represent four centuries of Christian debate and discussion about who Jesus actually was. Along the way, the following perspectives at some point were deemed false teachings:
  • Docetism/Gnosticism: Believed that Jesus only seemed to be human but did not truly take on human flesh
  • Ebionites: Believed Jesus was a prophet but not divine
  • Adoptionism: Belief that Jesus was "adopted" as God's Son either at his baptism or resurrection
  • Modalism/Sabellianism: Belief that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all one person changing "modes."
  • Arianism: Believed that Jesus was the first and most exalted creation but not of one substance with God the Father
  • Apollinarism: Belief that Jesus had a human body but a divine mind
  • Nestorianism: presented Jesus' humanness and divinity as so distinct that Jesus almost seemed to be two persons
  • Eutychianism: considered Christ's humanity as so insignificant that Jesus might just as well only have one nature (monophysitism)
  • Monothelitism: A sense that Jesus only had one will, a divine will
Clearly there was a desire on the part of the early Christians to see Jesus as truly and fully human while also being truly and fully divine.

2. In addition to these dead ends in the deliberations of some four hundred years, we have to take into account the original meanings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These are our primary sources and indeed, the true centers of a biblical theology of Jesus. To what extent were the conclusions of the early church in continuity with the perspectives of the biblical authors?

There are many points at which the message of the Bible can be true regardless of historical questions. For example, whether Daniel reflects the voice of a sixth century prophet or an anonymous voice from the second century BC, it presents truth. What that truth is may be slightly different because the context turns out to be different. But the truthfulness of the text arguably is not in question.

By contrast, the historical nature of Jesus is material to the truth of Christianity itself. Christianity does not rise or fall on the question of whether the book of Jonah is a novella of sorts or a historical story. But Christianity as we know it is simply not true if Jesus never really existed. If Bultmann were right and Christianity were only a myth of authentic existence, it would not be Christianity any more in any substantial sense.

For these reasons, the historical Jesus matters. From the standpoint of historic Christianity, it matters whether the human Jesus was the second person of the Trinity incarnate. It is not enough to give these texts a theological interpretation that fits with later Christian orthodoxy. There must be a historical foundation here that supports that orthodoxy.

3. Quick overview of source criticism of the Gospels
  • Most scholars have concluded that Mark was the first of the four Gospels.
  • Most scholars have concluded that Matthew used Mark as its primary source. Matthew must then have some other source as well, especially for a lot of Jesus' teaching.
  • The idea of a source of Jesus' sayings (often called Q) remains common, although this hypothesis has lost a great deal of ground. I continue to think that Papias' description of the Gospel of Matthew sounds more like Q than the Greek Gospel of Matthew we have.
  • Luke is thought to have used Mark as a source and then either a) Q as well, the traditional view, b) Matthew and Mark, the Goodacre view, or c) Matthew, Mark, and Q (my hunch).
  • The reason why Goodacre has not convinced me is that Luke's versions of many sayings, as well as its distributed packaging of the sayings, seems less edited than Matthew's. 
  • John is clearly a Gospel of a different color. Unlike the Synoptics it has no exorcisms, no parables, is filled with signs when Mark says Jesus will give none, doesn't mention the temptation, doesn't say the Last Supper is a Passover meal, proclaims Jesus' identity openly as opposed to keeping it a secret, doesn't talk much about the kingdom of God or the final judgment, emphasizes faith in Jesus himself while the other Gospels focus more on faith in the good news of God's kingdom, etc.
  • Clement of Alexandria called John a "spiritual Gospel." It is clearly far more symbolic in its presentation of Jesus than the other Gospels.
4. Jesus' Divine Attributes
I would suggest the following negotiation of orthodoxy with the biblical texts to form a biblical theology of Jesus that is both orthodox and yet exegetically justifiable:
  • Jesus "presented" as a real human being. In other words, in his early life he did not present as omniscient, omnipotent, or omnipresent. Mark 13:32 unashamedly indicates that the early Jesus did not know the day of his own return.
  • The understanding of Jesus developed over time in the decades after his death. The Gospel of John reflects a more advanced understanding than we find anywhere else in the New Testament. This fact confirms that Jesus "presented" as a true human.
  • Yet a kenotic approach is technically unorthodox. Jesus cannot be of one substance with the Father and cease to have any of his divine attributes. Therefore, we must conclude that Jesus had omniscience while on earth but did not use it. He was omnipotent but did not use his power.
  • There is much to commend a view that Jesus relied on the Holy Spirit while on earth in order to show us both what true humanity is and what is possible for all humanity through the power of the Holy Spirit. This approach fits with very common NT language that speaks of God doing things through Jesus rather than speaking of Jesus himself doing them.

Previous "chapters"
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation
Chapter 4: Sin and Atonement
Interlude: A Theology of Israel

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Explanatory Notes on Hebrews

I have now completed Explanatory Notes on Romans, Galatians (see also here), Philippians, 1 Thessalonians...

And here is Hebrews:

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

III. The Application (10:19-12:29)
     A. You Need Endurance (10:19-39)
     B. Witnesses of Faith (11:1-40)
     C. Run the Race (12:1-29)

IV. Letter Conclusion (13:1-25)

11. Conclusion to Hebrews (13:1-25)

IV. Letter Conclusion (13:1-25)
  • Although Hebrews was probably a short sermon or homily, it ends like a letter. The final chapter gives us just a few more tantalizing hints of the sermon's context.
  • 13:1-6. This section has miscellaneous admonitions that might go with any letter to a body of Christians. 
  • 13:1. They should love each other. 
  • 13:2. They should show hospitality to people they do not know. Clearly the Christian love ethic not only applied to other believers but to everyone. Hospitality was a core value of the ancient world where traveling was often very dangerous. Modern Westerners are sometimes blind to this value, downplay it, or even make fun of it. But this is sheer ignorance of the ancient world. Anyone who does not hear this dimension of the Sodom/Gomorrah story in Genesis 19 or the story of the Levite and his concubine in Judges 19 is an incompetent interpreter.
  • The mention of angels here may actually suggest an allusion to the Sodom and Gomorrah story. It was not only Jews who believed that heavenly beings sometimes disguised themselves as human beings and walked the earth. The Baucis/Philemon story in Ovid is an example, and it is quite possible that Acts 14 involves this story. Certainly there are many stories of individuals today who have wondered if helpers who have come along under unusual circumstances might have been angels.
  • 13:3. We hear later in the chapter that Timothy is about to be released from prison (13:23), so praying and caring for those in prison and being tortured was not just an irrelevant comment. 13:7 seems to indicate that earlier leaders of the audience had died for their faith.
  • 13:4. Marriage is to be honored. The sexually immoral and adulterers are singled out for God's judgment. It is not entirely clear what sexual immorality is in view. The individuals in question are presumably married, so the author could refer to visiting prostitutes. 
  • 13:5. In every generation, the temptation to be materialistic or to pursue greed is always present.
  • 13:5-6. Meanwhile, God will take care of his people. The precise wording of the quote in 13:5 is only attested elsewhere in Philo.
  • 13:7-19 gives instruction that is more specific to the audience.
  • 13:7 most likely suggests that some of the previous leaders of the community died for their faith, especially those who first brought the good news to them. This verse may then allude to the previous persecution mentioned in 10:32-34 and 6:10.
  • 13:8. While it is true that Jesus is the same "yesterday, today, and forever," the point of the statement surely relates to the persecution of the previous verse. Just as Jesus stood by the audience in their previous persecution, he will stand by to help them in their current crisis and he will be with them forever.
  • 13:9-10. These are truly curious verses, even "strange." Apparently, there is some "strange" teaching in the audience's environment that involves food. These foods seem to relate in some way to a sacrificial altar. 
  • It is a food that someone might think "confirms the heart." One might think it refers to the food laws if it were not for the mention of foods connected to the wilderness tent. Those who serve the tent, Levitical priests, have to right to eat from Christ's table. It is probably too early for this verse to allude to the Christian Eucharist, although it is possible.
  • We can imagine that some strange teachings developed in synagogues after the temple was destroyed. Perhaps some Jews came to believe that atonement could only now take place in the context of synagogue meals, since the temple was not standing. Any option we come up with can only be speculative.
  • 13:11-13 then turns the metaphor in yet another direction. First there is the image of burning the carcasses of the animals sacrificed on the Day of Atonement in the wilderness outside the camp. So Jesus' body (note the implicit dualism) was crucified and his blood shed just outside Jerusalem. The implication of the continuing metaphor is that what is a disgrace in the eyes of the city of Jerusalem, in the eyes of mainstream Judaism, is in fact an honor for the believer. Our table is not their table.
  • 13:12. Jesus was crucified just outside what was then the walls of Jerusalem. This was the Roman practice, to make an example of insurrectionists by crucifying them on the way leading into a city. (Although the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is now within the walls of Jerusalem, the traditional location of Jesus' crucifixion was actually outside the city walls at the time. 
  • Jesus' blood outside the camp made holy or sanctified the people--he truly cleanses sins.
  • 13:13. So the audience is encouraged once again to despise the shame of being a Christ-follower. They are to bear the abuse of non-believing Jews. Again, perhaps synagogue pressure to conform in some way or to rely on it for atonement somehow is in mind here.
  • 13:14. The dominance of Jerusalem in the preceding verses suggests that Jerusalem is the city that will not remain. This verse may very well be an allusion to the recent destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. The imagery connects to 11:10 and 14-16.
  • 13:15-16. The sacrifices that believers offer instead are sacrifices of praise and the sacrifice of giving to others who are in need.
  • 13:17. The audience is encouraged to submit to its leaders, which could be city-wide Christian elders in a city the size of Rome, if that is the destination. Pastors in all times and places would love for their congregations to heed this instruction.
  • 13:18-19. The author himself now asks for prayers for him and others like Timothy (13:23) who are apparently in trouble with local government. The author asserts that his conscience is clear and thus that there is no legitimate reason for government to punish him. He has been with them before and asks to be restored to them. Hugh Montefiore speculated once that this could be Apollos writing to Corinth, but this is a fairly idiosyncratic position.
  • 13:20-21. These verses are a benediction, even though they are not yet the end of the letter. God is called a God of peace, and the author has urged that the audience pursue peace (cf. 12:14).
  • 13:20. God "brought up" or "brought again" the great shepherd of the sheep from the dead, Jesus. 
  • 13:21. By the blood of the eternal covenant God will equip the audience to do every good work so that they can do God's will, to do what is pleasing before him.
  • 13:22-25. This is the final closing of the sermon/letter.
  • 13:22. The author calls Hebrews a "word of exhortation," suggesting it is a homily such as might be read during a synagogue service (cf. Acts 13:15).
  • 13:23. Here is the mention of Timothy, which suggest the author is in the Pauline circle (assuming it is the same Timothy we know from Paul's writings). Timothy is most likely to have been imprisoned at Ephesus, which suggests at least a possible point of origin for the sermon. Obviously this is far from provable.
  • 13:24. "Those from Italy greet you." It is once again only a sliver of evidence, but there are three possibilities: 1) the author is writing Italy and has some people from Italy with him, 2) the author is in Italy and is greeting the audience from there, or 3) he is referring to some well-known Italians (Priscilla-Aquila?). 
  • The first is the option taken most often, although it is far from certain. Why would you not mention the city you were in if you are writing from Italy? Rome fits the evidence we have in terms of past persecutions. The Western church seemed to know that Paul was not the author better than the Eastern church did. The preposition apo might slightly suggest more than the author is referring to individuals "away from" Italy.
  • 13:25. A closing not dissimilar from Paul, a wishing of grace.   

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

III. The Application (10:19-12:29)
     A. You Need Endurance (10:19-39)
     B. Witnesses of Faith (11:1-40)
     C. Run the Race (12:1-29)

Saturday, February 24, 2018

10. Run the Race (12:1-29)

C. Endure God's Discipline (12:1-29)
     1. The Cloud of Witnesses (12:1-2)
  • 12:1. "Therefore," connects these verses with the examples of Hebrews 11. Given the examples of Hebrews 11, the audience should run with patience the race set before them.
  • If you are running a race, you do not want any extra weight. Sin weighs a person down as they run. The sin the author primarily has in mind is the sin of doubt and lack of faith about the promises of God.
  • 12:2. Jesus is an example of faith for the audience (cf. 5:7). He was the pioneer of such faith and his faith became complete in his suffering on the cross.
  • Jesus disregarded the shame, another example of honor-shame language in Hebrews. 
  • Jesus' sitting at God's right hand is another allusion to Psalm 110:1.
     2. Endure God's Discipline (12:3-13)
  • 12:3. Jesus endured hostility from sinners. So should the audience.
  • 12:4. And they have not yet shed blood in their current crisis. William Lane argued that this comment precluded previous deaths but probably not. 13:7 probably indicates that some of their previous leaders had died in a previous persecution.
  • 12:5-11 use the analogy of a parent disciplining a child as what God is doing to the audience. God, as the audience's father, is disciplining them. They need to learn from the discipline.
  • Discipline can have a couple senses. It can be punishment but it can also be training.
  • There does seem to be at least a little sense of punishment here, given the quote of Proverbs 3:12.
  • 12:9. God is the Father of spirits. Although this statement is an allusion to Numbers 27:16, it is consistent with the dualistic language throughout Hebrews.
  • 12:10. There is a hint here that parents sometimes are not good in their discipline, but God the Father is. He disciplines the audience for their good. Perhaps then there is the sense of discipline to the word here.
  • 12:11. Here the training sense of discipline is crystal clear. Those who train bear the fruit of righteousness.
  • 12:12-13. What is the take-away from the metaphor? The audience needs to lift its drooping hands and strengthen its weak knees.
     3. The Consuming Fire (12:14-29)
  • The last part of the chapter climaxes with the judgment while also presenting the great hope of those who are faithful.
  • 12:14. The audience is urged to pursue peace with everyone with whom they can be at peace.
  • The admonition to pursue holiness, "without which no one will see the Lord," is a classic holiness text. The author is urging them in yet another way not to sin.
  • 12:15 is yet another way of saying not to give up. They should not fail to obtain the grace of God. They must not let a "root of bitterness" spring up. 
  • 12:16-17. This is the third warning passage and in some ways the most striking of the three.
  • 12:16. Esau sold his birthright for a single morsel. Given 13:9, we wonder if there is something involving food that is going on in the audience's environment. It is threatening their "sonship."
  • Esau is said to have been sexually immoral and godless. What is important with such Old Testament references is the point Hebrews is making, not whether it is using contextual interpretation.
  • 12:17. After he lost his birthright, Esau wanted to get the blessing of a son back but he could not find a place of repentance. He did not find a place to turn, even though he sought it diligently with tears.
  • There is some debate about what "it" is that Esau could not find. Both the word blessing and the word repentance match the feminine gender of the word "it" here. Repentance is closer and so is the most likely thing that Esau could not find.
  • 12:18-24. This paragraph contrasts the mountain of the first covenant with the mountain of the second.
  • 12:18-21 presents Mt. Sinai. Even Moses was afraid. In keeping with the holiness of the mountain, any stray animal that touched it must be stoned. This was a physical mountain--it could be touched, another hint of the sermon's dualism.
  • 12:22-24. This is the other mountain, the heavenly Jerusalem and the true Mt. Zion of the living God. The phrase "living God" has appeared now four times (3:12, 9:14, and 10:31).  
  • They "have arrived" at this mountain. The perfect tense is used. It is probably proleptic, meaning that it is a future destination to which their arrival is certain if they only remain faithful.
  • 12:23. Again, the "spirits" of the righteous who have been perfected, another instance of the dualism of the letter.
  • 12:25-29. Here is the judgment, the shaking of both skies and earth. Probably the created skies are in view rather than the highest heaven where God dwells. This is quote from Haggai 2:6.
  • 12:27. The removal of what is shaken, since it has been created, sounds like the removal of the created realm. This would be quite an unprecedented comment, that only heaven would be left after the judgment, even though it at first glance seems to be what is being said and it fits with the dualism of the sermon. The word can also mean "transformation."
  • 12:28. The kingdom that is coming will be an unshakable kingdom.
  • 12:29. God is a consuming fire, perhaps an allusion to the mode of the created realm's "removal" (cf. 2 Pet. 3:12).

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

III. The Application (10:19-12:29)
     A. You Need Endurance (10:19-39)
     B. Witnesses of Faith (11:1-40)

Friday, February 23, 2018

Friday Science 3e: Three-Vector Operators

Seventh installment summarizing Susskind's, Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum.

Chapter 1: Dirac was much smarter than I (introducing linear algebra).
Chapter 2: Quantum States (a.k.a., more linear algebra)
Chapter 3a: Linear Operators
Chapter 3b: Eigenvectors
Chapter 3c: Hermitians and Fundamental Theorem of QM
Chapter 3d: Principles of Quantum Mechanics

Much is still not clicking but let me finish what I can of chapter three.

3.5 A Common Misconception
1. Measurements in quantum mechanics correlate with operators. However, the two are not exactly the same. Measurements come up with definite answers. For example, if you are measuring a particular spin vector, it will either be 1 or -1.

By contrast, the operator has to do more with the probability of a certain outcome. Operators are mathematical rather than actual. They are the tools used to calculate eigenvalues and eigenvectors. We use them on state vectors like "up" "down" "right" "left" "in" and "out." And the result of his operation is another state vector combination that may involve square roots and imaginary numbers--things you will never get in an actual measurement. The actual measurement is always either 1 or -1.

3.6 3-Vector Operators Revisited
2. So Susskind distinguishes three types of vector in this section. The first is a 3-vector space like we use in ordinary directions in life (two miles south, then a mile east, on the sixth floor).

Then he's been talking about state vectors like up, down, right, left, in, out. These are metaphors, I think.

Now he speaks of spin components x, y, and z. He calls these operators, written as matrices. They are the three measurable components of spin. He calls them a new kind of 3-vector, a 3-vector operator. I don't seem to understand, but I'm going with it.

3. Now what if we want to measure spin in any direction sigma n, where n is the direction? Then we can break down the spin in this direction to

σn = σxnx + σyny + σznz

So if we use the Pauli matrices from the previous post for the components of sigma, we can express the spin in that direction as:
Susskind does some matrix voodoo to combine all these into one big matrix.
Apparently, if we know the eigenvectors and eigenvalues of this particular σn, we can use this matrix to calculate all the probabilities for all the outcomes of our measurements of the spin.

3. The Hamiltonian

Bread crumbs

In physics, we speak of something called the "Hamiltonian." It is the total energy of a system.

3.1 A System
What is a system? A system is something like everything that happens in a certain place. It is everything that happens in a certain context.
  • You can have an isolated system where neither energy nor matter either comes in or goes out of that context. These are really theoretical, since there is always some energy loss from a system, no matter how isolated it may be.
  • You can have an open system where both matter and energy can come in and go out of that context.
  • You can have a closed system where matter does not come or go out of the context but energy can. 
3.2 Energy
What is energy? Energy is the ability to do work or provide heat. There are two basic categories of energy:
  • kinetic energy is energy in motion, as it were. It is energy manifesting itself somehow.
  • potential energy is energy waiting to show itself. If you hold a rock in the air or pull a swing back getting ready to swing, these are examples of energy stored up, as it were, ready to be released.
If you add up the kinetic energy and the potential energy of a closed system, that gives you the total energy of that system at that moment. In a quantum system, you add up the kinetic energies of all the particles in a system, add the potential energy in that system, and you have what is called the Hamiltonian.

H = KE + PE

3.3 Kinetic Energy
The formula for kinetic energy is E = mv2. It says that the energy of something moving is the mass of the object times the square of the velocity at which it is moving.
To use this formula, you do not need to know where it came from. But it is easy enough to derive. The amount of work done on something to move it from point A to point B is the force over that distance. We say that work equals force times distance.

W = Fd

Now the work done is the change in kinetic energy. This fact is called the "work-energy theorem" in physics. You put energy into something and you have done work on it.

Force is mass times acceleration (F = ma). That is Newton's second law. So you might say that the work done on something is Work = mad (mass times acceleration times distance). Work may be crazy too.

Acceleration can be calculated in different ways, but one of the basic velocity equations is

v22 = v12 + 2ad.

If we rearrange this formula a little, we get a = (v22 - v12)/2d . And if we multiply this by the mass to get the force and the distance to get the work, we are left with:

W = 1/2 mv22 - 1/2 mv12

In other words, the difference in kinetic energy is the amount of work done, where the kinetic energy at each point is 1/2 mv2 .

3.4 Potential Energy
Unfortunately, you can't give just one equation for potential energy. It depends on the situation. So for something you are holding in the air, the potential energy is U = mgh , where
  • U stands for potential energy.
  • m is mass.
  • g is the acceleration due to gravity near the surface of the earth (9.8 m/s2).
  • h is the height.
Of course there are other potential energy situations, where energy is just waiting to happen. There are springs, for example. There is gravitational potential energy when we are no longer strictly talking about a height above the earth.

When it comes to Schrödinger's equation, the potential energy might be due to something like a gravitational field or an electric field.

3.5 Conservation of Energy
One of the laws of physics is the conservation of energy. The amount of energy at the beginning of some sort of process will be equal to the amount of energy at the end of a process. So if you have a certain amount of potential energy and you release it, you will have the same amount of kinetic energy afterwards if there is no heat lost. If you stretch a rubber band and then let go, the amount of potential energy you "stored," so to speak, in the band, will convert into motion.

Often there is a loss of heat, so we can introduce that element into the equation as well. For example, friction can take some of the released potential energy of an object rolling down an inclined plane. So the total energy of a system becomes the amount of kinetic energy plus the amount of potential energy plus whatever amount of heat is lost.

3.6 The Momentum Form
For the purposes of developing Schrödinger's equation, we want to convert the E = mv2 form of the kinetic energy equation into a slightly different form, which relates it to momentum.

In everyday language, we think of momentum as the tendency for a body in motion to stay in motion (Newton's first law). I once broke my elbow playing basketball on an unfinished concrete surface because I had a lot of momentum and no friction to stop myself.

In more formal terms, we say that momentum, p, is equal to the mass of something times its velocity.

p = mv

If we play a little with this formula, we can get it into a form that is more helpful for our purposes. So if we square both sides we get p2 = m2v2 . That means that v2 = p2/m2 . If we then substitute this v2 back into the initial E = mv2 , we get:

KE = p2/2m

So putting it all together:

H = p2/2m + U

Thursday, February 22, 2018

9. Persist in Faith (10:19-11:40)

III. The Application (10:19-12:29)
A. You Need Endurance (10:19-39)
  • 10:19-25 is a hinge paragraph which corresponds to 4:14-16. They both have at their core the exhortation to "hold fast to the confession" and to approach God with confidence on the basis of Christ's priestly work.
  • 10:20. This verse is a clear indication that much of the author's heavenly sanctuary imagery is metaphorical in nature. Grammatically, the veil here is most likely Christ's flesh. The author is not thinking of Christ's flesh as an obstacle but as the entrance to the heavenly Holy of Holies.
  • 10:22. Our hearts have been sprinkled from an evil conscience. That is, our sins have been cleansed by the blood of Christ. We have no more consciousness of their existence. Our bodies have been baptized.
  • 10:24. Believers should spur each other on "to love and good works."  
  • 10:25. This is the central preaching text on the need to go to church. We meet together to encourage each other to keep going.
  • 10:26-31. This is the second warning passage in Hebrews urging the audience not to turn away from Christ. 
  • 10:26. Intentional sinning, in a sense, "uses up" the sacrifice of Christ. None is left for you because you have exhausted it. Coming to Christ is once again related to getting a certain knowledge ("enlightened," 6:4).
  • 10:27. The prospect of those who turn from God face the same future as those who never turned to him--the prospect of fire. Those whom God judges are considered here his enemies (cf. 10:13).
  • 10:28-29. These verses are again somewhat surprising to Christians. Unlike John who pits law against grace, Hebrews makes a lesser to greater argument--if the punishment under Moses was bad, how much worse will the punishment be for those who despise the Son of God?
  • There is holiness and honor-shame language here: "despising," "insulting" the Spirit of grace, "considering common the blood by which sanctified."
  • 10:30-31. The judgment of God is evoked, including the classic text from which Jonathan Edwards preached the famous sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."
  • 10:32-39. This is yet another passage that gives us insight into the past of the audience (cf. 6:10-11). 
  • 10:32-34. In the past, they went through a time of suffering. They were publicly shamed or were associated with those who were. Given 13:7, it seems possible that some of their leaders were martyred during that crisis. If the audience is at Rome, certainly the persecution of 64 under Nero comes to mind. Peter and Paul were also martyred at Rome under Nero, although not necessarily in conjunction with that persecution.
  • 10:34. They had association with prisoners. Peter and Paul come to mind. Prisoners needed external support to survive in jail. The plundering of their property has sometimes been connected with the Claudian expulsion of 49, although it seems like we should pick between Nero and Claudius.
  • The better and remaining possession is of course the heavenly homeland of Hebrews 11:16.
  • 10:35-39. "Therefore" suggests these verses are what the audience should now do. Here is the application. They have done admirably in the past, so they should resolve to endure now. They should not throw away their confidence.
  • The exhortation to endure, to have faith, to have confidence is the primary exhortation of Hebrews. Hebrews never tells the audience, "Don't go to the temple," "Don't offer sacrifices." Perhaps the temple is not even standing. The exhortation is rather positive--keep going!
  • 10:36. Another reminder of God's promises (cf. Heb 6).
  • 10:37-38. The author quotes/paraphrases Habakkuk 2:3-4. This is of course a key Pauline text (Rom. 1:17). Hebrews uses it a little differently than Paul does. He was building a case for justification by faith. Hebrews is talking about continuance in faithfulness.
  • 10:39. The author has confidence that the audience will not shrink back. They are people of faith, people who keep going to preserve their souls.
B. Witnesses of Faith (11:1-40)
  • This is the faith chapter of the Bible! It is not just a chapter out of the blue. It fits entirely into the flow of Hebrews. You need endurance, 10:36 says. Seeing these witnesses, keep running, Hebrews 12:1-2 say. They need faith.
  • So the examples of faith are examples meant to encourage the audience to have faith. All of the different examples speak to the audience's need to have faith or continue in faith. They fall into a number of categories: 1) faith in what you can't see, 2) faith in God's promises, 3) faith in the right kind of sacrifice, 4) faith despite evil rulers, and 5) faith in rescue and resurrection.
  • 11:1-3. 11:1 is not so much a definition of faith as a description of it with a special view to the situation of Hebrews. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for." This statement relates to the temporal, horizontal dimension of believing now something that has not yet happened. "Faith is the evidence of things not seen." This could also relate to the future, but might also relate to the vertical dimension of faith--seeing the heavenly beyond the earthly.
  • 11:2 forms an inclusio with 11:39. Both have the statement, "were witnessed." This chapter thus forms a unit of thought. Witnessing is a minor theme in Hebrews, the verb appearing 8 times.
  • 11:3 falls in the category of faith in what you cannot see. The worlds were "knit" out of things that do not appear. The visible was created out of what was invisible. It is not clear whether the author had creation out of nothing in view, although this is how we Christians read the verse today.
  • 11:4-7. Abel, Enoch, and Noah are mentioned in this paragraph. Abel is an example of offering the right kind of sacrifice with faith. So the audience should trust in Christ's sacrifice.
  • 11:5. Enoch did not experience death because of his faith. So it is possible the audience will be rescued from death, perhaps by being taken to heaven.
  • 11:6 is a general statement that is a major take-away for the audience from the chapter: "Without faith, it is impossible to please God." The audience therefore needs to continue in faith. They need to believe that God will keep his promises, no matter what things may look like at present.
  • 11:7. Noah believed in the promises of God even though they were unseen in the future. 
  • The mention of "righteousness by faith" again confirms that the author of Hebrews stands in some relation to the Pauline circle.
  • 11:8-22. These paragraphs relate to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
  • 11:8-12. Abraham was called toward a land of promise, which his heirs were to inherit. He went in faith. The theme of alienation is present in this paragraph and the next. The audience is in a homeland that proves not to be their own. 
  • Abraham was looking forward to a city built by God. We find out soon that this is a heavenly city (11:16). It seems that Hebrews is alluding to some earthly city here that the audience must leave metaphorically, must come to realize is not truly their city. More on this in a moment. He was in the land but not of the land.
  • 11:11-12 talks about how Sarah conceived even though she was beyond the age of procreation. This falls in the category of God bringing back from the dead.
  • 11:13-16. The author pauses in the middle of his examples to reflect on the heroes of faith thus far. They died without receiving the promises. Such might be the case for the audience. They were foreigners on the earth--as the audience truly is. Their homeland is not on earth but in heaven. So the audience must not think that Jerusalem or Rome on earth is their true homeland. If Jerusalem is destroyed, it was never truly their home. God himself has prepared a city in heaven.
  • 11:17-22. Now the author resumes the examples of the patriarchs. Most of the illustrations in this paragraph have to do with coming back from the dead.
  • 11:17-19. Abraham had faith when he offered up Isaac, believing that God could bring him back from the dead. Abraham believed God's promises, as the audience should.
  • 11:20-22. All of these patriarchs believed that God would fulfill his promises even after their deaths. Isaac believed in the future of Jacob and Esau. Jacob believed that God would bless Joseph. Joseph believed Israel would enter the land again after his death. So the audience need not fear death. God would raise them.
  • 11:23-28. This paragraph moves on to Moses.
  • 11:23. In the category of not fearing the king (=Roman emperor), Moses' parents hid him.
  • 11:24-26. Moses chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a time. So the audience should not hide while God's people are being persecuted.
  • There are advantages to going along with evil powers when they are persecuting others and you are not yet the target. I think of the famous quote from Martin Niemöller: "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."
  • 11:27. Again, Moses left Egypt not fearing the king's anger. He was looking toward the invisible. So the audience should not fear the Roman emperor's anger. They should have faith in the invisible.
  • The timing of 11:27 is contested. The Passover is mentioned next, but it was after Moses fled the first time, out of fear. 11:27 sounds more like the exodus.
  • 11:28 may be another allusion to the better blood of Christ. And those who participate in Christ's blood need not fear the judgment either.
  • 11:29-31. The author takes the audience to the entrance into Canaan with crossing the Red Sea, the walls of Jericho, and Rahab. 
  • 11:29. If the Egyptians are a cipher for the Romans, the audience is being told not to worry in the face of persecution. 
  • 11:30. God sometimes chooses to destroy enemies like the Romans, as happened with Jericho. 
  • 11:31. Rahab could represent Roman Christians in Rome who hide Jews or those who were in danger because of the destruction of Jerusalem.
  • 11:32-38. The author now stops individual examples and lists by name individuals and types of faithfulness.
  • 11:32. The masculine singular participle here suggests that the author is male.
  • 11:32-34. Most of these examples come from Judges and the books of Samuel, although Daniel is the one whose faith shut the mouths of lions. 
  • Sometimes God delivers now. Sometimes he delivers from death. That is a key message in these verses.
  • 11:35. The first example is probably the son of the Shunammite woman in 1 Kings 4. The second mother trusting in the resurrection of her sons may be an allusion to 2 Maccabees 7.
  • 11:37. There is a tradition that Isaiah was sawed in half (a work called Martyrdom of Isaiah). Is being stoned to death an allusion to Stephen? The apostle James was killed by the sword. 
  • 11:38. Is this an allusion to Elijah?
  • 11:39-40. None of these received the promise because it was not possible until Jesus died and rose from the dead. Only then was perfection of the conscience possible. So they were commended for their faith (remember the inclusio with 11:2) but did not receive the promise.
  • 11:40. Now that Christ has done his high priestly work, both the examples of the past and the audience in the present can be made perfect. All the rainchecks of the sacrifices of the past are now cashed in.

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

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Remembering Billy Graham

Human memory is a funny thing. It is notoriously unreliable. The more we think about our past memories, the more we will overlay them with our current values and thinking.

1. I have a generally positive view of Billy Graham, who died today at 99. I believe there are a lot of people who will be in the kingdom of God as a direct result of his rallies and ministry. Seems like some of my family was even involved with his 1998 rally in Tampa, Florida.

I like other things I've heard about Graham. Although I have no doubt of his core evangelical beliefs, he played nice with others. He was ecumenical in his relationships even if he did not waver in his beliefs. I believe he met every president from Truman to Obama at least once.

2. I was remembering today though that I did not necessarily grow up with such a glowing review. I remember grumbling about how he "stacked" the audience with people who went up first to prime the pump. (Grumbling is my word for what we often do in the face of stuff that makes us uncomfortable, jealous, convicted, etc) Maybe as much as 60% of those who went forward were already believers. As a older student of humanity now, I have fewer problems with priming the pump. Hey, Finney did it. Besides, most of these were counselors.

Of course Graham was a Baptist. Growing up hyper-Wesleyan, that was a matter of a little grumbling. On the other hand, George Beverly Shea sang for him. Shea was a Houghton grad, so that was a plus.

Still yet, fundamentalists didn't like it in the 50s when Graham started talking to "liberals." Bob Jones Sr. broke with him. So was Billy Graham liberal? Then that's a grumble. Then later I learned to think of Bob Jones negatively, so then that's a plus. Graham kicked out of Bob Jones and then goes on to become, well, Billy Graham. You go Graham! Take that Jones! So that's a plus.

3. Graham started out pretty fundamentalist. He supported Chiang kai Shek, who of course was a mass murderer. He supported McCarthy, which was not just paranoia but grandstanding out of his own ambition. Like pretty much all dispensationalist teaching in the early twentieth century, his predictions in the early 50s didn't happen.

In this light Franklin Graham's support of Trump is not so surprising. It fits his father's early politics. I suspect that Graham's views were always fundamentalist. He just learned to keep it to himself. Grumble but way to go with the self-discipline!

On the other hand, he seemed to genuinely engage MLK and do as much as he thought he could to advance integration. Plus. But he certainly didn't stick his neck out much at all for the cause of civil rights. Grumble.

4. He didn't make money off of his ministry. Super-plus. He sure seems to have enjoyed hanging around powerful important people... a lot... maybe too much? Mini-grumble.

He was probably the most important force behind the founding of Christianity Today (plus). He had the insight to give it out free for two years to every pastor in America to get it going (clever! like). One of its purposes was to solidify conservative Calvinism around the country (grumble).

5. I like Billy Graham. I'm glad he didn't talk much this last decade. I'm afraid I wouldn't like him as much. He wasn't perfect, but he looms like a colossus across the pages of American church history in the twentieth century. He was an overwhelming force for good in the world.

"Call no one blessed until death, for by how one dies a person is known" (Sirach 11:28). Billy Graham is a blessed man.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

5. A Biblical Theology of Israel

5.1 One God, One People
  • "Four pillars" of deuteronomistic theology: henotheism, election, covenant, land
  • We have already talked about the henotheism of Israel and its progression. Exodus 20 seems to be patterned on a suzerainty treaty.
  • Deut. 32:8-9 speaks of God choosing Israel in the great nation matching (election). We've already talked about deuteronomistic theology and the blessings and curses of Deut. 28.
  • Psalm 82 pictures YHWH as king of the gods.
  • Israel initially was an amphictyony. Then it was a monarchy. Then the Law took a certain center stage and it was run by priests centered in the temple.
  • Israel was not greatly eschatological but had more of a cyclical view of history. The apocalypticists of the late 200s/early 100s BC introduced the linear components that would become characteristic of Christianity.
5.2 A Biblical Theology of the Law
  • The cultic parts of the Law were fulfilled in Christ.
  • The civil parts of the Law were heavily ensconced in the Ancient Near East.
  • "Christ's law" is the law of love, which includes most but not all of the Ten Commandments.
  • Sexual ethics seem to occupy an ambiguous zone in relation to Paul's broader view of the Law but are retained as part of NT ethics.
  • The early church debated what we might call "Jew-specific laws," laws that especially pertained to the ethnic boundary between Jews and Gentiles (circumcision, food laws, most purity laws, Sabbath observance). Paul considers these not binding on Gentile believers although other early Christian leaders seem to have disagreed.
5.3 Parting of the Ways?
  • Neither Paul nor any of the original disciples of Jesus saw faith in Jesus as a parting with the faith of Israel or its Scriptures. That is, the New Testament is not supercessionist.
  • None of the biblical authors ceased believing in one God. The way that Jesus related to the one God is debated. Those who hold to an early high Christology see Jesus as included in some way within the one God. Others see this inclusion taking place later in a Gentile context.
  • The election of Israel seems to be a central feature of much of the New Testament even though the gospel is universalized. Matthew sees the mission to the world emerging from Israel. Luke-Acts see us in a middle time, "times of the Gentiles," but with Jerusalem and its temple as the center of the mission. Paul says that Israel's election is "without repentance" (Rom. 11:29).
  • Three positions on Romans 11: a) replacement theory, b) the true ethnic Israel reading, and c) the final return reading. Perhaps the third one fits Romans 11:26 best. But we are left with 1) the fact that current Israel is not believing Israel--it is not yet the Israel of promise and 2) we must remain somewhat agnostic about God's current plan with regard to the events of the last century. We will know when it is all finished.
  • The Gospel of John seems to come the closest to the boundaries of Judaism: 1) it most equates Jesus with God the Father; 2) it most most distances Jesus from Judaism ("your law"); 3) it most has the feel of Christianity as a wholesale replacement for the Jewish festivals in addition to the temple; 4) it distances the worship of God from Jerusalem and makes it a matter of the Spirit.

Previous "chapters"
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation

4.1-3 Sin and the Fall
4.4 Sin in the Old Testament
4.5 Sin in the New Testament
4.6 Atonement in the Old Testament
4.7 Atonement in the New Testament

4.7 Atonement in the New Testament

4.7.1 Christ's Death as Satisfaction
  • Historically, metaphors of Christ's death as a sacrifice probably came first. 
  • In Paul, we have, the image of Christ's death as a passover sacrifice (1 Cor. 5:7), as a sin offering (2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 8:3), and as the Day of Atonement sacrifice (Rom. 3:25).
  • There are debates over the meaning of 2 Corinthians 5:21. Cf. N. T. Wright
  • There are debates over the meaning of hilasterion in Romans 3:25 (Is it propitiation, expiation, sacrifice of atonement, place of atonement?)
  • In Mark 10:45 we have Jesus death as a ransom.
  • Luke 22:20 looks at Christ's death as a new covenant inaugurating sacrifice.
  • Understanding Christ's death as a sacrifice is of course a metaphor. For us it is a dead metaphor but for them it was a very live metaphor.
  • The Maccabean literature might have provided an ideological precedent for this understanding (cf. 2 Macc. 7:38; 4 Macc. 17:22).
  • From a slightly different perspective, there is the sense of Christ's death satisfying God's justice (Rom. 3:25-26; 2 Cor. 5:21).
  • Of course Hebrews provides the fulchrum point for Christ's death as the definitive atonement/sacrifice for sins. See 4.6.1. Also explore the interpretation of David Moffitt with Christ's blood offering as an offering of life rather than death.
4.7.2 Christ as Representative Humanity
  • The idea of "substitutionary atonement" is another one of the major theories of atonement.
  • The idea of being "in Christ" is fundamental to Paul. We die with Christ; we rise with Christ (Gal. 2:20).
  • Hebrews 2:5-18 probably gives us insight into Paul's inner logic. Humanity was created for glory but "all have sinned and are lacking the glory of God." Christ became human and tasted death for everyone.
  • Christ as Last Adam is a fundamental theme in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. As Last Adam he undoes for humanity what Adam did at the beginning.
4.7.3 Christ as Demonstration of God's Love
  • Romans 5:8 certainly views Christ's death as an expression of God's love.
  • Parable of the Prodigal Son is the fulchrum point here. Explore theologically any sense that God "had" to atone in a particular way.
  • Explore Joel Green and Mark Baker's analysis of penal substitution. Cf. Recovering the Scandal of the Cross.
4.7.4 Defeating the Devil (Christus Victor)
  • Jesus' exorcist ministry was a beginning of the arrival of the kingdom of God (Luke 11:20)
  • Hebrews 2:14 - The defeat of the Devil was a defeat of the one holding the power of death.
  • Colossians 1 - Christ's supremacy over all evil powers. Cf. Eph. 6:12.
4.7.5 Broadening Scope of Christ's Atonement
  • Restoring the Kingdom of Israel? (Acts 1:6)
  • Dead in Christ will rise (1 Cor. 15)
  • Hebrews - all old covenant sins atoned through Christ, not so clear about the future
  • We need to look into the debates of the first few centuries to find exhaustive atonement (Novatian and Donatist controversies).

Previous "chapters"
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation

4.1-3 Sin and the Fall

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)

Friday, February 16, 2018

Friday Science 3d: Principles of Quantum Mechanics

Sixth installment summarizing Susskind's, Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum.

Chapter 1: Dirac was much smarter than I (introducing linear algebra).
Chapter 2: Quantum States (a.k.a., more linear algebra)
Chapter 3a: Linear Operators
Chapter 3b: Eigenvectors
Chapter 3c: Hermitians and Fundamental Theorem of QM

1. Again there is the sense that if I can just make it a little further, he'll connect this stream of math to something concrete so that all the rest will click. I feel like I'm reading 1 John.

Principle 1: Observable quantities in quantum mechanics are represented by linear operators. These have to be Hermitian as well.

Principle 2: The possible results of a measurement are the eigenvalues of the operator that relates to that observable. If a system is in the eigenstate ∣λ〉 , the result of a measurement has to be λ .

Principle 3: Distinguishable states are orthogonal vectors.

Principle 4: The probability of observing a value λ is 〈A∣λ〉2 That is the probability of observing a particular eigenvalue is the square of the overlap between the eigenvalue and that state in general.

2. So Susskind uses the spin operator as an example. A spin operator provides information about the spin component in a specific direction. There is a spin operator for each direction in which the measuring apparatus can be oriented.

So he asks what an appropriate "spin operator" might be for the "up-down" aspect of spin. For up, the value will be one for up and zero for down. For down, the value will be zero for up and -1 for down. This corresponds to the following matrix:
z matrix (up down)
This satisfies the conditions: 1) it represents one component of the spin, 2) the possible results are +1 and -1. These are the eigenvalues of this matrix. 3) up and down are orthogonal.

3. He derives the matrices for the "right left" and "in out" components as well. These three matrices constitute the "Pauli matrices."
x matrix (left-right)
y matrix (in out)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

4.6 Atonement in the Old Testament

In my biblical theology classes, I have often covered atonement immediately after I have covered sin. I was noticing this morning that there is a tension in this order. A systematic theologian would surely cover atonement after Christology, as a matter of soteriology. Of course atonement is not related to Christology in the theology of the OT. Still processing.

4.6 Atonement in the Old Testament

4.6.1 The Perspective of Hebrews
The author of Hebrews gives us the canonical perspective on the OT sacrifices. Hebrews 10:2-3 is especially determinative. None of the OT sacrifices were actually able to take away sins. Although we often hear talk about how "without blood there is no remission of sins," Hebrews goes on to indicate that none of the blood of the OT actually worked.

The OT sacrifices were thus all foreshadowings of the one effective sacrifice of Christ. "raincheck" One thus wonders how much investment God actually had in blood sacrifice or whether this was God meeting the human psyche where it was. In the end, God does away with it.

4.6.2 Priests versus Prophets
In this section I would talk about the tension between prophetic passages that say things like "I desire mercy not sacrifice" (Hos. 6:6; 1 Sam. 15:22; cf. Matt 9:13), it's justice and mercy, not sacrifice (Mic. 6:6-8; Isa. 1:12-18; Ps. ). The prophets know nothing of a necessary sacrifice (cf. Jer. 7:3-4; 21-22). They more seem to think that Israelites sometimes hid behind sacrifices as an excuse not to do justice.

Yet there were lots of sacrifices in the OT, even if the Law might represent somewhat of a standardization. The first chapters of Leviticus give us the five main types (which were not all for atonement). Day of Atonement, Passover, hyssop, red heifer, inauguration (mention NT correspondences). There also seems to be a deuteronomistic sense of atonement by death (e.g., Achan).

Previous "chapters"
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation

4.1-3 Sin and the Fall

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Litany from God's Throne Room

Using this litany this morning in the School of Theology and Ministry:

A Litany from God's Throne Room
Leader: At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.

All: And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby.

Leader: Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders.

All: Around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back.

Leader: Day and night they never stop saying:

All: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.

Leader: They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

All: You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.

Leader: And I saw a mighty angel in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?”

All: Then I saw a Lamb, looking slain, standing at the center of the throne.

Leader: And they sang a new song, saying:

All: You are worthy to take the scroll, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God people from every tribe and language and people and nation.

Leader: After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count

All: from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. 

Leader: And they cried out in a loud voice:

All: Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.

Leader: All the angels and the elders and the four living creatures fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:

All: Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!

Monday, February 12, 2018

4.5 Sin in the New Testament

See the bottom for previous posts.

4.4 Sin in the New Testament

4.4.1 Defining Sin
  • The standard for right is to love God and love neighbor (Matt. 22:37-40; Rom. 13:8-10). 
  • Therefore, a sin is contrary either to love of God or neighbor. This constitutes wrongdoing (1 John 5:17) and lawlessness (1 John 3:4)
  • In the New Testament, sin is (predominantly) an act of will (Jas 1:13-14).
  • Temptation is thus not sin (cf. Jesus; Heb. 4:15).
  • Sin is a matter of the heart (volition) far more than the act itself (Mark 7:18-23; Matt. 5:27-28)
  • Feelings are not sin, although they can be a source of temptation (cf. Eph. 4:26).
  • Sin is thus any act of the will that either is out of faith with God or contrary to love of neighbor/enemy. Cf. Rom. 14:23
  • There are sins of commission and sins of omission (cf. Jas. 4:17).
  • Sin is not imperfection. Mistakes are not intrinsically sinful (although they can reflect prior choices).
  • Unintentional sin should probably remain a category, referring to acts that are unintentionally unloving toward others, including God.
4.4.2 Sin as a Power
  • The human body, skin, "flesh" is not intrinsically sinful (contra Gnostics) Cf. Mark 14:13
  • Because of Adam, human flesh and the creation are under the power of Sin (Rom. 7:14-18).
  • Sin acts are acts of the will. The power of Sin is a power that drives us to sin (sometimes called sin principle or sin nature, although this is really Augustine rather than Paul)
  • Romans 6-8 does not teach that sin should reign in a believer's life--more to come, but cf. Rom. 7:5
4.4.3 Sins to Death
  • 1 John 5:16-17 (where the Catholic Church gets mortal and venial sins)
  • Explain 1 John 1:8-10 and 3:9. "Having" sin is not doing sin but is 1 John's equivalent of "all have sinned." 3:9 should be given the present tense connotation of "be sinning" or "continue to sin."
  • The unpardonable sin of Matthew 12:31-32 (since the HS brings repentance, no one who is drawn to repent has committed such a sin).
  • Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26; 12:16-17. Parable of the Prodigal Son is the fulcrum text on this question. Schrodinger's backslider
Previous "chapters"
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation

4.1-3 Sin and the Fall

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sermon Starters: Waiting on the Lord

Title: Waiting on the Lord
Text: Isaiah 40:27-31

  • An old song
  • The context of Isaiah 40--return from Babylon
  • Remember Jeremiah 29:11?
  • Israel had been waiting almost fifty years.
  • God doesn't get weary. We shouldn't either.
1. The yesterday of waiting
  • Reconciliation is accomplished. 
  • All the promises in God are yes. (2 Corinthians 1:18)
  • By contrast, illustration of human things we may not be sure will come through. Battle of the Bulge--will they show up?
  • The situation of Hebrews: a promise has been given--enter into his rest. (Hebrews 3-4). We are currently in the wilderness. We are wandering. We are headed for the Promised Land. 
  • Christ will come again. (Hebrews 10) 
2. The tomorrow of waiting
  • Abraham (make you a great nation)
  • Paul (will Jesus come back before I die)
  • Judah in captivity (imagine those born at the beginning, the middle, and the end)
  • What are we planting for those who come after?
  • "A great society is one where the old plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit under." Greek proverb
  • Hebrew 11
3. The today of waiting
  • We need to enter God's rest every day called today (Heb. 3).
  • The Parable of the Ten Virgins
  • No temptation has taken you (1 Cor. 10:13)
  • I will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)
  • We have a comforter (John 14)
  • Wait with confidence (not like waiting from pay day to pay day)
  • Remember it's a done deal. (Jer. 29)
  • Lay up for the future.
  • Enter every day (buy land)

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Path to (Original) Biblical Expertise

There are four competencies for an expert on the original meaning of the Bible.
  • knowledge of the relevant languages
  • knowledge of the relevant historical background
  • knowledge of the relevant history of interpretation
  • hermeneutical competency
1. A New Testament expert must know Greek. A Hebrew Scriptures expert must know Hebrew and/or Aramaic. A New Testament expert is normally expected to know Hebrew as well, since such knowledge can be relevant for some NT interpretation.

An OT scholar will often know some of the associated Semitic languages: Aramaic, Ugaritic, Akkadian.

2. Historical background is extensive. For a NT scholar, there is Jewish history, intertestamental history, Greco-Roman history. There are extensive bodies of literature--Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, rhetoricians, Oxyrhynchus papyri, Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo and Josephus, perhaps the relevant rabbinic literature, although it is later. There is socio-cultural knowledge.

For an OT scholar there are inscriptions and the key Ancient Near Eastern collections.

3. The history of interpretation primarily refers to the scholarship of the last two hundred years and especially the last few decades. Pre-critical interpretation is of a different sort. It may be helpful spiritually but usually is not of much help for determining the original meaning.

It goes without question that a real biblical scholar will know about manuscripts and how to determine how the most likely initial reading. The true scholar will know source hypotheses. He or she will have an up to date sense of genre and how oral tradition works. They will know how redaction works. Further they will know how to analyze narratives as stories. They will know how to bring sociology and anthropology to bear on interpretation.

4. Finally, an original meaning biblical expert will be able to operate with historical-cultural excellence. They will resist theological anachronism. They will not have artificial boundaries about what the text can and cannot mean. They will read the text in the light of the world behind the text, not the preoccupations or concerns of the last hundred years. They will bring historical and literary evidence to bear on interpretive questions, and draw the most likely contextual conclusion, not twist the evidence to fit their preconceptions.