Satan the Christian?
Is Hebrews 4.12-16 Christological?
“The word of God.”
That is a title we often use for Scripture and as such, it seems that this is the intent of Hebrews 4.12-13. The message of God. The Law. The Gospel. Something dealing with God’s utterance. I hear that interpretations to the contrary are largely abandoned.
The christological explanation has been generally abandoned since Calvin, even by A. T. Hanson 1965, who interprets the previous passage christologically. If the word of God were intended to mean Christ, one would not expect him to be compared with an inanimate object such as a weapon.
What sayeth ye? Read Hebrews 4.12-13.
Now read Hebrews 4.12-16 as a whole. This is from the REB:
The word of God is alive and active. It cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword, piercing so deeply that it divides soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it discriminates among the purposes and thoughts of the heart. Nothing in creation can hide from him; everything lies bare and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render account.
Since therefore we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to the faith we profess. Ours is not a high priest unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in every way as we are, only without sinning. Let us therefore boldly approach the throne of grace, in order that we may receive mercy and find grace to give us timely help.
Now, back to the notion that since the passage compares the Logos of God to a weapon, it couldn’t mean Christ…
Hebrews is Alexandrian. Most scholars acknowledge this, seeing in Hebrews the connection to Philo, etc… (and Plato).
Which brings me to a sufficiently Alexandrian Jewish book, the Wisdom of Solomon,
All things were lying in peace and silence, and night in her swift course was half spent, when your all-powerful word leapt from your royal throne in heaven into the midst of that doomed land like a relentless warrior, bearing the sharp sword of your inflexible decree; with his head touching the heavens and his feet on earth he stood and spread death everywhere. (Wis 18:14–16.)
By the way, word/Logos here is connected to the whole realm and refrain of the Wisdom of God, a personified attribute of God.
But we also have Revelation,
Out of his mouth came a sharp sword to smite the nations; for it is he who will rule them with a rod of iron, and tread the winepress of the fierce wrath of God the sovereign Lord. (Rev. 19:15.)
My contention, then, is that Jesus is meant here in Hebrews 4.12-16. The Word of God is Jesus, who is the final revelation of God the Father (Hebrews 1.1-3)
Scratchpad – Impossible to restore repentance?
The question is the title, sorta. It was asked by a classmate. Here is my answer.
The author of Hebrews believed that at a certain point, it was hopeless for the Christian who rejected Christ to be re-redeemed. This passage is not the only one – although there is a discussion on this passage in the original language as to which is the proper order in translation, and the proper sense of some of those verbs – to address this issue in this epistle.
We find that the premise of warning is the occasion of the letter. It starts with Hebrews 2.1-3. The picture here is clear – if the Law of Moses was strict about rejection, how much more do you think the Gospel is? One is not just rejecting the stone tablets now, but also the Divine Blood. This must not be thought of as backsliding either. Notice the passage here and the beauty of the words. Draw closer, drift away, the whole of verse 2, and neglect.
Notice 3.7-19 which is a warning against unbelief, disobedience, and hardening of the heart. The imagery is powerful. What happened in the wilderness? They suffered and lost their life. Here, the soul is at stake. Then in 4.1, the warning is made again about coming short of the Promised Rest. 4.11 notes that an effort is needed so as not to fall. The Rest of God is our goal, but if we will not work towards it, we will fall.
This passage in chapter 6 also mentions the word ἀδόκιμος (Heb 6:8). This word was applied to metal objects, such as coins, which were not able to hold the image which had been stamped upon it. These objects were worthless. In 6.8, the author says that those who reject Christ after knowing Him are worthless.
I make a brief note about the ‘how much more’ comparisons throughout the book. The OT was good, but how much more so what Christ has brought. The same is said of the punishments under the OT, but how much more dreadful for those who reject Christ.
I note then 10.26-39 wherein the author notes that deliberately sinning after Christ destroys us with Christ. Compare this notion of deliberate sin with Numbers 15.30, where the sin of the hand held to heaven requires that the person be cut off from the Israel.
Finally, I note 12.15-17 as well.
So yes, according to the Epistle of Hebrews, those who reject Christ – this is not backsliding – after having come to know Him will not enjoy eternal salvation.
Scratchpad: Hebrews and Long Ago Imagery
This week, we are studying the Epistle to the Hebrews. The question as to talk about one passage and the imagery contained therein.
Hebrews 1.1-3 is a favorite passage of mine because in it, I find my Christology, especially centered on the word ὑποστάσεως, but the entire chapter is a harkening back to the prophets of a mythological and foggy time, the era of the better days, so to speak. Here, the author sets out the tone of the homiletic discourse and showcases his (or her, since the author is unknown) style of how he will take various passages from the soon-to-be Old Testament and from them, brings forth Christ. Sometimes, I think that the author may be employing a chiastic structure, but the last peak remains firmly unannounced; however, the author starts with God, the highest, and ends with the angels who serve humanity.
Here we have God expressing a divine attribute in the hypostasis of the Son who is seen as the radiance of his glory (v3, cf Wisdom 7.26-28). This Image of God is now declared to be higher than the angels, and to be the creative force behind the original Creation. The Wisdom of God is now beside God on the throne, waiting until victory is ultimately declared. I do find it odd however, that whereas we find Christ is ‘sent out’ to humanity in the Gospel of John, the author of Hebrews notes that a difference between the Son and the Angels is that now the angels are ‘sent out!’
Throughout this passage, the author is using the image of Wisdom in Proverbs and language similar to the brief snippet of the Book of Wisdom as well as quoting from the Psalmists. In this chapter, he uses the creation of the world as the backdrop to show where Christ came from. Further, our author used the imagery of inheriting a name and becoming better than the angels. This author then uses the imagery provided by the Psalms to stand Christ up against the angels. The writer establishes Christ’s pedigree and then establishes His position in heaven and all by using the Hebrew Scriptures (although most likely in the form of the LXX).This will be a trend throughout the rest of the book, to always bring back Christ to the Old Testament. Many books have been written on preaching the Old Testament in the Christian church. This was the first, and by far, the best example of how to do so.
Essays on John and Hebrews – Evaluation
As a doctoral student who has focused on Biblical Hebrew and Applied Linguistics, I am an expert on neither the Gospel of John nor the Epistle to the Hebrews. However, as someone whose masters work was in Biblical Studies more generally, I am well-versed enough to be acquainted with some of the more important issues within the scholarly study of those two books and to be able to recognize a high quality work when I see one. In my estimation, Essays on John and Hebrews is a well-balanced and expertly written text that any scholar should very much like to have as a part of their library.
The text is clearly well-balanced throughout, and a couple of easy examples spring to mind from the essays dealing with the relationship between the Dead the Scrolls and early Christianity. Whereas more sensationalist authors often attempt to show some kind of direct link between the Qumran community and early Christianity, most of the more sober scholarship that one reads suggests otherwise. Attridge fits squarely within the sphere of this well-balanced scholarship. Rather than suggesting a direct link, Attridge surveys the Qumran material concluding that it sheds light on Judaism in the first century. Thus, the Qumran material sheds light on early Christianity in the sense that Christianity emerged in a first century Jewish context, yet he does not propose a direct link. This balanced approach is representative of the approach taken throughout the rest of the essays.
In addition, the text is quite clearly expertly written. This is obvious enough from reading the essays themselves; however, the easiest illustration of this for the purposes of this review comes in the extensive bibliography and wealth of material in the footnotes. The bibliography is 36 pages long and consists of primary and secondary sources in a variety of different languages. Thus, the author’s perspective is not limited by the sort of English language bias that hampers some works. In addition, one could gain a great deal of information about John’s Gospel and the Epistle to the Hebrews just from the footnotes, though it could also be easy enough to get bogged down there. As one example, page 142 of the text consists of only 6 lines of main body text, whereas a good 4/5 of the pages actually consists of footnotes. This is truly the stuff of an expertly written scholarly text.
If I had to pick out essays that I thought most helpful in my context, I would say that “Johannine Christianity,” “The Restless Quest for the Beloved Disciple,” and “The Gospel of John and the Dead Sea Scrolls” are good candidates. Incidentally, these are the essays on introductory issues, which serve to help me, since in the area of New Testament studies I would only deal with general issues. In terms of sheer interest, I found the essays “‘Seeking’ and ‘Asking’ in Q, Thomas, and John” and “An ‘Emotional’ Jesus and the Stoic Tradition” to be enlightening. My only study of Thomas and stoics came in the form brief treatments in New Testament survey. So, getting to take a deeper look was beneficial. Some of the other essays did not capture my own particular interest so much, for example reading about “The Cubist Principle in Johannine Imagery” didn’t do that much for me. But, I cannot say that there was any particular essay I read that seemed poorly written or poorly researched.
The bottom-line here is that this is, at least in my mind, the kind of book that any serious scholar on John’s Gospel or the Epistle to the Hebrews would love to have in their library. But, this does bring me to the one fairly serious downside of the text. Though this is a text any scholar might love to have, the cost of the text would put it out of the reach of many, at least in terms of having it in one’s personal library. The lowest price on Amazon is right around $170, and Amazon’s own price is $257.50. Thus, for many scholars, this might be the kind of book that you would want to request that your university or seminary library purchase. However, if you can afford it, I highly recommend purchasing it for your own collection.
Essays on John and Hebrews – Contents
This is a continuation of my review of Essays on John and Hebrews by Harold Attridge and published by Mohr Siebeck. As suggested by the title, this book is a collection of essays on these two books Biblical books.
In terms of the division of the contents, the essays are not quite evenly split between John and Hebrews. The main body of the text is right around 350 pages, with around 200 devoted the Gospel of John and around 150 devoted to the Epistle to the Hebrews. This is somewhat reflective of the length of John as compared with Hebrews.
Each of the essays in this volume has appeared elsewhere. This may make the text less valuable for those who may only want to read one or two of the essays. They might be able to xerox a hard copy or get electronic versions through a library. Yet for those who rely heavily on Attridge’s work this text puts many of his important essays in one place.
The essays range from fairly general introductory matters to fairly specialized matters. For example, the authorship of the gospel of John is the focus of one of the essays. For someone like myself, who, either in the context of the university or even in the context of a church parish, sometimes has to give general introductions to Biblical books, essays like this one should be very helpful. I have had the opportunity to read through that essay, so far, and Attridge appears to summarize much of the important literature. As an example of a more specialized essay, Attridge looks at matters like the relationship between logos in the Gospel of John and in Philo. This essay and ones like it may or may not prove useful to me in the contexts in which I teach, as most of the people that I deal with may not want to delve quite so deeply.
With this said, this book could prove helpful for the generalist and the specialist alike. To conclude, I’m also providing the publisher’s description below:
Harold W. Attridge has engaged in the interpretation of two of the most intriguing literary products of early Christianity, the Gospel according to John and the Epistle to the Hebrews. His essays explore the literary and cultural traditions at work in the text and its imaginative rhetoric aiming to deepen faith in Christ by giving new meaning to his death and exaltation. His essays on John focus on the literary artistry of the final version of the gospel, its playful approach to literary genres, its engaging rhetoric, its delight in visual imagery. He situates that literary analysis of both works within the context of the history of religion and culture in the first century, with careful attention to both Jewish and Greco-Roman worlds. Several essays, focusing on the phenomena connected with “Gnosticism”, extend that religio-historical horizon into the life of the early Church and contribute to the understanding of the reception of these two early Christian masterpieces.
Essays on John and Hebrews – Author
This is the first time that I’m reviewing a book for Joel’s blog. But, in seminary, I was taught that a book review should consist of information about the author, an overview of contents, and a reaction. In this post, I’ll give a bit of background information on Harold Attridge whose essays fill out this collection of Essays on John and Hebrews from Mohr Siebeck.
I am not a New Testament scholar, but my first acquaintance with Attridge’s work was in the HarperCollins Study Bible for which he was an editor. When I was looking for a Bible to require for students in an Old Testament introductory course in a situation where the goals were more critical, this is the one that I decided on. Knowing that Attridge had a significant role to play in that work gives me high expectations for Essays on John and Hebrews.
For those who may not be familiar with Attridge’s background, a great deal more information can be found HERE. As a few highlights, Attridge has BA and MA degrees from Cambridge University, and his PhD is from Harvard. He is currently on faculty at Yale University Divinity school as the Reverend Henry L. Slack Dean and Lillian Claus Professor of New Testament. He has served as the president of the Society of Biblical Literature. His list of publications is pretty incredible, though some of us might not be terribly familiar with them, as some of them seem pretty specialized. At a more general level, his commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews in the Hermeneia series may be most widely known.
In light of Attridge’s background, if you are looking on a volume on John and Hebrews by a top-notch scholar, this text seems to be a very good candidate. Up next, I will post an overview of the contents of the book.
Essays on John & Hebrews by Harold Attridge – “In the mail”
Well, technically this wasn’t “in the mail” because Joel is visiting Louisiana and gave this to me in person. But, I want to say thank to Mohr Siebeck for sending a copy of Essays on John and Hebrews by Harold Attridge.
I will be writing a couple of posts about the book once I have had the opportunity to read through it. However, my first impression is a very good one, though perhaps it is a bit shallow ;-). The book looks and feels absolutely beautiful. It is a tightly bound hardcover. The dustjacket and front and back covers are impeccably clean. Thumbing through, the paper is of a very high quality. It even smells wonderful. Needless to say, it will look great on my bookshelf.
Now, with that bit of scholarly fawning done, I know that most of you will be more interested in the contents. So, in coming days, I will be posting on the author, contents, and my reaction to the book.