Scratchpad: Hebrews and Long Ago Imagery

Hagia Sophia, an Eastern Orthodox church conve...
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This week, we are studying the Epistle to the Hebrews. The question as to talk about one passage and the imagery contained therein.

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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.

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