Good riddance to Paul. This book will bring a change of style. However, Steve Wells, of the SAB, says he found it ‘tiresome to read’. Doesn’t bode well, does it?
Right off the bat I notice something peculiar. Neither the name Jesus, nor the label Christ appear in chapter 1 in the KJV. The whole chapter consists only of OT references aimed at ‘proving’ that in the end-times (which the author believes have already arrived) God’s son will arrive to save the Jews. But exactly who that son is, is pretty vague when you read what’s actually written.
Now we get a couple of references to an earthly Jesus (v 14 and 17), and his name (v 9). But even these references are pretty scanty on details. The majority of the chapter focuses on the spiritual; eg v 2 “the message god delivered through angels”. And again, the author quote-mines the OT for prophesy to ‘prove’ that Jesus is the predicted savior. I find the message in v 14-15 a little creepy.
Interesting that in v 16, we are told that Jesus came to help the ‘seed of Abraham’ – that would be the Jews. Fitting, I suppose, given that this book was directed at the Jewish Christians (it’s called Letter to the Hebrews for a reason, right?). But we have just read all those letters of Paul asserting that Christ’s message applied equally to the Gentiles. Perhaps this author missed those bulletins? Or perhaps he just conveniently leaves that out because Gentiles are not his current audience.
This entire chapter is based on a single theme – proving to the Jews, who revere Moses as one of their biggest heroes, that Jesus outshines him. The author digs up the Venite (Psalm 95) to make his point, warning his present-day audience not to be like the ancient Israelites who hardened their hearts and tried Yahweh’s patience. The comparison doesn’t compute at all, to me…
I’m struggling to make some sense of this, and looked up an apologist commentary, which didn’t help at all. The author seems to be telling his audience that they must stay loyal and obey god if they want to enter a time of peace (or rest) (v 10-11). V 13 “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes...” creeps me out. Like god is some kind of stalker. I think the main point of the chapter is v 14 “since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.” But I still can’t put the pieces together. I’m gonna move on.
OK, so after reading 5:1-9, 4:14 makes more sense. The author is saying that god needs to appoint a high priest to act as an intermediary between himself and the common people, to offer sacrifices for sins, and that Jesus is that perfect high priest. And predictably, out come the OT scriptures to back up that opinion – all hokum as usual and taken completely out of context. Like I expected anything else?
In v 11-14, the author insults his audience, calling them out for being spiritually dull and in need of someone to refresh them in the basics of god’s word. I guess I’m not the only one who has trouble comprehending the message of this letter.
We begin with a continuation of the diatribe from the last chapter. The author sounds like a frustrated middle-school teacher – ‘surely I don’t need to start again with the fundamentals…’ V 4-8 make it quite clear that those who fall from grace by turning away from god are beyond saving and will be condemned. Wow! This position underlies shunning of apostates and cruelty directed towards non-believers. But then immediately after, we read in v 10 that god is not unjust. Seriously???
The chapter tries to end on a positive note, asserting that god will keep his promises and can be trusted. And of course, Jesus is the intermediary as the high priest, so people need to continue to have faith etc. Maybe this will convince some, but it doesn’t move me at all. It reminds me again of the ‘you don’t need to come into my basement speech’ – in other words, psychological blackmail. Here’s that speech for those who aren’t familiar – I think I shared it once before, but it’s one of my favorites and captures the message here so well.