Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Hebrews, Day 1, Page 2161, 1:1-5a

ESV Study Bible page 2161:

 - This passage has a ton of alliteration in the original Greek.  (The "P" sound comes out a lot.)
 - It's a "periodic" passage, which means it strings together a lot of clauses.
 - Is really striking in the original language and would capture the attention of the audience.
 - This passage sums up a lot of the themes of the book of Hebrews:
   - Purification for sin (High Priestly work)
   - God spoke ("laleyo" or something like that)
   - Jesus' Sonship (echoed elsewhere in the many references, e.g. the "you are my son" references)
   - Sat down at the right-hand
   - Superiority (here, with respect to angels)
   - Inaugurated eschatology ("Long ago" vs "these last days")
   - Substance vs Shadow (word of prophets vs word of Christ)
 - This passage has a cool chiasm that O'Brien outlines as follows:

Here are the scripture quotes to support his assertions:
A: "Spoke by the prophets" vs "spoken by the Son"
A': "Much superior" "More excellent than theirs.
B: "Appointed heir of all things"
B': "Sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven"
Son's work
C: "Through whom he created the world"
C': "Making purification for sins"
Son's 3-fold mediatorial relationshiop
D1 - "radiance of the glory of God"
D2 - "Exact imprint of His nature"
D3 - "Upholds universe by the word of His power"

In the Greek, the  "Having spoken to our fathers by the prophets" is leading up to the "he has spoken to us by his Son".  So, while he is making a contrast, this is not in contradiction.  The message of the prophets is in continuity with the message from the Son.  We are not Marcionites.

1:2 "last days"
Hebrews has his own distinctive eschatology vocab.  We are now in the "last days".  He has another set of language for the coming ages.

1:3 b-c "upholds the universe by the word of His power.. making purification of sins"
There is a nuance to the word "upholds" here that more clear in the Greek: the word "upholds" has a directionary sense of leading up to the phrase that follows.  So in the Greek, the suggestion is that the purpose of his creative and sustaining work is his redemptive work.  The "upholding" or "bearing" (Gk. "phero" φερω), is subserviant to his "making purification".  Creation isn't the main thing.  What you see outside your window isn't the point.  The point is the cross and always has been.

1:3d "sat down"
Thematic question here.  I've heard people say this is in reference to his priesthood.  Is it?  Is this in reference to his kingly role only?  Or does it also refer to his priestly role (i.e. there is no "lazy boy" in the holy place because the priest always has to stand because the work is never done, whereas Christ, the High Priest, is done with his work and so can sit down)?

Verse 5 here starts a new section.  In general, the outline of Hebrews can be seen by examining the exposition passages in relationship to the exhortatory passages.  (The structure of Hebrews is ordered by its strategic alternations.  It keeps going Christology, warning.  Christology, warning. Christology, warning.)  You usually see a more kind of Christology/exposition passage followed by a warning passage.  Same is true here.  The point of seeing Jesus as more superior to angels is to better understand the point made in 2:1-4, namely:
"If this is how bad it was for people who ignored a message given by angles, which are important, just think how bad it will be for people who ignore a message given by God's Son who is much superior to them!"
By the end of this passage, they will clearly see that Jesus is superior to angels.  In 1:5-14 (the Christology section), the author is using a rhetorical device called "Haraz" (transliteration), i.e. "string of pearls".  In Haraz, he rhetorician strings together a string of authoritative quotes to establish his point very strongly.  In this passages, he lists 7 OT quotes to establish his point.

Because this is the author's intention (i.e. establishing this point for the sake of maximizing the potency of his warning), it is most likely that this section is not written to counter some gnostic, heretical angelology that was going on at the destination church.  This is further supported by the primarily positive view of angels that comes out in the rest of the book.

1:5a  "you are my son"
1:5a is linked by verbal analogy to 1:5b.  The key to understanding this passage is to realize that Psalm 2 (1:5a quotes from Psalm 2:7) is an "enthronement psalm".  Originally it was talking about the Davidic king's innauguration.  But in the NT, we recognize it as referring to Christ's exaltation (i.e. ascension into heaven after resurrection, if I understand correctly).  The key to understanding how these kingly passages point to Christ is to recognize two things: (1) The Davidic covenant of 2 Sam. 7, and (2) How some of the things mentioned in these psalms never actually are accomplished by any of the other Davidic kings.  So it's clear here that this passage is not talking about the "creation" of the Son, but rather about the inauguration of the Son's kingly session.

I think it's also helpful to realize that there was progression in the saga of the Son's life.  Our gospel is a drama.  So, it should not be a surprise that there was a beginning to his session.  Nor that things are not fully and finally subjected under his feet yet.  It shouldn't surprise us that, later on in the book of Hebrews, we read that the Son "learned obedience" and "was perfected".  The Jesus we worship lived (and lives) a dramatic life.

Meditations that stuck out to me:
 - God's kingdom is real.  It has come and is coming.  Realize that Jesus really is the owner.  Even if it doesn't seem this way in the world sometimes when viewed through earthly lenses, 1:1-4 is true, and I'm encouraged to believe it and see the world through this reality.
 - The superiority of Jesus' name.  Makes me remember the song "Yours is the sweetest name.  You are my soul's refrain. I worship You"

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