A Journey Through The Epistle To The Hebrews.

Hebrews Chapter 1

While it is Not my desire, nor within my ability here, to attempt to write a Commentary on this Epistle to the Hebrews, I thought it would be interesting to journey through this Great Epistle and see what we can ferret out by close analysis.  Perhaps you would join me in taking this closer look at one of the most intelligent, thought out, and persuasive writings, concerning the Work of Jesus Christ, by His Life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension.  It is a very Jewish oriented document, concerning itself with Jewish Christianity, and can only be understood by keeping that fact at the forefront. It is similar to a Legal Argument in my opinion that any Defense Lawyer would be proud of. We will discuss the History, Authorship, and the who, what, where, when, and why, for this document as we take our Journey.

Next to the Gospels, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Epistle to the Romans, are by far my two Favorite Writings of all, for Hebrews gives a clear insight to Jewish Christianity, and Romans, Gentile Christianity. Often times when it comes to the Epistle to the Hebrews, it seems that the overwhelming interest is that of the Authorship of the Document. Even more so than the Document itself. This subject will be discussed later in this writing. Let us begin our Journey now.

 

Viewing the Standard King James Version (Pure Cambridge). Click to switch to 1611 King James Version of Hebrews Chapter 1

1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

Just for the benefit of the doubt here, an easy way to understand the early 17th century English would be to say, …who at different times, and in many ways…..,

2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

…these last days spoken…or to this Generation spoken unto us…;  the language and imagery in this verse, and the first half of the next verse, are very similar to the opening statements of The Gospel of John, and also that of the Targums.  The Targums were writings that referred back to the Oral teachings, and Oral interpretations of scriptural texts read in the Synagogues.  The Targums, as well as the NT authors, interpreted the scriptures, particularly the Prophets, Messianically.   Targum Neofiti, and the Tanakh (OT) speak of God doing all of his great works by The “Word of God,” who St John says was made flesh and dwelt among us, 1.14 St. John.  It is through this Messianic lens that all of the descriptive language from the OT that is referenced within this document is seen, and understood, by both the Writer, and the recipients.

For more on the Targums, see The Targums, on the Home-Page of this Blog.

3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

See 1.14 St. John, and 1.5 Revelation.

He both Performs the Sacrifice, and IS the Sacrifice!  He is the High Priest, and His humanity is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world, 13.8 Rev.  It is John the Baptist who issued the Most Beautiful Proclamation ever spoken by the mouth of Man, “…Behold The Lamb of God which Taketh Away the Sin Of The World!” 1.29 St. John. Remember the writer here is suggesting within a Jewish understanding of Atonement that Christ purged our sins. For more clarity on the subject of Atonement, one should study the Book of Leviticus.  For a quick study, see Article written by Bob Deffinbaugh, at: https://bible.org/seriespage/day-atonement-leviticus-16

A definition of the word Purge(d) provided by Google Definitions:

purge
pərj/
verb
  1. 1.
    rid (someone) of an unwanted feeling, memory, or condition, typically giving a sense of cathartic release.
    “Bob had helped purge Martha of the terrible guilt that had haunted her”
    synonyms: cleanseclearpurifywashshriveabsolve More

noun
  1. 1.
    an abrupt or violent removal of a group of people from an organization or place.
    “a purge of the ruling class is absolutely necessary”

4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

How was Jesus made better than the Angels?  This verse is not speaking of His manhood being better, it is purely because of his Name! For in Hebrews Chapter 2 it is said that he was made a little lower than the Angels. What Name did He inherit then? The Name of Jesus in English, is a form of the Latin word Iesus, which is a form of the Greek word Ihsous, pronounced “EE-AY-SOOS.”  Which is a form of the Aramaic Yeshua (Jeshua), which is in turn a form of the Hebrew Yehoshua (Joshua).  Yeho, is a form of the tetragrammaton, or YHWH.  Shua means To Cry For Help.  To See More, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yeshua_(name).

Jesus bears the Name of GOD! Why then the contrast, and comparison, to the Angels?  I can find No where else in the Entirety of the Word of God that this has ever been done before! So what is the writer doing?  In the first three verses the writer in His opening remarks, establishes the belief that the even the resurrected Humanity of Jesus is exalted as God, by the Spirit of God!  Why then does the writer feel it important to dedicate the first Two Chapters of this treatise to the fact that He was greater than the Angels?

So quickly in his writing does he bring this to the forefront, and then begins to deal with this particular issue!  This bears a presupposition that there was something happening within this community concerning perhaps, that an erroneous belief was gaining a foothold. At least from the perspective of the writer to the Hebrews.  Indeed there was something happening, and we will discuss that in Chapter 2 of the Epistle to the Hebrews.

5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son

2.7 Psalms, and 17.13 1st Chronicles.

6 And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.

2.13 St. Luke (although not a direct quote)

7 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.

104.4 Psalms

8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

45.6 Psalms

9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

45.7 Psalms

10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:

102.25 Psalms

11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment;

102.26 Psalms

12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.

102.27 Psalms

13 But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?

110.1 Psalms

14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

104.4 Psalms

As you can see most of the writer’s quotations come from the Psalms. He is using all of these quotations to prove his position that Jesus is Greater than the Angels.  It should be noted here that the Psalms, also known as a part of The Writings, one of the three genres of religious texts, had not yet been considered as Scripture until some time after 90 AD, by the Jewish Scholars at Jamnia.  They were considered inspired but the least important of three, and they are in order of Importance, and Holiness, The Torah (the Law),  The Nevi’im (the prophets), and The Ketuvim (the writings).

The reason I mention this point is because 90 represents a date to late for the composition of Hebrews by some scholars.  Yet I find it hard to believe that the writer to the Hebrews would use as a defence a majority of texts not yet considered scripture by the Jews! One of the traditions suggests that the Apostle Paul dictated this writing to Luke, then Luke sends it on to the “Hebrews,” without any Name affixed to it so as not to offend the Jews with the Name of Paul, and it be rejected.  If this is the case, then the writing would have to be pre 67, for Paul was executed at Neros order, and Nero commits suicide in 68. So no later than 67 and maybe as early as 64.  This is only true however, if tradition concerning Paul’s execution has it right. It does seem likely though, because of Paul comments in 2 Tim ch. 4, writing while in Rome, and sensing his impending death.

6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.

7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

This little note from Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_the_Apostle

In June 2009, Pope Benedict announced excavation results concerning the tomb of Paul at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. The sarcophagus was not opened but was examined by means of a probe, which revealed pieces of incense, purple and blue linen, and small bone fragments. The bone was radiocarbon dated to the 1st or 2nd century. According to the Vatican, these findings are consistent with the tradition that the tomb is Paul’s.[83] The sarcophagus was inscribed in Latin saying, “Paul apostle martyr”.[84]

Scholars also note that because there is no mention of the Destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, that it was written before that event, and the fact that the writer always references the Tabernacle, and not the Temple.  So the debate goes on, from the first century till now.  What is important however, is that though highly contested during the election process of Books into the Christian Canon of Scripture, it was eventually selected because it was a great masterpiece. I believe it to be the greatest within the New Testament, and then Romans!  It is to our great benefit that it made it into the canon, it certainly is indeed.

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