Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hebrews 1

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As usual, I will start by looking at the wikipedia article on this book. "The primary purpose of the Letter to the Hebrews is to exhort Christians to persevere in the face of persecution." So basically this book is going to be all about building up a persecution complex...awesome. Authorship is unknown, and it seems the best guess on the date it is written is 63 or 64. That seems more specific that I would have thought they could get it, given that they don't know who wrote it, but apparently they look at how certain topics are covered (or not mentioned) and they can make a pretty good guess as to when it was written.

The Supremacy of God's Son (v. 1-14)

God used to speak to us through prophets, but now he instead talks to us through Jesus. After purifying our sins, Jesus sat down next to God, he is superior to all, even the angels.

That seems to be the gist of this entire chapter. The rest is just examples of things God has said about Christ and about the angels as evidence of this point. There are a few verses which I found interesting which I will discuss.

v3 "...he [Jesus] upholds the universe by the word of his power"

That is quite a statement, the universe itself would fall apart if not for Jesus holding it together.

v7 "of the angels, he [God] says "He makes the angels winds, and his minsters a flame of fire"

I didn't know what the hell this meant, so I did a compare translation. Instead of winds, some say spirits. Perhaps the implication is that angels used to be flesh and blood like us, but now they are ethereal? I don't really know what flame of fire is supposed to mean, maybe it is a mark of power? Or maybe intensity. Hopefully the christian commentaries will have an idea.

Gill seems to generally agree with me that the flame thing seems to point to power. 

v8 "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever"
v10-11 "You laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain"

This I find very interesting, and I have no idea what to make of it. My understanding is that God's throne is supposed to be in heaven, and the throne will live on forever. But God created heaven and earth, and they both with perish. I guess v12 also says they will be changed like a garment, perhaps the throne is supposed to be transferred? 

Guzik seems to focus on the fact that Jesus is forever, but he doesn't really talk about the fact that heaven will  perish

Gill says that the heavens will perish in their current form, but they stuff they are made of will not, and it will be reformed. I suppose this makes as much sense as anything.

v13 And to which of the angels has he ever said, "sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"?

Given that we are contrasting what God has said to angels and Jesus, it is clear to me that the message is God has never said this to the angels, but he has said it to Jesus. God sure is a violent fellow isn't he?

No one I saw addressed the fact that God is violent, but Guzik did have something interesting to say about "sit at my right hand", he pointed out that by comparison the angels do not sit but they have to stand, so the fact that Jesus has to stand proves he really has the right to be there. He said "there are no seats for the angels around the throne of God, because they are constantly busy praising God and serving Him." I wonder, when humans get to heaven, do they have to also busy themselves constantly praising God? That does not sound like a pleasant afterlife to me.

For the overview post (If you think I should add or remove stuff from this list please let me know, I think it would make good conversation)


1:13 God is violent

"And to which of the angels has he ever said, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"?"


  1. FYI, you probably saw this, but that quote comes from Psalm 110:1. Psalm 110 is a fairly short, somewhat ambiguous song about God's helping out in some sort of epic war. Psalm 110:4 is an important verse, because Hebrews will touch on it for a while:

    The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind:
    “You are a priest forever,
    in the order of Melchizedek.” NIV

    1. Actually I didn't know where it came from, thanks for the info :)

      Just read Psalm 110, do you know who the "you" is supposed to be? Who is God supposed to be addressing here?

    2. That "you" is the ambiguous part I referred to. :-)

      This is supposed to be a Psalm "of David," typically meaning that it was allegedly written by David. However, I think that "of David" would better be rendered "about David" in this case. In other words, someone like the prophet Samuel may have written this. Then the statement "The LORD said to my lord" makes sense, and the "you" is the "my lord" being referred to; David.

      Indeed, David did have great military success over many nations with God's help, as we can see in places like 2 Samuel 8.

      It is interesting to note that Melchizedek was the king and God's priest in Salem (Genesis 14:18). Salem would later become Jeru-salem. So David was the king of the same city. There were noted priests at that time: Zadok and Abiathar were priests; and Ira was David's priest. However, no one was classified as the High Priest. It is arguable that David acted as the High Priest (the scenes in 1 Chronicles 24:31, 2 Chronicles 8:14, 2 Chronicles 23:18 certainly suggests so), but David was never explicitly called a priest (unless you can count Psalm 110:4). David's sons acted as priests, also suggesting David having priestly title (2 Samuel 8:18), given that priesthood was to be dictated by family lineage.

    3. Interesting stuff.

      It seems to be a compelling case for this to be talking about David to me. That line "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek", is that supposed to be like, his lineage will forever be priests? Or is it supposed to be him, like we still recognize him as a priest even after he is dead or something?

    4. Great questions, Hausdorff. I wish I had great answers, but there is enough ambiguity in there for me to shy away from saying I know exactly what is meant, but I do have a reasonable guess, at least in my opinion. ;-)

      First, let met point you to a very handy Lexicon:

      You can really drill down into the specific meanings of words in verses there. It's helped me out often.

      The root of the word for "forever" is "olam," with its specific entry here:

      The particular variant is "lə·‘ō·lām," with its specific entry here:

      All of those resources basically point to the concept of "forever" as, more or less, eternal. It is from that aspect that you will see later in Hebrews the tie into Jesus. Given the ambiguity here, this is a case where Christianity isn't really stretching much to make this assertion.

      However, where I think the Christian perspective fails is in both the earlier and subsequent references to military conquest (although they associate this with the battle of Armageddon), and the first half of this verse:

      "The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind:..." NIV

      Here we have God swearing to the subject of this Psalm. It would seem rather odd for God to swear something to Jesus, but it would make sense for God to swear something to a man.

      Add to that the references of Melchizedek and David literally ruling the same city and acting as priest, and David's God-helped military conquests, and you have at least a reasonable case that this Psalm is about David, not Jesus. Reasonable, but not rock solid.

      Anyway, so to answer the question you actually asked... ;-)
      I think that this was effectively God saying that He was granting David the title of "priest," and that title would never be stripped from him. He would be a priest as long as he lived. I don't think that the eternal promise of priesthood necessarily extended to his progeny. So, just like Melchizedek died, and no one speaks of priests from his lineage, so too would be the case with David.

    5. I think that seems like a pretty reasonable perspective, but you are right, there is a bit of fuzziness in the text.

      Wow, that bible lexicon site is pretty incredible. It's a bit overwhelming, but I could see it coming in handy in the future. Thanks!

  2. I don't think I've ever heard it said before that angels were ever flesh and blood like us, but but then become ethereal.
    There are several instances of angels appearing to people in the Old Testament. They do sometimes appear to be fleshy as in Genesis 19:1-5

    Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the
    gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground.
    And he said, "Now behold, my lords, please turn aside into your servant's house, and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way." They said however, "No, but we shall spend the night in the square."
    Yet he urged them strongly, so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he prepared a feast for them, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.
    Yet he urged them strongly, so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he prepared a feast for them, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.
    and they called to Lot and said to him, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them."

    So the angels had dusty feet, ate a feast, were going to sleep and must have been sexy. :D

    Other times like in Exodus 3:2, The story of Moses and the burning bush they don't appear to be made of flesh at all.

    The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed.

    Ephesians 6:12 tells us.
    For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

    These are suppose to be the fallen angels or demons.

    I don't know what to make of it other than to chalk it up to more Bible inconstancies.

    1. Hey Crocoduck, welcome to the blog :)

      Your examples of angels in OT being either flesh and blood or not are great. What it seems to me is that the writers of the bible just used whatever was most convenient for the current story they were trying to tell. I suppose a Christian would argue that the angels could go back and forth.


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