Thursday, February 22, 2018

9. Persist in Faith (10:19-11:40)

III. The Application (10:19-12:29)
A. You Need Endurance (10:19-39)
  • 10:19-25 is a hinge paragraph which corresponds to 4:14-16. They both have at their core the exhortation to "hold fast to the confession" and to approach God with confidence on the basis of Christ's priestly work.
  • 10:20. This verse is a clear indication that much of the author's heavenly sanctuary imagery is metaphorical in nature. Grammatically, the veil here is most likely Christ's flesh. The author is not thinking of Christ's flesh as an obstacle but as the entrance to the heavenly Holy of Holies.
  • 10:22. Our hearts have been sprinkled from an evil conscience. That is, our sins have been cleansed by the blood of Christ. We have no more consciousness of their existence. Our bodies have been baptized.
  • 10:24. Believers should spur each other on "to love and good works."  
  • 10:25. This is the central preaching text on the need to go to church. We meet together to encourage each other to keep going.
  • 10:26-31. This is the second warning passage in Hebrews urging the audience not to turn away from Christ. 
  • 10:26. Intentional sinning, in a sense, "uses up" the sacrifice of Christ. None is left for you because you have exhausted it. Coming to Christ is once again related to getting a certain knowledge ("enlightened," 6:4).
  • 10:27. The prospect of those who turn from God face the same future as those who never turned to him--the prospect of fire. Those whom God judges are considered here his enemies (cf. 10:13).
  • 10:28-29. These verses are again somewhat surprising to Christians. Unlike John who pits law against grace, Hebrews makes a lesser to greater argument--if the punishment under Moses was bad, how much worse will the punishment be for those who despise the Son of God?
  • There is holiness and honor-shame language here: "despising," "insulting" the Spirit of grace, "considering common the blood by which sanctified."
  • 10:30-31. The judgment of God is evoked, including the classic text from which Jonathan Edwards preached the famous sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."
  • 10:32-39. This is yet another passage that gives us insight into the past of the audience (cf. 6:10-11). 
  • 10:32-34. In the past, they went through a time of suffering. They were publicly shamed or were associated with those who were. Given 13:7, it seems possible that some of their leaders were martyred during that crisis. If the audience is at Rome, certainly the persecution of 64 under Nero comes to mind. Peter and Paul were also martyred at Rome under Nero, although not necessarily in conjunction with that persecution.
  • 10:34. They had association with prisoners. Peter and Paul come to mind. Prisoners needed external support to survive in jail. The plundering of their property has sometimes been connected with the Claudian expulsion of 49, although it seems like we should pick between Nero and Claudius.
  • The better and remaining possession is of course the heavenly homeland of Hebrews 11:16.
  • 10:35-39. "Therefore" suggests these verses are what the audience should now do. Here is the application. They have done admirably in the past, so they should resolve to endure now. They should not throw away their confidence.
  • The exhortation to endure, to have faith, to have confidence is the primary exhortation of Hebrews. Hebrews never tells the audience, "Don't go to the temple," "Don't offer sacrifices." Perhaps the temple is not even standing. The exhortation is rather positive--keep going!
  • 10:36. Another reminder of God's promises (cf. Heb 6).
  • 10:37-38. The author quotes/paraphrases Habakkuk 2:3-4. This is of course a key Pauline text (Rom. 1:17). Hebrews uses it a little differently than Paul does. He was building a case for justification by faith. Hebrews is talking about continuance in faithfulness.
  • 10:39. The author has confidence that the audience will not shrink back. They are people of faith, people who keep going to preserve their souls.
B. Witnesses of Faith (11:1-40)
  • This is the faith chapter of the Bible! It is not just a chapter out of the blue. It fits entirely into the flow of Hebrews. You need endurance, 10:36 says. Seeing these witnesses, keep running, Hebrews 12:1-2 say. They need faith.
  • So the examples of faith are examples meant to encourage the audience to have faith. All of the different examples speak to the audience's need to have faith or continue in faith. They fall into a number of categories: 1) faith in what you can't see, 2) faith in God's promises, 3) faith in the right kind of sacrifice, 4) faith despite evil rulers, and 5) faith in rescue and resurrection.
  • 11:1-3. 11:1 is not so much a definition of faith as a description of it with a special view to the situation of Hebrews. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for." This statement relates to the temporal, horizontal dimension of believing now something that has not yet happened. "Faith is the evidence of things not seen." This could also relate to the future, but might also relate to the vertical dimension of faith--seeing the heavenly beyond the earthly.
  • 11:2 forms an inclusio with 11:39. Both have the statement, "were witnessed." This chapter thus forms a unit of thought. Witnessing is a minor theme in Hebrews, the verb appearing 8 times.
  • 11:3 falls in the category of faith in what you cannot see. The worlds were "knit" out of things that do not appear. The visible was created out of what was invisible. It is not clear whether the author had creation out of nothing in view, although this is how we Christians read the verse today.
  • 11:4-7. Abel, Enoch, and Noah are mentioned in this paragraph. Abel is an example of offering the right kind of sacrifice with faith. So the audience should trust in Christ's sacrifice.
  • 11:5. Enoch did not experience death because of his faith. So it is possible the audience will be rescued from death, perhaps by being taken to heaven.
  • 11:6 is a general statement that is a major take-away for the audience from the chapter: "Without faith, it is impossible to please God." The audience therefore needs to continue in faith. They need to believe that God will keep his promises, no matter what things may look like at present.
  • 11:7. Noah believed in the promises of God even though they were unseen in the future. 
  • The mention of "righteousness by faith" again confirms that the author of Hebrews stands in some relation to the Pauline circle.
  • 11:8-22. These paragraphs relate to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
  • 11:8-12. Abraham was called toward a land of promise, which his heirs were to inherit. He went in faith. The theme of alienation is present in this paragraph and the next. The audience is in a homeland that proves not to be their own. 
  • Abraham was looking forward to a city built by God. We find out soon that this is a heavenly city (11:16). It seems that Hebrews is alluding to some earthly city here that the audience must leave metaphorically, must come to realize is not truly their city. More on this in a moment. He was in the land but not of the land.
  • 11:11-12 talks about how Sarah conceived even though she was beyond the age of procreation. This falls in the category of God bringing back from the dead.
  • 11:13-16. The author pauses in the middle of his examples to reflect on the heroes of faith thus far. They died without receiving the promises. Such might be the case for the audience. They were foreigners on the earth--as the audience truly is. Their homeland is not on earth but in heaven. So the audience must not think that Jerusalem or Rome on earth is their true homeland. If Jerusalem is destroyed, it was never truly their home. God himself has prepared a city in heaven.
  • 11:17-22. Now the author resumes the examples of the patriarchs. Most of the illustrations in this paragraph have to do with coming back from the dead.
  • 11:17-19. Abraham had faith when he offered up Isaac, believing that God could bring him back from the dead. Abraham believed God's promises, as the audience should.
  • 11:20-22. All of these patriarchs believed that God would fulfill his promises even after their deaths. Isaac believed in the future of Jacob and Esau. Jacob believed that God would bless Joseph. Joseph believed Israel would enter the land again after his death. So the audience need not fear death. God would raise them.
  • 11:23-28. This paragraph moves on to Moses.
  • 11:23. In the category of not fearing the king (=Roman emperor), Moses' parents hid him.
  • 11:24-26. Moses chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a time. So the audience should not hide while God's people are being persecuted.
  • There are advantages to going along with evil powers when they are persecuting others and you are not yet the target. I think of the famous quote from Martin Niemöller: "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."
  • 11:27. Again, Moses left Egypt not fearing the king's anger. He was looking toward the invisible. So the audience should not fear the Roman emperor's anger. They should have faith in the invisible.
  • The timing of 11:27 is contested. The Passover is mentioned next, but it was after Moses fled the first time, out of fear. 11:27 sounds more like the exodus.
  • 11:28 may be another allusion to the better blood of Christ. And those who participate in Christ's blood need not fear the judgment either.
  • 11:29-31. The author takes the audience to the entrance into Canaan with crossing the Red Sea, the walls of Jericho, and Rahab. 
  • 11:29. If the Egyptians are a cipher for the Romans, the audience is being told not to worry in the face of persecution. 
  • 11:30. God sometimes chooses to destroy enemies like the Romans, as happened with Jericho. 
  • 11:31. Rahab could represent Roman Christians in Rome who hide Jews or those who were in danger because of the destruction of Jerusalem.
  • 11:32-38. The author now stops individual examples and lists by name individuals and types of faithfulness.
  • 11:32. The masculine singular participle here suggests that the author is male.
  • 11:32-34. Most of these examples come from Judges and the books of Samuel, although Daniel is the one whose faith shut the mouths of lions. 
  • Sometimes God delivers now. Sometimes he delivers from death. That is a key message in these verses.
  • 11:35. The first example is probably the son of the Shunammite woman in 1 Kings 4. The second mother trusting in the resurrection of her sons may be an allusion to 2 Maccabees 7.
  • 11:37. There is a tradition that Isaiah was sawed in half (a work called Martyrdom of Isaiah). Is being stoned to death an allusion to Stephen? The apostle James was killed by the sword. 
  • 11:38. Is this an allusion to Elijah?
  • 11:39-40. None of these received the promise because it was not possible until Jesus died and rose from the dead. Only then was perfection of the conscience possible. So they were commended for their faith (remember the inclusio with 11:2) but did not receive the promise.
  • 11:40. Now that Christ has done his high priestly work, both the examples of the past and the audience in the present can be made perfect. All the rainchecks of the sacrifices of the past are now cashed in.

I. Sermon Introduction (1:1-2:18)
     A. Exordium (1:1-4)
     B. Celebration of the Enthroned Son (1:5-14)
     C. Background of Salvation (2:1-18)

II. The Argument (3:1-10:18)
     A. Enter into God's Rest (3:1-4:13)

     B. The High Priestly Argument (4:14-10:18)
          1. A Superior Priest (4:14-7:28)
               a. Hold Fast (4:14-16)
               b. Appointed High Priest (5:1-10)
               c. Central Exhortation (5:11-6:20)
               d. The Order of Melchizedek (7:1-28)
               e. Superior Sanctuary and Sacrifice (8:1-10:18)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Remembering Billy Graham

Human memory is a funny thing. It is notoriously unreliable. The more we think about our past memories, the more we will overlay them with our current values and thinking.

1. I have a generally positive view of Billy Graham, who died today at 99. I believe there are a lot of people who will be in the kingdom of God as a direct result of his rallies and ministry. Seems like some of my family was even involved with his 1998 rally in Tampa, Florida.

I like other things I've heard about Graham. Although I have no doubt of his core evangelical beliefs, he played nice with others. He was ecumenical in his relationships even if he did not waver in his beliefs. I believe he met every president from Truman to Obama at least once.

2. I was remembering today though that I did not necessarily grow up with such a glowing review. I remember grumbling about how he "stacked" the audience with people who went up first to prime the pump. (Grumbling is my word for what we often do in the face of stuff that makes us uncomfortable, jealous, convicted, etc) Maybe as much as 60% of those who went forward were already believers. As a older student of humanity now, I have fewer problems with priming the pump. Hey, Finney did it. Besides, most of these were counselors.

Of course Graham was a Baptist. Growing up hyper-Wesleyan, that was a matter of a little grumbling. On the other hand, George Beverly Shea sang for him. Shea was a Houghton grad, so that was a plus.

Still yet, fundamentalists didn't like it in the 50s when Graham started talking to "liberals." Bob Jones Sr. broke with him. So was Billy Graham liberal? Then that's a grumble. Then later I learned to think of Bob Jones negatively, so then that's a plus. Graham kicked out of Bob Jones and then goes on to become, well, Billy Graham. You go Graham! Take that Jones! So that's a plus.

3. Graham started out pretty fundamentalist. He supported Chiang kai Shek, who of course was a mass murderer. He supported McCarthy, which was not just paranoia but grandstanding out of his own ambition. Like pretty much all dispensationalist teaching in the early twentieth century, his predictions in the early 50s didn't happen.

In this light Franklin Graham's support of Trump is not so surprising. It fits his father's early politics. I suspect that Graham's views were always fundamentalist. He just learned to keep it to himself. Grumble but way to go with the self-discipline!

On the other hand, he seemed to genuinely engage MLK and do as much as he thought he could to advance integration. Plus. But he certainly didn't stick his neck out much at all for the cause of civil rights. Grumble.

4. He didn't make money off of his ministry. Super-plus. He sure seems to have enjoyed hanging around powerful important people... a lot... maybe too much? Mini-grumble.

He was probably the most important force behind the founding of Christianity Today (plus). He had the insight to give it out free for two years to every pastor in America to get it going (clever! like). One of its purposes was to solidify conservative Calvinism around the country (grumble).

5. I like Billy Graham. I'm glad he didn't talk much this last decade. I'm afraid I wouldn't like him as much. He wasn't perfect, but he looms like a colossus across the pages of American church history in the twentieth century. He was an overwhelming force for good in the world.

"Call no one blessed until death, for by how one dies a person is known" (Sirach 11:28). Billy Graham is a blessed man.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

5. A Biblical Theology of Israel

5.1 One God, One People
  • "Four pillars" of deuteronomistic theology: henotheism, election, covenant, land
  • We have already talked about the henotheism of Israel and its progression. Exodus 20 seems to be patterned on a suzerainty treaty.
  • Deut. 32:8-9 speaks of God choosing Israel in the great nation matching (election). We've already talked about deuteronomistic theology and the blessings and curses of Deut. 28.
  • Psalm 82 pictures YHWH as king of the gods.
  • Israel initially was an amphictyony. Then it was a monarchy. Then the Law took a certain center stage and it was run by priests centered in the temple.
  • Israel was not greatly eschatological but had more of a cyclical view of history. The apocalypticists of the late 200s/early 100s BC introduced the linear components that would become characteristic of Christianity.
5.2 A Biblical Theology of the Law
  • The cultic parts of the Law were fulfilled in Christ.
  • The civil parts of the Law were heavily ensconced in the Ancient Near East.
  • "Christ's law" is the law of love, which includes most but not all of the Ten Commandments.
  • Sexual ethics seem to occupy an ambiguous zone in relation to Paul's broader view of the Law but are retained as part of NT ethics.
  • The early church debated what we might call "Jew-specific laws," laws that especially pertained to the ethnic boundary between Jews and Gentiles (circumcision, food laws, most purity laws, Sabbath observance). Paul considers these not binding on Gentile believers although other early Christian leaders seem to have disagreed.
5.3 Parting of the Ways?
  • Neither Paul nor any of the original disciples of Jesus saw faith in Jesus as a parting with the faith of Israel or its Scriptures. That is, the New Testament is not supercessionist.
  • None of the biblical authors ceased believing in one God. The way that Jesus related to the one God is debated. Those who hold to an early high Christology see Jesus as included in some way within the one God. Others see this inclusion taking place later in a Gentile context.
  • The election of Israel seems to be a central feature of much of the New Testament even though the gospel is universalized. Matthew sees the mission to the world emerging from Israel. Luke-Acts see us in a middle time, "times of the Gentiles," but with Jerusalem and its temple as the center of the mission. Paul says that Israel's election is "without repentance" (Rom. 11:29).
  • Three positions on Romans 11: a) replacement theory, b) the true ethnic Israel reading, and c) the final return reading. Perhaps the third one fits Romans 11:26 best. But we are left with 1) the fact that current Israel is not believing Israel--it is not yet the Israel of promise and 2) we must remain somewhat agnostic about God's current plan with regard to the events of the last century. We will know when it is all finished.
  • The Gospel of John seems to come the closest to the boundaries of Judaism: 1) it most equates Jesus with God the Father; 2) it most most distances Jesus from Judaism ("your law"); 3) it most has the feel of Christianity as a wholesale replacement for the Jewish festivals in addition to the temple; 4) it distances the worship of God from Jerusalem and makes it a matter of the Spirit.

Previous "chapters"
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation

4.1-3 Sin and the Fall
4.4 Sin in the Old Testament
4.5 Sin in the New Testament
4.6 Atonement in the Old Testament
4.7 Atonement in the New Testament

4.7 Atonement in the New Testament

4.7.1 Christ's Death as Satisfaction
  • Historically, metaphors of Christ's death as a sacrifice probably came first. 
  • In Paul, we have, the image of Christ's death as a passover sacrifice (1 Cor. 5:7), as a sin offering (2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 8:3), and as the Day of Atonement sacrifice (Rom. 3:25).
  • There are debates over the meaning of 2 Corinthians 5:21. Cf. N. T. Wright
  • There are debates over the meaning of hilasterion in Romans 3:25 (Is it propitiation, expiation, sacrifice of atonement, place of atonement?)
  • In Mark 10:45 we have Jesus death as a ransom.
  • Luke 22:20 looks at Christ's death as a new covenant inaugurating sacrifice.
  • Understanding Christ's death as a sacrifice is of course a metaphor. For us it is a dead metaphor but for them it was a very live metaphor.
  • The Maccabean literature might have provided an ideological precedent for this understanding (cf. 2 Macc. 7:38; 4 Macc. 17:22).
  • From a slightly different perspective, there is the sense of Christ's death satisfying God's justice (Rom. 3:25-26; 2 Cor. 5:21).
  • Of course Hebrews provides the fulchrum point for Christ's death as the definitive atonement/sacrifice for sins. See 4.6.1. Also explore the interpretation of David Moffitt with Christ's blood offering as an offering of life rather than death.
4.7.2 Christ as Representative Humanity
  • The idea of "substitutionary atonement" is another one of the major theories of atonement.
  • The idea of being "in Christ" is fundamental to Paul. We die with Christ; we rise with Christ (Gal. 2:20).
  • Hebrews 2:5-18 probably gives us insight into Paul's inner logic. Humanity was created for glory but "all have sinned and are lacking the glory of God." Christ became human and tasted death for everyone.
  • Christ as Last Adam is a fundamental theme in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. As Last Adam he undoes for humanity what Adam did at the beginning.
4.7.3 Christ as Demonstration of God's Love
  • Romans 5:8 certainly views Christ's death as an expression of God's love.
  • Parable of the Prodigal Son is the fulchrum point here. Explore theologically any sense that God "had" to atone in a particular way.
  • Explore Joel Green and Mark Baker's analysis of penal substitution. Cf. Recovering the Scandal of the Cross.
4.7.4 Defeating the Devil (Christus Victor)
  • Jesus' exorcist ministry was a beginning of the arrival of the kingdom of God (Luke 11:20)
  • Hebrews 2:14 - The defeat of the Devil was a defeat of the one holding the power of death.
  • Colossians 1 - Christ's supremacy over all evil powers. Cf. Eph. 6:12.
4.7.5 Broadening Scope of Christ's Atonement
  • Restoring the Kingdom of Israel? (Acts 1:6)
  • Dead in Christ will rise (1 Cor. 15)
  • Hebrews - all old covenant sins atoned through Christ, not so clear about the future
  • We need to look into the debates of the first few centuries to find exhaustive atonement (Novatian and Donatist controversies).

Previous "chapters"
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation

4.1-3 Sin and the Fall

Saturday, February 17, 2018

8. Superior Sanctuary and Sacrifice (Hebrews 8:1-10:18)

See bottom.

2. A Superior Sacrifice and Sanctuary (8:1-10:18)

     a. The Main Point (8:1-2)
  • Nice that Hebrews tells us what the main point of its argument is. The main point is that we have a great high priest.
  • Jesus is high priest in a heavenly sanctuary rather than an earthly one. There are four basic approaches to the sanctuary in Hebrews: 1) a Platonic archetype (few would accept this option even if Hebrews may use some quasi-Platonic language; 2) an actual structure (like Jewish apocalyptic literature--commands a lot of support right now although I am very unconvinced); 3) the temple of the cosmos (this comes closest to any literal referent on the part of the author; 4) a somewhat shifting metaphor (my choice).
  • I assume the "Lord" here is God the Father, who made all things (3:4).
     b. Mediator of a New Covenant (8:3-13)
  • 8:3. Reiterates the function of a high priest--to offer gifts and sacrifices.
  • 8:4. If Jesus were on earth, he would not be a priest because he is not descended from Levi. He is a heavenly high priest.
  • 8:5. This is the key verse for those who argue for a Platonic tabernacle in heaven as the archetype for the earthly sanctuary. The verse is often translated "copy" and "shadow." But the argument for "copy" is very weak. The word has the sense of an example (cf. 4:11). So the heavenly sanctuary is a "shadowy example."
  • Moses does make the earthly sanctuary after the "type" shown him in the mountain, but we are not told how exact a correspondence there is between heavenly pattern and earthly antitype.
  • It should also be mentioned that Philo mixes to together Exodus 25:40 and 25:9 together in the same exact way that Hebrews does here.
  • 8:6. The new covenant is superior to the old covenant, and Jesus is the mediator of it.
  • 8:7. It would be wrong to think that God only instituted the new covenant because the first covenant failed, even though one could take the verse this way. Jesus was always the plan.
  • 8:8-12. This is the longest Old Testament quote in the New Testament. It is re-quoted in an inclusio in 10:16-17. The key points reiterated are about putting God's laws on our hearts and remembering our sins no more. This would seem to be the main points of the quote, aside from the idea of a new covenant itself.
  • 8:13. This verse places us in the "now" and "not yet." The old is disappearing but we still are on earth. The new has started but is not yet fully here. What is sure is that the old Levitical system is disappearing. This verse does not prove that the temple is still standing because few Jews would have thought the temple was gone forever at this time. After all, it was rebuilt after the Babylonians destroyed it.
     c. The Two Atonement Systems (9:1-28)
  • 9:1-5. This paragraph contrasts with 9:6-10 by way of a "men-de" construction in Greek ("on the one hand," "on the other"). The first paragraph describes the contents of the earthly wilderness tabernacle.
  • 9:2. Curiously, Hebrews speaks of the two rooms of the tabernacle as the "first tent" and the "second tent." Quite possibly, this language sets up the allegory the author will make in 9:6-10, where the first tent is removed to make clear the way into the second.
  • 9:5 says that "it is not now to speak in detail." The author could mean that these items are not around any more to know in detail. Perhaps more likely, the author could say quite a bit more about the allegorical meaning of these items, but now is not the time to do so.
  • 9:4 puts the altar of incense inside the veil, which is not its location in the Old Testament. However, if this altar relates to prayers, then the author may be signifying that prayer still relates to the new covenant.
  • 9:6-10. This paragraph now talks about the operations of the wilderness tabernacle at their allegorical significance. 
  • 9:6-7. Regular priests went into the first tent continually. But once a year, the high priest alone went into the second tent. Here we hear an allusion once again to the "many" versus "singular" contrast of Christ with the old covenant.
  • 9:7. "Sins committed in ignorance" is a reminder that the atonement system was not really set up for intentional sins. So the audience was "enlightened" when they came to Christ (6:4). There is no particular atonement for those who continue to sin willfully after receiving a knowledge of the truth (10:26).
  • 9:8. Now we get the allegorical significance of the two tents, the two rooms to the tabernacle, revealed by way of the Holy Spirit. The way of the Most Holy Place, the way into God's presence, is not apparent while the first tent, the first room to the sanctuary, is still standing. The first tent seems to represent the first covenant, the Levitical system, perhaps the created realm. Perhaps it represents the "first tent" as the first tabernacle itself.
  • 9:9. Here is the clear connection of the first room of the tent to this present age. The author also reiterates that the earthly Levitical system was not actually able to take away sins. It was not able to "perfect the conscience" of the one worshiping. 
  • Perfection of humans in Hebrews again means to cleanse them of sin (see 10:1-2). 
  • The conscience in Hebrews is a consciousness of sins (see 10:2-3). It is like a sin "inbox." When your conscience is cleansed or perfected in Hebrews, there are no emails in your inbox.
  • 9:10. Hebrews connects the earthly atonement system to mere external cleansing of the body.
  • 9:11-14. Having presented the earthly tabernacle and its operation, Hebrews now proceeds to contrast it with the priestly accomplishment of Jesus.
  • 9:11. Jesus is a high priest of "good things that have come to be." This is in contrast to the Law, which had a "shadow of good things about to be" (10:1).
  • The expression, "made with hands" is used twice in this chapter (9:11, 24). 8:2 had emphasized that the Lord is the one who pitched the true tent. Also significance is the fact that the true tent is "not of this creation."
  • "through the greater and more perfect tent" could be spatial (he went through the outer room) but is more likely instrumental or modal (by way of the greater and more perfect tent).
  • 9:12. This verse completes a chiasm: a) through, b) not, c) not, d) through.
  • The reference to heavenly "holies" does not seem to picture a two-part structure in heaven. Rather, the highest heaven itself is the heavenly Most Holy Place.
  • 9:13. The earthly system could only cleanse the flesh, the body. But the blood of Christ is effective to purify the conscience, actually to take away sins.
  • 9:14. Christ's offering was "through eternal spirit." It does not seem likely that the author wants us to picture Christ taking blood into heaven. Could it be that it is the nature of Christ's eternal spirit that makes his sacrifice superior?
  • 9:15-22. This paragraph returns to a theme introduced in 8:6--Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, a covenant that is based in the promises of God. 
  • 9:15. Redemption is connected to Christ's death here. Redemption is liberation from the paying of some price or ransom. The redemption has to do with transgressions "in the first covenant." This reminds us that Christ's atonement, for Hebrews, was not meant to target sins Christians might commit going forward. It was meant for the sins of the past.
  • 9:16-17. In these verses, Hebrews shifts from one meaning of diatheke to another. The word primarily means "covenant," but it can also mean a "will" or "testament." Paul does the same thing in Galatians 3:15. Jesus' "will" goes into effect after he dies.
  • 9:18-21. These verses have to do with the inauguration of the two covenants. The first covenant was inaugurated with blood sacrifices. 
  • There is some amalgamation of different Old Testament sacrifices here. For example, the red heifer and hyssop rituals had to do with skin impurities. The implication is that the many and various sacrifices under the old covenant all find their fulfillment in Christ.
  • 9:22. Here is the bottom line. The old covenant required blood to be shed for forgiveness to take place. However, 10:4 will take away this sentiment with the other hand. Ultimately, the author of Hebrews does not believe that any Old Testament sacrifice actually took way sins. They were merely anticipations of the one offering of Christ.
  • 9:23-28. Now the contrast. If the earthly sanctuary had to be inaugurated with sacrifices, so the new sanctuary did as well. The word "examples" (hypodeigma) is used again. It does not mean "copy" but something more like "illustration."
  • It is an awkward image, for surely nothing in heaven actually needs cleansed! It is perhaps another hint that the idea of a heavenly sanctuary is ultimately metaphorical. There is no literal structure in heaven that needs cleansed. We are talking about the cleansing of human consciences.
  • 9:24. Christ did not enter a hand made sanctuary (cheiropoites again) but into heaven itself. This is an argument that entering the heavenly sanctuary is more or less the metaphorical equivalent of entering heaven.
  • Christ now appears before the face of God for us, a tie back to passages like 4:14-16.
  • 9:25-26. Again, the "many versus one" theme appears, a recapitulation of verses like 7:27.
  • 9:26. Mention of need for suffering since the foundation of the world may be hyperbole, but it shows the close association the author makes between the creation itself and the need for atonement. He is not Gnostic, but you can see how it could develop.
  • 9:27-28. We die and then are judged. So Christ died and will have a "second coming" in judgment. The parallelism here places Jesus' offering at the time of his death. But his second coming is to bring salvation to those who are awaiting him.
     d. System Replaced! (10:1-18)
  • These verses finish the central argument of the sermon, ending with an inclusio in 10:16-17 that recapitulates the quote of Jeremiah in Hebrews 8.
  • 10:1. The bottom line is that the Jewish Law only had foreshadowings of the realities in Christ. However, they were not an exact image of Christ.
  • 10:1-2. These two verses get us a fair view of what perfection means in Hebrews in relation to a human. The second verse implies that to be perfected means that sins are cleansed and there is no more sin.
  • 10:2-3. These two verses make it clear what the conscience is for Hebrews. It is the faculty of the mind that "remembers" sins. It is closer to "consciousness" than to the popular sense of an angel and a devil on your shoulders. You might liken it to a sin inbox. It says, "You've got sin." When the conscience is cleansed, all the sin emails are deleted. You are clean.
  • 10:4. Here is the bottom line that the sacrifices themselves in the Old Testament were not able to take away sins. Only Jesus' sacrifice is.
  • 10:5-10. These verses indicate the complete replacement of the Levitical system.
  • 10:5-7. This quote of Psalm 40 is taken to be a prophecy of sorts of the replacement of the Levitical system with the singular sacrifice of Christ. Jesus is pictured speaking the psalm as he comes into the world.
  • The text quoted here follows the Septuagint ("a body you prepared for me") versus the original Hebrew text ("my ears you have opened"). It is key evidence that the author was a Greek-speaker who did not know Hebrew.
  • 10:8-9. Here is the midrashic interpretation. Jesus' body replaces the sacrifices of the Levitical system.
  • 10:10. The offering of Christ's body on the cross we have been sanctified. The sanctification is complete and the sanctified state is continuing.
  • 10:11-18. The central argument closes with recapitulation and summarization. 
  • 10:11-12. None of the sacrifices of the old covenant could actually take away sins. But Jesus is done. He has taken his seat (session) at God's right hand, another allusion to Psalm 110:1.
  • 10:13. As he sits, Christ waits for his enemies to be made a footstool for his feet. In contrast to Hebrews 1 Corinthians 15:26 indicates that death is the last enemy. Hebrews probably has in mind the judgment (cf. 10:27).
  • 10:14. Here is truly the bottom line of the entire theological argument of Hebrews. With one offering, Jesus has accomplished perfection, with is the sanctification of sins, their cleansing. 
  • "Those who are being sanctified" is not talking about continual or progressive sanctification. It refers to the collection of individuals sanctified. "Here one is sanctified." "There one was sanctified." "People are being sanctified." In Hebrews, sanctification is a one time event that is to remain completed once it occurs.
  • 10:15-17. Here is the repeat of Jeremiah 31, showing the the key point of interest, beyond the new covenant in general, is the forgiveness of sins and the writing of God's Law on the heart, presumably through the Holy Spirit.
  • 10:15. The Holy Spirit is the one who speaks in a living way through Scripture.
  • 10:18. Again, there is supposed to be a finality of a need for atonement and forgiveness. Once we are cleansed there should be no more sins to cleanse. The offering of Jesus takes care of it.

I. Sermon Introduction (1:1-2:18)
     A. Exordium (1:1-4)
     B. Celebration of the Enthroned Son (1:5-14)
     C. Background of Salvation (2:1-18)

II. The Argument (3:1-10:18)
     A. Enter into God's Rest (3:1-4:13)

     B. The High Priestly Argument (4:14-10:18)
          1. A Superior Priest (4:14-7:28)
               a. Hold Fast (4:14-16)
               b. Appointed High Priest (5:1-10)
               c. Central Exhortation (5:11-6:20)
               d. The Order of Melchizedek (7:1-28)

Friday, February 16, 2018

Friday Science 3d: Principles of Quantum Mechanics

Sixth installment summarizing Susskind's, Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum.

Chapter 1: Dirac was much smarter than I (introducing linear algebra).
Chapter 2: Quantum States (a.k.a., more linear algebra)
Chapter 3a: Linear Operators
Chapter 3b: Eigenvectors
Chapter 3c: Hermitians and Fundamental Theorem of QM

1. Again there is the sense that if I can just make it a little further, he'll connect this stream of math to something concrete so that all the rest will click. I feel like I'm reading 1 John.

Principle 1: Observable quantities in quantum mechanics are represented by linear operators. These have to be Hermitian as well.

Principle 2: The possible results of a measurement are the eigenvalues of the operator that relates to that observable. If a system is in the eigenstate ∣λ〉 , the result of a measurement has to be λ .

Principle 3: Distinguishable states are orthogonal vectors.

Principle 4: The probability of observing a value λ is 〈A∣λ〉2 That is the probability of observing a particular eigenvalue is the square of the overlap between the eigenvalue and that state in general.

2. So Susskind uses the spin operator as an example. A spin operator provides information about the spin component in a specific direction. There is a spin operator for each direction in which the measuring apparatus can be oriented.

So he asks what an appropriate "spin operator" might be for the "up-down" aspect of spin. For up, the value will be one for up and zero for down. For down, the value will be zero for up and -1 for down. This corresponds to the following matrix:
z matrix (up down)
This satisfies the conditions: 1) it represents one component of the spin, 2) the possible results are +1 and -1. These are the eigenvalues of this matrix. 3) up and down are orthogonal.

3. He derives the matrices for the "right left" and "in out" components as well. These three matrices constitute the "Pauli matrices."
x matrix (left-right)
y matrix (in out)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

4.6 Atonement in the Old Testament

In my biblical theology classes, I have often covered atonement immediately after I have covered sin. I was noticing this morning that there is a tension in this order. A systematic theologian would surely cover atonement after Christology, as a matter of soteriology. Of course atonement is not related to Christology in the theology of the OT. Still processing.

4.6 Atonement in the Old Testament

4.6.1 The Perspective of Hebrews
The author of Hebrews gives us the canonical perspective on the OT sacrifices. Hebrews 10:2-3 is especially determinative. None of the OT sacrifices were actually able to take away sins. Although we often hear talk about how "without blood there is no remission of sins," Hebrews goes on to indicate that none of the blood of the OT actually worked.

The OT sacrifices were thus all foreshadowings of the one effective sacrifice of Christ. "raincheck" One thus wonders how much investment God actually had in blood sacrifice or whether this was God meeting the human psyche where it was. In the end, God does away with it.

4.6.2 Priests versus Prophets
In this section I would talk about the tension between prophetic passages that say things like "I desire mercy not sacrifice" (Hos. 6:6; 1 Sam. 15:22; cf. Matt 9:13), it's justice and mercy, not sacrifice (Mic. 6:6-8; Isa. 1:12-18; Ps. ). The prophets know nothing of a necessary sacrifice (cf. Jer. 7:3-4; 21-22). They more seem to think that Israelites sometimes hid behind sacrifices as an excuse not to do justice.

Yet there were lots of sacrifices in the OT, even if the Law might represent somewhat of a standardization. The first chapters of Leviticus give us the five main types (which were not all for atonement). Day of Atonement, Passover, hyssop, red heifer, inauguration (mention NT correspondences). There also seems to be a deuteronomistic sense of atonement by death (e.g., Achan).


Previous "chapters"
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation

4.1-3 Sin and the Fall

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Litany from God's Throne Room

Using this litany this morning in the School of Theology and Ministry:

A Litany from God's Throne Room
Leader: At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.

All: And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby.

Leader: Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders.

All: Around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back.

Leader: Day and night they never stop saying:

All: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.

Leader: They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

All: You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.

Leader: And I saw a mighty angel in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?”

All: Then I saw a Lamb, looking slain, standing at the center of the throne.

Leader: And they sang a new song, saying:

All: You are worthy to take the scroll, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God people from every tribe and language and people and nation.

Leader: After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count

All: from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. 

Leader: And they cried out in a loud voice:

All: Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.

Leader: All the angels and the elders and the four living creatures fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:

All: Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!

Monday, February 12, 2018

4.5 Sin in the New Testament

See the bottom for previous posts.

4.4 Sin in the New Testament

4.4.1 Defining Sin
  • The standard for right is to love God and love neighbor (Matt. 22:37-40; Rom. 13:8-10). 
  • Therefore, a sin is contrary either to love of God or neighbor. This constitutes wrongdoing (1 John 5:17) and lawlessness (1 John 3:4)
  • In the New Testament, sin is (predominantly) an act of will (Jas 1:13-14).
  • Temptation is thus not sin (cf. Jesus; Heb. 4:15).
  • Sin is a matter of the heart (volition) far more than the act itself (Mark 7:18-23; Matt. 5:27-28)
  • Feelings are not sin, although they can be a source of temptation (cf. Eph. 4:26).
  • Sin is thus any act of the will that either is out of faith with God or contrary to love of neighbor/enemy. Cf. Rom. 14:23
  • There are sins of commission and sins of omission (cf. Jas. 4:17).
  • Sin is not imperfection. Mistakes are not intrinsically sinful (although they can reflect prior choices).
  • Unintentional sin should probably remain a category, referring to acts that are unintentionally unloving toward others, including God.
4.4.2 Sin as a Power
  • The human body, skin, "flesh" is not intrinsically sinful (contra Gnostics) Cf. Mark 14:13
  • Because of Adam, human flesh and the creation are under the power of Sin (Rom. 7:14-18).
  • Sin acts are acts of the will. The power of Sin is a power that drives us to sin (sometimes called sin principle or sin nature, although this is really Augustine rather than Paul)
  • Romans 6-8 does not teach that sin should reign in a believer's life--more to come, but cf. Rom. 7:5
4.4.3 Sins to Death
  • 1 John 5:16-17 (where the Catholic Church gets mortal and venial sins)
  • Explain 1 John 1:8-10 and 3:9. "Having" sin is not doing sin but is 1 John's equivalent of "all have sinned." 3:9 should be given the present tense connotation of "be sinning" or "continue to sin."
  • The unpardonable sin of Matthew 12:31-32 (since the HS brings repentance, no one who is drawn to repent has committed such a sin).
  • Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26; 12:16-17. Parable of the Prodigal Son is the fulcrum text on this question. Schrodinger's backslider
Previous "chapters"
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation

4.1-3 Sin and the Fall

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sermon Starters: Waiting on the Lord

Title: Waiting on the Lord
Text: Isaiah 40:27-31

Introduction
  • An old song
  • The context of Isaiah 40--return from Babylon
  • Remember Jeremiah 29:11?
  • Israel had been waiting almost fifty years.
  • God doesn't get weary. We shouldn't either.
1. The yesterday of waiting
  • Reconciliation is accomplished. 
  • All the promises in God are yes. (2 Corinthians 1:18)
  • By contrast, illustration of human things we may not be sure will come through. Battle of the Bulge--will they show up?
  • The situation of Hebrews: a promise has been given--enter into his rest. (Hebrews 3-4). We are currently in the wilderness. We are wandering. We are headed for the Promised Land. 
  • Christ will come again. (Hebrews 10) 
2. The tomorrow of waiting
  • Abraham (make you a great nation)
  • Paul (will Jesus come back before I die)
  • Judah in captivity (imagine those born at the beginning, the middle, and the end)
  • What are we planting for those who come after?
  • "A great society is one where the old plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit under." Greek proverb
  • Hebrew 11
3. The today of waiting
  • We need to enter God's rest every day called today (Heb. 3).
  • The Parable of the Ten Virgins
  • No temptation has taken you (1 Cor. 10:13)
  • I will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)
  • We have a comforter (John 14)
Conclusion
  • Wait with confidence (not like waiting from pay day to pay day)
  • Remember it's a done deal. (Jer. 29)
  • Lay up for the future.
  • Enter every day (buy land)

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Path to (Original) Biblical Expertise

There are four competencies for an expert on the original meaning of the Bible.
  • knowledge of the relevant languages
  • knowledge of the relevant historical background
  • knowledge of the relevant history of interpretation
  • hermeneutical competency
1. A New Testament expert must know Greek. A Hebrew Scriptures expert must know Hebrew and/or Aramaic. A New Testament expert is normally expected to know Hebrew as well, since such knowledge can be relevant for some NT interpretation.

An OT scholar will often know some of the associated Semitic languages: Aramaic, Ugaritic, Akkadian.

2. Historical background is extensive. For a NT scholar, there is Jewish history, intertestamental history, Greco-Roman history. There are extensive bodies of literature--Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, rhetoricians, Oxyrhynchus papyri, Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo and Josephus, perhaps the relevant rabbinic literature, although it is later. There is socio-cultural knowledge.

For an OT scholar there are inscriptions and the key Ancient Near Eastern collections.

3. The history of interpretation primarily refers to the scholarship of the last two hundred years and especially the last few decades. Pre-critical interpretation is of a different sort. It may be helpful spiritually but usually is not of much help for determining the original meaning.

It goes without question that a real biblical scholar will know about manuscripts and how to determine how the most likely initial reading. The true scholar will know source hypotheses. He or she will have an up to date sense of genre and how oral tradition works. They will know how redaction works. Further they will know how to analyze narratives as stories. They will know how to bring sociology and anthropology to bear on interpretation.

4. Finally, an original meaning biblical expert will be able to operate with historical-cultural excellence. They will resist theological anachronism. They will not have artificial boundaries about what the text can and cannot mean. They will read the text in the light of the world behind the text, not the preoccupations or concerns of the last hundred years. They will bring historical and literary evidence to bear on interpretive questions, and draw the most likely contextual conclusion, not twist the evidence to fit their preconceptions.


Friday, February 09, 2018

4.4 Sin in the Old Testament

See the bottom for previous posts.

4.4 Sin in the Old Testament

4.4.1 Unintentional Sin
Numbers 14:22-31 immediately shows us the distance between our Western worldview and that of the Ancient Near East with regard to sin and the need for atonement. The Hebrew word here is ḥaṭa’ (chata’) – do wrong, sin.
  • This passage begins with atonement for corporate sins. We tend to see sin only in individualistic terms.
  • This passage really only focuses on unintentional sin, while we focus overwhelmingly on intentional sin. There is no atonement in this passage for intentional sin.
I will argue in the next section that the trajectory of Scripture is toward intentional sin and away from the category of unintentional sin. The New Testament has almost nothing to say about unintentional sin. It operates almost entirely from a sense of intentional wrongdoing. Wesley is a fine starting point: "A willful transgression against a known law of God."

I will define sin in terms of the standard of loving God and loving neighbor. Unintentional sin is a valid theological category, but should be understood in terms of unintentionally wronging others or unintentionally dishonoring God. God's concern is with our intentional sins, not our unintentional ones, except insofar as they have adverse consequences toward others.

We should note that while the Law does not provide much room for atonement for intentional sin, the narratives indicate that it is possible. David is forgiven for his affair with Bathsheba and the death of Uriah.

4.4.2 Corporate Sin and Guilt
Corporate sin is not a natural category for Western individualists, although more recent discussions of corporate guilt in terms of things like racism and sexism have revived the older category. Christian confessions often incorporate a corporate confession of sin that goes beyond the individuals or the sum of individuals.

Nevertheless, here even in the Old Testament we see some progression from the collective guilt and punishment of Deuteronomy 5:9-10 to the individual punishment and guilt of Ezekiel 18:2-4 and Jeremiah 31). We tend to modernize these passages, "de- and re-culturize" them so to speak. Corporate guilt is intrinsic to deuteronomistic theology and thus to the Deuteronomistic history of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings.

I perhaps will want to have an excursus here on deuteronomistic theology and the idea of the Deuterononistic History.

So we see Deuteronomy 5:9-10 in terms of consequences (genetics and environment). I think there was more going on in the OT context. Explain the context of Ezekiel 18.

4.4.3 Sin and Uncleanness
a. Although sin and uncleanness are distinct categories in the Pentateuch, there is a certain blurring of the two. Both require cleansing rituals in the OT. (cf. Lev 12-15; Num 19)

I have found Mary Douglas incredibly helpful in getting out of my Western categories and at least in a more likely direction for the categories of the Ancient Near East. Jonathan Haidt has also been very helpful in identifying the "sanctity" category of much human moral thinking (see material on holiness in the chapter on God).

"Dirt is matter out of place." A terd is okay outside. Not so much in the living room. It makes my living room unclean. See food laws (Lev. 11, 17; Deut. 14)
  • Fish without fins and scales aren't right. Unclean
  • Birds that can't fly aren't right. Unclean
  • Blood belongs in and has magical life properties. Unclean if in the wrong place but full of life-giving power if properly channeled.
  • Pigs go with Philistines and their gods--defiling. Sheep go with Israel and YHWH, good and scrumptious.
  • Male with male doesn't fit. Unclean... abomination (to'evah)
b. I need to do more research on whether Leviticus thinks of the sexual prohibitions in terms of uncleanness rather than sin (Lev. 18). Certainly Numbers has no sacrifice for sexual sins since it has no category for intentional sins at all. In David's case, God caused the baby to die.


Previous "chapters"
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation

4.1-3 Sin and the Fall

Friday Science 3c. Hermitians and Fundamental Theorem of Quantum Mechanics

Fifth installment summarizing Susskind's, Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum.

Chapter 1: Dirac was much smarter than I (introducing linear algebra).
Chapter 2: Quantum States (a.k.a., more linear algebra)
Chapter 3a: Linear Operators
Chapter 3b: Eigenvectors

More on chapter 3. I increasingly get the sense that this book should have been written somewhat in the reverse order that he did. Typical linear, building block thinking. Most human minds--especially those this book is allegedly written for, like me--work on a "need to know" basis. That's how this book should be written.

1. Made some progress this week in the book. Think I'm further than I've ever been in it, understanding more than I ever had. Probably could handle a re-read. Since I'm making good progress, I'll try just to jot down some notes.

A "Hermitian" conjugate is like the complex conjugate of a matrix. You do two things to a matrix to find its Hermitian conjugate:
  • Interchange the rows and columns (so m23 becomes m32)
  • Complex conjugate each matrix element.
A Hermitian conjugate is denoted by a dagger. So the Hermitian conjugage of M is M . The matrix might have a T in its upper right hand (for "transposed").
  • So you might say that M = [MT]*    (transposed and conjugates).
  • So if M∣A〉 = B then 〈A∣M = 〈B∣
2. A Hermitian operator is one that is equal to its Hermitian conjugate: M = M

The eigenvalues of a Hermitian operator are all real.

3. We now get to what Susskind calls the fundamental theorem of quantum mechanics. It amounts to this: "Observable quantities in quantum mechanics are represented by Hermitian operators" (64). Another way to put it is that "The eigenvectors of a Hermitian operator form an orthonormal basis."

Here is my interpretation of how he unpacks it:
  • The possible vectors for a Hermitian operator are all of its eigenvectors and their sums.
  • The unequal eigenvalues of a Hermitian are orthogonal.
  • Even equal eigenvalues can be analyzed as orthogonal. In other words, two eigenvectors can have the same eigenvalue. This is called "degeneracy."
  • If a space is N-dimensional, there will be N orthonormal eigenvectors.
4. The Gram-Schmidt procedure is a procedure for teasing out orthonormal sets that relate to degenerated eigenvectors with the same eigenvalues. Here is the procedure:
  • Divide vector one by its own length to get the first orthonormal basis of unit length.
  • "Project" the second vector onto that unit vector by taking the inner product with it. 〈V2v1〉. 
  • Subtract this from the second vector.
  • Then divide the result by the length of the second vector to get an orthonormal basis for the second vector of unit length.
I don't entirely follow, but I'm making progress.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

7. Concentrated Hebrews (7:1-28--Melchizedek)

See bottom for previous posts.

d. The Order of Melchizedek (7:1-28)
     1. Overview
  • Chapter 7 resumes where 5:10 left off. Jesus is a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. 
  • The author's strategy in this central argument of Hebrews (7:1-10:18) is three fold: 1) Christ is a superior priest, 2) in a superior sanctuary, 3) offering a superior sacrifice. So there is no more need for any Levitical system at all for Jesus has not only fulfilled it. He is actually the reality to which it pointed.
  • The early Christians understood Psalm 110:1 as a verse about Jesus. The author of Hebrews, perhaps uniquely, understood Psalm 110:4 as about Jesus too. The author understood this verse to say that the Messiah would be a priest after the order of Melchizedek.
  • But what is a priest after the order of Melchizedek? This is the question that Hebrews 7 seeks to answer.
  • To answer this question, the author goes to the only other passage in the Old Testament (his Scriptures) where Melchizedek is mentioned, namely, Genesis 14. This is thus a kind of gezerah shewah, "catchword" argument.
  • There are three basic approaches to Melchizedek: 1) to see him as a Christophany, an appearance of Jesus in the Old Testament, 2) to see him as an archangel of sorts (following the possible lead of 11QMelchizedek), and 3) that Hebrews is doing midrash here, answering an exegetical question in Psalm 110:4 by interpreting the text of Genesis 14.
  • I favor the last option. First, there is no indication in Hebrews 7 that Jesus was Melchizedek. Rather, the Genesis text "likens" Melchizedek to Jesus. Second, if Melchizedek were an angel, surely Hebrews would say that Jesus was greater than he. Or why didn't Melchizedek provide atonement. Neither of these options seems likely.
  • What does seem likely is that Hebrews is using Genesis 14 to identify what a priest after the order of Melchizedek is. He is doing a midrash on the Genesis text far more than investigating the historical Melchizedek. This distinction is often lost on those who read the Bible in a pre-modern way anyway. 
     2. Characteristics of a Melchizedekian Priest (7:1-3)
  • 7:1-3. These verses begin with some preliminary allegorical readings of the Genesis 14 text. What is a priest after the order of Melchizedek? If we take the name Melchizedek as an indication of what such a priest is, then a priest after the order of Melchizedek is a "king of righteousness. If you take the name of the village Salem symbolically, such a priest is a "king of peace."
  • 7:3. With regard to Melchizedek, these seem to constitute a non in thora non in mundo argument, "if it is not in the Torah, it does not exist." This exegetical technique allows you to use the silence of the text in order to draw a conclusion. 
  • So the Genesis text does not mention a priestly genealogy for Melchizedek. It does not mention when he started or ended serving as a priest. So, following Jewish midrash, we can conclude that a priest after the order of Melchizedek has no priestly father, mother, or genealogy. Such a person does not start or end their service according to a designated plan. 
  • These comments are not, in my opinion, meant to suggest that the historical Melchizedek existed from eternity past to eternity future. In that sense, Melchizedek himself was not truly or fully a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Only Jesus is.
  • But this allegorical interpretation of the Genesis text tells us what a priest after the order of Melchizedek is. It is a priest who is not from a Levitical parentage. Most especially, it is a priest with an indestructible life who remains in office forever. Not having a beginning of days could be a reference to Christ's pre-existence.
  • Jerome Neyrey has argued that 7:3 would have been immediately understood to be divine language indicating that Jesus was divine. Could be, although the context seems much more focused on Jesus' genealogy.
     3. The Greater Priesthood (7:4-10)
  • There is a simple "transitive" argument in these verses. Melchizedek was greater than Abraham. Levi was in Abraham. Therefore, Melchizedek was greater than Levi. Therefore, a priest after the order of Melchizedek is greater than a priest after the order of Aaron and Levi.
  • 7:4. Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe, an ancient practice and precedent for all later biblical tithes.
  • 7:7. The one who blesses is superior to the one who is blessed.
  • 7:8. Throughout this chapter, Jesus' never-ending priesthood is seen as the key feature that makes his priesthood superior to Levi's.
     4. The Change of Law (7:11-19)
  • 7:11. Perfection did not come through the Levitical priesthood. Human perfection in Hebrews has to do with real cleansing from sin. In Hebrews 10:1-2 we will see very clearly that perfection in this context for Hebrews has to do with taking away sins.
  • For the author, Psalm 110:4 points to a priesthood beyond the Levitical priesthood.
  • 7:12. The author understands a change in priesthood to imply a change of law. In Hebrews, the author looks at the Jewish Law almost entirely from the perspective of sacrificial law. That is to say, Hebrews is not interested in the works of Law that Paul was: circumcision, food laws, sabbath observance (this is part of a cumulative argument against Pauline authorship). The Law in Hebrews almost entirely refers to sacrificial law.
  • Hebrews understands priesthoods to stand on the foundation of laws. So the Aaronic priesthood was based on the legitimacy of the Jewish (sacrificial) Law. Now, there is a new covenant, which serves as the basis of the Melchizedekian priesthood.
  • 7:13-14. Here the author states the obvious. Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, not the tribe of Levi. He doesn't have the right genealogy to be an earthly priest. But as we will see he is qualified to be a heavenly one.
  • 7:15-17. This verse is strong evidence that 7:3 is about priestly genealogy rather than eternal ontology. Jesus is qualified by his indestructible life, not his earthly parentage. Psalm 110:4 is quoted again, indicating again the kind of priest that Jesus is.
  • 7:18-19. So the earlier sacrificial commandments are now null and void. They didn't actually work (the author will again develop this idea more fully in chapter 10). The Jewish Law did not perfect any worshiper. However, this new priesthood introduces a better hope.  
     4. Confirmed with an Oath (7:20-25)
  • 7:20-21. Hebrews already emphasized the oath of Psalm 110:4. Here he does it again. God made no oath about Levitical priests, but he did about Jesus as a priest after the order of Melchizedek. 
  • 7:22. This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. This is the first time that the word covenant has been used in the sermon.
  • 7:23-24. Here we have a "singular versus many" argument similar to the one we saw in the first two verses of the sermon. There have been many, many priests. But there is only one priest who continues forever, because he never dies. This is the fourth time the author has mentioned or alluded to Jesus never-ending priesthood.
  • 7:25. Jesus thus remains as an atoning intercessor forever. In my opinion, Jesus' intercession in Hebrews relates predominantly to his intercession for the audience's atonement. Again we have the opportunity mentioned for the audience to draw near to God.
5. Conclusion (7:26-28)
  • 7:26. The author generalizes in conclusion. The audience has a great high priest: holy, blameless, without stain, set apart from sinners, higher than the heavens. The last comment relates to the fact that Jesus now sits in the highest heaven at God's right hand, which is also, presumably, the heavenly Holy of Holies, which we will encounter in the next chapters.
  • 7:27. Jesus does not need to offer a sacrifice for his own sins. He does not have sin (cf. 4:15). 
  • You might call this comment a kind of inclusio with 5:3, bringing the high priest part of the argument to an end.
  • 7:28. God's oath is again contrasted with the Jewish Law. Jesus as Son is mentioned again. Jesus' perfection is mentioned again (reminds us of 5:10).

I. Sermon Introduction (1:1-2:18)
     A. Exordium (1:1-4)
     B. Celebration of the Enthroned Son (1:5-14)
     C. Background of Salvation (2:1-18)

II. The Argument (3:1-10:18)
     A. Enter into God's Rest (3:1-4:13)

     B. The High Priestly Argument (4:14-10:18)
          1. A Superior Priest (4:14-7:28)
               a. Hold Fast (4:14-16)
               b. Appointed High Priest (5:1-10)
               c. Central Exhortation (5:11-6:20)

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

6. Concentrated Hebrews (5:11-6:20--Central Exhortation)

See bottom for posts thus far.

c. The Central Exhortation (5:11-6:20)
     1) The Warning (5:11-6:8)
  • 5:11. Throughout Hebrews so far, the author has alternated between teaching and preaching. At 5:11 we get the most pointed warning yet to the audience, the central exhortation of the sermon.
  • Melchizedek is what sets it off, suggesting that the audience’s weak understanding of Jesus’ atonement stands at the center of their problem. More to come.
  • 5:12. They have been believers for some time--should be teachers by now.
  • The author shames them by saying they need to go back to the ABCs of faith.
  • 5:13. The use of milk-meat is a commonplace of ancient rhetoric (Philo, Epictetus)
  • 6:1. They need to go on to maturity, "perfection." (not referring to an instantaneous event, however).
  • The author seems to suggest that the items that follow were beginning ABCs for the audience. But these are not things a Jew would have learned when coming to Christ. They are things that a Gentile would have learned when coming to Christ. This is the strongest evidence that the audience may actually be predominantly Gentile.
  • 6:1-2. Most of these are common Jewish beliefs: repentance of sinful deeds, faith in God, resurrection, eternal judgment.
  • Baptisms, plural, could refer to baptism in water and in the Holy Spirit
  • Laying on hands was an early Christian practice of anointing and commissioning for service.
  • 6:3-6. These are the key verses in the Bible on the issue of "second repentance." That is to say, can you return to Christ if you have fallen away?
  • There are four key interpretations of these verses and others like them in Hebrews (10:26; 12:16-17): a) that it means what it says (if you apostatize, you cannot return), b) that it is an idle threat that would never happen (what's the point of the threat then), c) that they had not really become Christians but only "tasted" a little (Jesus "tasted" death in 2:9 but really died), and d) they only appeared to be Christians but really weren't (if so, Hebrews doesn't know about this possibility).
  • The Parable of the Prodigal Son is the central passage on this topic. Anyone who longs to return can. This is true not least because it is the Holy Spirit who empowers repentance (cf. Rom. 2:4). In other words, only God allows a person to have the power to repent (6:3), a power that Wesleyans call "prevenient grace."
  • I have found the paradox of Schroedinger's cat helpful here. You don't know whether the cat is alive or dead until you open the box. In a sense, you don't know whether you have ever fallen away until you die. For those who endure to the end, the cat has never ultimately fallen away.
  • 6:4-5. Various descriptions of truly coming to Christ: being enlightened, tasting of the heavenly gift, namely partaking of Holy Spirit, tasting of the powers of the coming age and the goodness of the word of God.
  • 6:6. To abandon Christ is to crucify him all over again, exposing him to public disgrace (honor-shame language).
  • 6:7-8. Hebrews uses a farming image of watering ground. If you keep watering but only get thorns and thistles, eventually you burn the ground.
     2) The Assurance (6:9-20)
  • 6:9. In the end, the author does not think the audience is going to fall away or that God is going to abandon the congregation. 
  • 6:10. For one, they have been noble in their faithfulness in the past--a striking invocation of merit!
  • 6:11-12. They need to endure to the end. This section ends with an inclusio alluding back to their dullness in 5:11.
  • 6:13-20. These verses are a "cool-down" after the very pointed exhortation of the previous verses. The author gives words of encouragement that slide back to the topic of Melchizedek in Hebrews 7.
  • 6:13-15. Abraham is invoked as an example of how God keeps his promises, namely the promise to multiply his offspring. This is of course a key Pauline text as well. The message is that the audience can keep going knowing that God will keep his promises to them as well, the promise of Christ's return and the setting up of God's kingdom.
  • 6:16-18. Here and in Hebrews 7, there is emphasis on God's oath. This is interesting given exhortations elsewhere in the New Testament not to make oaths (e.g., Matt. 5:33-37).
  • 6:17-18. What are the two unchangeable things--the oath and God's unlying character? Or is it the promise and the oath?
  • 6:18. It is impossible for God to lie. Theologically, I would simply say that God doesn't lie. God can do whatever he wants, but he will never want to lie.
  • 6:18-19. Note the emphasis on the hope. The audience has hope. They have an anchor. 
  • 6:19-20. The chapter ends with a return to the theme of Jesus as high priest, thus getting us ready for the resumption of the central argument in chapter 7.
  • Jesus has gone "within the veil," foreshadowing the imagery of Hebrews 8-10.

I. Sermon Introduction (1:1-2:18)
     A. Exordium (1:1-4)
     B. Celebration of the Enthroned Son (1:5-14)
     C. Background of Salvation (2:1-18)

II. The Argument (3:1-10:18)
     A. Enter into God's Rest (3:1-4:13)

     B. The High Priestly Argument (4:14-10:18)
          1. A Superior Priest (4:14-7:28)
               a. Hold Fast (4:14-16)
               b. Appointed High Priest (5:1-10)

Monday, February 05, 2018

4. Sin and the Fall

Previous posts
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation

Chapter 4: Sin and the Fall
4.1 Rule of Faith on the Fall
  • God created the world good but with the potential for evil.
  • Adam's default state was without sin but capable of sin (posse non peccare).
  • Adam and Eve were created in the image of God (imago dei).
  • Adam sinned and brought the power of Sin over humanity and the world. The world thus is not as it should be or could be.
  • We now sin like Adam. We now die like Adam.
4.2 Genesis and Romans
  • Genesis three is an etiology of snakes, wives, and husbands. Debate over whether it is descriptive or prescriptive, whether it is punishment or consequence. Debate over whether it indicates hierarchy as consequence or damaged relationship between wives and husbands. Death seems to be the default to which the Tree of Life was an antidote.
  • Romans 5 introduces new terminology and broadens the scope (the Fall plays no real role in the theology of the OT as a whole): sin, disobedience, condemnation, Sin as a power (flesh sometimes mistranslated as sinful nature), cosmic scope (creation in bondage to corruption and decay), death as new element rather than one to which the Tree of Life was the antidote.
  • Augustinian elements introduced: original sin, total depravity, sinful nature, 
  • 1 Timothy 2 and this text.
4.3 Excursus: The Fall and Evolution
  • Clearly unforeseen by the Genesis or Pauline texts, as are strategies such as the gap theory. Whether this fact is fatal or not depends on your understanding of inspiration and/or your understanding of genre. Many would argue that the question is simply beyond the scope of what Genesis 1 meant to address in context. What is the genre of Genesis 1?
  • Romans 5 is more difficult for evolution than Genesis 1. Evolution requires lots of death, yet Paul seems to say that death is a consequence of Adam and Eve's sin. Some say Paul is referring to spiritual death, but 1 Corinthians 15 makes this reading difficult.
  • Science has of course problematized a literal reading. The most recent difficulty is the human genome, which seems to indicate that the human genetic pool could not have come from one man and one woman at the same time. 
  • The most clever solution is that of John Walton, who argues that Adam and Eve were king-priests living in Africa several tens of thousands of years ago before homo sapiens left Africa. As representatives of the human race, they sinned and brought the consequences on the human race as a whole.
  • One might then argue that they brought the power of Sin on the earth, including the prevalence of Satan and the demonic over the earth. And while humanity might have enjoyed eternal life, now we die as the progenitors of humanity did.
  • This discussion no doubt is not yet over in the church.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

3.3.2 Heavenly Beings cont.

Continued from here

3.3.2 YHWH's Allies in the Old Testament
  • There are angels in the Pentateuch (rescue Lot, Jacob wrestles)
  • Angel of the LORD (e.g., burning bush)
  • The destroyer (Exodus)
  • The LORD of hosts (YHWH Sabaoth)
  • Cherubim (Ark of the Covenant; Garden of Eden)
  • Seraphim (Isaiah 6)
  • Archangels in Daniel 
3.3.3 YHWH's Enemies in the Old Testament
  • There are other gods in the OT, but perhaps we should think of them as demons (Ps. 82; 1 Cor. 10).
  • The Satan in Job, Zechariah, 2 Chronicles 21
3.3.4 Heavenly Beings in the New Testament
  • Archangels
  • Satan 
  • Demons and Evil Spirits
  • Angelic Judgment (1 Cor. 6; 1 Pet. 3; Rev. 20:10)
3.4 The Redemption/Consummation of Creation
  • Intermediate State (2 Cor. 5; Phil. 1; Luke 20; Rev 6)
  • Resurrection/Glorified Bodies (Rom 8; 1 Cor. 15; Phil 3)
  • Redemption of Creation (Rom 8)
Previous posts
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
See the here.

Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation
3.1 The Creation Rule of Faith 1
      Creation Rule of Faith 2

3.2 The Life of Creation
3.3 Heavenly Beings
     3.3.1 The Rule of Faith

Steps to Schrodinger's Equation

On my bucket list is to understanding Schrodinger's wave equation. I'm closer than even. Here are the steps and their components as I currently understand them.


1. The story of Ernst Schrodinger's equation
2. The basic point of the equation
3. Total energy (the Hamiltonian)
    --kinetic energy
    --momentum reformulation
    --potential energy
4. The Wave Equation
    --simple harmonic motion
    --taking derivatives
    --second derivatives
    --implicit differentiation
    --partial derivatives
    --derivatives of transcendental functions
5. The e form of the Wave Equation
    --cos x + i sin x = e to the ix
    --so psi equals e to the i times (kx-omega t)
6. Second derivative of psi function with respect to x
    --derivatives of e
    --Planck's constant and h bar
7. Time Independent Schrodinger Equation
8. Time Dependent Schrodinger Equation
9. The ket version
10. Dirac's relativistic version