Living in Shadows

One of my pet peeves is when people want to do away with “religion”. It irritates me because it’s ignorant to want to do so. Getting rid of religion means the person doesn’t understand what religion is. Because, everyone, including an atheist, practices some sort of religion.

On the other hand, I get why people say they want to get rid of religion. They see that the practice has become more important than Who we worship. And when that happens, I agree that change is necessary. But I disagree that the solution is to pretend to get rid of religion.

Nicodemus, aka the writer of Hebrews, points out the ineffective practice of the law of Moses through the priestly ministry. In his argument that the ministry of intercession of Jesus before the Father is superior, he points out that even the structure of the tabernacle itself is merely a shadow of the real tabernacle in heaven.

The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.

Hebrews 9:8-10 NASB

The terminology adopted by the NASB is the “outer tabernacle” for the Holy Place, or the first part of the sanctuary (where the lamp stand and show bread are). The Holy-of-Holies is referred to as the “holy place”. The NASB is pretty consistent with the terminology, at least in chapter 9. So, what Nicodemus is saying is that as long as there is a two-part tabernacle/temple, the pathway to the inner Holy of Holies has not been revealed.

Yet, in a sense, he is also saying that this way has been revealed, through Jesus’ having traversed it. It’s not a path we follow, but the path Jesus has followed on our behalf. And a day is coming when we will follow it ourselves, and meet Jesus there, in the true Holy of Holies (see the end of chapter 9).

So, in the days when Nicodemus is writing, there is an existing temple/tabernacle. And in our day, there is a practice of worship as well. In his day, priests functioned according to the law given by God to Moses. In our day, we worship in may different ways, according to culture and personality. The point of congruity for both then and now is that these forms can become a distraction. The true path to the throne of God remains through Jesus.

When how we worship becomes more important that the One we worship. When His character is absent from us, absent from how we treat each other, then we have left the path to the throne of God. Our Creator desires us, a relationship with us, and that isn’t about the what song we sing as much as our heart as we sing.

Are we singing to Him or for the congregants around or in front of us? When we preach, is it for our Savior, or for the people listening? In a sense, it’s both. But in another sense, it needs to be more about Him than them. There are things our Savior wants His people to hear, are those things being preached? Or are we preaching what we think they want to hear, or worse, what we want them to hear?

The music, the building, the preaching, the food, the coffee, the clothes, and the hands either raised or in pockets, are not the point of worship. These things can help or hinder, but the focus must always remain on Jesus.

What’s your view through the knothole today?

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation


God's Last Will and Testament?

Reading Scripture carefully leads to the discovery of really weird things. Every once in a while, you will read something, even something familiar, and discover something not only new, but bizarre. Like this statement the writer of Hebrews makes about the “covenant”:

For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.

Hebrews 9:15-17 NASB (emphasis mine)

If you have ever read this before, did it ever strike you as odd that the first covenant was only valid once God died? It doesn’t say that? Read it again, look at what I’ve made bold. There was a covenant mediated by Moses, so there must, of necessity, be the death of the one who made it, right? So, how is it that the covenant of Moses wasn’t a “treaty” or “contract” between Yahweh and His people? How is it that this “covenant” was a “will”?

Well, for the covenant mediated by Moses to be a “will”, either God was the One who dies so the people can inherit, or the people die so God can inherit. The typical wording used throughout Scripture is that the people “inherit” the Promised Land, the land Yahweh promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That would mean that God dies, under the Mosaic Covenant. I don’t remember that ever being a part of the covenant made at Sinai.

So, is that what Nicodemus is saying? Is that what the writer of Hebrews, this man who has already shaken comfortable understanding, exploded traditions, and dismantled paradigms, means by these verses? Is he saying that God died when He made the covenant at Sinai? Well, not literally, but figuratively in the sacrifices, did they represent the people or God?

All along, the writer of Hebrews has been focusing on the ministry of the priesthood, specifically, the high priesthood of the Mosaic Covenant. In that ministry, one of the odd elements is the amount of blood used over everything, including the priest. He wears these linen clothes, and then they are sprinkled with blood. Gold items used in the tabernacle, beautifully made, also sprinkled with blood. Nice new stiff white outfit, now with blood spatters all over it. Lovely.

It’s the blood. We say that about Jesus’ death, and how He purifies us from all unrighteousness. It’s the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from sin. And here, the writer of Hebrews is explaining why that is true.

Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “THIS IS THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT WHICH GOD COMMANDED YOU.” And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood.

Hebrews 9:18-21 NASB

When I’ve read Exodus 24 in the past, I’ve studied it at what I thought was a thorough level. But when I read that Moses had the people sacrifice peace offerings to God, and sprinkled the blood on the altars, the people, and the book (verses 3 through 8), it never occurred to me that it represented the death of God. I always assumed it represented the death of the people.

Basically, if the covenant at Sinai was a “will”, who dies, and who inherits? Since the references have been to the people inheriting the promised land (Ex. 32:13, 33:54), then doesn’t that mean that God dies for it to go into effect?

Don’t panic. I figured you might be by this time. Don’t. Remember what Nicodemus is doing here: he’s supporting an argument for the intercessory ministry of Jesus on our behalf with the Father. Nicodemus has supported his assertion by replacing the priestly sacrifices under the law of Moses with Jesus’ self-sacrifice. So, in his argument, God dies (i.e. Jesus dies, but is resurrected), and the (new) covenant is established through His death, like a “will”.

The confusion is arising because Nicodemus is also trying to connect sacrifices with the ratification of the covenant. And the covenant at Sinai was ratified with sacrifices, and blood was sprinkled over everything, just as he claims. So, how does the self-sacrifice of Jesus, once-for-all-time, relate to the sacrifices at the ratification? That was different from the sin offerings because it sanctified rather than justified (as in forgiveness).

On the other hand, you could say that there really isn’t much distinction between sanctification and justification because sin is what makes people “unholy” in the first place. So, my questions may be taking the connection further than Nicodemus may intend. That’s why I didn’t want you to panic. The truth remains that we have a relationship with our Creator through His efforts alone in the death of Jesus.

So, it may not change anything to ask whether the first covenant was a “will”, but it may be an interesting rabbit to chase. What would it mean if the sacrifices ratifying the first covenant with Moses represented God rather than the people. And before you get all hot and bothered about such thinking disrespecting God, read Genesis 15. God moving between the carcasses He is subjecting Himself to the promise, so the sacrifice represents Him, not Abraham. If He’s okay with it, don’t be afraid to walk the same path, but only do so to explore the depths of the love of our Creator for His creatures, you and everyone else.

Okay, my view through the knothole was really more questions than answers, but there you are. What’s your view through your knothole?

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation

Spiritual Truths

But what about “spiritual truths”? In the previous entry, “Revisiting the Knothole“, I explained why I believe my Master reveals more of Himself through others than He does through me personally. But that’s not the whole story, it can’t be. There’s a question I left hanging in the air that I intentionally avoided. If our Teacher is the Holy Spirit, then why do disciples of Jesus disagree so often about theological points?

I mentioned three systematic theological categories, ecclesiology, anthropology, and soteriology. I also mentioned that I differ from a lot of people in those categories. So, how is that possible? If the same Spirit teaching me is the same spirit teaching those who differ in how they define those categories, then who’s right? Think through that quote from Jeremiah again:

Hebrews 8:10 (NASB, emphasis mine)

We make a lot of the fact that our Creator will “write” on our hearts, and “put” into our minds, but we don’t really think through what He writes and puts. His “law” is what He puts in our minds and writes on our hearts. As disciples of Jesus, we aren’t subject to the law, though. Well, we’re not subject to the old law as a means of righteousness, that’s true. But it seems that our Creator still has a set of standards for us as His disciples.

Notice what isn’t being written on our hearts: systematic theological categories. He doesn’t write on our hearts things like whether we can walk away from Jesus or not. He doesn’t write whether people have an extra-dimensional existence or not. He doesn’t write whether we can experience Him outside of a congregation of disciples or not. He’s not writing those things on our hearts. Instead, He inspired the vague answers we have in Scripture.

You see where I’m going with this? We know that we should be loving toward each other, because He has written that on our hearts. We know that we should serve one another, because He has written that on our hearts. And we know that He saves us from our failures in those areas because our Creator is merciful and forgiving. He is our Savior as well as Creator. That much we know from the presence of His Spirit. We are saved by grace through faith. And even that faith is a gift of the Spirit of our Savior.

Theological vagaries, these are not as important to our Creator. They can’t be. They’re simply areas where we live, walking about in His presence. And we do so together, each of us seeing a different aspect and truth of the same Creator and Savior, yet all consistent with the Spirit indwelling His disciples, and the Scripture He has inspired. Yet, this throng lives and moves, sharing partial views of this incomprehensible Person. And without the sharing, we limit our views of Him, for He is simply too vast for even Scripture (John 21:25).

Okay, that’s my view through the fence today. What do you see?

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation

Revisiting the Knothole

The basic concept of this blog, and my personal theology, is that our Creator, the One having inspired Scripture, doesn’t limit His work to one person nor one perspective. I know that in my personal growth, others have played a major part because my Master has used them to reveal Himself in Scripture in some new, meaningful way. So, it’s a personal theology where I recognize that I am dependent upon others for a more complete view of what our Creator and Savior reveals of Himself through Scripture.

I have to also recognize that this may not be important for everyone. And that’s not easy for me to accept. I confess a tendency, sometimes a tenacity, to be independent. And my Master, recognizing that weakness in me, designed me with a requirement for others in order to know Him better. That means I learn in the context of others better than I learn by myself. Whatever I can come up with on my own is paltry compared to what comes out of a group of which I am a part.

This has affected my views of “church” (ecclesiology), “person-hood” (anthropology), and salvation (soteriology). And in these views, I probably differ from a lot of people because of my personal experience, mostly my failures. I am an introvert dependent upon others for my life with my Creator. It’s a paradox where I discover the best and worst of myself and others, and the absolute deepest, most vibrant beauty of our Savior.

Consider this, though: The writer of Hebrews wrote in a context of other disciples, and presented shockingly unique perspectives tailored to his audience. If it truly was a “letter”, then one congregation writes to another these shocking perspectives. If it’s a single sermon (very likely, considering the structure), then it was first spoken in the context of a collection of disciples. Either way, these bright, vibrant views of Jesus came out of the context of a group of disciples.

One of these truths, founded upon the previous precedents of the writer’s argument, has to do with a new covenant:

For finding fault with them, He says,


Hebrews 8:8-12 NASB

Jeremiah, over 400 years before Jesus’ birth, spoke of a new covenant. Within the context of a “covenant people”, Jeremiah speaks of a new covenant. It had to be shocking for his audience then, contrary to their assumptions (as so many of his prophecies). But think through the elements of this new covenant:

  1. “The days are coming…” It happens in the future. The consequences of the current covenant will still come upon the people.
  2. It will be with Israel and Judah. The two nations will be reunified under one covenant, like they had been under the first.
  3. It will be different, not like the one before, with Moses.
  4. Under the new covenant:
    1. The law of God will be written in their minds and on their hearts
    2. He will be their God, they will be His people
    3. No teaching, they will all know Yahweh (spoiler alert! I’m returning to this)
    4. The knowledge of Yahweh will be based on His forgiveness and mercy

Now, for Christians (disciples of Jesus), we know this to be fulfilled in Jesus. But for Jeremiah, and for those who followed him, they could not imagine a covenant that did not include the Temple, sacrifices, and so on. They only saw that teachers would lose their jobs, not that the law itself would change, or go away. Yet, our writer of Hebrews has already pointed that out as he raised Jesus as our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Yet, notice the other element of this new covenant: We will all know Yahweh. The Spirit of God within us reveals to us the truths of God through Scripture. And we, in a sense, no longer need teachers. Not to say that the Spirit doesn’t gift some as teachers, He clearly does. But, the Spirit Himself is our teacher.

Here’s the thing though: That means we are to be students! The reality of our situation is that we (including me) too often want to be teachers, and spout our points of view as the point of view. But how can it be possible to have differing views if our Teacher is the same God? I believe the answer to that can be found in this question: How many times did Jesus use the exact same method to heal anyone? Every recorded healing is different from every other healing. In fact, where the same event is described in different Gospels, there are often slight differences even there.

If our Savior used different methods to do essentially the same thing, why would we expect that he would suddenly stop, and now use the same method with everyone? The same reason He used different methods to heal is the same reason He teaches people different things about Himself. We don’t all have the same needs, the same experiences, the same problems, or the same level of understanding.

If we were to learn the same things, why doesn’t He reverse Babel once we’re saved so we all understand the same language? That way there won’t be any differences in linguistic nuances. Let’s be honest, our Creator has never worked the same way with anyone. He worked with Moses different than Noah. He worked with Abraham different than David. Why? Because He created them different, and worked with them as He created them.

Therefore, how can we assume that what our Savior reveals to us must be the same as what He reveals to those around us? The main points are the same. In each instance Jesus healed. The end result was the same. It was the method that was different. So, too, with understanding Scripture, the end result is the same: our relationship with our Creator through our Savior. But the nuance in what He reveals about Himself through Scripture to each of us is nuanced to who He created us to be. And what you share with me reveals more to me about Him. THAT deepens my relationship with my Creator. And I believe THAT is His goal.

So, after all that, what’s your view through the knothole this morning?

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation

Looking Under the Hood

If Hebrews can be boiled down to the “superiority of Jesus”, then we could be done by chapter 8. As it is, there are five more chapters after that, including the famous “Role Call of Faith” in chapter 11. So, while that is what much of Hebrews is about, there’s more to come, like, “What do we do with the knowledge of Jesus’ superiority?”

Yet, in chapter 8 we find a remarkable statement, “Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.” (Hebrews 8:1-2 NASB) The main point, so far? Or the main point of the whole book?

There is some debate over whether the “main point” means the “central topic” or a “summary statement”. Regardless, as we progress through this first bit of chapter 8, we run into verse 6: “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.” (Hebrews 8:6 NASB)

This is another of those statements we can zip right by without spending any time thinking through. But, seriously, think that through: Jesus has obtained a “more excellent ministry”; a ministry as more excellent as the covenant He mediates is “more excellent” than the previous covenant, a covenant based on more excellent promises.

So, we have a more excellent ministry, more excellent covenant, and more excellent promises. Ministry is a term referring to temple practice, or cultic practice. That is not to say that Jesus’ “ministry” looks like the priests practice in the Jerusalem temple. It’s different, and more excellent, superior to theirs, and it doesn’t require continual sacrifice of the blood of animals.

The covenant Jesus mediates is more excellent than the covenant mediated by the blood sacrifice of animals. And that is not to say that now Jesus offers Himself up continually as He makes intercession for us. He offered Himself once, for all, and for all time. His intercession is from where He is seated at the right hand of the Majesty. He can’t get any closer to the Father than He is.

The promises on which His covenant are based go back to the initial agreement God made with His human creatures. Jesus’ covenant restores the relationship lost in the Garden. The law never promises that. It alludes to it in the decorations of the temple, but it never promises it. At no time can everyone come into the presence of God through the law. Yet through Jesus, we all approach the throne of Jesus, and do so with confidence.

We have a better Intercessor, who mediates a covenant based His once-for-all self-sacrifice, which carries the promise of the restoration of the relationship we lost with our Creator in the Garden of Eden. So, the question is, “Do you want to walk with your Creator in His garden in the cool of the day?” Well, do you? I mean, who doesn’t?

Where are we headed? What is the point of all this mess here on earth? Why choose to believe this faith? Because this faith restores the purpose of the Creator of the universe when He made human beings. We become restored to the relationship we had with Him before a tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Jesus’ superiority has, as its core importance, the promise of eternal life with our Creator. That is the rest which the people failed to achieve, but we can. The rest of our Creator, on the seventh day, a Sabbath of our Creator, is the “promise” offered. This is the promise mediated, or “offered” by our Intercessor, Jesus, the Son of God, Yahweh, El-Elyon, our Savior. Do you see the central importance in this simple verse? Did you see it before?

Jesus mediates a better covenant through His intercession for you, so that you might obtain the promise of the eternal presence of your Creator. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the “Good News”, in a nutshell. The central theme of all Scripture is found in this tiny verse. It is the gospel in single sentence. You simply have to “look under the hood”. How often does that happen? Actually, a lot. You simply have to “look under the hood” more often.

So, what’s your view through your knothole this afternoon?

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation


The “letter” to the Hebrews is different from any other “letter” among the Christian Scriptures for many reasons. One of those reasons is its organization as a single topic. It is truly focused on one thing, the supremacy of Jesus, specifically of His intercession on behalf of His disciples. The book begins with this focus and continues to the end with that same focus.

Each segment of this book builds upon the previous segment, each premise dependent upon the previous premise. In order to claim that Jesus’ ministry on our behalf is superior, the writer must appropriate Jeremiah 31:32-34. But, before he can apply that passage and the “new covenant” as he needs to, he must first establish Jesus as a priest outside of the Levitical Priesthood. To do that, he uses Psalm 110, a “royal” or “enthronement” psalm.

But even before the writer can apply Psalm 110 to Jesus, he must first argue Jesus’ supremacy over angels, over Moses, and then, over the law itself. Only then can he apply Psalm 110, with its unexpected reference to the priestly order of Melchizedek, to Jesus. The reason this is so important, that it forms the hinge pin on which his claims of Jesus pivot, can be found within the Psalm itself.

Psalm 110 is supposed to be written by David, and we have no reason to think otherwise. So, imagine David, sitting in his palace, the tent with the Ark in view from a window or terrace, writing this poem about one of his eventual children on his throne:

The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at My right hand
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”
The LORD will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying,
“Rule in the midst of Your enemies.”
Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power;
In holy array, from the womb of the dawn,
Your youth are to You as the dew.

Psalms 110:1-3 NASB

It is not difficult to see the “royal” or “enthronement” quality in the first half of the psalm. You have Yahweh (The LORD) establishing a “Lord” beside Him, fighting for this Lord, establishing the rule of this Lord even in the midst of opposition, and sanctifying the people this Lord rules. This coincides well with the Gospels and writings of Paul, John, and Peter.

Jesus uses this Psalm to show that the Messiah can’t be David’s son, because David calls him “my Lord”. Which is an interesting element of this Psalm. Why would David write it that way? Because, under the inspiration of the Spirit, David writes of what Yahweh will do in the future: not just give David a son on the throne, but an epic Messiah, someone greater than himself. While that may surprise David, possibly humble him, what he writes next had to floor him:

The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”

Psalms 110:4

Yahweh utters an unalterable oath that He will establish this “Lord” as a priest, not just a king. Even as he writes those words, David knows that only Levites can be priests, right? He does have his sons function as priests, he himself has taken the ephod at times, and Samuel, who anointed David, functioned as a priest, though from the Tribe of Manasseh. Still, there is no order of priests other than those of Aaron’s line, or is there?

David writes this poem in Jerusalem, which was once named Salem, before Jebusites took it over and renamed it. When it was Salem, it was ruled by a king who functioned also as a priest, Melchizedek. More likely than not, David knew the story, and was aware that he was in the very city where this priest-king ruled and ministered. And now, it was the place where the Ark now sat, the Ark of the same God this priest-king represented. The worship of Yahweh had returned, and a king who worshiped Yahweh now reigned. If you think about it, all the elements are there when David wrote this poem.

But it still had to be a weird thing for David to write. It had to be a strange impression for God to make on this man, so different than what others thought, what the priests taught, or the prophets spoke. Melchizedek remains a legendary figure for almost 1,000 years after David. Even the Qumran group think of Melchizedek as a super-human figure. And so he remains until, the writer of Hebrews finally explains the revelation given to David so many years ago.

The writer of Hebrews fastens on to this amazing revelation of God given to David. And for him it becomes the piece that God reveals as the connection to the “New Covenant” of Jeremiah 31. Prior to this, people just figured that the “new covenant” written on their hearts would be the “same song, different refrain”, basically the old covenant, but now doable. But for the writer of Hebrews, the new covenant changes everything. Now, there is no sacrificial system, no line of priests, no more blood of animals, no continual sacrifice requirement for sin any more. Jesus replaces all of it, even though He is of the line of Judah. It’s shocking.

So, is the penalty of sin removed? How can human creatures draw near to their Creator without an intermediary? How can we be justified before our Creator without the shedding of blood? What the writer of Hebrews does with the temple cultic practice is relocate the activity into heaven, make Jesus the permanent High Priest, and supersede all blood sacrifices with the one-time self-sacrifice of Jesus. This, in turn, releases people from the cultic practice of sacrificing animals, over and over. It was no longer necessary.

But there’s the end of the Psalm we haven’t looked at yet:

The Lord is at Your right hand;
He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.
He will judge among the nations,
He will fill them with corpses,
He will shatter the chief men over a broad country.
He will drink from the brook by the wayside;
Therefore He will lift up His head.

Psalms 110:5-7 NASB

War is coming. This “Lord” David foresees, once established beside Yahweh, having gathered His holy people, once installed as both King and Priest of God Most High, will eventually go to war. Remember that Jesus didn’t come to bring peace, but war (Matthew 10:34, Luke 12:51), whether with the sword or division, He knew that there would be no peace on this planet until the end. And so it goes. So, what do we do now?

The rest of Hebrews, chapters 11 through 13, speaks of how we respond to the reality of our Heavenly Intercessor. Faith, perseverance, and love become the marks of our life. We participate in the war fought, and won, by Jesus when we live out faith, perseverance, and love. Our war remains a fight against the spiritual forces of darkness in the heavenly realms. Our tactics remain persistent prayer and loving service.

That’s my view through, well, through a large knothole this afternoon. Good grief. What’s your view like?

So, Let’s Review…

I’ve been very inconsistent, lately, in my blogging. I don’t know how many have noticed because my readership has been falling off of late. I was looking at my stats, and it was both confusing and depressing. I suppose, as a blogger, I’m not much of a success. And, while it’s nice when people read, like, and comment on my entries, I don’t blog for recognition. I can’t. It would make me nuts, and I’d eventually quit.

I blog because I think through things externally. It’s how my Master “wired” me. It helps me think through what He has inspired in Scripture, and that is truly my point in blogging. Essentially, those who visit get a peek at my thought process, such as it is. And they may or may not find my conclusions valuable. At least, in those entries where I actually come to a conclusion, they may find value.

As I have been going through the letter to the Hebrews, I have had a very difficult time finding conclusions. It always seems like I’m in the middle of some point or another, never at a conclusion. More than any other letter or book, Hebrews seems more cohesive and linear, something to be taken all at once, not piece-by-piece. It’s a singular argument made up of supporting elements which all lead back to the singular argument. It’s the most unified writing in Scripture that I’ve ever worked with. And that has also made it difficult.

The difficulty has been that this book does not lend itself to my usual pattern of study. What I normally do is find a point within a passage of Scripture (pericope). Hebrews doesn’t lend itself to this sort of study, I haven’t been able to do independent studies using various passages. And, therefore, it has been difficult to blog on various specific topics within chapters.

I have touched on some topics, like becoming “unsaved”, which have garnered some attention, albeit, not terribly positive. I’m not whining, because it was actually very helpful to be pushed to think through the topic more thoroughly. And, after all, that is really the point of my blogging anyway. So, it may not have been positive, but it was certainly helpful.

Okay, but still, what’s the point? The title of this entry claims that this entry is a review, and I’ve claimed in this entry that Hebrews is a singular linear argument. Therefore there should be a singular point, right? I have a previous entry, called “The Main Thing“, in which I claim that the main point of Hebrews, according to the author, is that Jesus’ High Priestly ministry in the heavenly temple is superior to the ministry of the Aaronic High Priesthood in the earthly tabernacle/temple.

Two things make that highly probable as the focus of the entire letter. First, and most obvious, the author says so. The second is that this statement of the author occurs in the middle of the letter. Putting the main point in the very middle is “hebraic” method of structuring an argument, especially in poetry. Then the supporting points move out from it concentrically. So, the points build toward in from the beginning. And, then work out from it in corresponding elements toward the end. It’s called a “chiastic” structure after the Greek letter X (chai).

Since I’ve only made it halfway through, I don’t know that Nicodemus builds the back-end of the structure. So, I don’t truly know if we actually have a chiastic structure or not. It’s also possible that he has structured his argument after the fashion of Philo of Alexandria. This connection is so strong that most commentators accept that the writer of Hebrews is from Alexandria, Egypt. Philo used more the structures of Greek philosophy, especially Plato (rhetoric), which is typically building to an ending main point. So, this reference in the middle is a bit out of place.

The way the reference could make sense is if Nicodemus builds his point to here, and then unpacks the meaning from here on. Again, I don’t know if that’s what happens or not, but I don’t think so. Here’s the “map” to chapter 8 (chapters 1 through 7):

  1. Jesus is superior:
    1. To Angels (chapters 1 & 2)
    2. To Moses (chapters 3 & 4)
    1. To the Aaronic Priesthood (chapters 5 through 7)

All along, Nicodemus has pointed out the effects of each of these contrasts with Jesus. And the effect of His superiority to Aaron’s Priesthood begins in chapter 8 and continues on through 10 (I think – I have only worked on chapter 8 so far). So, that’s the review up to chapter 8.

The point of Jesus’ superiority has built up to the discussion of Jesus’ ministry as High Priest. There is something that Nicodemus sees as the main need of his audience, something that necessitated this letter to them. He is solving a problem with this letter, and by examination of his solution, we can, hopefully, divine the problem he is trying to solve. That’s the message. That’s what we can transmit forward to our day, the solution-problem connection.

We probably face the same problem, and, therefore, need this solution. It’s too easy to play down what we read because we are probably not Jewish believers. We can dismiss the arguments because we don’t see the connection between ourselves and the audience. But we need to. The reality we skip is that this letter was inspired not just written “for fun”, or for some other lowly purpose. There is a reason our Savior has in it, not just the writer. There is a message for us today. I’m just not yet clear on what it is because I’m not yet completely through the linear argument. But it will build, and I will post more as it becomes clearer to me. But this is where I am so far.