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):
- Jesus is superior:
- To Angels (chapters 1 & 2)
- To Moses (chapters 3 & 4)
- 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.
Hebrews is a difficult letter, probably the most difficult in the NT. My approach to all of scripture is not to wonder about who wrote it, or where they were from, but to take it from the point of view of the intended audience, figuring that this is whose understanding it was written towards. In this case, the audience are Jewish believers more so than Gentile believers. So, how would they have perceived it? To gain better perspective (not being Jewish) I would seek out postings by groups such as Jews for Jesus or Messianic Jews and see what their take is.
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That’s really good advice! Messianic Jewish Rabbis may be who I need to be seeking out.
And, as you said, don’t worry about your numbers. I have never looked at mine, have no idea even how many followers I have. If even one person reads a post then that is one more person who has gained insight, hopefully someone who either needs it or who is not a Christian (yet). My task, as I see it, is to make Sacred Scriptures relevant to people today. If I do it for even one person then I have fulfilled my task.
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Wrong, and that’s not an opinion either. Scripture is written to “plurals” not “singular” disciples. Any belief you hold that your interpretation from your perspective is the sum total for meaning in Scripture completely ignores the plural context of the initial inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And it is this divine Person of the Holy Spirit who’s purpose is to unite, not divide, to heal, not wound. The Scripture He inspired was inspired in the context of a body of disciples, not by and to a singular individual. You are not God’s single voice and single lens of understanding. I value, and will continue to value the perspective of others, including you. But I will not be party to any attempt to reduce my understanding of what an Infinite Creator of an incomprehensible universe inspires down to a single interpretation. That’s not going to happen, because I already know my Master is not that simple, nor does He allow Himself to be boxed into anything like that. My recommendation to you is that you allow the Holy Spirit to use the perspective of others to inform your understanding and view of your Creator, because He uses others in your life to reveal aspects of Himself you could never understand alone. Scripture is far more expansive than you realize. And, as you grow in your experience with it, you will discover the humility built into the design of interdependence built into it by our Creator, Savior, and Illuminator. He made us to need each other to know Him better. So, I will not heed your advice in this matter, and will continue to welcome the perspective of others, including, at times, you.