Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hebrews Carnival May 2011

The month of May saw the following contributions to the book of Hebrews:

Dan Fabricatore has A note on ἐφάπαξ: Once for all in Hebrews 10:10.

Ken Schenck discusses the CEB translation of  Hebrews 1:5-14.

Kenneth Way discusses the Handling of "Heroes" in Hebrews 11.

Kevin Brown has some reflections on Hebrews, Jesus, and Creation in Hebrews 1:2, 10.

Horace Jeffery Hodges discusses Hebrews 9:14-17 on Covenant and Testament.  He takes διαθηκη in this context to mean "covenant."  He then moves on to Hebrews 9:15 and asks whether it is Specifically about Israelites and their Descendants.  He then interacts with my comments on 9:14-17.

Horace Jeffery Hodges is puzzling over the meaning of Hebrews 9:23 - "heavenly things themselves be cleansed."  He discusses Brooke Foss Westcott's and  Kenneth L. Schenck's take on Hebrews 9:23.

Ken responds with his own post asking, What is cleansing the heavenly sanctuary in Heb. 9:23?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New Resources Added

I have added to the articles page the following resources that have chapters or divisions on Hebrews:

Adeney, Walter Frederic. “The Theology of the Epistle to the Hebrews.” Pages 218–28 in The Theology of the New Testament. 1894.

Bartlet, James Vernon. “Palestine and the Epistle ‘to Hebrews.’” Pages 277–96 in The Apostolic Age: Its Life, Doctrine, Worship, and Polity. 1900.
Beyschlag, Willibald. “The Epistle to the Hebrews.” Pages 282–347 in New Testament Theology or Historical Account of the Teaching of Jesus and of Primitive Christianity according to the New Testament Sources. Vol. 2. 1895.

Bovon, Jules. “L’épître aux Hébreux.” Pages 357–403 in Théologie du Nouveau Testament. Tome second: L’enseignement des apotres. 2d ed. 1905.

Feine, Paul. “Der Hebräerbrief.” Pages 643–57 in Theologie des Neuen Testaments. Leipzig: Hinrich, 1912.

Gould, Ezra Palmer. “The Epistle to the Hebrews.” Pages 160–73 in The Biblical Theology of the New Testament. 1900.

Holtzmann, Heinrich Julius. "Der Autor ad Hebraeos." Pages 281–308 in Lehrbuch der neutestamenlichen Theologie. Vol. 2. 1897.

Lechler, Gotthard Victor. “The Doctrine of the Epistle to the Hebrews.” Pages 119–35 in The Apostolic and Post-Apostolic Times: Their Diversity and Unity in Life and Doctrine. 3d ed. Vol. 2. Translated by A. J. K. Davidson. 1886.

McGiffert, Arthur Cushman. “The Christianity of the Epistle to the Hebrews.” Pages 463–82 in A History of Christianity in the Apostolic Age. International Theological Library. 1897.

Neander, Augustus. “The Doctrine of the Epistle to the Hebrews.” Pages 212–28 in History of the Planting and Training of the Christian Church by the Apostles. Vol. 2. Edinburgh: Thomas Clark, 1842.

Pfleiderer, Otto. “The Epistle to the Hebrews.” Pages 272–99 in Primitive Christianity: Its Writings and Teachings in Their Historical Connections. Vol. 3. Translated by W. Montgomery. 1910.

Rendall, Frederic. “The Epistle to the Hebrews.” Pages 11–92 in The Theology of the Hebrew Christians. 1886.

Reuss, Edward. “The Epistle to the Hebrews.” Pages 238–61 in History of Christian Theology in the Apostolic Age. Vol. 2. 1874.

Sheldon, Henry C. “Modified Paulinism—Hebrews and First Peter.” Pages 270–99 in New Testament Theology. New York: Macmillan, 1911.

Stevens, George Barker. "The Theology of the Epistle to the Hebrews." Pages 483-522 in The Theology of the New Testament. 1899. 

Weiss, Bernhard. “The Epistle to the Hebrews.” Pages 166–234 in Biblical Theology of the New Testament. Vol. 2. 1883.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hebrews and the Second Coming

In light of recent (non-)events I thought I would post something on what Hebrews says about the παρουσα or second coming of Jesus.  The clearest reference to the second coming is found in 9:28:

"so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him." (NASB)

Since Christ appeared (πεφανέρωται; 9:26) once to take care of sin in his sacrificial death, he will appear (ὀφθήσεται) a second time without the need to deal with the sin problem.  Many scholars see here an oblique parallel to the high priest who reemerges from the holy of holies after he had made atonement on the Day of Atonement.  The high priest's reemergence means that the sacrifice had been accepted.

The second more oblique reference is found in the quotation of Habakkuk 2:3 LXX in 10:37:

"For yet 'in a very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not delay.'"  (NRSV)

In the original context the passage is part of God's second reply to Habakkuk's questioning.  It refers to a vision that the prophet must write down since its fulfillment will not happen immediately but according to its appointed time, which will be coming soon.  The author of Hebrews appears to add an article before the LXX translation ἐρχόμενος, "coming," thus making it a substantive that has messianic overtones.  The author interprets the passage as a reference to Jesus' imminent return.

The third passage, found in 1:6, is even more oblique and highly disputed.  The introduction to the quotation reads: 

ὅταν δὲ πάλιν εἰσαγάγῃ τὸν πρωτότοκον εἰς τὴν οἰκουμένην

One interpretive crux in the passage is the placement of πάλιν.  It may merely introduce another quotation, as is the author's practice elsewhere (1:5; 2:13; 4:5; 10:30).  The NRSV reflects this option:

"And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world."

Or πάλιν may modify the verb εἰσαγάγῃ.  The NASB reflects this option:

"And when He again brings the firstborn into the world."

If the first option is adopted, then it may refer to Jesus' incarnation, or exaltation.  If the second option is adopted, then it likely refers to the second coming of Jesus into the "inhabited world."  On this reading, God commands the angels to worship Jesus upon his return.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

New Latin and German Titles Added

Thanks to Jan Krans who informed me about VD18 which is a cooperative digitalization project which is seeking to preserve works from the 18th century.  It links to other sites where I was also able to find some works from the 17th century as well.  Consequently, I have been able to add about two dozen Latin and German titles, mostly dissertations, to the Electronic Books page.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

New Resources Added

The number of resources on Hebrews on the internet is simply astonishing.  I keep finding more and more resources.  The following resources have been added to the appropriate pages:

Asumang, Annang, and Bill Domeris. “Ministering in the Tabernacle: Spatiality and the Christology of Hebrews.” Conspectus: The Journal of the South African Theological Seminary 1.1 (2006): 1-25.

Betz, Erin L. "Christology in The Epistle to the Hebrews: Martin Luther's Reception of John Chrysostom." M.S.T. thesis, Boston University School of Theology, 2010.

Biesenthal, Johann Heinrich R.H. Das Trostschreiben des Apostels Paulus an die Hebräer. 1878.

Etter, Bruce. "Christology and Psalm 2:7 in the Book of Hebrews." M.A. thesis, Reformed Theological Seminary, 2002.

Fakhoury, Gary. "The Christology of the Letter to the Hebrews." 2004.

Just, Arthur. "Entering Holiness: Christology and Eucharist in Hebrews." Concordia Theological Quarterly 69.1 (2005): 75-95.

Robinson, Donald W. B. “The Literary Structure of Hebrews 1:1-4.” Australian Journal of Biblical Archaeology 1 (1972): 178-86.

Steyn, Gert J. “Addressing an Angelomorphic Christological Myth in Hebrews?Hervormde Teologiese Studies 59 (2003): 1107-28.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ménégoz on Sacrifice in Hebrews

The following are my notes on Ménégoz's analysis of the theology of sacrifice in Hebrews.

Ménégoz, Eugène. "Le Sacrifice." Pages 102-27 in La théologie de l’Épître aux Hébreux. Paris: Fischbacher, 1894.


[102] The goal of the incarnation of the Son was the sacrifice of his life offered for the remission of sins. The will of God is not the observation of the moral law, but the abasement in the humanity and offering of his body in sacrifice (10:10).
[103] The doctrine of the sacrifice of Christ is the main subject (8:1).
[/104] The author seeks to affirm the religious faith and fidelity of his readers and showing them the superiority of the sacrifice of Christ over the Levitical sacrifices.  Everything is superior in the Christian cult: the priest, victim, sanctuary, and the results of the sacrifice.
-the notion of sacrifice of Hebrews is the same as that of the Jews.  The author is working with the same presuppositions as his readers.
-“Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission” (9:22) is an axiom for him.
-He does not discuss the necessity of sacrifices.
[105] He produces an argument drawn from civil law. A testament is valid only upon the death of the testator; Christ must die so that we can enter into possession of the inheritance (9:15-17).
-The author plays on the double sense of diatheke, which means testament or covenant.
[107] The author recalls the sacrifices offered by Moses at Sinai and he shows that the law needed the sprinkling of blood for the remission of transgressions (9:18-22)
[108] The new covenant must be inaugurated with blood.  In the new covenant the sacrificer is Christ.  He must receive his vocation from God (5:4-6).
[109] The type of Melch plays a great role in the argument of the author.  Jesus was not from the tribe of Levi (7:14), which alone offered the sacrifices
-Ps 110:4, a messianic psalm - the order of Melch, the order of Christ, is superior to Levi.
[110] Author interprets Gen 14:17-20: Melch=King of justice; King of Salem=King of peace.  He is without father, mother, ancestors, without beginning of days or end of life; he is assimilated to the Son (7:2-3).
[111] The author shows the superiority of Christ (7:4-10).
-The word of Psalm 110 reveals the rest: Jewish priesthood was transitory, proving its weakness and insufficiency (7:11, 15-16).
[112] Sacrifice must take place outside the camp (13:10-12).
-As for the blood, Jesus carried it into the true tabernacle, of which the Jewish sanctuary was only a copy, into heaven in the presence of God himself (9:11, 24; 8:1-2).
[113] Other proofs for the superiority of Jesus’ priesthood: he became a priest according to an oath (7:20-22).  His priesthood is singular and immutable (7:23-24).  Jesus does not need to offer sacrifices for his own sins (7:26).  He does not need to renew his sacrifice which is offered once for all (7:27; 9:12; 10:2, 10, 12, 14).
[114] The Levitical priests are full of weakness; the Son is made perfect forever (7:28).
-The chief difference is that the Levitical priests offer animal sacrifices while Christ offered himself (7:27). The absolute superiority and the inestimable price of the victim gives to the sacrifice of the new covenant its unique value (9:12-14; 10:4-10)
[/116] The author tries to show that Jesus is the perfect realization of the divine thought, symbolically hidden under “the image and shadow” of the Levitical cult (8:5; 10:1).
-Contrast of the high priests: mortal vs. eternal; sinner vs. perfect; simple man vs. Son of God
-Contrast of the sacrifice: animal vs. celestial being; victim is without fault or spot vs. Christ who is pure, innocent, perfect holiness.
-High priest enters holy of holies once annually vs. Jesus entered once for all.
-Whole burnt offering burned outside the camp; Jesus was sacrificed outside the city.
-High priest traversed the veil; Jesus traversed the veil, his own flesh, torn by death.
[117] The high priest enters into an earthly sanctuary; Jesus entered into a heavenly one.
-High priest offered to God, symbolically the blood; Jesus offered his own blood.

What is the religious and theological significance of the death of Christ?
-His premises are those of contemporary Judaism; he grounds his notion of sacrifice on the OT.
-Sacrifice in the OT is an offering made to God to gain his favor.
[/118] High priest is charged to offer gifts and sacrifices (5:1; 8:3; 9:9).
-The intention of the gifts is to make God agreeable and to gain his good graces. The remission of sins is obtained by this means.
-The author assimilates the sacrifice of Christ to the Levitical sacrifices. Christ’s death is likened to the sacrifices made in the temple (8:3).  The difference between the two sacrifices is not in the idea of sacrifice but in the respective value of the victims.
[119] Some scholars mistakenly see a substitutionary sacrifice in Hebrews.
-The ceremony of the scapegoat was not a sacrifice, but a symbolic act.  Having charged the goat with the sins of the people, it was not offered to God but released into the wilderness.  One offers to God only pure and spotless victims.
-In OT the sinner does not expiate his sin with animal sacrifice, and God does not take leave of the punishment because he approves of the substitutionary punishment of the victim.  The victim does not expiate the crime in place of the criminal.  Such an idea is absent in the Law and Prophets.
[/120] According to Leviticus, it is the sinner who expiates his fault by sacrificing to God a precious object.  In this sense Jesus has offered to God what is most precious, his life.  One can call this an expiatory sacrifice, but not a substitutionary one.
-The excellence of the sacrifice of Christ is manifest also in its scope: Jewish sacrifices only make cleansing of the flesh; the blood of Christ gives remission of sins. Cf. 10:4; 9:13; 9:9-10.
[122] The author supports this thesis on the fact of the repetition of sacrifices (10:1-3, 11).
[123] The sacrifice of Christ remits sins, purifies the conscience, gives access to God.
[124] In 12:18-24 the author makes a parallel between the old and new covenants.
[125] The author assimilates Jesus to the high priest; the high priest only functions in the name of the people of Israel.  The author does not consider Christ as representing humanity entirely.
-Hebrews also assimilates Christ to Melch. He gives Christ a greater sphere of action; it can be extended to the pagan world. This universal application also applies to the sacrifice of Christ.  Jesus died to purify the people (13:12).
[126] The death of Christ has universal expiatory value (2:9; 5:9; 9:28).  Included are the faithful since the creation of the world (9:26). Christ’s death is retroactive to cross the centuries.  The Jewish sacrifices cannot efface sin; it is the blood of Christ which effaces them.
-The author founds this idea of retroactivity on the fact that Christ only suffered once and offered to God a sacrifice of absolute value.  If his sacrifice had only a temporary value, he would be obligated to die many times as the efficacy of his sacrifice would embrace periods, just as the high priest is obligated to renew annually his sacrifice, whose effect was limited to the duration of one year (9:25-28).
[127] Christ died for all people and not only for his people.  His sacrifice is valuable for all time for all people.

Ménégoz on the Christology of Hebrews

I am currently working my way through Eugène Ménégoz's La théologie de l’Épître aux Hébreux.  The following is my translation of his chapter on Christology.  The translation is not polished.  I did not bother transcribing all of the Greek, nor are the footnotes included.  Pages numbers are set in brackets [].  I will say up front that I do not agree with his christological interpretation of Hebrews.
Ménégoz, Eugène. “Le Christ.” Pages 77-101 in La théologie de l’Épître aux Hébreux. Paris: Fischbacher, 1894.
 The Christ

[77] At the center of the theology of the epistle to the Hebrews is found the person of Christ.  It penetrates all the religious conception of the author, it dominates all his system.  To better understand his doctrine, it is necessary, before anything, to have a clear idea of his Christology.
The author did not know Jesus. “The salvation,” he said, “announced at first by the Lord, has been confirmed by us who have heard” (2:3).  All he knows he holds from tradition.  And this tradition appears to have been oral tradition, because there is no trace in our epistle of a gospel writing.  Moreover, the author seems to have known only a rather summary knowledge of the life of Jesus.  He reports none of his words, he makes no mention of his miracles, he does not speak of his earthly activities.  The death of Christ is more interesting than his life.  However, we can conclude from the manner of which he speaks about this death, that he knows the life of Jesus in its great lines and that he supposed that it is known by his readers.
We find in the epistle only two facts on the earthly life of Jesus.  At 7:14 the author [78] observes, in passing, that Jesus was from the tribe of Judah.  And at 5:7, speaking of the suffering of Christ, he says that Jesus supplicated God “with great cries and tears” to deliver him from death.  It is probably an allusion to the scene of Gethsemane, perhaps also to the cries of Jesus in his agony; but as one sees, it is literally independent of our canonical passages.  It is to these two nearly incidental indications, which can be excised without injury for the rest of the writing, that the facts of the epistle on the earthly existence of Jesus can be reduced.  The life of Christ “in the flesh” (5:7) seems scarcely to have occupied the author.  In this respect he shared the views of Paul.
The epistle to the Hebrews teaches in the most formal manner the personal preexistence of Christ. This one occupies the first place in date and in rank in the world of superior spirits, of celestial beings.  He is their “firstborn” (1:6), and as such – by right of primogeniture – is the universal heir (1:2; cf. v. 4).
The author does not explain the metaphysical nature of the preexistent Christ. He calls him “the reflection of the glory of God, the imprint of his being” (1:3).  These metaphors strike the imagination, but they say nothing precise in thought.  Man also is made in [79] the image of God.  Christ is a degree superior to him; his resemblance to God is perfect.  He reflects God as a mirror reflects an image; he carries the imprint of God, as the wax the imprint of the stamp.  But these comparisons do not define the proper nature of Christ.  It is necessary to seek the theological sense in the general exposition of the epistle.
[80] What stands out clearly from the text, is that, on the one hand, the author classifies Christ in the order of celestial beings, without thinking to attribute to him the divine nature itself, and that, on the other hand, he endeavors to demonstrate that Christ occupies in the order of celestial beings the first rank.  God has chosen and anointed him “in preference to his companions” (1:9).  His name is above all other names (1:5).
According to our author, the celestial beings who surround the throne of God are designated by the generic term of angels.  These angels are the “spirits” (1:14; cf. v. 7).  God is their father (12:9).
It is not necessary to understand this name of “father” in the Gnostic sense of emanation.  The author of our epistle professes the most absolute monotheism.  His God is the God of the Old Testament, the unique God, sovereign, all-powerful, creator of heaven and of earth, the origin and goal of the universe.  He is “the one for whom and by whom are all things (2:10), “the one who has established all things (3:4), “the one by whose word the world was formed, so that what one sees is not originated from existing things” (11:3).  The superior spirits, as the rest of the universe, [81] go in the order of creation.  The terms of father, son, children are figurative expressions of character at the same time metaphysical and moral, not implying any idea of organic evolution, of pantheistic effluence.
These observations are applied also to Christ, the Son of God par excellence (1:2, 4, 5).  The terms of “Son” and of “Firstborn” does not express the idea of a divine emanation.  Our author says explicitly that Christ has “neither father, nor mother, nor ancestors” (7:3).  As Adam, he is the first of his species.  He does not have a father in the sense of generation.  God, his creator, is his father in the metaphorical sense; and it is in this sense that it is necessary to understand the citations of Psalm 2:7: “You are my son, today I have begotten you,” and that of 2 Samuel 7:14: “I will be your father and he will be my son” (1:5; cf. 5:5).
[82] In applying to Christ this word “today I have begotten you,” the author indicates that he assigns a date to the creation of the Son: “today.”  The metaphysical idea – difficult, if not impossible to realize by the thought – of an eternal generation is strange to him; and one would be wrong to take in this absolute sense the affirmation that the Son of God, just as Melchizedek, “does not have the beginning of his days” (7:3).  These words only complete the preceding idea: “without father, without mother, without ancestors,” and they signify that the life of Christ did not begin by birth; he was not born.  He is the immediate and primordial product of the creative power of God.  “Today I have begotten you,” means: today, I have called you into existence.  This “today,” in the thought of the our author, refers to a moment where the succession of “days and nights” did not exist; it is before the “beginning” of the first chapter of Genesis, before the creation of the heavens and the earth.
God created the Son “an eternal spirit” [83] (9:14); he gave him a “life without end” (7:3, 8), an “imperishable life” (7:16).  “His years will not end” (1:12).  He remains the same, “yesterday, today and eternally” (13:8).  His “throne remains from eternity to eternity” (1:8; cf. 7:28).
Given these attributes, the Son was the organ of the creation of the world (1:2).  The author relates to the Son these words of Psalm 102:26: “You anciently established the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands” (1:10).  This idea of a celestial being charged to realize the creative thought of God is a Philonic idea; it penetrated into Judaism under the influence of Greek philosophy.  God is conceived as a being too elevated and too pure to enter into immediate contact with matter.  He uses intermediary beings for the creation and preservation of the world.  The same idea gave birth to the rabbinic teaching according to which God had given the Law to Moses, not directly, as Exodus (ch. 20) and Deuteronomy (ch. 5) report it, but by the ministry of angels (2:2; cf. Galatians 3:19; Acts 7:53).  See also Deuteronomy 33:2 in the Septuagint version; et Josephus, Antiquities 15.5.3.
[84] It is also by the Son that God continues to sustain the world.  The Son, says our author, “bears all things by his powerful word” (1:3).  We know that in Philonism, the “word” is the sensible expression of the intimate nature of a person.  The powerful word of the Son is his powerful nature, the power of his metaphysical being.  Just as a minister acts in the name and by the delegation of his sovereign, likewise the Son acts with the full power of the Father in the work of creation and the preservation of the world.
With this double title and according to the conceptions of the era, the Son occupies vis-à-vis other creatures, even the more elevated ones, the rank of a god.  It is what expresses, in the thought of our author, these words of Deuteronomy: “All the angels of God must bow before you” (Deut 32:43, solely in the version of the Septuagint; cf. Ps 97:7), and this passage of Psalm 45 (Hebrew 44):6ff.: “Your throne, O God, remains from eternity to eternity, the scepter of your reign is a scepter of equity; you have loved justice and you have hated iniquity; it is why, O God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of joy in preference to your companions” (1:8-9).
These last words prove to us that it is not a question here of the essential divinity of Christ, of his deity, of his homoousia with the Father.  God is one, in the absolute [85] sense; he is essentially distinct from the whole universe; he is outside of comparison.  The Son, on the contrary, is not only of his species, he has “companions” – “fellows” (as Osterwald and Martin translate), “colleagues” (according to the translation of Reuss and Segond), “peers” (according to Oltramare), “equals” (according to Stapfer).  These μέτοχοι are the superior spirits, among which Christ is classified as to the order of creation, but above which he is elevated by the dignity and the privileges which it pleased God to accord to him.
The psalmist, in the citation above, is supposed to give to the preexistent Christ the name of God.  One would be wrong to infer an identification of Christ and of God in the thought of our author.  Noting first of all that the name of God, applied to the Son, is found only incidentally in the citation, and that this has for a goal to prove, not the equality of the Father and the Son, but the superiority of the Son over the other celestial spirits.  In the course of his exposition, the author never gives to Christ the name of God.  According to the citation of Deuteronomy, it is the angels “of God” who must [86] bow before the Son.  There, the distinction of God and Son is clearly marked.  And in the citation of the psalmist, the Son is called God only in a derivative sense; he has above him his God: “O God, your God has anointed you.”  His God, it is Jehovah, who does him the favor of choosing him “in preference to his companions,” and with whom our author did not identify him.
In the language of this era, one can employ the name of θεός in a derivative sense, even as we do today for the adjective divine. The term had something of an elasticity that it lost later.  In the Old Testament, the name of God is several times applied to men: “I have said, “You are gods, you are sons of the Most High’” (Ps 82:6; cf. Exod 4:16; 7:1; 22:8-9).  Jesus Christ himself revealed the loose character of this expression (John 10:34-35).  Saint Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Although there are beings called gods, whether in heaven, whether on the earth – as there is, in fact, a great number of gods and lords – nevertheless for us, there is only one God, the Father, from whom comes all things and for whom we are, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things and by whom we are” (1 Cor 8:5-6).  Philo also know this derivative sense: μὲν ἀληθεία θεὸς εἷς ἐστιν, οἱ δ᾿εν καταχρήσει λεγόμενοι πλείονες (de somn. 39).  [87] It is manifestly in this sense that it is necessary to understand the name of θεός applied to Christ in our citation; and one should not invoke this citation against our conception of the Christology of the epistle.
If the author had wished to teach the essential divinity of Christ, he would have made it with a perfect clarity; he was a rather good theologian and he handled rather well the pen for expressing clearly his thought.  But he thinks so little to identify Christ with God that, in his enumeration of the inhabitants of the “celestial Jerusalem”, he separates Jesus from God: “You have approached . . . of God, the judge of all, and of the spirits of the just made perfect, and of Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant” (12:23-24).  Noting also that in saying that Christ is seated “at the right hand of God” (1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2), the author distinguishes perfectly the one who is seated on the throne, and the one who is seated to his side.  The exalted Christ is not God: he is next to God, to his right, at the place of honor.  There is, according to our author, no tendency to identify them. 
Moreover, the author places explicitly in the category of created beings, not only Christ and the superior spirits, but also Christ and men.  “The one who sanctifies,” he says “and those who are sanctified are all issued from the one God” [88] (2:11).  “It is why,” he adds, “Christ is not ashamed to call them his brothers.”  In support, some prophetic passages of the Old Testament follow: Ps 22 (LXX: 21):23; Isa 8:17ff.  And that one should well mark it, it does not concern here the incarnate Christ, but the preexistent Christ.
All the effort of the author, in the two first chapters, tends to prove, not the divinity of Christ, but his superiority over similar spirits.  This effort would have been useless and the argumentation would have been very awkward if [89] the author had believed in the real divinity of Christ; because in this case, it would have been sufficient for him to affirm this divinity, and the superiority over the angels would become obvious.
If we need more proof to support our interpretation, we will find it in the fact that the idea of an incarnation of the divinity is absolutely absent from our epistle; we will find no trace in it neither in the premises nor in the argumentation of our author.  It is not found in his premises, because according to his platonic conceptions, he would not, as we have seen, admit an immediate contact of God and matter.
Just as for the creation and preservation of the world, an intermediary being, a mediator, is needed for the incarnation and redemption (8:6; 9:15; 12:24).  In the exposition of our author, it is not God who is abased or is incarnated.  This idea, which in later theology has played a crucial role, is unknown to him.  In his notion of God, there are not hypostases or intra-divine persons, of whom once could be externalized and incarnated.  God, immutable in his majesty, presides at the incarnation of the Son, but he does not participate personally.  He has prepared for him, says our author, “a body” (10:15).  This body, clothed the Son [90] at the time of his incarnation.  It is a body “of flesh and of blood” as those of other men (2:14).  He has lived thus in “the flesh” (5:7); and death has torn this flesh as a veil (10:20).
One sees here the platonic premises of the Judeo-Alexandrian school.  According to Plato, the spirits preexist in the celestial regions and are incarnate in human bodies.  This incarnation is by way of natural generation.  Has the author of our epistle represented the mode of the generation of Christ as different from those of other men?  This is not likely.  In any case, there is in the epistle no indication to suggest that the author had believed in the miraculous conception of Jesus in the womb of a virgin.  If he had this belief, it is scarcely admissible that he would not have expressed it, given his tendency to exalt Christ and to place him above all the beings of creation.  A miraculous exception in favor of the Son would have been an argument too precious to be passed under silence.
[91] Historically speaking, the idea of the preexistence of Christ and that of his supernatural conception by the Holy Spirit are exclusive of one another.  According to the latter, Christ would not have existed before his conception; it is the union of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary that he is born.  According to the former, on the contrary, Christ was called into existence by the Creator before all other celestial spirits, and the Holy Spirit would have played no role in his incarnation.  One can seek to reconcile dogmatically these two notions; but on the terrain of history they are irreconcilable.  The authors of the New Testament, who teach one, do not teach the other.  We are then authorized to conclude that the author of our epistle, in teaching the incarnation of the preexistent Christ, does not profess the doctrine of the conception of Christ by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin.  He nevertheless does consider of the Son as a miraculous fact; because this is not one of the innumerable preexistent human souls who are incarnated – an incarnation which according to the platonic theories is the rule, the natural and daily fact – but a superior spirit, a unique being, the Firstborn, who was not, as human souls, naturally destined to be clothed with flesh and blood.
[92] The reason which, according to our author, determined the Son to be incarnated is the will of the Father.  Adopting the word of a Psalm, the Son says to the Father: “Here I am, O God, to do your will” (10:7; cf. Ps 40:7-9).  The incarnation of the Son was necessary, not only so that one can offer his body in sacrifice for sin – because without the shedding of blood there is no pardon (9:22) – but also so that he can sympathized with sinners in participating in their weakness, their sufferings, their temptation.  “He must be made like his brothers in all things in order that he may become compassionate” (2:17) . . . “because having suffered himself in trials, he can succor those who are tempted” (2:18) . . . “We do not have a great priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, because he experienced the same temptations as us, but without falling into sin (4:15; cf. 5:2).
These passages confirm also our conclusions relative to the nature of the Son of God.  If the author of our epistle had believed in the essential divinity of Christ, he would not have made the knowledge of the miseries of humanity depend on his incarnation.  God is omniscient; he knows the sentiments of men because without having the need to be incarnated.  It is precisely because he knows them that he has sent his Son into the world.  The firstborn of creatures, on the contrary, would be perfectly, in the [93] thought of our author, ignorant, before having personally experienced all the breadth and depth of the evils of humanity.
Surrounded by temptations, Christ always triumphed (4:15).  “He offered himself to God without spot” (9:14).  “For it is right for us to have a sovereign priest: holy, innocent, without spot” (7:26).  The holiness of Christ could not be affirmed with more clarity; it is supposed in the whole writing.  The author does not examine the question, if Christ could have sinned.  As he does not identify with God, he must admit the possibility of a fall.  However, given his superior nature and his original obedience, the Son of God is found in more favorable conditions to leave victoriously from the battle.
Despite his celestial nature and his exceptional gifts, the Son of God did not primitively have the fullness of perfection.  He must progress more, in order to attain the most elevated degree of glory and felicity.  It pleased God, says the author, to elevate him to perfection by suffering (2:10).
La τελείωις, in the language of the epistle to the Hebrews (7:11, 19, 28; 9:9, 11; 10:1, 14; 11:40; 12:2, 23; 6:1), is not moral perfection, but the term of an evolution, the plenitude of a fulfillment.  This perfection, the Son of God attained (5:9; cf. 2:10; 7:28; Phil 2:9).  If the author had believed in the deity of Christ, he would not have expressed it thus; because God, in the Israelite conception, is the absolute perfection.  The primitive state of the Son, on the contrary, was [94] susceptible to a development, to a progress, to a perfecting.
To arrive at perfection, the Son must undergo a formidable test: he must be abased, to be incarnate in humanity, to triumph over temptations, to be patient in suffering, to be submitted to the will of God until the torment of the cross.
Christ knew that a glorious recompense would crown his victorious battle.  “He suffered the cross,” says our author, “and he despised the ignominy, in view of the joy which was reserved for him” (12:2).  It is this perspective which sustained him.
[95] The author, note it well, does not say, and none of his interpreters would say, that Jesus had accepted the sufferings in the intention of gaining the celestial joys.  It is for the salvation of his brothers that he is sacrificed.  But what sustained him in the ignominy, in the sufferings, on the cross, is the perspective of the felicity [96] and of the glory to come.  All the faithful of the old covenant had been sustained in their ordeals by the faith in the divine promises (ch. 11).  Jesus likewise.  And he had not failed.  He fought valiantly until the end.  He became thus our model for faith, patience, perseverance. “Running with perseverance in the lists which are open before us, by regarding Jesus, the chief and consummator of our faith” (12:1-2).
[97] Suffering had exercised him, seasoned him. “He learned obedience by suffering” (5:8).  God came to his aid “by his grace” – 2:9; he heard him “because of his piety” – 5:7.
As one sees it, our author has taken seriously the [98] ordeals, the battles, the sufferings of Christ.  He considers as meritorious his obedience and his piety; he represents him as sustained by the grace of God and by the hope of a glorious future.  Christ incarnated was really like men “in all things except for sin” (4:15).
Superior to the angels in the transcendent world, Christ was superior, in humanity, to the greatest of the men of God, Moses (3:1-6).  Both Moses and Jesus received a calling from God; both were faithful in their mission (3:2).  But the mission of Jesus was superior to that of Moses, since Moses entered into the house of God (the people of Israel) as servant, while this house already existed; whereas the Son of God is the founder of a new house, namely the Christian [99] church (3:6).  But, in the last analysis, the two houses, ancient Israel and the Christian church, have God for the founder (3:4).  The subordination of the Son is clearly marked by these words.  In the order of created beings, Jesus is superior to Moses; but vis-à-vis God, there is an assimilation of Moses and of Jesus.  One sees with what care the author accents the sovereignty of God.  In this passage, God is called θεός in an absolute sense which excludes formally, by the conjunction δέ, the assimilation of Christ to God.
A last trait that the author mentions to exalt Christ in his humanity, is his superiority over the sovereign priest or great priest of Israel.  We will see in the next chapter that this parallel is all to the advantage of Christ, in whom our author sees the realization of the mysterious and prophetic type of the priest-king Melchizedek.
After having accomplished his redemptive work in allowing himself to be sacrificed on the cross, the Son of God was raised [100] from death (13:20).  He traversed the heavens (4:14; cf. 9:11), he entered into the celestial holy of holies (6:19; 9:24), he offered his precious blood in the temple which was not made by the hands of men (9:11), he sat down at the right hand of God (12:2; 1:3; 8:1), he was crowned with glory and honor (2:9), he remains “the same, yesterday, today, and eternally” (13:8), interceding without ceasing, as eternal high priest, for sinners who turn with faith to his holy ministry; and he abides in heaven, until God has placed all his enemies under his feet (10:13; cf. 1:13; 2:8).  Here, we find ourselves in eschatology, which will be the object of a special chapter of this work.
The Christology of our author is manifestly the attempt of a Philonian Christian seeking to render an account, with his philosophical premises, the mysterious personality of Christ.  His notion is substantially different from that of later orthodoxy.  It is closer to the doctrine of the Arians than that of Athanasius.  It must disappear from the Church with the belief in eons, and to make way for the teaching of the essential divinity of Christ.  Soon it will no longer be understood; [101] it is interpreted in the orthodox sense; and even today, there are theologians who understand it in the Christology of the council of Niceae.  It is an optical illusion.  We do not believe that a deep study of the texts can lead to conclusions other than that which we just described.

Monday, May 2, 2011

French Theses Added

The following French these have been added to the electronic books:

Heldt, Ernest. L'idée de la foi dans les écrits de St. Paul, dans l'épître aux Hébreux et dans celles de S. Pierre et de S. Jacques. 1850.

Jundt, Charles. Examen critique sur l'auteur de l'Epître aux Hebreux. 1834.

Redslob, Jules-Auguste. Melchisédec: Etude exegetique et historique sur les passages Genese XIV,18-20; Psaume CX,4, et Hebreux VII,1-10. 1869.

Sarrus, Alfred. Jésus-Christ: Etude exegetique sur sa personne et son oeuvre d'après l'Epître aux Hébreux. 1861.

Scherdlin, Daniel Eugène. Specimen hermeneuticum in locum ad Hebr. IX., 13-14. 1859.

Milligan on the Priesthood of Christ

Milligan, W. “The Melchizedek or Heavenly Priesthood of Our Lord. Part I.” Expositor. Third Series, 8 (1888): 277-96.

Milligan, W. “The Melchizedek or Heavenly Priesthood of Our Lord. Part II.” Expositor. Third Series, 8 (1888): 337-59.

In part one Milligan explores the question, when did the real priesthood of Christ begin.  This question cannot be resolved without first exploring what it means for Jesus to be a priest according to the order of Melchizedek.  This conception is taken from the central verse of Psalm 110.  The author identifies two prerequisites for that Jesus fulfilled for priesthood: 1) He is called of God; 2) His ability to sympathize with humanity.

Our understanding of Jesus’ priesthood is based upon our understanding of Melchizedek’s priesthood: 1) As king of righteousness and king of priest, he embodies the two greatest blessings to humanity; 2) He is free from all limitations of space and time; he has no beginning or end and is without genealogy; 3) His priesthood existed prior to the Jewish priesthood before there was any distinction between Jew and Gentile; hence his priesthood is more universal; 4) His priesthood is superior to the Levitical priesthood as is evidenced by the fact that he received tithes from Abraham (and thus Levi through him); 5) He pronounced his blessing upon Abraham and hence the Levitical priesthood.

These considerations demonstrate that Jesus could not have been priest before his glorification since he could not fulfill the conditions of the Melchizedek priesthood in a material human body.  Nor could he have belonged to the Aaronic priesthood on earth since he was from the tribe of Judah.  Nor could Jesus have acted as an Aaronic priest in heaven since the author of Hebrews says that the Aaronic priesthood had nothing to do with the heavenly sanctuary.

But a difficulty arises.  If Jesus became a priest only after his resurrection, how could he offer himself upon the cross which was a priestly act?  Milligan resolves this difficulty by appealing to John 12:32.  He takes υψωθω to mean “lifted on high” and the preposition εκ to mean “out of” – Jesus was lifted on high out of the earth.  Hence, Jesus’ glorification begins not with his resurrection but his crucifixion.  The crucifixion and glorification go together in John’s Gospel.  Milligan claims that the same idea is found in Hebrews.  He says, “The Crucifixion breaks the bond to earth; it is the introduction to the full reign of spiritual and heavenly power” (290).  The incarnation and earthly life of Jesus was the preparation for his work upon the cross.  He learned obedience and was made perfect for his role as priest.

He concludes by highlighting the main characteristics of the heavenly high priesthood: 1) It is one and unchangeable; 2) It is spiritual, i.e., it could cleanse the conscience; 3) It is universal; 4) It is everlasting.

In part two Milligan discusses Jesus’ priestly work of offering, intercession, and benediction.  He begins by reiterating his main conclusion: that Jesus’ crucifixion was the beginning of his priesthood after the order of Melchizedek “because it broke the bond by which He had been bound to earth, because it was the introduction to the full reign of spiritual and heavenly power” (338). 

Jesus’ offering was one of life, not death.  Jesus is raised to a higher state of existence and this begins before his death and it continues afterward.  Milligan explains that it was not the sacrifice of the animal that brought atonement for sin, but atonement occurred only after the blood was offered and sprinkled on the mercy seat.  The blood, he argues, was not seen as death, but the life.  Likewise, Christ’s blood, as shed, is the life given to God for men, and as offered, the life of Christ given to men.  The offering of Christ on the cross was not the finish, but the beginning of his work.  His life “was liberated on the cross, that His true offering might be made by the surrender of that life to God in a perpetual service of love, obedience, and praise” (344).

Milligan identifies several characteristics of the offering of Christ.  As an offering of life, 1) His offering accomplishes all the separate offerings of the law (e.g., the sin-, peace-, or burnt-offerings); 2) His offering is complete, embracing in its efficacy the whole life of man (labor, suffering, temptation, death etc.); 3) His offering is everlasting; 4) His offering is made once for all and cannot be repeated.

Christ’s second priestly work is intercession which is accomplished by one who is already at the right hand of God in his heavenly abode.  Milligan uses John 17 as an example of the type of intercessory prayer Jesus is doing.  Finally, Christ’s third priestly work is benediction or blessing.

While it is possible that the author of Hebrews saw the crucifixion and glorification as one event, I do not find Milligan’s solution persuasive.  He interprets Hebrews through the lens of the Gospel of John, but Hebrews should be interpreted on its own terms.  Nowhere do I see Hebrews say that the crucifixion broke the bonds of earth.