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Introduction to Hebrews

 

This is an excerpt from my Exegesis of Hebrews, a 500-page manuscript 
yet to be edited for publication. I publish this introduction 
to Hebrews in this blog because I have been asked to give a lesson on 
Hebrews in my ward's Gospel Doctrine class on November 17, 2019. 
Of course, there is not time to cover Hebrews in less than one hour. 
Indeed, just this introduction would take more than an hour to cover 
effectively. So I thought to publish this in my blog so class members 
can review it before and after the class.

Anyone is welcome to attend the class, which starts 
at 1:00 pm at 3601 E. Shea Blvd., Phoenix, Arizona.

This introduction is exclusively my work. I think it is pretty good, 
but I do want comments if readers have any criticisms. I solicit 
criticisms; indeed, I tell people I have strong opinions loosely held.
I am always interested in improving or, if it makes sense, changing 
my opinions. But there needs to be a reason for me to change. And that 
reason cannot simply be that some person or another has said something 
different, no matter who that person is, even if that person is 
speaking ex cathedra. I think there is a lot said about Hebrews 
that does not weather analysis.

INTRODUCTION TO HEBREWS

Hebrews is unique. No other book in the New Testament or other scripture contains such a profound and sustained exposition of the Savior’s relationship with the prophecies and doctrines of the Old Testament: His life in mortality, His role as the Savior, His place in the heavens, and His διαθηκη—diathke—or last-will-and-testament-like promise of salvation, the essence of the atonement because it unlocks the blessings of the oath and covenant of the Father to the faithful. This book explains the nature of the Father’s oath-sealed covenant, which is often and incorrectly called the oath and covenant of the Melchizedek Priesthood;1 it is the oath-sealed promise of exaltation. Other scriptures allude to it, and many in the church think it is to be found in the eighty-fourth section of the Doctrine and Covenants, but no where other than Hebrews is the oath and covenant explained in its fullness: the eternal plan of salvation and the requisite temple ordinances. This book explains the fulfillment of the hoped for and anticipated establishment of the ordinances essential to exaltation as expressed throughout the Old Testament. The Savior’s sacrifice and His resulting atonement are the fulfillment of these Old Testament expectations.

This book was written by a theologian who diligently, carefully, and more successfully than any other author expounds the scriptures of the Old Testament for the benefit of the hearer and reader; indeed, there are some 324 quotations/allusions to Old Testament scripture in this book, more than all of the other standard works combined, and more scriptures are quoted from the Psalms than any other book.2 This book is the New Testament’s equivalent of the epiphany of the two on the road to Emmaus whose eyes were opened after the Savior’s expounded all things concerning Himself found in the scriptures.3 Moreover, there are many references in this book to New Testament epistles and the essays that constitute the four gospels. This book is hermeneutics at its best.

Unfortunately, the modern-day reader is not particularly familiar with the Septuagint or LXX, as it is known. The LXX was the scripture in use by the followers of Christ, so the recipients of this epistle were very familiar with the LXX. Thus, for example, the references to Melchizedek and the quotation of Old Testament scripture about this great high priest would not have been as opaque—esoteric—to them as they are to the typical reader today. The Messianic color given to Psalm 110, especially Psalm 110:4, was common knowledge. Likewise, popular opinion would have been consistent with the schoolmaster nature of the Levitical priesthood and the fact that it was necessarily changed with the coming of the Messiah. Moreover, the Jewish followers of Christ, whom Paul calls the professors of Christ, would have known that the Melchizedek priesthood had been restored by Christ and that his apostles ministered the exalting ordinances of His priesthood. It would take no more than allusions, therefore, to infuse the recipient of this epistle with the full scope of meaning associated with the deeper understanding that differentiates the Levitical or Aaronic priesthood from the Melchizedek priesthood.

It is very important to bear in mind that Paul’s expositions are being read as translated. A translation is, at best, an impoverished commentary that must strike a balance between a literal and an idiomatic presentation, so the translator must decide how to color what Paul said because the literal words often do not present the same feeling and sense or connotation. This translation problem is exacerbated if the thoughts expressed in the underlying language deal with esoteric ideas that are then expressed in concrete words or metaphors that must then be understood to describe what is amorphous and must then be written in translated form to capture that same sense. Translation is something of an art form.

The solution to the dilemma of deciding if a translator’s understanding was and resulting translation is correct is two fold. One could, perhaps, be completely fluent in the underlying language to garner the right meaning from the most original of texts extant, but sufficient fluency in a different language is beyond the experience of most, and there are no autographs of the New Testament books, so one may be reading a gloss from or errors by a copyist.

Another approach to understanding what is being said is to read a lot of translations so the best can be selected. This is the reverse of the translation process, which means one must be familiar with the concepts being presented so the best translation giving the proper meaning and tone can be selected. In other words, just like the translation process, selecting from different translations involves bias.

There is a problem with reading various translations. None of them may be good enough. This is the problem inherent in the impoverished-commentary nature of translations, which are always colored by the perspective or bias of the translator. So it may be incumbent upon the reader to parse through the meanings of the underlying Greek, to find something consistent with an accurate translation; in other words, do one’s own translation if none of the translations square with what the reader thinks was originally intended. In other words, one must see if the translation can be made consistent with modern-day revelation without violence to the meaning of the Greek.

Too much focus on too many translations, however, can divert one’s time to the minutia of criticism rather than exegesis and understanding. The following exegesis uses, generally speaking, the King James because of its overall grace and elegance, but the reader of the King James translation must recognize that the express translation philosophy of the King James translators was to leave obscure what was obscure to them. Still, the King James translation is far superior to other translations in both numinous qualities and accurate conveyance of style with meaning. It is very scholarly. Other versions have their own advantages. The New Jerusalem Bible, for example, is very scholarly, and has two recommendations: (1) it is a translation from the earliest Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic texts presently available and (2) it is unaffected by the prejudice or perspective of antinomian or similar doctrines popular among many Christian sects in both the early Seventeenth Century and today. The New International Version is, likewise, very scholarly, and the footnotes in the study version of it are quite elucidating. It has the added benefit of being translated by believers/scholars who, therefore, presumptively and without skepticism default to the divine explanations of miracles, seership, and such.

A. Authorship

The author of this epistle is Paul. He is not identified as such in the book, but it has been called the epistle of Paul to the Hebrews since about AD 400. There are several reasons one should conclude that this book is Paul’s, but some point to the style of the book to argue it is not Paul’s work.

The style of Hebrews is, indeed, remarkably different from other writings by Paul, but none of his other writings have the unique features of this book, features that required a different style of writing. The question is whether Paul could have written in this style.

Paul’s education says he had the skill to write like Hebrews is written. Paul was a Pharisee and studied under Gamaliel, who has been recognized as one of the greatest teachers in all Judaism.4 Thus, Paul would have been fluent in the unique style found in Hebrews. Hebrews is a formal piece that was originally written in Hebrew and then translated into Greek. Hebrews is carefully written and organized, following stylistic norms that would have been expected among the Jews. Hebrews is rich with citation to the scriptures of the day, the LXX, underscoring the fact that both the writer and the recipients were Jewish.5 Hebrews has a singular focus on Jewish law and temple ritual, the temple ritual of the New Testament, not the temple ritual of the Old Testament. Hebrews was written to recipients who were differently situated than the gentile recipients of the other Pauline epistles: they were solid followers of Christ who had made the transition from the precursor religion of the Old Testament to the fulfilled, promised religion of the New Testament. In other words, Hebrews is not an informal letter addressing either specific topics, typical of the Pauline corpus, or personal exhortations, like the pastoral epistles. It is an exhortation to the Jews who made the transition to the fullness of the religion/gospel to be faithful rather than discouraged because of their ostracism by those who had become the mainstream among the Jews who were unconverted to the fulfillment of the promises realized by the ministry and sacrifice of the Savior. Paul describes these members or followers of Christ with the Greek term ομολογιας6 or ομολογιαν; 7 these terms share the common sense of one who professes or is a professor of something. Paul is the only author of the New Testament who uses this word, which describes one who has made an open acknowledgment of belief (as in being baptized).

Some specific facts about the author can be deduced from the book, itself, and inferences can be drawn from early church history. The facts are limited. The author was a man,8 and he either knew the Savior or, more likely, became acquainted with the Savior’s earliest teachings to the apostles.9 The book was probably written before the destruction of the temple in ad 70, because chapters seven through ten are written in the context of on-going sacrifices at the temple: the book was within Paul’s lifetime. The author was or had been in custody;10 Paul had been in a sort of house arrest in both Caesarea between AD 58 and 60,11 and in Rome,12 where the book was probably written—the note at the end says it was written from Italy. There is a reference to Timothy,13 with whom Paul had something of a filial relationship. If written from Rome during Paul’s first Roman captivity, the book would have been written sometime around AD 61.

Another reason to think Paul wrote this book is its subject matter. Hebrews attempts to keep its recipients from regressing to the Jewish temple rituals in Jerusalem and a traditional Jewish life. Paul gave respect to these practices and even participated in some of them after one of his missionary journeys,14 but he certainly did not believe in the practice of these ordinances, which were propagated by the Deuteronomists returning from exile, because they were empty formalities. He would have had the incentive to correct friends, like those at Caesarea who befriended him in his captivity at their own expense.15

While Paul certainly had the background and education in the traditional Jewish religion that made him capable of this writing, some think the writer was Barnabas based on a suggestion in one of Tertullian’s writings.16 This conclusion has some appeal. Barnabas was of the tribe of Levi,17 was a close friend of Paul, and received his apostolic calling in Antioch, Syria, at the same time as Paul.18 However, all of the arguments in favor of Barnabas’ authorship apply with equal force to Paul; indeed, the references to bondage and the temple rites militates against Barnabas’ hand. The only argument at all in favor of some authorship other than Paul is the style of the book, but style is affected by purpose and audience, so it is not a certain touchstone.

One last observation about Paul’s authorship is in order. Other writings early in the Christian era militate in favor of Paul as the author. Clement of Alexandria, c. AD 150–211, wrote a biblical commentary called Hypotyposes (Outlines), which is no longer extant save a few fragments that Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History cites, that comments on the authorship:

In the work called Hypotyposes, to sum up the matter briefly, he has given us abridged accounts of all the canonical Scriptures, not even omitting those that are disputed, (The Antilegomenoi,) I mean the book of Jude, and the other general epistles. Also the epistle of Barnabas, and that called the revelation of Peter. But the Epistle to the Hebrews he asserts was written by Paul, to the Hebrews, in the Hebrew tongue; but that it was carefully translated by Luke, and published among the Greeks. Whence, also, one finds the same character of style and of phraseology in the epistle, as in the Acts. “But it is probable that the title, Paul the Apostle, was not prefixed to it. For as he wrote to the Hebrews, who had imbibed prejudices against him, and suspected him, he wisely guards against diverting them from the perusal, by giving his name.” A little after this he observes: “But now as the blessed presbyter used to say, ‘since the Lord who was the apostle of the Almighty, was sent to the Hebrews, Paul by reason of his inferiority, as if sent to the Gentiles, did not subscribe himself an apostle of the Hebrews; both out of reverence for the Lord, and because he wrote of his abundance to the Hebrews, as a herald and apostle of the Gentiles.’”19

B. Mise-en-scène

The professors of Christ in Judea were not faring well at the time this epistle was written. Following Christ required a rather clear abandonment of mainstream Judaism, which resulted in rather severe ostracism by the orthodox Jews in Jerusalem at the time. Certainly, this ostracism and derision made them a persecuted group because they did not follow traditional orthodoxy.20 Indeed, some of Paul’s epistles support raising money for the members of the church in Jerusalem, which indicates that they were both economically and socially deprived. These members had accomplished great works but were in the process of falling away from their prior commitment by returning to Judaism or importing into their Christianity Jewish forms and syncretic beliefs from pagan religions. This falling-away was the natural effect of avoiding persecution. It was easier to meld into society rather than stand out as a Christian and be subjected to public ridicule. The epistle, as a whole, is focused on what these members of the church needed to do to insure their eternal inheritance in the face of their situation.

The emphasis at the beginning of Hebrews is on the superiority of Christ to angels and Moses, which implies that these Jewish followers of Christ had turned toward what became mainstream Judaism starting, apparently, with the reforms of King Josiah and the Deuteronomists. The early converts, in other words, were well aware of the status that had been given to the lawgiver, Moses, for centuries. The fascination of the Jews following the Diaspora with the Mosaic law and monotheism became the accepted norm except for those on the fringes and outlying areas around Jerusalem. The new covenant established by Christ certainly appealed to those who had clung to proto-Judaism, meaning Judaism before King Josiah, during the centuries, but the social pressure put on the professors of Christ for so openly advocating the fulfillment of their expectations by aligning themselves with the Christians would have provoked many to return or appear to return to the dead forms of Judaism or simply abandoning activity in their new church to ameliorate their situation by mollifying persecutors. Paul’s solution to this social crisis was to strengthen them, explaining the scriptural foundation of the gospel of Christ in an exegesis unparalleled elsewhere in the scriptures or, perhaps, anywhere

The Jews at the time of the Savior were not practicing the temple ordinances that had existed prior to the Diaspora. They were, in this regard, unlike the Nephites in the America who carried with them the true Jewish religion–proto-Judaism–and overcame the attempts to subvert it with reforms that happened just before and were, then, perpetuated during and after the Diaspora. Temple worship during the first temple period, before King Josiah, was focused on the coming of Christ, who would make the realization of the oath-sealed-promise of the Father possible. The worship in the temple during the second temple period strayed from this anticipation and hope. Christ refocused those who had not lost the essence of the temple by his fulfilling διαθηκη—diathke—which was and is his last-will-and-testament-like bequest to those who choose to avail themselves of exaltation through obedience to the gospel of Christ and receiving the ordinances of the temple.

The reforms of King Josiah in the late Seventh Century BC were, no doubt, reforms instituted by those in power to promote the idea of monotheism, a theme celebrated by the returning Deuteronomists who continued until the Sadducees and Pharisees at the time of Christ. The conflict between Jacob and Sherem found in Jacob 7 precisely identifies this divergence from the true gospel, but Sherem lost in America while the proponents of this doctrine prevailed in Palestine.21 The doctrine preached by the Savior restored the unorthodox but true doctrine of polytheism that had continued on the fringes of Jewish society until the time of Christ, and the Savior replaced the temple ordinances with those toward which the people had been looking, ordinances prefigured by the Feast of the Tabernacles where the faithful gathered in tents with openings toward as the high priest entered the inner sanctuary, today’s Celestial Room in the temple.

The Savior’s death is a necessary part of the plan of exaltation, and changing the nature of the temple ordinances was also essential to and part of the Savior’s mission. But it is virtually certain that unconverted Jews were subjecting the new members of the church to derision because their god died, something the monotheistic Jews were unwilling to accept of their messiah, the one returning to save them and reign over them forever. And, of course, those in charge of the temple would have been none too pleased with the changes in temple worship instituted by the Savior and his followers.

C. Message and Structure

The blessings of the oath and covenant of the priesthood or participation in the newly established ordinances of the temple endowment are inextricably connected with the last-will-and-testament promise or inheritance the Savior gave to all mankind; the word used to describe this, διαθηκη, is a word that necessarily involves a discussion of the death of the Savior. Hebrews, therefore, begins with a discussion about the mortality of the Savior and returns to His death in conjunction with His sacrifice, which opens the door for the faithful to receive the Father’s covenant to the faithful, the promise of eternal inheritance. The Father’s oath-sealed covenant to the faithful is described by the words έπαγγελία (epagelia) and έπαγγέλίω (epagelio), which denote a promise set forth by proclamation

The central point of Hebrews is the Savior’s mission and the priesthood; it is an explanation of the oath and covenant that belongs to the Melchizedek priesthood: this book explains the relationship between the Savior’s sacrifice and the Father’s oath-sealed promise of exaltation given to Abraham and his righteous posterity, adopted or otherwise. This analysis is given to exhort the Jewish followers of Christ to turn from the old covenant of the Levitical priesthood to the Father’s higher covenant received through Christ. The temple is the essence of this central point.

There is a certain pathos to this epistle because it so labors at lifting the spirits of the Jewish saints. The labor involves extensive quotation from the Old Testament—the LXX—and the explication of the symbols of the Jewish faith as types of Christ and His sacrifice. It is worth repeating the fact that this book is hermeneutics at its best.

There are, at least, three possible ways  to outline Hebrews. An outline helps the reader understand the messages presented by orienting the reader. But there are limitations to viewing this book from the stylistic perspective of the modern-day. Nonetheless, an outline presents a scheme that can be divided—outlined—into major divisions, which, in turn be further subdivided, for purposes of study. The three possible ways to outline Hebrews are show in the adjoining image.

The divisions shown by the alternative forms shown in the adjoining image underscore the difficulty of exactly outlining what Paul intended with his stylistic writing. The first depiction is a chiastic format highlighting the central message of the book: Christ’s mortality and His mission and priesthood. The Savior’s mission, however, is not really divisible into separate parts involving his mortality, on the one hand, and the blessings flowing from His mission of the priesthood, on the other, because they are part and parcel of the same thing: the atonement of Christ. Perhaps, therefore, it is more appropriate to show the general format as the second depiction in text box 1, which is still chiastic but balances the Savior’s mortality with the problems besetting the early saints in their mortality. It is something akin to the revelation given to Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail, “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”22 The third depiction is a restatement of the second for pedagogical purposes: a modern-day outline for purposes of analysis. This third depiction is what is used in this text because of its analytical convenience.

Although a modern-day type of outline is used for analytical convenience, the detail within Hebrews adds substantial complexity to this approach. This complexity is considered within each of the major divisions and subdivisions of the outline used for this work.

There can be no doubt that the central message of Hebrews is as important and central to the gospel today as it was then, the relationship between exaltation and the atoning sacrifice of the Savior. This was and is the Savior’s mission and priesthood. But there are many additional, profound incidentals to be gleaned from this work.

Perhaps, the most significant of the incidentals for the modern-day reader are found in the final exhortations to the professors of Christ, so called by Paul and what we would call members of the Church today. The final exhortation is a call to be faithful, and Paul, in the process, defines faith very precisely. Paul’s use of faith is inconsistent with the way many loosely use faith today, as a synonym for belief. The use of faith in the unfocused way it is used today tends toward muddled thought, the speaker/writer and hearer/reader glossing over this concept, which Paul described as one of the three things of greatest importance: faith, hope, and charity.23 Not understanding each of concepts in depth—as Paul meant them—leaves the follower of Christ at a disadvantage: ignorant or, at least, uncomprehending of what Paul teaches in the New Testament. Hebrews is a tour-de-force on both faith and hope, but it does not address Paul’s notion of charity.24  Hope, meaning the hope of eternal life, just permeates Hebrews, but faith, as Paul uses the word, is the subject of an exposition unparalleled in the scriptures.25

It should be noted that the chapter division and versifications are often misleading. It appears that Stephen Langton, who added the chapter divisions in the late 12th or early 13th Century was, like John Bois, somewhat confused by this book. That confusion was still there in the mid-16th Century when the versification used today was added to the Geneva Bible, AD 1550. Those dividing the bible into these pedagogical subdivisions, the verses and chapters, did not have the perspective of the restored gospel, so they were understandably confused by some of what was said in this book; indeed, some of the translations by the King James translators suffer, as will be explained, from the bias of the Protestant perspective of the day.

D. An Outline of Hebrews

This Exegesis uses the following outline of Hebrews for analytical purposes. This outline is not completely traditional, because there are some parts of Hebrews that are so obviously chiastic that this outline indents subparts to show this format.

I. The Greatness of Christ Resurrected, 1:1–2:4.

A. The Savior is superior to angels, 1:4–14.

1. God the Father calls Him His son, Psalm 2:7, 1:5.
2. Angels are commanded to worship Him, Deuteronomy. 32:43 (LXX), Psalm 97:7, 1:6.
3. Angels called spirits, flaming fire, Psalm 104:4, while Savior in Psalm 45:6 called enthroned God through love of right/hatred of wrong, 1:7–9.
4. Savior made world, Psalm 8:6, and will outlast His earthly creation, Isaiah 34:4, which will be changed, unlike the Savior, Psalm 102:25–27, 1:10–12.
5. Angels not invited to sit on the right hand of God, but office is to serve heirs of salvation, 1:13–14.

B. Since He is who He is, heed of His teachings is required to achieve salvation in the world to come, 2:1–5.

1. If words spoken by angels are so important, His are more important, 2:2–3.
2. God bears witness of His words with signs and wonders, something He does not do for angels, 2:4–4.

II. The Mortality of Christ, 2:5—5:10.

A. Jesus Christ as a man, 2:5–18

1. He was made lower than the angels, Psalms 8:4–6; 144:3. 2:5–8.
2. He was made a man so he could taste of death for all men, 2:9.
3. He became perfect through suffering, 2:10.
4. He became joined to those sanctified through His suffering and sacrifice as a brother and form whom he will vouch, Psalm 22:22; Isaiah. 8:17, 18, 2:11–13.
5. By becoming a man he was able to vanquish Satan and save seed of Abraham, 2:14–16.
6. Knowing the experience of man, He is able to succor his brethren, 2:17–18.

B. The Savior and the House of Israel

1. He built and is master of the house, 3:1–4.
2. Moses was servant to the house, 3:5–6.

C. What Must Be Done, 3:7–ch. 4.

1. Follow the Holy Ghost, use your mind, Psalms 95:7–11, 3:7–12.
2. Exhort one another daily lest sin harden the soul through deceitfulness and lack of steadfastness, Psalm 95:7–8, 3:13–19.

a. Israel suffered from this problem, 3:16.
b. Like the children of Israel members will not be able to enter the “promised land” if they fail, their carcases falling in the wilderness of sin, 3:17–19.

3. Fear the Lord, 4:1 ff.

a. Like the word preached to the Israelites who did not receive it, they lacking faith, it can happen to us, 4:2.
b. Those with faith shall enter into the rest of the Lord even though His works were finished from the first, Psalm 95:11, 4:3.
c. The Sabbath day is a typology for those that will enter their rest, a rest for the obedient, Genesis 2:2–3; Psalm 95:11, 4:5–10.

4. Achieve rest with the Lord, 4:11–13.

a. Word of God is sure, there will be a separation of the righteous and the wicked, the Lord discerning the thoughts and intents of men, 4:13.
b. Everything will be revealed with nothing secret, 4:13.

D. Recapitulation: He suffered through the work and temptations of this life, so we can confidently do as well as He with His help, i.e., have hope, 4:14–16.

1. Aaronic priests, called of God, are taken from among men so they can have compassion, 5:1–4.
2. So with Christ, called of God, Psalm 2:7, after order of Melchizedek, Psalm 110:4, suffering in the flesh, becoming perfect by obedience and the author of salvation, 5:4–10.

III. The Savior’s mission and priesthood, 5:11—10:20.

A. Introduction, 5:11—6:12

1. Thesis paragraph, 5:11—6:3.

a. Hebrews should not need to be taught the first principles or milk, 5:11–14.
b. Author proposes to explain the perfecting principles or meat of the gospel, 6:1–3.

2. Parenthetical: warning to apostates and hope for the faithful, 6:4–12.

B. Exposition: perfection through Christ, the meat of the gospel, 6:13—10:20.

1. Main exposition, 6:13—9:28

a. Christ is the anchor of our souls, having become a Melchizedek priest, who can reach through the veil from heaven where He has entered, fulfilling the promise sealed with an oath, 6:13–20.

b. Greatness of Melchizedek, to whom Abraham and the Levites paid tithes, 7:1–10.

c. With change in the priesthood, as prophesied, came a change in the law, the old law being supplanted, 7:11–19a.

d. Christ’s power to save is absolute as the surety of “a better testament,” (testament translated from διαθηκη— diathk— denoting covenant, especially Abrahamic, or disposition of property, as in “last will and testament”), 7:19b–28

e. Christ is a Melchizedek priest, sitting on the right hand of God and is mediator of the oath-sealed covenant of the Father, described by the Greek words έπαγγελία (epagelia) and έπαγγέλίω (epagelio), which denote a promise set forth by proclamation 8:1–6.

f. Prophecies about the inadequacies of the old covenant; old covenant was a typology for the new, sanctuary on earth, 8:7—9:10.

g. Greatness of Christ who became the high priest of the greater, passed through the veil, became the mediator of the new covenant through the shedding of His blood, 9:11–15.

h. Analogy to a will, death of the testator, and the symbolism of the blood in the old covenant, 9:16–28.

2. Recapitulation, 10:1–20

a. Law of sacrifice was offering for sin, 10:1–3.

b. Ineffectiveness of law of sacrifice, 10:4–9a.

c. Mosaic law and law of sacrifice have been replaced, 10:9b–10

d. Savior is the replacement of the Mosaic law, 10:11–12.

e. Efficaciousness of Christ’s sacrifice, 10:15–16.

f. Savior’s offering remits sins, 10:18–20.

IV. Exhortations, 10:21—13:17

A. Exhortation/warning, 10:21–39.

1. Follow hope, 10:21–23.
2. Support one another 10:24–25.
3. Willful sinning will bring judgment, 10:26–27.
4. Judgment will be severe for the sinner, 10:28–29.
5. Vengeance is the Lord’s, 10:30–31.
6. Remember how to act, 10:32–34.
7. Remain confident in salvation, 10:35–39.

B. Exhortation to faithfulness, ch. 11—13:6

1. Examples of heros of faith, ch. 11.
2. Practical application, 12:1—13:6

C. Salvation from judgment, 13:7–17

1. Follow leaders, 13:7–8
2. Acceptable sacrifice, 13:9
3. Sacrifices without the gate, 13:10–11
4. Savior’s sacrifice was without the gate, 13:12–14
5. Acceptable sacrifice, 13:15–16
6. Follow leaders, 13:17

V. Epilogue, 13:18–25

A. Pray for us, 13:18–19.
B. Prayer for the Hebrews, 13:20–22.
C. Personal greetings, 13:23–25.

E. Textual Difficulties

There are difficulties deciding which text of Hebrews to use when doing any analysis. The King James Version is the version of the bible for this work for the reasons discussed in Excursus I in the appendix. The New Testament text of The Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, is the preferred text, and it is virtually identical to the version of the King James bible published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS version).26 The LDS version, however, omits the marginal notes of the King James translators and has, instead, footnotes and chapter headings that can obfuscate by tendentiousness. The study aids in the LDS KJV are less helpful than the more scholarly notes in The New Jerusalem Bible and The NIV Study Bible. The New World Oxford Annotated Bible (New Revised Standard Version or NRSV) provides additional, helpful insight.

Another reality to confront is the fact that all translations are commentaries, in a sense. The translator’s perspective affects both what he reads and how he expresses what he perceives in the original text.27 This same gloss is inherent in footnotes or marginal notes of the various translations, and it is present in any commentary, including this one.

This Exegesis of Hebrews makes no pretense at objectivity. This commentary is written from an LDS perspective with the aid of modern scriptures—the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine & Covenants—which are used to add meaning to what would otherwise be unclear. There are some translations of the Greek text used herein that are by the author, so these translations should be the subject of careful consideration. In most instances, the translations from the Greek herein are an attempt to purge the text of the effects of perspective that affected the work of the King James and other translators; for example, translating from the perspective of one who believes in salvation by grace results in a gloss not present when one believes in a judgment based on the way one has lived his life.28

Another issue to confront when doing an exegesis of the bible is the distracting effects of the chapter divisions and versification. The original text, of course, had neither. It was not until circa AD 1200 that the chapter divisions were added by Stephen Langton, who also put the books in their present-day order. The chapter divisions were intended as finding aid for his students at the University of Paris. Today’s versification was not added until the mid-1500s.

The King James translators were devout, biblical scholars with at least one polymath among them, the Reverend John Bois. Father Bois was the rector of the parish church in Boxworth, Prebendary of Ely, and the Scholar and Fellow of St. John’s College at Cambridge where he was the chief lecturer in Greek for some ten years. His library contained every known Greek text at the time, and his eidetic memory worked like a modern-day computer so that he could recall everywhere and every time a particular Greek word had been used. His notes covering Romans through Revelation with addenda covering 1 Corinthians through Revelation survive. These notes deal with the difficulties of translating from Greek into English. They were made when Father Bois sat on the company of review supervising the printing the of the Authorized Version of the English Bible, as it was called. Boise was on one of the Cambridge committees that worked on the translation. The committee of review worked from 1610–1611. Bois spent four years on the Cambridge committee to which he was assigned and nine months on the review committee of twelve where he made the notes that survive.

Endnotes

  1. The phrase oath and covenant of the Melchizedek Priesthood is a paraphrase of the language used in D&C 84:39, “And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.”
  2. The references to Old Testament scriptures in the appendix shows that Paul quoted from or alluded to scriptures from the scripture of his day as follows: Genesis (30); Exodus (18); Leviticus (5); Numbers (13); Deuteronomy (24); Joshua (10); Judges (7); 1 Samuel (7); 2 Samuel (4) 1 Kings (9); 2 Kings (2); 1 Chronicles (5); 2 Chronicles (9); Ezra (1); Nehemiah (3); Job (4); Psalms (61); Proverbs (10); Isaiah (25); Jeremiah (37); Lamentations (1); Ezekiel (20); Daniel (3); Hosea (9); Amos (1); Obadiah (1); Haggai (1); Zechariah (3); Malachi (3). The only books from which Paul does not use material are Ruth, Esther, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Joel, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah.
  3. See Luke 24.
  4. There is a lot of tradition surrounding Gamaliel. The Jewish Encyclopedia discusses his great reputation as a scholar and teacher, characterizing his importance by saying, “When he died the honor [outward respect] of the Torah ceased, and purity and piety became extinct.” Jewish Encyclopedia s.v. Gamaliel I (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/6494-gamaliel-i, accessed May 4, 2014.) He may have been the presiding head of the Sanhedrin, id. and holds the notable honor of defending what was then a new sect among the Jews, the followers of Christ, with compelling arguments that persuaded the Sanhedrin to leave the early followers of Christ alone. Acts 5:34–41.
  5. The Levities tended to write with convolutions and complexities foreign to today’s writer or the less formal communication of Paul’s day. John Bois, the Greek polymath among the translators for King James and the final editor of the New Testament, made various notes that characterize this complexity, for example:

    The things which are inserted chaotically from these words as far as to those in the end of verse 3 . . . separate the subject from its verb.

    Ward Allen, translator and ed., Translating for King James (Kingsport, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 1969) at 79 (notes of John Bois re Hebrews 7:1).

  6. This term is found in 2 Corinthians 9:13 (“your professed subjection unto the gospel”), Hebrews 3:1 (“consider the . . .High Priest of our profession”), and Hebrews 4:14 (“let us hold fast our profession”).
  7. This term is found in 1 Timothy 6:12 (hast professed a good profession ”), 13 (“Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession”); and Hebrews 10:23 (“Let us hold fast the profession or our faith”).
  8. Hebrews 11:32 uses the masculine form of to tell.
  9. Hebrews 2:3.
  10. Hebrews 11:32 uses the masculine form of to tell.
  11. Acts 24.
  12. Id.
  13. Hebrews 13:23.
  14. Acts 20.
  15. An inference that can be drawn from Hebrews 10:34.
  16. De Pudicitia at 20 (c. ad 200).
  17. Acts 4:36.
  18. Acts 13:1–4.
  19. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, bk 6, ch. 14.
  20. See Hebrews 10:33.
  21. Nephi identifies the mutation among the Jews of his day resulting in monotheism as “the plain and precious things taken away from them,” meaning the bible.  1 Nephi 13:40.
  22. D&C 122:8.
  23. 1 Corinthians 13:13.
  24. Charity, which is translated from ᾀγάπης is a neologism invented by Paul to express the condition that becomes one who is perfected in goodness. Colossians 3:14. The Lord told Joseph Smith the same thing. D&C 88:125.
  25. This exposition is found at Hebrews 11–13:6.
  26. The version published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does change the translation; for example, the LDS version omits commas in Hebrews 2:6–9 and proposes a change in a proposition to clarify how it was that Christ was crowned with glory.
  27. This affectation, for example, is highlighted by the various translations of Hebrews 2:8b–12, infra at 36.
  28. See, e.g., the translations of Hebrews 11:1–2, infra at 149.

3 thoughts on “Introduction to Hebrews

    • Author gravatar

      I appreciate your perspective on the authorship of Hebrews. I really do like thinking Paul is the author, and you have provided some great support for that view. Your explanation of the mise-en-scène is also helpful in understanding Paul’s purpose for writing. I teach the adult Sunday School in my ward and am looking forward to sharing some of this background information. I think my class would also be interested in learning about the potentially distracting effects of versification, and when in history the verses were assigned. I am just starting my reading of Hebrews, but I will be paying close attention to Paul’s writing on faith.

    • Author gravatar

      I read Hebrews 7 – 13 this week in preparation for today’s Sunday School lesson prior to reading your Hebrews entry. I read this post last night and I was hooked: I read and re-read your post and then, before I knew it, it was after 5:00 a.m. I literally studied the scriptures through the night inspired by your post. I looked up the Septuagint (its history, the reason it’s called 70); I looked up the Greek words you reference: diatheke, epigelio, hermeneutic. What is the English pronunciation of the Greek term ομολογιας or ομολογιαν? I looked it up: homologia. I love the background information on Paul, who he was, to whom Hebrews was written, the chiastic format. I looked up the Old Testament references in Footnote 2. I drew the conclusion that Hebrews 11 is to Faith what 1 Corinthians 13 is to Charity. The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood is in Hebrews 7-8–and D&C 84 is companion to it. Thank you for providing a new lens through which to view Hebrews and leaving me with an even deeper appreciation of Paul’s brilliance in knowing his audience in his writing, his command of scripture, language, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 324 Old Testament references? Shazam! Who knew?! I would have never supposed there were so many. I was fortunate to have attended your lesson today. As always it was thought-provoking. I’ve never read Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, but now have the desire to do so. Furthermore, I was too lacking in study and analysis to realize the complexity of Hebrews. Will you PLEASE include posts on your blog that coincide with the Come Follow Me curriculum as you’ve done with this Hebrews post? It’s timely, it’s inspiring, and your views and research and commentary are not found in the Come Follow Me lesson plans, New Testament teacher’s manual, institute manual, and seminary manual. (all of which I study in preparation for the Sunday School lessons I teach). Your insights on the Greek and Hebrew texts and history of the Bible bring volumes to my study of the New Testament. You inspire me to want to be a better student of the scriptures. Thank you.

      • Author gravatar

        Well, this is so complimentary. Thank you! Each of my blog posts takes a few hours to prepare for posting, so I had not thought of keeping my posts apace of the curriculum for the Book of Mormon in 2020. Because the posts interfere with my other study. For example, at the end of each year, starting about now, I read straight through the entire standard works of the Church. I do not stop to ponder or think or correlate to my study: I just read through it. (It is surprising what sticks with me, and, then, I spend a lot of time going back through the scriptures to find that little tidbit.) But I have some things I can say about the Book of Mormon that are already part of my exegesis, particularly on 1 Nephi and 2 Nephi, So I will take your suggestion and see how it works out. I guess this means I will have to look at the lesson manual, something I have not done for years.

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