Good morning! Today in Hebrews 6-10, this ancient sermon continues with a mix of homiletical sugar and vinegar, encouraging those who remain faithful but denouncing those who have left the faith. Along the way, we dive deeply into New Testament spiritual interpretations of the Torah.
Melchizedek appears only briefly in one story about Abram in Genesis, then is mentioned once in Psalm 109, but this mysterious king generated outsize interest in Hebrew mythology (which continues to this day among Mormons, for example). Tradition holds that Melchizedek was a high priest who blessed Abram, and began a priestly lineage. Hebrews contends though that Jesus is an ultimate high priest, superior to Aaron as well as Melchizedek. As a heavenly high priest, Jesus intercedes with God on humanity’s behalf, mediating a new covenant by his perfect sacrifice on the cross. Chapters 8 and 9 contrast the old sanctuary, offering and covenant commands from the Torah with new versions of those elements in Christ. The writer assumes deep familiarity with Jewish traditions, but then argues for the eclipse of Judaism with every verse. This “supersessionist” thinking (that Christ supersedes anything which came before) ignores the fact that Jesus lived and died as a faithful Jew. Theology along these lines also plays a starring role in anti-Semitism generally and the Holocaust in particular.
The writer of Hebrews, though, has a different moral lesson in mind. Rather than “targeting” Jews, he urges existing Christians to remain steadfast and urges “lapsed” Christians to return. Yesterday’s passage finished with cautions about spiritual immaturity, and Hebrews 6 continues that theme with stern warnings about those who believe but then fall away. The writer presses the faithful to persevere despite persecution, for the sake of the eternal reward promised by God. Because of Christ’s superiority to the old covenant, Christians should draw near to God, and encourage each other to hold resolutely to their faith. The greatest sin in light of these chapters is to believe, but then to fall away. I imagine that as the decades carried on and the returned Christ was still nowhere to be found, the faithful’s zeal began to wane, and theologians such as this used ever sharper rhetoric to try to keep “sheep” in the fold. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Hebrews 11-13. Thanks for reading!