Thoughts on Scripture: Jesus in the book of Hebrews

Jesus

I have often thought that while the Gospels give us a historical picture of life of Jesus—his miracles, his teachings, his passion, etc.—the book of Hebrews gives us the theological why for all of these things. What do I mean by this? In my opinion, no other NT writing gives us such insight into the person of Christ like Hebrews does. In fact, the author strives to show how Jesus is superior to everything: superior than angels, Moses, Aaron and the whole Levitical system, Melchizedek, etc. Tucked away in Hebrews we find such passages as:

3 ὃς ὢν ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ, φέρων τε τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ, καθαρισμὸν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ποιησάμενος ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς μεγαλωσύνης ἐν ὑψηλοῖς, 4 τοσούτῳ κρείττων γενόμενος τῶν ἀγγέλων ὅσῳ διαφορώτερον παρʼ αὐτοὺς κεκληρονόμηκεν ὄνομα. Τίνι γὰρ εἶπέν ποτε τῶν ἀγγέλων (Heb 1:3–4)

10 τὸν δὲ βραχύ τι παρʼ ἀγγέλους ἠλαττωμένον βλέπομεν Ἰησοῦν διὰ τὸ πάθημα τοῦ θανάτου δόξῃ καὶ τιμῇ ἐστεφανωμένον, ὅπως χάριτι θεοῦ ὑπὲρ παντὸς γεύσηται θανάτου. 10 Ἔπρεπεν γὰρ αὐτῷ, διʼ ὃν τὰ πάντα καὶ διʼ οὗ τὰ πάντα, πολλοὺς υἱοὺς εἰς δόξαν ἀγαγόντα τὸν ἀρχηγὸν τῆς σωτηρίας αὐτῶν διὰ παθημάτων τελειῶσαι. 11 ὅ τε γὰρ ἁγιάζων καὶ οἱ ἁγιαζόμενοι ἐξ ἑνὸς πάντες· διʼ ἣν αἰτίαν οὐκ ἐπαισχύνεται ἀδελφοὺς αὐτοὺς καλεῖν 12 λέγων·
ἀπαγγελῶ τὸ ὄνομά σου τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς μου,
ἐν μέσῳ ἐκκλησίας ὑμνήσω σε,
13 καὶ πάλιν·
ἐγὼ ἔσομαι πεποιθὼς ἐπʼ αὐτῷ,
καὶ πάλιν·
ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ καὶ τὰ παιδία ἅ μοι ἔδωκεν ὁ θεός.
14 Ἐπεὶ οὖν τὰ παιδία κεκοινώνηκεν αἵματος καὶ σαρκός, καὶ αὐτὸς παραπλησίως μετέσχεν τῶν αὐτῶν, ἵνα διὰ τοῦ θανάτου καταργήσῃ τὸν τὸ κράτος ἔχοντα τοῦ θανάτου, τοῦτʼ ἔστιν τὸν διάβολον, 15 καὶ ἀπαλλάξῃ τούτους, ὅσοι φόβῳ θανάτου διὰ παντὸς τοῦ ζῆν ἔνοχοι ἦσαν δουλείας. 16 οὐ γὰρ δήπου ἀγγέλων ἐπιλαμβάνεται ἀλλὰ σπέρματος Ἀβραὰμ ἐπιλαμβάνεται. 17 ὅθεν ὤφειλεν κατὰ πάντα τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ὁμοιωθῆναι, ἵνα ἐλεήμων γένηται καὶ πιστὸς ἀρχιερεὺς τὰ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν εἰς τὸ ἱλάσκεσθαι τὰς ἁμαρτίας τοῦ λαοῦ. 18 ἐν ᾧ γὰρ πέπονθεν αὐτὸς πειρασθείς, δύναται τοῖς πειραζομένοις βοηθῆσαι (2:10–18)

14 Ἔχοντες οὖν ἀρχιερέα μέγαν διεληλυθότα τοὺς οὐρανούς, Ἰησοῦν τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ, κρατῶμεν τῆς ὁμολογίας. 15 οὐ γὰρ ἔχομεν ἀρχιερέα μὴ δυνάμενον συμπαθῆσαι ταῖς ἀσθενείαις ἡμῶν, πεπειρασμένον δὲ κατὰ πάντα καθʼ ὁμοιότητα χωρὶς ἁμαρτίας. 16 προσερχώμεθα οὖν μετὰ παρρησίας τῷ θρόνῳ τῆς χάριτος, ἵνα λάβωμεν ἔλεος καὶ χάριν εὕρωμεν εἰς εὔκαιρον βοήθειαν (4:14–16)

7 ὃς ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ δεήσεις τε καὶ ἱκετηρίας πρὸς τὸν δυνάμενον σῴζειν αὐτὸν ἐκ θανάτου μετὰ κραυγῆς ἰσχυρᾶς καὶ δακρύων προσενέγκας καὶ εἰσακουσθεὶς ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας, 8 καίπερ ὢν υἱός, ἔμαθεν ἀφʼ ὧν ἔπαθεν τὴν ὑπακοήν, 9 καὶ τελειωθεὶς ἐγένετο πᾶσιν τοῖς ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ αἴτιος σωτηρίας αἰωνίου, 10 προσαγορευθεὶς ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ ἀρχιερεὺς κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισέδεκ (Heb 5:7–10)

Τοιγαροῦν καὶ ἡμεῖς τοσοῦτον ἔχοντες περικείμενον ἡμῖν νέφος μαρτύρων, ὄγκον ἀποθέμενοι πάντα καὶ τὴν εὐπερίστατον ἁμαρτίαν, διʼ ὑπομονῆς τρέχωμεν τὸν προκείμενον ἡμῖν ἀγῶνα 2 ἀφορῶντες εἰς τὸν τῆς πίστεως ἀρχηγὸν καὶ τελειωτὴν Ἰησοῦν, ὃς ἀντὶ τῆς προκειμένης αὐτῷ χαρᾶς ὑπέμεινεν σταυρὸν αἰσχύνης καταφρονήσας ἐν δεξιᾷ τε τοῦ θρόνου τοῦ θεοῦ κεκάθικεν. 3 ἀναλογίσασθε γὰρ τὸν τοιαύτην ὑπομεμενηκότα ὑπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτωλῶν εἰς ἑαυτὸν ἀντιλογίαν, ἵνα μὴ κάμητε ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὑμῶν ἐκλυόμενοι (Heb 12:1–3)

12 Διὸ καὶ Ἰησοῦς, ἵνα ἁγιάσῃ διὰ τοῦ ἰδίου αἵματος τὸν λαόν, ἔξω τῆς πύλης ἔπαθεν. 13 τοίνυν ἐξερχώμεθα πρὸς αὐτὸν ἔξω τῆς παρεμβολῆς τὸν ὀνειδισμὸν αὐτοῦ φέροντες (Heb 13:12–13)

Whereas the Gospels illustrate the suffering of Jesus and his horrific death at the hands of the Romans, Hebrews gives us a insight into the reasons for this death in a way the Gospels do not. I cannot help but feel encouraged by these verses. It portrays the humanity of Christ in a way that the Gospels do not, and for me these verses have been an anchor during some of the most horrific trials and storms I have yet to face. It does this soul good to dwell on the humanity of Christ and his sufferings, and these verses remind me that Jesus knew and experienced suffering like every human being that has walked this earth. For me, it is easy to remember that Jesus was and is God; it is a lot harder for me to remember that Jesus was also a man acquainted with sorrows, experienced disappointment, and knew what heartache was. That brings me great comfort.

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5 thoughts on “Thoughts on Scripture: Jesus in the book of Hebrews

  1. Cliff, Thanks for the thoughts. Two reactions: First, I’m not sure I like the historical / theological divide you made between the Gospels and Hebrews. No texts are more theological loaded (if we have ears to hear) then the Gospels. Second, I’m of the opinion that most of what we think of as theological reflection that is relatively unique to Hebrews actually derives from the Gospel tradition. High Priest? Check. Melchizedek? Check. Moses? Check. Temple/Tabernacle? Check. New Covenant? Check. Even the opening verses of chapter one are (in my mind) outstripped by the Gospels’ depiction of Jesus as the return of YHWH to Zion. Just some thoughts. Thanks again.

    • Thanks for the comment Michael. In no way was I trying to place a divide between the historical/theological Christ, and I agree with all that you mentioned. I was just highlighting some of verses that graphically display aspects of suffering, aspects that I think the author of Hebrews uses to fill in the picture of the Messiah and his mission.

      • Just to be clear, I didn’t say you were making a divide between the historical and theological Christ. You say in the post, “I have often thought that while the Gospels give us a historical picture of life of Jesus … the book of Hebrews gives us the theological why for all of these things.” That’s the historical/theological divide I was referring to. All I meant to say was that I think the Gospels give us the theological why as well, but we have to have ears to hear (or, ears that hear the debates, language, theology of 1st century Judaism). I am working on a hypothesis that much of what seems original theological reflection in Hebrews actually goes back to the historical Jesus and the presentation of that Jesus within the Gospel tradition.

      • I am sorry for implying you did, and I understand why you originally said what you did. I was highlighting a few things that Hebrews tell us that the Gospels do not. Not that they were not part of the oral tradition or imbedded in the Gospel tradition, it is just that Auctor clearly makes these known in no uncertain terms.

        I look forward to your hypothesis and think it will be a fascinating study.

  2. Pingback: Thoughts on Scripture: Jesus in the book of Hebrews | Theological … | ChristianBookBarn.com

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