FINALLY, AFTER A SEEMINGLY LONG AND REPETITIOUS CHAPTER 7, WE ARE BEGINNING CHAPTER 8. We will first study verses 1-6…
NAS Hebrews 8:1-6 Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a minister in the sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. 4 Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; 5 who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “See,” He says, “that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.
I WANT TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT I INTEND THE NUMBER OF INSTALLMENTS TO BE MANY. The importance to the student’s understanding of the theology and purpose of the entire book may be arguably said without exaggeration to be mainly dependent on chapter 8. Even the physical placement of the chapter in the order of chapters of the book is significant; the section of the closely related chapters 7 and 8 fall in the very center, a fact that is very significant in the commonly concentric style of biblical Hebrew. Helpful scholarly determinations may be made from the exegetical observance of this traditional Hebraic chiastic arrangement. The opportunity afforded by this fact offers a wealth of insight I look forward to again experiencing at a deeper level than even before. I have many more good books and, humbly and accordingly, I know more about Hebrews, the biblical language of Hebrew, and the Bible in general than ever before.
BACK IN THE DAY WHEN I FIRST TAUGHT THROUGH THE 13 CHAPTERS OF HEBREWS AT SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA SEMINARY AND THE NEXT YEAR WHEN I PREACHED VERSE-BY-VERSE THROUGH THE BOOK AT THE FIRST SOUTHERN BAPTIST CHURCH OF EL CAJON, I FOUND MYSELF FIRST SHIFTING THEOLOGICALLY IN MY APPROACH.
I BEGAN TO HAVE SERIOUS DOUBTS IN KEY AREAS OF MY PREVIOUSLY SOLID DISPENSATIONAL METHOD OF INTERPRETATION WAS THE RIGHT ONE FOR HEBREWS.
IN THIS INTRODUCTORY BLOG WHICH I’VE TITLED APPROPRIATELY, “BEGINNING CHAPTER 8,” I INTEND TO INCLUDE THE OPENING PARAGRAPH OF MANY OF THE BEST COMMENTARIES I HAVE, I BELIEVE THIS TIME CONSUMING METHOD IS THE MOST RELIABLE AND BENEFICIAL WAY TO BEGIN.
“A NEW STAGE IN THE ARGUMENT IS CLEARLY INDICATED IN 8:1-2. Previously the writer has focused on Jesus’ appointment as high priest and His vocational qualification for the exercise of a fully effective ministry (5:6-10; 6:20; 7:11-28). He now calls attention to Jesus as high priestly ministrant in the heavenly sanctuary and underscores the significance of this concept by designating it ‘the crowning affirmation” to the preceding argument (8:1). The unit introduced in 8:1-2 consists entirely of exposition. Its limits are indicated by an inclusio (In biblical studies, inclusio is a literary device based on a concentric principle, also known as bracketing or an envelope structure, which consists of creating a frame by placing similar material at the beginning and end of a section) corresponding to the statement in 8:3 that every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and in the complimentary declaration that Christ was offered once to take away the sins of the people in 9:28…
NAS Hebrews 9:28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.
“THE NEW UNIT EXTENDS FROM 8:1-9:28 AND CONSTITUTES THE CENTRAL SECTION WITHIN THE COMPOSITIONAL STRUCTURE OF THE SERMON. ITS PLACE AT THE CENTER INDICATES THE IMPORTANCE THAT THE WRITER ASCRIBED TO THIS FACET OF HIS MESSAGE.” – Lane
ANOTHER WORD ABOUT INCLUSIO: When I teach this common and helpful literary device, I tell the students that I have found the simplest way to understand inclusio is to think of it as a parenthesis, the first bracket highlighting the first verse of the section and the second half of the parenthesis the final verse. An inclusio is helpful to the reader. It clarifiesOne example I often point out is in the book of John. It’s a lengthy example but easy to follow and understand. Briefly, here it is…
NAS John 1:19 And this is the witness of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”
THAT’S THE BEGINNING, THE FIRST VERSE OF THE INCLUSIO, THE LEFT SIDE OF MY PARENTHESIS. Then we have to go all the way to chapter 10 to find the last verse, the other side of my parenthesis, and the Scripture’s parenthesis…
NAS John 10:41 And many came to Him and were saying, “While John performed no sign, yet everything John said about this man was true.”
JOHN 1:19 INTRODUCES JOHN THE BAPTIST’S TESTIMONY AND JOHN 10:41 CONCLUDES OR ENVELOPES IT. EVERYTHING BETWEEN THOSE VERSES, BETWEEN THE TWO BRACKETS OF THE PARENTHSIS, IS HIS TESTIMONY. PRETTY COOL, HUH?
YOU MIGHT REMEMBER, “IN HEBREWS 7:11-28 THE WRITER DREW ATTENTION TO CERTAIN DEFICIENCIES IN THE LEVITICAL ARRANGEMENT. Among these were the mortality of the ministering priests (7:23) and the necessity of repeated sacrifices for sins, both of the priests and the people (7:27). Two weaknesses of the Levitical arrangement are demonstrated on the basis of Scripture in 8:1-13. First, the contrast between the heavenly and the earthly tabernacle is introduced to supplement the distinction between the new and the old. Levitical priests serve only a shadowy suggestion of the heavenly sanctuary in which Christ exercises His ministry. To the degree that the earthly sanctuary with its ministry only imperfectly corresponds to the ministry conducted in the presence of God, it is marked by deficiency. Secondly, THE COVENANT UNDER WHICH THE LEVITICAL ARRANGEMENT WAS INSTITUTED HAS BEEN TREATED BY GOD ASi OBSOLETE.” – Lane
IF LANE’S ARGUMENT ENDED WITH THAT SENTENCE, HE WOULD BE ALIGNED WITH ME AND THE POSITION I HAVE TAKEN, WHICH IS THAT THE NEW COVENANT HAS BEEN ENACTED; IN OTHER WORDS, IT BECAME A PRESENT REALITY AT THE CROSS.
BUT LANE DIDN’T END THERE. HE ADDED ANOTHER SENTENCE…
“THE MEDIATION OF THE NEW COVENANT DEMONSTRATES THE ESCHATOLOGICAL SUPERIORITY OF CHRIST’S MINISTRY AND THE DIVINE INTENTION TO REPLACE THE OLD ARRANGEMENT WITH ANOTHER THAT IS ESCHATOLOGICALLY NEW.” – Lane
THE KEY WORD IS “ESCHATOLOGICAL.” Eschatology has to do with final things. Briefly, the use of the word in the context of a discussion of the New Covenant reveals that the writer believes the New Covenant is purely prophetic and, as far as the church is concerned, it is almost entirely a future reality.
IN THE MANY SUCCEEDING BLOGS, I INTEND TO VIGOROUSLY BUT ALWAYS HUMBLY ARGUE THIS POPULAR POSITION.
AS WE BEGIN THIS MOST DETERMINATIVE CHAPTER, MY STUDIED BUT ALWAYS OPEN TO THE POSSIBILITY I COULD BE WRONG POSITION IS THAT WHEN JESUS DIED ON THE CROSS, HE NOT ONLY INAUGURATED THE NEW COVENANT, BUT, REGARDING THE CHURCH, ACTIVATED IT. I believe that although that it is true, as the dispensationalists hold, the complete fulfillment of the New Covenant will not occur until the final days of God’s plan for the earth. Exactly how these seemingly contradictory realities can exist at the same time I will attempt to answer in future blogs.
– Professor Thomas A. Rohm