Today’s Chocolate: Green & Black’s 85% Cacao Dark Chocolate
Today’s Passage: Hebrews 1
Are we finished with All the Paul? To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure, and that’s because of the letter to the Hebrews. The author doesn’t identify himself, and while some scholars think Paul wrote it, others think he didn’t, and still others, even after all their studies, maintain there isn’t enough evidence to reach a conclusion either way. Personally, I’m disinclined to think that Paul wrote it, based on style, tone, the way the author uses Old Testament quotations, and what I would consider a less Greek-influenced theology. But just in case, we’re going to include it in our All the Paul study–or, more accurately, we’re going to start a new study titled “Possibly More of the Paul.”
Hebrews is one of my favorite books of the Bible, in part because of its strong Christology. Right out the gate, its author makes a case for the Jewishness of believing that God has a son. And given the strict monotheism encompassed in one of Judaism’s key credal statements, the Shema, that’s a tall order. The Shema reads, “Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4), and the doctrine of the Trinity might at first glance appear to contradict it. What’s a first-century Messianic Jew to do?
Well, the author of Hebrews first briefly explains how there can be one God who exists in the persons of both the Father and the Son. He describes Jesus as “the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (3). When one thing represents another–as these words on the page represent meanings and ideas–the representation is intended to communicate the thing it represents. And what is the exact representation of Jackson Ferrell, the thing best able to convey the nature of Jackson Ferrell? It’s Jackson Ferrell himself. In a similar fashion, the author of Hebrews asserts, Jesus Christ perfectly represents God to human beings, because he is God in the flesh.
Second, the author of Hebrews quotes from the Old Testament at length, drawing principally from the Psalms, maintaining that God revealed the Messiah’s divine sonship through distinctly Hebrew prophecy. For example he quotes from Psalm 2:7, in which God says, “You are My Son; today I have begotten You.” When we zoom out for the context, we see the two verses in their entirety:
I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to Me, “You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.” (Psalm 2:7-8)
In my estimation, this is the most straightforward use of Old Testament prophecy in the first chapter of Hebrews; the author’s other selected verses introduce complications when you look at them in context, and frankly, if I attempted to sort them out, we’d be here all day. Suffice it to say that the author of Hebrews establishes that the Messiah, as the Son of God, is the “appointed heir of all things” (2), and that he reigns over the world as God himself does.
If you want me to dig into the other prophecies quoted in this chapter, or to explore the author’s theology of angels which we haven’t even touched on yet, just drop a comment and let me know. If there’s interest, I’ll be glad to revisit Hebrews 1 in a subsequent post.