Sunday, August 29, 2010

Better than the Prophets

Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

1 Πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως πάλαι ὁ θεὸς λαλήσας τοῖς πατράσιν ἐν τοῖς προφήταις 2  ἐπ᾽ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων ἐλάλησεν ἡμῖν ἐν υἱῷ, ὃν ἔθηκεν κληρονόμον πάντων, δι᾽ οὗ καὶ ἐποίησεν τοὺς αἰῶνας·

I admit that the book of Hebrews has always intimidated me.  I've never been quite sure what to do with it as I've tried to jam it into a theological system.  I've decided that this time through I'm just going to take it as face-value as much as I can.

Even if you don't know much about the book of Hebrews you've probably at least heard the "at many times and in many ways" line.  What did God do?  He λαλήσας τοῖς πατράσιν ἐν τοῖς προφήταις.  More literally it is that He "spoke to the fathers by the prophets."  But since this is a book addressed to Jews and presumably written by a Jew, it is fine for the author to use "our" here.  Whether or not that is appropriate for a Gentile to read it that way is another discussion.

I notice that there is no adversative in verse 2, but that is added by the translators.  The phrase ἐπ᾽ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων is most literally understood as "on these last days" or something similar.  We need a conjunction here to make it work as good English.  Incidentally, the HCSB, KJV, NASB, and NET do not add the conjunction, but the ESV and NIV do.  This is one of those places where the ESV goes a bit beyond the literal.

I think it is valid to add the conjunction here because it would seem that there is a contrast between God speaking through the prophets and now speaking through the Son.  You may note that the word "his" does not exist in the Greek, but that it is consistent with the phrase ἐν υἱῷ.

Why am I going into all this detail?  I think it is important that we handle the text faithfully, which is one of the goals of this blog.  And, frankly, because I have a little bit more time this morning than usual :)

What do we get from this?  What I see is that the prophets had their place.  God spoke to the Jews through the prophets.  As we see one fulfilled prophecy after another we can take great assurance in God's faithfulness and His sovereignty to accomplish His will.  But in the times of the author of Hebrews (I suspect Paul, but we can't be sure), God spoke to His people through His Son.

This means that the Son is better than the prophets.  It means that He fulfilled what was predicted of Him.  The Jews missed it as they were waiting for a king like David who would throw off the shackles of Rome.  They didn't realize that Jesus was the better David who would ultimately come to set the captives truly free, rather than simply politically free.

There is much debate about whether the NT should interpret the OT.  When I read this I see no question.  We'll get into this more when we get to 1 Peter 1.  The point for now is that God has spoken to us through His Son.  Let's listen to what the Son and His apostles have to say.  That is not to say that we throw out the OT.  Far from it.  But let us realize that Jesus came as the fulfillment of the law.  I am finding that it really makes things much clearer as I read my Bible.


Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

I am surprised by you saying that you are intimidated by the letter to the Hebrews and don't quite know what to do with it, or how to jamit into a theological system. Then again, maybe I'm not, but I am surprised anyone would say that.

Hebrews is for me one of the pivotal books of the NT scriptures.

It just occurred to me that we all have certain "favorites" among books of scripture, and that probably explains our various viewpoints, beliefs and practices.

If it tells you anything about me, the writings of John (for I accept them all to be by him), the Gospel, the three Epistles and the Revelation, are central to me. Of the synoptics, I favor Mark. Of the Epistles in general, 2 Corinthians among Paul's is very special to me, but Hebrews is almost paramount, even though we don't know for sure who wrote it. I love all of Paul's Epistles equally, except for 2 Corinthians which somehow defines my life. As for the OT, my favorite books are Psalms and Song of Songs, but I also love the prophets, especially Isaiah and Jeremiah, and I love "the Elijah cycle".

What can I say, I love the whole Book, but as I said, there are some books that I find myself returning to more often than others. Every day, the Psalms, most days, John's and Hebrews. And I nickname the book of Revelation, the fifth Gospel, because it is like the 'eternal gospel' mentioned in the same book. It is always in our faces, bringing the parousia of Christ into our present moment.

I enjoy your blog posts and thoughts, brother. Thanks for keeping up this great blog.

Jason said...


I really appreciate your comment. The reason I've tried to "jam it into a theological system" is because my seminary is very strongly Dispensational. Therefore, I keep reading Scripture with an eye to how it fits into how I understand that system to work. Frankly, I'm not sold on it. I'm going to study it in depth this Spring, Lord willing.

It is clear to me that Hebrews is vitally important because it tells us about who Jesus is. It also tells us who He is relative to the Jews. I think that as I read it I am seeing more and more that He is the true Israel, the better temple, etc.

I'd say that my favorite Pauline epistle is Ephesians. That was the second book that I memorized because it speaks so clearly to God's sovereignty in electing His saints. That is a precious doctrine to me because it shows me just how much my salvation is dependent upon God and not upon me. I thank and praise Him greatly because of that.

Thanks again for commenting and for the encouragement. I hope to have a fresh post tomorrow, Lord willing.