Category Archives: Hebrews

Review: Hebrews (BTCP)

BTFCP_CommentaryOnHebrews_CVR_R2.indd

Hebrews is among one of the harder books of the NT to understand. I’ve always found it easy to read, but nonetheless confusing when it comes to OT quotations, warnings not to fall away, and that Melchizedek character. While one commentary can’t do everything, the BTCP series aims at showing how Hebrews fits into the biblical storyline. Biblical theology is “the theology expressed by the respective writers of the various biblical books” and how it fits into the storyline of the Bible (pg. ix, emphasis original). Biblical theology is the theology of the Bible, and it is the attempt to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors (ix). One of the greatest challenges that biblical theologians face is “how to handle the Bible’s manifest diversity and how to navigate the tension between its unity and diversity in a way that does justice to both” (ix).

Having a number of books, commentaries, and NT and whole Bible theologies under his belt (seen here), Thomas Schreiner writes the first volume in the new Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation (BTCP) series. The BTCP series plans to span commentaries across both testaments, looking at the theology of the entire Bible. And while, like all commentaries, there will be an exegetical treatment of the text, the main focus of this series is in discussing the themes of the book and how they fit into the canon as a whole for Christian proclamation. This series doesn’t aim at being a dense, academic work. It seeks to present Biblical theology to the lives of all who sit in the pew every Sunday morning.

Schreiner starts off his Introduction by saying that his “introduction and the commentary are relatively brief and nontechnical” (1). I would say that Schreiner hits the mark. His introduction is roughly the same length as O’Brien’s, and his exegesis is a little over 100 pages shorter than O’Brien’s (385 pages of exegesis, with the rest being the Introduction and Biblical Theological sections). If you’re familiar with the PNTC series, it’s not quite as technical as the BECNT or NIGTC. This is even less technical than the PNTC, and this will appeal to many.

  • Greek is always translated
  • Footnotes rarely take up half a page (apparently there are some who don’t like that)
  • Exposition on each verse is relatively brief (though sometimes too brief)

The commentary starts off with the Introduction which covers topics like Date, Authorship, Genre and Structure, Hebrews and the Storyline of the Bible, Biblical and Theological Structures [you can read my others posts about this section here], etc.

The commentary proper consists of:

  • Section Heading: “Hebrews 2.10-18”
  • Outline: While helpful, it’s also a bit much as it takes up a lot of space since every section has an outline, and they get longer as the book nears the end
  • Scripture: the passage of Hebrews 2.10-18 is given in full
  • Context: Explains how v10 picks up where v9 left off and how the argument continues through to v18
  • Exegesis: Schreiner carefully works through the text. Each verse can have between one and seven paragraphs
  • Bridge: This is the theology of the passage in a nutshell.

At the end of the commentary is the Biblical Theological section. Schreiner clearly and succinctly ties the letter together and reveals the unity of the letter under topics such as God, Jesus Christ (and his Divine Sonship, humanity, Priesthood, sacrifice, assurance, and resurrection and exaltation), the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit, Warnings, Assurance, and more.

Recommended?

While it may not be what the academic is looking for so much, this is volume is suited for the pastor, the student, and the layman. Hebrews has long been a difficult book for many a teacher and student. Having a commentary which comes from the deep well of a biblical scholar that is also easily accessible to many is hard to find, but a pleasure to read. If this is a taste of what is to come with this series, than there will be many who will be very pleased to eat up this series (and this volume).

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[Special thanks to Chris at B&H Academic for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

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BTS: The Spatial Orientation of Hebrews

BTFCP_CommentaryOnHebrews_CVR_R2.indd

In the introduction of his new commentary on Hebrews, Tom Schreiner covers four different structures under the heading of Biblical and Theological Structures. These four structures are:

(1) Promise-Fulfillment
(2) Already-But-Not-Yet Eschatology
(3) Typology
and now the fourth and final structure (4) the Spatial Orientation of Hebrews.

Typology and the spatial orientation are often grouped together. Yet typology is seen in just about every book of the NT, while the spatial dimension is quite distinctive in Hebrews. Here ”Hebrews quite frequently contrasts the earthly and the heavenly, so we have a vertical or spatial contrast. Hence, the author, in accord with the OT, ‘works with a two-story model of the created cosmos — heaven/s and earth’ (cf. Gen 1:1; 2:1; Jer 10:11)” (45).

In this, sometimes symbolism is employed to help us understand the greater reality that is in heaven. Other times, the author’s language is not symbolic. Schreiner gives two examples. Christ truly was resurrected, and so truly has a resurrected body. No symbolism there.

“The language about a heavenly tent (8:2; 9:11, 24) and a city, however, should not be pressed to say there is a literal tent or a literal heavenly city” (46).

Schreiner goes on to explain this imagery, “Spatial imagery may be appropriated to express the inexpressible, to convey a reality that transcends our understanding in symbolic language. Hence, the reference to God’s throne in the heavens points the readers to God’s transcendence (1:3; 8:1-2; 10:12; 12:2)” (46).

Heavenly Copies

Hebrews 9.22-23 says, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

So the copies were purified by animal sacrifices (which were copies of the true sacrifice), and the “heavenly things themselves” needed that better sacrifice to be purified. Christ enters into the presence of God itself, not into the holy places which were made by the hands of (idolatrous) men. The holy places were where God’s presence was to be experienced, but Christ entered into God’s presence in “a better sanctuary, a heavenly one, ‘to appear in the presence of God for us’” (Heb 9.24, p 48).

As is fitting with Revelation 21-22, the heavenly, new Jerusalem will descend to earth which will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea. The Son, being heir of all things, must have something to inherit. Jesus will rule over the world, what we were supposed to do, and will fulfill Psalm 8.

Faith

As Doug Wilson has said in his book Father Hunger, “Faith sees opportunity in the world that God made, and in the way God governs that world. Unbelief always sees insurmountable obstacles” (158).

“Believers should follow the examples of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and look forward to a heavenly city instead of longing to fit into the present social order (11:13-16)” (49). We are “exiles and resident aliens” in this world now. We don’t seek a lasting city, but that which is to come (13.14). This world is where “Christ came to save his people (10:5-10)” and is where “he will return… to complete his saving work (9:28)” (49). We continue on in our life with Christ, walking by faith, looking at what God has done in times before, what he was accomplished for us in Christ, and trusting that he will complete that work in Christ, just as he has promised to do.

Posts

BTS: Promise-Fulfillment in Hebrews

BTS: Already-But-Not-Yet Eschatology in Hebrews

BTS: Typology in Hebrews

BTS: The Spatial Orientation of Hebrews

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BTS: Typology in Hebrews

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In the introduction of his new commentary on Hebrews, Tom Schreiner covers four different structures under the heading of Biblical and Theological Structures. These four structures are:

(1) Promise-Fulfillment
(2) Already-But-Not-Yet Eschatology
(3) Typology
(4) the Spatial Orientation of Hebrews

Originally the third structure, Typology in Hebrews, was going to be the only section covered. However I enjoyed all four structures and thought I’d give them all their own fair share of space (links to the posts are above, in case you missed the dazzling blue color).

Schreiner defines typology like this: “Typology exists when there is a historical correspondance between events, institutions, and persons found in the OT and the NT” (36). Schreiner argues that “typology does not merely represent correspondence [between the OT and the NT] but a correspondence intended by God…. Biblical typology is characterized by escalation. This means the fulfillment is always greater than the type” (37). (You can also read my friend Lindsay’s post about typology which has helped me see some of the nuances in comparison to other ideas).

This is important, as all throughout the letter the author argues from the “lesser-to-the-greater.” If the message relayed by the angels is reliable, and every disobedience received its just retribution, how much more important is the word of Christ? How much greater is there a punishment to be received if his word is neglected (Heb 2.2-3)? If Jesus is greater than any and all of the OT persons and institutions, how can the readers turn away from him and go back to the Jewish rituals and sacrifices?

Psalm 45

Schreiner provides an example of the use of Psalm 45 in Hebrews 1.8-9. I was happy to see this here as Mari and I have been curious about this use of the psalm (and the psalm itself) for weeks.

Psalm 45 says,

1 My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.
2 You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever.
3 Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your splendor and majesty!
4 In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
5 Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you.
6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;
7
you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; 
8 your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;
9 daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.
10 Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father’s house,
11 and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him.
12 The people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts, the richest of the people.
13 All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold.
14 In many-colored robes she is led to the king, with her virgin companions following behind her.
15 With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king.
16 In place of your fathers shall be your sons; you will make them princes in all the earth.
17 I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.

Hebrews 1.8-9 quotes verses 6-7 saying, But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’

Schreiner says,

“[Psalm 45] is originally a royal psalm about the Davidic king. It is a wedding song celebrating the king’s majesty and greatness. When the king is identified as ‘God’ in the psalm (45:6), we have an example of hyperbole. The king (cf. Exod 7:1) is identified as God in the psalm given his stature and rule. As God’s vice-regent he is called ‘God,’ but no one in Israel interpreted the wording literally as if the Davidic king were actually divine. But what is said about the Davidic king was no accident, for it pointed forward in a deeper and truer sense to Jesus Christ. For this one truly is the Son of God, the one whom angels worship and who created the universe (1:2, 6, 10, 12). We see a prime example of escalation in typology here” (39).

Abel and Isaac

Both Abel and Christ were sacrificed as “innocent victims, but Christ’s blood speaks better than Abel’s, for Christ washes clean those who trust in him. Abel’s cries out for justice, but… through [Christ’s] death human beings can boldly enter God’s presence” (43).

The (almost) sacrifice of Isaac typologically portrayed the accomplished sacrifice of Christ (Heb 11.17-19). “Abraham was convinced that God would raise Isaac from the dead if he sacrificed him (Gen 22.4), but Jesus, in contrast to Isaac, was truly raised from the dead, fulfilling what was adumbrated in the ‘sacrifice’ of Isaac” (43).

Conclusion

Typology, therefore, is a pattern set in place by God. If all things have been created by, through, and for Christ (Col 1.16), then it’s reasonable to see that all things point to Christ. God could have created a clear box called “  ” (a.k.a. ‘nothing’) where millions of clear mannequins raise their hands to worship God in the same, equally-droning tone. Instead, we have colours, mountains, valleys, rocks, clouds, animals, and a variety of people and personalities. They all point to Christ, and they all represent God. Even more, events have been set in place to show us the greater-ness of Christ who is seated in the heavenlies. More on that in my next post.

Posts

BTS: Promise-Fulfillment in Hebrews

BTS: Already-But-Not-Yet Eschatology in Hebrews

BTS: Typology in Hebrews

BTS: The Spatial Orientation of Hebrews

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BTS: Already-But-Not-Yet Eschatology in Hebrews

BTFCP_CommentaryOnHebrews_CVR_R2.indd

In the introduction of his new commentary on Hebrews, Tom Schreiner covers four different structures under the heading of Biblical and Theological Structures. These four structures are

(1) Promise-Fulfillment
(2) Already-But-Not-Yet Eschatology
(3) Typology
(4) the Spatial Orientation of Hebrews

This time we’ll look at the second structure, Already-But-Not-Yet Eschatology in Hebrews.

Schreiner defines already-but-not-yet eschatology in this way: “God’s eschatological promises have been inaugurated through Jesus Christ but not consummated. Fulfillment has truly come in Jesus Christ, but the fulfillment isn’t complete” (31). Basically, OT prophecies are being fulfilled, but are not yet completely fulfilled. Read on to see how this plays out in Hebrews, along with providing examples of what the definition above really means (especially if you’ve never heard of the term “already-but-not-yet”).

As we saw in my previous post, Jesus fulfills Ps 110.1 and is sitting and reigning at the right hand of God. As is so, “the last days have arrived (1:2), for the Messiah reigns as the OT prophesied” (33). Hebrews 9.26b says, “But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.“ Yet if Jesus has appeared at “the end of the ages” and reigns in heaven, why are there still enemies (Heb 1.13; 10.13)?

Hebrews 2.8b says, “Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.” But one day the heavens and earth will be shaken and removed, and all that will be left is God’s kingdom (12.26-28)

The “not-yet” part of the program requires faith (10.39-11.40). Schreiner adds, “If the promise were visible (cf. 11:3) and the reward were given now (11:6), faith in God’s future promises would be superfluous” (35).

We see in 2 Corinthians 1.20 that all of God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ, and from that verse until chapter 7.1, Paul gives us a list of promises that have come through Jesus, though some of them we do not see now. We have been anointed, sealed, and guaranteed by the Holy Spirit (1.21-22), and we have life by the Spirit (3.3, 6). But while we have a building from God that is eternal in the heavens (5.1), we cannot currently see it (it is “in the heavens”). So what do we do? “We walk by faith, not by sight” (5.7).

So again in Hebrews, the author says in 10.10, “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,” and it is through “the blood of the covenant” (10.29). Sanctification is a completed reality. It’s a done deal. And yet the readers (including us) are to “strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (12.14). We also must recognize that we are not yet completely sanctified, as we have the command to “strive… for the holiness” if we want to see the Lord. We are perfected once and for all (10.14), and yet we are to strive for perfection (6.1) (p 34-45).

Posts

BTS: Promise-Fulfillment in Hebrews

BTS: Already-But-Not-Yet Eschatology in Hebrews

BTS: Typology in Hebrews

BTS: The Spatial Orientation of Hebrews

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BTS: Promise-Fulfillment in Hebrews

BTFCP_CommentaryOnHebrews_CVR_R2.indd

In the introduction of his new commentary on Hebrews, Tom Schreiner covers four different structures under the heading of Biblical and Theological Structures. These four structures are

(1) promise-fulfillment;
(2) already-but-not-yet eschatology;
(3) typology;
(4) the spatial orientation of Hebrews.

Each structure will have it’s own post, starting with the first structure, Promise-Fulfillment in Hebrews.

Schreiner defines promise-fulfillment in this way: “It refers to predictions or promises in the OT that, according to Hebrews, are now fullfilled [in Christ]” (30). Though defined this way, it can overlap with typology (as we will see in a later post).

We find the first example of this in Hebrews 1.1-2 which says, Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 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.

So, while God’s word was versatile, making its way through the mouth of many speakers, and partial, giving another picture of who Yahweh was, here “OT revelation… finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ” (30). Now all of the OT should be read in light of Jesus Christ (this is similar to reading a detective novel or watching a TV crime series. In the beginning of the story you are clueless as to “who-dunnit.” But once the perpetrator is revealed, then all of the clues fall into place [a la, The Sixth Sense] and you can never read or see the story in the same way again).

Schreiner covers quite a few passages. I’ll cover only one.

Psalm 110

The author of Hebrews (from here on referred to as “the author”) finds special fullfillment of Psalm 110 by Jesus. Ps 110.1 says, The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

The author alludes to or quotes this verse five times (Heb 1.2, 13; 8.1; 10.12-13; 12.2).

So how does Jesus fulfill this prophecy?

Schreiner gives us some OT background: After Adam and Eve gave their God-given dominion of the earth over to the serpent, God promised that the Seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent, reclaiming his rule (Gen 3.15). In Genesis 12, Yahweh “reveals that the world will be blessed through Abraham’s offspring,” and this rule will be “restored through a Davidic king according to the promise of the Davidic covenant” in 2 Samuel 7 (p 30).

The author says that this Davidic son and Lord is none other than Jesus himself, and through him God’s kingdom will be established. So in Hebrews 1.3 the author states that Jesus “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” and it is tied to his “making purification for sins” (1.3; 10.12; 12.2). Jesus is higher than the angles (1.13) and is a better high priest (8.1). He “now waits until his enemies are made the footstool for his feet (10.13)” (31). He corules with God, and is worthy of and enjoys his divine stature and worship (1.6).

Reading Ps 110 in context, and then in light of how the NT authors use it can be confusing, but if we read it in context of the OT storyline (as Schreiner helps us to do), then it becomes clear how the author was able to delineate that this prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.


Other OT verses Schreiner covers are Ps 110.4 (Heb 5.5-6), Ps 2.7 and 2 Sam 7.14 (Heb 1.5), Jer 31.31-34 (Heb 8.8-12; 10.15-18), and God’s rest (Heb 3.12-4.13).

Posts

BTS: Promise-Fulfillment in Hebrews

BTS: Already-But-Not-Yet Eschatology in Hebrews

BTS: Typology in Hebrews

BTS: The Spatial Orientation of Hebrews

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