Week #6: Hebrews 7-12

The writer took us on a detour from 5:11 on Friday through Saturday, but brings us back to the figure of Melchizedek to start this second half of the book. The arguments are distinguishing reliance upon Christ from reliance upon Abrahamic faith, Moses’ Torah and Aaronic or Levitic priesthood. Revisiting Genesis 14 may be worth your while, online at HERE, or in your own bible.

We misuse this text if we simply use it to ‘trump’ Judaism with Christianity – projecting our issues back on this writer, who faces the end of a Temple cult since 70CE, and has not yet discerned the sister religions to be reinvented through Talmud and Christian scriptures. The appeal to antiquity and deeper toledot in Genesis is an appeal to a scheme from wider covenants with humanity through Adam or Noah, to greater specification in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and in turn through Moses, Torah, and the tribes of Israel.

This is better than a pissing match between sects – it attempts to construe the person and work of Christ by analogy and ‘compare and contrast’ discourse in relation to familiar (to the original readers) taxonomies. What do we expect of all humans, by appeal to what universal authority? What do we expect of ‘Abrahamic’ peoples, with what shorthand, or of Israel through Moses’ Torah? Christ’s authority is being disambiguated in relation to each of these.

By Wednesday and Thursday, chapters 9 and 10, we are invited to confront the meaning of Temple practice, as outlined in Torah, practiced in Solomon’s Temple and then reinvented repeatedly in the Second Temple. Now that the great Temple is razed, how will the meaning and purpose be re-presented? This writer claims we can do it through an understanding of Christ. The argument relies upon Greek language and underlying philosophical assumptions about how ultimate ideal realities are experienced through imperfect veils.

We’ll close the week with greater familiarity or accessibility of the arguments case as recitals of the heroes of biblical faith. For many of us, this is like a Sunday School review of ‘greatest hits’ from the ‘Old Testament’. We’re being offered a toolkit to help with construction of our human and religious response to divine revelation and invitation. (You can use the footnotes in your bible.)

The argument culminates in a chorus of encouragement: since we are surrounded by such a host of witnesses, let’s join the party!