Monday, October 28, 2013


While most articles center upon modern commentaries, many have a tendency to overlook the older commentaries. Here are commentaries that are at least 20 years old, but still in print.

The student or Pastor should not overlook these commentaries on 1 Corinthians.

Charles Hodge, 1 CORINTHIANS. Recently reprinted by Crossway Classics. This is good solid commentary first published in 1857. It is a strong doctrinal treatment of considerable merit. Calvinistic in view. It is a spiritual treasure that has stood the test of time.

Frederic Louis Gode, COMMENTARY ON THE FIRST EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL TO THE CORINTHIANS, Zondervan. Has been one of the outsanding treatments since it was published in 1886. Strong verse by verse treatment.

Monday, October 21, 2013


While most articles center upon modern commentaries, many have a tendency to overlook the older commentaries. Here are commentaries that are at least 20 years old, but still in print.

The student or Pastor should not overlook these commentaries on Romans.

Robert Haldane ROMANS, published by Banner of Truth, is a masterful commentary. It is written from Puritan tradition. Calvinistic, and strong of the sufficiency of Christ. Thorough but understandable, and strongly theological. Should be on your shelf.

William R Newell, ROMANS: VERSE BY VERSE, published by Moody, and others. First published in the 30’s, it has stood the test of time. It is understandable and homiletically helpful. It’s strong on Pauline revelation, dispensational, and a treasure to read. A must have in any Pastor’s bookcase.

Anders Nygren, ROMANS, published by Muhlenberg Press, Philadelphia. 1949.  A very readable study that is insightful, readable, and analytical. Worthwhile on your shelf. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Book Review

Jason S. DeRouchie (Editor), WHAT THE OLD TESTAMENT AUTHORS REALLY CARED ABOUT, Kregel Publishing, Grand Rapids MI, 2013.

Is this an academic book? Yes, but so readable and enjoyable it does not seem so.  It is a delightful survey of the Old Testament. It does exactly what the title implies. It gives the reader the heart and matter of each book of the Old Testament. It is full of understandable charts, maps and illustrations that make it an ideal textbook for an Old Testament survey class. It is not dry nor is it boring. It makes each book come alive revealing it real essences and importance. It is different than most surveys in three ways:

It places the book in the order of the Hebrew Bible as Jesus would have known it. It is arranged by the Law, Prophets, and Writings: not the Christian canonical order. Not an order that most of us are used to seeing.

The introductory issues (Who, When Where, Why) are condensed to one page that gives essential information at the beginning of each book of the Old Testament. It helps the reader from getting bogged down in the nonessential aspects of these issues.

Its heart is the ability to synthesize the major themes of each book into a cohesive message that communicates the intent of the Biblical author in an understandable and relevant way.

The text does a good job of pointing out that the essence of the Old Testament is to point to Christ. It holds to a high view of Scripture and its divine authorship. It upholds the elements of progressive revelation and redemptive history of the unfaithfulness of man and the faithfulness of God. It points beyond itself to give key resources for further study, which are conservative and evangelical.

All of this is done in an engaging creative way that is easily readable and understandable. It is delightful to read. It reaches into the Old Testament and draws out its truths that speak not only to the original readers, but make them alive to modern readers as well. Yet, it will educate one to the real essence of the Old Testament.

[Thanks to Kregel Publishing for supplying this copy for the purpose of my honest review.]  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Study of Philippians 2:5-11 (Part 2)

The Attitude of Service or a Servant 2:7-8a

This attitude is exemplified by His incarnation. This action was produced by His selfless mind-set. “But emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, [and] being made in the likeness of men.” The word “but” (alla) denotes a contrast. A contrast to what? It is clearly a contrast with Phil. 2:6. It has been suggested that it should be rendered—“instead of this.”[1]—instead of pride for having the prize. The Greek text reads literally: “but Himself emptied.” The emphasis is on an action He took Himself. The word Himself is emphatic. This action is described as “emptied.” The Greek word for emptied is keno, meaning empty, to divest one’s self, abase one’s self. Volumes have been written on what this entailed and various answers given. The problem is clearly and correctly stated by Muller: “Of what did Christ empty Himself? This verse gives no answer.”[2] It is a mystery. Calvin is correct in saying, “Christ, indeed, could not renounce His divinity, but He kept it concealed for a time, that under the weakness of the flesh it might not be seen.”[3] It cannot mean He became less than God. To empty Himself of any of his attributes or character would make him less than God. Brown states: “The attributes of omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence are in fact essential attributes of divinity. God would not be God without them.”[4] We may not be able to comprehend it, but we dare not deny it—Jesus was fully God and fully man.

While Jesus did not become less God to become man, there are certain privileges of being God that were lessened or emptied when he become man. These are clearly indicated in Scripture:
·         His riches (2 Corinthians 8:9). “For we know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” Here again is a contrast between His preexistence and his incarnation. The contrast is clothed in the words, rich/poor. The riches of deity that is exchanged for the poorness of humanity. It is not His deity that is exchanged, but the riches. His riches are not defined. However, in giving up (or empting) Himself of these riches, He became poor so by that poverty we may become rich.
·         His glory (John 17:5). “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” The phrase “which I had” indicates that this glory was given up, and it was glory He had before His incarnation.
However, MacLeod points out that: “There is some truth to the idea that the Lord surrendered the use of the prerogatives of deity. But grammatically that idea is not related to the verb kenoo.”[5] He favors the metaphorical usage of the word.[6] The word implies status; this status is defined as being made in the form of a servant, in the likeness of man. Thus, the word is a metaphor for his humiliation, without implying a loss of character. “In other words, the phrase is intended to encapsulate for the readers the whole descent of Christ from highest glory to lowest depths.”[7]

Notice the participle “taking,” it indicates an addition to what he had, not a subtraction. It explains how the emptying took place. He did not exchange deity for humanity. He added humanity to His deity. This is reinforced by two other participial phrases “having made” and “being found.” The three participle phrases define precisely the self-humiliation of Christ. In the incarnation Christ emptied or poured Himself out “by taking the form of a slave, by being made in the likeness of men, and by being found in appearance as a man” (2:7-8a). Motyer says thought clearly: “It is not ‘Of what did he empty himself?’ but “Into what did he empty himself?”[8]  Even today we speak of an actor emptying or pouring out himself into his character, which indicates he put his own being into it so that his own attributes are rarely seen. This is the idea here. “The verse sets forth the coming of the pre-existent One into the world and His taking of our humanity upon Him.”[9]God dwelt among us” says John 1:17. He did so in the form of a servant, in the likeness of man, and in the appearance of men. God is wrapped up in humanity. Walvoord notes:

It is obvious that He gave up the outer manifestation of deity, but the act of assuming humanity and the form of a servant was superimposed upon His deity without taking away His divine attributes. He was like a king who temporarily puts on the garments of a peasant while at the same time remaining king, even though it was not outwardly apparent.[10]

But let us not get lost in theological detail here and miss the point. Paul goes into these truths to show the attitude or mind of Christ. He had a mind or attitude of service. That is why he humbled himself and poured out himself into the form of a servant. He came to serve not be served. His mindset was to serve God and man. He did so by becoming man and dying for man, that through His poverty we may become rich.

The Attitude of Humble Obedience 2:8b

He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8b). Obedience requires humility. It is the putting aside your own will to do the will of another. This part of the verse focuses on His humility and what he endured as a man though obedience. He humbled himself and became a man. The word found here is tapeinoo and means to humiliate; make small; to assign to a lower place or rank. He was fully human, being made lower than the angels (Heb. 2:5).  “The limitations and weaknesses of Christ’s human nature were not because He assumed fallen humanity, but because He assumed true humanity.”[11] By Jesus becoming man, he takes on the attitude of obedience and decided to obey His Father completely (Heb. 10:7).  Paul explains that this obedience was “to the point of death.” It was the decision of Christ to humble Himself to that point. This is the climax to his selfless, subservient, and obedient attitude—the mind of Christ. It led to a sacrificial state of mind and the action of death, even the death on the cross.

Notice the word humble leads us back to the exhortation of Philippians 2:1-5, and ties in with verse 3. The mind of Christ as demonstrated in his incarnation and death on the cross forms the basis for the exhortation for us to “have this attitude.” As MacLeod notes:
Jesus’ supreme example of selflessness and obedience beckons believers to lead lives of selfless living and obedience. Seeing Him abandoning the glories and prerogatives of heaven, pouring Himself out for others, should encourage Christians to abandon their self-serving attitudes.[12]
To be continued

[1]  Ibid, 25.
[2]  Muller, 81. Hawthorne,  85, likewise states there no basis for speculation “simply because it gives no clue whatsoever as to what it was that Christ emptied himself of.”
[3]  Calvin, 248.
[5]  MacLeod, 318
[6]  Metaphorical translations are found in the KJV—“made Himself of no reputation;” NIV—“made Himself nothing;” or “poured out himself,” which MacLeod seems to favor. Loh and Nida A TRANSLATORS HANDBOOK ON PHILIPPIANS, 58, notes that Paul uses the metaphorical sense elsewhere in the epistles. . Martin, Ralph P, CARMEN CHRISTI, 194: “The verb…seems to carry in this context a metaphorical as distinct from a metaphysical meaning.”
[7] Silva, 121.
[8]  Quoted by MacLeod, 319.
[9]  Martin, 195.
[10]  Walvoord, John F., EBC: PHILLIPIANS, 54-55.
[11]  MacLeod, 325 fn 101.
[12]  Ibid, 330.


“All the sins of those who believe on [Christ], every one, have been dealt with and God has blotted them out as a thick cloud…Let us remember that our justification means not only that our sins are forgiven and that we have been declared to be righteous by God Himself, not merely that we were righteous at that moment when we believed, but permanently righteous. For justification means this also, that we are given by God the positive righteousness of His own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what justification means. It does not only mean that your sins are forgiven, but much more. It means that He clothes us also with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. He says in effect: ‘You are righteous; I see, not a sinner, but a righteous child of My own; I see you in Christ covered by His holiness and righteousness.’ And when God does that to us, He does it once and forever. You are hidden, you yourself and your whole personality and life stand in the righteousness of Christ before God. I say, therefore, with reverence and on the authority of the Word of God that God sees your sins no more; He sees the righteousness of Christ upon you. Lay hold of that.”
taken from: Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965. pg. 74.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Darrell Bock in his commentary on Acts brings out three important elements in Paul's defense speeches that are noteworthy:
(1) The speeches center around the carrying out of his call as a core element of his defense. 
(2) There is a balance between in Acts between his missionary verses (226) and his prison verses (239). He says, “This shows that Paul the defender of the faith is as important as…Paul the preacher of the faith.” 
(3) They distinguish the Christians from other groups that are political and violent movements against Rome. Christianity is not a political risk to Rome.

Source: Darrell L. Bock, BECNT: ACTS (Baker, Grand Rapids 2007) 654-655. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013



The book of Hebrews is one of the most difficult, debated, misunderstood, letters of the New Testament. It is one of the most profound theological works in the New Testament. It is full of Old Testament quotes and allusions concerning Christ and Israel. It speaks not of the Gentiles. It is a letter to the Hebrew people. Because of the nature of the epistles, the early church was reluctant to accept the epistle. This was in spite of early evidences and use by those in the church. The evidence of use is one of the earliest of the letters referred to by Clement of Rome around 95 AD. We find quotes and references in the writings of Irenaeus, Tertullian, and others of the second century. The biggest problem was apostolic authorship. It became part of the canon in 393 AD. It was included because apostolic authorship was not necessary to be included, only apostolic association (such as Mark). Many early fathers believed Paul wrote the epistle, in early canons it was include in the grouping of Paul’s epistles.[1]


The authorship is unknown. The writer does not give his name. This has led to much debate and speculation in the history of the church as to who actually wrote the letter. Included candidates are: Paul,[2] Luke[3], Barnabas,[4] Priscilla,[5] Silvanus, Apollos[6], Peter,[7] Jude, Mary the mother of Jesus,[8] and even Clement of Rome. However, there is no clear answer. As early as Origen, the Alexandrian church father who died about A.D. 255, says no one knew who the writer was for sure.

The internal evidence consists of the following:[9]
·         He was a Hellenistic Jewish believer.
·         He was not an eyewitness of the ministry of Jesus (Heb. 2:3)
·         He knew Paul, if not in person, by his companions.
·         He had a good knowledge of the Old Testament.
·         He had knowledge of Paul’s writings (13:22-25 cf. with ending Philippians, Colossians, and 1 Thessalonians).
·         He knew Timothy (13:23).

Evidence seems to point to someone from the Pauline circle, if not Paul. Brock gives the following evidences for Paul.[10] They fall in with what we know of Paul and implications from the text.

·         Hebrews 13:5 is common to Paul’s closing in his epistles.
·         The mention of Timothy, his companion.
·         Paul knew the Law and the Old Testament.
·         Peter confirms that Paul wrote to his people (2 Peter 3:15-16).
·         Paul had a ministry to Israel (Acts 9:15).
·         The fact that the Law [Old Covenant] was passing (Heb. 8:13) is in line with Paul (2 Cor. 3:11, Eph. 2:15, Col. 2:14).
·         There are 92 unique Pauline expressions in Hebrews.[11]

While I lean toward a Pauline authorship, or at least someone from the Pauline circle as the writer. I, nor another else, can state dogmatically who wrote the book. A consensus against Paul has developed in the last 100 years or so. However, the view is not completely dead. Some do not so easily dismiss the patristic evidence, which may be inconclusive, but is present all the same. There are still scholar’s willing to argue for the Pauline authorship (W. Leonard; E. Linnemann; D.A. Black). Cockerill observes: “It is clear that Pauline authorship was defended in order to sustain Hebrews’ canonical status. In the end, however, the greatest biblical scholars of the ancient church (Origen, Jerome) affirmed Hebrews’ worth and canonical status despite doubts over Pauline authorship.[12] It is best not to speculate, or at least not to be dogmatic on whom the human author may have been—the true author is God (2 Tim 3:16). In referring to Origen’s statement that only God knows who wrote Hebrews, Kistemaker makes a wise observation: “If scholars at the dawn of the Christian era did not know who wrote Hebrews, we certainly will not rise above them.”[13]


There is no question that the letter was written to Hebrews who had accepted Christ (Heb. 3:1). While the nationality of the readers is known, the location of the readers is just as mysterious as the authorship. Although, it has been argued in the last century that the book of Hebrews was for a Gentile audience,[14] it has generally not been accepted. It seems to be clear that the author of the Hebrews believed his readers to be Jews, acquainted with the Old Testament, and the rituals of Judaism, as well as Moses and the Law.[15] Yet, they were immature in the knowledge of the Word (Heb. 5:11-14). Gentiles where unlikely to have the Old Testament knowledge that this letter demands. The only geographical reference is the book is to Italy (13:24). However, it is hard to determine if it used in the sense of location of the writer or the destination of the letter. There are three major debated positions as to the location of the readers:

First, Alexandria in Egypt. This is mainly based upon the fact that the earliest manuscript we have comes from there and it was where there was a large Jewish population. Alexandria did have the largest population of Jews of any city outside the land of Israel.

Second, Rome had a strong Jewish population and the presence of a reference to Italy in the letter. However, it is argued that there were many of Rome who lived outside the city of Rome. The writer is in an area were there is a Roman population and he is sending their greetings back to Rome. Likewise, Timothy was known by the Roman churches. It seems that Hebrews 12:4 presents a problem, since the book was probably written during or after Nero’s persecution of believers in Rome. Hughes points out that the suggestion “that these particular Christians in Rome had avoided martyrdom in the Neronian persecution of A.D. 64 by associating themselves closely with the Jews and their synagogue worship” is unlikely. By this time Jews would not have been “antipathetic to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”[16]  Another factor in favor of the Rome destination is Hebrews connection with the book of 1 Clement, which contains the earliest reference to the book of Hebrews. 1 Clement was written from Rome.  In the final analysis, “apart from the reference to “those from Italy” (13:24), there is not much to suggest a Roman destination.[17] However, it has arisen as the main view for the destination of Hebrews.

Third, is Palestine or possibly Antioch. These seems the most natural destinations and should not be overlooked. Bruce sees the readers as Jewish believers who never knew or heard Jesus, and leaned of Him secondhand (cf. 2:3f).[18] In support, the author attempts to convince his readers not to revert back to participate in the Levitical sacrificial system subject in or near the Temple. I hold this view and that it was most likely written to the believing priest of Acts 6:7. It reports that “a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.” During this time, there were some 20,000 priests in the land of which it is reported that 7,200 were connected with the temple[19]. If only a small minority believed it would still be a goodly number. For example if the believing priests were:
                                    1%       = 200 priests
                                    2.5%    = 500 priests
                                    5%       = 1,000 priests
                                    10%     = 2,000 priests

The text in Acts is in the imperfect tense which expresses continuing growth and multiplication.[20] This means that whatever number the term great many indicate, it also indicates that it was a growing number. That this was written to these priests may be indicated by the following:
  • "Hebrew" in the New Testament has the meaning of a Palestinian Jew or a Jew with Palestinian roots, as opposed to a Hellenistic Jew (Acts 6:1; 2 Cor 11:22; Phil 3:5).
  • The priestly subjects in this epistle especially that of the High Priesthood of Christ supports this idea.
  • O’Brien notes the book’s “argument presupposes considerable familiarly with the Levitical ritual and interest in it.”[21] Who would know the Levitical ritual better than a priest?
  • Hebrews 5:12 could indicate a section within the assembly, not the whole assembly are addressed. Could this be a group of the priests, who had not fully comprehended the new truths of the gospel?
  • Hebrews 6:10 indicates some type of ministry by the readers.
  • If the book were written in the late 60’s, the hostile environment of coming war  would indicate the reason why the recipients are never identified. “The Jewish-Roman relations were strained to the point of war; [this] would be ample reason to protect former priests likely to be viewed by the Roman government as potential leaders in the Jewish cause.”[22]
  • Hebrews 10:32-34 indicates a former persecution; however details of the persecution are not given in the text. Hebrews 12:3-13 indicates they are presently undergoing some sort of persecution. The former persecution may well be the one as a result of Stephen’s stoning, and the present as that of the Romans leading up to the destruction of 70 AD. It fits well within this scope. They had not yet resisted unto the shedding of blood (Heb. 12:4).

Of the three proposals, the last seems most natural. I agree with Hughes that this is the “best theory yet advanced to explain the occasion and purpose of the Epistle to the Hebrews.”[23] Allen agues that by now these priests had fled persecution to Antioch[24] and it was the destination of the book. If Palestine is not the destination, Antioch is the next best place. One indicator that the Palestine over Antioch is the location the subject of the Sabbath rest, a practice which was banned in Antioch in 67-69 AD[25] (cf. Heb. 4:1-10). In addition, Hebrews 13:12-13 indicates that they are still in the land, and they are to now leave the land and the city and go outside the camp. Palestine is the best view.


No scholar denies that Hebrews was not written during the first century. There is no question that 1 Clement refers to the book of Hebrews. 1 Clement traditionally has been dated around 96 AD; however some recent studies suggest that it may have been written as early as 70-80 AD.[26] This means that Hebrews had to be written some time before the writing of 1 Clement. The best suggested date of Hebrews is before 70 AD, when Titus destroyed the city and the temple. There is no indication in Hebrews that the event had not yet taken place. If the destruction had taken place the preacher would have been strong argument for the end of the old covenant. In fact, Heb 8:4; 10:24 indicates the sacrificial system was still being practiced. It is also clear that the time references (5:12, 10:32) indicate a date that must allow some time between conversion and their present situation. It was written during the lifetime of Timothy (13:23). He became active in the work of the Lord around 49 AD, which indicates it was written sometime afterward. Hebrews 12:4, if it is a Palestine or Antioch destination, likely applies to the coming destruction of the city by Titus. If the Temple were destroyed by the time this was written, would it not be a strong argument for the passing away of the Old Covenant. Yet, this is not used, indicating the destruction had not taken place at the time of writing. The preponderance of evidence of the present tense when speaking of the sacrifices, the insistence of the passing away of the old order, and the failure to mention the destruction of Jerusalem favors a pre-70 AD date. It was written sometime between 49 and 70 AD; most prefer a date during the mid to late 60’s.


The purpose of Hebrews is both theological and dispensational. Stam observes correctly, that it was “to provide the solution to the believing Hebrews’ dilemma.”[27] The book of Hebrews offers a powerful argument for the transition in God’s plan from the old to the new dispensation. The dilemma was difficult. They had accepted Christ as their Messiah, yet the message of God was becoming more Gentile oriented. The big problem was change from a messianic kingdom message to a heavenly message of the church, which Paul identifies as a mystery (Eph. 3:1-10). Change causes a dilemma. Tenney points out that these readers belonged to a period of religious and social upheaval, being compelled to reorient themselves to a rapidly changing situation.[28] This was especially true of these Hebrews who are in or connected still to the synagogue and the temple. The letter was to reorient a community that has been disoriented by the chasm between the hope of the earthly fulfillment of the kingdom, the reality of suffering (both in the past and in the present), and the present ministry of Christ from heaven. To reorient these Hebrews from the former truth or old dispensation, the letter was to present truth of better things of the present dispensation. It was a warning not to turn backward, but press on and embrace the better truths in relation to Christ. The author writes to these readers to confirm that the dispensation of the Law had changed to the dispensation of Grace. To show them that the dispensational change had taken effect and they could not return to the old dispensation of shadows of the law. They failed to see the full significance of the incarnation; of the Abrahamic promise; and the importance of Grace. They are to go on to better things in Christ. To prepare them for the downfall and destruction of the old as indicated by coming events that would happen shortly in 70 AD.


The characteristic of Hebrews is not that so much as an epistle, but a sermon. Allen notes that the book of Hebrews “begins like a sermon, reads like a sermon, but concludes like an epistle.”[29] Note the following indicators of sermonic characteristics:
  • It is a word of exhortation (3:13; 10:25; 12:5; 13:13, 22). The same expression, “word of exhortation” is the same term to describe Paul’s sermon at Antioch (Acts 13:15). Exhortation is an appeal to faithfulness in spite of circumstances, problems, trials, and temptations. One of the key words used in the exhortations of Hebrews is “Let us” (4:1,11,14,16; 6:1-2; 10:22-24; 12:1,24; 13:15).
  • It is a word of instruction or exposition. It is a weaving together of exposition and exegesis. Its instruction centers on Christ Jesus as the Apostle and High Priest (3:1). It presents a majestic Christology and His present ministry from heaven.
  • It is a word of admonition. This is done by words of warning (2:1-4; 3:7-4:13; 5:11-6:20; 10:26-39; 12:14-29).

Stylistically Hebrews shows strong oral characteristics, even though it is written. This is seen by three major elements present in the book:[30]
·         The speaker identifies with the listeners using the first person (we, us, our) while authoritatively speaking to his audience.
·         The references are found to speaking and hearing thoughout the book (Heb. 2:5; 5:11; 11:32).
·         The strong balance between exposition and exhortation rotating throughout the book.

Constable shows how the preaching in the book is an alternation from exposition to exhortation. He gives the following chart to note the major changes: [31]

Ch 1
Ch 11
Chs. 12-13

Another major characteristic of Hebrews is its use of the Old Testament. Ellingworth says there can be little doubt that the Old Testament is the primary literary influence on the author.[32] It is said that it quotes, alludes to, and uses the O.T. more than any other book of the New Testament.[33] Cockerill calls the O.T., “the bone and marrow of Hebrews.”[34] It appears he uses or refers to a wide variety of the books of the O.T.[35] This is of no surprise since its readership is Jewish. There are 28 Old Testament quotations in Hebrews.[36] When quoted it is the LXX that is quoted, not the original Hebrew text. The vast influence of Hellenism during the first century seems to have made the LXX the translation of choice. Even Jesus and the Apostles quoted it. The opening (Heb. 1:1-4) immediately confronts the reader with Old Testament revelation, stating that it is how God “spoke” to his people. The author in use of the Old Testament prefers passages that are in the form of direct speech, speaking, rather than “it is written.”[37] The author emphasis is on the action of  God speaking and His speech. He always quotes the direct form (spoke, said, say, speaking, etc) when using the Old Testament. He uses the word wrote or written in reference to the Old Testament only once (Heb. 10:7), and uses it mostly of other writings (Heb. 12:23; 13:22). The author views the Old Testament as alive and the very voice of God. In its use “the author normally prefers to quote a passage in extenso, rather than to omit parts merely because they are not directly relevant to his theme.[38] His use of the O.T. is mainly Christological in nature. He does not refer to contemporary Judaism, but to the Old Covenant and priestly institutions as revealed in the Pentateuch. “Christ stands in continuity with this system by fulfilling it.”[39]

There is a strong emphasis on theological instruction, especially on Christology. It appears that the readers had an insufficient view of Christ and His work, grace, and the Abrahamic promise. Cockerill observes: “To practice the old before Christ was to anticipate his fulfillment, to practice it after, however, is to deny his sufficiency.”[40] The theme is on Christ being superior to the Old Testament ritualism—a ritualism that is coming to an end. Christ’s superiority is brought out by the continued use of the word “better,” indicating Christ is better than the angels, Moses, and Abraham. One of the greatest Christological statements in Scripture is Hebrews 1:3-4, which centers upon His person. Christ is the Son of God, the Savior, and exalted Lord. The letter also centers upon Christ as High Priest (8:1, 13:10), and is the author’s most distinctive contribution to Christology. The doctrine of Christ’s High Priesthood is the theological center of the epistle.[41] It is the main point (Heb 8:1). This High Priest is the Son (the title is used 12 times). MacLeod is right when he says, “The expository sections of Hebrews center on the doctrine of the high priesthood of Christ. The paraenetic [exhortation] sections, on the other hand, are dominated by the pilgrimage motif.”[42] Noticeably absent is the idea or doctrine of Christ as Head of the Church. A significant absence if Paul is the writer. He is writing or preaching to the nation of believing Jews, not the Gentiles. The epistle gives no indication that these are other than Hebrew believers.

Like their forefathers in leaving Egypt and who wanted to go back to Egypt, they expressed the same attitude and desires in relation to their ritual system and roots. Hebrews speak of dangers like those that their forefathers faced in the wilderness. These dangers have a three-fold expression:[43]
  • First, there are passive expressions denoting weariness in pursuing the devotion and progress in the faith (2:1; 4:1; 6:12; 10:19).  
  • Second, there are also in contrast expression that indicate possibility of active mutiny against God (Heb. 3:12; 6:6; 10:16).
  • Third, is outward pressure of trials (2:18; 4:15; 10:32). The writing thus warns them against disobedience like their forefathers that came out of Egypt (4:11) and refusing to listen to the voice of God (12:25).
These conditions expressed themselves because of their situation and being intimidated and the marginalization suffered because of the name of Christ (10:32-34). These admonitions help give the letter a strongly pastoral tone. A note of urgency and pastoral concern infuses the whole letter. Its design is to get them through the upheaval of the coming judgment on the nation Israel, the city of Jerusalem, and the temple. To move them from the weakness of ritualism to the maturity in Christ. They are to keep the faith.


Charles Savelle says there are five important contributions of Hebrews.
  • First, it offers high Christology.
  • Second, it marks an important argument for the transition from the old to the new dispensation.
  • Third, it reveals the challenges Jewish believers were facing during this time.
  • Fourth, it provides insight to the hermeneutical method of early believers.
  • Fifth, Hebrews shows what the early preaching was like.[44]


There are those who think that the study of Hebrews is not important. That dispensationally it has to do with Israel, not he Church, the body of Christ. However, there are important reasons to do so.

  • It tells how believing Jews are to leave the Jewish system and why, especially in the light of the coming end of the transition and the destruction of the Temple. It is given to the Hebrews to help them understand that the dispensation had changed.
  • It helps us understand the relationship of the Old Testament and the New Testament connecting the dots between the two.
  • Hebrews challenges us to live by faith and gives us practical examples from the past of those who did so.
  • It expands our understanding of Christology showing Christ as the true High Priest.
  • It exalts the person and work of Christ and prompts us to draw near to Him.

[1]  See Kistemaker, Simon J., NTC: HEBREWS, 13-14; Ellingworth, Paul, NIGTC: HEBREWS, 34-36; O’Brien, Peter T., PNTC: HEBREWS, 2-4, for more information.
[2]  Held by C.R. Stam, Henry Hudson, Robert C. Brock, J.A. Seiss, and William R. Newell.
[3]  Held by F. Delitzsch, David Allen.
[4]  Held by J.A.T. Robinson, Zane Hodges, Homer A. Kent, Jr.
[5]  Held by Harnack.
[6]  Held by Donald Guthrie, Luke Timothy Johnson, Paul Ellingworth, and Ray Stedman.
[7]  Held by William Hallman.
[8]  Held by J.M. Ford.
[9]  Marshall, I. Howard, Stephen Travis, Ian Paul, EXPLORING THE NEW TESTAMENT: A GUIDE TO THE LETTERS & REVELATION, 245.
[10]  Brock, Robert C., HEBREWS: VERSE BY VERSE, 2-3e
[11]  Brock, 209-212. Appendix 1 is a list of the 92. However, others like Ellingworth have just as impressive a list of terms that differ from Paul, 7ff.
[12]  Cockerill, Gareth Lee, TNCNT: HEBREWS, 6.
[13]  Kistemaker, 6.
[14]  Moffatt, J., ICC: THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS, xxiv-xxvi.
[15]  Ellingworth, Paul,  NTGTC: HEBREWS, 23.
[16]  Philip Edgeumbe Hughes, A COMMENTARY ON THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS, 17.
[17]  Hodges, Zane C., “Hebrews,” BIBLE KNOWLEDGE COMMENTARY, 778.
[18]  F.F. Bruce, ICNT: HEBREWS, xxx.
[19]   Allen, David, NAC: HEBREWS, B&H, 66.
[20]   Paterson, David G., PNTC: THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES, fn. 34, 236.
[21]   Peter O’Brien, PNTC: THE LETTER TO THE HEBREWS, 10.
[22]   Allen, 66.
[23]   Hughes, 14.
[24]   Allen, 70-74.
[25]   Ibid, 71-72.
[26]   Cockerill, 34, fn 142.
[27]   Stam, C.R., THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS, 29.
[28]   Tenney, Merrill, “A New Approach to the Book of Hebrews,” BIB-SAC, July 1966, 232.
[29]  Allen, 25. For a detailed presentation of Hebrews as a sermon, see Cockerill, 11-15.
[30]  O’Brien, 23.
[31]  Constable, Thomas, NOTES ON HEBREWS, 6. Although in the footnote he says there are short expositions (12:3-11; 12:18:24), however as a whole the genre is exhortation.
[32]  Ellingworth, 37.
[33]  Kistemaker, 10. He list 31 direct quotations on page 9-10.
[34]  Cockerill, 41.
[35]  Ellingworth, 38, points out that there is no evidence of Ruth, Esther, Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and some of the minor prophets
[36]  Cockerill, 41.
[37]  Ibid, 44.
[38]  Ellingworth, 40.
[39]  Cockerill, 21.
[40]  Ibid, 40.
[41]   MacLeod, David, “The Doctrinal Center of the Book of Hebrews,” BIBLOTHECA SACRA, July 1989, 293. This journal will be footnoted as BIB SAC from now on.
[42]  Ibid, 300.
[43]  Ellingworth, 78-79
[44]  Charles Savelle, “Five Contributions of the book of Hebrews,” November 1, 2010.