Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Priestly Order of Melchizedek - Ch. 7:1 - 8:13 (Unit 5/6)

I. Lesson Overview

A. Chapters 7 and 8 part of larger, meaty section of Hebrews decribed by Long as "The High Priesthood of Jesus: Advanced Course" (Long p. 80)

1. Divided into 5 sections. First 4 composed of claims about old priesthood followed by matching set of claims about new priesthood of Jesus.
2. Fifth section devoted to living and worshiping under the new covenant.

B. Chapters 7 and 8 devoted to comparing shortcomings of old levitical priesthood to Jesus new eternal priesthood which is likened to priesthood of Melchizedek.

II. Who Was Melchizedek

A. Two Old Testament References

1. Genesis 14:17-20
2. Psalm 110:4

B. Non-scriptural References

1. Dead Sea Scrolls - eschatological writing called 11 Q Melchizedek
2. Text found at Nag Hammadi (Egypt)
3. 2 Enoch 72 - rabbinic text of uncertain date
4. Writings of Flavius Josephus - first century Jewish historian
5. Writings of Philo Judaeus - Jewish theologian and philospher from Alexandria

C. Hebrews not written in a vacuum - Jewish readers would have been very familiar with Melchizedek

1. Long compares Melchizedek to ' We Three Kings' - "This 'homiletical Melchizedek' was something like the 'three kings' of countless Christmas pagaents, an amalgam of biblical material and popular piety." (Long p. 84)
2. Hard to tell how much Preacher's description of Melchizedek is from this lore or from his own thoughts.

III. Melchizedek, Who Resembles the Son of God (Ch. 7:1-3)

A. Melchizedek - is a forecast of things to come by virtue of his lack of lineage

1. Ancient jewish rabbis had a strict interpretation of the scriptures - all truth is in the scriptures. If it isn't in the scriptures, it didn't happen.
2. No mention of Melchizedek's lineage in OT - therefore by Jewish way of thinking he didn't have any, he was eternal.
3. Main point of all this is not about Melchizedek - but that the qualities in him (righeousness, peace, and timelessness) point to nature of Jesus. Further evidence that He is the one true eternal high priest.

IV. See How Great Melchizedek Is (Ch. 7:4-10)

A. Uses two pieces of Genesis story to prove point

1. The Blessings
2. The Tithes

B. The Blessings

1. Inferior is always blesssed by superior. Since Abram is blessed by Melchizedek it is clear that he is superior to the lofty father of the Jews.
2. "The Preacher" conveniently forgets several other accounts where the inferior blesses the superior (ex. David blessed by his servant Joab)

C. The Tithes

1. "The Preacher" makes the point that Jewish law commands Levitical priests to collect tithes
2. Therefore only possible explanation for Melchizedek's authority to collect tithes from Abram must be because he is "a priest forever."

V. The Imperfect Old Priesthood; the Need for a New (Ch. 7:11)

A. "The Preacher" switches from use of Genesis text to that of Psalms

1. Basically says no reason for author of Psalms to mention Melchizedek if there wasn't something inherently wrong about levitical priesthood.
2. Main argument is that you can not achieve perfection through it. Same points we've discussed previously...must continually offer sacrifices because of sinful nature

VI. The Son of God who Resembles Melchizedek (Ch. 7:13-25)

A. Jesus far different from levitical priests

1. Old priests by law (Numbers 1:47-54) must come from the tribe of Levi (Aaron was a Levite and the first priest of the Covenant after the exodus)
2. Jesus was from Judah
3. Old priests assumed office but did not take an oath.
4. God took an oath and appointed Jesus as priest forever
5. Old priests were many because they died and had to be replaced
6. Jesus lives forever.

VII. See How Great He Is (Ch. 7:26 - 8:6)

A. Great because of who he is...human lived perfect life without sin yet suffered and endured every temptation.

B. Great because of the source of his priestly commission. God ordained Jesus.

C. Great because of where he is.

D. Great because of the benefits of his ministry. His sacrifice fully mends the human spirit.

E. Great most of all because of the offering he brought as high priest...himself. "In other words, he brought as an offering to God nothing less than the fullness of the human condition perfected by his own obedience." (Long p.89)

VIII. Fault With the First Covenant, Need for a New (Ch. 8:7-12)

A. First Covenant not Effective

1. Based on obeying the law
2. Because of our sinful nature we are unable to obey the law. Are always falling short, being disobedient. Old convenant led to cycle of defeat and despair.

B. New Covenant

1. Language comes from Jeremiah 31:31-34
2. Laws of new covenant not written down but are in the hearts of the people.
3. New covenant based on bond...God's promise of mercy and forgiveness

IX. A New Covenant (Ch. 8:13) - doesn't go with old covenant. It replaces it.


Barclay, William. The New Daily Study Bible – The Letter to the Hebrews. London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002

Harrison, Everett F. Interpretation Bible Studies. Louisville: John Knox Press, 2008

Long, Thomas G. Hebrews, Interpretation – A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1997

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Unit 5 - (Part 1) Ch. 4:14 - Ch. 6:20

I. Holding Fast and Praying Boldly (Ch. 4:14-16)

A. "Preacher" returns to 'parabola of salvation'. Has discussed this twice previously for different reasons.
1. Ch. 1:1-4 - purpose was to give congregants confidence that God was in-charge despite the appearance of chaos going on all around them.
2. Ch. 2:5-18 - purpose was to give congregants hope. Jesus is able to help those who are being tested because he has 'been there, done that'.
3. This third time his goal is to encourage his congregants to engage in bold, even audacious prayer (4:16 - "approach the throne of grace with boldness").

B. Confident Prayer
1. Not a matter of technique
2. Built upon how we perceive our relationship with God
3. "...bold prayer is an expression of theological trust; the practice of prayer rests on what we believe about God and God's relationship to us." (Long p. 64)
4. Must approach God in prayer with awe. Humans (because of our sinful nature) are unworthy to approach God. It is only because of Jesus' sacrifice that we are able to do so. Jesus is our "great high priest" who opens up the way to God.

II. Jesus and the Job Description of High Priest (Ch. 5:1-10)

A. Three Provisions for Job of High Priest - "Preacher" shows how Jesus is superior in all 3 areas.
1. The Function of the High Priest
2. The Person of the High Priest
3. The Appointment of the High Priest

B. The Function of the High Priest
1. Function as mediator between God and man.
2. Function as messenger of salvation.
3. Jesus greater than human, levitical priests in two ways
a. Not just mediator (presenting peoples sacrifices) for salvation, he offered himself as the source of salvation
b. Old human priests had to keep going back to sins required new sacrifices to be made. In contrast the salvation provided by Jesus' high priesthood is eternal.

C. The Person of the High Priest
1. In addition to liturgical duties also serves as pastor
2. "Preacher" shows Jesus is superior as pastor. "Jesus, like the old priests, was fully human, but unlike them his humanity did not erode into despair, loss of faith, and sin." Thus, Jesus knows the pain of being human and "is compassionate toward those who have lost sight of the truth that they are God's very own children." (Long p. 68)

D. The Appointment of the High Priest
1. High Priests do not 'volunteer' for the postion. Rather, are called by God.
2. Likewise, Jesus was called by God to not only be our High Priest but also to be his Son.
3. Jesus appointment as High Priest was not for a lifetime, but forever.

III. The Preacher as Crafty Teacher (Ch. 5:11 - Ch. 6:12)

A. Too Dull to Get It (5:11-14)
1. Tells them they are like babes, too immature to understand deeper christological lessons
2. Doesn't really mean it, just trying to motivate them to rise to the challenge.

B. No Turning Back (6:1-8)
1. To advance one must move beyond basic teachings about Christ
a. Need for Repentance and Faith
b. Meaning of Baptism
c. Laying on of Hands
d. Promise of the Resurrection
e. Final Judgement
2. Only Two Directions - Forward or Backward
a. Forward - maturing becoming deeper in faith
b. Backward - lazy. can easily succumb to temptation and be pulled away from Christ's promise.
3. Then makes scary statement. Possible to lose salvation by backsliding.
a. Long suggests the "Preacher" is expressing a practical frustration in ministry (people who fall away are not likely to return) vs. an absolute claim that God's grace has limits.

C. Prize Students (6:9-12)
1. Whereas at the beginning of the section he was chastizing them for being immature and dull in their faith, now just a few verses later he is praising them for being prize students.
a. The "Preacher" wants to supply encouragment
b. Encourages them to be "imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (6:12)
2. Begs two questions
a. Who are they to imitate?
b. What are the promises?
3. Imitate Whom?
a. Abraham, or
b. Whole host of people who have been faithful to God's calling throughout history
c. Their own contemporaries who are leading a faithful life
d. Long thinks the "Preacher" means all of the above
4. What Promises?
a. Specific promises...a great and blessed nation, or land flowing with milk and honey, or
b. More general promise..."Follow the path of obedience and faith and I will bring you to a place of rest and joy."

IV. The Sure and Steady Promises of God (Ch. 6:13-20)

A. God Swears (6:13-18)
1. Passage based on old oral tradition of oath taking.
2. Ultimate guarranty one was telling the truth was to make an oath in Yahwey's name.
3. Hebrew law condoned this practice (Deut. 6:13)
4. God has promised and sworn an oath on his own name. Double guarranty.

B. Hope: The Anchor of the Soul (6:19-20)
1. Christian hope is anchored by God's promise and oath, the unshakeable reliability of God.


Barclay, William. The New Daily Study Bible – The Letter to the Hebrews. London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002

Harrison, Everett F. Interpretation Bible Studies. Louisville: John Knox Press, 2008

Long, Thomas G. Hebrews, Interpretation – A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1997

Splitting Unit 5


After reading the text for Unit 5 I've decided it would be best to split it into two parts. Thus, tomorrow (9/13) I will be prepared to discuss Ch. 4:14 - Ch. 6:20.

We'll cover Ch. 7 either by itself or combine it with Ch. 8 (Unit 6). We can decide what makes the most sense tomorrow.

I'll post my notes for tomorrow's lesson later this afternoon.


Saturday, September 5, 2009


Just a reminder to all that we will be continuing our discussion of Unit 4 this week. Last week we had a very good discussion but only got through the first 6 verses. This week we will pick up where we left off. We'll start with Hebrews 3:7 and go through 4:13.