Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Probably my favorite New Testament book...

... would be the book of Hebrews, or as Phillips calls it, the "Letter to Jewish Christians." Back in the '80s, I decided to spend one year in it: Every day in January that year, I read through Hebrews chapter 1. In February, chapter 2, and so on. Even today I can give you random quotes from various places in the book, though I can no longer remember which chapter they're from.

What's so cool about this book? Well, first, it doesn't begin with any kind of prologue or salutation, which makes me wonder if the first page went missing or something. Then we see right away how much the author loves talking about how great Jesus is. Greater than the angels (chapter 1, which was yesterday's New Testament reading), greater than creation (chapter 2), greater than Moses (chapter 3), etc. And then there is the way the author takes verses from the Old Testament and attributes them to Jesus, as
Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says,
"I will declare your name to my brothers;
in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises."
Hebrews 2.11-12
This is from Psalm 22, which, well, come to think of it seems like a foreshadowing of Messiah Jesus. But take verse 13:
And again, "I will put my trust in him." And again he says,"Here am I, and the children God has given me."
That's a quote from Isaiah 8.17-18. What's that about? So here's the deal. If you look back in Isaiah, the next thing he says is, We are signs and symbols in Israel (Isaiah 8.18). That's the clue: they are signs and symbols, what some people call "types," shadows cast before the real thing appears.

To me, Hebrews is the most typological book in the New Testament. Well, so what? I mentioned all this because the first few dozen times (:^>) I read one of these chapters, I tended to think the author's interpretation "magical" in some way. And it's not magical. Sure, he/she was guided by the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit still speaks today, and so one can imagine interpreting the Old Testament typologically today -- as some commentators and seminary profs do today.

As far as what I wish you and I would remember from today's reading...

For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tempted in what he suffered, he is able to come to the aid of those who are being tempted.
Hebrews 2.17-18
First, someone told me that "what is not assumed cannot be redeemed." That is, Jesus took on (assumed) the form of a human so that he could redeem humans. I guess this is the verse where that idea comes from.

Second, and this is the part I find encouraging about this chapter, is that whatever I'm going through is something he's gone through too, and he's available to help.

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