Sunday, April 17, 2016

Hebrews, Overview

Godsway 66, Book 58 - Hebrews

Hebrews is a New Testament book that is difficult to classify.  Traditionally, it is included in the epistles, the many letters preserved in the Bible.  However, it is missing key parts for any letter, notably a sender and a receiver.  So others have argued that it is a sermon.

Regardless, it is a serious theological work that attempts to explain the theological meaning of Jesus.  Unlike the Gospels, where the meaning of Jesus is explored through the story of his life, Hebrews uses the theology of the Jewish Temple to understand Jesus.  Often, this is done by paralleling Jesus to a Jewish high priest in the Temple.

Both of these individuals serve as necessary mediators -- go-betweens -- allowing the people to reach out to God.  Only the high priest was allowed to go into the most sacred place in the Temple, the Holy of Holies (and then, only once each year); now Jesus can go into the most sacred place imaginable, heaven itself.  The high priest offered a sacrifice each year atoning for the sins of all Jewish people; Jesus was himself a sacrifice for the sins of all people.

There are important differences, though.  Jesus is establishing a new, perfect covenant between God and God's people.  As part of this new covenant, Christians live in a new way, exemplified by Jesus.  They are to offer love and peace in the world, and bear suffering and trials.