The final chapter of the book of Hebrews combines pastoral encouragement for believers under stress and reminders about the superiority of Jesus against what their persecutors were offering. This episode wraps up our book study by highlighting how the writer blends his final appeal for faithfulness with encouragement for both the laity and the leadership in troublesome times.
Hebrews 12 follows on the heels of the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11. That’s important because heeding that context (and that of the rest of the book of Hebrews) will prevent us from taking certain things in Hebrews 12 out of context. The writer doesn’t follow the “hall of faith” with a treatise on how moral imperfection (sin) will result in keeping someone out of the kingdom of God. And yet many readers lapse into that thinking in this chapter. In this episode we read Hebrews 12 in light of Hebrews 11—and other preceding passages in the book—to reaffirm that salvation is about something done for us, not something we do, and about the obedience of Jesus, not our own obedience.
Many Christians refer to Hebrews 11 as the “hall of faith.” The label is appropriate, but the chapter raises questions. Why did the Old Testament individuals listed in Hebrews 11 “make the cut”? Was there something extraordinary about them? This episode explores the relationship of this famous passage to its far less famous context: Heb 10:35-39. Those in the “hall of faith” are not there because they were shining examples of moral purity, or because they never had doubts about what God was doing, or because they weren’t tested. Rather, they are there because they all held fast to faith—they did not “shrink back” from their believing loyalty in what God had promised. Hebrews 11 illustrates that we must have faith in what God has done for us, not our performance.
Hebrews 10 wraps up the author’s discourse on the superiority of the high priesthood of Jesus—a theme begun in chapter five. The chapter revisits how the Torah’s system of sacrifices could not take away sin as it was a shadow of things to come. The author references earlier high points of how Jesus is superior to Torah dealt with earlier. The entire second half of the chapter, though, focuses once more on the chief concern of the author—the reason he keeps telling his audience about the superiority of Jesus to the Mosaic Law—the need to keep believing the gospel so as to not “shrink back” to dependence on their obedience to law (merit-based performance) for salvation.
Karen Jobes article:
There is much discussion online at this time of year as to the presumed pagan origins of Christmas. December 25, we are told, was a date stolen from pagan worship, specifically from the festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Sun” (Sol Invictus)? Should Christians have Christmas trees? Aren’t trees pagan objects of worship? How should Christians think about, and respond to, such questions? Do these questions have any relationship to the content of Scripture? Listen to find out.
Links and sources:
William Tighe, “Calculating Christmas: The Story Behind Dec 25” Touchstone Magazine (December, 2003)
Thomas J. Talley, The Origins of the Liturgical Year (The Liturgical Press, 1991)
Aaron Gleason, “How Christmas Baptizes Norse Mythology into Powerful Christian Archetypes,” The Federalist (December 15, 2017)
Origin of the names of the Days
Jewish month names from Babylon
In his ninth chapter, the writer of Hebrews continues with his theme of the superiority of Christ over the Levitical sacrifices and priesthood. In chapter 8 he had referred to the “heavenly tent,” where Jesus was seated “at the right hand of majesty” subsequent to offering himself to provide salvation. In Hebrews 9, the focus of this episode, the sacrifice of Christ is described as an atonement superior not only to the sacrificial system broadly conceived, but specifically to the Day of Atonement ritual.
The writer of Hebrews has, to this point, put forth the idea that Jesus is superior to Moses, Melchizedek, the Aaronic / Levitical Priesthood, and the angels. In this chapter he adds another point of comparison—the Mosaic covenant. The work of Jesus on the cross, his accession to the heavenly throne as great high priest, and the subsequent coming of the Spirit (who is identified with Jesus in the NT) are superior to the Torah covenant and its inability to save. This episode focuses on the use of how the writer of Hebrews telegraphs Christ’s superiority to the Mosaic covenant through his use of Old Testament New Covenant prophecies.
Scholarly Works recommended by Dr. Heiser:
use code NAKEDBIBLE7 at checkout
- The Watchers in Jewish and Christian Traditions
- The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English
- Hermeneia: 1 Enoch 1: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch, Chapters 1–36; 81–108
- Hermeneia: 1 Enoch 2: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch, Chapters 37–82
- The Book of Giants from Qumran: Texts, Translation, and Commentary
- Introducing the Apocrypha: Message, Context, and Significance
- Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible
- The Context of Scripture (3 vols.)
- Ancient Near Eastern Texts
- New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (5 vols.)
- New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (5 vols.)
- The IVP Bible Dictionary Series (8 vols.)
- Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: New Testament (4 vols.)
- Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Old Testament (5 vols.)
- International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) (1979–1995) (4 vols.)
Video (Mobile Ed) Courses:
- Mobile Ed: BI291 The Apocrypha: Witness between the Testaments (8 hour course) by David A. deSilva
- Biblical Languages: Foundational Certificate Program
- Mobile Ed: OT302 Book Study: Genesis (9 hour course)
- Mobile Ed: LA161 Learn to Use Biblical Greek with Logos 6 (12 hour course) by Johnny Cisneros
- Mobile Ed: LA151 Learn to Use Biblical Hebrew with Logos 6 (12 hour course) by Michael S. Heiser
- Mobile Ed: Darrell Bock Bundle (4 courses)
Our final set of interviews at SBL includes discussions with Tim Mackie from The Bible Project, and we learn about opportunities for biblical studies education in the UK from Dr. Matthew Lynch, a scholar in the UK familiar with the podcast and Mike’s work.
In our second set of interviews from SBL in Boston, we talk with Ben Giffone about how to earn an advanced degree without going into debt, teaching overseas, and his own interest in Unseen Realm content and Israelite religion. We also chat with John Schwandt, director of Mobile Education for Logos Bible Software (Faithlife). John and Mike talk about the unique benefits of Mobile Ed courses and how they are a great tool for anyone interested in learning Scripture and theology from some of the country’s best professors — all without uprooting your life and incurring debt.
Mike and Trey once again traveled to Boston for the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL). In this first set of conference interviews include getting caught up with David Burnett, now in his first semester of doctoral work at Marquette University. We also chat with Marina Westerdahl, a former student of Mike’s at Knox Seminary about to begin doctoral work in Old Testament. Marina’s research interests involve the divine council. Lastly, we visit with Sam Lamerson, professor of New Testament at Knox Seminary and fellow traveler with Mike in helping Christians think well about the paranormal.