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Apostasy, Falling Out of the Church Hebrews 6.4-12 Exegesis

Apostasy, Falling Out of the Church Hebrews 6.4-12 Exegesis

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Published by John Marks Sanders

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Published by: John Marks Sanders on Oct 01, 2009
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11/07/2012

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Introduction
Of all the books that compile to make the New Testament, none are as unique as theEpistle to the Hebrews. In most cases when such a blanket statement is made, it is usually openfor debate or interpretation of the one making the statement, but Hebrews is truly unique. LeonMorris as well as numerous other theologians declares that “Hebrews’ subject matter isdistinctive and the picture it portrays of Jesus as man’s High Priest is its own but to see whowrote, to whom it was written, and why is not easily seen”
1
. The “Epistle to the Hebrews istoday the least known of the major New Testament writings”
2
and while some things can beobserved from the text, many things just aren’t known. From the text readers and scholars knowabout things such as the infamous “Hall of Faith” found in Chapter 11, the priestly imagery, andthe name of Melchizedek, but they are completely unaware of the specifics of what is going onoutside of the biblical text. As stated already, Hebrews is different in that the authorship, purpose and definite recipients are not known, but its content gives it authority. The “profundityof thought”
3
in the Epistle of Hebrews throughout the early church has been recognized asinspired by the Holy Spirit, giving it a significant place in the New Testament written to aspecific people in time and preserved for all today.
Historical Analysis (Recipients)
1
12. Morris Leon,
 Hebrews,
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids:Zondervan, 1981), 3.
2
11 Alexander Purdy and J. Harry Cotton,
 Hebrews,
The New Interpreter’s Bible(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1955), 577
3
12. Morris Leon,
 Hebrews,
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids:Zondervan, 1981), 31
 
2Even though no specifics are known as to whom the Epistle of Hebrews was written to,certain generalizations or characteristics can be gathered from God’s inerrant word about these people. By analyzing the style and words written by the author of Hebrews to the recipients of this letter, we can learn several things both about the author and the people to whom he iswriting. Morris writes that in the text there are “indications that it was meant for a restrictedcircle of readers, not the general public or even the general Christian public” for these recipientswas a group who ought to be teachers (5:12). The writer indicates that he knows them and looksforward to visiting them (13:19). He has a good opinion of them (6:9). He can ask for their  prayers (13:18) and give them news of their mutual friend Timothy (13:23). By looking at thetext one can glean that the Epistle must have been written to a specific group and even smallgroup for not everyone is called or should be expected to be a leader as the recipients of thisletter are charged to be in chapter 5. Just who is this group?Biblical scholars can ascertain aspirations of the author and characteristics of the group butwhich people or group could the Epistle of Hebrews be written to? Some scholars andtheologians “have thought that the recipients were a group of Jewish priests…maybe Essene of Qumran but such positions are scarcely tenable.”
4
All that can be certain is that they weremembers of the Christian community. Knowledge of being Jewish or Gentile Christians cannot be known but the requirement of each would have been the same and should be acknowledged ininterpreting the Epistle to the Hebrews.The purpose of this exegesis is to interpret Hebrews 6:4-12 using scholarly resources toreveal the sacredness of the Christian life and the danger of falling away in the Christian faith. Itis this precise point that the author of Hebrews was trying to convey to this small group of 
4
12. Morris Leon,
 Hebrews,
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids:Zondervan, 1981), 4
 
3leaders. The recipients were a close knit group, small in number. High expectations were placedon their shoulders, but they were to grow in their maturity and fullness of Christ and be a part of the Christian community and run from possible apostasy.
Lexical Analysis
In Hebrews 6:4, the word
impossible
(
adunaton)
carries significant weight in thisdiscussion of repentance after falling away from the Christian faith. In the context of this passage, it should be noted that “this word is placed first in the sentence, and so is emphatic.”
5
The author uses this word at three other points in Hebrews, proclaiming it is “impossible for Godto lie” (6:18), “impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (10:4), and“impossible to please God” apart from faith (11:6). The author’s use of the word here andelsewhere in the letter obviously means that something cannot happen. It is coupled with a verbmaking an absolute statement which cannot or will not happen.The next term to be specifically identified is the word
enlightened (
 photizo
)
 
that is alsofound in Hebrews 6:4. This word refers to people who have “had their eyes opened to theChristian God,”
6
but at a glance, some translators see this passage a referent to baptism. Morrissays that “this verb was often used of baptism in the second century. But it is not attested asearly as this, and so it is better to interpret the term in the light of the general usage wherebythose admitted to the Christian faith are brought to that light that is ‘the light of the world’ (John8:12).” The author’s use of 
enlightened
here in 6:4
 
also coincides with his use of it in 10:32,
5
Herschel H. Hobbs,
 Hebrews: Challenge to Bold Discipleship
(Nashville: BroadmanPress, 1971), 58
6
James Moffatt,
The Epistle to the Hebrews,
The International Critical Commentary(Edinburgh: T & T Clark LTD, 1986), 79

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