Exegesis Essay Hebrews 12: 1-3 Peter Roberts

Introduction to back ground The background to which the letter was written seems to be Jewish Christians who are under persecution and maybe in serious danger of apostasy. But in saying that there is enough evidence to suggest that many of the illustrations given could be understood by Jewish and Gentile readers alike.1 It seems the strongest argument for Jewish readership is the various uses of rabbinical practices in the interpretation of the book of Hebrews.2 Vos suggests that the readership could not have been Jewish because of the elementary things that must be taught again (Hebrews 6:1-2; 9:14). He argues that Jews would have already known those ³elementary´ truths.3 Vos sees the acts that lead to death or ³dead works´ that must be left behind attributed to gentiles. However as Trotter points out, the writer is as much concerned about the ³dead works´ of Judaism (Hebrews 8:5, 9:23 and 10:1)4. The elementary things are about Christ and they would still be elementary to Jews. And it is about Christ that our text is concerned with, the author and protector of our faith. There is no doubt that this letter is written to a particular group of people, as seen in 13:245, and while a Jewish audience cannot be proven, it is our understanding that it was the most likely option and a better way of interpreting Hebrews 12:1-3. Therefore we find this concept in Hebrews 12:2 where the writer draws on a traditional view of ³seated at the right hand of God´ (Psalm 110:1) and the historical survey of Hebrews 11 that Hebrews 12:1 uses as
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Ellingworth, Paul. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Michigan : Eerdmanns, 1993. 24-25. Trotter, Andrew, H. Jr. Interpreting the Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997. 29. Vos, G. The teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Eugene, Origen: Wepf and Stock, 1998. 18 (Trotter 1997, 30) (Ellingworth 1993, 26)

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6 The theme of perseverance is highlighted through 12:1-13. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic . 637) Attridge. 365 (Ellingworth 1993. Word Biblical Commentary: Hebrews 9-13. 1-3) B A Explanation of the role of suffering (vv. 2002 (Word Biblical Commentary 47B). 1984. William L. has a literary pattern (Vanhoye) that is similar to other homiletical complexes in Hebrews.J. 1989. H.W. Dallas : Word. Literary context Page | 2 We are called to persevere in the faith using a series of examples taken from the history of God¶s people.1-3) also introduces and summarises chapter 11:1-40 and is followed by a citation of scripture. S. The Epistle to the Hebrews Philadelphia: Fortress Press. moving from historical canvas of faith and perseverance of Hebrews 11 to personal application and pastoral exhortation in chapter 12. The following chiastic structure is an example:7 A A Call to run with endurance (vv. Incorporated.9 The emphasis of verse put on Jesus the perfecter of our faith is seen in Horning¶s chiastic structure of Hebrews 12:1-2: 6 Kistemaker.8 We quickly move from using the third person in chapter 11:1-40 to using the verb in the first or second person. 354 7 8 Lane. which in turn is followed by an explanation of the image of that scripture. Hebrews.12-13) Our pericope (vs. 4-11) A call to renew commitment to endure (vv. 403 9 . The reader is being exhorted to persevere in the will of God (10:36) and in our perseverance we are not without witness or example.Exegesis Essay Hebrews 12: 1-3 Peter Roberts examples of why Christian Jews and all who would read these verses should persevere. S.

:297 (Man 1084-2002. Thus the chiasm with its central element emphasizes Jesus as the One who is the Model of the patient endurance God desires from believers." Bibliotheca Sacra (Dallas Theological Seminary) 141 (1084-2002): 146-154.´11 Verse 1 The introduction of this new section is developed by a change in genre and mood.´ 2:10. The second half develops the example of Jesus which believers are to follow: His patient endurance (C¶).Exegesis Essay Hebrews 12: 1-3 Peter Roberts Therefore we. which is parallel to the patient endurance enjoined of them in the first half (C). The previous section was composed entirely 10 Man. The previous chapter (11:1-40) was mainly historical. D¶ who for the joy that was set before him C¶ patiently endured a cross B¶ despising shame A¶ and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. this center point changes the focus of the passage from ³we´ in the first half to Jesus in the second. 12:2) and (³Pioneer´ or Page | 3 (³Forerunner.´ 6:20) fits the theme. they are not expected to ³go it alone. The single central element (E) The portrayal of Jesus as ³Pathfinder. Ronald E.10 As Hornung points out. A having seated around us such a cloud of witnesses B setting aside every weight and every clinging sin C with patient endurance D let us run the race that is set before us E keeping our eyes on Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of the faith. chapter (12:1) introduces a pastoral exhortation. "The Value of Chiasm for New Testament Interpretation. 297-298) 11 .

6:1ff. 403) Girdwood. This occurs. 637) (Ellingworth 1993. 10:19ff. therefore as in 1 Thessalonians 4:8. 4:14ff. again there is a brief return to the ³we´ language²a language of identification²which has surfaced regularly throughout the letter (2:1ff. 637) (Guthrie 1983. witnesses and an example to those who competing in this glorious race. then. Heb 12:1) (Guthrie 1983. 248) (Girdwood and Verkruyse 1997..Exegesis Essay Hebrews 12: 1-3 Peter Roberts in the indicative mood. with . this unit is marked by the use of the imperative and the hortatory subjunctive12 This literary structure brings the reader into the picture painted in chapter 11 where on the basis of those that preserved in faith ³Therefore´ we are exhorted to endure. 398) 15 16 17 18 19 20 . but common in the Greek bible. it becomes emphatic where modifies . 8:1. says Lane.15 Now the focus is brought into the present.13 and it gives emphasis being placed at the beginning of the sentence. 392) (Lane 2002.18 passive have around oneself.17 Note that the writer identifies himself with those who are competing.19 When a word is torn out of its natural context and made more independent it becomes emphatic. 1997 (The College Press NIV Commentary). Verkruyse..16 ³we also´ is emphatic. (inferential particle) for that very reason. figuratively speaking or have something placed around oneself ³bound´ (Acts 28:20) literally having spread about us. 248) (Westcott 1977.14 Ellingworth says that this is irregular in classical Greek.. Hebrews. 20 Page | 4 12 (Lane 2002. James. : College Press. be surrounded by. Heb 12:1 14 13 (Ellingworth 1993. Peter. Joplin.. Mo. the past are spectators. 10:39). ³Therefore´ connects what is to come with the previous chapter. S.

to keep going. Chicago: The Moody Bible Intstitute . but not as mere spectators.30 Girdwood says that 21 Page | 5 (Brown 1961.23 They are witness that tell us the meaning of struggling and who bear testimony to the certainty of success (2timothy 2:5). 374. it is not so much that they look to us. burden´ this word is emphasized by its position. 25 MacArthur likes to see these great witnesses as motivation. ³so many´ or ³ so great´ a number that have triumphed through faith that they are uncountable. 683) 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 . 248-249) McArthur. John. they will run.24 But the question is in what sense are they called ³witnesses´? These witnesses watch from the stands of a mighty arena. that as creatures of flesh we need motivation and encouragement. faithful ³witness. they are called to inspire us on to the finish. it does not have defined boarders. Scott. 26 Yet they are not there to have us compete or run. 408) Souza. (Souza 1999-2003. The thought is of an athlete stripping clothing that may hinder his performance. 108) (Guthrie 1983.22 The witnesses are called a ³cloud of Witnesses. 398) (Ellingworth 1993. This is the second time this structure happens in verse 1 where modifies . 29 ³so great.366-367) (Bruce 1990.´ are emphatic. for the race we run concerns the cause of Christ and the gospel. all who belong to Christ will compete. 1983. as with it becomes emphatic. 2) a spectator. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Hebrews. They are there to cheer us on to persevere.´ Souza says that this Greek word for cloud is one that never ends. but we look to them. (Kistemaker 1984." Reformation and Revival Ministries 8 (1999-2003): 108. 333) (Lane 2002 . 601) (Lane 1991. ³excess weight. "Consider Him. they testify to an active. 21 But there is a clear association of witnesses as martyrs as can also be seen in chapter 11.Exegesis Essay Hebrews 12: 1-3 Peter Roberts ³cloud of witnesses´ Brown sees two meanings to these witnesses 1) a person who give testimony. 27 Bruce is probably right to suggest that they are ³witnesses´ not in the sense of spectators but in the sense that the endurance of their own race or life bears testimony to certainty of faith.28 ³weight. The expressions .´ and .

F Bruce says. it weighs the body down and hinders your ability to run. but he points to Sin ³ ´ itself. 371) (Kistemaker 1984.Sin´ despite the use of the definite article and the verbal objective between the definite article between the nouns..35 It points to something that surrounds and constricts the runner. 10:2) these all effect the Christian¶s ability to persevere or endure until the end of the ³race. 9:9.33 It is ³the Sin´ itself that we need to avoid. cf.´31 Page | 6 ³Laying aside all/ every´ we are to lay aside or throw off everything that hinders. the writer does not indicate a particular sin or the nature of this sin. (as well as the feelings of guilt which accompany it. 336) (Trotter 1997. 140) (Brown 1961. 607) (Kistemaker 1984.32 ³the «.Exegesis Essay Hebrews 12: 1-3 Peter Roberts this is a metaphor that describes the effect of sin on the body. Brown sees even non sinful actions that may even be praiseworthy as entangling the Christian from running with diligence. it weighs us down. Heb 12:1) ( Brown 1961.36 It seems to be there to help the reader focus on the word ³ ´ (sin as the weight that restricts us as we run). ³it defies easy translation´. 14.37 This view may be fuelled by Vaccari¶s understanding of this word (Bib 39 (1958) 473-77. 607-608) 32 33 34 35 36 37 . But it is sin ³ ´ that is particularly identified. He translates: ³Let us also « set aside every encumbrance and superfluous equipment. Trotter suggests this term might have been coined to avoid having to use an entire phrase as an adjective.34 ³easily entangling´ This word is difficult to translate or as F. and run the race this is other 31 (Girdwood and Verkruyse 1997 . and RevistB 6 (1958) 235-41). entangles us and prevents us from competing effectively. 367) (Bruce 1990.

. not competing against others. 398. 1998. 378-379) 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 .Exegesis Essay Hebrews 12: 1-3 Peter Roberts than sin.´ ³prescribed.40 The emphasis is that the Christian will complete the race. George H. 9:24 ff. 2:16. 9:16. Jesus becomes the ultimate 38 (Lane 2002. it is sin that entangles and all that can be related to sin. 20:24. 2:2. 639) (Westcott 1977. 4:7. 41 The image of the race is common in St Paul: 1 Cor. ³set before us´ a participle that linguistically may be understood to define the race as ³laid out. and we have been exhorted to put off all that hinders that sin that easily entangles and run the race set before us.398) (Guthrie 1983. Phil. 396) Guthrie. 39 Page | 7 ³let us run with perseverance´ this is the positive side of shedding of the unassay burdens of sin. and problems associated with the conjecture indicate that must be the more genuine reading.´ ³appointed. we have seen their faith under trials and tribulations. finish. Compare Acts 13:25. 2 Tim. 249) (Ellingworth 1993. they cheer us forward and our eyes are fixed on Jesus as we run.46 But we are not to look back at this great cloud and be distracted. 399) (Ellingworth 1993. Rom. 398) (Lane 2002. 3:12. 639) (MacArthur 1983. no. Hebrews.´ This has also been accepted by Vanhoye¶s 38 considerations of context. we 43 need to have sustainable effort that can go the distance. Gal.´ ³ahead.42 The race is in this text is more of a marathon rather than a sprint as seen in the phrase ( ) ³persevere´. 45 Verse 2 We have been encouraged by the cloud of great witnesses.´44 This race has been put before all believers in Jesus Christ.´ or alternatively as ³lying before. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. We are not just competing in a race or any race but a particular event set before us. (Lane 2002 .

56 Therefore (faith) is an 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 (Westcott 1977. Hebrews 11:39. 379) (Kistemaker 1984. 55 also has the idea of completeness.53 He is also the one who not only begins our faith but also brings it to a successful conclusion.49 We need to look to Jesus and away from distractions.We are then exhorted to look to Jesus who is that fulfillment and the promise. 371) (Souza 1999-2003. he is the champion. to Him every eye should be turn while we look away from other distractions.47 We also see the fulfillment of something better. You could translate as author.50 Kistemaker notes that the name of Jesus is introduced so the reader will concentrate on his earthly life.Exegesis Essay Hebrews 12: 1-3 Peter Roberts encouragement he is the author and perfecter of this enduring faith. (Jesus) is the chief witness our eyes are to be on Him who is above the cloud of witness. perfector. we will see everything clearly if our eyes are on Him. it emphasises the fact that Jesus is the very essence of completeness and perfection. leader. 398) (Souza 1999-2003. to be fulfilled. 111-112) (Lane 1991. 412) (Trotter 1997. faith´ we look to Jesus because he is the founder and perfecter of our faith. implies priority or preeminence in the exercise of faith precisely because of Jesus¶ supremacy in bringing faith to complete realization and giving it a perfect basis through his suffering. 376) (Kistemaker 1984. 396) (Kistemaker 1984. 378) (Guthrie 1998.54 This understanding helps to clarify the significance of . 111) (MacArthur 1983. Page | 8 ³to fix one¶s eyes´ this compound present active participle from (away) and aw ((I see) signifies that we should look to (Jesus 48 ) and not be distracted. those that are the great cloud of witnesses did not yet receive the promise. Hebrews 11:40. 142) 56 .51 The writer does not put Jesus among the heroes of the faith from chapter 11.52 ³founder. forerunner and initiator. but gives him special prominence above all else.

62 Jesus endured the cross and was obedient unto death even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8). but not elsewhere. and in 12:1. 640-641) (Lane 1991. It was also God¶s will to crush him and afterward he would see fulfillment and joy (Isaiah 53:10. 57 ³Instead of´ should be given a substitutionary sense ³instead of.64 Jesus is the subject of endurance as despised the shame of the cross65 To Jews there was particular shame to dying on a cross (Deuteronomy 21:23).´ ³in place of´. 66 57 58 (Ellingworth 1993. Jesus took the burden to the cross on himself. 338) 65 (Attridge 1989.63 Page | 9 ³a cross. A punishment that was given to those considered subhuman.60 ³endured´ In Hebrews the noun . The cross here is not metaphoric as in ³take up your cross daily´ (Luke 9:23) but this is clearly an historical reference to His death on a literal cross. 612) 64 (Bruce 1990. It underscores the fortitude of faith demonstrated in the choice that Jesus made58 ³ joy´ set before´ It is hard to understand joy and suffering being uttered in the same breath. 641-642) . Yet at the eve of Jesus¶ death Jesus spoke of his joy and anticipation. 250-251) (Kistemaker 1984. his desire to go to the cross (John 15:11. shame ´ To die on a cross was not only a terrible way to die.´ is used in the formal announcement of the subject in 10:36. we look to Jesus who is the beginning and end the completion of faith. 357) 66 (Ellingworth 1993. 642) (Brown 1961. ³endurance. despise.59 This joy was because Jesus was doing the will of the Father. Psalm 16:11. not a series of propositions. 17:13). 405) 62 63 (Ellingworth 1993. 368) 61 (Lane 1991.Exegesis Essay Hebrews 12: 1-3 Peter Roberts attachment to Jesus. but it was also the lowest depth of disgrace. God destined a path of suffering for Jesus (Isaiah 53: 4-6).61 This is a positive action not a passive endurance. 413) 59 60 (Guthrie 1983. Acts 2: 28).

68 The author also alludes once again to Psalm 110:1: ³sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet¶. 116-123) 72 (Kistemaker 1984. 369) 69 (Kistemaker 1984. resurrection and ascension. Souza takes this consideration to the whole life of Jesus. from the early life in his ministry. Jesus has triumphed for believers. The author wants to convey the permanence of Christ¶s victory.73 ³by sinners against himself´ His endurance was against sinners. according to the context was beyond verbal hostility or abuse. and now we see Jesus at the right hand of God. The death. up to his death. the writer provides us with a complete picture of Calvary.71 The use of the definite article directs our attention to Jesus in verse 2. 72 ³hostility´ an accusative noun.67 The result is glorification. 616) .74 Jesus was exposed to the opposition from sinful men. murderous hostility that began at the beginning of his ministry (Matthew 12: 14. 70 The writer does this by making the switch from first person ³we´ to the imperative making it more urgent. it is in the perfect active indicating Jesus endured opposition in the past. manuscripts favor the reading 67 68 Page | 10 (Ellingworth 1993. he came to his own but his own did not receive him (John 17:14). it was physical. 369) 70 (Kistemaker 1984. and the focus of consideration is what Jesus had to endure. 369) 75 (Brown 1961. 242) (Kistemaker 1984. but he endured it 75 . 369) 71 (Souza 1999-2003. 123) 74 (Kistemaker 1984.Exegesis Essay Hebrews 12: 1-3 Peter Roberts ³and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God´ It is finished.69 Verse 3 ³consider´ We are called by the writer of Hebrews to consider Christ. 371-372) 73 (Souza 1999-2003. but that even in the present the effects are evident. 26: 4) and continued till they crucified Him. It seems there is dispute over this word. Jesus came to fulfil messianic prophesies.

they will also be ³richly rewarded´ (10:35). our salvation. the purpose of this clause and subjunctive is to consider Jesus in order that you will not ³become weary´ ingressive aorist.Exegesis Essay Hebrews 12: 1-3 Peter Roberts however the reading of the reflexive pronoun in the singular. because he endured. the sinless Son of God. because we have Jesus who has done it. and direction.76 ³in order. 79 Conclusion This letter to the Hebrews is pastoral. His example is proof to the readers that if they too endure. We are called in the trails of the Christian faith to endure. Heb 12: 3) . gives the idea of fainting or giving up. and run the race. 379) 80 (Brown 1961. 77 It seems that many are being persecuted by unbelievers and they are losing heart. The Christian should take courage and do not become weary and become faint or give up your despairing souls. Our greatest example in perseverance is Jesus Christ. who exposed himself to sinful man that he might do the will of him who sent him and accomplish. must be construed with the participle. In the same way we are called to resist. do not. 400) 78 (Guthrie 1998. Page | 11 76 77 (Kistemaker 1984. to keep our eyes on Jesus who accomplished the ultimate goal. grow weary. warnings. although poorly supported by manuscripts. 616-617) 81 (Girdwood and Verkruyse 1997. 400) 79 (Kistemaker 1984. 81 This exulted position of Jesus Christ enables us to persist and endure and to be faithful to God and his word. fits the context of the passage. throw off. not the verb. 372) (Lane 1991. with all perseverance and when the going is tough consider him who endured to the end for us.80 Yet. faint´. and finish all that God prepared in advance for him. with encouragement. Jesus sat down at the right hand of God.78 ³your souls´ as a dative of respect to.

1993. Grand Rapids: William B. Girdwood. Guthrie. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans." Bibliotheca Sacra (Dallas Theological Seminary) 141 (1084-2002): 146154. 1984. Brown. Hebrews. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic . Scott. The Epistle to the Hebrews.F. Westcott. John. 1977. Paul. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Man. 1991. Chicago: The Moody Bible Intstitute . 1997. Ellingworth. 1989. "The Value of Chiasm for New Testament Interpretation. Michigan : Eerdmanns. G. The teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews. John. Hebrews 9-13. Kistemaker. F. Joplin: College Press. MacArthur. William. Jr. H. Vos. Hebrews. Trotter. Philedelphia: Fortress Press. 1998. An Exposition of Hebrews. Bruce. Souza. S. and Peter Verkruyse. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Page | 12 . 1983. Lane. Origen: Wepf and Stock. 1990. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press. Brooke Foss.J. Andrew H. Texas: Word Books. Grand Rapids: Baker. "Consider Him. 1983. Ronald E. Hebrews. Interpreting the Epistle to the Hebrews." Reformation and Revival Ministries 8 (19992003): 108-124. James.Exegesis Essay Hebrews 12: 1-3 Peter Roberts Bibliography Attridge. The Letter to the Hebrews. Eugene. The Epistle to the Hebrews. World Biblical Commentary. 1997. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1998. 1961. George H. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Hebrews. Great Britian : The Banner of Truth Trust. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.W. Donald. Guthrie.

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