It has been quite a few weeks since I have posted. I am sure it will take a little bit for me to get back into the flow, but my hiatus was both good and busy. This week we jump into the Book of Hebrews. This letter or book, scholars cannot decide what it is, has a broad range of beliefs regarding authorship. Traditionally it is attributed to Paul, but the style of writing and the vocabulary is nothing like Paul. However, there are many statements and clues that point to Paul. In addition, it has not direct audience and so it is unclear who the writings were meant for.
I have spent some time studying all the point of views and reading the book and even though I am no scholar, I do have an opinion. The writing almost feels like a missionary tract. It seems like Paul, and others including a scribe, were writing a document that could be used in missionary work. It had an audience in mind that was the source of their frustration or motivation in writing the document, but it also uses so many quotations from the Old Testament that it feels like a collective response to questions and problems this group of authors were seeing in their journeys.
One thing is for certain; the Book of Hebrews is a critical revelation and doctrinal book in understanding Priesthood, the nature of Jesus as the Son of God and Savior, and our relationship to Him and to God. This is a book that everyone should spend time studying and reading. It is full of so many wonderful sections and revelations. I spend a decent amount of time talking about Melchizedek and his priesthood as well in the Key Scripture section.
CHAPTERS FOR STUDY WEEK 44 – Hebrews 1-6
– Jesus Christ is the literal Son of God and the spokesperson for God to His children.
– Jesus’s example in life is tied to the role of those who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood.
– The basics of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are: Repentance from dead works, Faith in God, Baptism, Laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and the eternal judgment.
Context and Timeline:
– High Christology – The first 14 verses of Hebrews is the earliest written version of the divinity of Jesus Christ. It was likely written before the gospels and it could have been produced and used as part of those gospels.
– Hebrews quotes extensively from Psalms and the Old Testament to prove through the scriptures that Jesus was prophesied and taught about before he was born. In particular, that it was prophesied that he would be the spiritual Messiah, not the political Messiah many believed would come.
– Ministering Spirits are angels that will help those will receive full salvation in the presence of God.
– Message spoken of by the mouth of holy angels is referring to the Law of Moses.
– Prophets were the mouthpiece of God anciently, but now it is through Jesus Christ, and his witnesses. In our time His witnesses are apostles and they are also prophets.
– Suffering makes us complete, not perfect, and it is part of discipleship.
– Jesus is mentioned as an apostle, which could mean that the title of apostle had a strong influence. The author is likely trying to magnify the calling to the readers.
– Good News is synonymous with the Gospel.
– Tempted can also be translated as tried or tested.
– Appointed could have also been translated as ordained.
– Priests at the time, and priesthood, were primarily tied to duties related to Jerusalem temple worship. The priesthood was restored with Jesus Christ.
History around Epistle:
Hebrews has the most contested authorship in the New Testament. The earliest manuscripts have Hebrews directly after Romans, which would suggest the belief that Paul was the author. There are many reasons people feel the book is the work of Paul as well, but there is just as much evidence to suggest that it is not the work of Paul. It also seems likely that the book was written before 70 AD, when the temple was destroyed in Jerusalem, as that would have likely been mentioned in the chapters discussing the temple. The fact that Hebrews has the same principles and ideas about Jesus Christ that the four gospels contain, it seems possible this was a missionary tract that was compiled by many different leaders of the church around the time the gospels were being written.
Hebrews also discusses Melchizedek and the higher priesthood in ways that no other ancient scripture does and so it has particular value to Latter-day Saints.
- Jesus Christ is God’s Spokesperson (Chapters 1)
- Jesus Christ, and His witnesses, have replaced Prophets as the mouthpieces of God.
- Jesus Christ is the image of God the Father and represents Him.
- Jesus atoned for our sins, was the creator with the power of God, and has been chosen to inherit what God the Father has.
- Attributes of Jesus Christ our Savior (Chapter 2-3)
- Miracles and Spiritual Gifts come from Christ’s followers.
- Jesus suffered all things and went below us all in that suffering so he could understand everything we can go through.
- He is single-minded in His desire for us to be saved with him and become co-inheritors of God’s Kingdom.
- Christ will destroy and overcome Satan and his followers.
- He is greater that Moses, who was His servant. Christ was important and worth believing and following just as we have Moses for thousands of years.
- Do not reject Jesus Christ, do not reject the spirit that whispers and confirms to our hearts that Jesus Christ is our savior. The rebellious rejection is the only thing that can move us out of the reach of Christ’s saving arms.
- The Rest of God and Jesus the High Priest (Chapter 4-5)
- While we know that God rested on the seventh day, what really happened was His rest was created and in order for us to enter God’s rest we must come through Jesus Christ.
- Previously the priests of the temple guarded the path to the rest of God, now Jesus has transcended them and is the High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.
- Despite Jesus not having priestly lineage, He restored and sits at the top of the High Priesthood which is responsible for the salvation of all of God’s children.
- Faith and Abraham (Chapters 6)
- The Basics of the Gospel are Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Laying on of Hands, Resurrection and Judgment.
- The next steps of the Gospel are partnership with the Holy Ghost, experience Miracles and the Revelation from God.
- If we have experienced those things and reject God it is very difficult to come back to the fold of God, for this reason God is judicious in giving those experiences to His children.
- Through the High Priesthood we can all make covenants with God like Abraham did and receive the same promises.
Key Moment or Scripture: Hebrews 5:1-10
For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:
2 Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.
3 And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.
4 And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.
5 So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.
6 As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;
8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
10 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.
I want to take these scriptures apart a little so it is simpler to study and understand why this was so important at the time and for us now.
- Who is Melchizedek?
- Melchizedek was a High Priest, maybe the greatest High Priest of the ancient world. He presided over a city called Salem and Abraham even journeyed to pay tithes and be ordained by him to the High Priesthood.
- Melchizedek, like Enoch, created Zion and his people were translated.
- In the scriptures and tradition, Melchizedek was not given a genealogy or posterity or a death. This was to show that he represented no beginning and no end. The order of Melchizedek is symbolic of the God and Eternity.
- The Melchizedek Priesthood was furloughed during the time of Moses because the people were not ready for the full law of the Gospel. They were instead given the preparatory priesthood to help them come to God.
- Why is Christ like him?
- By virtue of the resurrection, Jesus also has no beginning and no end.
- Jesus was not of priestly lineage but yet was a high priest and had the priesthood through ordination.
- Salem means Peace and Jesus is called the Prince of Peace, just like Melchizedek.
- We must come unto Christ to be ordained, just like Abraham had to come to Melchizedek to be ordained.
- Christ is the administrator of our Salvation; He holds the keys of the Priesthood and of Heaven.
Lost in the important points about priesthood and Jesus’s divinity is one of my favorite scriptures in Hebrews 6:1-2 when we learn the basics of the Gospel message. They are the same now as they were then, and they are things we can anchor our lives to.
Repentance and Faith (Keep going)
Laying on of Hands (Holy Spirit and being Guided)
Eternal Judgment (Desire to follow Christ until the end)