New Interpreter's Bible (12 Vols.) - Pre-Publication Examples

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Posts 5253
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 6 2012 12:21 PM

tom:

Dan Francis:
I am disillusioned with Logos handling of the NIB issue
So am I
Dan Francis:
but will share the info...
Thanks

I do applaud Logos for going after the New Interpreter's series, but I wish Logos would be willing to swallow the extra costs to get this important series made.

-Dan

Posts 177
Alan | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Nov 25 2012 11:49 AM

Just signed up for the pre-pub.

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Posts 15805
Forum MVP
Keep Smiling 4 Jesus :) | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Nov 25 2012 1:56 PM

Rick:

Noticed Pre Publication progress is now ~ 67 % so many more pre-orders are needed to change progress status:

Keep Smiling Smile

Posts 450
Alexander | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 26 2012 6:55 AM

Keep Smiling 4 Jesus :):

Rick:

Noticed Pre Publication progress is now ~ 67 % so many more pre-orders are needed to change progress status:

Keep Smiling Smile

It out of the price range for what I'd be willing to pay for another commentary set :( Sorry!

Posts 5253
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 26 2012 11:10 AM

Keep Smiling 4 Jesus :):

Rick:

Noticed Pre Publication progress is now ~ 67 % so many more pre-orders are needed to change progress status:

Keep Smiling Smile

I have the feeling that Logos will be last to game getting this. I know Accordance is attempting to get it, and has it;s Windows version coming in the new year. And I wouldn't be surpassed if Olivetree completed the set of NIB items (they already have the one volume commentary, the study bible and the 5 volume dictionary).

-dan

Posts 451
Mitchell | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 26 2012 3:30 PM

I think it's pretty clear last this point that this series won't be coming to Logos.

Posts 177
Alan | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 26 2012 6:40 PM

If so I would be very dissapointed as I personally would to see a lot more titles by Abingdon Press. My number one choice for my library.

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Posts 177
Alan | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 26 2012 7:27 PM

@Dan I own the original IB in print and am curious as to how it compares to the NIB in theological stance. Thanks for the snippets you've already posted. If you get a chance please post or pm me an extract from Hebrews 6:4-6. Thanks.

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Posts 5253
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 26 2012 9:33 PM

Alan:

@Dan I own the original IB in print and am curious as to how it compares to the NIB in theological stance. Thanks for the snippets you've already posted. If you get a chance please post or pm me an extract from Hebrews 6:4-6. Thanks.

I have the IB in electronic format but use it very little. The NIB is sometimes more liberal and sometimes more conservative. For example in general I felt looking over Mark that NIB felt more conservative to me, but that might of just been the passages i was examining at the time.

HEBREWS 6:4-12, STERN WARNING WITH HOPE

COMMENTARY

 

 

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Several preliminary comments need to be made before investigating the details of this most sobering passage. First, it is important to notice that 6:4-12 fits a rhetorical pattern now familiar in Hebrews: a stern warning (vv. 4-8), followed by words of encouragement and hope (vv. 9-12; cf. 2:1-9; 4:1-16). In fact, since the strong words of 6:4-8 follow immediately the encouragement portion of the preceding unit (6:1-3), the net effect is that the sober warning of 6:4-8 is surrounded by positive and affirming words. This observation is not intended to soften the blow of vv. 4-8; on the contrary, the context of pastoral encouragement makes these verses seem even more stark by contrast.

This observation leads to a second comment. The writer clearly wants the reader to hear the words about the impossibility of restoring certain persons to a second repentance as part of the larger message of pastoral encouragement. At v. 4, the conjunction “for” or “because” says, in effect, “We will move on to maturity because the alternative condition is that of falling away, without the possibility of renewal.” At v. 9, the adversative conjunction “but” (dede, trans. “even though”) says, in effect, “But having been persuaded otherwise in your case.” In other words, the harsh warning of vv. 4-8 is not being spoken to persons to whom it presently applies. It looms on their horizon, to be sure, but were it descriptive of their current condition, the message would be wasted on persons unable any longer to hear it.

A third and final preliminary comment is a reminder to ourselves to resist letting 6:4-8 become a magnet drawing into its interpretive orbit all the NT passages with dire words about certain sins among believers or about post-baptismal sins in general. In other words, the expression “it is impossible to restore again to repentance,” both in its internal meaning and its application to “those who,” must be understood in its context 

 

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in Hebrews and not as one among many rigorous statements concerning sin within the Christian community. It is easy to see why some commentators55 subsume 6:4-6 under the general topic of post-baptismal sin; in one way or another, most NT as well as extra-canonical Christian writings had to deal with the reality of continuing sin in the church. In spite of the ideal that those born of God do not sin (1 John 5:18) or, in Paul's image, are dead to sin (Rom 6:1-11), the fact is that not only did sin in many forms among the believers need to be addressed but also instructions needed to be given for punishment (1 Cor 5:1-8), or resolution (Matt 18:15-20), or restoration (Gal 6:1-2; Jas 5:19-20). At least one writer dealt with the problem by classifying sins according to seriousness, placing the sin that is mortal (“unto death”) beyond the reach of any restoration (1 John 5:16-17). The Gospel writers report from the lips of Jesus one sin more serious than all others: “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:29 NRSV; see also Matt 12:32; Luke 12:10)—a statement so dramatically final that the church has long sought to identify that sin lest some member be guilty of it.56

This brief rehearsal is enough to show that matching texts that are similar in rigor can lead one away from the issue of substance: What is the condition of those who are, in the mind of the writer of Hebrews, beyond the possibility of restoring again to repentance? What is meant by “falling away” (v. 6)? One senses, in advance of further examination of the text, that moral irregularities such as fornication, anger, or sloth, no matter how gravely regarded, do not at all identify the issue of Heb 6:4-8.

The unit falls naturally into three parts: vv. 4-6, the warning; vv. 7-8, the analogy from agriculture; vv. 9-12, the words of encouragement.

6:4-6. The warning itself is framed to achieve maximum rhetorical force. The first word is “impossible” (ajdu"natov adynatos), which is completed with the infinitive “to renew” (ajnakaini"zw anakainizo), which does not appear until v. 6. The descriptions of “those who” in vv. 4-5 come between these two anchoring words. The NRSV obscures this dramatic word order, while the NIV preserves it. There is no finite verb in vv. 4-6; “it is” is supplied by translators to make a complete sentence of the stark, verbless warning.

The emphatic “impossible” governs the three verses, but the writer does not specify with whom the impossibility lies: God cannot? The preacher cannot? The listener cannot? One hesitates to say that God cannot, since with God all things are possible. Likewise, it seems inappropriate to lay such a critical burden on the skills or lack of skills of the preacher. As for the listener, here as elsewhere in Scripture psychological probing is an uncertain business and should be kept to a minimum. One can cite case after case in support of the proverb, “The heated iron, once cooled, is difficult to heat again,” but the text is not about what is “difficult.”57 Nor is it about how anyone feels concerning the gospel. The impossibility lies in the writer's understanding of the once-for-all act of God in Jesus Christ. The author repeatedly finds the expression “impossible” useful in clearing away from the christology of the letter any modifiers, any alternatives, any exceptions. Note: “through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God would prove false” (6:18 NRSV); “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (10:4 NRSV); “gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper” (9:9 NRSV); “the law...can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach” (10:1 NRSV); “offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins” (10:11 NRSV); “without faith it is impossible to please God” (11:6 NRSV). For Hebrews, impossibilities are implied in the writer's affirmation: “And it is by God's will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (10:10 NRSV, italics added). At 6:4-6 the impossibility is in restoring (renewing) again to repentance—that is, one does not lay again the foundation that begins with repentance (6:1), an act that would contradict the once-for-all christology.

 

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The persons addressed by the warning are simply identified as “those who” (v. 4). However, they are described in a series of participles that depict with an extraordinary flourish the experience of entering and participating in the life of the Christian community.

6:4a, “Having once been enlightened.” The adverb “once” (a{pax hapax) commonly refers to that which occurs only once, that which is thus unique, “once and for all.” It occurs in Hebrews in references to the salvific act of Christ (7:27; 9:12, 26; 10:12, 14), and quite likely the writer hopes the connection between their experience and the saving act of Christ will not be lost on the readers. Being “enlightened,” moving out of darkness into light, was a widely used metaphor for the trustful reception of the message about Christ (John 1:9; 2 Cor 4:4-6; Eph 1:18; 2 Tim 1:10; 1 Pet 2:9). The author uses the expression again at 10:32 in recalling the readers' firm stand in their confession. Whether the enlightenment was related to the rite of baptism is not certain at the time and place of Hebrews.58

6:4b, “Having tasted the heavenly gift.” The vivid metaphor “to taste” has already been used by the author (Christ tasted death for everyone, 2:9), and it will be repeated in v. 5. It refers to direct personal experience (Ps 34:8; 1 Pet 2:3). The heavenly gift is most likely a reference to God's grace. That which is “heavenly” is for Hebrews that which is ultimate, true, and from God (3:1; 8:5; 9:23; 11:16; 12:22). Those who argue that “having tasted the heavenly gift” refers to the eucharist usually do so on two grounds: (1) the verb “taste” and (2) the experiential sequence of baptism (enlightened) and then sharing at the table (tasting the heavenly gift). The persuasiveness of the case depends very much on drawing from sources (e.g., the bread from heaven of John 6) with which we have no knowledge that the writer of Hebrews was familiar.59

6:4c, “Having become sharers of the Holy Spirit.” The language of partnership has already been used in relation to the heavenly calling (3:1) and to Christ himself (3:14). Likewise, God's distribution of the Holy Spirit in the community was assumed by the author as both the understanding and the experience of the readers (2:4). Hebrews thus confirms what is clear from other NT writers, that the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit are the hallmark of the early church and clearly identify the audience as Christians.

6:5, “Having tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come.” The first four chapters have repeatedly asserted not only the power and certainty of God's speech but also its goodness; that is, God is for us and our salvation. No provision necessary for the believers to enter God's rest is lacking. In confirmation of this promise, the qualities of that age to come break in upon the present as “signs and wonders and various miracles” (2:4 NRSV), providing what Paul would call an earnest or foretaste of what is yet to be (2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:14). In this and the three preceding participles, the writer withholds nothing in reminding the addressees of the abundance of God's investment in them. Upon them God has poured out more than they could ever have asked for or imagined.

6:6. It is against this flourish of God's favor, which has been in the community's experience both pleasure and power, that the fifth participle tosses an almost incomprehensible response: “and then have fallen away.” The author has here chosen a verb (parapi"ptw parapipto) that appears nowhere else in the NT. In the Septuagint the word occurs, being variously translated: “acting faithlessly” (Ezek 14:13 NRSV; “breaking faith,” REB); “dealing treacherously” (Ezek 20:27 NRSV). Although the root of the verb means “to fall,” the usage here by no means is to be taken as “carelessly slipping”; the sense is that of rejection, violation of a relationship, breach of faith, abandonment. At 3:12 a similar word was used (ajposth'nai apostenai, “to turn away,” “abandon”) to express a turning away from God. Neither at 3:12 nor at 6:6 is the issue simply doctrinal, as though someone were rejecting a tenet of the creed. The act of falling away is not so much against a dogma as against a person, at 3:12 against God, at 6:6 against the Son of God. The remainder of v. 6, crucifying again the Son of God and holding him up to ridicule, makes this abundantly clear. Apostasy, yes, but not as a 

 

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charge of one side of a debate against the other; rather, it is the sin of abandoning God, Christ, and the fellowship of believers (cf. 10:25). This act is far too grave and all-encompassing to be handled adequately by Tertullian's use of this text to declare that there is no second repentance for the adulterer and fornicator.60 Tertullian is writing in response to Hermas, a Christian of the midsecond century, whose apocalyptic work, The Shepherd of Hermas, was very influential. In The Shepherd, Hermas agrees with the teaching that there is no second repentance after baptism. However, he claims that through a revelation God had granted him the ministry of announcing one repentance after baptism. This offer, he said, was not for all time and thus to be calculated by believers, but was a dispensation for his own time. Hermas makes these statements in the context of discussing marriage, remarriage, and adultery.61 It is clear, therefore, that while Hermas is generally regarded as the earliest interpreter of Heb 6:4-6, he has moved the issue from falling away or abandoning Christ to that of committing particular sins after baptism. The difference is major.

As stated above in comments on v. 4, the “those who” of this warning are not the readers, except in a potential sense. Is the entirety of 6:4-6 merely theoretical, a grim prospect sketched out to frighten the believers into more acceptable behavior? We cannot know, of course, if the writer was thinking of particular persons somewhere when this warning was framed, but it would be a mistake to call it theoretical in the sense of being less serious or less real. The sin portrayed so vividly here was not only a possibility but a documented actuality as well. The Emperor Trajan sent Pliny to the provinces of Bithynia and Pontus to investigate suspected irregularities in the handling of government funds and to bring to justice persons and groups guilty of treason or sedition. In the years 111–113 CE, letters between the two were exchanged. The subject in some of this correspondence was the Christians, a group heretofore unknown to Pliny. In his investigations, Pliny interrogated some who “said that they had ceased to be Christians two or more years previously, and some of them even twenty years ago. They all did reverence to your [Trajan's] statue and the images of the gods in the same way as the others, and reviled the name of Christ.”62 Pliny's description of those who turn away from Christ, embrace the imperial gods, acknowledge the emperor as lord, and revile the name of Christ is not unlike that of v. 6: “They are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt.” This is to say, the apostates take it upon themselves to join in the shameful rejection of Christ expressed in the crucifixion and voluntarily join in heaping upon him the ridicule and verbal abuse frequently heard at public executions. The contrast with the life they had experienced within the community of grace could not be more stark. The church has heard this harsh and painful warning, and yet has never ceased to struggle with it in the light of its central proclamation of the unceasing and unrelenting grace of God.

6:7-8. This second of the three sub-units of 6:4-12 continues the discussion as evidenced by the conjunction “for,” the same word beginning v. 4. These verses consist entirely of an illustration from agriculture, a common source for both Jewish and Christian preaching (Isa 5:1-7; Ezek 19:10-14; Matt 3:10; 7:16; Mark 4:3-9; Luke 13:6-9). Like any good illustration, the analogy does not draw attention to itself with distracting internal complexities, but in its simplicity serves to drive home with unfailing clarity the point being made. It does carry echoes of OT texts doubtless familiar to the readers: thorns and thistles of Gen 3:17-18, blessing and curse of Deut 11:26-28, and perhaps the fruitless vineyard of Isa 5:1-7. These echoes serve to support the message: Ground cultivated and receiving rain that produces a crop is blessed by God; ground cultivated and receiving rain that produces thorns and thistles is under a curse and destined for burning. The burning is not for the purpose of restoring and renewing the soil but is clearly the deserved “end,” the final punishment (10:27). The illustration looks back to vv. 4-6: the fruitful ground recalling vv. 4-5, the fruitless ground recalling v. 6. But the illustration also looks ahead. The “blessing” anticipates the discussion about Abraham in vv. 13-20, and the “fire” prophesies the severity of the final judgment for apostates (10:27). The 

 

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illustration functions well; the reader is not allowed to forget the rigorous warning about the impossibility of a second repentance.

6:9-12. This third and final sub-unit returns the reader to a positive mode with a message that is emphatic in its confidence and hope. The adversative conjunction “but” signals a radical turn in thought. The readers are addressed affectionately as “beloved” (v. 9), the only time they are so greeted in the sermon. The preacher softens the voice with “Even though we speak in this way” (v. 9; that is, referring to the rigor of the preceding warning; in the Greek text this clause closes rather than opens v. 9, sustaining the positive mode through the entire sentence). However, the strongest signal that salvation and not damnation lies before the congregation is in the opening word: “We are confident [certain/sure/persuaded].” This rhetorical flourish is familiar to readers of Paul, who, after demanding instruction and exhortation, sounded a note of confidence in the readers (e.g., Rom 15:14; Gal 5:10). Repeatedly the writer uses the editorial “we” (we speak; we are confident; we want), enlarging the company of concern beyond the private but without losing the personal relationship. The “those who” of the warning (v. 4) has given way to the pronoun of direct address, “you,” used in every statement of vv. 9-12. That the author is confident of “better things” (a favorite expression of this writer; 1:4; 7:7, 19, 22; 8:6; 9:23; 10:34; 11:16, 35, 40) of the reader—that is, that they will produce a fruitful crop (v. 7)—is in no way to be taken as an apology for the harsh warning. The warning was appropriate; there were clear signs that some were slipping away (“drift”; “neglect”; “inattention”; “dullness of understanding”; see 2:1-3; 5:11-12). Nor is the writer simply trying to put a happy face on a sad situation. The preacher knows the congregation and has firm ground for projecting a hopeful future.

According to v. 10, two factors have persuaded the preacher of better things from the congregation. One is the justice or faithfulness of God. That God has been at work among them has been amply stated (2:4; 6:4-5). The second factor is that God's investment in them has borne fruit in their love and service in God's name toward the saints (fellow believers). It is not only their past record of serving that gives confidence to the preacher but also the fact that they continue to do so. The word for “serve” here (diakone"w diakoneo) appears nowhere else in Hebrews but was used widely in the early church to refer to a wide range of ministries (Matt 20:28; Rom 15:25; Acts 6:1-3; 2 Cor 9:1; 1 Pet 1:12). Here the writer probably has in mind the behavior of the believers spelled out in 10:32-34: endurance of suffering, bearing public ridicule and verbal abuse, being empathetic partners with those subjected to such persecution, showing compassion on imprisoned brothers and sisters, and cheerfully accepting the destruction and confiscation of property.

This record and the faithfulness of a God who does not forget prompts the preacher, not to further warning, but to gentle urging. Here (vv. 11-12) the words are even more personal (“each of you”; see also 3:12-13; 4:1, 11). Every member of the community is to be diligent, persistent, and to realize the fullness of hope to the end. Here the words not only recall 3:14 and anticipate 9:28 but also join in the New Testament's admonition to all who cling to faith under great duress (Mark 13:13; Rev 2:10). Such faithfulness enables them to throw off the sluggishness (dullness) that had overtaken them (5:11). This, says the preacher, is what “we want” (v. 11). The word ejpiqumou'men (epithymoumen, “want”) is a strong one, indicating passion or desire. When the object of such feeling is less noble, the word is translated “covet” or “lust.” The intensity of emotion was not only persuasive but no doubt also appreciated by those hearing it as deep pastoral affection.

The expression “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (v. 12) reminds the readers of the discussion of entrance into the rest of God, a promise that remains open (4:1, 8). More immediately, however, the writer is preparing for the exposition of God's promise to Abraham, a promise obtained through faith and patience (vv. 13-20). Although Abraham is the example to be imitated in the upcoming discussion, the theme of imitating those who persevere in faith will be repeated (13:7) and enlarged (11:4-38). In chap. 11, the writer will be careful to point out that the faithful of the past did not, in fact, receive “what was promised, since God had provided something better” (11:39 NRSV), a something that had its fulfillment in the Son. But that is an argument for a later time; it is sufficient 

 

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at the moment to see the faithfulness of God toward those who live in patient trust. Scripture yields no clearer model than that of the covenant between God and Abraham.

REFLECTIONS

1. The preacher or teacher in today's church should not be surprised to find that a discussion of the impossibility of restoring to repentance those who have fallen away does not carry for many parishioners the force of a stern warning. More likely it will sound antiquated or fanatical or foreign. The reasons are several. (1) Repentance has not been understood or experienced as a condition for entering or remaining in the Christian community. (2) The grace of God is commonly viewed as being without ethical or moral expectation but is rather like a giant grading curve on which everyone passes automatically. (3) Both apostasy and heresy are inconceivable to persons who reduce the response to all that God has done and is doing to simply “joining a church.” Under such a circumstance, apostasy is no more than becoming inactive or irregular in attendance. It is only when coming to faith in Christ is experienced as receiving all the gifts of God listed in vv. 4-5 that “falling away” can be seen in all its ugliness and danger. Anyone who takes lightly entrance into the community of faith will not likely be deterred from easy departure by pulpit threats based on 6:4-8.

2. In the history of Christian preaching the sober warning of 6:4-8 has been employed as a weapon against any sin in the church membership regarded as most offensive. Although Hermas was more yielding than Tertullian, both used this text to address fornication, adultery, and remarriage. Single-issue pulpits seem most susceptible to this error, but all of us need to be warned against irresponsible employment of this text in times of anger or disappointment or frustration with the congregation. The message marked “Ultimatum” should be reserved for the appropriate occasion, which most likely will never arise. In the meantime, the difference between the “those who” of the warning (vv. 4-8) and the “you” of encouragement (vv. 9-12) deserves reflection, holding promise for both preaching and pastoral care.

3. When the writer of Hebrews encourages the readers (6:9-12), there is no departure from or lessening of theological seriousness. The preacher does not resort to non-substantive tactics, painting smiling faces on everything and otherwise trying to manufacture good cheer. There is a prejudice in our culture to the effect that everything negative or critical or stern in its expression is somehow deep or profound or substantive, whereas the positive or affirming or encouraging is regarded as shallow and lacking in thought. Preachers are often seduced by this unjustified perception and hence do not support words of hope and encouragement with the same degree of theological reflection as used to undergird other pulpit discourse. In this regard, 6:9-12 is instructive. Here the encouragement of the church is firmly grounded theologically in the justice or fairness or faithfulness of God. God is aware, says the writer, of our excellent record of love and service, a record that we continue to maintain. Not only is God aware, but also God is just and dependable. Hence the congregation can expect continued favor and the support necessary for their diligence to the very end. God is true to God's own self; therefore, they will not be abandoned on their way to inherit the promises. As Paul expressed it, human faithlessness does not nullify the faithfulness of God (Rom 3:3-4). The relationships of love and service within the congregation are grounds for encouragement, it is true, and the models of faith and patience among those who have gone before likewise spur the members on in spite of severe difficulties. But the solid and unshakable foundation for all their hope is the character of God. So important is this consideration that the writer will develop it further in vv. 13-20.

 

 

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Posts 177
Alan | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 27 2012 12:55 AM

Thanks Dan. That's most helpful.

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Posts 177
Alan | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 27 2012 1:25 AM

Dan, I'm curious to know how you compare the NIB with the Word Biblical Commentary which seems to have a lot of support among logos users.

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Posts 2964
tom | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 27 2012 2:30 AM

Dan Francis:
I have the IB in electronic format but use it very little. The NIB is sometimes more liberal and sometimes more conservative. For example in general I felt looking over Mark that NIB felt more conservative to me, but that might of just been the passages i was examining at the time.

Congrats Dan in reaching 1000 posts and thanks for your zeal concerning the NIB.

Posts 5253
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 27 2012 10:16 AM

Alan:

Dan, I'm curious to know how you compare the NIB with the Word Biblical Commentary which seems to have a lot of support among logos users.

I think the WBC is probably the finest Evangelical Bible Commentary out there. It is far more technical than the NIB, and a greater help for those wishing to delve deeper into the original language. It is for the most part fairly conservative, but still a fine critical series. The explanations sections equivalent in some respects to the NIB reflections, tend to be less helpful to me than the same section in the NIB. If you are looking for a series slightly closer to the bent of the NIB I would say the Interpretation series is a better match up. 

-Dan

Interpretation:

2. No Turning Back (6:1–8). Though one cannot see it on the printed page, there is a dramatic break between 5:14 and 6:1. Having playfully insulted the congregation by telling them they are too immature for the real meat of the faith, the Preacher pauses here long enough for the indignant protest to rise from the pews: “Hey, who do you think you’re calling immature? How dare you suggest that we are too dull to understand this. Dish it out; bring on the theological meat!”

“All right,” agrees the Preacher, confident that his strategy has worked, “let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ” (6:1). So here in step two the Preacher agrees to the tacit insistence of the congregation that he move beyond the basic course and proceed to the advanced christological lessons.

The announced aim to “go on toward perfection” is striking, since up to this point the language of perfection has been reserved for Jesus alone (2:10; 5:9). The notion that the readers are summoned to progress toward perfection is basically an invitation to imitate Christ, but not in the naive, mechanical sense. There is no thought in Hebrews of Jesus as merely a human being who lived a moral life and who serves as an attainable ethical example for Christians.

Throughout Hebrews, Jesus is the divine Son whose unique high priestly ministry accomplishes what no one else can do. Indeed, the unique character of the person and work of Christ makes possible all subsequent obedience on the part of the Christian community. Jesus is the pioneer to be followed, not simply a fellow traveler to be imitated. No one else could have blazed the trail. A Christian who faithfully imitates Jesus is like a pianist who plays Mozart well. If a critic observes that the pianist “played the piano concerto to perfection,” it is, of course, an achievement of a different order than that of Mozart himself. The “perfection” of the performer depends upon that of the composer. So it is with the Christian life.

The Preacher indicates that the way to “go on toward perfection” is to leave behind “the basic teaching about Christ” (6:1). What does he mean by this? It is fairly clear that this “basic teaching” consists of the essential truths of the Christian faith, the material that would be imparted to someone who was becoming a new member of the Christian community. Indeed, the Preacher calls this material the “foundation” (6:1) and provides a summary of its content, no doubt reflecting the standard curriculum of instruction given to new converts in preparation for baptism: the need for repentance and faith, the meaning of baptism and the accompanying laying on of hands, and the promise of resurrection and final judgment (6:1–2).

Surely, then, the Preacher is not now urging the congregation to forget or repudiate these foundational truths. No, the Preacher is urging them to leave this basic teaching behind by going farther. Indeed, he is convinced that one cannot stay still in the Christian life. One must always be moving, and there are only two directions in which one can move: deeper or adrift. Either we keep growing, maturing, becoming more profound in our faith, or we are content to float lazily along the surface, unaware that the treacherous currents are pulling us more and more off course until we are hopelessly lost.

The possibility of drifting away prompts the Preacher to issue a solemn warning: “Ideat is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened … and then have fallen away” (6:4–6). These fearsome, seemingly irrevocable words appear to imply that any believing Christian who subsequently lapses from the faith is forever a lost cause with no hope of restoration, no second chances.

There are clues, however, that the Preacher’s warning, though surely stern, is not quite as severe as it may sound at first. To begin with, the Preacher’s main goal seems to be to encourage his congregation, not to scare them. He realizes that his words are harsh, but he says, “Even though we speak in this way, beloved, we are confident of better things in your case” (6:9). In other words, the principal aim of painting a terrible picture of Christians falling away into disaster is to provide a motivational contrast between that dire predicament and the more hopeful circumstances of his congregation. He is saying, in effect, “But I am sure you will not veer from the truth. You will, I am confident, remain on course steady and true.” The Preacher is like a parent trying to encourage a struggling teenager by saying, “You know, when a kid goes bad early, they stay bad. But you are a good kid, a really fine kid, and I am positive that you will work this out.”

Second, it is very likely that the Preacher’s lament over the impossibility of restoring lapsed Christians reflects a practical frustration in ministry rather than an absolute claim about the patience and mercy of God. When the Preacher says that restoration is “impossible,” he is not pointing to limits on the grace of God; he is, rather, pointing to the actual and sad experience of his own church. Not only had the congregation experienced the loss and defection of previously steadfast adherents (see 10:32–39), they found that no amount of pleading and praying, working and worrying, could bring these people back into the community. Speaking realistically, for all practical purposes it was impossible to restore them to the fold.

People reject the Christian faith for all kinds of reasons. Some are alienated by the hypocrisy of the church and never make it past the front door. Some never have the chance to hear the gospel; others hear the gospel preached all the time, but not in a way that makes sense or speaks to their needs. Still others are persuaded that the faith is intellectually indefensible, a pious retreat from vigorous thought. There are many reasons why people turn away from the faith.

It is one thing when the Christian faith is rejected by those who do not know its depths and power, by those outside the church or those who have only skimmed the surface of the faith. Such refusal is sad, of course, but not necessarily tragic. When people push away what they do not fully know or understand, there is always the prospect that later they will see what they did not understand before, that discovery will lead to interest and interest to repentance and renewal.

It is far more tragic, however, when the faith is rejected by those who do know its depths, those who “have tasted the heavenly gift.” To paraphrase the Preacher (6:4–6), when those who have profound insight about the gospel, who have experienced grace in the depths of their lives, who have discerned that they are guided and comforted by God’s Spirit, who have heard God speaking to their hearts, and who have been given a peace that the world cannot provide—when such as these turn their backs on the faith, it is a grievous and seemingly irreparable tragedy. They are not walking out on what they do not understand, but from what they do understand. They fall away not because they have never tasted the mercy and love of God, but in spite of the fact that (maybe even because) they have. When they slam the church door, they are not turning their backs on the church; they are storming away from grace; in effect, says the Preacher, they are “crucifying again the Son of God” (6:5).

Every pastor knows about this, and the Preacher is a pastor. The Preacher knows the travail of the life of faith. Even though we wish that every story had a happy ending, not all of them do. Some people in a congregation are like fertile ground; the rain of God’s blessing falls on them, and they blossom forth with a bumper crop of gratitude and service. Other people, however, are like poor soil; no matter how thoroughly the rains of mercy soak the land, all that comes up are thorns and thistles (6:8).

3. Prize Students (6:9–12). Now, having rebuked the pupils into attention and warned them of the perils of drifting away, the Preacher is ready and able to praise them. Having impressed upon them the dangers and the demands of Christian maturity, the author wants to supply encouragement. When all is said and done, they have what it takes to endure. Others may fall away, but the Preacher is confident that the readers will not be among them. After all, they have worked diligently and served lovingly in the past and the present alike (6:11).

So the Preacher who began this passage by poking fun at his dull congregation ends with a flourish, encouraging the congregation toward maturity, to bear down and to attend to the word being proclaimed to them. Indeed, the Preacher underscores how they have quickly moved to the head of the theological class. Those who at the beginning of this section were described, in a mock scold, as poor students, stuck in the first grade, are here, astoundingly, prepared for graduate school. They are ready to “realize the full assurance of hope to the very end” (6:11). Initially the readers were called “dull in understanding” (5:11). Now, the Preacher, playing on the very same Greek word, expresses confidence that the hearers will not be dull (NRSV = sluggish), but will in fact be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (6:12).

This last phrase raises two main questions. First, when the Preacher names “those who through faith and patience inherit the promises,” whom does the Preacher have in mind? Who are these people that the readers of Hebrews are to imitate? Some have suggested that the Preacher is referring specifically to the Old Testament patriarchs, Abraham in particular. This position is reinforced by the fact that the author moves in the next section (6:13–20) to an explicit discussion of Abraham. Others have seen 6:12 more broadly as a reference to the whole history of God’s faithful people. It stands, then, as an anticipation of the roll call of the faithful in 11:1–39. Still others have seen this phrase as having a more contemporary referent, namely that the readers are to imitate the stronger ones in their own community, the ones who have not slackened in their faith and endurance. Some confirmation of this can be seen in 13:7, where the readers are urged to “remember your leaders” and to “imitate their faith.”

There is probably no reason to choose any one of these options over the others, since the Preacher almost surely means to suggest all of them. The author thinks of God’s people as those whose lives are gathered up into the great narrative of God’s salvation, as those who, throughout history, have heard the promise of God, believed that promise, and lived their lives trusting it. This faithful stream began with Abraham, broadened into a river of God’s people in Israel, surged forward most mightily in Jesus, and now courses through the church. The readers are to fasten their attention upon those who had a vision of God’s ultimate triumph, and who, because of this vision, kept putting one foot in front of the other as they slugged it through, knee-deep in the muck and mire of the pilgrim way. Because they trusted the promise and hoped in the triumph, they were able to be patient in adversity. The Preacher wants the hearers to imitate these faithful people and, thus, to join them as inheritors of the promise.

That leads to the second question: What, for the Preacher, are “the promises?” Again, the Preacher surely understands this category in both narrow and broad ways, both as specific content and as a more encompassing theological dynamic. In the narrower sense, at various points along the way in the story of salvation God made very specific promises: for example, the promise to make Abraham a great and blessed nation (Gen. 12:1–3), the promise to bring the children of Israel into a land flowing with milk and honey (Exod. 3:8), and the promise to make a new covenant with the house of Israel (Jer. 31:31–34). In the broader sense, however, it is the general character of God to make and keep promises; God is a promise-making and promise-keeping God. In all times and places, the promise is: “Follow the path of obedience and faith, and I will bring you to a place of rest and joy.” Many have followed that path, none more excellently than Jesus. Now the readers of Hebrews, prize students, those who belong to Christ, are being urged to put one foot in front of the other along the pilgrim way. The Preacher exhorts them to trust the promise of rest and triumph and to be patient.

 

 

Long, T. G. (1997). Hebrews. Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (71–76). Louisville, KY: John Knox Press.

 

 

WBC:

6:1–2 The warning expressed in 5:11–14 finds an emphatic continuation in 6:1–12. The chapter break is both unwarranted and unfortunate. The initial word διό, “so then,” shows distinctly that the writer did not consider the members of the house church to be infants requiring a diet of milk. Otherwise, a sound educational approach and pastoral concern would certainly have forced him to dwell on the primary instruction. In reality he knew that he could encourage them to be “carried forward to the goal of spiritual maturity” because they were prepared to receive solid food; they were experienced and exercised for distinguishing between what is wholesome and what is unwholesome (cf. Riggenbach, 158). A failure to appreciate the irony in 5:11–14 and the firm connection between these verses and 6:1 is evident when H. P. Owen, for example, speaks of “the violence of the διό” (NTS 3 [1956–57] 248).

When the writer urges his readers to “leave standing” (ἀφέντες, see Note i above) the elementary Christian teaching, he is not dismissing it but regarding it as so well established that the urgent need is for a fuller appreciation and application of that teaching. The writer is wholly optimistic about the community: a foundation has been laid (cf. 2:3–4) that need not, and cannot, be laid again (6:1, 4). The exhortation extended to the community in 6:1–12 is precisely a reminder of that solid foundation. The second clause in v 1 (“not laying again a foundation”) clarifies in negative fashion the meaning of the positive injunction (“let us leave standing … and be carried forward”; cf. Peterson, RTR 35 [1976] 19). The movement to τὴν τελειότητα, “the goal of spiritual maturity,” “perfection,” does not call for a progress away from a simpler form or content of preaching but for a personal surrender to God’s active influence within the community (“let us be carried forward [by God]”). In this context spiritual maturity implies receptivity and responsiveness to the received tradition (5:14), an earnest concern for the full realization of hope (6:11), unwavering faith and steadfast endurance (6:12).

There may be a difference between τὰ στοιχεῖα τῆς ἀρχῆς τῶν λογίων τοῦ θεοῦ, “the primary elements of the revelation of God,” in 5:12 and τὸν τῆς ἀρχῆς τοῦ Χριστοῦ λόγον, “the primary word about Christ,” in 6:1. The instruction mentioned ironically in 5:12 may have reference to a preliminary and insufficient teaching based upon the OT, without specific reference to Christ. The primary Christian teaching mentioned in 6:1 is described positively as a firm foundation for Christian life. This conclusion has been called into question on the ground that in none of the six items mentioned in 6:1–2 is there any reference to anything specifically Christian (e.g., Adams, NTS 13 [1966–67] 379–84; Weeks, WTJ 39 [1976] 74–76). Each of the six articles, however, is related to the high priestly christology developed in the subsequent chapters, which makes explicit the christological structure of the foundation. The call to repentance from dead works and faith in God is reviewed in 9:14 from the standpoint of the redemptive accomplishment of Jesus. There the “dead works” are defined as the external regulations associated with the Levitical priesthood in the earthly sanctuary (9:10). The discrimination between useless washings on the one hand and purification by the blood of Christ on the other (9:9–10, 19; 10:22), or between priests appointed by the imposition of hands according to the law, which in its weakness could not achieve the perfection of the people of God, and the high priest appointed by the oath of God and the power of an indestructible life (5:1–6, 7:5, 15–28) demonstrates the relationship between the foundational teaching and the advanced instruction provided in 7:1–10:18. Accordingly, in 6:1–2 the writer is not asking the community to discard one aspect of Christian instruction for another but to build upon the solid foundation already laid for them (Thüsing, TTZ 76 [1967] 233–46, 261–80; Peterson, RTR 35 [1976] 19).

Although the six articles of faith can be arranged in pairs that consider the knowledge and service of God, the cultus, and eschatology (so Thüsing, 243), acceptance of the variant reading διδαχήν, “the teaching,” in v 2 calls for a different arrangement. The “catechetical instruction concerning cleansing rites and laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment” stands in apposition to “the foundation” of repentance from dead works and faith in God. This means that the laying of the foundation consisted in the provision of catechetical instruction (so Michel, 238; F. F. Bruce, 112). One implication of this interpretation is that repentance and faith were prompted, at least in part, by instruction that developed a distinctively Christian perspective on the articles of faith enumerated in v 2 (so Dunn, Baptism, 208).

3 The statement “and we will do this” has specific reference to the proposal put forward in v 1. At the same time it resumes the announcement made in 5:11a (so Vanhoye, La structure, 116). The writer is confident that those he has addressed in 5:11–6:2 will recognize that their regression and withdrawal from contact with others is untenable, despite the risks entailed in the resumption of a bold stance for Christ in a hostile world. The qualification, “if, that is, God allows,” is not to be understood as merely a pious convention (Moffatt, 76; cf. Spicq, 2:149). The development of the christological structure of the foundational articles as well as the attainment of the goal of spiritual maturity places both the writer and his audience in dependence upon the blessing of God (cf. vv 1a and 7).

4–6 The reason for the writer’s resolve in v 3 becomes clear when it is linked to the warning in vv 4–6 by the conjunction γάρ (Solari, “The Problem of Metanoia,” 75). The rich experience of the community provides the basis for the writer’s confidence that he can proceed to develop his exposition of the high priestly office of Christ. They can be addressed in preaching and teaching because something has actually been done with and to them by God (vv 4–5). Yet the danger of apostasy was real, and not merely hypothetical, and called for the gravest possible warning (for a sketch of the history of the interpretation of 6:4–6, see Solari, 1–7).

The writer begins with an impressive list of positive statements. The ἀδύνατον, “impossible,” which is placed emphatically at the beginning of the sentence, is created and conditioned by an event and by facts. A firm and vital relationship has been established between God and the community. The recital of what occurred with the reception of the gospel does not describe a succession of salvific events but the one event of salvation that is viewed from different aspects and manifestations (P. E. Hughes, WTJ 35 [1973] 143). Each of the positive statements is conditioned by the qualification ἅπαξ, “once,” which conveys the notion of definitive occurrence (cf. Stählin, TDNT 1:382).

The experience of the power of the gospel (cf. 2:3–4) resulted in the saving illumination of their minds and hearts (cf. 10:32). A reference to baptism has sometimes been recognized in the term φωτισθέντας, “brought to the light” (e.g., Käsemann, Das wandernde Gottesvolk, 119; H. Montefiore, 108; Conzelmann, TDNT 9:355). Although the Syriac Peshitta translated the expression in v 4 “those who have once descended for baptism,” it stands alone among the Syriac and other older versions in this understanding. The earliest usage of the verb φωτίζεσθαι and its cognate noun for baptism is found in Justin (First Apology 61.12; Dial. 39.2; 122.1–2, 6), and the description of baptism as illumination seems to have gained in popularity after this time. But prior to the middle of the second century there is no clear evidence that φωτίζειν means “to baptize.” In the NT the term is used metaphorically to refer to spiritual or intellectual illumination that removes ignorance through the action of God or the preaching of the gospel (cf. John 1:9; Col 4:5; Eph 1:18; 2 Tim 1:10; Rev 18:1). What is signified is not simply instruction for salvation but the renewal of the mind and of life. In a parallel passage in Hebrews, the statement that corresponds to φωτισθέντας in v 4 is “we have received knowledge of the truth” (10:26). Illumination is not effected, but rather attested, by baptism (cf. Dunn, Baptism, 209–10).

What is denoted by ἅπαξ φωτισθέντας is described more fully by the clauses that follow. The verb γεύεσθαι, literally, “to taste,” is appropriate to an experience that is real and personal (cf. Hughes, WTJ 35 [1973] 141). The two clauses introduced by the repeated participle γευσαμένους expose internal and external aspects of conversion. The “gift from heaven,” which describes redemption as the free gift of God, and reception of the Holy Spirit were experienced by the congregation inwardly. The goodness of God’s word and the endowment of members of the community with charismatic gifts (2:4) are what they heard and saw (so Dunn, Baptism, 209). Together, the clauses describe vividly the reality of the experience of personal salvation enjoyed by the Christians addressed. The Holy Spirit had not only formed the community but was bringing it to eschatological fulfillment. The present period was already pervaded by the power of the coming age, which, through Christ, had made a profound inroad upon the community. Accordingly, in vv 4–5 the writer identifies the congregation as witnesses to the fact that God’s salvation and presence are the unquestionable reality of their lives.

 

If those who have enjoyed a full and authentic Christian experience should then fall away, a renewal to repentance is impossible (v 6). Stylistically, the final aorist participle, παραπεσόντας, “fall away,” stands out, in contrast to the previous four (which expressed the positive character of the experience of the community), as something unjustified and tragic (Proulx and Schökel, Bib 56 [1975] 196). The aorist tense indicates a decisive moment of commitment to apostasy. In the LXX, the term παραπίπτειν has reference to the expression of a total attitude reflecting delibrate and calculated renunciation of God (Ezek 20:27; 22:4; Wis 6:9; 12:2; cf. Michaelis, TDNT 6:171; P. E. Hughes, WTJ 35 [1973] 146–50). In Hebrews it is equivalent to the expression ἀποστῆναι ἀπὸ θεοῦ ζῶντος, “to fall away from the living God,” in 3:12. Apostasy entailed a decisive rejection of God’s gifts, similar to the rejection of the divine promise by the Exodus generation at Kadesh (3:7–4:2; cf. McCullough, BibTh 20 [1974] 2–3). In Hebrews the characteristic terms for sin that display contempt for God are compounds of παρα-, many of which occur nowhere else in the NT: παραδειγματίζειν, “to expose to public humiliation” (6:6), παραπικραίνειν, “to rebel” (3:16), παραπικρασμός, “rebellion” (3:8, 15), παραρρεῖν, “to drift away” (2:1), παραφέρειν, “to carry away” (13:9), and παρειμένος, “being listless” (12:12) (Proulx and Schökel, Bib 56 [1975] 198). The nuance in the participle παραπεσόντας in v 6 is brought out sharply by the present participles ἀνασταυροῦντας, “crucifying again [the Son of God],” and παραδειγματίζοντας, “exposing [him] to public humiliation,” which express the odious consequences of the decision to spurn the gifts of God. Specific reference to “the Son of God” serves to remind the community sharply of its own baptismal confession (4:14). What is visualized by the expressions in v 6 is every form of departure from faith in the crucified Son of God. This could entail a return to Jewish convictions and practices as well as the public denial of faith in Christ under pressure from a magistrate or a hostile crowd, simply for personal advantage (cf. Mark 8:34–38; Herm. Sim. 8.8.2; 9.19.1).

The assertion “it is impossible to restore them to repentance” is parallel to the notion of laying again the foundation concerning repentance in v 1. There the primary word concerning Christ was the foundation, which had to be left standing and which could not be recast. This thought is reiterated precisely in v 6; it is impossible to seek to lay another foundation than the one that has been laid and is sustaining the people of God. In Jewish intertestamental and later literature, it is strongly emphasized that repentance was the gift of God (Wis 12:10: “You gave them a chance to repent”; Pr Man 8: “You have given me, a sinner, repentance”; cf. Acts 5:31; 11:18; 1 Clem 7:14). In the eschatological perspective of Hebrews, there is no other repentance than that provided by God through Jesus Christ. There is no salvation apart from the purification for sins accomplished by the divine Son in the final period of God’s redemptive activity (1:1–3). The ἀδύνατον, which is used absolutely and without qualification in v 4, expresses an impossibility because the apostate repudiates the only basis upon which repentance can be extended (cf. Williamson, PhiloAbr, 249–51). To repudiate Christ is to embrace the “impossible.”

7–8 The presence of γάρ, “for,” establishes that vv 7–8 are an integral part of the argument in vv 4–6. The force of the γάρ may be causal or explanatory. Verbrugge (CTJ 15 [1980] 62–63) prefers a causal notion; the writer can make the assertion expressed in vv 4–6 because he knows that land which has been well watered by frequent rain and cultivated will face destruction if it produces only thorns and thistles instead of useful crops. It seems equally valid to regard the γάρ as having the force of further explanation. The agricultural illustration clarifies the appropriateness of the warning in vv 4–6. The recital of the blessings and advantages enjoyed by the community in vv 4–5 demonstrates that they are like land that receives frequent rain and is cared for by God (cf. Deut. 11:11–12). There is a firm basis for confidence that the community will share in further blessing from God (v 7b; cf. 13:7, 17). But if the Christian community should become apostate, it would be like a field which was well watered and cultivated, but which then produced only thorns and thistles (v 8). In the parable all interest is concentrated on the harvest, rather than on preliminary stages of growth. What is decisive is what is produced. The issue is usefulness or worthlessness. The initial advantage described is the same; it is only the final result that is different (cf. Williamson, Philo, 233–41).

The use of an agricultural illustration of this kind was common in antiquity (e.g., Plato, Republic 492A; Isa 5:1–7; 28:23–29; Ezek 19:10–14; cf. Matt 3:10; 7:16). The formulation of v 8 makes a clear allusion to Gen 3:17–18, where the growth of “thorns and thistles” is the consequence of the curse invoked by human disobedience. According to v 8, the sober consequence of apostasy would be the consigning of life to the curse that hangs over a field producing only thorns and thistles, whose “end” (τέλος) is to be set on fire. The significance of the imagery is driven home when subsequently in Hebrews fire is associated with the severity of the eschatological judgment that will consume the adversaries of God (10:27; 12:29; see 6:2; cf. Priesker, TDNT 2:331).

The motif of blessing (v 7) and curse (v 8) places the discussion firmly in a covenantal context. The promise of blessing is attached to obedience, but the curse sanction is invoked in opposition to apostasy and disobedience (cf. Deut 11:26–28). It is possible that in vv 7–8 the writer was thinking of the infamous cities of the Jordan plain, which were “well watered like the garden of the Lord” (Gen 13:10) but which were subsequently judged by God and were destroyed by fire (Gen 19:24). These cities were held up to the covenant people to illustrate the expectation of those who abandoned God and who expressed contempt for the covenant (Deut 29:22–25; cf. Verbrugge, CTJ 15 [1980] 65–66). The members of the congregation had experienced the blessing of God’s salvation. Those who committed apostasy must expect the imposing of the curse sanctions of the covenant (cf. 10:29; Williamson, Philo, 246).

9 The optimism concerning the congregation expressed in vv 1–3 is reiterated impressively in v 9 (“we remain sure”). The basis of the writer’s confidence is that a true work of God has taken place among them. Although it was necessary to warn them sternly of the consequences of apostasy because they had become unreceptive (5:11) and were withdrawing from contact with others (5:12), they nevertheless displayed indisputable evidence of God’s blessing (2:4; 6:4–5, 7; cf. Ballarini, ScC 106 [1978] 368–71). The severity of vv 4–8 is softened when the writer addresses the community for the first (and only) time as ἀγαπητοί, “dear friends.” In their case he remains sure of τὰ κρείσσονα, “the better things,” where the article is significant and looks back on the better of the two options contemplated in vv 7–8. They are like the field described in v 7, which has already received the blessing of God and which will yet experience further blessing (so Vanhoye, La structure, 119–20; Andriessen, NRT 96 [1974] 1060; Peterson, RTR 35 [1976] 20–21). The expression καὶ ἐχόμενα σωτηρίας, “which accompany salvation,” relates this firm expectation to God’s activity on behalf of the redeemed community.

10–12 The writer’s persuasion that the commitment displayed by the community was genuine was based on the recollection of their conduct in the past. If some particular occasion was in mind in v 10a, it is almost certainly to be identified with the events recalled in 10:32–34. At that time the members of the congregation had identified themselves with the stigma attached to the name of Jesus and had publicly demonstrated their love for him and for one another. When v 10a is read in the light of 10:32–34, the “work” that God will not forget must have reference to their boldness before their persecutors, their practical concern for those abused or imprisoned, and the cheerful acceptance of the seizure of their property. Their loyalty to Christ and to one another on that occasion was an experession of firm faith and compelling hope (cf. 10:34) as much as of love. In view of this, it seems that the words καὶ τῆς ἀγάπης, “and your love,” are not epexegetical or explanatory of τοῦ ἔργου ὑμῶν, “your work,” but identify the ultimate source of the motivation for their bold stance as love for God (cf. Peterson, RTR 35 [1976] 21).

The present participle διακονοῦντες, “continue to serve,” in v 10b acknowledges that in some measure the exemplary service of fellow Christians that was the hallmark of the community in the past continued to find expression. Nevertheless, there are important hints in Hebrews that the expression of love within the congregation needed to be deepened and extended (cf. 10:24; 12:14a; 13:1, 3, 6). It would be unwise to distinguish sharply among the concepts of love (v 10), hope (v 11), and faith (v 12), as if the congregation were deficient only in hope and faith (Michel, 249–50). What the writer calls for is a renewal of their former zeal in every respect (cf. 10:22–24).

The admonition in vv 11–12 is addressed to each person in the house church (ἕκαστον ὑμῶν, “each one of you”; cf. 3:12, 13; 4:1, 11; 10:25; 12:15). They are all to display τὴν αὐτὴν … σπουδήν, “the same concern,” for the realization of their hope, which they had displayed on that earlier occasion (cf. 10:34). What this implies is the ability to translate Christian conviction into action that will express the quality of hope that distinguishes the Church from other contemporary clubs and societies (cf. Bertram, TDNT 4:920). The clause ἄχρι τέλους, “until the end,” reiterates the eschatological emphasis of 3:14; it evokes the parousia when hope will be fully realized (cf. 9:28).

The motivating concern behind the extended exhortation in 5:11–6:12 is expressed in a purpose clause in v 12; ἵνα μὴ νωθροὶ γένησθε μιμηταὶ δέ, “so that you will not become sluggish, but imitators.” The unusual term νωθροί, “sluggish,” “unreceptive,” reflects back on the charge formulated in 5:11b and functions literarily to round off the hortatory section introduced at that point. The members of the house church have become sluggish and unreceptive (5:11b), but the renewal of the same earnest concern demonstrated in the past (6:11) will assure that they will not continue to be sluggish. The summons to be μιμηταί, “imitators,” of those who were designated heirs to the promises of God prepares for the transition to 6:13–20. The theme of imitation recurs in 13:7, and in both instances faith is seen as steadfast persistence that pursues the divine promise (cf. Grässer, Glaube, 121–26). The qualification διὰ πίστεως καὶ μακροθυμίας, “through faith and steadfastness,” is expanded in reference to include a plurality of figures, perhaps in anticipation of the development in 11:1–12:3. Originally, however, it was conventional terminology in Jewish tradition concerning Abraham (cf. Jub. 17:7; 19:1–9), and it is in this restricted sense that these terms are expounded in 6:13–15.

 

 

Explanation

 

Before the writer develops the theme of the high priestly office of the Son of God, it was necessary for him to address the fact that the community for whom he was writing had become sluggish and unreceptive to the claims of the gospel. They appeared to be unwilling to accept the deeper implications of faith and obedience. This had been implied earlier in the sermon (2:1–4; 4:1–2, 11), but it is now asserted explicitly. Dullness in understanding was a dangerous state for those who had been called to obedience (5:9, 11). The members of the house-church appear to have withdrawn from contact with outsiders and were no longer prepared to propagate their faith (5:12). They had regressed from a level of spiritual maturity attained over an extended period of years during which they had received ample instruction. These developments, which appear to be of relatively recent origin, were symptomatic of a serious erosion of faith and hope. They displayed a sharp deviation from the stance of boldness and mature commitment exhibited by the congregation on an earlier occasion (10:32–34). They may have been induced by the acute realization that commitment to Christ and the gospel entailed loss, and even martyrdom (5:13). The purpose of 5:11–14 is only indirectly to prepare the community for the core instruction in 7:1–10:18. The immediate intention is to shame them into recognizing that they are mature and must assume the responsibilities that accrue to a spiritually mature group of Christians in a hostile society.

The writer uses irony and sarcasm effectively when he speaks of infants who require a diet of milk (5:12–13). Yet this is not a factual description of the men and women he addressed. It is just a warning. What the writer actually believes his intended readers to be is expressed by the image of the adult, and this is confirmed by the solid food they have received, and continue to receive in the homily. The community is mature. The signs of regression they have displayed are an aberrational innovation that marred their integrity and imperiled their spiritual welfare. An act of deliberate apostasy would result in their permanent loss of all the benefits obtained for them by Christ. The appeal in 5:11–6:12 is an extended exhortation not to cast aside their hope but to hold it confidently until it is realized (6:11–12).

The writer remains optimistic about the congregation because he knows they have been established upon an unshakable foundation. The exhortation extended to the community is precisely a reminder of that solid foundation. The intention of the stern warning in 6:4–6, consequently, is positive. There the writer recalls for his audience what they possess and what they have experienced as the result of God’s redemptive activity through Christ. God’s presence and salvation are the undoubted reality of their lives. They have participated in the eschatological gifts of spiritual insight and renewal, the Holy Spirit, and the intrusion of the mighty deeds of the coming aeon into the present situation. If they were to withdraw from Christ in an act of apostasy, they would be witnesses against themselves. They are a well-watered and cultivated field capable of producing the useful harvest that God expects (6:7). They must not succumb to the temptation to become weary of being God’s people in a world that rejects their witness and holds them in contempt. To repudiate Christ would entail unbelief and the radical disobedience that makes in inevitable the imposing of the curse sanctions of the covenant (6.8). That we do not choose the impossible, but that we enjoy the perfection freely given to us in Christ, is the sum of 6:4–6. This calls for a renewal of the renewal of the same earnest concern demonstrated on an earlier difficult occasion, when the community had openly identified itself with the stigma attached to the name of Christ and had given tangible expression to its love, hope, and faith.

The severity of the warning in 5:11–6:12 is thoroughly understandable. The writer addressed a situation that threatened to engulf and destroy his friends. If the tendency to drift from their commitment to the gospel and to become unreceptive to its implications for the claim of God upon their lives were not checked, they might flagrantly and contemptuously reject the efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ. The congregation needed to be reminded that there was only one sacrifice for sins (10:26) and one basis upon which repentance could be extended (6:6). Writing from a distance and dependent upon the performance of the written word alone, the writer had to address them in terms that would expose the peril of spiritual immaturity and recall them to their previous stance of confidence in their experience and expectations. Pastoral concern for his friends is evident in every line of this extended section. The writer makes use of biting irony, confident assurance, sharp warning, and warm encouragement to cajole the community into recognizing that they cannot turn back the clock and deny the reality of the eschatological salvation that they have experienced.

 

 

Lane, W. L. (1998). Vol. 47A: Hebrews 1–8. Word Biblical Commentary (139–146). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

Posts 177
Alan | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 27 2012 11:40 AM

Dan, once again, thank you so much for taking the time to respond.

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Posts 255
Sogol | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 27 2012 3:05 PM

Hi Dan,

Can I ask where you are getting that NIB text which you are copying and pasting into your postings?

Is that from the CD offered directly by Abingdon?

If so, do you think that is worth having while we wait for Logos to publish the NIB?

It looks like it might be a long time before we see the NIB on Logos, and I may need to find another way to access it in the meantime (though I don't want the physical version).

Thanks for your thoughts. And thanks for continuing to champion the cause of the NIB on Logos.

Posts 177
Alan | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Nov 28 2012 3:03 AM

Sogol:

Hi Dan,

Can I ask where you are getting that NIB text which you are copying and pasting into your postings?

Is that from the CD offered directly by Abingdon?

If so, do you think that is worth having while we wait for Logos to publish the NIB?

It looks like it might be a long time before we see the NIB on Logos, and I may need to find another way to access it in the meantime (though I don't want the physical version).

Thanks for your thoughts. And thanks for continuing to champion the cause of the NIB on Logos.

What would be super awesome is for Logos and Abingdon to strike a deal to make their CD available to all those who have signed up for the pre-order! I can dream, can't I?

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Posts 255
Sogol | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Nov 28 2012 5:33 AM

Alan:
What would be super awesome is for Logos and Abingdon to strike a deal to make their CD available to all those who have signed up for the pre-order! I can dream, can't I?

Yes

Posts 5253
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Feb 21 2013 11:31 AM

BUMP for Feb 2013

Posts 5253
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Feb 21 2013 11:36 AM

Sogol:

Hi Dan,

Can I ask where you are getting that NIB text which you are copying and pasting into your postings?

Is that from the CD offered directly by Abingdon?

If so, do you think that is worth having while we wait for Logos to publish the NIB?

It looks like it might be a long time before we see the NIB on Logos, and I may need to find another way to access it in the meantime (though I don't want the physical version).

Thanks for your thoughts. And thanks for continuing to champion the cause of the NIB on Logos.

I apologize for not responding earlier. I feel it would be most valuable to have it in Logos.. you can purchase it on CDROM or via ministry matters subscription.

-Dan

Posts 2829
Michael Childs | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Feb 21 2013 11:40 AM

Dan Francis:
I have the IB in electronic format but use it very little. The NIB is sometimes more liberal and sometimes more conservative. For example in general I felt looking over Mark that NIB felt more conservative to me, but that might of just been the passages i was examining at the time.

That is very interesting to me.  I have the IB in paper, but I have only read parts of the NIB. So I may well be mistaken. But it seems to me that the NIB is much broader in the theology of its authors than the old IB.  For example,  I don't recall any commentator as evangelical as N. T. Wright in the old IB.  My impression was that Abingdon was attempting to broaden its market.

 

"In all cases, the Church is to be judged by the Scripture, not the Scripture by the Church," John Wesley

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