I have shared with you how much I admire and respect the many books and commentaries that are available to those of us in the Pew in this digital age. When I study or read these books and various commentaries, they are like a flashlight, brightly illuminating the words on the page, and leading me down a path of better understanding. One such set of books is a favorite of mine and today I would like to shine a little light on them. “The New Interpreter’s Bible.” The books of the Bible provide a rich and diverse subject matter, and I looked at several this week but Hebrews stayed on my mind. Didn’t know why until I pulled volume xii of the NIB off the shelf. Grab your flashlight and follow me as we read through the introduction to the“Book of Hebrews.” The information I am sharing is from the NIB’s introduction to the book of Hebrews. I have taken the liberty to reduce it to a more conversational manner.
Never considered that ones growth in faith could grow out of and be sustained by a conversation between the church and its Bible. Never even thought that reading my Bible might be considered as having a conversation but it is a refreshing and pleasing thought. We, who read and study the Bible, generation after generation, pass on our collective beliefs that make the relationships that define the Christian faith. To be sure there are other voices, even those that weren’t invited that also become part of the conclusions reached. We would like to believe that those conclusions reached were weighted in context by the Christian community and the Book. Not everyone in the community will have equal input and in some cases none at all. The NIB points out that not every book in the Bible participates equally in the conversation with the church. There is the caveat of the church’s willingness or ability to hear it, Hebrews being an example of this. It is not the least read, but it is about halfway out of the 66 books in popularity. It would be misleading to say the book of Hebrews has been left out of these conversations, it has not. The church has called on Hebrews many times, most commonly for a benediction at many church assemblies.
Hebrews 13: 20-21.20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
No need to cover all that is here in this introduction so if you will allow me, I will just wander through lifting a few things here and there. It is noted that the author of Hebrews has great skill in the use of the Greek language, more than any other New Testament writer. It is worth noting that there are some stunning facts worth sharing here. The NIB notes not only the skill in the use of language but that within this book we find “the finest example of homiletical rhetoric available to us from the first century CE.” (volume xii page 4 NIB) The skill and the use of old testament writings in this New Testament writing create a well deserved but not often expressed appreciation for the book of Hebrews. This next tidbit would have never come to my mind. Let’s be plain here, this kind of depth of study is not a common factor or trait of those of us in the Pew. One difficulty that this book has, its name! The Gospels, Acts and Paul are for the most part familiar ground for us in the pew. The placement of Hebrews near the end of the NT is sometimes read as a value judgment. There is yet another interesting observation in this introduction from NIB. Galatians, Corinthians and Philippians are seen as geographical designations and once there we find ourselves to be more alike the people there than different.
Hebrews, well that is not a geographical term, “it is ethnic, and ethnic distances are more complex, more difficult to negotiate, requiring more energy than some people are willing to expend.”(NIB page 4)
I have simply wanted to share with you the wealth of information available to us in the Pew that enriches our discernment of the Gospel as written. These are great times for us ordinary folks to gain insight into the extraordinary wealth of information available to us. That said, let’s finish this and save our batteries till next time we leave the pew.
There is much more contained in this “Introduction To Hebrews” but please consider this. For those who would use Hebrews to teach or preach, this book does little to dissolve the distance between it and the Church. There are not many “lessons for today” to be found in the text. Perhaps these might be some of the reasons that the “conversation” between Hebrews and the Church is not more intense. I hope you have enjoyed this little detour from the ordinary this week. One more thing…..I could never have afforded the complete set of The New Interpreter’s BIBLE myself. They were given to me by a former Pastor of mine, The Rev. Tim Paul. I will be forever grateful for such a kindness.
God Bless, Life is Good