Online Friday Noon Study Group

August 19, 2022 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Online Friday Noon Study Group

Friday Noon Study Group  February 10  12-1

Last week, our discussion of the Epistle to the Hebrews was so engaging that we were only able to cover a chapter and a half  (7:11-28 and 8).   The author continued to make a case for the superiority of Christ’s priesthood, arguing that “perfection” (a complete relationship between man and God) had been “weak and ineffectual” under the Levitical priesthood.  The author’s argument, drawing upon Psalm 110 from the Tanach, included such points as
  • Jesus, like Melchizedek in the Hebrew Bible, was a priest “not through a a legal requirement concerning physical descent” (he descended from Judah rather than Levi).
  • Levitical priests “were prevented by death from continuing in office,” whereas “because he continues forever.” Jesus “holds his priesthood permanently.”
  • Jesus was “holy, blameless, and undefiled,” while high priests appointed through Mosaic law “are subject to weakness.”
  • Levitical priests offered sacrifices “day after day,” but Jesus did this “once for all when he offered himself.”
A central point of the seventh chapter of Hebrews is that Jesus “has become the guarantee of a better covenant.”  This “better covenant” is the focus of Chapter 8, which takes as its prooftext Jeremiah 31: 31-34.  Arguing that God’s previous covenant with Israel had its faults, the author of Hebrews cites Jeremiah who claims that God established with Israel a “new covenant . . . not like the covenant that [He] made with their ancestors.”  This new covenant will be put in people’s minds and written on their hearts. Chapter 8 concludes, “In speaking of a ‘new covenant,’ he has made the first one obsolete.  And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear.”
Our group’s discussion then centered upon how Hebrews 8 has been interpreted by Jews and Christians and on the impact of those interpretations.
One Christian interpretation of this chapter asserts:
“The nation of Israel failed to live up to the terms of the old covenant. It was impossible because of the radical depravity of man. Of course, it was never meant to bring salvation. . . . The new covenant was required because of the sin problem. . . , The new covenant does not promise sinlessness, but forgiveness. We are saved sinners. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. . . . The new covenant is a covenant of sovereign grace. It accomplished what the law and the old covenant could never do.” 
Jewish interpretations of the same chapter include
“The Jewish view of the mere wording “new covenant” is no more than a renewed national commitment to abide by God’s laws. In this view, the word new does not refer to a new commitment that replaces a previous one, but rather to an additional and greater level of commitment.”
“The covenant of old is of eternal duration, never to be rescinded or to be superseded by a new covenant (Leviticus 26:44-45) . . . . Jeremiah’s “new covenant” is not a replacement of the existing covenant, but merely a figure of speech expressing the reinvigoration and revitalization of the existing covenant.”
It should be pointed out that while many Christians do accept some form of the Christian argument stated above, at least one of our group’s Christian participants objects to the supersessionist divisiveness engendered by distinguishing between old and new covenants.
This Friday, we’ll proceed by looking more closely at Chapters 9-11  in the Epistle to the Hebrews.  The author’s focus continues to be on differences between the priesthood of Christ and that of the Levitical priests.  Chapter 11, which we may not get to, speaks of the importance of faith.
Our discussion group meets via Zoom every Friday from 12-1 (see the CBI web site or Weekly Announcements for a Zoom link).  All are welcome to join us, regardless of their level of expertise or attendance at previous Friday study group sessions. Any copy of the New Testament is acceptable (the more versions the richer the conversation). 







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