The Second in a Series of Sermons on the Book of Hebrews
We may not know who wrote the Book of Hebrews, but the unknown author’s opening declaration is crystal clear. God has spoken through the prophets–the Old Testament. But in these last days (the present era) God has finally and definitely spoken in and through the person of his son, Jesus Christ. Since Jesus is creator and sustainer of all things, Jesus is superior to Moses. Since Jesus has completed his work of redemption, he is superior to Israel’s priesthood. Since Jesus now sits at the right hand of God, he possesses a greater name and a greater authority than any angel. Given the fascination with angels typical of many first century Hellenistic Jews, the author of this epistle must deal with the role of angels in redemptive history, and in doing so, make his case that Jesus Christ is superior to all angelic beings.
This is the second sermon in our new series on the Book of Hebrews. Last time , we addressed the difficult questions surrounding he authorship, destination, and date of this epistle–so I encourage you to listen to or read the first sermon which is now posted on the church website, or my blog. We don’t know who wrote this epistle, nor do we know when it was written. We don’t even know to which church this epistle was originally addressed. But based upon the contents of the Epistle to the Hebrews, we do know a great deal about the original recipients.
The author very likely knew the people to whom he is writing, and he was quite familiar with their current situation. The recipients were Greek-speaking Jews (Hellenistic Jews), who believed that the Old Testament was God’s self-revelation. They lived in a large city (most scholars think Rome or Alexandria), and probably were a small group meeting in someone’s home. Many in the church which received this letter were recent converts to Christianity from that type Judaism found throughout the major cities of the first century Mediterranean world. Not as legalistic as the Judaism found in Palestine (closer the temple, Jerusalem, and home to many Pharisees), the Judaism in which the recipients of this letter were raised and the synagogues in which they worship were probably as much Greek in ethos, as they were Jewish in theology. This form of Judaism focused upon speculative topics like angels, and made Moses (not Abraham), the center of Old Testament religion. This kind of Judaism would be as distant from traditional Judaism as mainline Protestant liberalism is from the Protestant Reformation.
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