The modern assumption is that the Bible is mostly irrelevant to modern life. Yet, the Bible has sold nearly 4 billion copies. That’s more than any other book and light years more than any other sacred text.
Let that sink in.
In over thirty years of ministry, over a decade now online, I can tell you that the Bible produces strong reactions in people, and even if you are someone in between the poles of loving or hating it, most people are curious about what it has to say. But why?
This will take some self awareness, but the main attraction to the Bible is it’s claim to be the Word of God. Even for those whose faith barely exists there is a curiosity as to whether the God of the bible exists, and if so, has He said anything helpful? The bible is regarded as true if it agrees with us and untrue if we disagree with it. This schizo quasi-authoritative nod to scripture is a pathology found in modern people and their systems of faith. Because of this poor grasp of scripture, or poorer application of it, the message of scripture is largely obscured in our world.
This reveals the bible’s biggest problem: The institutions which teach it.
Curiosity about the bible diminishes sharply when discussed with a church goers. Institutional power obscures the message of scripture profoundly. Every parishioner thinks their pastor is the exception, that their pastor teaches the whole corpus of scripture, the good bad and ugly. Except they don’t and this study will prove it. If a pastor receives an income for their teaching, they will inevitably interpret it in a way that builds their base or serves the institution. I’ve found no exceptions to this yet in my thirty years of ministry. Institutions that train pastors and bible teachers are resolute in promoting their own theological frameworks. Like the propaganda machines of a news agency, they report on the news with the spin directed by those who write the checks.
What’s next? The flock picks a team and the arguments begin. Now the “message” or Logos is barely visible amidst the infighting, name calling, and power posturing. The environment is such that if the original message of Good News is made visible or proclaimed, it is almost immediately dismissed as heresy and those who teach it are blacklisted.
If you are new to this ministry, this exile is where I am taking anyone who will listen. After years of conformity, fear, threat and intimidation, I am now free to teach the scripture without a filter and simply let it say what it says. Like Paul said, “For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting.” (1 Corinthians 9:15). How many pastors would continue their work if they were not paid for it? I have done so for over a decade. I offer no path, no ritual, no threat, no agenda beyond deconstructing all that obscures our view.
I say all of this because our study in Hebrews will return many times to quoting of scripture. Like the author of this book, I quote scripture for the same reason, namely, the religious mind requires it. The Atheist and the devout fundamentalist are both locked in the same three-sided prison of a “religious mind”. The religious mind is defined by strict adherence to the systems framework. Thus quoting scripture is the only way to allow the Boomers religious mind to see the message beyond the religion in the same way that quoting empirical data speaks to the religious scientific mind.
Their trap is that neither is willing to see an authority beyond their religious assumptions. Appealing to the authority of scripture resolves the tension for the original audience of the book of Hebrews who were deeply entrenched in the Hebrew religion. Appealing to the authority of empirical data resolves things for the scientific mind. It’s precisely why I use science to appeal to my audience who adheres to the scientific worldview or to atheism while simultaneously quoting scripture for my audience who adheres to cultural Christianity. And now we see why the author of this book will quote scripture…
...our stuck world needs to be convinced.
The author of Hebrews utilizes seven quotes from scripture (mostly from Psalms& Deuteronomy) in the first chapter alone. (Remember their bible wasn’t the same as our bible). He is pointing out that Yahweh, the God of the Jews, has been speaking through the prophets and angels in the Hebrew scripture about this “Son of God who has made purification for sins.” He is pointing out that purification is not solely a Jewish thing, nor a traditional thing, nor a religious thing for a select group of people. The author is deconstructing their tribal religion hoping they can see religion more as a metaphor or symbol of a much bigger thing which is currently being obscured by their religion.
…if we don’t see beyond our frameworks of belief, we cannot hear the message (logos) or word (rema) of this book.
Imagine I’m invited to an evangelical church today as a guest speaker. Suppose I open the bible and proceed to tell the audience that the God of the universe is saving non-Christians and they don’t even have to convert to Christianity in order to receive this salvation. It would be scandalous. The same would be true if I stood in a Mosque and said Allah is saving non-Muslim infidels now and they don’t have to follow the five pillars. Or if I gave a TED talk to quantum scientists which said God exists and you don’t have to convert to a religion to find the proof which is found in every photon of the universe. The only possible way the most staunch observers would even consider such a claim is if I led them through their own sacred text and revealed how they had missed this conclusion. In science, it’s the same as starting the scientific method from the A-priori of God’s existence rather than God’s non-existence.
It changes everything. So yes, quoting scripture is absolutely vital if we are to wake people up.
That is precisely the theme of the Book of Hebrews.
Lastly, a word about angels and salvation.
Within the hierarchy of the audience’s mind is a worldview which believes in angels and the spiritual world. God was the highest authority, then angels, then humans. The author introduces the “Son” as being co-equal with God and higher than angels. A “begotten” son is of the same makeup or DNA as God and thus when the scripture speaks of this, it does so centuries before Jesus arrives, yet as a foreshadow of a new kind of Kingdom. This is important because the author is claiming that the events of Jesus some 60-70 years prior are the fulfillment of these passages. This would mean that the Jewish audience was no longer waiting for a Messiah, but that his reign and rule had already begun. Since they were looking for their Messiah to reestablish Israel as a political and military power, this was likely a hard sell. Israel was not only under the captivity of Rome, but it’s fall and the destruction of the temple was only a few years away.
Clearly the Kingdom and it’s salvation was not as the religion expected.
It was of another kind.
On another plane.
It requires a certain kind of seeing or its completely missed.
This leads me to the last verse in the chapter which sets the stage for the next chapter. The salvation the author is talking about here is not the same as modern day evangelical salvation where someone invites Jesus into some imaginary door in their heart. Modern religion has personalized salvation whereas this was not how the original audience would have heard this. For the Hebrew people, salvation was a corporate affair. This is a vital point, because the thrust of this book is promoting precisely a corporate salvation, namely one that is even bigger than even they could understand.
The salvation offered was bigger than Israel, Judaism or any tribe.
The Salvation is cosmic, because the Christ is cosmic, transcending time, geography, and tribe.
This book is so vital to our world today because we have once again truncated the work and message of God and trapped it within a framework (religious or otherwise) which is far too small. If only we could learn from this group and this author is how to free ourselves from our prisons, perhaps we may just discover that the promised kingdom and world are alive and well, and thriving with transformative power, right under our feet.
I am utterly convinced that is the case, and if you’ll continue with me in this journey, I believe I can not only prove it to you, but I’ll take you into it.