This blog completes a commentary on the KJV of Hebrews
Let brotherly love continue.
2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.
4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.
10 We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.
11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp.
12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.
13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.
14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.
16 But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
18 Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.
19 But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.
20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
22 And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words.
23 Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you.
24 Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you.
25 Grace be with you all. Amen.
The sharp writing of this author continues to the end of the letter even if in this passage the connection between his varied injunctions is not always clear. His assumption is that Christian belief includes a distinctive set of behaviours modelled on Jesus, just as it also involves distinctive teachings about him.
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever” can therefore be seen as a central motif of this final section of the letter.
Brotherly love which is directed to members of the believing community, and entertaining strangers, that is, open hospitality directed to the outsider or visiting missionary, are equally commanded. Genuine compassion for prisoners amd others faced with adversity is encouraged by asking believers to identify with people in these predicaments.
Marriage and married sexual activity is specifically encouraged while extramarital sex is condemned. The “conversation”(KJV) of believers is what we would now call lifestyle. The adjective used means “not-money-loving” and the contentment advocated is based on trust in God’s goodness. These may all be called evangelical virtues, commanded by Jesus. The new element is consideration for the community leaders, who have authority as communicators of the gospel, and as models for the lifestyle of the believers. Probably at that time there were no formal orders of leadership, but rather authority based on function.
Verse 9 begins a section about the content of faith: Jesus is the same for ever and so should the teachings about him be. The strange or new doctrines seem to be about food, which perhaps indicates a Jewish influence. When this author emphasises “grace” as opposed to foods, he is not making the Pauline distinction between grace and the Torah, but his own distinction between the reality of the new covenant and the shadowy half-life of the old. The old covenant with its provision for sacrificing animals “outside the camp” was nevertheless an image of Jesus’ self-sacrifice as one rejected by his people and killed outside the city. When the author invites his readers to go to Jesus “outside the camp bearing his reproach” he is thinking not just of Jewish but also Gentile society: Jesus and his people are not seeking to establish worldly security, knowing that no worldly power can last. He provides a memorable phrase for this knowledge, “Here we have no continuing city but seek one to come.”
The shared life (koinonia) of the believing community is no optional extra for believers, but together with “doing good” makes the kind of “sacrifice” that God desires. Obedience to the leaders of faith allows them to make a positive report to God about their own diligence.
Finally the author asks for their prayers indicating that he hopes to visit them soon.
His blessing links together a number of themes from his letter:
1. Peace/ safety/ wellbeing can be present in the earthly dimension of reality but comes from another dimension, namely God
2. The evidence for this is the resurrection of Jesus who could not be held in one dimension but opens the other dimension to all his flock.
3. He does so by his perfect offering of himself to God in life and death, initiating a new covenant in which all sins are forgiven.
4. Through the new covenant God’s will is written in the hearts of his people, bringing them to perfection.
The farewell greetings may be an attempt by the writer to identify himself with Paul, as did the writers of the so-called pastoral letters, Timothy and Titus, or it may indicate that he was one of the first generation of evangelists, along with Timothy and Paul.
I will write one more blog about this letter, trying to sum up its very distinctive contribution to biblical theology. I have used the KJV because with all its occasional errors, it is the best representation of the letter in English.