The Letter to the Hebrews

The Letter to the Hebrews December 27, 2023

The Pillar New Testament Commentary is one of my favorites. In November 2023, The Letter to the Hebrews released, and what a robust work it is. So much so that It’s one of the works I’m citing in my revised and expanded version of The Untold Story of the New Testament Church, which is forthcoming.

In this volume, Sigurd Grindheim asks and answers the question, “What does the Letter to the Hebrews have to say to Christians today?”

The book is a compelling exhortation to hold true to the faith in the face of adversity. A sermon rife with iconic imagery and Old Testament allusions. A signal work of theology in the New Testament.

Above all, the Letter to the Hebrews proclaims the high priesthood of Jesus Christ. But the book’s textual complexity and long history of interpretation can be overwhelming. In this new Pillar commentary, Sigurd Grindheim illuminates the Letter to the Hebrews, paying careful attention to linguistic features and historical context—all while centering its relevance to modern readers.

Grindheim clearly and comprehensively addresses major issues about the text, including authorship, date, canonicity, formal qualities, and major themes. Following his thorough introduction, he explains each line of the text and its significance for believers today. Grindheim’s commentary offers pastors, students, and scholars the clarity and fresh insights they want in their scriptural study.

Here’s an excerpt from the Introduction:

The Letter to the Hebrews gives us a unique picture of the first Christians. It is the oldest unabridged Christian sermon that has survived, and no other first-century writing offers such an in-depth view of the way in which the Old Testament was read and interpreted. In terms of style, the letter must be considered the high point of the New Testament.

The author’s sonorous turns of phrase and his brilliant use of rhetorical devices find no match among the other early Christian writings. His knack for vivid metaphors has made him one of the most frequently quoted writers of antiquity. The word of God as sharper than a double-edged sword (4:12), hope as an anchor for the soul (6:19), the law as a shadow of the coming goods (10:1), and the cloud of witnesses (12:1) are images we owe to the author of the Letter to the Hebrews.

Other unforgettable word pictures include those of the Son as the effulgence of God’s glory and imprint of his nature (1:3) as well as of his blood speaking better than that of Abel (12:24). The letter’s cast of characters is no less impressive, as it gives a survey of the Old Testament and Israel’s history (11:4–38), beginning with fratricide and ending with victims of torture, finding place for battles with lions, spectacular miracles, and an oligarch who preferred a life in poverty. As role models, the letter offers a motley crew of forerunners, including the foolhardy, hotheads, cowards, prostitutes, homeless, vagabonds, immigrants, and refugees.

Style is no substitute for substance, however. It is also the Letter to the Hebrews that has given us the iconic portrait of Christ as high priest, culminating in the declaration that “with one offering he has forever made complete those who are being made holy” (10:14). As high priest, Jesus is empathic like no one else. He was brought to tears by despair yet is universally triumphant. He was exposed to the utmost shame yet is exalted in heavenly glory. He suffered death yet triumphed over it.

The author’s ethical vision is equally exalted, focusing on a new community based on a family union in which God is the Father and believers share the status of his firstborn Son, to whom they belong as his brothers and sisters. This is a people that spans all of world history, including the people of Israel and the members of the church. Not only because of style, therefore, but also because of its theology must the Letter to the Hebrews be considered one of the richest books in the New Testament.

"Thank you Frank and Team! ~ Gordie"

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