A Proposed Interpretation of Hebrews 9:15-22

“15Therefore He is the mediator of the New Covenant, so that those called for an eternal inheritance might receive the promise, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16For where there is a covenant, it is necessary for the one making the covenant to proffer a death. 17For a covenant is secured by deaths, since it is never strong whilst the one making the covenant is alive.

         18Therefore not even the first covenant was established apart from blood. 19For after all the commandments had been spoken in accord with the Law by Moses to all the people, he, taking the blood of young-bulls and goats with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, sprinkled both the book and all the people. 20He did this saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.” 21And both the tent and all the vessels used for ministering were likewise sprinkled with blood. 22Now it is almost the case that under the law everything is cleansed with blood, and apart from the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”

 

The majority—if not all—of commentators understand a shift in these verses from the ‘covenants’ to the more specific form of a covenant known as a will (both the same word, διαθηκη, diathēkē). The problem, as I see it, is that the meticulous argumentation the author of Hebrews uses falls apart on this translation—the parallels drawn are purely verbal (a death occurs in both cases), not conceptual. Yet, there is another way to translate this verse. I suggest that the author is presupposing what he has established and what the OT and NT teach, that covenants require priestly sacrifices to cover the transgressions of their sinful participants (v. 15, 22): only if the sin problem is dealt with can the covenant be valid.

Why then is a death required to make the covenant secure? Because the sinful transgressions of the one side making the covenant require redemption. It is not that “wherever there is a will, the death of the one making it needs to be demonstrated”: the idea that we receive our inheritance because of a will, contingent upon the death of the one making the will, is not found elsewhere in Hebrews or in the Bible—our inheritance does not rest in the death of the one from whom we receive it but in Jesus Christ’s receiving of the inheritance through perfect obedience and our participation in His inheritance.

A better interpretation is to read διαθηκη (diathēkē) as ‘covenant’ and understand the genitive του διαθεμενου (tou diathemenou, “of the one making it”) not with θανατοv (thanaton, “death”) but αναγκη (anankē, “necessity”): where there is a covenant, “where there is a covenant, it is necessary for the one making the covenant to proffer a death.” That is, the one making a covenant needs to provide a sacrifice. Why? because “a covenant is secured by deaths”: notice the plural, the one making a will cannot die multiple times, but one making a covenant can slaughter many animals (v. 19). Why do we need the deaths of animals, or in this case Christ? Because “[the covenant] is never strong while the one making the covenant is alive”: if it was a covenant between God and God this would not be true, but in the case of finite and sinful men and women, every moment the human partner is alive, the covenant is in jeopardy! Any sin could snap the covenant, so it needs a sacrifice so that no matter the mistakes they make in their life, the covenant is upheld.

The logic then makes sense: why is a death necessary? because finite men and women necessitate it. Why can we, then, receive the promise? Because Jesus has died once for all time securing for us the forgiveness of sins and redeeming transgressions so that the New Covenant would be valid and secure in the place of the old.

2 Thessalonians and Hell: Separation From or Wrath Coming Forth From God?

Is Hell eternal seperation from God or the experience of wrath pouring forth from God for an eternity? Those who argue for the former often appeal to 2 Thessalonians 1:9. In a paper I recently posted on academia.edu, I argue that the best reading of the Greek preposition apo (“away from”) in this verse is “[coming forth] from,” that is, it indicates the point from which something moves away from.  Having argued this, I then expound briefly why the doctrine of Hell as the Thessalonians and the rest of the Bible expounds it matters.

You can download or read it here.

Towards a Biblical Theology of Imputation: a Consideration of an Old Testament Root for Christ’s Imputed Righteousness in Romans

In this paper, it is argued that Paul teaches imputed righteousness in Romans and that this doctrine has its roots in the Biblical storyline invoked by Paul in the introduction of the letter. Genesis 15:6 is discussed as the primary Old Testament text that anticipates imputation, but Habakkuk 2:4 is referenced as an essential step in the progressive revelation of the doctrine.

It can be read at Academia.edu

Δικαιοσυνη θεου: a Consideration of the Meaning of the Righteousness of God in Romans 1:17

In this paper, it is argued that in Romans 1:17 Paul uses “the righteousness of God” to refer to God’s righteous character displayed in salvation accomplished by the provision of righteousness through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for those who believe. Each of these three aspects is considered and argued for, the most space being spent defending the righteousness of God as the provision of imputed righteousness.

It can be read at academia.edu 

A Short and Selected Bibliography of Reformed and Evangelical Theology (tailored a bit for Regent College)

For readings from the best of the Reformed and Evangelical traditions, there are lots to explore. These traditions emphasize the Bible and not analogy or experience as the primary source of theology. Below is a very short and quite selective bibliography of reformed and evangelical theology and biblical studies from the last 100 or so years.

Scripture, Authority, and Inerrancy:

  • Biblical Authority – John Woodbridge
    • Woodbridge responds to historical revisionists who claim that the church has not believed in the inerrancy and authority of Scripture until the 20th century (proposed by Rogers and Mckim)
  • The Doctrine of the Word of God – John Frame
    • The best recent defense of the authority and inerrancy of Scripture. Frame is one the most prominent Reformed theologians of the 20th and 21st centuries, he is a well-read philosopher and theologian who is not afraid to learn from secular philosophy, but only every in submission to God’s revelation in the Bible.
  • The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God – John Frame
    • Same author, a conservative Christian epistemology based on revelation
  • Gagging of God – D.A. Carson
    • Carson addresses the challenge of pluralism to the Christian faith. He addresses the challenge presented to biblical studies and theology.
  • God has Spoken – J.I. Packer
    • Packer unpacks the doctrine of Scripture in light of the Twelve Articles of the Anglican Church.
  • The Great Evangelical Disaster – Francis Schaeffer
    • Schaeffer argues that the doctrine of Scripture is the doctrine on which Christianity stands or falls (in the sense of whether it is faithful or becomes something completely not Christian)
  • The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible – B. B. Warfield
    • Classic and definitive treatment of the doctrine of Scripture from the Princetonian reformed tradition (early 20th century)
  • Select Essays in:
    • God’s Inerrant Word –  John Warick Montgomery
      • Chapter 1: Biblical Inerrancy: What is at Stake? – J.W. Montgomery
      • Chapter 7: God and Biblical Language: Transcendence and Immanence – John Frame
      • Chapter 8: Scripture Speaks for Itself -John Frame (Also an appendix in A History of Western Philosophy and Theology by Frame)
    • Hermeneutics, Authority and Canon – Ed. D.A. Carson and John Woodbridge
      • Chapter 2: The Semantics of Biblical Literature – Kevin J. Vanhoozer
        • Vanhoozer discusses how genre affects the truthfulness of Scripture
      • Chapter 6: The Spirit and Scripture
        • John Frame discusses the Spirit’s role in  the doctrine of Scripture
    • Inerrancy – ed. Norman Geisler
      • Chapter 7: The Adequacy of Human Language – J.I. Packer
      • Chapter 9: The Meaning of Inerrancy – Paul D. Feinberg
    • Scripture and Truth – Ed. Carson and Woodbridge
      • Chapter 1: Scripture’s Self-Attestation (Grudem)
      • Chapter 2: Unity and Diversity… the possibility of systematic theology (Carson)
      • Chapter 6-9: These chapters provide brief historical sketches of the authority of Scripture in the history of the Church

Against Barthianism:

  • The Doctrine of God – John Frame
    • Frame again, this is part of the same series as the others, providing a look at the Doctrine of God from a reformed perspective, he interacts with the concepts of analogy and the incomprehensibility and knowability God.
  • The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God – John Frame
    • Same book as above, addresses the knowability and incomprehensibility of God, the possibility of propositional knowledge, and the normativity of the Bible. Explicitly interacts with Barth.
  • The Doctrine of the Word of God – John Frame
    • This is the best treatment of the doctrine of the Word of God that has been written in a long time. Frame is reformed, evangelical, and committed to Scripture as the primary functional authority in the Christian life. Employing the philosophical insights of Cornelius Van Til, Frame breaks new ground here. He argues that the Bible is the Word of God and authoritative, specifically dialoguing at times with Barth.
  • Essay in Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon – ed. By D.A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge
    • The Authority of Scripture in Karl Barth – Geoffrey W. Bromiley
      • Bromiley shows than in an attempt to rescue God’s authority from Ritschl, Barth shot himself and Christian theology in the foot.
  • A History of Western Philosophy and Theology – John Frame
    • Frame analyzes the history of Philosophy of theology in terms of the irrationality and rationalism that characterize all non-Christian thought. He formulates a Christian epistemology and view of God’s transcendence and immanence but mostly focuses on historical figures and movements. His analysis of Barth is very helpful and solid. He is highly critical though he admits that he finds much edification from Barth’s writings.

Doctrine of God and Salvation:

  • The Atonement – Morris
    • An older but solid exposition of the penal substitutionary understanding of the atonement.
  • Bondage of the will – Martin Luther
    • Luther defends what he and the rest of the reformers considered a key issue of the reformation: total depravity and the inability of man. His rhetoric is biting, but the argument is strong.
  • Christian Theology – Michael Horton
    • This is a reformed systematic theology that takes a redemptive-historical approach to systematizing doctrine.
  • The Courage to be a Protestant – David Wells
    • Wells demonstrates the secular infiltration of the church; this book is a bit outdated but still relevant (he summarizes here four of his other books– No place for Truth, God in the Wasteland, Losing our Virtue, Above all Earthly Pow’rs)
  • The Doctrine of God – Frame
    • Frame gives a unique presentation of historical reformed theology that is for the most part faithful to Scripture (his arguments or lack thereof for infant baptism and against continuing gifts are probably the weakest)
  • Freedom of the will – Jonathan Edwards
    • Edwards here argues mostly from philosophy for the view of free will–compatibilism–that characterized the views of the reformers before him and the Calvinists after him.
  • Historical Theology – Gregg Allison
    • This volume supplements Grudem with a helpful historical discussion of most chapters in Systematic Theology.
  • Institutes of the Christian Religion (Beveridge Trans.) – John Calvin
    • Calvin is insightful and writes pastorally as he lays out reformation theology for the pastor in training. The ecclesiology is a bit boring, but the first books are really interesting.
  • Knowing God – Packer
    • This is a classic popular exposition of the reformed view of God
  • Marrow of Theology -William Ames
    • A prominent puritan theologian, this volume is a short exposition of British reformed theology (presbyterian) before the enlightenment.
  • The Providence of God – Paul.Helm
    • The doctrine of God and his sovereignty over the world from a respected reformed philosopher and theologian.
  • Systematic Theology – Grudem
    • Grudem does not spend much time on exegesis, so his formulations may not convince the unconvinced, but he is a clear and easy to read author. The chapters on Scripture, Regeneration, and the gifts of the Spirit are worth reading. His discussion of covenant theology is also helpful. The book is a good summary of reformed baptist charismatic theology
  • Systematic Theology – John Frame
    • John Frame draws from much of his other work and presents a well-argued general Reformed picture of Christian theology.
  • What is the Gospel -Greg Gilbert
    • a short popular exposition of the reformed/evangelical view of the Gospel.

(For a dialogue with some of Boersma’s thought (Regent theology prof), see https://allforthegloryofhiskingdom.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/a-review-of-heavenly-participation-by-hans-boersma/https://allforthegloryofhiskingdom.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/a-review-of-heavenly-participation-by-hans-boersma-1/https://allforthegloryofhiskingdom.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/sacramental-ontology-augustines-platonism-a-historical-and-philosophical-critique/)

Rick Gamache – “The Father’s Cup: A Crucifixion Narrative” audio and transcript

One of my teachers at Pacific Life Bible College introduced me to this creative but very biblical narrative of Jesus’ crucifixion. It is quite powerful and worth listening to this Good Friday.

Transcript from Desiring God:The Father’s Cup (Good Friday) | Desiring God

Link to an Audio Download