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Hebrews 1:1-4

01.13.2011

Frankly, I was getting a bit worried this week, as this is my first week with the new format of OT/NT/Hebrews, that I’d leave myself with nothing to say when it came time to discuss the actual passage for the week.  Fear not, faithful reader, for I have dug deep and found the capability to prattle on uninhibited.

This passage sets the stage for the two main goals of the book: show the continuities and discontinuities between the Old and New Testaments, and lay out a picture of who Christ is.

In the first two verses, the (dis)continuity theme is set out pretty emphatically.  Notice the differences in (1) chronology, (2) agency, (3) method, and (4) audience between the two descriptions of God’s revelation.  Whereas (1) long ago, (3) at many times and in many ways, God spoke (4) to our fathers (2) by the prophets, (1) in these last days, He (3) has spoken (4) to us (2) by His Son.  Continuous in both epochs, however, is the fact that it is God speaking, reaching out to His people to reveal Himself, and that the message is constant: He loves His fallen people and longs to redeem them to Himself.

I think that the difference in method is the most significant here.  That God spoke ‘at many times and in many ways’ indicates that His revelation was fragmented and piecemeal, perhaps limited by the prophetic vessels at His disposal.  Now, however, He has spoken in a way that is final and complete, unifying this revelation into a cohesive message of love and redemption.  This is corroborated with the image of Jesus sitting at God’s right hand, reminiscent, I think, of God’s resting on the seventh day.

The second half of the passage introduces seven identifying statements to set up the Christology that follows.  Christ is heir to creation, agent of creation, identical in nature with the Father, bearer of creation toward eternity, redeemer, exalted one, and superior being to angels.  Got it?  Good.

I’ve always wondered, beyond the ‘Let us,’ language in the Genesis creation story, why we consider Jesus to be the agent through which God created the universe.  It just seems kind of arbitrary.  But in the list of seven attributes above, I can tie at least four of them back to this role of Jesus’:

  • His inheritance of creation is a logical result of His role in creation.  He made it, so it’s His.
  • Having built the universe, it follows that He would be taking it to where He wants it, its true home: heaven.
  • His role as redeemer (rebuilding a broken world) is a counterpoint to His role as creator.
  • Lastly, since angels are created beings, it makes sense that Jesus, by having created them, would be superior.

The other two, being identical in nature with God and being exalted (specifically for His role in redemption), can also be tied in a general way to His role in creation.  That’s a lot of theology to draw from four verses.

And we’re not even done!  Christ is portrayed in this passage as superseding the prophets, completing the institutions of sacrifice and atonement (through His purifying of creation), and ruling over angels.  This lays the groundwork for the triple superiority that is at the heart of Hebrews: Jesus is God’s ultimate revelation, predicted by and superior to the older forms of revelation (prophets, law, angels) from the Old Testament.

Okay.  So that’s a pretty text-heavy theological look at the first passage.  Who knows if they’ll all be this way, or if I’ll still get to be irreverent and goofy every once in a while.  As a thank-you for making it this far, I’ll throw in a groan-worthy pun about a distasteful topic.  I either call this picture ‘Westboro Typo’ or ‘God is a Vexillophobe’*:

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* Look it up; it’s not so bad…

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