Yeshua, the Son of Man ~ Part 4

Messianic Jews 2:14-18
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we continued to learn about Yeshua, the Son of Man ~ Part 3 in Messianic Jews 2:10-13. That passage concerned Yeshua’s identity as a real man.  In this post, we continue to explore Messianic Jews 2:14-18 ~ Yeshua, the Son of Man ~ Part 4. This passage concerns Yeshua as humanities true sacrifice.

14 Therefore, since the children share a common physical nature as human beings, He became like them and shared that same human nature; so that by His death He might render ineffective the one who had power over death (that is, the Adversary) 15 and thus set free those who had been in bondage all their lives because of their fear of death. 16 Indeed, it is obvious that He does not take hold of angels to help them; on the contrary, ‘He takes hold of the seed of Avraham.’ 17 This is why He had to become like His brothers in every respect — so that He might become a merciful and faithful cohen gadol in the service of God, making a kapparah for the sins of the people. 18 For since He himself suffered death when He was put to the test, He is able to help those who are being tested now.’” ~ Hebrews 2:14-18 (CJB)

Verse 14 explicitly analyzes the Messiah’s work in taking on Himself the nature of humanity (compare Philippians 2:6-8). “For the Messiah Himself died for sins, a righteous person on behalf of unrighteous people, so that he might bring you to God” ~ 1 Kefa 3:18. By doing this He tricked the one who had power over death (that is, the Adversary), as explained in Matthew 4:1-11. For Satan has the capability of causing death but has no right to inflict it on someone who resists his temptations and does not sin (Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:14-16; Matthew 4:1-11), because death is the punishment for sin (Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:12-21). Does that mean Yeshua render Satan ineffective?  Not entirely, yet. Although Satan continues to exercise power, his days are numbered, and he will ultimately be destroyed (see Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:9; 20:2, 10).

As Believers, we should have no fear of death.  We should know in our knower, our ultimate destination.  Personally, I have no fear of death and admit at my age; I find myself more and more looking forward to it. However, I am concerned about the method of my demise.  Going to sleep and not waking up is my preferred method of choice.

Yeshua did not take hold of angels to help them because angels cannot die. He takes hold of not human beings generally but the seed of Avraham, because Jews, of all humanity, have in the Torah the most stringent conditions to fulfill in order not to sin and by not sinning escape death. If Yeshua could live as a Jew according to the Torah without committing any sin, so that He would not have earned the death penalty, He would deliver Jews from death and Gentiles (see Romans 11) as well.

Yeshua had to be made exactly like those to be rescued from death so that He would fully know and empathize with our experience and thereby, as our cohen gadol, be able to be entirely merciful and faithful, making a kapparah (atonement) for the sins of the people. The Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53:12 predicted this seven hundred years in advance and also makes the best commentary: it is precisely because he “poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors” ~ Isaiah 53:12 (ESV).

The majority of the mitzvot outlined in the written Torah deal with the sacrificial system, including the cahanut (priesthood), in which all the cohanim (priests) and the cohen hagadol were members of the tribe of Levi. Thus it is astounding, indeed revolutionary, to find that Yeshua, the Son of David, from the tribe of Judah, is spoken of as our cohen gadol. Much of the rest of the letter is occupied with explaining how this can be and why it is necessary.

How has God enabled Yeshua to become humanities true sacrifice? Making a kapparah for the sins of the people in the Tanakh required the animal sacrifice to be unblemished (see Leviticus 11:3). So, then, what the writer to the Messianic Jews is saying is that through suffering Yeshua was made fully able for the task of being the pioneer of our ultimate salvation.

Why should that be?  Barclay explains it this way: [1]

  1. It was through his sufferings that he was really identified with men.
  2. Through this identity, Jesus Christ sympathizes with man.
  3. Because he sympathizes Jesus can really help. He has met our sorrows; he has faced our temptations. As a result, he knows exactly what help we need; and he can give it.

In my next post, we’ll explore Yeshua as better than Moshe as a servant in Messianic Jews 3:1-6.

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[1] Barclay’s Daily Study Bible (NT) by William Barclay.

 

Yeshua, the Son of Man ~ Part 3

Messianic Jews 2:10-13
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we began to learn about Yeshua, the Son of Man ~ Part 2 in Messianic Jews 2:5-9. That passage concerned the recovery of humanity’s lost destiny. In this post, we continue to explore Messianic Jews 2:10-13 ~ Yeshua, the Son of Man ~ Part 3. This passage concerns Yeshua’s identity as a real man.

10 For in bringing many sons to glory, it was only fitting that God, the Creator and Preserver of everything, should bring the Initiator of their deliverance to the goal through sufferings. 11 For both Yeshua, who sets people apart for God, and the ones being set apart have a common origin — this is why He is not ashamed to call them brothers 12 when He says, “I will proclaim your name to My brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise.” 13 Also, “I will put My trust in Him,…” and then it goes on, “Here I am, along with the children God has given Me.” ~ Hebrews 2:10-13 (CJB)

As a man, Yeshua had to suffer like us to fully identify with us. This is what uniquely qualifies Him to be our mediator. By being designated entirely with God and us, He bridges the gap (see Isaiah 59:1-2) and creates for us the unity with God that He Himself has. Verses 12-13 offer two proof-texts from parts of the Tanakh customarily considered to have Messianic import (see Psalm 22:23(22) and Isaiah 8:17).

The writer to the Messianic Jews uses one of the great titles of Yeshua. He calls Him the Initiator of their deliverance (other translations use: pioneer of their salvation). Stern translates Initiator from the Greek word archegos <G747>.  An archegos is one who begins something so that others may enter into it. An archegos is one who blazes a trail for others to follow. Yeshua has blazed the trail to God for us to follow.

So, then, what the writer to the Messianic Jews is saying is that through suffering Yeshua was made fully able for the task of being the Initiator of our deliverance. Why?

According to Barclay: [1]

  • It was through His sufferings that He was really identified with men. The writer to the Hebrews quotes three Old Testament texts as forecasts of this identity with men ~ Psalm 22:22; Isaiah 8:17-18. If Jesus had come into this world in a form in which He could never have suffered, He would have been quite different from men and so no Savior for them.
  • Through this identity, Jesus Christ sympathizes with man. He literally feels with them. It is almost impossible to understand another person’s sorrows and sufferings unless we have been through them. Before we can have sympathy we must go through the same things as the other person has gone through—and that is precisely what Jesus did.
  • Because he sympathizes Jesus can really help. He has met our sorrows; he has faced our temptations. As a result he knows exactly what help we need; and he can give it.

In my next post, we’ll explore Yeshua as humanities true sacrifice in Messianic Jews 2:14-18 ~ Yeshua, the Son of Man ~ Part 4.

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[1] Barclay’s Daily Study Bible (NT) by William Barclay.

Yeshua, the Son of Man ~ Part 2

Messianic Jews 2:5-9
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we began to learn about Yeshua, the Son of Man ~ Part 1 in Messianic Jews 2:1-4. That passage concerned a warning against rejecting God’s revealed Word.   In this post, we continue to explore Messianic Jews 2:5-9 ~ Yeshua, the Son of Man ~ Part 2. This passage concerns the recovery of humanity’s lost destiny.

5 For it was not to angels that God subjected the ‘olam haba — which is what we are talking about. 6 And there is a place where someone has given this solemn testimony: “What is mere man, that you concern yourself with him? or the son of man, that you watch over him with such care? 7 You made him a little lower than the angels, you crowned him with glory and honor, 8 you put everything in subjection under his feet.” In subjecting everything to him, he left nothing unsubjected to him. However, at present, we don’t see everything subjected to him — at least, not yet. 9 But we do see Yeshua — who indeed was made for a little while lower than the angels — now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so that by God’s grace He might taste death for all humanity.” ~ Hebrews 2:5-9 (CJB)

For it was not to angels connects the thought with “Aren’t they all merely spirits who serve, sent out to help those whom God will deliver?” ~ Hebrews 1:14 (CJB).

This is by no means an easy passage to understand; but when we do, it is eye-opening. Verses 6b-8 are a quotation from Psalm 8:5-7 (4-6). If we are ever to understand this passage correctly, we must understand one thing – the whole reference in Psalm 8 is to humanity. It sings of the glory that God gave to humanity. There is no reference to the Messiah in Psalm 8.

The phrase son of man in Psalm 8 makes it difficult for us to grasp that. We are so used to hearing that phrase applied to Yeshua that we tend always to take it to refer to Him. After all, it was His favorite phrase when referring to Himself. But in Hebrew son of man always merely means a man. We find, for instance, that in the book of the prophet Ezekiel, more than eighty times God addresses Ezekiel as the son of man. “Son of man, [1] set your face toward Jerusalem” ~ Ezekiel 21:2. Son of man, prophesy and say” ~ Ezekiel 30:2.

The two parallel phrases: What is mere man, that you concern yourself with him? or the son of man, that you watch over him with such care? are different ways of saying the same thing. It is, in fact, an expansion of the great promise of God at creation, when He said: Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea, the birds in the air and every living creature that crawls on the earth.” ~ Genesis 1:28 (CJB)

We were meant to have dominion over everything, but we don’t. We are frustrated by our circumstances, defeated by our temptations, discouraged by our weakness. As G. K. Chesterton said, “whatever else is or is not true, this one thing is certain – man is not what he was meant to be.” [2]

But we do see Yeshua — who indeed was made for a little while lower than the angels — now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so that by God’s grace He might taste death for all humanity.  Yeshua suffered, and He died, and because He suffered and died, He entered into glory. And that suffering, death, and glory are all for humanity because He died to make us what we ought to be. He died to rid us of our frustration, bondage, and weakness and to give us the dominion we ought to have. Yeshua died to recreate humanity until we became what we were initially created to be.

While we have not seen fulfilled David wrote in Psalm 8, we do see Yeshua. God commissioned human beings to rule over creation. Sin halted that plan but did not change it. The writer used the name Yeshua (instead of his title, Messiah) for the first time in this verse, stressing Yeshua’s humanity. The words from the psalm previously applied only to humans are here applied to the Messiah. Yeshua became human, made for a little while lower than the angels.

He was the only one who lived the human life as intended: sinless and in perfect fellowship with God. Before Yeshua, the words of Psalm 8 had not been fully realized, but the words were fulfilled entirely in Him. Yeshua was not made lower than the angels in His rank or position, but He was described this way because He became part of the physical world; that is, He became human.

Because of Yeshua’s perfect life and sacrifice for sins, He is now crowned with glory and honor.  Yeshua came to restore humanity to what God originally intended us to be.

In my next post, we’ll explore Yeshua as True Man in Messianic Jews 2:10-13 ~ Yeshua, the Son of Man ~ Part 3.

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[1] Stern’s translates the phrase as human being.

[2] Barclay’s Daily Study Bible (NT) by William Barclay.

 

Yeshua, the Son of Man ~ Part 1

Messianic Jews 2:1-4
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we learned about Yeshua, the Son of God in Messianic Jews 1:5-14.   In this post, we explore Messianic Jews 1:2-1-4 ~ Yeshua, the Son of Man ~ Part 1. This passage concern’s a warning against rejecting God’s revealed Word. Woe to those who do not hear and act upon the revelation of the Lord.

1 Therefore, we must pay much more careful heed to the things we have heard, so that we will not drift away. 2 For if the word God spoke through angels became binding, so that every violation and act of disobedience received its just deserts in full measure, 3 then how will we escape if we ignore such a great deliverance? This deliverance, which was first declared by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard Him; 4 while God also bore witness to it with various signs, wonders and miracles, and with gifts of the Ruach HaKodesh which He distributed as he chose.” ~ Hebrews 2:1-4 (CJB)

The readers of this book are advised not less than five times to pursue the truth themselves actively and not drift away through complacency, apathy or neglect (here and Messianic Jews 3:6b-4:16; 5:11-6:12; 10:19-39; and 12:1-13:22).

If the Messiah is just another angel, there is little reason to take His Gospel seriously. But because He is God’s Son and “much better than angels” from our previous study, therefore, we must pay much more careful heed to the things we have heard.

Although angels are inferior to the Messiah, and in the end even inferior to saved human beings (1:14), nevertheless their role is not negligible because, through angels, God spoke a word, the Torah [Judaism recognized the intermediary role of angels at Mount Sinai. you! [speaking to the Jews]~ who receive the Torah as having been delivered by angels — but do not keep it!” Acts 7:53 (CJB).] In the Torah, every violation and act of disobedience received its just deserts, that is, the Torah specified the sanctions for violations of its laws. The actual punishments are meted out on earth through judgments of b’tei-din (Jewish courts) and acts of God; the final distribution of just deserts, as foretold in the Tanakh (see especially Daniel 12:3), will be at the Last Judgment (as we learned in our last study of Revelation 20:11-15).

How will we escape the condemnation pronounced in the Torah for our disobedience (compare Galatians 3:10-13) if we ignore the deliverance called great because it spares us the terrible sentence we richly deserve? The implied answer, of course, is that we won’t; because there is no other way to escape it (Acts 4:12).

Yeshua both initiated this deliverance and was the first to declare it. By referring to those who heard Him as having confirmed the Besorah to us, the writer indicates that neither he nor his readers knew Yeshua personally during His earthly lifetime, which many contend would eliminate Sha’ul as the writer since he saw and heard directly from Yeshua.

Gifts of the Ruach HaKodesh are the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit found predominately in 1 Corinthians 12:4-31, Romans 12:6-8, Ephesians 4:11.

Barclay offers these interesting insights into this passage: [1]

For most of us, the threat of life is not so much that we should plunge into disaster, but that we should drift into sin. There are few people who deliberately and in a moment turn their backs on God; there are many who day by day drift farther and farther away from him. There are not many who in one moment of time commit some disastrous sin; there are many who almost imperceptibly involve themselves in some situation and suddenly awake to find that they have ruined life for themselves and broken someone else’s heart. We must be continually on the alert against the peril of the drifting life.

The writer to the Hebrews ends this paragraph by stating three ways in which the Christian revelation is unique.

  • It is unique in its origin. It came direct from Jesus himself. It does not consist of guessings and gropings after God; it is the very voice of God himself which comes to us in Jesus Christ.
  • It is unique in its transmission. It came to the people to whom Hebrews was written from men who had themselves heard it direct from the lips of Jesus. The one man who can pass on the Christian truth to others is he who knows Christ “other than at second hand.” We can never teach what we do not know; and we can teach others of Christ only when we know him ourselves.
  • It is unique in its effectiveness. It issued in signs and wonders and manifold deeds of power. Someone once congratulated Thomas Chalmers after one of his great speeches. “Yes,” he said, “but what did it do?” As Denney used to say, the ultimate object of Christianity is to make bad men good; and the proof of real Christianity is the fact that it can change the lives of men. The moral miracles of Christianity are still plain for all to see.

In my next post, we’ll explore the Kingdom C0nferred on Yeshua in Messianic Jews 2:5-9 ~ Yeshua, the Son of Man ~ Part 2

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[1] Barclay’s Daily Study Bible (NT) by William Barclay.

 

Yeshua, the Son of God

Messianic Jews 1:5-14
Letter to the Messianic Jews

 In my last post, we learned about The Deity of Yeshua in Messianic Jews 1:1-4.   In this post, we explore Messianic Jews 1:5-14 ~ Yeshua, the Son of God is higher than the angels. {I apologize in advance that this post is a little longer than I prefer, but it was just too difficult to break it into parts and keep the flow of the passage.}

5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father”? Also, God never said of any angel, “I will be his Father, and He will be my Son.” 6 And again, when God brings His Firstborn into the world, He says, “Let all God’s angels worship Him.” 7 Indeed, when speaking of angels, He says, “… who makes His angels winds and His servants fiery flames”; 8 but to the Son, he says, “Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever; You rule Your Kingdom with a scepter of equity; 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore, O God, Your God has anointed You with the oil of joy in preference to Your companions”; 10 and, “In the beginning, Adonai, You laid the foundations of the earth; heaven is the work of your hands. 11 They will vanish, but You will remain; like clothing, they will all grow old; 12 and You will fold them up like a coat. Yes, they will be changed like clothing, but You remain the same, Your years will never end.” 13 Moreover, to which of the angels has He ever said, “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet”? 14 Aren’t they all merely spirits who serve, sent out to help those whom God will deliver?”  ~ Hebrews 1:5-14 (CJB)

In the previous passage (Messianic Jews 1:1-4) the writer was concerned to prove the superiority of Yeshua over all the prophets. Now he is interested in establishing His superiority over the angels. At that time belief in angelic beings was on the increase. The reason was that men were more and more impressed with what is called the “transcendence of God.”  They felt more and more the distance and the difference between God and man. The result was that they came to think of the angels as intermediaries between God and man. They came to believe that the angels bridged the gulf between God and man; that God spoke to man through the angels and the angels carried the prayers of man into the presence of God.

The writer of Messianic Jews goes to great lengths to ensure that the reader understands that Yeshua is clearly superior to the angels (and in further chapters to Moshe and the Levitical priesthood). The writer naturally assumes that angels exist and proceeds to prove the proposition of verse 4, that the Messiah, as God’s Son, is much better than angels, by quoting seven texts from the Tanakh, each of which has its richness of meaning. He sums up with the conclusion, in verse 14, that angels are “merely spirits who serve, sent out to help those whom God will deliver,” that is, Believers in Yeshua.

You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Wait a minute!  Wasn’t God always Yeshua’s Father? Why did He have to become His Father? In Judaism, Psalm 2:7, quoted here, has been variously held to refer to Aaron, David, the people of Israel in Messianic times, Mashiach Ben-David [Messiah son of David] and Mashiach Ben-Yosef. But the oldest reference, Psalms of Solomon 17:21-27, from the middle of the 1st century B.C.E., applies it to Mashiach Ben-David.

The angels, collectively, are called sons of God at Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7 and probably at Genesis 6:2; but to no angel did God say, You are my son, as he did to Yeshua at His immersion (Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22). Other parts of Psalm 2 are applied to Yeshua at Acts 4:25; Revelation 12:15 and 19:15.

I will be his Father and He will be my Son. This paraphrases 2 Samuel 7:14, because it speaks of God’s Son, and the next one, because it is introduced as referring to God’s Firstborn, both strengthen the identification, often made in the Brit Hadashah, between Yeshua the Messiah and the people of Israel (see Matthew 2:15). There is a parallel between God’s promise concerning the Messiah in v. 5b and His promise concerning Israel, I will be their God, and they will be my people,” quoted in Messianic Jews 8:10 from Jeremiah 31:32(33), but originally made, in slightly different words, to Moshe (Exodus 7:7). Earlier (Exodus 4:22) God had called Israel His son and also His firstborn. Furthermore, the Brit Hadashah is not innovating when it applies these concepts to the Messiah; the same is done in Psalm 89 (which recapitulates much of what is said in 2 Samuel 7):  “He will call unto me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation.“I will also appoint Him firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” (Psalm 89:27-28)

When God brings his Firstborn into the world, that is, into the ‘olam hazeh, this is preparation for bringing Him also into the heavenly world to come, the olam haba. This is the thrust of Chapters 1-2, where Yeshua’s life on earth (the ‘olam hazeh) is the focus. But these lead us, through the Messiah’s death, to Chapter 7, where he is seen as our cohen gadol in heaven (the ‘olam haba).

Let all God’s angels worship Him. The Hebrew text of Psalm 97:7 says, “Worship Him, all gods (elohim).” Since Judaism allows that elohim sometimes means “angels,” the Septuagint’s rendering, “Let all God’s angels worship him,” is not surprising. What is surprising is that whereas in the original, the object of worship is Adonai, here it is the Son. This is another of the Brit Hadashah’s indirect ways of identifying Yeshua with God. Needless to say, if angels worship the Son, the Son is “better than angels.”

Who makes his angels winds and his servants fiery flames. This is the baseline against which is measured the portrait of the Son in this chapter’s remaining three citations from the Tanakh.

Greek pneumata, equivalent to Hebrew ruchot, is rendered “spirits” in v. 14 but winds here because the sense of Psalm 104:4 in Hebrew is usually given as “… who makes winds his messengers and fiery flames his servants.” However, Hebrew grammar allows the possibility of reversing subject and predicate, and Judaism takes cognizance of it. A first-century pseudepigraphic work states: “O Lord… before whom (heaven’s) hosts stand trembling, and at your word change to wind and fire….” (4 Ezra 8:20-21).

Barclay writes: [1]

There was one special belief, held only by some, which is indirectly referred to in this passage which we are studying. The common belief was that the angels were immortal; but there were some who believed that they lived only one day. There was a belief in some rabbinic schools that “every day God creates a new company of angels who utter a song before him and are gone.” “The angels are renewed every morning and after they have praised God they return to the stream of fire from whence they came.” 4 Esdras 8: 21 speaks of the God “before whom the heavenly host stand in terror and at thy word change to wind and fire.” A rabbinic homily makes one of the angels say: “God changes us every hour. Sometimes he makes us fire, at other times wind.” That is what the writer to the Hebrews means when he talks of God making his angels wind and fire.

You rule your Kingdom with a scepter of equity; you have loved righteousness. The same idea is found in two psalms: “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne” (Psalms 89:15, 97:2), as well as in the Messianic passage, Isaiah 9:5-6(6-7): “to establish [the government on the Messiah’s shoulder] with justice and righteousness, from henceforth for ever.”

The Messiah’s companions are those of us who have put our trust in Him (see 2:10-11, 3:14; Ro 8:17, 29).

Therefore, O God, your God has anointed you suggests Yeshua’s divinity.

In verses 10-12 in the Septuagint quoted above, God speaks these verses of Psalm 102 to someone whom he addresses as Adonai. In the Hebrew Bible as we have it now they are part of a personal prayer to God, and no one is addressed directly.

Moreover, to which of the angels has He ever said, “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet”?  Psalm 110:1 commences with, “Adonai said to my Lord,…” The most telling proof that the Son is better than angels is saved for last. This psalm is referred to also at v. 3; 5:6; 6:20; 7:17, 21; 8:1; 10:13 and 12:2.

In conclusion, they, the angels, are all merely spirits who serve, as opposed to the Son who rules. However, they help not only Him but His companions also, those whom God will deliver.

The writer to the Hebrews lays down the great truth that we need no man or supernatural being to bring us into the presence of God. At His resurrection, Yeshua ripped the parokhet [veil separating the Especially Holy Place for the rest of the Temple] to sunder and opened a direct way for us to God.

In my next post, we’ll explore a warning against rejecting God’s revelation of Yeshua in Messianic Jews 2:1-4 ~ Yeshua, the Son of Man.

Click for the PDF version.

[1] Barclay’s Daily Study Bible (NT) by William Barclay

The Deity of Yeshua

Messianic Jews 1:1-4
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, I introduced us to this new study on the Letter to the Messianic Jews To the extent possible, I will be taking smaller portions of the scripture to examine using the outline in my old Harper Study Bible (RSV).  Quotations, unless otherwise indicated, will be from the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB).  In this post, we learn that Yeshua is the final revelation of God. [NOTE: Don’t forget to look at the Glossary tab for any Hebrew words that aren’t familiar.]

1 In days gone by, God spoke in many and varied ways to the Fathers through the prophets. 2 But now, in the acharit-hayamim, He has spoken to us through His Son, to whom He has given ownership of everything and through whom He created the universe. 3 This Son is the radiance of the Sh’khinah, the very expression of God’s essence, upholding all that exists by His powerful word; and after He had, through Himself, made purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of HaG’dulah BaM’romim. 4 So He has become much better than angels, and the name God has given Him is superior to theirs. ~ Hebrews 1:1-4 (CJB)

These opening sentences are one of the most magnificent passages in the Bible, comparable in grandeur to the introductory sentences of Bresheet and Yochanan’s Gospel. Yeshua, in His deity and His inexpressible glory, is the Creator, Preserver, and Heir of the universe. By an eternal act of God, Yeshua made purification for the sin of humanity, once and for all, and brought everlasting salvation.

Barclay adds: [1]

This is the most sonorous [deep or resonat] piece of Greek in the whole New Testament. It is a passage that any classical Greek orator would have been proud to write. The writer of Hebrews has brought to it every artifice of word and rhythm that the beautiful and flexible Greek language could provide…The writer to the Hebrews felt that, since he was going to speak of the supreme revelation of God to men, he must clothe his thought in the noblest language that it was possible to find.

God spoke in many and varied ways, directly and indirectly, in dreams and stories, history and prophecy, poems and proverbs, to the Fathers of the Jewish people through the prophets from Moses to Malachi, and, before Moses, to Avraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.

According to Jewish tradition, Malachi was the last of the Tanakh prophets. For the next four centuries, to use the remark of an earlier prophet, “The word of Adonai was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision” (1 Samuel 3:1). But in the acharit-hayamim, the Tanakh’s “latter days,” which the Brit Hadashah regards as already here (see 1 Corinthians 10:11), he has spoken again, not to Fathers long dead (v. 1), but to us in the 1st century, through his Son.

By implication, his Son is better than the Prophets. A significant purpose of the author is to show that Yeshua and everything connected with Him is better than what was available previously. He uses this word, “better,” twelve times in Messianic Jews to compare the Messiah and His era with what there was before. It appears first in v. 4, and last at 12:24, as the author summarizes this comparison of old and new (12:18-24).

There follow in verses 2-3 seven features of God’s Son which demonstrate his superiority:

  1. God has given Him ownership of everything.
  2. God created the universe through Him.
  3. This Son is the radiance of, literally, “the glory,” best rendered Jewishly as the Sh’khinah.
  4. The very expression, used only here in the Brit Hadashah, delineates even more clearly that God’s essence is manifested in the Messiah.
  5. Yeshua not only is the Word (Yochanan 1:1), but he has a powerful word upholds all that exists.
  6. The writer turns from the Messiah’s cosmic functions to His functions in relation to humanity: through himself, he made purification for sins, which, is explained a little at a time throughout the rest of the book, no one else and nothing else could do.
  7. Finally, after that, he sat down at the right hand of God. Psalm 110:1 is frequently quoted in this book and elsewhere in the Brit Hadashah. In the Hebrew of Psalm 110:1, it is God speaking: “YHVH said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand.'” “The right hand of God” is not a place but refers to the Messiah’s exalted status and to His intimate involvement with God as cohen gadol interceding for those who trust in Him. God is referred to as a euphemism, HaG’dulah BaM’romim (“the Greatness in the heights”).

So, it is evident, since He is at God’s right hand, that he has become much better than angels ~ even though “He was made, for a little while, lower than the angels” (2:9).

Stern’s writes: [2]

Although today some non-Messianic Jews, reacting against Christianity, insist that Judaism has never expected the Messiah to be different from any other man, there can be no question that in the first century many Jews, both those attracted to Yeshua and those repelled by Him, understood that the Messiah would be more than human. But how much more? As much as angels? Which angels? ~ Jewish angelology had become very complex during the six centuries before Yeshua; where among the angelic orders did the Messiah fit? The decisive answer given here is: nowhere. He is above them all ~ as the verses from the Tanakh cited in the rest of the chapter are intended to prove.

The name God has given him which is superior to that of angels could mean His reputation but more likely signifies an actual name.

In my next post, we’ll explore more in-depth on this topic of Yeshua being superior to angels in Messianic Jews 1:5-14 ~ Yeshua, the Son of God.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] Barclay’s Daily Study Bible (NT) by William Barclay.

[2] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

Introduction:  Letter to the Messianic Jews (Hebrews)

Letter to the Messianic Jews

Why Study the Letter to the Messianic Jews? [1]

 The easy answer is because it’s the Word of God.  But for me, it’s personal.  After I committed myself to accept Yeshua as my Lord and Savior, I devoured the Gospel of John.  That is still my favorite book of the Bible, and someday I may do a verse-by-verse study of that.

Shortly after finishing that study, I picked up my RSV and Barclay’s Commentary and dove into the Epistle to the Hebrews.  For many years, I was eager to learn about the Jewishness of my faith, and I thought that would be an excellent place to start.  It turned out to be very influential in my later becoming involved in the Messianic Jewish Movement.

My notes on Chapter 2
Click on picture to enlarge.

So why now?  As has been my approach to the topics to share with you, I pray for God to reveal to me where He wants to take this blog.  And He kept reminding me of my early study, and I kept running into more and more citations from Messianic Jews within my daily devotions and readings in other blogs.

Who Wrote Messianic Jews?

 We don’t know for sure who wrote it.  The majority of modern scholars believe Sha’ul did not write it. One reason is that in Rome, where the letter was known from an early date, Pauline authorship was rejected; additional ideas are well presented in other studies. David Stern [2] points to one piece of internal evidence, Messianic Jews 2:3b, where the author writes, “This deliverance, which was first declared by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.” It is thought that Sha’ul could not have written these words since he heard and saw Yeshua himself (Acts 9:3-6, 1C 15:8).

Authorship candidates for whom there is no conflict with Messianic Jews 2:3b include Apollos, an educated, courageous Hellenistic Jew who was apparently a charismatic leader (Ac 18:24-19:1; 1C 1:12, 3:4-5); Priscilla, who is mentioned in the New Testament before her husband Aquila four times out of six, notably in connection with teaching when they took Apollos aside and explained to him the Way of God in greater detail” (Acts 18:26; also Acts 18:18, Romans 16:3, 2 Timothy 4:19); Clement and Luke.

We do know that the author was well known in the early church and that Timothy was with the writer (13:23). “The people from Italy send greetings to you” (13:24) may indicate that the letter was written from Italy, although this is not a necessary conclusion. But whoever the author was, as a literary work Messianic Jews is superb: orderly and logical, “in balanced and resonant sentences of remarkable precision, rising to wonderful heights of eloquence.”  Personally, I would not be surprised when we get to Heaven to discover that Priscilla was indeed the author.

To Whom Addressed

This letter and those of Ya’akov, Kefa, Yochanan, and Y’hudah are known as the General Letters since they are thought of as being written to the entire Messianic Community, rather than to Gentiles only (like the majority of Sha’ul’s) or individuals (like the four Pastorals). However, there is a stream of biblical scholarship which holds that of these eight letters, all but Yochanan’s three were written to Messianic Jews. For the present letter, the argument is overwhelming.

Its Greek title, found on several of the oldest manuscripts, Pros Ebraious (To Messianic Jews), is not part of the original document but must nevertheless be very early. Clearly it is meant to indicate that the book concerns itself with topics of interest to believers in Yeshua who are Jewish ~ the cahanut (“priesthood”), the sacrificial system, angels, Malki-Tzedek, Avraham, Moshe, the Israelites in the wilderness, the biblical covenants, the Tanakh’s men of faith, the role of Torah in the Brit Hadashah, and so on. More specifically, the author wrote to a particular community of Jewish believers whom he knew well and whose spiritual condition he monitored (see 5:11-12, 6:9-10, 10:32-34, 13:18-24).

Date

The content of the letter makes it clear that it was written before a.d. 70, when the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple put an end to the Jewish sacrificial system. The author consistently uses the present tense (“is,” “are”) when speaking of the Temple and the priestly activities connected with it.

Purpose [3]

One of the reasons for this letter was to prepare Messianic Jews for the approaching destruction of Jerusalem. After accepting Yeshua as their Messiah, the Messianic Jews continued to be zealous for the Temple rites and sacrifices, thinking that their beloved city was about to become the capital of the world under their Messiah’s reign. Instead, they were to receive the shock of their lives. By one stroke of the Roman army, the Holy City would be wiped out, and the Temple rites would cease.

This letter was written to explain to the Messianic Jews that animal sacrifices, to which they were so attached, were no longer of any use, that the killing of a bull or a lamb could never take away sin. Those sacrifices had never been intended to be forever; they had been planned to be a sort of picture of the coming sacrifice of the Messiah, and now that Yeshua had come, they had served their purpose. God’s people must look only to Yeshua for redemption and salvation.

In my next post, we’ll begin to examine Messianic Jews 1:1-4 ~ The Deity of Yeshua.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] Today one rarely hears Jews called “Hebrews.”

[2] Throughout this series, I will frequently be quoting from the Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

[3] Halley’s Bible Handbook.