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Unless the author's typological approach is appreciated, the interpreter may wrongly assume that the author is making literal statements about the salvation-historical significance of Christ.
The fact that Hebrews was originally written in Greek does not provide any substantial or definitive help in the search for author or audience. During the time period in which Hebrews had to be composed, Christians in Rome spoke Greece. In fact, Hellenism had much of Western Europe and the modern-day Middle East familiar with Greek. This familiarity would have been even more likely among educated groups, and is highly unlikely that uneducated people would have had the ability to read or write. While there was some early suggestion that Hebrews was originally written in a language other than Greek, it seems highly unlikely that that was the case:
That the Letter to the Hebrews was originally written in Greek is suggested by the fact that the vast majority of Old Testament quotations in the work are taken from the Septuagint (LXX) even when the LXX differs from the Hebrew text...Of the thirty-eight quotations from twenty-two Old Testament passages, only six do not agree with LXXA or LXXB...To argue that the translator of the alleged original Hebrew or Aramaic text simply used the LXX version of Old Testament when translating the letter into Greek, however, does not seem possible, because, in some cases, the author's argument depends upon the LXX reading, on "peculiarities of the LXX."
It is very important for a reader to understand that the fact that Hebrews was originally written in Greek does not make it a Hellenistic text. Such an assumption was common until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. However:
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has necessitated a fundamental shift in the approach to the interpretation of the Letter to the Hebrews. Religious terminology in the letter once thought to express concepts adapted from Hellenistic Judaism were discovered to exist in these Palestinian Jewish texts from the second-Temple period; thus in many cases it was no longer necessary and indeed actually misleading to interpret the author's assertions exclusively against a Hellenistic religious-historical background, and especially Jewish adaptations of Platonism. The strong eschatological thread that runs through is thoroughly consistent with Palestinian Jewish thought, as represented by the Dead Sea Scrolls. Such an interest in salvation-history militates against an interpretation of the Letter to the Hebrews in exclusively Platonic terms. This is not so say that the author never made use of Hellenistic Jewish ideas, but only that his basic orientation is not Hellenistic, in spite of writing in Greek... It seems more probable that the Letter to the Hebrews should be interpreted against the conceptual world of Palestinian Judaism, especially as it finds expression in the Dead Sea Scrolls. This means that the intended readers, whose erroneous views on various matters the author attempts to correct, should be understood as Greek-speaking Jewish Christians who were largely non-Hellenistic in their theological outlook.
Furthermore, the fact that Hebrews was most likely originally written in Greece does lend some reliability to modern-day translations. Unlike many Old-Testament books, whose originals are in dead languages, Hebrews was originally written in a language that continues to thrive today. Therefore, it is possible for a modern person to read Hebrews in the original language in which it was written. Furthermore, the fact that the original was written in a living language seems to have minimized the problems with incorrect and inaccurate translations. Of course, as in any translation, there are times in Hebrews were a translator has been forced to choice between multiple possible translations for a word. It does not appear that any of these translations have compromised the integrity or meaning of the original text. As a result, one can come to the conclusion that one's understanding of Hebrews would not be dramatically impacted by reading a translation instead of the original text. Such a statement could not be made if the original language of Hebrews was something other than Greek:
The argument about the necessary connection between the ratification of a covenant and death in Heb 9:16-17 depends upon the dual meaning of the Greek diath k: "covenant" and "last will." The fact that the author's argument only works in Greek, insofar as he depends on the dual meaning of diath k (covenant and last will), which is not possible if he were writing in Hebrew or Aramaic, confirms that the original language of composition was Greek.
Furthermore, this duality reinforces the idea that God's new covenant was realized by Jesus' sacrifice, and was the same as Jesus' will.
In fact, the equality between Jesus and God, as signified by the duality of the covenant and a will, may be the most important element of Hebrews. Throughout the Bible, different men are referred to as the sons of God, but in a different manner than references to Jesus as the Son. "God has many sons, but only one Son...This term, as used by our Lord, and as understood by the Jews, not only signified divine relationship, but divine equality." In fact, Jesus is referred to as "son" frequently in Hebrews, and "it may be said that this concept colors all the others, for again and again it is precisely because Jesus is Son that the other titles and functions have special meaning." It is important to keep in mind that Jesus was not only the Son of God, but also the son of man:
As in relation to God, so here in relation to men and women, the Semitic expression "son of..." is designed to establish Jesus' character and definitive quality. What makes a human being to be a human being is characteristic of Jesus (2:10-17). What this means is that, on the one hand, Jesus is not merely a good man pretending to be deity; he is Immanuel, "God with us" (Matt. 1:23); on the other hand, it means Jesus is not God pretending to be human; he is a real human being.
The dual nature of Jesus is important when trying to understand why Hebrews states that He alone can attain perfection. This reference to perfection does not suggest that Jesus is the only person capable of adhering to all of the Levitical laws or of behaving in a manner that is pleasing to God. On the contrary, the word "perfection" as used in Hebrews:
Does not relate to morals but to functional completeness. Jesus is completely equipped to function as mediator between God and humanity. The certification of Jesus' "perfection" (teleiosis) is the reality and fulness of his sonship: he is not merely like God, for as "Son" he is creator, sustainer, and heir of all things (1:2, 10); also he is not merely like human beings for as "Son" he authenticates and completes his humanity in real suffering (2:10; 5:8, 9; 7:27, 28). The practical meaning in all of this is that to lose either of these two vital truths is to destroy Jesus' functional completeness as our effective intermediary.
While Jesus' dual nature as the Son of God and the Son of Man is an important element of Hebrews, it only hints at the true emphasis of Hebrews, which is that Jesus is the Messiah. While the book does not open with Messianic statements, those statements are essential to an understanding of Hebrews. It is difficult for a modern reader to understand how controversial and revolutionary it was for a person to be named the Messiah. However, given that Messianic prophecies formed a cornerstone of ancient Judaism, it should be clear that Messianic statements were important to establish the central tenet of modern Christianity. It is equally important to realize that not all early Christian writings contained references to Jesus as the Messiah. In fact, some early Christians followed Jesus because of his abilities as a priest and teacher, rather than because of any belief that he was the fulfillment of God's promise to Israel. Therefore, Hebrew's examination of how Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies can be considered its greatest contribution to the establishment of modern Christianity:
Nowhere else in the New Testament is the doctrine of "the Christ" so fully elaborated as in Hebrews. Each aspect of Jesus' messiahship is connected with its preparatory signs in the Old Testament, Hebrews being eager to show that Jesus took as his inheritance and fulfilled all that was typified in those signs. The implicit belief that what is everywhere latent in the Old Testament becomes patent in the Christ provides the rationale for the Old Testament quotations used messianically in Hebrews. The writer saw not merely this or that Old Testament text as prophetic, but the whole Book as one vast prophecy. It is assumed that a divine counsel was given to, and is discernible in, the course of the life of Israel; that we can see in "the people of God" signs of the purpose of God for humanity. In this way the whole…[continue]
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