Reading through Hebrews 2:10-18 the other day, I was struck by how the
themes set out there mirror those that are now found in Mk. 8:27-9:1.
In both we find a statement about Messiah Jesus being brought by God to
his destiny by and through suffering
In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for
whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author
of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Heb 2:10)
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many
things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers
of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise
again (Mk. 8:31)
Both assume that those who wish to follow Jesus must likewise follow a
path of suffering.
Both make mention of how those who are Jesus "family" are prevented
from following him because of a fear of death
Since the children have blood and flesh, he too shared in their
humanity so that ... he might ... free those who all their
lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
[When hearing that Jesus was destined by God to be executed]
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him (Mk. 8:32)
Both contain a reference to the Devil as one who uses the fear of death
to sway Jesus' family from being obedient to the ways of God that Jesus
has revealed are necessary for being the true people of God:
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their
humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the
power of death---that is, the devil--- and free those who all
their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Heb..
Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get
behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the things
of God, but the things of men." (Mk. 8:33)
Both present Jesus' death as destroying -- or as the means God has
chosen for his Messiah to destroy -- Satan's power.
Both present Jesus in terms of a Messiah who is/has been tested over the
issue of whether he, as Messiah, will be obedient to the path of
suffering that God has decreed is his.
I'm wondering then, not only if these parallels are more than
coincidental, but what they suggest, if they are real, that the author
of Hebrews is actually getting at in Heb. 2:10-18. I am wholly
dissatisfied with the view, which seems the traditional understanding of
the aim of these verses, that he is asserting a proto Nicean doctrine
of the incarnation in order to speak in general how Jesus, in becoming
man, solves a problem that everyone faces by virtue of the fact that
they are flesh and blood.
That renders the author of Hebrews a systematic theologian and hardly
coheres with the evident fact that the the toying on the part of his
particular readers with a particular apostasy that was tantamount to
crucifying the son of God and NOT the human condition was the issue he
was intent to address.
So what do they then suggest?
The answer to this is obviously linked to what we see as the occasion of
Hebrews. For argument's sake, I'd like to follow Alexander Nairne in
this and assume that that the occasion of the Epistle is the clarion
call to "rally round" through armed revolt "the national standard" that
was issued by the Zealot party at the outbreak of the Jewish war.
If this is so, then these verses are part of a larger argument on the
part of the author of Hebrews that was designed to prevent his readers
from joining the Zealot cause which at the outset of the war, and
especially after the stemming of the attack against the Temple by
Gessius Florus and the military triumph over the legions of Cestius
Gallus, had come to be seen by his readers, along with the majority of
Jews, as having thunderous divine approval?
But my question then is: how do they actually work to accomplish this aim?
Can anyone here suggest anything? One might note how the trope about
the fear of death preventing would be Zealots from following the Zealot
path is something that is used by Eleazar ben Yair, the grandson of the
Judas the Galilean, in Book 7 of Josephus' Jewish War.
Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
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