Messianic jews, Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern
1. For the Torah has in it a shadow of the good things to come, but not the actual manifestation of the originals. Therefore, it can never, by means of the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, bring to the goal those who approach the Holy Place to offer them.
2. Otherwise, wouldn’t the offering of those sacrifices have ceased? For if the people performing the service had been cleansed once and for all, they would no longer have sins on their conscience.
3. No, it is quite the contrary — in these sacrifices is a reminder of sins, year after year.
In Judaism the daily synagogue services are thought of as having replaced the daily Temple sacrifices. This connection is made clear in the Siddur itself, where the first part of the shacharit ("morning") service includes portions recalling the sacrifices (Hertz edition, pp. 34-41). Other portions of the liturgy are directly concerned with sin and forgiveness (the 5th and 6th blessings of the 'Amidah and the Tachanunim ("supplications")). Thus, with the Temple no longer in existence, it is the daily synagogue service which serves as a reminder of sins, year after year. In fact, it makes sense for the Conservative and Reform Jewish movements to apply the term 'Temple" to synagogues if synagogue prayers are equivalent to Temple sacrifices. But see 9:22&N on why they are not.
Yochanan Ben-Zakkai, who led the Synod of Yavneh (90 C.E.) in reorienting non-Messianic Judaism toward halakhah ("law") and away from the sacrificial system after the Temple had been destroyed, apparently continued to have sins on his conscience, even on his deathbed (see Talmudic source quoted in 1 Th 4:13N).
4. For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins.
Compare Psalm 50:13.
5. This is why, on coming into the world, he says, "It has not been your will to have an animal sacrifice and a meal offering; rather, you have prepared for me a body
6. No, you have not been pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings
7. Then I said, ‘Look! In the scroll of the book it is written about me. I have come to do your will” (Psalm 40:7–9(6–8)).
It is sometimes claimed by opponents of the New Testament that in this passage the author distorts the Tanakh (see 2C 4:1-2&N) in order to prove that Yeshua is the Son of God. More specifically, they hold, first, that Psalm 40 does not refer to the Messiah at all, and second, that several of its lines are intentionally misquoted.
Following, for comparative purposes, is the Jewish Publication Society's rendering of Psalm 40:7-9(6-8):
"Sacrifice and meal-offering Thou hast no delight in;
Mine ears hast Thou opened;
Burnt-offering and sin-offering hast Thou not required.
Then said I: 'Lo, I am come
With the roll of a book which is prescribed for me;
I delight to do Thy will, О my God.'"
The answer to the first objection is that although the Psalm itself expresses its writer's gratitude at deliverance from trouble or sickness, our author, aware that the Messiah could have expressed his own conception of his task on earth with these words, uses the passage midrashically for this purpose. This procedure, legitimate if all understand that the text is being used in this elastic fashion, was common among Jewish writers of the time. The answer to the second objection is that the author accurately quotes the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Tanakh prepared by Jewish translators more than two centuries before Yeshua was born; but it is necessary to examine three phrases more thoroughly.
You have prepared for me a body. The line differs significantly from the second line of the Hebrew text translated above, which is, literally, "You have dug my ears," and is usually understood to mean that God has opened this person's ears so that he will be able to hear the Torah better and thus be better able to carry out its commands. The sense of the Septuagint is essentially the same as that of the Hebrew, for the point in both is that the person is entirely ready to do God's will and obey his Torah. It is not known whether the Septuagint translators worked from a different Hebrew text or merely clarified the sense of the existing text, a common practice among the Targum translators.
In the scroll of the book it is written about me. The Hebrew of the corresponding line in Psalm 40 is: Bim 'gillat-sefer katuv 'alai. The New Testament and my translation give a more obvious and defendable rendering of the Hebrew than the Jewish Publication Society version quoted above.
I have come to do your will. The Hebrew of Psalm 40:9(8) means, in full:
"1 delight to do your will;
your Torah is in my inmost parts."
The objection is that the Psalmist equates delighting to do God's will with obeying the Torah, not with Yeshua's dying sacrificially, and that the author intentionally deletes the second line in order to avoid that conclusion. But, as I often point out, rabbinic citation of a Tanakh text always implies the context (see, for example, Mt 2:15N, Ro 10:6-8N). Therefore, we learn from this passage that Yeshua's relationship to the Torah is so intimate that he could speak of it as being "in my inmost parts." This accords with his own proclamation, at Mt 5:17-20, that he had not come to do away with the Torah or the Prophets, but to bring out their full meaning. We also learn that as "the firstborn among many brothers" (Ro 8:29), the Messiah himself was the first to receive God's New Covenant promise, as expressed by Jeremiah, "I will put my Torah in their minds and write it on their hearts" (v. 16b below). We who are Yeshua's followers, by being immersed into Yeshua (Ro 6:2), and to the degree that we are thus fully identified with him (Yn 15:1-10, 17:20-26), too have God's Torah in our own inmost parts and delight to do his will. The essence of Torah, then, is doing God's will; but it is a delight only if it arises out of fully trusting him(Ro 1:5, 17; Ep 2:8-10; Pp 2:12-13).
This extensive defense of the author's use of Psalm 40 has been necessary because of the word-by-word analysis which he makes in vv. 8-10. For example, God's will is mentioned in all three of those verses.
8. In saying first, "You neither willed nor were pleased with animal sacrifices, meal offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings,” things which are offered in accordance with the Torah;
9. and then, "Look, I have come to do your will”; he takes away the first system in order to set up the second.
10. It is in connection with this will that we have been separated for God and made holy, once and for all, through the offering of Yeshua the Messiah’s body.
Notice that God does not take away the Torah; rather, he takes away the first system of sacrifices and priesthood in order to set up the second within the framework of the one eternal Torah.
Moreover, it is not necessary to suppose that this "taking away" prohibits all animal sacrifices by the Levitical priesthood. The author's point relates to only the sin offering: "an offering for sins is no longer needed" (vv. 15-18&N) because the second sin offering system is effectual in a way that the first never was (v. 10, 9:11-15&N). The other animal sacrifices and the Levitical priesthood could be continued without eclipsing the preeminent role of Yeshua's once-for-all sacrifice and eternal high-priesthood. Even the sin-offering ritual could theoretically be continued, but only if it were regarded as a memorial and not as effective in itself. Just as it was never more than "'a shadow" (v. 1&N). so now, if it should be resumed (which would presuppose the rebuilding of the Temple at some future time; see 2 Th 2:4N), it could not be more than a reminder of the great deliverance provided in Yeshua's death as our final and permanently effective sin offering and his resurrection as our cohen gadol.
11. Now every cohen stands every day doing his service, offering over and over the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
Every day... over and over. See Exodus 29:38.
12. But this one, after until his enemies be made a footstool for his feet (Psalm 110:1).
14. For by a single offering he has brought to the goal for all time those who are being set apart for God and made holy.
Brought to the goal of being permanently forgiven. See 7:11N.
The point is the once-and-for-all-ness, the eternal effectiveness of Yeshua's sacrifice, as opposed to the repeated but only temporarily effective sacrifices of the first system (compare w. 1-4, in cleansing consciences and making believers truly holy; also see 9:11-15&N). This is reinforced by the requoting of Psalm 110:1: Yeshua, after performing his ritual service, did what no Levitical cohen gadol ever did, he sat down at the right hand of God.
15. And the Ruach HaKodesh too bears witness to us; for after saying,
16. “This is the covenant which I will make with them after those days,’ says Adonai: ‘I will put my Torah on their hearts, and write it on their minds..." (Jeremiah 31:32(33)),
17. he then adds, “And their sins and their wickednesses I will remember no more" (Jeremiah 31:33(34)).
18. Now where there is forgiveness for these, an offering for sins is no longer needed.
Having God's Torah written in one's heart and mind necessarily implies that God has forgiven one's sins, so that an offering for sins is no longer needed. Therefore the readers of this sermon should free themselves from their compulsion to offer animal sacrifices as sin offerings and instead be fully assured of the sufficiency of Yeshua's sacrifice of himself on their behalf. We moderns have no such compulsion, but we too should be convinced of the necessity of blood sacrifice for sin while having assurance that Yeshua's blood sacrifice fulfills that requirement. With this, the author's major argument is completed.
But the author is very specific in limiting what he says. An offering for sins is no longer needed and is ruled out. But the other sacrificial offerings remain part of God's order even after Yeshua's death, as proved by Sha'ul's activity in the Temple at Ac 21:26 and his own offering of sacrifices which he himself speaks of at Ac 24:17. With the destruction of the Temple, sacrificial offerings became impossible; but if the Temple is rebuilt, thank offerings, meal offerings, and praise offerings may be offered once again. The author of this letter does not proclaim the end of the sacrificial system in its entirety, only the end of animal sacrifices for sins.
"If the keynote of the last chapter was the efficacy of blood offered in sacrifice, the main theme of this chapter is the once-for-all character of [the Messiah's] saving death" (Hugh Montefiore, The Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 163).
Shadow... originals. The notion of earthly copies and heavenly originals is Hebraic and grounded in the Tanakh (see 8:2-6a&N; 9:1-5&N, 23-24), but here it is expressed in Hellenistic imagery drawn from Plato's Republic.
The Torah has in it a shadow of the good things to come, but not the actual manifestation (or "image") of the originals. The author does not belittle the Torah (compare Co 2:16-23&NN) but gives it its place in the unfolding of God's work in history. In respect to the sacrificial system, the Messiah's death and entry into the heavenly Holiest Place brings to humanity an actual manifestation here and now of what the Torah previewed, namely, the good things still to come when Yeshua returns.
But the argument does not extend to other components of the Torah. First of all, just as Sha'ul at Ga 3:17-25&NN uses the term "Torah" to refer to only its legal aspects, the author of this book frequently uses "Torah" in reference only to its "food and drink and various ceremonial washings" (9:10), not its moral elements. Secondly, nothing is said one way or another about Jewish rituals unconnected with the sacrificial system, such as kashrut or Jewish festivals. See 8:13N.
19. So, brothers, we have confidence to use the way into the Holiest Place opened by the blood of Yeshua.
20. He inaugurated it for us as a new and living way through the parokhet, by means of his flesh.
Through the curtain. Rabbi Elisha ben-'Avuyah (c. 120 C.E.) was known as "Acher" (Hebrew acher means "another," "different") after he left non-Messianic Judaism; whether he became a Gnostic, a Sadducee. a dualist or a Messianic Jew is debated. But one passage in the Talmud suggests that he had an understanding of the heavenly Holiest Place and its curtain not unlike that of our author. Acher, explaining a verse of Scripture to Rabbi Me'ir,
"said, '...A scholar, even though he has sinned, has a remedy.' [Rabbi Me'ir] answered, "Then you too, repent!" But he replied, 'I have already heard from behind the curtain, '"Return, you backsliding children' (Jeremiah 3:22) — except Acher!"'"(Chagigah 15a)
Elisha ben-'Avuyah meant that God had told him he was right and had no need to repent, but Meir understood him to be saying God had told him he was beyond hope of repenting. How had he "heard from behind the curtain"? Through having been taken up into Paradise, as explained in 2C 12:2-4N.
21. We also have a great cohen over God’s household.
After commencing the exhortation by addressing the brothers, the author summarizes the content of his argument, expressed at length in 2:17-3:6, 4:14-5:10, 6:13-10:18. The shed blood of Yeshua. that is, his death for us, opened for us the way into the Holiest Place in a manner more secure than the Levitical cohen hagadol's, entry was.
22. Therefore, let us approach the Holiest Place with a sincere heart, in the full assurance that comes from trusting — with our hearts sprinkled clean from a bad conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Ezekiel 36:25).
Sprinkled... washed. See 9:13N. At Shavu'ot Moroccan Jews pour water on each other as a sign of purity, in keeping with Ezekiel 36:25-27, alluded to in this verse.
23. Let us continue holding fast to the hope we acknowledge, without wavering; for the One who made the promise is trustworthy.
24. And let us keep paying attention to one another, in order to spur each other on to love and good deeds,
25. not neglecting our own congregational meetings, as some have made a practice of doing, but, rather, encouraging each other. And let us do this all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Not neglecting our congregational meetings (Greek episunagdgen; one could render the phrase, "not neglecting to synagogue ourselves together"). "Hillel said, 'Do not separate yourself from the community."'(Avot 2:4)
Many believers not only neglect to meet regularly with a congregation of believers but suppose it unnecessary. This is a very serious mistake, indeed a heresy which endangers their salvation (Yn 13:34-35; 1 Yn 3:10-11, 14, 18; 4:7-8), because biblical religion is socially oriented.
The Tanakh speaks of the kahal (assembly) and the 'edah (congregation), the New Testament of the ekklisia (called-out community, "church") and the Body of the Messiah, and both of the people of God. These are not mystical ideas. True, there is a worldwide spiritual unity of all believers throughout all time which transcends their physically gathering together. But the emphasis in the Tanakh is on the common historical destiny of God's people and their need to treat each other with justice and mercy. The New Testament is no less concerned with the group; it commands believers to love each other in real, practical ways and to build up the Body of the Messiah. This necessitates personal involvement, relationship, communication and working together for the Kingdom of God; and these are impossible challenges unless God's people meet together often.
In the last few decades, extreme forms of individualism spawned in the secular world have infected the Messianic Community and produced efforts to discredit the importance of believers' meeting together. Unabashed selfishness, championed by writers such as Ayn Rand and Robert Ringgren (Looking Our For #/), has become an acceptable part of popular culture. As the emptiness of outward conformity was exposed by sociologists like David Riesman (The Lonely Crowd), its opposite number, self-preoccupation, took its place; drug abuse and the turn toward Eastern religions are symptoms. First welcomed as a step toward consciousness-raising (Charles Reich, The Greening of America), such absorption with self was quickly recognized as escapist and destructive of the social fabric (Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism).
In addition to these influences from the secular world, believers often bring with them from their childhood a distaste for organized religion, which leads them to throw out the baby (fellowship, working together) with the bathwater (dead institutional forms, perfunctory attendance at meetings without genuine communion). Television preaching and home study materials further facilitate passive "blessing" without active involvement. Thus many professed believers suppose that their personal tie to God is the only element of their religious life that matters. But without purposeful contact with other believers, fruitful work for the Kingdom soon ceases, prayer becomes dry, the world shrinks, not only social conscience but even social awareness succumbs, and the person quickly withdraws into a world of his own in which costless discipleship and cheap grace prevail.
A different but related perversion of true congregational meeting consists in flitting from one kehillah (Hebrew, "congregation") to another without becoming committed lo any. People who do this delude themselves if they suppose they are not neglecting congregational meetings, for such "butterflies" can neither become close to any one group nor work with other people toward a common goal. "Living stones being built into a spiritual house" (1 Ke 2:5) do not flit about from window to wall to ceiling. Paul did not spend long in any one place, but he was a faithful member of one local congregation (Antioch), who sent him on his journeys with the laying on of hands and evaluated what he accomplished; he did not proceed on his own initiative, and he did not interpret the Holy Spirit's command by himself (Ac 13:1-4,14:25-15:2,15:35-40). The time has come for God's people to understand that spirituality means what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called, in the title of his book. Life Together.
All of this should be easy for Jewish believers to understand, since Judaism fosters a strong communal feeling that fits well with the exhortation of this verse. As you see the Day approaching. "The Day" is the Day of Judgment, and the phrase leads into the warning of vv. 26-31.
The exhortation to trusting (v. 22), hope (v. 23) and love (w. 24-25) parallels 1С 13:13, also 1 Th 1:3&N.
26. For if we deliberately continue to sin after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
27. but only the terrifying prospect of Judgment, of raging fire that will consume the enemies (Isaiah 26:11)
Raging fire. See 12:29&N.
28. Someone who disregards the Torah of Moshe is put to death without mercy on the word of two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15)
29. Think how much worse will be the punishment deserved by someone who has trampled underfoot the Son of God; who has treated as something common the blood of the covenant (Exodus 24:8) which made him holy; and who has insulted the Spirit, giver of God’s grace!
The Son of God... the Spirit... God. See 9:14N.
30. For the One we know is the One who said, "Vengeance is my responsibility; I will repay", and then said, "Adonai will judge his people” (Deuteronomy 32:35–36).
31. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!
These verses recapitulate, in even stronger language, the exhortation of 6:4-8, with emphasis on fearing God. The modern tendency is to bowdlerize fear of God into "reverence for God" or minimize it by exalting love of God as a higher motivation for right behavior than fear of him. But doing so blunts the impact which the prospect of judgment ought to make (w. 27,30-31). There is a right reason for fearing God; there is such a thing as "holy fear" (11:7). "The fear of Adonai is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10).
Those who deliberately continue to sin (v. 26) are doing what the Torah calls sinning "with a high hand," and for such sins the Levitical system of sacrifices prescribed in the Torah does not atone (see Ya 2:10-11&N). Think how much worse it will be for those who highhandedly ignore Yeshua's atoning sacrificial death (v. 29)! This is the point of this passage.
However, in addition, v. 26 by its position emphasizes the seriousness of neglecting congregational meetings (v. 25&N), even though the specific sin actually referred to, as clarified by v. 29, is that of disregarding the Messiah's once-for-all sacrifice for sin and trusting in the Levitical system which only foreshadowed it (see 6:4-6N, 9:11-15&N, 10:1-18).
32. But remember the earlier days, when, after you had received the light, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings.
33. Sometimes you were publicly disgraced and persecuted, while at other times you stood loyally by those who were treated this way.
34. For you shared the sufferings of those who had been put in prison. Also when your possessions were seized, you accepted it gladly; since you knew that what you possessed was better and would last forever.
35. So don’t throw away that courage of yours, which carries with it such a great reward.
36. For you need to hold out; so that, by having done what God wills, you may receive what he has promised.
37. For "There is so, so little time! The One coming will indeed come, he will not delay.
38. But the person who is righteous will live his life by trusting, and if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him" (Habakkuk 2:3-4).
Как и в Рим. 1:17, автор цитирует Книгу Аввакума 2:4, чтобы перейти к рассуждению на тему доверия (веры), уже поднимавшуюся в 3:12-4:3; 6:1,12; также в ст. 22 выше.
39. However, we are not the kind who shrink back and are destroyed; on the contrary, we keep trusting and thus preserve our lives!
The fourth exhortation (see 2:1-4N) has a tripartite form: two encouraging affirmations (vv. 19-25, 32-39) enclosing a stern warning (vv. 26-31).
The Messianic Jews to which this book was addressed had bravely endured a hard struggle for the sake of the Gospel (vv. 32-34a). Having proved their courage once, they are exhorted to continue to hold out for the little time necessary, in order to receive the promised reward (vv. 34b-37). The way to do this is not by returning to the familiar Levitical system but through trusting in Yeshua's once-for-all sacrifice (vv. 38-39). Trusting then becomes the subject of an entire drashah in itself (11:1-12:4).
Is the promise therefore unfulfillable? No, because Yeshua testified that Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov are still alive (Mt 22:31-32&N). When their seed, the Jewish people, come into full possession of Eretz-hrael, as God has promised them, the Patriarchs will be alive to inherit with them. But perhaps the promise that Avram will inherit the Land has been spiritualized in the New Covenant? Perhaps "the Land" now refers to heaven and not to a piece of real estate in the Middle East? No, because God instructed Avram, "Arise, and walk through the length and breadth of the Land, for I will give it to you" (Genesis 13:17). Obviously God did not mean him to walk through heaven. God keeps his promises, he does not renege on them by spiritualizing them into something else. See Mt 5:5&N, 2C 1:20&N.
- chapter 1
- chapter 2
- chapter 3
- chapter 4
- chapter 5
- chapter 6
- chapter 7
- chapter 8
- chapter 9
- chapter 10
- chapter 11
- chapter 12
- chapter 13