[B-Greek] PROSFERH in Hebrews 9:25
yancywsmith at sbcglobal.net
Mon Nov 16 11:32:45 EST 2009
I agree with Tom, the death of Christ and the presentation of his sacrifice are not intended to be differentiated in any strict way, as a comparison with 9:14 shows. πόσῳ μᾶλλον τὸ αἷμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὃς διὰ πνεύματος αἰωνίου ἑαυτὸν προσήνεγκεν ἄμωμον τῷ θεῷ, καθαριεῖ τὴν συνείδησιν ἡμῶν ἀπὸ νεκρῶν ἔργων εἰς τὸ λατρεύειν θεῷ ζῶντι. POSWi MALLON TO hAIMA TOU CRISTOU, hOS DIA PNEUMATOS AIWNIOU hEAUTON PROSHNEGKEN AMWMON TWi QEWi, KAQARIEI THN SUNEIDHSIN hHMWN APO NEKRWN ERGWN EIS TO LATREUEIN QEWi ZWNTI. It is the offering "through the Eternal Spirit" that makes the offering eternally significant, i.e. effective in the heavenlies. To affirm the necessity of a separate heavenly ceremony would be pressing the analogy with the Levitical pattern too far. An though the writer is heavily apocalyptic in outlook, he is not writing an apocalypse! A heavenly ritual would be more at home in that genre.
This passage comes in the context of the writer's affirmation that Christ's sacrifice as both high priest and victim is superior to Levitical offerings (9:26) because it is eternally significant. However, this does not require, necessarily, a separate Levitical-type ceremony in heaven (although, I suppose, such a ceremony is not strictly impossible in the thought of the author!) In terms of rhetoric, what is distinctive about Heb 9:24-25 is the nature of the argument as a reductio ad absurdum. It combines the notions already accepted by the audience and the author that the annual ritual of atonement is of central importance to the Levitical pattern with the idea that the Son of God existed from the beginning of time (1:2). If the Son of God is eternal and his sacrifice must conform to that pattern, then he would have presented himself many times. That idea is brought up only to be rejected as silly. Who would entertain it? For the writer, the Levitical pattern is self-evidently insufficient simply because it must be repeated yearly. But the sacrifice of the Son of God is valid once for all time. While it is true that the entire argument is framed as "having made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God" and in terms of a presentation of the Son of God in the world to come, the actions of the Son of God on earth are, in effect, also potentially actions in the heavenlies. So, just as Christ is described as "having offered himself without blemish to God" through the Eternal Spirit thus purifying believer's consciences from dead works to serve the living God (9:14). Christ is pictured as "always interceding" now, but the events of his life like his weeping before his death (5:7-8), his being taken out of the city (13:12) and his crucifixion (12:2). These events have a "one off" or once for all character that affect the heavenly sphere and, in this way, are effective for all believers at different times.
This kind of interpenetration of heavenly and earthly realities is a common cultural pattern in Greco-Roman times, as can be seen in the famous Apotheosis of Augustus gem http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gemma_Augustea and the Grande Camee de France http://www.lessing-photo.com/dispimg.asp?i=10050613+&cr=12. Middle Platonic thought helped shape, along with Jewish apocalyptic, this way of viewing the world.
Yancy W. Smith, PhD
World Bible Translation Center
4028 Daley Ave., Suite 201
Fort Worth, TX 76180
yancy at wbtc.org
Be kinder than necessary for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
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