Friday, May 30, 2014

Paul Prooftexts Christ’s Condescension and Oneness with the Saints


11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,
12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.
13 And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.
14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same… (Hebrews 11:11-14)

It looks like Paul is trying to prove through the scriptures that Jesus called those of the church His brethren, and he appeals to three different places in scripture to back him up.  When I first looked at these quotations, I couldn’t see how they helped Paul’s argument; in fact, some of them looked unrelated.  So I decided to look deeper into them to see if I could find out why Paul considers them good evidence.

“I will declare thy name unto my brethren” (v12) –This is from Psalms 22:22.  Psalms 22 is one that is widely acknowledged to foretell events in the Messiah’s life, such as “why has thou forsaken me?” and “they laugh me to scorn” and “they pierced my hands and my feet” and “they part my garments among them.”  So Paul takes the phrase from Psalms 22:22 as if it is a declaration Christ made and uses it to prove Jesus considered those of the church to be His brethren and felt like one of them.

“I will put my trust in him” – This is from Psalms 18:2, according to the footnotes, but the phrase in 18:2 is quoted differently.  “My God, my strength, in whom I will trust.”  If we read this quotation as if it were spoken by Christ, we see that He had to trust in Heavenly Father just like other righteous men, so He made Himself a brother by submitting to difficulty and uncertainty just like the rest of us.

“Behold I and the children which God hath given me” – The reference for this is not footnoted, so I had to search for it, and I found it was a fragmented quotation of Isaiah 8:18—“ Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts.”  This one should also be read as if it were Christ speaking, and it shows Jesus wasn’t the only sign to others, but all those who submitted to Him and became children of Christ would be signs as well.  And if others besides Jesus could be signs, then they were brethren in the sense of being instruments in the hands of God to help save others.

Clearly, Paul was very sophisticated in his use of sources and textual evidence.  He writes taking it absolutely for granted that his readers can instantly recall the scriptures he briefly cites; he trust they can fill in the blanks with anything he left out. It’s sort of a scripture shorthand, but it means that if we aren’t familiar with his sources, then we are kind of left out of his conversation.   This exercise kind of makes me want to go over other places where he cites scripture to prove things and see if I can track down the sources that might show me the full meaning of what he tries to say.