Wednesday, October 14, 2009

David Scholer on Hebrews Part 3: Christology (Part 1)

David M. ScholerWhile the Revised Common Lectionary continues its triennial journey through the book of Hebrews, I'm working through a series of lessons from 2001 taught by the late David M. Scholer.

This week's lesson: "The Christology of Hebrews: Part 1" (File uploaded by Larry Harnisch)

My observations:
  • Scholer opens by introducing his friend, Father Robert Karris.  I've met Father Karris on a number of occasions.  Last I heard, Karris was working on a book detailing Scholer's teachings on "Women, the Bible, and the Church."  I wonder how that's coming along? 
  • Although Hebrews contains quite a lot of comment about the person and work of Jesus Christ, the author did not sit down to write thinking "the church needs a good Christology, so I'm going to write one."  Rather, Hebrews was written in response to pastoral concerns, specifically, concern that the audience of the letter might fall away from the faith.  The Christological material of Hebrews is merely the framework in which the exhortation addressing these concerns took place.  First and foremost, people can have hope because of who Jesus Christ is, and what Jesus Christ does.
  • The concept of the "last days" was closely tied to the concept of God acting, specifically for the salvation of God's people.  Since God was clearly acting in this way through the coming of Jesus Christ, the idea that Christians were living in the "last days" was a natural conclusion.
  • The conviction that Jesus was God was a difficult thing for the early the church to wrestle with.  In the midst of a generally polytheistic world, the Jews accused the early Church of having two Gods, and therefore not being truly monotheistic, as they were.  Even today, the concept of the trinity (including the Holy Spirit as God, as well) remains one of the most difficult concepts of the Christian faith to understand.
  • There are some parts of the apocryphal book of Wisdom (written in the first century before the birth of Christ, according to Scholer) where Wisdom is described in practically divine terms that sound a lot like how Jesus is described in the book of Hebrews.
  • There is an interesting "rabbit trail" in the middle of the discussion whereby Scholer discusses feminine imagery for God (stemming from the discussion of "Lady Wisdom").  14th century mystic Julian of Norwich (a woman, the "male" name notwithstanding) even describes Jesus as a "mother."
  • The discussion in Hebrews of Jesus as superior to angels may reflect a concern that people were giving too much attention to angels.
  • There were three pivotal figures in Judaism: Abraham (father of the Jewish people), Moses (the liberator), and David (the great king).  Jesus is, at various points, compared to each one of these to demonstrate Jesus' superiority to them all.  Scholer specifically mentions how Hebrews deals with Moses in relation to Jesus.  The author of Hebrews is very careful never to criticize Moses.  Jesus, however, is worthy of "more glory" than Moses.
Next week: Jesus as "the great high priest"

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