Friday, July 5, 2013

Issues with Hebrews 7

"For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also," (Hebrews 7:12) 
"For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness," (Hebrews 7:18) 
"Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you," (Deut. 4:2)
"For the Law made nothing perfect..." (Hebrews 7:19) 
"The Law of the Lord is perfect..." (Psalm 19:7) 



Houston, we have a problem...

So how do we reconcile these passages?  Torah says not to add or take away.  And yet the author of Hebrews APPEARS to be saying that the priesthood is changed and that the Torah has changed also!

Luckily, this week I've been reading a lovely commentary by my friend John McKee:  "Hebrews: For the Practical Messianic" (available on Amazon.com).  Let's take a look at what McKee says about this passage.

Regarding the "change of law" in Hebrews 7:12,

"The 'change' or 'transformation' that the Torah has experienced in the arrival of the Messiah primarily regards permanent atonement for sins and Yeshua serving in the office of the Melchizedekian priest," pg. 111 of Hebrews: For the Practical Messianic.
Regarding the "setting aside of a former commandment" in Hebrews 7:18,

"Vs. 18-19 do not say that God's Torah was set aside; what is said is that 'a former commandment is set aside'," pg. 113, ibid. 
"As far as looking to the Levitical priesthood and its animal sacrifices as being the source of perfection and reconciliation with the Creator, Believers in Yeshua should effectively consider such a system nullified," pg. 113, ibid.
"The fact that the Messiah's Melchizedian priesthood causes 'a setting aside of a former commandment' (v. 18a), of the Levitical priesthood, has to be balanced with various prophecies within the Tanach (Old Testament) which speak of the reinstatement of the Levitical priesthood and animal sacrifices in the future.  In Jeremiah 33:20-22, the Lord says that His covenant with David and with the Levites cannot be broken....Ezekiel 44:10-11 describes the Levites in the Millenial Temple performing animal sacrifices...." pg. 114, ibid. 
"We instead have to conclude the athetesis or setting aside of the Levitical priesthood and sacrifices (Hebrews 7:18) to either concern eternal perfection being now offered in Yeshua with such a previous system effectively nullified, and/or a temporary setting aside of this system with the priesthood once again operative at a future point for God's end-time purposes," pg. 114, ibid.
Regarding the "weakness" and "uselessness"of "the former commandment",

"Lane is keen to note for us, 'Its 'weakness'...inheres not in the law or its purpose, but in the people upon whom it depends for its accomplishment...Its 'uselessness'...derives from the fact that the law regulated the approach of God in a cultic sense and was able to cleanse only externally (9:9-10, 13, 23; 10:14),'" pgs 114-115, ibid. 
"...Guthrie astutely concludes, 'There is no doubt that the writer [of Hebrews] does not here mean that the law itself is annulled, but that it can be discounted as a means of gaining perfection...It is characteristic of law--not merely the Mosaic law, but all law--that it has made nothing perfect.  All it could do was focus on imperfection.  Indeed the Mosaic law went further and demonstrated in its application that perfection was impossible,'" pg. 115.
SUMMARY

So it looks like "do not add" really means "make no unauthorized changes."  Because we have it on the authority of the Tanak that there is another priesthood, that of the order of Melchizedek.  And a "setting aside of the former commandment" cannot be interpreted to mean that the Levitical priesthood is abolished but rather that the aspect of the former commandment as a source of perfection and reconciliation--that aspect has been set aside.  And the "weakness" and "uselessness" of the "former commandment" cannot be interpreted to mean that the Law itself is weak or useless (which would contradict the Tanak) but rather that the incompleteness of the former commandment regarding the Levitical priesthood--that incompleteness is hereby nullified by Yeshua, our perfect sacrifice and mediation.



8 comments:

  1. Interesting take, I look at it a bit differently, one thing that stands out from my perspective, as stated in Hebrews 7:12, For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.

    Is that most people try to argue that the Levitical Priesthood has been replaced, however as stated before, the Levitical Priesthood is operating in the Messianic Kingdom, found in multiple places, so it cannot simply be replaced. However in Ezekiel 40-48 we never see a mention of a High Priest, which seems to imply either their is no need for a High Priest after the order of the Levites, because Yeshua sustains that role or it simply does not mention a High Priest and there will be one according to the Levitical Priesthood.

    The other point, is that if we go into the next chapter, in Hebrews 8:4: Now if He[Yeshua] were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law;

    The verse above, proves that Hebrews 7:12 cannot be speaking of the Levitical Priesthood as replaced, because it says clearly, if Yeshua were on this earth, He would not be a priest AT ALL and the conclusion as to why, is the because the Levitical Priesthood are the Priest.

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    1. All excellent points, Zion. And all well-taken. Thank you, brother.

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  2. Zion, I agree with you!
    However, on the issue of the High Priest on Ezekiel 40-48 I tend to agree with Rashi that believes the prince there spoken of is in fact the High Priest. Why? Because this prince has sons, physical ones, not metaphorical ones, who inherit from him, and so on. We don't have basis for Yeshua getting married and having physical children nowhere in the NT. More: for those of us who believe Messiah to be a manifestation on HaShem or something like this, this idea is absurd!

    So, I would agree with you: the levital priesthood will still be effective on the messianic era, and messiah has not replaced it at all.


    Shalom!

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    1. Matheus,

      I never stated the that Yeshua would be the prince, only that the office of the High Priest may have been concluded, and that the Levitical Priesthood would continue on its chosen path. But just because Ezekiel 40-48 does not mention a High Priest, does not mean there will not be one there, that would be arguing from a logical fallacy.

      A literal reading of the Prince in Ezekiel would more than likely be King David, as noted in these scriptures below, however, that is an issue in itself, because King David is of the tribe of Judah and thus not qualified as a High Priest, so I am not so sure the Prince spoken of in Ezekiel can be referring to a High Priest of Levitical order:

      Ezekiel 34:23
      "And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them; I the LORD have spoken.

      Ezekiel 37:24
      "My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them.

      Jeremiah 30:9
      'But they shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them

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  3. Oh, Zion, I am sorry if I understood you wrong! Anyway, I do think the best option for this text is to read it this way.
    I believe the High Priest has to be of levitical order, since this is a promise from HaShem to Aaron.
    This text either speaks of king Messiah or, as some Christians believe, an antimessiah, or, yet, the High Priest.
    If it is Messiah, than he has to have children, and Yeshua is not such one. On the other hand, the bible says messiah will not have children of his own, or at least this is how some translate Isaiah 53:8. And two of the three texts where David is called a prince that you mentioned, the name King is also present.
    The text does not give any negative conotation to the sacrificial system being operative, so, the usually negative tone christians give this text as talking about the antichrist doesn't fit.
    The High Priest Alternative, is a good one for me, because it does not mean Messiah will have to beget children. Also there is the issue of the prince being one who offers sacrifice. Even the NT says that Yeshua cannot offer those on earth - as you already said! There is also the point that the prince offers sacrifices on the Holy Temple - this is something only Aaron's descendents are to do, according to Scripture!Finally there is the weighty point that Rashi said this was the Cohen HaGadol and one cannot simply dismiss Rashi's point of view. - This is actually a very strong argument against anti-missionaries.

    If there is any other option I am missing, I would like to hear it!

    Shabbat Shalom

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    1. Reading a commentary this morning on this matter, it appears Yeshua was also from Levi. The commentary pointed out that Elizabeth was Mary's 'near kinswoman'and was from the line of Aaron (as was her husband). As Elizabeth was older than Mary, it could be that she was Mary's aunt and related through Mary's mother - ie they were sisters. While a Levite man had to marry a Levite woman, no such rule was given for Levite women; they were free to marry whoever they wished. Elizabeth married Zachariah, who was a Levite. Mary's mother married Eli, who gave rise to Mary, who would therefore have been descended from Levi and therefore so would Yeshua.

      Sorry, my explanation is probably garbled, but I hope you get the gist of it

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    2. I found the commentary - it is actually a commentary telling people why the book of Hebrews should not be in the Scriptures at all, but the relevant paragraph is as follows:

      Yeshua: Descendant of both David and Levi

      In the book of Luke it is recorded that Yeshua’s mother Mary was a “cousin” (KJV) to Elizabeth who was “of the daughters of Aaron”. (Luke 1:5,36) The Greek word translated “cousin” literally means close blood (genetic) relative. The genetic connection can easily be seen by English speaking people in the Greek word “sungenes”. This literally means close kin (See Strongs 4773) This word could just as easily mean Elisabeth was Mary’s aunt. Considering Elisabeth was significantly older than Mary, this would appear to be more likely the case, but it is a moot point ...it doesn’t make a difference either way as you will see.

      In Leviticus, God commanded that Levite men were to marry only Levite women. (Leviticus 21:1,13-14, 22:12-13) Levite women on the other hand were permitted to marry outside the tribe. We know that Mary’s father Heli was a descendant of David of the tribe of Judah (Luke 3:23. Many scholars agree that Joseph was Heli’s son-in-law.) So if Mary was either a cousin ,or a niece to Elisabeth, it must mean that Mary’s mother had to have been either a sister or aunt to Elisabeth, which means that Mary’s mother had to have been a full blooded “daughter of Aaron” as well! Here is the breakdown. If Mary and Elisabeth were cousins, as it says in the KJV, then Mary’s mother was a sister to one of Elisabeth’s parents, both of whom had to have been full-blooded Levites for Elisabeth to be called a “daughter of Aaron”, and be legitimately married to Zacharias the priest. If Elisabeth was Mary’s aunt, as is more likely the case, then Mary’s mother was a sister to Elisabeth. No matter how one works it, it comes out the same. Mary’s mother was a full-blooded Levite. She was then one of those who married outside the tribe when she married Heli of the tribe of Judah. Mary was therefore a perfect blend of both tribes Judah and Levi! Now it also logically flows that if Yeshua had no earthly father and no new outside genetic material was introduced in his conception, his physical bloodlines must have been identical to his mother’s bloodlines with her father Heli's Y chromosome and bloodlines restored in her as "her seed" (Genesis 3:15). Nowhere else is there any reference to a woman having "seed". That term was exclusively reserved for men. This would have been a beautiful reversal of what God had done when He took part of Adam's DNA and made a woman from it! Herein is precedence that He can take of one gender and make another.

      There is also another likelihood that makes this even better. Since God commanded the Levite men to marry only Levite women, it stands to reason the genetic markers He recognizes as the Levitical priestly markers are passed down by the mothers making the tribe matrilineal. These markers would be located in what science today calls the mitochondria DNA. The genetic markers of the other tribes were passed down by the fathers from the Y chromosome. It is also a well established fact of science that the father’s genetic markers and the mother’s genetic markers do not compete with each other during the process of recombination, so neither of them is diluted by the other. This would mean that Mary, and subsequently Yeshua, carried all the genetic markers of both tribes! It stands to reason that God intended for Levi’s genetic markers to be matrilineal for the very purpose of being able to bring all of Judah, and all of Levi together into one man.

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  4. I was reading Hebrews 7 this morning and had concluded by reading it carefully that it was not the torah that was changed, but the sacrifices. It was these that were imperfect as they had to be repeated daily and could not actually take away sin; rather, they 'covered' sin, whereas the atonement procured by our Saviour is perfect and needs no repetition.

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