“Amtscharisma”: Through the Eternal Spirit (Hebrews 9:14) -- By: Martin Emmrich

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 12:1 (NA 2002)
Article: “Amtscharisma”: Through the Eternal Spirit (Hebrews 9:14)
Author: Martin Emmrich


“Amtscharisma”: Through the Eternal Spirit (Hebrews 9:14)

Martin Emmrich

Westminster Theological Seminary

The article argues a new approach to the elusive language of Heb 9:14. The phrase “eternal Spirit” refers to the Holy Spirit bestowed upon Christ for the specific purpose of carrying out his sacerdotal (that is, high-priestly) appointment. This notion of Amtscharisma is well documented in relevant Jewish literature, where the presence of the Spirit is viewed as the “insignia” of the high priest’s office. The author of the epistle has modified this tradition with his own eschatological understanding of the significance of Christ’s entry into the heavenly sanctuary.

Key Words: Amtscharisma, eschatology, Holy Spirit, pneumatology

Heb 9:11-14 (arguably) expresses the central thought of the Epistle to the Hebrews.1 While there is a general consensus that these verses deal with Christ’s sacerdotal function, the conspicuous biblical hapax πνεῦμα αἰώνιον (9:14) continues to fuel controversial discussions among scholars.2 What exactly is it that we are told when the letter’s author claims that (Χριστὸς) … διὰ πνεύματος αἰωνίου ἑαυτὸν προσήνεγκεν ἄμωμον τῷ θεῷ? The present study attempts to afford a new perspective on this crucial statement.

1. Divine Versus Human (Or: Christ’s Own) Spirit

Our phrase “through eternal Spirit”3 is part of an a minori ad maius argument that covers 9:13-14: “For if the blood of goats and bulls …

how much more (will) the blood of Christ (cleanse)…” The readership is thus assured that Christ’s superior sacrifice accomplished the complete removal of every encumbrance “to serve the living God” (9:14b).

In regard to “through eternal Spirit,” Albert Vanhoye has revived Chrysostom’s view by arguing that πνεῦμα αἰώνιον is a figure of speech derived from the perpetual fire that was to burn on the (OT) altar of burnt offering (see Lev 6:9).4 In particular he contends that

il semble permis de conclure que le rapprochement entre l’«Esprit éternel» de

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