Covenant And The Warnings Of Hebrews: The Blessing And The Curse -- By: Matthew Mcaffee

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 57:3 (Sep 2014)
Article: Covenant And The Warnings Of Hebrews: The Blessing And The Curse
Author: Matthew Mcaffee

Covenant And The Warnings Of Hebrews:
The Blessing And The Curse

Matthew McAffee*

* Matthew McAffee is Coordinator of the Theological Studies Program and Professor of Bible and Biblical Languages at Welch College, 3606 West End Avenue, Nashville, TN 37205.

Anyone familiar with the literature on the warning passages from the book of Hebrews is well aware of the familiar arguments regularly put forth for and against the possibility that genuine believers actually apostatize. These exegetical paths are well trodden, and one would be rather presumptuous to suggest that something new could be added to the fray this late in the game. As the title of this essay suggests, I am interested in the broader issue of covenant, particularly as it relates to two areas of concern: (1) the blessings of covenant that members can be expected to receive; and (2) the curses of covenant that stand as a warning to members against covenant unfaithfulness. In focusing on these two areas, I am attempting to synthesize two exegetical threads I have explored elsewhere by zeroing in on their significance for the book of Hebrews, one being the covenant significance of the good word in the OT,1 the other being the high-handed sin of Numbers 15.2 It is my view that these two strands of thought contribute significant insight for interpreting the warning texts of Hebrews.

I. The Covenant Blessing:
Recipients Of The Good Word In Hebrews 6:5

Hebrews 6:4–6 records one of the more familiar warning passages from this exhortation (cf. 2:1–4; 3:6; 3:7–4:13; 10:26–39; 12:25–29) and emphasizes the fact that it is impossible for the said apostate to renew repentance. Though the emphasis on this text is usually couched in the negative, it is also important to observe the elements of covenant that appear to be assumed amidst the cataloguing of characteristics observable in these individuals identified in vv. 4–6. One might argue that the writer of Hebrews clothes his discussion in the nomenclature of the old covenant, all the while transforming the situation in light of the new covenant reality inaugurated in Christ.3 Numerous studies have focused on the purported OT background subsumed in this list, b...

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