Reading Heb 6:4-6 In Light Of The Old Testament -- By: Dave Mathewson

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 61:2 (Fall 1999)
Article: Reading Heb 6:4-6 In Light Of The Old Testament
Author: Dave Mathewson

Reading Heb 6:4-6 In Light Of The Old Testament

Dave Mathewson*

I. Introduction

Perhaps the most significant, yet perplexing, feature of the book of Hebrews is the so-called warning passages which dot its literary landscape (2:1–4; 3:7–4:13; 5:11–6:12; 10:19–39; 12:14, 29). While all of these warning passages have elicited a variety of commentary and discussion, Heb 6:4–6 has attracted most of the scholarly attention and remains one of the most puzzling and enigmatic for interpreters.1 The bulk of attention devoted to these verses has focused on the issues of the precise identification of the status of those in vv. 4–5 and the nature of the sin they have committed in v. 6. Therefore, scholars continue to debate whether the subjects of the warning are genuine members of the faith community, who through falling away (v. 6) subsequently lose this status, or whether this falling away only results in the loss of rewards, or whether failure to persevere is evidence that the initial faith was not genuine in the first place, or whether the passage should be understood at a corporate level, addressing the covenant community

*Dave Mathewson is instructor in NT at Oak Hills Christian College, Bemidji, MN.

rather than individuals.2 One of the most insightful studies to appear in recent years is the article by Scot McKnight, who surveys and interacts with a variety of approaches to the interpretation of this passage.3 McKnight provides a fresh, detailed formal analysis of 6:4–6 and the other warning passages in Hebrews, suggesting that the warning passages, especially 6:4–6, should be read synthetically in relationship to one another rather than individually. Based on his analysis McKnight concludes that the warnings address the sin of apostasy, and that although believers experience the reality of salvation in the present, a failure to persevere to the end can result in the cessation of that reality.

In this article I do not wish to solve all the probl...

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