Biblical Studies Hebrews 6:4-6—Again! (A Pneumatological Inquiry) -- By: Martin Emmrich

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 65:1 (Spring 2003)
Article: Biblical Studies Hebrews 6:4-6—Again! (A Pneumatological Inquiry)
Author: Martin Emmrich

Biblical Studies
Hebrews 6:4-6—Again! (A Pneumatological Inquiry)

Martin Emmrich

[Martin Emmrich is adjunct professor at Eastern University and Reformed Theological Seminary (Washington, DC).]

I. Introduction

The admonition of Heb 5:11–6:12 with 6:4–6 at its core has evoked a continuous flow of articles and is often considered to be the most difficult of the letter’s warning passages.1 The question of the possibility of a second μετάνοια in connection with the meaning of ἀδύνατος (6:4a) has attracted and still attracts the attention of interpreters of various persuasions. The present study draws from previous investigations but proposes alternative conclusions. Our exegetical findings will then be elucidated and hopefully confirmed by taking a pneumatological perspective on the passage. The study suggests that the author’s references to πνεῦμα in Heb 6:4–6 can best be understood against the backdrop of second-temple retributive pneumatological traditions. At the same time, his eschatological (or christological) agenda, in particular the notion of the impossibility of a second μετάνοια, motivated him to modify received teachings about the Holy Spirit.

II. Exegesis2

Noel Weeks’s groundbreaking study has shown that the crucial phrases in 6:4–5 resonate with overtones from the LXX account of Israel’s wilderness

experience.3 The language of this admonition thus corresponds with that of the two previous warning passages (2:1–4; 3:7–11), which also make use of the pilgrimage imagery as a trajectory for depicting the author’s addressees as the wandering people of God. Accordingly, the term φωτίζειν (“to enlighten,” 6:4) constitutes an allusion to the pillar of cloud/fire, Israel’s luminous guide on the wilderness trek. LXX texts that rehearse the wilderness journeys draw attention to the pillar’s light-giving purpose by using the very same verb. Thus, in

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