Hebrews 1:1-8:1

I would like to share some thoughts on the structure of the epistle to the Hebrews for discussion. 

Chapter 1 to 8:1 looks like a discrete section about the greatness of Jesus Christ, Son of God. 8:1 is a summary of where the argument has got to – “this is the sum”. The section begins and ends with a reference to Psalm 110:1.  Indeed the first 7 chapters of Hebrews are an exposition of Psalm 110:1-4.

A. 1:1-1:14. This unit emphasises the superiority of Christ over the angels as Son of God – He  … sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high ...(v3)  There are seven OT quotes, the seventh being another reference to Psalm 110:1 -Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool (v13).

B. 2:1-2:18. Broadly this chapter emphasises that Christ was  a man so that he might suffer death for everyone. The key reference is to Psalm 8.

C. 3:1-4:11. The argument is that Christ was faithful (3:2), Israel in the wilderness were not (4:2,) and we need to beware unbelief (3:12) or we will lose the Kingdom.

D. 4:12-13.  This section is a picture of the priest slaying the burnt offering (?), a type of the Lord laying bare the thoughts  of the heart through the power of his Word.

E. 4:14-16. As high priest, the Lord can sympathise (v15) with us because he also has been tempted.

E’.  5:1-10. This section repeats the way in which our high priest can have compassion (v 2) on us because he knows what it is to suffer.

D’. 5:11-14. The apostle comments on the need to better understand scripture and spiritual growth.

C’. 6:1-20.  The gist of this chapter is to hold fast to the faith (6:12) patiently, as did Abraham.

B’. 7:1-28. This section expounds the significance of Melchizedek. The greatness of this priesthood over the levitical is because it never ends v24)- “a priest for ever“, “after the power of an endless life” (v16). Therefore it contrasts with the emphasis on the death of Christ in section B.

A’. 8:1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.

The argument of this section of Hebrews is aimed at emphasising the greatness of the priesthood of Christ so that disciples are not attracted back to visible levitical priests and  the comforting but now redundant rituals of temple worship and the Law (which was given by angels). Perhaps 4:16 can be thought of as the centre of a chiastic argument – “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need”.