Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pseudepigrapha Psalad Psurgery V(c): Hebrews In Context I

One interesting attribute of Hebrews is that the author quotes the Old Testament extensively. Jesusianismists often charge atheismists with taking bible verses out of context. Strangely, although I find that the author of Hebrews takes a few of the Old Testament verses out of context, I've never heard any Jesusianismist complain about it. This is a multi-part essay. In the first parts, Parts 'a' and 'b', I covered Hebrews taken at face value, just as I did all the preceding books of the New Testament. In this part, Part 'c' and those that follow, I'll look into the true context of the Old Testament verses used by the author. Here I'll cover Hebrews Chapter 1, in which the author is absolutely fixated on the idea of convincing his audience that Jesus is superior to the angels. Why people should care about Jesus' relationship to angels is anyone's guess.
  • Hebrews 1:4-5 - " which of the angels did God ever say, 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father'"? This is from Psalm 2:7, a psalm about how everyone is sick of being enslaved by Yahweh and its "anointed one". So what if there's something about adoption in there. For context, so you can see what kind of guy your savior is, read a little further, to Verse 12, "Kiss the son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment." Jesus will get angry and destroy you like an out-of-season fig tree if you don't kiss his ass.
  • Again in Hebrews 1:5 - "I will be his father, and he will be my son." That's from II Samuel 7:14, but read on for context; in this case, just the next few words: "When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men." Now, if Yahweh was talking about Jesus in the first sentence, who was it talking about in the second sentence? Taken in context, it seems that Yahweh was talking about Jesus. So Yahweh fully expected Jesus to disobey and it expected to punish him. Also, this father-son business is repeated in I Chronicles 17:13, without the stuff about disobedience and punishment, but since the bible never contradicts itself, it must be true that the verse in I Chronicles is just a paraphrasing, not an Islam-style abrogation, of the verse in II Samuel.
  • Hebrews 1:6 - "Let all God's angels worship him." This is from Deuteronomy 32:43. Besides the fact that this appears in the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Masoretic text lacks this phrase altogether. More importantly, the "him" in this sentence is Yahweh itself, not any "son of man" or descendant of David.
  • Hebrews 1:7 - "He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire." This is a terrible mistranslation of Psalm 104:4, which isn't even about angels: "[It] makes winds [its] messengers, flames of fire [its] servants." Now, it's true that the Hebrew word, I think it's mala'ak (feel free to correct me), can mean both angel and messenger, but that is not the point. My point is that the author of Hebrews totally misses the meaning of the verse, because either the Septuagint, from which he seems to be drawing, mistranslated the original Hebrew, or because he is taking the verse out of context. It's not about angels. It's about Yahweh, and how it has mastery over the elements.
  • Hebrews 1:8 - Jesus is so great that God has set him above his companions. This mistranslation of Psalm 45:6-7 at least isn't grossly misconstrued. But I have a problem with "God has set you above your companions". How can this be, if Jesus is Yahweh? How can this be, if Jesus is eternally unchanging?
  • Hebrews 1:10-12 - "In the beginning, O Lord," blah, blah, blah. Another mild mistranslation, this time of Psalm 102:25-47. Also a bit of paraphrasing, but the worst problem here is the author's implication that this psalm is about the Messiah. According to the psalm itself, it's "A prayer of an afflicted man," and it's addressed specifically to Yahweh, not any "lord" or "son" or "descendant of David".
  • Hebrews 1:13 - Finally, the end of this filibuster about Jesus' superiority to the angels: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet". I suppose I could complain about the fact that the Supreme Being can't figure out a way not to have enemies, and has to humiliate its enemies, but I'll stick with context issues for now. I have no complaints about context on this one. Good job, Barnabas. Or Apollo. Or whoever.

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