|Dr. Couch, I appreciate your comments on the book of Hebrews but many commentaries don't seem to have it right in understanding the book. How do you answer?|
ANSWER: I agree! The author who has it right is Kenneth Wuest. He says what I have said for years but did not know of his views until fairly recently. We both hold that the book of Hebrews was handed over to the church to use as a polemic and as an apologetic book to convince the Jews of what Christ was all about. In other words, the main thrust is to convince the Jews of Christ and Christianity.
Now I was influenced by no one except from my own study. I translated the entire book under the great New Testament scholar, Dr. Lewis Johnson. Hebrews is tough Greek but it's rich for advanced graduate language students. One of the problems Bible students have is that of false assumptions! They assume that every letter in the NT is written to the church believers, but this is not the case of Hebrews. But again, I want to be clear, the book was handed over to the church, though the message was aimed at the Jews who were "considering" the person of Christ as being their Messiah and Savior!
I don't know how anyone could read Hebrews 3 and misunderstand the focus of the argument of the book! The chapter speaks of the Jews in the wilderness who had "the unbelieving heart" and went astray in their heart (vv. 10-11). When they heard God in the wilderness, they refused to believe but instead "hardened the hearts and provoked God" (v. 15). Note 3:18-19: "And to whom did God swear that they should not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? And so we see that they were not able to enter [God's rest] because of DISOBEDIENCE" (v. 18). That's about as plain as can be! The word "disobedient" in Greek is "apeitheo," and is one of the strongest words for disbelief! It is an Aorist Participle with the force of: "They were characterized distinctly as disobedient!" It can be translated "not to comply with, not to allow one to be persuaded, to refuse to believe, to be un-persuaded, to be un-compliant."
But the last word in verse 19 is also very telling! It is "apistian" which means simply "unbelieving." The "a" is the negative in Greek, coupled with "pistian" which means "to believe." The Greek is strong as made clear even in the English translation. "'They were not able, not capable, to go into' God's rest …" 4:1 then carries the idea on. The "us" is the collective body of Jews who had the full revelation about Christ but were refusing to believe that He was truly the Promised One from the OT prophecies! The Jewish people were "to fear" lest while the promise was there, they would refuse to take hold of it. Some did believe (v. 3) but not all!
I hope this helps. You need to get Wuest's set entitled "Word Studies in the Greek New Testament" published by Eerdmans.
Thanks for asking.
Dr. Mal Couch