Hebrews 6

Perseverance and Hebrews 6: The Midrash Solution

Detail from "The Spies Return from Canaan," Gerard Jollain (1670)

(Hebrews 6:3-9 with Numbers 13-14)

Introduction

In the United States, many people who had at one time professed allegiance to Jesus Christ have turned away from their previous commitment. We refer to a person who once knowingly professed the faith — but has since renounced it — as an “apostate” (from the Greek, “one who stands away” from what he once professed). Theologically, how do we account for apostates?

Most of us would agree that people who deny Christ (whether they once professed Him or not) are lost. But what route did these apostates take to earn this “lost” label? Do genuine believers always persevere in their faith? Is our assurance of salvation merely tentative — subject to revision? Bible-believing Christians are divided over this issue. For many, the text of Hebrews 6:3-9 is a deciding factor, and there are certainly a number of interpretative routes we could take.

An Important Perspective

I would like to demonstrate that interpreting this passage from a Midrash perspective clarifies the controversy. By Midrash, I mean that the writer to the Hebrews is intentionally and consciously drawing principles from Old Testament texts, in this instance Numbers 13:1-14:45. He applies the principles of this text to a current (somewhat parallel) problem within the Hebrew congregation, the result being Hebrews 6:3-9.

Since most Jews had memorized the entire Torah and were fluent in the rest of Old Testament, I would argue that the original readers of Hebrews understood this clearly.

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