Messianic jews, Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 9
1. Now the first covenant had both regulations for worship and a Holy Place here on earth.
2. A tent was set up, the outer one, which was called the Holy Place; in it were the menorah, the table and the Bread of the Presence.
The menorah ("candlestick, light") had seven branches and was made of gold: see Exodus 25:31-39, 37:17-24; variations are found in synagogues throughout the world, and the design rivals the six-pointed star for popularity as a Jewish symbol. The gold-covered acacia-wood table (Exodus 25:23-26, 37:10-16) had on it the Bread of the Presence (Exodus 25:30), one loaf to represent each of the twelve tribes, placed fresh every Shabbat (Leviticus 24:5-9); only cohanim were allowed to eat it (compare Ml 12:4, Mk 2:26, Lk 6:4). 

3. Behind the second parokhet was a tent called the Holiest Place,
The first curtain or "screen" (Exodus 26:36-37, 36:37-38) separated the Holy Place from the outer court, whereas the second curtain or "veil" (Exodus 26:31-33, 36:35-36: Mt 27:51) separated the Holiest Place from the Holy Place. 

4. which had the golden altar for burning incense and the Ark of the Covenant, entirely covered with gold. In the Ark were the gold jar containing the man, Aharon’s rod that sprouted and the stone Tablets of the Covenant;
5. and above it were the k’ruvim representing the Sh’khinah, casting their shadow on the lid of the Ark — but now is not the time to discuss these things in detail.
The lid of the Ark was also known as the "mercy seat" (Hebrew kapporet), meaning the physical place where Adonai met the cohen hagadol on Yom-Kippur (Leviticus 16:2) and from which, in his mercy, he forgave the sins of the people of Israel. The Greek word for "mercy seat" is used in the New Testament at only one other place, Ro 3:23, where it is rendered, "kapparah" ("covering, atonement"): "God put Yeshua forward as the kapparah for sin." Thus the Tabernacle's mercy seat prefigured the eternal mercy scat. Yeshua.

Casting their shadow on the mercy seat were two figures, the k'ruvim (usually transliterated "cherubim"; see Exodus 25:18-22, 37:7-9). K'ruvim guarded the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24). God spoke to Moses "from between the k'ruvim" (Exodus 25:22, Numbers 7:89); and because the Tanakh speaks often of God's presence there (1 Samuel 4:4; Isaiah 37:16; Ezekiel 10:1-22; Psalms 80:1, 99:1), the author regards the к'ruvim as representing the Sh'khinah ("God's presence"; see Paragraph (3) of 1:2-3N).

The Holiest Place had associated with itself the golden altar for burning incense.
Critics have been quick to conclude that the author did not know what he was talking about, since the Torah clearly states that the golden altar was outside the curtain (Exodus 30:6, Leviticus 16:18, 1 Kings 6:22). Actually, the author knew his subject well. Although the incense altar was used daily for other purposes, it was used in a special way by the cohen hagadol on Yom-Kippur, when he would lake from it a golden censer of coals and bring them into the Holiest Place (Exodus 30:10, Leviticus 16:12, 15). See paragraph alter next.

Inside the Holiest Place was the Ark of the Covenant (described first at Exodus 25:10-22), the box in which were the gold jar containing a sample of the manna on which the Israelites lived for forty years in the Wilderness (Exodus 16:33); Aharon's rod, the dry almond branch that sprouted overnight as a sign to Korach and his rebels that Moses and Aaron were God's authorized representatives (Numbers 17:25); and the second set of stone Tablets of the Covenant that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:1-4, 28-29; Deuteronomy 10:1-5), which were in Solomon's Temple (2 Chronicles 5:10) but disappeared later, perhaps at the time of the Babylonian Exile (587 C.E.; see Rv 11:19N).

Earlier, in v. 2, the Greek text says that the table with showbread and the menorah were "in" the Holy Place. And in the latter part of the present verse, the Greek says that the manna, rod and tablets were "in" the ark. But the Greek expression for the relationship between the Holiest Place and the incense altar is not "in which" but "having," i.e., "having associated with itself." Like the ark the incense altar was associated with the Holiest Place. But the author did not make the mistake of locating the incense altar in the Holiest Place, which would have been an error; on the contrary, choosing his words carefully, he associated the incense altar with the Holiest Place even though it was outside. A diagram of the actual locations makes this even clearer; the figure shows that the incense altar was close to the Holiest Place, while the menorah, showbread and table were farther away.




Ark
HOLY OF HOLIES
---------------veil------------------
Incense altar
HOLY PLACE
Menorah, showbread & table



Also compare Rv 5:8,6:9-10,8:3-4, where the golden censer represents the prayers of believers in Yeshua.

Both Tent and Temple consisted of an outer court (not mentioned in this passage), a Holy Place, and a Holiest Place (Holy of Holies), according to the pattern set forth in Exodus 25-31. 35-40. These verses provide only the minimal background necessary for vv. 6-10 and therefore end with one of the more tantalizing lines in Scripture; would that the author had chosen to discuss these things in detail! 


6. With things so arranged, the cohanim go into the outer tent all the time to discharge their duties;
The elements mentioned in vv. 2 and 4 already call to mind the duties of the cohanim in the outer tent (the Holy Place). They included keeping the menorah continually lit (Exodus 27:20-22, Leviticus 24:1-4), placing fresh loaves on the table (Leviticus 24:5-9) and burning incense on the incense altar (Exodus 30:7-9), as did Z'kharyah the father of Yochanan the Immerser (Lk 1:9-l 1). 

7. but only the cohen hagadol enters the inner one; and he goes in only once a year, and he must always bring blood, which he offers both for himself and for the sins committed in ignorance by the people.
The author mentions these activities only to contrast their regularity with the cohen hagadol's entry into the inner tent (the Holiest Place), which is permitted only once a year and is surrounded by other conditions. He must bring the blood of a slaughtered animal as a sin offering, as a reminder that death is the penalty for sin (he does not actually bring it into the Holiest Place itself, but slaughters a bull at the altar in the prescribed manner). He must offer for himself, since he too is a sinner; and his offering for the people is only for their sins committed in ignorance. These requirements arc set forth in Leviticus 16. 

8. By this arrangement, the Ruach HaKodesh showed that so long as the first Tent had standing, the way into the Holiest Place was still closed.
This arrangement showed that during the time before Yeshua's first coming, when the first Tent, the Tabernacle established by the Mosaic Covenant, or any of its replacements, such as the First or Second Temple, had standing, the way into the Holiest Place, that is, into God's presence, was still closed to people in general and was open only to the cohen hagadol, and only once a year, and only if he came with blood. Had standing. Some versions have "existed," but this is wrong. The author is referring to the time when the Tabernacle or Temple had status or position as an essential element in God's way of dealing with sin under (he Mosaic Covenant. Compare 10:9.

Holiest Place, Greek agio, which can mean either "Holy Place" (as in vv. 1-2) or "Holiest Place" (compare Leviticus 16:2, which speaks of "the Holy Place inside the curtain"). Because of context agia must mean "Holy Place" at 10:1, and "Holiest Place" here and in vv. 12,24,25; 10:19,22; 13:11. Only at 9:3 must the author use the explicit term "agia agion" ("Holy of Holies") for "Holiest Place" in order to avoid confusion. 


9. This symbolizes the present age and indicates that the conscience of the person performing the service cannot be brought to the goal by the gifts and sacrifices he offers.
10. For they involve only food and drink and various ceremonial washings — regulations concerning the outward life, imposed until the time for God to reshape the whole structure.
The present age refers to the period after Yeshua's first coming, yet before the Mosaic Covenant's system of priesthood and sacrifice has altogether disappeared (8:13&N). The sacrifices go on, but, in the light of what Yeshua has accomplished, what they signify is that the conscience of the person performing the service cannot be brought to the goal (KJV: "be made perfect"; see 7:11&N) by obeying regulations concerning the outward life (on "food and drink" in the Temple see Leviticus 23; compare Co 2:16&N). And if so, how much less (Mt 6:30&N) can the sacrificial ritual bring the consciences of those for whom the service is performed to the goal of being, both in fact and in feeling, cleared of guilt.

Non-Messianic Judaism has never supposed that the mechanical performance of ritual acts causes God to forgive sin. Rather, since the destruction of the Temple, Judaism has taken a different tack, teaching that neither sacrifice nor priesthood is necessary for God to forgive sin. The author expresses the view that sacrifice and priesthood are indeed necessary, that the Mosaic system was imposed until the time for God to reshape the whole structure, literally, "until a time of re-formation," and thus prefigured the system established by Yeshua the Messiah. 


11. But when the Messiah appeared as cohen gadol of the good things that are happening already, then, through the greater and more perfect Tent which is not man-made (that is, it is not of this created world),
12. he entered the Holiest Place once and for all. And he entered not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of his own blood, thus setting people free forever.
13. For if sprinkling ceremonially unclean persons with the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer restores their outward purity;
Restores their outward purity, so that they may enter the Temple; literally, "sanctifies toward the cleansing of the flesh." Also see v. 23N.
Ashes of a heifer. According to Numbers 19, anyone defiled by contact with or proximity to a corpse was ritually cleansed by sprinkling him with water containing the ashes of a perfect red heifer. According to Maimonides (Yad-HaChazakah 1, Halakhah 4), the cohen hagadol was sprinkled with this water in order to restore purity before entering the Holiest Place on Yom-Kippur, if so, this offers an explanation as to why these ashes are mentioned here.

A curious phenomenon that attracted the attention of the rabbis is that the ashes of the red heifer both purified and defiled. After the ceremony the person who had touched a corpse was no longer defiled (Numbers 19:11-12), but anyone touching the ashes was impure until evening (Numbers 19:7—8, 10). Yeshua has a similar dual role — see Yn 9:39, Lk 20:18.

Sprinkling is what cleansed; see also vv. 14, 19-22. At 10:19-22 the text uses the words "sprinkling" and "water" in an allusion to Ezekiel 36:16-38, which is the haftarah (prescribed reading from the Prophets) for Shabbat Parah ("heifer"), when Numbers 19 is the Torah reading.

At 13:11-13, a comparison is made between Yeshua and the animals "burned outside the camp"; the red heifer was one of those animals (Numbers 19:3,5). 


14. then how much more the blood of the Messiah, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself to God as a sacrifice without blemish, will purify our conscience from works that lead to death, so that we can serve the living God!
This verse mentions all three: the Messiah, the eternal Spirit and God (likewise 10:29). But our understanding of how these relate to the oneness of Adonai is not compressed into the word "trinity." 

15. It is because of this death that he is mediator of a new covenant [or will] (Jeremiah 31:30(31)). Because a death has occurred which sets people free from the transgressions committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.
Mediator of a new covenant. Yeshua's relationship to the new covenant (see 8.6-13&NN) is, First, that he is mediator of it (see I Ti 2:5b-6aN), and second, that his death inaugurated it (see Mt 26:28N). However, his death has a function not only in relation to the New Covenant, but also in relation to the first covenant: it sets people free from their transgressions of it by being an effective death that pays the penalty for sin once and for all, whereas the death of animals offered as sin offerings gives temporary remission (see 10:1-14, Ac I3:38-39&N).

Promised eternal inheritance. These three words can be traced through the Tanakh as they outline one of its major themes. God promised Adam everlasting life, conditional on obedience (Genesis 2:9, 16-17; 3:22). God's covenant with Noah includes many promises and is called eternal (Genesis 9:16). God promised Avraham and his seed the Land of Israel for ever (Genesis 13:15), and the term "inherit" is first used in the Bible in connection with this promise (Genesis 15:7).

God's promises to Avraham are reconfirmed in the covenant with Moses (see Ga 3:6-4:7&NN, which constitute an indispensable commentary on this verse), but people's sins disqualified them from receiving what had been promised. Those who accept Yeshua's once-for-all dealing with sin, as explained in these chapters, may receive the promised eternal inheritance.

Having described the Mosaic Covenant's system of priesthood and sacrifice, the author now addresses his readers' preoccupation with it by showing many ways in which the New Covenant's system and its priest/mediator are better; in vv. 13-14 he makes use of a kal v'chomer argument (see Mt 6:30&N):

(I) With Yeshua arrive the good things that are happening already (v. 11; some manuscripts have "the good things yet to come"). The entire discussion that follows, through 10:18, demonstrates that these things are better than what came with the Mosaic Covenant's system of priesthood and sacrifice. (2) Yeshua serves in a better Tent. It is greater, more perfect, and not manmade (that is, it is not of this created world) (v. 11). Moreover, it is not merely a copy of the true Tent, but the heavenly original (8:5,9:24,10:1). (3) Yeshua, unlike the Mosaic cohen hagadol (v. 7a), has entered into the Holiest Place (literally, "the Holy Place," but the context implies "the Holiest Place"; see v. 8N on this) once and for all (v. 12a). His single, unique and eternally effective sacrifice and entry into the Holiest Place is discussed further at vv. 25-28, 10:10-18. (4) Yeshua's means of entry into the Holy Place was better: his own blood, not the blood of goats, calves and bulls and the ashes of a heifer (vv. 12-13; the significance of blood is discussed at vv. 18-22). The blood of any other human being would not only have been an abomination itself, but would have accomplished nothing useful for others. But because Yeshua was sinless, he was a sacrifice without blemish, and God accepted his shed blood (see 7:26-28N). Secondly, his sacrifice was through the eternal Spirit (v. 14), that is, authorized by God. And finally, his death was necessary to set people free from the transgressions they have committed under the first covenant (v. 15). The ineffectiveness of animal sacrifices in comparison with Yeshua's sacrifice is taken up again at 10:1-4. (5) What Yeshua's death accomplished is better than what the death of animals accomplishes: setting people free forever (v. 12) and purifying our conscience from works that lead to death, so that we can serve the living God (v. 14), versus not having our conscience brought to the goal (v. 9) and instead merely restoring outward purity (v. 13&N). 


16. For where there is a will, there must necessarily be produced evidence of its maker’s death,
17. since a will goes into effect only upon death; it never has force while its maker is still alive.
Greek diatheke may be translated "covenant," "will" or "testament"; the sense of these two verses depends on keeping in mind at least the first two meanings. A modern reader may be able more easily to grasp the author's argument by thinking in terms of wills, but the context (vv. 15, 18-22) is that of covenants as set forth in the Tanakh, where the Hebrew word "b'rit" must be translated "covenant" and cannot be rendered as "will." Although "will" is suggested by the last word of v. 15, "inheritance," the Tanakh uses "inheritance" to mean "that which is to be received" and knows nothing of wills.

There must necessarily be produced the evidence of its maker's death. For wills this is self-evident; but it is also true for God's covenants, insofar as sacrifices are stand-ins for the death of the one offering them. Noah offered sacrifices (Genesis 8:20, 9:9). In the case of A vraham there were actual sacrifices (Genesis 15:9, 17-18) as well as the symbolism of the blood shed at circumcision (Genesis 17:11). The author himself discusses the Mosaic sacrifices (Exodus 24:1-8) in vv. 18-22.

Now a will is one-sided, but a covenant is two-sided. Obviously it was not God, who set the terms of these covenants, who died. Rather, it was, in all instances, the receiver of God's covenant who died — not actually, but symbolically through identification with the shed blood. In the Mosaic Covenant, the dead animals represent the people of Israel as having died to their former uncovenanted, sinful way of life: while the sprinkled blood represents the new life offered through the covenant ("the life is in the blood," Leviticus 17:11). The necessary connection between deaths and covenants in the Tanakh is further suggested in the Hebrew phrase for "to make a covenant," "likrot b'rit," which means, literally, "to cut a covenant." On the day God cut a covenant with Avram that his descendants would inherit the Land, Avram cut animals in pieces and saw a burning lamp pass between them (Genesis 15:7-21). 


18. This is why the first covenant too was inaugurated with blood.
19. After Moshe had proclaimed every command of the Torah to all the people, he took the blood of the calves with some water and used scarlet wool and hyssop to sprinkle both the scroll itself and all the people;
After Moshe had proclaimed the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) and the civil code of Exodus 21-23, and the people had responded, "We will do and obey everything Adonai has said," he inaugurated the covenant by sprinkling blood on the altar and on the people (Exodus 24:1-8). Leviticus 14:4, 6, 49, 51-52 report that in purification rituals scarlet wool and hyssop (see Yn 19:28-29N) were used, and living (i.e., running) water was mixed with the blood. The scroll of the covenant, from which Moses read to the people, is nowhere mentioned as having been sprinkled; but since it was made by human hands, it too needed cleansing, even though the words in it were from God himself. 

20. and he said, "This is the blood of the covenant which God has ordained for you (Exodus 24:8)".
21. Likewise, he sprinkled with the blood both the Tent and all the things used in its ceremonies.
Exodus 40:9-10 says that the Tent and all the things used in its ceremonies were purified with oil, but it does not mention blood. However, Josephus, in retelling the story, writes that Moses purified

"the Tent and the vessels which belonged to it, both with oil that had first been incensed, and with the blood of bulls and rams." {Antiquities of the Jews 3:8:6) 


22. In fact, according to the Torah, almost everything is purified with blood; indeed, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
Everything is purified with blood. See the numerous examples in the Torah at Exodus 29-30; Leviticus 1-9, 14-17. Almost. For exceptions, see Exodus 19:10; Leviticus 15:5ff.; 16:26,28; 22:6; Numbers 31:22-24.

Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. This basic principle is minimized or overlooked entirely in modern non-Messianic Judaism. On the one hand, those forms of non-Messianic Judaism which borrow from secular philosophy promulgate the idea that modern man has evolved past the kind of primitive religion that portrays God as requiring blood atonement. Thus Reform Judaism has removed from the 'Amidah of its prayerbook all reference to the restoration of sacrifices.

On the other hand, although Orthodox Jews pray thrice daily for the rebuilding of the Temple, so that animal sacrifices can be offered in the manner the Torah requires. Orthodox Judaism attenuates their significance by emphasizing the efficacy of other factors in atonement. For example, at Roxh-HaShanah, the solemn New Year festival when Jews are supposed to examine the sin in their lives and seek God's forgiveness, one of the most revered and moving prayers in the liturgy is the Un'tanneh Tokef, quoted here in full:

"We will celebrate the solemn holiness of this day, how awesome and fearsome it is. On this day your rulership is lifted up, your throne is established in mercy, and you sit upon it in truth. Truly you alone are judge, arbiter, discerner, witness, recorder, sealer, inscriber and reckoner; and you remember all forgotten deeds. You open the book of records and it reads itself, and everyone's signature is there.

"The great shofar is sounded, the still small voice is heard, and the angels tremble with fear as they proclaim: 'Behold! The Day of Judgment!' Even the armies of heaven are to be brought to judgment, for in your sight even they are not innocent. You cause all who come into the world to pass before you tike a flock of sheep. Like a shepherd seeking out his flock and causing them to pass under his staff, you cause every living soul to pass before you; you count, reckon and review every creature, determining its lifetime and inscribing its destiny.

"On Rosh-HaShanah it is inscribed, and on Yom-Kippur it is sealed: how many will pass away and how many will be bom, who will live and who will die; who will die prematurely and who will live out his days; who will perish by fire and who by water; who by sword and who by wild animals; who by hunger and who by thirst; who by earthquake and who by plague; who by strangling and who by stoning; who will have rest and who will wander about; who will be at peace and who will be tormented; who will be at ease and who will be bothered; who will become poor and who will become rich; who will be brought low and who will be raised up. "But repentance, prayer and charity Uzedakah) avert the harsh decree."

This prayer paints a terrifying picture of how gTavely God views sin. It delineates heaven on the annual Day of Judgment (which gives but a foretaste of the final Day of Adonai; see Rv 1:10&N), when forgotten deeds are remembered and God apportions fates according to what everyone has done. At the end is an attempt to relieve the tension with the assurance that "repentance, prayer and charity avert the harsh decree." But this is a false hope. Although repentance, prayer and tzedakah (which means "righteousness" but came to have the secondary meaning "charity"; see Mt 6:1-4&N) are expected in a believer's life, they do not suffice to avert the harsh decree of eternal separation from God awaiting those who refuse the prompting by the Holy Spirit of God to trust in Yeshua the Messiah's blood atonement.

It is understandable that it was necessary for the survival of non-Messianic Judaism after the destruction of the Temple that it minimize the role of blood sacrifice. However, it is the Torah itself which proclaims the necessity of blood atonement for sin:

"For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life." (Leviticus 17:11, Jewish Publication Society translation)

It is not supposed here that a magical power resides in blood (see Yn 6:35N, Ro 3:25bN). Rather, Leviticus 17:11 is one of the 7bra/i's clearest statements of the indissoluble connection between sin and death. Already at Genesis 2:17-21 it is clear that sin, defined as disobedience to God, requires the sinner's death (see Ro 5:12—21N). Animal sacrifice, which by implication is found as early as Genesis 3:11, is a reminder of the seriousness of sin (see 10:3 below) and at the same time a demonstration of God's mercy toward sinners (compare Ro 3:25-26).

In non-Messianic Judaism there is today no blood atonement. This contradicts the Torah, which says that "the blood maketh atonement by reason of the life." This discrepancy is implicitly acknowledged by some Orthodox Jews on Yom-Kippur in a ceremony called kapparot ("atonements"). Each person wrings a chicken's neck and swings the chicken around his head three times

"while the following is pronounced: "This is my substitute, my vicarious offering, my atonement; this chicken shall meet death, but I shall find a long and pleasant life of peace.' The fowl is thought to take on any misfortune which might otherwise befall a person in punishment of his sins. After the ceremony, it is customary to donate the fowl to the poor, except for the intestines which are thrown to the birds." (Encyclopedia Judaica 10:756).

The paltriness of this substitute for the awesome, fearsome, never-ending bloodiness of the Temple sacrifices is obvious even to those performing the ritual. For if "it is impossible that the blood of goats and bulls should take away sin" (10:4 below), how much less will the blood of chickens?

In the light of the above, what is to be made of Scripture passages that seem to minimize the importance of animal sacrifices? For example, Isaiah 1:11-17 says, "I am full of the burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.... Who has required this of you?... Do not bring vain oblations any longer; it is an offering of abomination to me!" At Mt 12:7 Yeshua himself quoted Hosea 6:6: "I want compassion rather than animal-sacrifice." The answer is that animal sacrifices offered by people who lack compassion, whose "hands are full of blood," and who do not "seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless fairly or plead on behalf of the widow" (Isaiah 1:15-17; compare Ya 1:27) are not merely useless but are "an offering of abomination."
"With what shall I come before Adonai
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with yearling calves?
Will Adonai be pleased with even thousands of rams,
with tens of thousands of rivers of olive oil?
Am I to give my firstborn son for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" (Micah 6:6-7)

The answer is one of the Tanakh's best-known epitomes of the Torah (see Ga 5:14N):
"Man, it has been told you what is good, just this: to do justice, to love mercy,
and to walk in humility with your God." (Micah 6:8)

Other similar passages are I Samuel 15:22, Amos 5:2ff. and Psalm 40:7-9(6-8) — which the author himself quotes at 10:5-7 in support of his own argument! Thus it is clear that the author does not regard such verses as downgrading the sacrificial system. Rather, he sees that God has never regarded sacrifices in themselves as capable of removing the guilt of sin in a permanent way (see 10:1-4). Only those whose hearts are right can offer blood sacrifices that will please God; "repentance, prayer and tzedakah (righteousness)" are necessary preconditions for acceptable sacrifice, but not substitutes for it.

That this is true throughout the fanakh, not only at the beginning of Israel's history but at its end, is proved by quoting the last prophet, Malachi, who writes that in Messianic times, when Adonai suddenly comes to his Temple along with the "messenger of the covenant" (who should be understood as Yeshua the Messiah),

"Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem
will be pleasant to Adonai,
as in days of old,
as in years long past." (Malachi 3:1-4)

What repentant, prayerful and righteous (or charitable) Judah and Jerusalem must offer God is "a sacrifice of praise continually" (13:15&N), thanking him that Yeshua has provided a once-for-all kapparah, a blood atonement for sin; because, as the present verse says, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. This kind of sacrificial offering will in truth "be pleasant to Adonai, as in days of old, as in years long past." 


23. Now this is how the copies of the heavenly things had to be purified, but the heavenly things themselves require better sacrifices than these.
Why do heavenly things require... sacrifices at all? Surely they are not defiled, as are the copies (see 10:1N), such as the Tent and its implements. Hugh Montefiore, a Jewish Anglican, writes on this verse, "What our author meant was this: the purification of men's consciences, made by means of the heavenly cultus, needed a better sacrifice to make it effective than [the sacrifices] which sufficed for the earthly cultus, which was a mere copy of the heavenly." (The Epistle To The Hebrews, London: Adam and Charles Black, 1964, ad loc.)

The Messiah's blood made it possible for undefiled heavenly things to purify defiled sinners. For external cleansing, external sacrifices suffice (9:9-10); but for spiritual cleansing, spiritual ones are needed. 


24. For the Messiah has entered a Holiest Place which is not man-made and merely a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, in order to appear now on our behalf in the very presence of God.
25. Further, he did not enter heaven to offer himself over and over again, like the cohen hagadol who enters the Holiest Place year after year with blood that is not his own;
26. for then he would have had to suffer death many times — from the founding of the universe on. But as it is, he has appeared once at the end of the ages in order to do away with sin through the sacrifice of himself.
To suffer death, Greek pathein, literally, "to suffer." See 2:9b-10N. 

27. Just as human beings have to die once, but after this comes judgment,
God has so organized the universe that human beings have to die once, not "many times" (v. 26). This is the Bible's refutation of the concept of reincarnation, which is found in most Eastern religions and incorporated into a number of recent Western imitations. Reincarnation is based on the notion that although the body is obviously mortal, the soul is not; so that after one's body dies, the soul that was in it migrates, perhaps after an interval of time, to another body. The purpose of this migration is variously explained in these religions as purification, gaining experience or working out "karma." In Hinduism and Buddhism, karma is the spiritual force which attaches to a person's soul as a result of the ethical consequences of his actions. In general, karma causes the round of rebirths and deaths a soul endures until it achieves spiritual liberation; also the karma attached to a soul at a particular point in its evolution determines its specific destiny in its next existence.

The concept of reincarnation is attractive to people who are in some measure discontented with this life — which is to say, it is attractive to most people. And understandably so — it satisfies deep romantic needs to suppose that in a past life one might have been a general, a princess, a hermit, a great religious leader, or even a lion or a snail. Moreover, it builds on a nonbiblical notion, held by many, that only the soul is pure, the body is unclean, inferior, unworthy of being immortal (the same notion underlies gnostic and other philosophies that denigrate sex or promote various ascetic and, oddly, libertine practices; see 13:4N, Ro 7:5N, 1С 7:2-9&N, Co 2M8-23&N).

Quite apart from being false, belief in karma and reincarnation attenuates responsibility for one's actions. Anyone who believes in reincarnation cannot take sin seriously. This is because in his view the transgressions of this life can be made up in subsequent ones, and eventually every soul will achieve liberation from the "wheel of karma." In other words, there will be no Day of Judgment when sinners must account to God for their actions and receive what their deeds deserve (as taught in 10:25b-29; Yn 5:27-29; Ac 17:31; Ro 2:5-16; 1С 3:8b-15, 4:5; 2C 5:10); so that there is little motivation for ethical behavior here and now in this present existence. Moreover, a common vulgarization of the karma doctrine lets people excuse their present sins as the consequence of bad karma in past lives, so that they shouldn't be held responsible now ("my karma made me do it").

But our text is correct in proclaiming that first everyone dies; and then, after this comes judgment. Human life is nonrepeatable, one's actions in this life are judged after death, and there is no opportunity for amendment later. A great-uncle of mine who was a secular Jew and did not believe in an afterlife of any sort used to say it was his unbelief that motivated him to behave ethically in this life, since he would never have another chance to do so. 1 myself think that he was "living off the capital" of forbears who believed in the 'olam haba. If one doesn't believe in afterlife, one perforce does not believe that there is a Judge who will reward and punish according to what one has done. The concept of a Day of Judgment (Yom-HaDin) is found throughout the Tanakh, as well as in Jewish tradition. I am not a fan of reductionism, but 1 am tempted to see ethics without God and judgment as reducible either to acting from learned patterns or seeking one's own advantage, and I question whether either deserves to be called ethics — even if "one's own advantage" is construed to include willing good for others.

Is it too extreme to say that belief in reincarnation among Hindus is one reason why Mother Theresa, a Christian, has a ministry of comforting persons left to die on the streets of Calcutta (for which she received the Nobel Peace Prize)? People who regard the miseries of this life as merely the outworking of karma acquired in past lives find it easy to regard unexplained suffering as just and have correspondingly little incentive to relieve it. There are, of course, other reasons for neglect — life in India is hard, and there may not be much poor people can do to help, even if they want to.

Reincarnation also does away with the idea of historical purpose. This is because it implies that the individual soul's journey from body to body is incomparably more important than anything a nation or a people might do. I call this the yo-yo theory of history; it asserts that the soul descends from the eternal unchanging world, takes on a body and appears in this illusory world of ordinary existence where nothing matters, lives a life without significance in relation to other people, and then goes back up into the eternal unchanging world, only to repeat the process. This yo-yo theory of history, in which nothing of moment ever happens, completely contradicts the Tanakh's pervasive theme that history has a beginning (creation), a middle (revelation) and an end (redemption) — that God has created man for a purpose, and has revealed his choice of a people, Israel, through whom he will accomplish that redemptive purpose.

In sum, when compared with the alternatives, the idea expressed in this verse provides the most solid basis for a sound ethics and an intellectually satisfying philosophy of history, both of which are needed by anyone seriously seeking happiness and meaning in his life. For more, see my Messianic Jewish Manifesto, Chapter III. entitled "History." 


28. so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many (Isaiah 53:12), will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to deliver those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Here is the clearest statement in the Bible of the relationship between Yeshua's first and second comings. His first coming fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 52:13-53:12, which predicted that the Messiah would die as an atonement for human sin and be raised from the dead, so that he could appear a second time to fulfill such prophecies as Isaiah 2:2-5 and 9:5-6(6-7), which say that the Messiah will bring peace to the world and deliver his people Israel from oppression. However, since "not everyone from Israel is truly part of Israel" (Ro 9:6), only those who are eagerly waiting for Yeshua to return can have assurance that they will be delivered.

vv. 9:1-10:18 This section shows that the New Covenant's system of priesthood and sacrifice, in which Yeshua offered up himself once and for all in order to clear the way to the Holy of Holies for everyone, is better than the Old Covenant's system and effectively replaces it. The subject matter is the same as in Seder Kodashim, one of the six major divisions of the Talmud. 


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