Quotations: A Study of the Book of Hebrews

Chapters 1 to 6

Acts 18:24-28; 1 Corinthians 3:4-9; Hebrews 1:1-4; Proof from Scripture; Prologue
Hebrews 1:5-6; Psalms 2:6-8; 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Christ is superior to the angels
Hebrews 1:7-9; Psalms 104:1-4, 45:6-7; Christ is superior to the angels
Hebrews 1:10-14; Psalms 102:25-28, 110:1-2; Christ is superior to the angels
Hebrews 2:1-9; Psalms 8:1-9; Christ is superior to the angels
Hebrews 2:10-18; Psalms 22:22-24; Isaiah 8:17-18, Christ is superior to the angels, concluded
Hebrews 3:1-6; Numbers 12:6-8, Christ is authentic High Priest
Hebrews 3:7-11; Psalms 95:1-11, A brief aside on the land of rest
Hebrews 3:12-19; Numbers 14:21-35, A brief aside on the land of rest
Hebrews 4:1-11; Exodus 33:12-17; Genesis 2:2; Psalms 95:7, 11, And the importance of rest
Hebrews 4:12-16; Isaiah 49:2; Job 34:21-22; Psalms 139:1-12, Returning to Christ as the High Priest
Hebrews 5:1-10; Leviticus 9:7, 16:6; Exodus 28:1; Psalms 2:7, 110:4, Concluding comments on Christ as the High Priest
Hebrews 5:11-6:3, The author’s intention in writing
Hebrews 6:4-8, An important translational note on falling away and renewal
Hebrews 6:9-20; Genesis 22:15-18; Numbers 23:19; Leviticus 16:1-2, Encouragement

More Quotations from the Book of Hebrews

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Acts 18:24-28; 1 Corinthians 3:4-9; Hebrews 1:1-4; Proof from Scripture; Prologue (9/14/15)

For some time now, I’ve been wanting to do a study of the quotations of the Old Testament in the New Testament. Since this would involve reading basically the entire New Testament in one study, I’ve been putting it off. Now, however, we’re going to do the reasonable version of that idea, which is to read Hebrews. I haven’t actually counted, but I’m convinced the book of Hebrews has a higher percentage of material quoted from the OT than any other NT book.

First, a note on authorship. Nobody knows. Nobody has known for at least 1600 years, because our earliest lists of New Testament books don’t have an author for this book. A number of people have been suggested by later scholars and theologians: Paul, Barnabas, Apollos, and Priscilla with or without Aquila are some of the leading contenders. My personal favorite is Apollos, because Luke tells us that Apollos was “well versed in the Scriptures” (that is, what Christians now call the Old Testament) and that he “proved by the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah.” Well, Hebrews is all about proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah, and it was written by someone who knew the Scriptures thoroughly! So Apollos is my favorite, but nobody knows, so it you have a different favorite, it’s okay.

The first few verses of Hebrews are a little prologue telling us what the book is about. No direct quotations.


Hebrews 1:5-6; Psalms 2:6-8; 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Christ is superior to the angels (9/15/15)

Hebrews is a difficult book to read, both because of its writing style and because it assumes you know the Old Testament like the back of your hand. We’ll take it slow.

You probably remember from our study of angels, especially when we read the “semi-canonical” book of Enoch, that in the few hundred years before the coming of Jesus, the Jews were intensely interested in angels. In our own time, I have to tell you that sometimes I think people are more focused on angels than they are on God, and I guess the writer of Hebrews felt the same way about the people of his time (or her time – don’t forget that Priscilla’s in the running). The first portion of the book is devoted to proving the superiority of the Messiah to the angels. I doubt if anyone in this study is going to argue with that.


Hebrews 1:7-9; Psalms 104:1-4, 45:6-7; Christ is superior to the angels (9/16/15)

The writer’s basic argument is simple. Angels are servants; the Christ, which is the Messiah, is the son. Sons get more honor than servants. Sons inherit; servants don’t. Sons rule; servants don’t. If you don’t believe me (that is, the writer), look at the scripture.


Hebrews 1:10-14; Psalms 102:25-28, 110:1-2; Christ is superior to the angels (9/17/15)

The writer continues to argue from the Scripture, in this case the Psalms, that God has a special role and function for the Messiah, and that role is superior to the role of the angels. The Messiah, i.e., the Son, will rule, whereas the angels are sent not only to serve him but also those who inherit salvation, i.e., us.


Hebrews 2:1-9; Psalms 8:1-9; Christ is superior to the angels (9/18/15)

Pay special attention to vs. 6, “someone has said somewhere...” Printed Bibles are new – about 500 years old. Chapter and verse numbers are even a little newer than that. So when I tell you that the writer of Hebrews knew the scriptures, I mean he knew them. He didn’t have a shelf full of Bible references and a computer full of tools the way you and I do. He was working from memory when he quoted vss. 6-8a exactly from what we now call “Psalm 8.” Pretty amazing.

By the way, he was quoting the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint. It also amazes me that translators see exactly the same sentences in two different places and then translate them in two different ways.


Hebrews 2:10-18; Psalms 22:22-24; Isaiah 8:17-18, Christ is superior to the angels, concluded (9/21/15)

The English Standard Version seems to be a little more careful about giving the same words when the New Testament quotes directly from the Old Testament than the International Standard Version is. Check some of the quotations in your own paper Bible to see where it stands.

I’m not saying that it’s necessarily bad to have slightly different wording when the text is exactly the same in the New Testament and the Greek Old Testament. The Greek OT was itself a translation of the Hebrew OT; when an English translator is working directly from the Hebrew, you may get a slight variation between the English from the Greek of the NT and the English from the Hebrew of the OT. Most Bible translations are done by teams; you might get slight variations in the English even if two translators are working from the Greek. Finally, English can say the same thing in many different ways; you might get different translations from the same translator on different days! However, what we’re trying to see in this study is how the NT quotes from the OT, and the English Standard is a little more consistent than some other translations. Another great thing about the ESV is that it usually puts quoted material inside quotation marks.

The writer of Hebrews concludes his argument that Christ is superior to the angels by pointing out that angels have never been human, so they can’t fully understand our problems. The Messiah, as a human being, can.


Hebrews 3:1-6; Numbers 12:6-8, Christ is authentic High Priest (9/22/15)

So! The writer doesn’t want to hear anything more about angels! The Christ, God’s anointed one, is the Son, a human being who has suffered like us, and the one whom God as appointed to rule over all creation. Angels just aren’t in the race. So far the writer has been preachin’, because first-century Jews and Christians, like modern Jews and Christians, might have been intensely interested in angels, but they didn’t actually worship them.

Now, however, the writer starts meddlin’, because – although the Jews didn’t worship Moses either – they certainly held him in an esteem right there next to God. The writer has nothing but praise for Moses, but he does point out that God called Moses his “servant.”


Hebrews 3:7-11; Psalms 95:1-11, A brief aside on the land of rest (9/23/15)

I have a friend who implicitly assumes that I’m just as smart as he is (he’s mistaken). He says things like, “Well, Regina, you know [bunch of stuff I didn’t actually know until he told me].” Therefore I totally recognize the type of argument that we see today: the writer is assuming that you and I are just as familiar with the Scripture as he or she is. While this is very flattering, it can be confusing when we don’t actually know what the backstory is.

These verses of Hebrews are arguing from an incident that occurred in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt. Do you ever wonder why it took the children of Israel 40 years to travel a couple hundred miles? It’s not because they were lost; it’s because they rebelled against God’s leadership. God eventually got annoyed with them and said that since they wanted to die in the desert, fine, they would do that. They were not allowed to enter into his “rest,” that is, the land he had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.


Hebrews 3:12-19; Numbers 14:21-35, A brief aside on the land of rest (9/24/15)

The writer is continuing his aside on the importance of entering into God’s rest by reminding his readers about the rebellion against God’s leadership after the Jews left Egypt. Rebellion and disobedience lead to death. Why did they rebel, disobey, and die? Because they didn’t believe in God. Therefore, he concludes, they couldn’t enter God’s rest because of disbelief, but God’s offer is still open to us, if we believe and obey.


Hebrews 4:1-11; Exodus 33:12-17; Genesis 2:2; Psalms 95:7, 11, And the importance of rest (9/25/15)

The writer is still talking about rest. We saw yesterday that disobedience and rebellion result from lack of faith, and the three together result in not entering God’s rest. However, God’s rest – eternal rest in heaven – is still available to those who are faithful and obedient. How do we know? Because the psalmist speaks long after the incident in the desert, and says that, “Today,” we should not harden our hearts.

The problem with understanding Hebrews is twofold. First, we have to be familiar with stories behind the Old Testament scripture that the writer quotes, and second, we can’t let our concentration drift away for even a verse without losing the thread of the argument.


Hebrews 4:12-16; Isaiah 49:2; Job 34:21-22; Psalms 139:1-12, Returning to Christ as the High Priest (9/28/15)

Even when Hebrews isn’t quoting directly from the Old Testament, it is full of references to the scriptures. Here the argument is that God sees us and sees through us: there’s no place we can hide from God. However, this isn’t a bad thing, because our high priest, the Son of God, has been exactly like us and knows how we are. He knows we’re weak, he knows we’re tempted, he knows that occasionally we’re doing the best we can even if it isn’t very good. So we need have no fear about drawing near to God, because even our darkness is not dark to God.


Hebrews 5:1-10; Leviticus 9:7, 16:6; Exodus 28:1; Psalms 2:7, 110:4, Concluding comments on Christ as the High Priest (9/29/15)

The writer now summarizes his argument that Christ is superior to the Levitical priesthood. Ordinary high priests are appointed; Christ was appointed. Ordinary high priests understand human weakness and ignorance because they are themselves weak and ignorant. That’s both good and bad: they understand, but they have their own repeated sins to deal with repeatedly. Christ, on the other hand, was human and understands, but as the Son he was perfect and therefore able to make a perfect, one-time offering. This is because Christ is a priest “after the order of Melchizedek.”


Hebrews 5:11-6:3, The author’s intention in writing (9/30/15)

Do you ever think (or say), “So why are you telling me all this?” The writer of Hebrews has apparently decided that the readers might want to know, so he tells them. First, they have become “dull of hearing.” Either they aren’t paying attention, or they are just ignoring, what they have previously been taught. Second, it’s time for them to move beyond the basics, that is, “the elementary doctrine of Christ,” so that they can continue to grow in the faith. The basics, according to the writer, are repentance from dead works, faith in God, and teachings about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

So make sure you repent, believe in God, and understand baptism, laying on of hands, resurrection, and judgment. My advice: Love God, and love your neighbor, and the rest will be easy.


Hebrews 6:4-8, An important translational note on falling away and renewal (10/1/15)

My Greek professor felt very strongly that this passage is badly translated in just about every English version of the Bible, so I’m going to tell you what he thought about it. I’m putting what the Greek actually has in blue so that you can see where he was coming from.

The “normal” translation is similar to what we see in the English Standard Version: once a person has been saved and has fallen away that person can never be restored to repentance. The translators use the past perfect tense: it’s done and can’t be undone. That’s very bad news, because I don’t know about you, but I have sinful days. I would hate to think that a day slightly more sinful than usual would put me beyond God’s love and the possibility of repentance and renewal.

Fortunately, that’s not what it says! The text actually uses participles: it’s going on right now. What it says is that while I am doing these things, no one can restore me to repentance and renewal. It doesn’t say that I can never stop doing them. The example is exactly the same: while the land is receiving rain but bearing thistles, all you can do with it is burn it. But the land is still there, right? It could produce a good crop next year. In fact, in many agricultural areas it is standard practice to burn off the fields after harvest precisely in order to kill the weed seeds and ensure that next year’s crop will be weed-free.

So no matter what you have done, God still loves you and wants you to repent (that means “quit doing it”) and be restored to renewal. God will even help you quit.

From the English Standard Version, with a better translation of the Greek in blue:
Hebrews 6:9-20; Genesis 22:15-18; Numbers 23:19; Leviticus 16:1-2, Encouragement (10/2/15)

Those of you who have been around for a while know that I am confident of your salvation. Why? Because otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this! You wouldn’t be studying the Bible and striving to grow in the faith.

This is exactly the argument that the writer of Hebrews makes. Having established that people who are currently turning their backs on God are in a world of hurt and can’t currently be renewed to repentance, the writer hurries to tell his readers that they are not in that condition! He clinches the argument by pointing out that God has promised salvation to those who earnestly turn to him, and in the words of the famous theologian Bob Dylan, “God don’t make promises that He don’t keep.” Actually, the writer quotes Moses, not Bob, but the message is the same.


More Quotations from the Book of Hebrews
Quotations: A Study of the Book of Hebrews (Chapters 7-10)
Quotations: A Study of the Book of Hebrews (Chapters 11-13)

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