Book Review – The Message of Hebrews (Raymond Brown)

This is one of the first volumes in the Bible Speaks Today series, and was in fact originally published separately under the title “Christ Above All”. The introduction sets out Brown’s working theory that Hebrews was written to believers who were tempted to give up or compromise to avoid the persecution they were facing. The letter is an appeal to endurance, and specifically warns against the folly of giving up Christianity to return to Judaism. Brown briefly discusses authorship but proposes no favourite candidate.

Hebrews draws heavily on the Old Testament, and the author is keen to stress the understanding of the Old Testament from a Christian, and especially Christ-centered viewpoint. The background information he provides concerning the relevant OT passages will prove helpful to those who do not immediately recognise some of the connections and significance of the various allusions.

On quite a few occasions, Brown goes on the offensive against a liberal watered down christology, as well as critiquing liberation theology, Catholic teachings and various secular writings. He quotes books such as “Honest to God” or “The Myth of God Incarnate” as illustrative of contemporary challenges to biblical Christianity. He occasionally interacts other commentators, mainly Bruce and Hughes.

Hebrews contains a number of important passages which relate to the controversial “once saved always saved?” debate. Brown carefully manages a blatantly partisan approach, but his general interpretation of Heb 6 is Calvinist friendly. He also endeavours to provide a more pastoral perspective, considering the situation where friends who had an apparent genuine faith fall away.

As usual with the Bible Speaks Today series, the emphasis is on contemporary relevance rather than technical linguistic or theological arguments, and this will benefit those who find Hebrews a difficult book and want some devotional help. Immensely practical subjects such as facing death without fear, and understanding God’s discipline are explored helpfully.

The size of the book makes it slightly too long to be read alongside a chapter a day of Hebrews, but it is well suited to those who want to take a bit longer to study the book, or who want to use it as an aid in preparing sermons or studies for others.

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  1. Pingback: Commentary Series Review – Bible Speaks Today « wordandspirit

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