Book Review – Hebrews For Everyone (Tom Wright)

Series Overview

The “For Everyone” series is Tom Wright’s project to write an accessible commentary / devotional on the entire New Testament. He brings his massive scholarly learning to the table, but these volumes are anything but dry academic tomes.

The unique features of the series include the author’s own translation, which is a fairly loose paraphrase in many places. There is no book “introduction”, so if authorship and dating are covered, it is only in passing as he goes through. And he always starts each section with a brief anecdote, from his seemingly endless supply of illustrations, almost all of which prove helpful in illuminating the text although there are rare occasions where one suspects he was a little short of ideas.

His quirky approach to capitalisation from his more academic tomes also shows up in these books (e.g. “holy spirit”), although “God” does get capitalised throughout. Finally, there is a glossary at the back in which he defines several key terms which are highlighted in bold throughout the book.

Hebrews Commentary

Hebrews rests heavily on Old Testament quotations and allusions, and Tom Wright does a good job of explaining first the sense of the OT passage before showing how it functions in the author of Hebrews’ argument.

A strong theme comes out of Jesus as the climax of biblical history. Wright explains that the law is a good thing, but a temporary, preparatory thing, and so why go back to it, now the real thing has arrived. Moses matters – but Jesus matters even more.

Much of his familiar work on our future hope can be detected in this commentary, as he reminds us that we are not expecting to go from a material present to a spiritual (i.e. non-material) future, but rather we look to a world in which evil has at last no place. He does see a reference to the second coming in Heb 9:28, although is somewhat equivocal about Heb 10:37 which he starts off calling a reference to the second coming, but ends up linking it to the temple destruction in AD70.

Whilst he does not engage in the “once-saved always saved” debate in the way that other evangelicals might, he does tip his hand towards a perseverance of the saints position, saying that Rom 5-8 shows you can’t become a Christian and lose it all. Along with most interpreters he sees a major purpose of the author to encourage his readers to keep persevering in the face of persecution.

Verdict

Tom Wright has the knack for bringing a fresh perspective to just about every topic he approaches and this is no exception. Preachers will find this especially useful as a source for illustrations and fresh ways of saying things. It shouldn’t be the only thing you read on Hebrews, but it nevertheless is well worth getting hold of, especially if, like me, you sometimes find Hebrews a bit heavy-going.

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  1. Pingback: John Hosier on Hebrews

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