impenetrable theological scribble



Hebrews 7:25-8:2 (CEB)

This is why he can completely save those who are approaching God through him, because he always lives to speak with God for them.

It’s appropriate for us to have this kind of high priest: holy, innocent, incorrupt, separate from sinners, and raised high above the heavens. He doesn’t need to offer sacrifices every day like the other high priests, first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people. He did this once for all when he offered himself. The Law appoints people who are prone to weakness as high priests, but the content of the solemn pledge, which came after the Law, appointed a Son who has been made perfect forever.

Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We have this kind of high priest. He sat down at the right side of the throne of the majesty in the heavens. He’s serving as a priest in the holy place, which is the true meeting tent that God, not any human being, set up.

I was quite enjoying Mark’s Gospel.  I like Mark’s Gospel.  Mark doesn’t mess about – no flowery language, no flights of fancy – Jesus did this – then immediately he went over there and did that and said summat, then dashed off and did summat else over there…  that’s basically Mark’s Gospel in a nutshell!

So imagine my horror when out of the blue, and without warning, this barrage of incomprehensible theological scribble gets crow-barred into my morning prayer! 

It is a scientific FACT  that nobody has any idea what the author of Hebrews is really on about.  Some people pretend they do – but actually, they don’t.

Here we have some extended scribble about Jesus being a Royal High Priest.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it is entirely possible that the audience that this author (Clement of Rome? Barnabas? Paul the Apostle? Luke the Evangelist? Apollos? Priscilla? – not the Queen of the Desert one – who knows!!) had in mind was entirely and completely at home with this extended priestly metaphor and they nodded sagely when they heard it and were carried forward in their understanding of who this Jesus is – in fact it is likely they were at home with it, which is why the author (Clement of Rome? Barnabas? Paul the Apostle? Luke the Evangelist? Apollos? Priscilla? – not the Queen of the Desert one – who knows!!) used it.

but…  we are NOT.

It’s like the fact that a joke ceases to be funny if you have to explain it.  “Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process.” (E.B.White)

“If you have to first explain the entire 1st century Jewish priestly culture and practice and imagine what it felt like and how it worked BEFORE you can make sense of this metaphor – then the metaphor has lost its power.” (P.Nevard)

It highlights for me the raging thirst in the world for language about Jesus that makes sense today and in our culture.  We CAN do away with these dead metaphors without doing away with Jesus – seriously, we can!  The author of Hebrews (Clement of Rome? Barnabas? Paul the Apostle? Luke the Evangelist? Apollos? Priscilla? – not the Queen of the Desert one – who knows!!) clearly had a Jewish audience in mind.  Had s/he been writing for a different audience, s/he would have used different metaphors…

Jesus is Dumbledore…  Jesus is Gandalph… Jesus is Aslan…. Jesus is Gene Therapy… Jesus is the Large Hadron Collider…

Jesus is the same Jesus is the same Jesus even if the metaphors change.

so… what metaphors are useful in the UK in the 21st century to introduce Jesus to a world thirsty for understanding?


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