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INTRODUCTION

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ουδέ γάρ διά Ιουδαίους μόνους οι προφήται επέμποντο

πάσης δε της οικουμένης ήσαν διδασκάλιον ιερόν της περί θεού γνώσεως και της κατα ψυχήν πολιτείας.

For, indeed, it was not for the sake of the Jews alone that the prophets were sent ... but for the whole world they were a sacred school of knowledge concerning God and of spiritual life.

S. ATHANASIUS.

LECTURE I

INTRODUCTION

God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in His Son.--HEBREWs i. 1, 2.

I

and contrast

and Chris

THE opening words of the Epistle to the Hebrews Connexion affirm the connexion, while they contrast the char- of the

Jewish acter, of the Jewish and the Christian dispensa- tian dis,

pensations tions. It was the same God who spoke in both, though the mode and the instruments of His communication with men in the two periods were widely different. Of old time, in the long period which preceded the Incarnation, He spoke to the fathers in the prophets. The voices of that long succession of men whom He raised up from time to time through a period of more than a thousand years were the voice of God. In them He spoke by divers portions and in divers manners; or, as the inimitable words of the original may be otherwise rendered, in many

1 πολυμερώς και πολυτρόπως.

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fragments and in many fashions. The revelation was diversified, fragmentary, imperfect; here a little and there a little, line upon line, and precept upon precept, as men needed and as they were able to bear it. But in these latter days He has spoken to us in a Son. Unity is contrasted with variety. In Him the many partial and fragmentary utterances are reconciled and united. He is the one supreme and final revelation of God. The Messenger is Himself the message. The whole of the New Testament is the delineation and interpretation of His Person and His Work.

There was an intimate and organic connexion bepreparation for the other. tween the two revelations. God, having spoken in the

prophets. spoke in His Son. The first revelation was the necessary preparation for the second. The second revelation was the fore-ordained sequel of the first. This is not the peculiar doctrine of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. It is the unanimous teaching of the whole New Testament. Our Lord Himself repeatedly declared that the old dispensation looked forward to Him. Evangelists and Apostles were but following His example when they taught that in all its parts it was the manifold preparation for His Coming. If the Incarnation is indeed a fact, if God has indeed spoken to us in His Son, if the New Testament is in any degree a faithful

1 This is the literal rendering of the Greek, in which the pronoun His is not expressed. It lays stress on the nature and quality of Christ, not upon His personality. The one who is a son is contrasted with the many who were servants.

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record of His teaching and of the teaching of those who received their instruction from His lips, then the divine choice of the nation of Israel to be the object of a special discipline and the recipient of an unique revelation cannot possibly be called in question. The view which regards the religion of Israel as only “one of the principal religions of the world,” maintaining that between it and all the other forms of religion “there exists no specific difference,” I is, to the believing Christian, absolutely untenable. For it assumes that all religions alike are but “so many manifestations of the religious spirit of mankind,” and that there is no such thing as a special divine revelation. Let us fully admit that God left not Himself without witness among the heathen nations of antiquity; that many strivings, and very noble strivings, after truth are to be found in other religions than that of Israel; that these too in their appointed way formed part of the divine preparation for the Incarnation; yet from the Christian point of view it is impossible to class them together. Christianity stands apart from all other religions as the final revelation of God to man, and the religion of Israel stands apart from all other pre-Christian religions as the special preparation for that unique event which is the fundamental fact of Christianity. The nation of Israel was the organ of a special The 0.T.

the inspired divine revelation, and the Old Testament is the record of

this prepar.

ation.

· Kuenen, Religion of Israel, E.T., vol. i, p. 5.

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