7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
8 Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy; for in plain sight they see
the return of the LORD to Zion.
9 Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem; for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
The Book of Isaiah is a composite of writings from three distinct periods in Ancient Israel’s history. The writings were compiled from about 700 BCE to about 300 BCE.
Chapters 1-39 are called “First Isaiah” and are the words of a prophet (one who speaks for YHWH – translated as “LORD” in all capital letters in the NRSV) who called for Jerusalem to repent in the 30 years before Jerusalem came under siege by the Assyrians in 701 BCE. “Second Isaiah” is Chapters 40 to 55. In these chapters, a prophet brought hope to the Judeans during the Exile in Babylon (587 to 539 BCE) by telling them they had suffered enough and would return to Jerusalem. “Third Isaiah” is Chapters 56 to 66 in which a prophet gave encouragement to Judeans who had returned to Jerusalem (which was largely destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BCE) after the Exile ended.
Today’s reading is central to the message of Second Isaiah during the Exile. It described the return of YHWH to Jerusalem and Mount Zion. The “sentinels” (v.8) are the prophets who sing for joy that the Babylonian Exile will end. “Nations” (v.10) is a translation of the Hebrew word “goyim” which is also translatable as the “Gentiles.” In the triumphant return of YHWH to Zion, the Gentiles will also see that YHWH brings salvation.
1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you”?
Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”?
6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”
7 Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire.”
8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
10 And, “In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like clothing;12 like a cloak you will roll them up, and like clothing they will be changed.13 But you are the same, and your years will never end.”
The Letter to the Hebrews was an anonymous sermon addressed to both Jewish and Gentile Jesus Followers which urged them to maintain their Faith in the face of persecution. The Jewish Annotated New Testament points out that it is the only document in the Scriptures that contains a sustained discussion on the nature of the Christ and that the letter was supersessionist in stating that the temple cult was superseded by the one-time sacrifice of Jesus.
Although the Letter to the Hebrews is sometimes attributed to Paul, most scholars agree that it was written some time after Paul’s death in 63 CE, but before 100 CE. The letter (according to JANT) used the most sophisticated Greek in the New Testament and introduced a number of important theological themes such as the idea of the Christ as the “high priest of our confession” (3:1) and simultaneously, the perfect sacrifice (5:8). The first four chapters explored the word of God as spoken through the Son (v.2).
In today’s reading, the author identified the Son with Holy Wisdom that was present at creation (Prov. 8:22 and 30) in the words ”through whom he also created the worlds.” (v. 2) The author also anticipated the language of the Gospel According to John – “all things came into being through him [the LOGOS or Word]” (John 1:3).
Because the theology of the Trinity was only beginning to evolve in the late First Century, the author stopped short of identifying the Son as the same substance or the same “Being” as the Father as God and referred to the Son as “a reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being” (v.3) and as superior to angels (v.4). The New Oxford Annotated Bible points out that the “name” (v.4) may be “Son” or even “Lord” (as in Phil 2:9-11).
The quotations in verses 5 to 12 are “anticipations” about the Son and were “cherry picked” from the Hebrew Scriptures, particularly the Psalms. (The author of Hebrews knew the Hebrew Bible very well.)
Verse 5 is a quotation from Psalm 2:7 and from 2 Sam. 7:14, both of which refer to David as God’s son. The NAOB notes that the role of angels was to serve as messengers or praise God.
Verse 6 is a paraphrase of the LXX version of a portion of Deuteronomy 32:43, which says that the “heavens” will worship YHWH when YHWH restores Judea.
Verse 7 is a paraphrase of Psalm 104:4.
Verses 8 and 9 loosely paraphrase Psalm 45:6-7, a psalm that commemorates a royal wedding, but does not refer to a son. Here, the author of Hebrews refers to the Son as “God.”
Verses 10 to 12 are based on Psalm 102:25-27, a psalm that is a prayer to YHWH for the restoration of Jerusalem and the Temple after the Exile. In the Psalm, the quoted verses contrasted the permanence of YHWH with the impermanence of heaven and earth.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
The Fourth Gospel is different in many ways from the Synoptic Gospels. The “signs” (miracles) and many stories in the Fourth Gospel are unique to it, such as the Wedding at Cana, Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, and the Raising of Lazarus.
The chronology of events is also different in the Fourth Gospel. For example, the Temple Event (“Cleansing of the Temple”) occurred early in Jesus’ Ministry in the Fourth Gospel, rather than late as in the Synoptic Gospels. In the Synoptic Gospels, the Last Supper was a Passover Seder, but in the Fourth Gospel, it occurred the day before the first day of Passover so that Jesus (who was described as “the Lamb of God” in the Fourth Gospel) died at the same time lambs were sacrificed at the Temple for the Passover Seder to be held the night he died.
Most scholars agree that the Gospel was written by an anonymous author around 95 CE, at a time when the “parting of the ways” between the Jesus Follower Movement and Rabbinic Judaism was accelerating.
Today’s reading is most of the “Prologue” to the Fourth Gospel and verses 10-12 give the major messages of the Gospel.
Using “Word” to translate the Greek word “Logos” fails to capture the breadth and depth of Logos. The Jewish Annotated New Testament points out that Logos was well known in Greek philosophy as a link between the Transcendent/Divine and humanity/the terrestrial. For the First Century Alexandrian Jewish philosopher Philo, Logos was the first fruit of God’s creation.
Logos was particularly important in Stoic philosophy as both a creative principle analogous to Sophia (Holy Wisdom present at Creation in Proverbs 8:22 and 30) and as that which distinguished each created thing from each other thing.
In an Essay in The JANT, the author presented a case that John 1:1-5 is not a departure in Judaism in its use of Logos theology but is a homily (or midrash) on Genesis 1:1-5 – which also opens “in the beginning.”
The theme of light and dark is very important in the Fourth Gospel, and the rejection by “his own people” (v.11) is one of the Gospel’s central concerns.
The JANT makes a number of important points: (a) there is a contrast between the biologically-based covenant of the Jews and the faith-based covenant presented by the Gospel; (b) stating that the Word/Logos became flesh created a paradox because “flesh” is perishable and Logos is eternal; (c) Jews in the Second Temple period believed in the existence of supernatural beings (such as angels) taking human form at times, and thus the boundaries between the human and the divine were understood in a more porous and less absolute way; and (d) the words translated “lived among us” (v.14) in the original Greek mean “tabernacled” — an allusion to the Tabernacle in the Wilderness that “contained” the presence of YHWH.