Upgrade, and get the most out of your new account. Try it free for 30 days. Study This. Hebrews Hebrews 11 Hebrews Bible Gateway Recommends. View more titles. Advance your knowledge of Scripture with this resource library of over 40 reference books, including commentaries and Study Bible notes. Try it for 30 days FREE. You must be logged in to view your newly purchased content. Please log in below or if you don't have an account, creating one is easy and only takes a few moments. For the author of Hebrews, the church as a pilgrim community 'has come to Mount Zion' Heb On the one hand, this pilgrim community, unlike Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai, has come to its destination, Mount Zion; and on the other hand, like Israel at Mount Sinai, they have not yet reached their final destination.
The latter is evident from the warnings and exhortation sounded to the new covenant community: they were to run with perseverance Heb , not to grow weary or fainthearted Heb , beware of the 'root of bitterness' Heb and irreligion Heb , and not refuse him who was speaking Heb ; Johnsson The pilgrimage has not yet culminated in Mount Zion, in the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.
However, we should ask ourselves in what sense this new covenant community had 'come' to the heavenly Mount Zion and yet was still not there? For the author, the answer to this question lies in the fact that this is a community of faith, a faith that characterises those in the old covenant and those in the new covenant. This is a faith which is not simply directed toward the future, but also toward the unseen realities that already exist, though they will not be manifested till the consummation Barrett However, the new covenant pilgrim community has an advantage over those in the old dispensation because 'for them the unseen truth which God will one day enact is no longer entirely unseen; it has been manifested in Jesus' Barrett As Barrett points out, it is so because:.
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He [Jesus] himself is our forerunner [Heb. For the author of Hebrews, the new covenant people already tasted the heavenly reality through their representative head and brother, Jesus, who had travelled the route on their behalf and he was there making the preparations for their arrival. Thus, the new covenant community in terms of their union and solidarity with the ascended Christ, believers 'have come' to the heavenly Jerusalem.
The new covenant people were already able to approach the Most Holy Place through Jesus, who went ahead of them as their high priest. The pilgrim community is one that walks by faith, which for the author of Hebrews entails two things: being sure of what they hope for and being certain of that which they do not see.
The two go hand in hand: faith entails expectancy, which is the expectancy of the unseen things hoped for. On the other hand, the unseen has become a reality through faith. Believers 'have "already tasted the powers of the age to come," though the full glory of that life is not yet' Robinson The heavenly Mount Zion, which has existed eternally in heaven, is now realised in and through Christ, yet it is still to come. However, the author of Hebrews projects three comings to the heavenly Mount Zion.
Firstly, the new covenant community through faith has already come to the heavenly Mount Zion Heb ; ; secondly when they die they come into the assembly of God's firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven Heb ; and thirdly they will finally come when God shakes the earth and also the heavens Heb The final coming is in line with the author of Hebrews' view that the earth is the place of sojourn in the expectation of a city that is to come.
The formulation in Hebrews 'for he [Abraham] looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God' and Hebrews 'for here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come', 'suggests a future "earthly" manifestation of the city that currently exists as a heavenly reality' Adams Thus, the author of Hebrews seems to project on the one hand an ascending of mankind to make their dwelling with God, and on the other hand, a coming or a descent of Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem cf.
Rv The final, climactic moment of entering the heavenly Mount Zion is still to come. Warning and Blessing. The heavenly Mount Zion is presented in Hebrews as both the throne of judgement and the throne of grace. As the author of Hebrews 12 tells his audience:. There is an intimate relationship between the two, even in the way that the author juxtaposes God as judge and the spirits of the righteous men made perfect on the one hand, and Jesus as mediator of the new covenant, whose blood speaks better than the blood of Abel, on the other.
God's justice and mercy go hand in hand, there is no mercy without justice. Man can have confidence to enter the holy of holies only through the blood of Jesus, the 'great priest of the house of God' Heb The phrase 'spirits of the righteous ones made perfect' gives the impression of 'complete divine favour and acceptance' of God as judge Dumbrell It would be wrong, however, to suppose that the fear motif no longer plays a significant role in the new covenant.
Many of the exhortations in the book of Hebrews carry a negative slant of warning. The Son, on the other hand, continues to speak, he speaks through his blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. In Hebrews 12, the author of Hebrews sounds a warning regarding this voice:. See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven!
This serves as a warning to the new covenant community not to be like the Israelites who begged not to hear the voice of God by refusing to take heed of the gracious voice which proceeds from the blood of Christ Hughes ; Oberholtzer The voice that proceeds from the heavenly Mount Zion is more powerful than that which proceeded from Mount Sinai. At Mount Sinai, the voice 'shook the earth' Ex , whereas in the eschaton the voice of God will shake heaven and earth Oberholtzer The coming judgement is one which is inescapable for those who fail to hold fast and fall away Thompson The pilgrim community is especially warned against apostasy Heb ; ; Ex ; Dt ; ; Ps ; Is , 30; To drive this point home, the author states, 'it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God' Heb The fear motif, with regard to the new covenant, is not the basis for the worship of God but a terror which follows those who continue in unbelief: 'No sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God' Heb Those who believe in Jesus the high priest approach the most holy place boldly and with assurance of faith Heb ; , However, God expects those who draw near to him to pursue holiness 'without which no one can see God' Heb The heavenly Mount Zion, as Kasemann notes, is viewed:.
Heb , [Author's own emphasis].
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To come to Mount Zion is to escape God's judgement - the fearful theophanic manifestation that will be revealed when God appears as the raging fire that will consume his enemies. Concluding observations.
Sinai and Zion by Jon D. Levenson
The hermeneutical strategy that the author of Hebrews employs is one of contrasting the old covenant with the new covenant. In the case of Hebrews , the old covenant is contrasted unfavourably with the new covenant, however, the deficiency of the old can only be realised through the optic lens of the new. Thus, the old is reinterpreted in light of the Christ event, that is, the coming, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, as an event that ushered in a new age. For the author of Hebrews, God has spoken in 'these last days' through his Son, a Son who currently sits at the right hand of God in the heavenly Mount Zion Heb The author of Hebrews, like Paul, discovered that the Christ event was the means through which the new age was inaugurated Hooker The contrast between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion forms part of the broader redemptive-historical framework that spans from creation to the eschatological shaking of the earth and heavens.
For the author of Hebrews, the micro-narrative of the pilgrimage to Mount Sinai and ultimately to Mount Zion has its place and function within the broader redemptive-historical framework, which climaxes with the Son. For the author of Hebrews, the new covenant continues God's grand plan for humanity to enter into his 'Sabbath rest' Heb , 11 , alternatively identified with the 'true tabernacle' Heb ; ; 'the city to come' Heb ; ; Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God Heb However, the realised new age is no mere shadow of the heavenly reality but the actual substance of the heavenly reality.
As the author of Hebrews confidently states it, 'you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem' Heb Mount Sinai is presented as the locus of the old covenant, which has limited significance in relation to the new covenant. Mount Sinai was not the final destination both for God and Israel - it was a temporary stopping place for God as he made his descent to dwell amongst Israel and it was a temporary stopping place for Israel as they journeyed to the Promised Land. Mount Sinai was the place of encounter between God and Israel as they came together to continue together the journey to the Promised Land.
Mount Sinai was indeed the mountain of God's descent where Israel experienced great theophany.
Sinai and Zion
However, the experience at Mount Sinai is presented as one that terrified the people of Israel and Moses, their mediator. The theophanic manifestation was so terrifying that Mount Sinai may be described as the mountain of terror. The earthly Mount Zion, on the other hand, was the destination, the chosen site and dwelling of God, and a cultic centre for the worshiping community. Mount Zion as the site of the new covenant is superior to Mount Sinai because it is abiding rather than transitory. The earthly Mount Zion is viewed as a type or a shadow of the heavenly Mount Zion, the true dwelling of God.
The experience at the heavenly Mount Zion is presented as a joyful one so that Mount Zion may be described as the mountain of joy. Heavenly Mount Zion - unlike the unpopulated Mount Sinai - is a populated mountain. For the author of Hebrews the new covenant people through faith already experienced the heavenly reality, however, for as long as it is still 'today' the new covenant community, is still a pilgrim community awaiting the full manifestation of the heavenly Mount Zion, the journey continues.
For the author of Hebrews, the new covenant stands in continuity with the old covenant in its discontinuity of the old. The new covenant supersedes the old covenant and replaces it. The supersession of the old is not the obliteration of the old, the new and the old are interrelated inter alia in terms of promise-fulfilment, redemptive history, law-gospel, old-new, typology as these various perspectives offer alternative ways of establishing the relationship.
In the case of Hebrews , the old covenant as represented by Mount Sinai is superseded by the new covenant as represented by the heavenly Mount Zion on the basis of a number of motifs: the terror-joy motif, uninhabited-habited motif, transit-arrival motif, Moses-Jesus mediator motif, Abel's blood-Jesus' blood motif, earthly-heavenly motif. Thus, the new covenant as represented by heavenly Mount Zion is in some cases oppositionally better terror-joy motif, uninhabited-habited motif whereas in some cases it is superior or hierarchically better transit-arrival motif, Moses-Jesus mediator motif, Abel's blood-Jesus' blood motif, earthly-heavenly.
Furthermore, similar hierarchical and oppositional contrast can be observed elsewhere in Hebrews. The old cult under the leadership of God's faithful servant, Moses, is superseded and drawn to a close by the new cult under the leadership of Jesus, God's faithful servant, in continuity of God's plan to bring his people into his rest, heaven Heb The rest achieved under Joshua is superseded by the true rest that is achieved under the leadership of Jesus Heb The Levitical-Aaronic priesthood is superseded and replaced by the new priesthood in the order of Melchizedek with Jesus as the high priest Heb ; The ministry of Levitical-Aaronic priesthood that took place in the earthly tabernacle is superseded by the ministry of Jesus who ministers in the heavenly tabernacle Heb The sacrificial system of the old cult failed to cleanse the conscious, to wash away sin and to make perfect Heb ; , 13; and so it is superseded by a new perfect sacrificial system that effectively deals with sin once and for all Heb , Thus, the cultic order established at Mount Sinai gives way to the new cultic order established on the earthly Mount Zion through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The two do not stand side by side in continuity - the old gives way to the new. The new renders the old non-functional. As Goppelt points out, this is not simply a chronological replacement of the old by the new but a fading away of the old with the time frame of the world. The old gives way to the new, which is substantially superior Heb It should also be noted that the earthly Mount Zion as the sight of the establishment of the new cultic order is not the spatial location for the continual service of Jesus as high priest and destination for the pilgrim community, rather, it is the heavenly Mount Zion - the heavenly Jerusalem, the true tabernacle not set up by man, but by God.
The author, by drawing the attention of his audience to the heavenly Mount Zion, probably wanted to avert the distress caused by the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 Isaacs ; Hooker The destroyed earthly copy and shadow did not mean the end of the new covenantal order - the heavenly reality remains functional. It is there where Christ, the firstborn, sits at the right hand of God and mediates for them as high priest; it is there where the covenantal people are registered; and it is this reality, which they by faith have experienced already through their union and solidarity with Christ.
It is surprising, however, that the author does not mention the destruction of the temple and the end of the sacrificial system there, as this would have supported his claim that Christ had fulfilled once and for all the demands of the old covenant sacrificial system Hooker The author declares that he has no financial or personal relationship s which may have inappropriately influenced him in writing this article. Adams, E. Bauckham, D. Driver, T. MacDonald eds. Anderson, G. Robins ed. Attridge, H.
Barrett, C. Daube eds. Bruce, F. Casey, J. Chilton, B. Clements, R.
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Mt. Sinai vs. Mt. Zion (Heb. 12:18-24)
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This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. Sort order. May 15, RC rated it really liked it Shelves: religiousstudies , mylibrary. Levenson presents an excellent introduction to the Jewish faith as it is represented in scripture. H Levenson presents an excellent introduction to the Jewish faith as it is represented in scripture. He offers a detailed analysis of their relationship, the subtleties of their interactions, and a needed corrective to a predominant view of biblical Judaism by contemporary christian scholars, theologians and many lay people.
Nov 29, Charles rated it it was amazing. Levenson takes two primary motifs--Sinai and Zion--and uses them to illuminate what's going on in the canonical books. One of those works that prevent you from ever reading certain texts in the same old way again.