B&H Publishing launches a new commentary series called Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation. The inaugural volume is on Hebrews by Thomas Schreiner. What does an academic buyer (that’s me) do with a new commentary on Hebrews? I look up what it says about Hebrews 6:4-8, what else? Schreiner argues that the passage is describing Christians. He writes,
“Grudem, following a long line of Reformed interpreters, gives the best defense for the readers being almost Christians. According to Grudem, the author doesn’t use language that clearly demonstrates that those described are Christians. For instance, he doesn’t say they are forgiven of their sins or sanctified. Indeed, Grudem lists 18 different ways the author could have communicated clearly that the readers are Christians, all of which are lacking in the text. A couple of brief responses must suffice here. First, Grudem’s list demands more than is reasonable. We can’t expect that a writer uses terms to describe believers that fit our criteria. What must be determined is whether what is written accords with those being described as believers or unbelievers. Outside criteria can’t be imposed on the text as an abstraction to determined who is addressed. Second, we shall see that the readers are described as those who have received the Holy Spirit and as those who are sanctified (10:29). There is no clearer mark in the NT that one is a believer than receiving the Holy Spirit (6:4), so there are excellent reasons for thinking believers are addressed here.” (pp. 182-83)
“The language of renewing to repentance makes clear that the sin is apostasy. The danger isn’t simply that the readers would live unfruitful lives and thus not gain a greater reward. Repentance and faith are regularly used in the NT to describe the human response necessary to enter the people of God. So by saying that they couldn’t repent again, the author indicates that they would be outside the people of God if they fall away, that there would be no room for coming back in through repentance and faith. Such language precludes the notion that rewards are intended.” (p. 181)
“Those who think the text speaks of losing rewards instead of final damnation appeal to the illustration to support their view [vv. 7-8]. But such a reading fails, for it is not the fruit that is burned but the land itself! It would make sense to see a reference to rewards if it were the crops that were destroyed at the end. The author, however, describes the destruction of the land, not its fruit. The land refers to the persons in the illustration, and hence there is no doubt that the threat is eternal punishment, not loss of rewards.” (p. 191)
Commentary on Hebrews is a hardcover with 560 pages and sells for $39.99.
Thomas R. Schreiner is the James Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He has also taught New Testament at Azusa Pacific University and Bethel Theological Seminary. He received a B.S. from Western Oregon University, a M.Div. and Th.M. from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, and a Ph.D. in New Testament from Fuller Theological Seminary.