Professors say Hebrews not as knotty as it appears

FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Pastors and students received encouragement and helpful tools to preach through the book of Hebrews at the Advanced Expository Preaching Workshop, Oct. 4. David Allen, dean of theology and author of the recently published Hebrews commentary in the New American Commentary series, joined other Southwestern preaching and New Testament professors to aid those wanting to preach through the sometimes-daunting book.
 
“Many people are afraid of Hebrews,” Allen told conference-goers. “They won’t preach through it; they’re frightened by it for a number of reasons: They’re frightened because they can’t really get a grip on the structure ... and there are all these Old Testament quotations ... and then you have the five warning passages.”
 
Allen provided both linguistic and thematic breakdowns of the book and challenged preachers to move from the macro to micro levels in their preparation. Before jumping right into word studies, Allen instructed pastors to move from the big picture down to divisions, sections, paragraphs, verses, clauses, phrases and then words.
 
Because there are many difficult interpretive questions in Hebrews, Allen also cautioned preachers to place priority on exegesis before theology. “You have to do your exegesis first and then build your theology from exegesis, not the other way around,” he said.
 
Steven Smith, dean of the College at Southwestern, outlined appropriate preaching plans for Hebrews, emphasizing the need to interpret and preach passages in their context. For example, Smith said, “Warning passages are driven along by the headwaters of the exaltation of Christ found at the beginning of the book.”
 
New Testament professor Herb Bateman, author of Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews, addressed the problems raised with Hebrews’ warning passages and offered a pastoral perspective to preaching them.
 
“These warnings have prevented me from leaving the ministry and turning my back on Jesus,” Bateman said. “Serving our King is not easy. Living life is not easy. Our people need to be encouraged. The book of Hebrews balances warning with encouragement.”

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