Christianity 201

December 23, 2013

The Bible’s Story Arc Culminates in Christ

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.

~Heb. 1:1-2 NIV

After four years of blog poaching here at Christianity 201, today we’re poaching from one of the best, Bible commentator D. A. Carson. The verse in question here is often referred to at Christmas, even though this was posted in mid-November.  As always, C201 readers are encouraged to read items at source, click here to read today’s post.

THE CONTRASTS IN THE OPENING VERSES OF Hebrews 1 all tend in the same direction.

“In the past” contrasts with “in these last days.” God spoke “to our forefathers” stands over against the fact that in these last days he has spoken “to us.” In the past God spoke to the forefathers “through the prophets at many times and in various ways.” But in these last days God has spoken to us “by his Son” (Heb. 1:1–2).

Indeed, the form of that expression, “by his Son,” in the original, suggests pretty strongly that the author of Hebrews does not think of the Son as one more prophet, or even as the supreme prophet. The idea is not that while in the past the word of God was mediated by prophets, in these last days the word has been mediated by the Son, who thus becomes the last of the prophets. Something more fundamental is at issue. The Greek expression, over-translated, means “in Son.” The absence of the article “the” is significant. Moreover, “in Son” contrasts not only with “through the prophets” but with “through the prophets at many times and in various ways.”

The point is that in these last days God has disclosed himself in the Son revelation. In the past, when God used the prophets he sometimes gave them words directly (in oracles or visions), sometimes providentially led them through experiences they recorded, sometimes “spoke” through extraordinary events such as the burning bush: there were “many times” and “various ways” (Heb. 1:1). But now, God has spoken “in Son”—we might paraphrase, “in the Son revelation.” It is not that Jesus simply mediates the revelation; he is the revelation. It is not that Jesus simply brings the word; he is himself, so to speak, the Word of God, the climactic Word. The idea is very similar to what one reads in the Prologue of John’s Gospel. The Son is capable of this because he is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Heb. 1:3).

Strictly speaking, then, Christians are not to think of the New Testament books as just like the Old Testament books, bringing the next phase of God’s redemptive plan to us. Mormons argue that that is all they are—and then say that Joseph Smith brought a still later revelation to us, since he was yet another accredited prophet. But the author of Hebrews sees that the climax of all the Old Testament revelation, mediated through prophets and stored in books, is not, strictly speaking, more books—but Christ Jesus himself. The New Testament books congregate around Jesus and bear witness to him who is the climax of revelation. Later books that cannot bear witness to this climactic revelation are automatically disqualified.


C201 is always looking for both submissions and suggestions for sources of material. Use the submissions page in the margin.

Mission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of Christian blogs and websites. Sometimes two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading.

Scripture portions from various translations quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green to remind us that the Scriptures have LIFE!

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