The Mark of a Man

Whither shall I go from thy spirit?
or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
~ Psalm 139:7

What was the mark of Cain?

The ever enigmatic Holmes came into the breakfast room where Watson was engaged in the most important meal of the day. Holmes entered with some sort of barbed spear and informed Watson he had worked up a hearty appetite by spending the morning trying to pierce a pig carcase through with a single effort with the spear. He had been unsuccessful, but had gained his objective and was satisfied that he could not with his best effort transfix the pig.

Holmes, of course, is the famous fictional detective and his actions and preoccupations appear most singular, but they were a part of his life’s work. He had a theory on a case in Doyle’s short story, “The Adventures of Black Peter.” Nonfictional detectives, investigators, and forensic scientists research and test various ways of ending life. They find out such things as that it is impossible to crush a human skull with your bare hands. If I recall correctly, it takes somewhere around 1,100 pounds of pressure to crush a human skull, but certainly more pressure than a human being can produce with his hands alone.

We can safely conclude that Cain did not crush Abel’s skull, at least not with his bare hands. To crush his brother’s skull, Cain would have had to use a very heavy object like a big rock, which would’ve been difficult to wield in a close quarter fight. Of course, Cain didn’t have to crush Abel’s skull to kill him. He could’ve caused enough blunt force trauma to do that with a smaller rock, a tree limb, or some of his farming tools, since he was a worker of the soil (Genesis 4:2). Maybe Abel’s death didn’t involve his cranium directly. Perhaps Cain used a stone knife, or throttled his brother with his bare hands. I suppose a spear could’ve been thrown, or used as a lance. We can probably rule out a slower weapon such as poison. Though Cain obviously thought of this act beforehand (Genesis 4:5-7), the language of Genesis 4:8 lends itself to a crime of passion and some sort of fatal act.
Read more

The Better Revelation

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
– Hebrews 1:1-2

An exposition of the book of Hebrews

Hebrews is written to show the superiority of Jesus Christ in every respect. We need perspective to understand this properly. The author shows Jesus superior to the Old Testament revelation and the various elements of worship and service in the Old Testament as well, but he is not despising the Old Testament or disparaging it in any way. Rather he is showing us the proper way to interpret the Old Testament, the way Jesus spoke of the Old Testament (John 5:39; Luke 24:44).

So the Old Testament scriptures are about Christ. That doesn’t mean they aren’t literally true or historically accurate. To say Christ is better doesn’t mean the Old Testament is bad or worthless. As we will see in studying this letter, the Old Testament is incomplete. It is a shadow of something greater to come. That greater substance is Jesus Christ.

Think of it this way. Imagine a husband is separated from his wife for a long time due to military service. While they are apart, the only means of communication they have is by mailed letters. During that time, the wife cherishes those letters and reads them many times. The letters increase her anticipation for her husband’s return home. When her husband finally returns, does she run out to meet him or does she stay in her room reading the letters? The letters were good in their time and place but once the husband returns, she would rather have him than the letters.

Likewise, the Old Testament is pointing to the coming of Christ and building anticipation. Once He is revealed, the substance supersedes the shadow. This doesn’t render the Old Testament untrue or useless, but it can never be looked at the same way again. Everything is now viewed through the lens of Jesus Christ, His life, death, resurrection, and return.

The opening verses of this first chapter immediately establish the foundation and trajectory of this letter. The author divides time into two great epochs in which God has spoken, or revealed Himself. The second epoch being through His Son is greater than the first. This sets up the continual comparison and contrast we have throughout this book.
Read more

The Letter to the Hebrews

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
– Hebrews 1:1-2

An introduction to the book of Hebrews

The letter to the Hebrews is often grouped in the general epistles, but it’s difficult to categorize because it is a unique book. It is the most Christocentric book in the New Testament. Given the four Gospels devoted to Jesus’ life and ministry, that claim seems to overreach. However, when you consider the density and extent of the theology of Christ in this book, the claim is difficult to counter. Hebrews is primarily about the high-priesthood of Jesus Christ and what other book rivals it on that ground?

This letter has several unique features among the New Testament epistles. There is no introductory greeting in the text. We don’t know exactly when it is written or from where it was written. We don’t know who wrote it. I know this is a contentious issue, but we will get to the authorship question in a few moments. We don’t know exactly whom it was written to and where they were located. There are some clues to those questions in the text but they only provide general answers or hints.

Further, this letter is more like a series of sermons than a letter until you get to the very end. The author does call it a “word of exhortation” (Hebrews 13:22). This book also contains the only reference to Timothy’s imprisonment we have in the New Testament (Hebrews 13:23). This letter has the only reference to Melchisedec in the New Testament. In fact, it is one of only three references in the entire Bible. The other two references are in Genesis and the Psalms.

This book also has some notable features. It is not about preaching in the sense that it is a homiletic textbook, but it is a great example of biblical preaching. The author quotes and refers to Old Testament passages and expounds them throughout the letter. It is noteworthy that the author quotes from the Old Testament and gives the quotes as God, Jesus, or the Spirit speaking. There is a scarce reference to David in reference to a Psalm but mostly the book quotes the Old Testament as God speaking. Read more