Something you should read to enlighten you.

I received the following article, which is in blue, via e-mail. The message was nothing except this article with the title of the message 'Something you should read to enlighten you.' After reading the article and responding to the person who sent it to me, I decided to comment on it. I just wanted to state here that I have no way of verifying the authenticity of the article but have decided to post it because it was sent to me in this form.

I want to point out some of the most blatant misinterpretations in this article. I am not trying to debunk every individual statement that is made but rather the overall conclusions. I also hope that my comments will help those who are searching for the truth. I have inserted my comments in the article and they appear in green. Any Scripture that I quoted will be in red.

I do not mean this as bashing of the Catholic faith, however, things were said in this article with I don't believe hold up to the standard set by Scripture and I feel it is my duty to point those out.

Because of the length of this, you may want to read all the article in blue first as a whole and then come back and read the comments, so that it is easier to keep things in context. I needed to comment in the places I did so that it would be obvious what I was speaking about.

The Meal of Melchizedek

By Scott Hahn, Ph. D. (Dr. Scott Hahn is 42 years old, has been married to Kimberly for 20 years, and has six children. An exceptionally popular speaker and teacher, Dr. Hahn has delivered numerous talks nationally and internationally on a wide variety of topics talks related to Scripture and the Catholic faith. Over 500 of these talks have been produced on audio and video tapes by St. Joseph Communications. These tapes have been effective in helping thousands of Protestants and fallen away Catholics to (re)embrace the Catholic faith.

He is currently a Professor of Theology and Scripture at Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he has taught since 1990, and is the founder and director of the Institute of Applied Biblical Studies at the University.

Scott entered the Catholic Church at Easter 1986. He is a former ordained Presbyterian minister with ten years of ministry experience in Protestant congregations (in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Massachusetts, Kansas and Virginia) and a former Professor of Theology at Chesapeake Theological Seminary. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree with a triple-major in Theology, Philosophy and Economics from Grove City College, Pennsylvania, in 1979, his Masters of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 1982, and his Ph.D. in Biblical Theology from Marquette University in 1995.)

My response is in Green:

I had never heard of Dr. Hahn until I received this via e-mail. He seems to have a very impressive education, however, we should not be lulled into believing things he says just because of his education. Everything should be judged by God's word. That is exactly what I have tried to do with these comments. Since Dr. Hahn's 'qualifications' are put forth at the beginning I will do so also. I am a former Marine, a former Deputy Sheriff and a born again Christian. I have had no formal theological training. All my training has been through personal private Bible study.

Appearing only briefly in both the Old and New Testaments is a mysterious figure named Melchizedek. The identity of this first priest mentioned in the bible is as strange as his name. Yet his importance, particularly as emphasized by the writer of Hebrews, warrants our attention, especially if we're trying to understand the true meaning of Christ's words, "This is my body... this is my blood of the new covenant."

Before we examine the texts in Hebrews, however, I would like to call your attention to some words from the first Eucharistic Prayer, the Roman Canon. The priest with hands raised, prays: "Father, we celebrate the memory of Christ, your Son ... Look with favor on these offerings and accept them as once you accepted the gift of your servant Abel who offered himself as an oblation." Abel's sacrifice was a perfect sacrifice of his own body and blood in an act of martyrdom, a very substantial image of Christ, but not perfect because it wasn't voluntary; it was involuntary; it was murder. "The sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, who offered his only beloved son on Moriah." Another powerful symbol of our Lord, Jesus Christ-- but Abraham didn't really kill Isaac, so once again this is an inadequate image. Then the priest continues, "and the bread and wine offered by your priest Melchizedek."

This is one of those areas where it might well appear I am just bashing the Catholic church. That is not my intention. My intention is to point out biblical error in what was said. I had never heard of 'the first Eucharistic Prayer, the Roman Canon' before receiving this article. I don't even know for sure it is in anyway official doctrine of the Catholic church, however, since it is listed here I want to address it.

The first thing I want to look at is the part which says that Abel offered himself as an oblation. Oblation means religious offering. Did Abel offer himself as a religious offering? We will have to go to Scripture to see:

(Genesis 4:3-5 NIV) In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. {4} But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, {5} but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. What I see here is that Abel brought of the first born of his flock and offered it, not himself.

We know that Cain killed Abel but did Abel offer himself as an offering? (Genesis 4:8 NIV) Now Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go out to the field." And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Nothing in this passage would lead me to believe that Abel had any idea what was about to happen when Cain killed him.

Since I am not familiar with this 'first Eucharistic Prayer' I am at a disadvantage, but I take it that since parts are in quotes the other parts are Dr. Hahn's comments. One such comment is that: "Abel's sacrifice was a perfect sacrifice of his own body and blood in an act of martyrdom..." As I have shown I don't believe Able offered himself, but for the moment I will address as if he had. Was his offering of himself a perfect sacrifice? We call Christ's sacrifice of Himself perfect and we do so because He was sinless and innocent and therefore died for the sins of the world.

Could the same be said of Abel? Of course not, he was born a sinner just like all of us who have a human father. (Romans 3:22-23 NIV) This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, {23} for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God... Paul tells us that all have sinned, that would include Abel. So even if Abel had meant to offer himself as a sacrifice it would not have mattered it would not have been a perfect sacrifice. The author states that Abel's sacrifice was not perfect because it was not voluntary, again that is wrong it would not have been perfect anyway.

This ("and the bread and wine offered by your priest Melchizedek.") refers to Genesis 14.17-20, which says:

After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with them, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh, (that is the King's Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said,

"Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!"

This is the first time in the Bible that anyone is addressed by the word coen, the Hebrew word for priest. As a "priest of God Most High," Melchizedek "brought out bread and wine." What is the connection between his priesthood and those two offerings?

During the days of Genesis 14, the priest did not need to offer the bloody sacrifices, for these only became necessary later, when Israel became enslaved and addicted to the gods of Egypt (see Exodus and Ezekiel 20). God's strategy to break Israel from these idolatrous customs was to make the people sacrifice ceremonially on Mount Sinai the very animals they had worshiped as gods in Egypt. Before this, before the Golden Calf, the pre-Israelites practiced a patriarchal family religion rooted in nature, in which fathers were high priests and their firstborn sons were priests under their authority. What was the sacrifice then that pleased God? Well, here we see it: bread and wine offered by God's premier priest, Melchizedek. He offered bread and wine to Abraham who had come and paid his tithes. Abraham received bread and wine and then received a blessing. This would become the pattern of the Eucharistic liturgy: worshipers give their offerings; then Christ, working through the human priest, gives his body and blood under the appearance of bread and wine; and then the priest gives the blessing.

I am baffled as to where Dr. Hahn got this idea. There is a lot here which is not correct but I want to focus on the fact that Dr. Hahn states that bloody sacrifices only became necessary after Israelites worshiped the golden calf. We should start by pinpointing when the golden calf was made:

(Exodus 32:1-7 NIV) When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, "Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him." {2} Aaron answered them, "Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me." {3} So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. {4} He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt." {5} When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, "Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD." {6} So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. {7} Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. We see that this is when Aaron made the golden calf for the people and this is when Moses was on the mountain speaking with God. So we should go back before this point and see if there were any 'bloody' sacrifices.

I am not sure I would call it a sacrifice, but right after God passed judgment on Adam and Eve, He Himself killed the first animals to cover man's sin: (Genesis 3:21 NIV) The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. This was well before the golden calf.

We have already looked at this passage once, but here it is again: (Genesis 4:3-5 NIV) In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. {4} But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, {5} but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. In order for Abel to bring the fat portions from the firstborn of his flock as an offering to God, he would have had to kill the animal.

After the flood, but well before Moses' time we read: (Genesis 8:20-21 NIV) Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. {21} The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

The story of Abraham and Isaac also reveals a lot to those who are willing to think about it: (Genesis 22:2-8 NIV) Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about." {3} Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. {4} On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. {5} He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you." {6} Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, {7} Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?" "Yes, my son?" Abraham replied. "The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" {8} Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together. Notice the important part as far as our discussion is concerned. Isaac did not ask his father why they were carrying word and fire up the mountain, he only asked where the lamb was that they were going to sacrifice. Now if Dr. Hahn is correct and there were no 'bloody' sacrifices at this point in history why would Isaac ask that question? He would not have known to ask that question and in fact even if he had it would not have made sense to Abraham. It is obvious that Isaac was familiar with the sacrificing of lambs.

Here is another amazing story, amazing that is if Dr. Hahn is correct: (Exodus 18:9-12 NIV) Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the LORD had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. {10} He said, "Praise be to the LORD, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians. {11} Now I know that the LORD is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly." {12} Then Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses' father-in-law in the presence of God. Why would Jethro give a confession of faith in Moses' God and then sacrifice an animal to Him if that were not a custom?

Dr. Hahn appears to be trying to say that bloody sacrifices were not needed before the Israelites worshiped the Golden Calf. If that is true then we should not find anywhere in Scripture where a bloody sacrifice is needed to atone for sin. (Matthew 26:28 NIV) This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus states that His blood was poured out for the forgiveness of sins. Speaking of Jesus, Paul says: (Ephesians 1:7-8 NIV) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace {8} that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. Redemption is through His blood? Looks to me like blood is required. (Hebrews 9:22 NIV) In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. All I can say about this passage is; case closed.

Turning to Hebrews 6.13-14, we see that God had made a promise to Abraham and then he changed the promise into an oath:

For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by Himself, saying, "Surely I will bless you and multiply you."

In many places in scripture, we find "oath" and "covenant" used almost interchangeably (e.g., Ezekiel 16.60f). When God swears an oath to Abraham, he makes a covenant. In Genesis 22.18, right after Abraham went to Moriah to sacrifice his firstborn through Sarah, God prevented it and then swore an oath saying, "Surely all the nations of the earth will be blessed through your seed."

The New Testament begins, "This is Jesus Christ, the seed of the son of Abraham, the Son of David." Jesus Christ is the one through whom God fulfills the oath he swore to Abraham. Where did he swear it? On Moriah, the hill where the temple was later built and where Christ, the New Temple was later destroyed and rebuilt three days afterwards.

Hebrews 6 continues to talk about this oath, flowing into a discussion of the priesthood of Melchizedek:

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.

The first ten verses of chapter 7 describe how Abraham met Melchizedek. The author explains that this strange Hebrew name means "king of righteousness." He is the King of Salem, which means "peace" (shalom); we know from Psalm 76.2 that Salem would later become Jeru-salem, the City of Peace. Melchizedek is the priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abraham; thus, he was superior to Abraham.

In these passages from Hebrews, everything is mentioned about the meeting between Abraham and Melchizedek except one thing -- the bread and the wine. Is this because the bread and the wine were the only unimportant details? Or is it because their importance is so great, but so obvious, that it goes without saying?

Let's study briefly the next few chapters to see whether the writer understands Melchizedek's priesthood in relationship to the bread and the wine that he gave to Abraham.

First, going back to Hebrews 5. 5-6 we hear that God has sworn an oath to Jesus Christ. He says,

"Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee;"

as he says also in another place,

"Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."

The parallelism of these phrases indicates that the author considers status as "God's Son" the same as priesthood "after the order of Melchizedek." As I mentioned earlier, in the years before the Golden Calf, fathers were high priests, and firstborn sons were priests under their authority. This, then, would be the family pattern of Melchizedek; and this is how the ancient Jews, as well as the ancient Church Fathers, understood Melchizedek's priesthood.

In Israel, only a Levite could be a priest; yet Jesus was not a Levite. So Old Testament Jews might be tempted to say that he couldn't be a priest. The book of Hebrews, however, alludes to the wilderness generation under Moses, which committed idolatry and rebelled against God. Their rebellion was the Golden Calf, and God's punishment was to take away the priesthood from the firstborn and give it to the Levites temporarily. The writer of Hebrews is suggesting that Jesus Christ, God's Son, is righteous enough to restore the original pattern of the father-son family priesthood -- the "order of Melchizedek" -- because God, through Christ's sacrifice, is adopting us into a divine family.

I am again baffled at how Dr. Hahn could make this mistake. He claims that God took the priesthood away from the firstborn and gave it to the Levites. His explanation for this is because of the people's spiritual adultery with the golden calf. Okay if that is true then the commissioning of the priests should have happened after the incident with the golden calf, right?

(Exodus 28:1 NIV) "Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests. Remember that the golden calf does not appear until Exodus 32 while Moses is on the mountain talking with God.

Speaking of Aaron and his sons, God told Moses: (Exodus 29:1 NIV) "This is what you are to do to consecrate them, so they may serve me as priests: Take a young bull and two rams without defect.

After giving more instructions in how they were to be dressed and anointed with oil God tells Moses this: (Exodus 29:10-18 NIV) "Bring the bull to the front of the Tent of Meeting, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head. {11} Slaughter it in the Lord's presence at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. {12} Take some of the bull's blood and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger, and pour out the rest of it at the base of the altar. {13} Then take all the fat around the inner parts, the covering of the liver, and both kidneys with the fat on them, and burn them on the altar. {14} But burn the bull's flesh and its hide and its offal outside the camp. It is a sin offering. {15} "Take one of the rams, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head. {16} Slaughter it and take the blood and sprinkle it against the altar on all sides. {17} Cut the ram into pieces and wash the inner parts and the legs, putting them with the head and the other pieces. {18} Then burn the entire ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD, a pleasing aroma, an offering made to the LORD by fire. The instructions go on to include the killing of the other ram and what to do with its blood. Here again we see God commanding that a 'bloody' sacrifice be offered, before the golden calf incident took place.

(Exodus 29:38-43 NIV) "This is what you are to offer on the altar regularly each day: two lambs a year old. {39} Offer one in the morning and the other at twilight. {40} With the first lamb offer a tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with a quarter of a hin of oil from pressed olives, and a quarter of a hin of wine as a drink offering. {41} Sacrifice the other lamb at twilight with the same grain offering and its drink offering as in the morning--a pleasing aroma, an offering made to the LORD by fire. {42} "For the generations to come this burnt offering is to be made regularly at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting before the LORD. There I will meet you and speak to you; {43} there also I will meet with the Israelites, and the place will be consecrated by my glory. We see that God commands that this kind of sacrifice is to be made daily. Again this is before the incident with the golden calf. Dr. Hahn has it wrong.

(Exodus 30:10 NIV) Once a year Aaron shall make atonement on its horns. This annual atonement must be made with the blood of the atoning sin offering for the generations to come. It is most holy to the LORD." This passage is also before the incident with the golden calf, and again we see that God commands a blood sacrifice.

He is a "priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." The word "order" here does not mean a religious order like the Dominicans or the Franciscans. It means "after the manner" of Melchizedek's priesthood. The writer goes on to draw a sharp contrast between the Levitical priests, who continued to offer animals in sacrifice, and priesthood in the order of Melchizedek. Levites had to kill. They had to sacrifice millions of sheep, millions of goats and millions of cattle, with millions of gallons of blood running down through the temple. Why? It was all because of the Golden Calf; whereas, before all that, priestly fathers and their priestly firstborn sons constituted a clean priesthood, represented by Melchizedek. "After the order of Melchizedek" suggests that Melchizedek's manner of priestly sacrifice-- bread and wine-- was the manner in which the early Christians understood Christ's priesthood as well.

This really distresses me, because it comes so close to denying the need for Christ to die for us. If the only reason the Levitical priests had to sacrifice animals was because God was trying to prove a point to them about the so called gods they had worshiped then there would be no need for Christ to shed His blood for all mankind. Again we have to see what God's word has to say about that:

(Hebrews 9:22 NIV) In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. There is no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood. That seems pretty clear to me. As we saw earlier the sacrifices were in place before the golden calf incident and even before the Israelites were held captive in Egypt. (Leviticus 6:30 NIV) But any sin offering whose blood is brought into the Tent of Meeting to make atonement in the Holy Place must not be eaten; it must be burned. Here God is giving directions on how to handle different sacrifices. This passage is important because it clearly shows that the blood was used to make atonement!

In Hebrews 7.18-28 we read the following very important description of Christ's priesthood:

On the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.

And it was not without an oath. Those who formerly became priests took their office without an oath, but this one was addressed with an oath, "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, 'Thou art a priest for ever.'" This makes Jesus the surety of a better covenant.

The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently he is able for all times to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did this once for all when he offered up himself. Indeed, the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

There's plenty to feed our souls, if we pay close attention; we can only cover a few details in this short article. The crucial point to recognize is that we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven. In the book of Revelation, we discover that the Lamb is the one enthroned (Revelation 5). The Lamb -- who is the firstborn Son of the Passover -- is the priest who ministers in the heavenly sanctuary. He is ministering in the true tabernacle, which is set up not by man but by the Lord. Yet every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices. Hence it is necessary for this priest to have something to offer.

I read this passage a hundred times before the obvious meaning hit me. Jesus Christ is a priest in heaven, ministering now in the sanctuary; and, as our High priest, he's continually offering. What, though, is he offering? He's not bleeding and dying and suffering any more. He's not killing any animals-- but he's continually offering the once and for all sacrifice which is himself. It's a continual sacrifice, a perpetual offering. This mystery is exactly what the Catholic Church has always taught about the meaning of the Mass.

Notice it say: "he's continually offering the once and for all sacrifice which is himself." This seems to me to be a statement that is trying to cover two bases at once. Either Christ's sacrifice was once for all or it is offered continually. I don't see how it can be both. I will let Scripture explain my view: (Hebrews 10:12 NIV) But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. He sat down because His sacrifice for sins was done, finished, completed.

For many years, I didn't understand this. Then, after reading some basic catechisms, I understood it, but still didn't believe it. Finally, after prayerfully studying and re-studying Hebrews, it became clear that Jesus Christ, the firstborn Son-- which is the theme in the Book of Hebrews-- is a much greater priest than the Levites. They had merely took the place of the sinful firstborn sons until the true and righteous firstborn Son of God would come.

I have already addressed this, but the Levites did not just take the place of the firstborn. For one they did not replace Aaron and his sons, who God had appointed. Second we need to see how the Levites came to be priests: (Exodus 32:25-29 NIV) Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies. {26} So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, "Whoever is for the LORD, come to me." And all the Levites rallied to him. {27} Then he said to them, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.'" {28} The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. {29} Then Moses said, "You have been set apart to the LORD today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day." Because they followed God, He honored them and set them aside for Himself.

(Numbers 3:9-13 NIV) Give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to him. {10} Appoint Aaron and his sons to serve as priests; anyone else who approaches the sanctuary must be put to death." {11} The LORD also said to Moses, {12} "I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine, {13} for all the firstborn are mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set apart for myself every firstborn in Israel, whether man or animal. They are to be mine. I am the LORD." Read this passage carefully. It does mention that the Levites taken the place of the firstborn, but not in the way Dr. Hahn states. God says that when He brought the people out of Egypt He took for Himself the first male of every Israelite woman. Remember that is what the Passover is all about, God killed the Egyptian firstborn males while sparing the Israelite's firstborn sons. But there after God declared that the firstborn males belonged to Him. Now at this point He is saying that He is replacing that by taking for Himself the Levites, who will be priests to Him.

Before, we had an Old Covenant family on earth. Now, we have a New Covenant family in heaven-- our divine family. The Trinity's life is our family life, and it comes to us through God's firstborn Son, who was like Melchizedek in being a son-priest. But the bread and the wine that Christ offers is not earthly bread and wine, but heavenly bread, heavenly wine-- his own body and blood. He is still, today and forever, a minister in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle in heaven. Since every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices, God has appointed his own Son to be High Priest. What are his gifts and sacrifices? Himself-- and all of us in union with him!

Moreover, the sacrifice isn't finished. No, it's just begun, and we're going to be offering it forever with Christ. Not bloody animal sacrifices, but our hearts and our souls and our bodies in union with the One whose body and blood, soul and divinity are perfect and pure-- the only acceptable sacrifice, which makes our otherwise unacceptable sacrifices perfectly acceptable: "Holy and righteous," as Paul says (Romans 12.1).

The sacrifice is finished. Christ died once and redeemed us at that time: (Hebrews 9:12 NIV) He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.

In Hebrews 8, the author proceeds to talk about the superiority of the New Covenant that Christ established. Now it's unfortunate, but our over-familiarity with that phrase, "new covenant," may cause us to miss its uniqueness. We've heard this phrase so many times that we may have become insulated from its spectacular meaning, almost as if filters have been planted in our ears so that we don't hear it any more.

Though it's common to us, the phrase "new covenant" is actually used only once in the entire Old Testament, in Jeremiah 31, which the writer of Hebrews (in 8.8-9) quotes at length:

The days will come, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the House of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant.

When did Israel break the covenant? At the time of the Golden Calf.

Yet the New Covenant will not be like the Mosaic Covenant, which was broken because of the failure of the firstborn sons. The New Covenant will not be broken because this firstborn Son won't break it-- and that's what makes it new.

This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." ... In speaking of the New Covenant he treats the first as obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8.10, 13)

The Old Testament uses the phrase "New Covenant" only once, and Jesus uses it only once. When does he use it? At Passover. Where? In the Upper Room. Why? To institute the Eucharist.

Still, the writer of Hebrews has placed a singular focus upon this phrase. If you're judging only by numerical usage, he's made a mountain out of a scriptural molehill. However, it's not the frequency of a phrase that makes it important. Jesus used "New Covenant" only once, when he transformed the Old Testament covenant of Moses, the Passover Covenant, by offering himself as the unblemished Lamb, the firstborn Son, the Priest, the King, and the Victim all wrapped up in one. That is the New Covenant.

Hebrews 9 then goes on to speak of the superiority of this New Covenant. In verse 9 we read, "According to this [Old Testament] arrangement, gifts and sacrifices were offered which cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper." What contrast is the author implying? Back then, Israel's sacrifices couldn't perfect the worshiper's conscience; but the implication is that the New Covenant sacrifice do perfect the conscience of the worshiper.

That, in fact, is what the Eucharist does. It cleanses our soul. It wipes away all venial sin. These Old Testament sacrifices (verse 10) "deal only with food and drink and various ablutions [baptismois in the Greek], regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation." Do you know when the real reformation came? The real reformation came in the Upper Room, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist, and when he established the Catholic Church. The true reformation wiped away the weak, ineffective Old Testament sacrifices. Would it do away with sacrifices altogether? No. The true reformation would initiate a new sacrifice, which has intrinsic power to cleanse our consciences.

Then in verse 11: "But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent [or tabernacle] (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the Holy Place [that is, heaven], taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption." He took his own blood to heaven. He's not bleeding in the sense that he's suffering and dying, but he's up there as a Lamb looking as though he's been slain, offering his own blood. That's a Eucharistic Passover sacrifice and that's why the entire structure of the book of Revelation is a Passover liturgy.

This scripture passage goes on to contrast the Old Testament's weakness with the New Testament's power. "For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls or with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (verses 13-14) The body was cleansed externally in the Old Testament sacrifices; but with Christ's Passover Sacrifice, which he continues to administer in the heavenly sanctuary, our consciences are cleansed internally as we offer and receive the Eucharist here on earth.

Dr. Hahn again says that this sacrifice is offered over and over again. I won't address that point again here, but I wanted to point out why this is a central theme and we see it in the last sentence; the Eucharist. If Christ finished His sacrifice and has already atoned once and for all for our sins, then the idea of the perpetual sacrifice of the Eucharist is wrong.

"Therefore," says verse 15, "he is the mediator of a New Covenant." Again, Jesus only used the word "covenant" one time-- when he instituted the Eucharist; when he fulfilled Jeremiah 31; when he offered what appeared to be bread and wine-- and that's when he became the new Melchizedek, feeding and blessing the new children of Abraham, so that through Abraham's seed-- Jesus-- all the nations of the world, all the families of the earth shall be blessed. This is the oath God had sworn to Abraham on Moriah, but which would not be fulfilled until Christ, the son of Abraham, was sacrificed on Calvary, a hillock on Moriah's range.

Jesus began his sacrifice in the Upper Room when he instituted the Eucharist, and it is this Eucharist which continues, here on earth and in heaven above, forever and ever. Jesus is the mediator of the new and everlasting covenant, so that those who are called may receive the eternal inheritance that God promised to Abraham. In verses 24-25: "For Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the High Priest enters the Holy Place yearly with blood not his own." Jesus offers himself repeatedly, not like the Old Testament priest who shed blood that wasn't his own. Instead, he offers himself repeatedly, without any death and suffering, an unbloody sacrifice. "For then He would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, He appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (verse 26).

Again the author says that Jesus has to offer Himself repeatedly. I deny that, Scripture clearly shows that He finished His work. One other point here, notice that the author says that Jesus began His sacrifice in the Upper Room when He instituted the Eucharist. If that was the sacrifice then why did Jesus go to the cross? If He turned the wine into His blood and thereby cleansed us from our sins, then why shed His blood on the cross? There would be no reason. Here again I feel the author (I hope unintentionally) belittles the significance of Christ's death on the cross.

So what can we conclude ? Christ has abolished the Old Testament, and he's established the New Testament. We have a sacrifice in heaven that is perpetual and effectual. Read Hebrews 10.19: "Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus." It's because of the Eucharist and because of Christ the High Priest offering himself that we have confidence to draw near to the presence of God. That's how the apostle John could be drawn up in Revelation. That's why the scroll's seals could be broken open. "[W]e have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh" (verses 19-20), his body and blood. When were they offered? His body and blood were offered when He instituted the New Covenant in the Upper Room.

Here again Dr. Hahn says "it is because of the Eucharist." No it is because Christ died for our sins on the cross as the perfect sacrifice. Look at the last sentence, in answer to when Jesus' body and blood were offered for our sins the author says: "His body and blood were offered when He instituted the New Covenant in the Upper Room. No Jesus offered His body and blood on the cross. If the author was right then there would have been no reason for Jesus to die!!

(Romans 5:8 NIV) But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Notice the Bible says God showed His love for us by Christ's death. Not just the shedding of His blood. The shedding of blood was important, but it was not like He could redeem us by just cutting His finger.(Romans 6:23 NIV) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. I know of at least one cult that claims our redemption took place in the Garden of Gethsemane because Jesus sweat great drops of blood. No our redemption was completed on the cross.

And since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean [a reference to Baptism] from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. (verses 21-24)

If Jesus Christ, who is our master, gave himself up for us, we too have to learn how to treat others as though they are more important than we are. Let's figure out new ways to stir each other up to love and good works. "Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (verse 25).

Verse 26 is often misunderstood. "For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries." What does the author mean? Does he mean, in some generic sense, that if we deliberately sin, there's no longer a sacrifice for us? We're dead; we're going to be burned alive? If we interpret it in this generic sense, I'm afraid that's what it must mean. Yet that meaning disappears when we read the text in context. What sin is the author referring to? Look in the preceding verse? "Don't neglect to meet together, as has become the habit of some."

I would agree that this passage is often misunderstood, but I think Dr. Hahn has misunderstood it too. The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians. Many of them were worried and wavering in their faith. Dr. Hahn is correct that the whole book of Hebrews is showing the authority of Christ as our High Priest. But he misses the point. These Jewish believers had placed their faith in Jesus Christ. They had therefore admitted that the old way of doing things could not reconcile them to God. But now as their faith was wavering, some of them were thinking about going back to Judaism.

We are not told, but I can imagine that some of them were thinking that if they did not go back to the sacrifices for their sins they might miss heaven. Their faith in Christ was wavering. The author of Hebrews is trying to tell them that if they reject the sacrifice of Christ by going back and trying to find another way to be reconciled with God, then they were forever giving up their salvation, because Christ's sacrifice was finished. If they rejected it, He would never be sacrificed again, so if they rejected His one and only sacrifice there was nothing left to save them.

The Lord's Day, from the earliest time of the Church, was the regular meeting for the people of God. From both pagan and Christian testimonies, we know that, early on Sunday morning, the faithful would gather together. They would sing hymns worshiping Christ as God, and then-- we are told by a pagan historian-- they would take an oath. The Latin word is sacramentum. They would take an oath-- a sacrament-- and swear not to sin.

What does this mean? It means that if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth-- the truth of Christ's sacrifice, which is represented in the Eucharist on Sunday-- we are repudiating the only sacrifice that will work for our sins. This is what people do when they neglect to meet with the Church on the Lord's Day, when they fail to go to Mass, "as has become the habit of some." When we neglect this obligation, we sin against the most beautiful laws God has delivered to humanity and against the all-powerful sacrifice.

Here Dr. Hahn has made not going to mass and not taking the Eucharist into the unforgivable sin. This is totally wrong. Yes the author of Hebrews tells us not to quit meeting together, but that is simply because we are to have fellowship with each other. To strengthen each other and support each other and to help each other grow in our faith.

The Eucharist is not what saves, nor is going to mass. I am bothered by one other thing in this area of the article. Dr. Hahn uses a pagan historian to prove a point. God will not leave us without direction in His word, only to find it in some pagan writing. We get into all kinds of trouble when we go outside God's word for our doctrine.

The author continues (verse 29), "How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God, and [notice!] profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace?" Again, that phrase, only used once by Jesus, can only mean one thing: "the blood of the New Covenant." So a person profanes the blood of the covenant when he neglects the Eucharist, when he misses Mass, when he says, "It's not that important. I've got better things to do."

I have already explained what I believe the meaning is here. It is directed at Jews who were thinking about going back to Judaism for their salvation and would thereby be rejecting Christ's sacrifice.

We are called go there. We've got to be there, but we've got to prepare to be there with all our heart and mind, soul and body. We've got to be there with the help of the Holy Spirit. We've got to offer ourselves in union with Christ, because we are members of his mystical body, and that body is what's being sacrificed continually. If we don't, we profane the blood of the covenant; but if we do, what will happen?

Turn to Hebrews 13.9-11, "Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings; for it is well that the heart be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited their adherents. We have an altar..." If there's no sacrifice, there's no need for an altar. Yet we have an altar; therefore, we have a sacrifice, Christ himself. "We have an altar from which those who serve the tent (or sanctuary) have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp." Hebrews goes on to talk about how Jesus left the camp and suffered. So we should, too, for in verse 14 we read, "For here we have no lasting city." The earthly Jerusalem is not our city, the heavenly Jerusalem is. We read on:

Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, [We still sacrifice] that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name. Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in you that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Verses 20-21)

In the Eucharist, we receive the blood of the covenant, which makes our souls right with God, which equips us to do his will.

There is a lot here too that I think is wrong, but I just want to address one small part. It is not the Eucharist that makes our souls right with God. It is Jesus' death on the cross and the one time offering of His blood for our atonement on the heavenly altar.

The meal of Melchizedek is the bread and the wine, but it's so much more. We go beyond the appearances of bread and wine to the reality of the Son of God and His body and blood, soul and divinity. By that one sacrifice, we have confidence. By that one sacrifice, we have forgiveness. By that one sacrifice, we've got power to do the will of God.

I have not addressed all the things I see as problems in this article. I have to wonder if anyone will manage to get this far as it is, much less if I had addressed all my concerns. The bottom line and thankfully the last line here is this: We need to judge everything we hear and read by God's word.


E-Mail Ralph (whose comments are in green)

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