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Hebrews and the Real Presence

In the following email exchange, the emailer's comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.

Exchange #1

>Hello Gary.

I discovered your site quite by accident and enjoy it very much. I have used it as an information source (printing out quite a bit from your site) in several areas.<

I am thankful you have found site to be of benefit.

>Very briefly, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior in 1996 and joined the Catholic church in 1998 (I won't go into the long explanation of why). The same year I was saved I married a "cradle Catholic". Last Fall we both began reading the Bible daily and, without even realizing it, came to the conclusion that it was contradictory to what the Catholic church teaches. I term it as two different gospels. When we realized we both had come to the same conclusion, we determined that we could not remain in a church that did not teach the true gospel message of Jesus Christ. We have since begun attending a Regular Baptist church and are loving it. BTW, my wife was saved at a Church of God camp she was allowed to attend when she was 13. I do truly believe that, as we were both saved and in the Catholic church together, God led us to His truth and out of an apostate church (John 6:37,39).<

Interesting testimony, and I one I have heard many times. But yours does have the unique twist of both you and your wife coming to the same conclusion independently. Usually, only one spouse does, and that causes problems when s/he wants to leave the RCC and the other spouse does not.

>The one part of Catholicism I had the hardest time shaking was the real presence. I prayed earnestly to be shown the truth, no matter what it was, and read Scripture intently, especially John 6 (which I bet I've read 20 times in the last few months). After reading all of Hebrews, I became resolved and at peace that the real presence does not exist (Hebrews showed me that the sacrifice of the mass is at best unnecessary and at worst offensive to God...I believe there to be an implication throughout the book to not keep returning to Christ's sacrifice of atonement). Without the sacrifice of the mass, the real presence is a doctrine with no place to stand, but you already knew that.<

You should note that the official doctrine of the Catholic Church is not that Jesus is "re-sacrificed" at the mass. It is that the mass is a "reenactment" of Christ's death, or that it "perpetuates" His death. Either way, the point is that the mass makes the effects of Christ's death available to those in attendance. So it is only in that sense, that the mass is a "sacrifice."

>My question is the true meaning behind Heb 13:9-15. We own 3 Bibles with study notes (which I try to avoid, so as to not cloud the guidance of the Spirit when reading Scripture, but I do consult them from time to time), those being the NIV Study Bible (bought before we realized it to be a bad translation),<

The translation is bad, but the study notes are rather good.

> an NAB Bible (given me when I joined the RCC) <

Not too bad of a version, at least for dynamic equivalence version. But the notes in it are rather useless, to say the least.

> and a Harper-Collins NRSV study Bible (which I bought after being saved in '96).<

I'm not too thrilled with the NRSV, to say the least. I haven't seen this particular study Bible.

> I have read these verses in the following translations: KJV, NKJV, LITV, ALT, <

Now you're getting into more reliable versions, especially the last one  : )

>NIV, NAB and NRSV. I have also consulted online study sources for this passage (John Gill's Exposition, found at Crosswalk, and Matthew Henry's remarks, located there as well). I also consulted the KJV Strongs Interlinear Bible at Crosswalk.<

It sounds like you've really done your homework!

Note: The passage in question reads:

 13:9  Stop being carried away by varied and strange teachings, for [it is] good [for] the heart [fig., inner self] to continue being established by grace, not by foods, in which the ones having been walking about [in] [fig., having been occupied with] were not benefited.

 13:10  We have an altar from which the ones sacredly serving in the tabernacle have no right to eat.

 13:11  For of which animals the blood is brought concerning sin into the holy places by the high priest, the bodies of these are burned outside the camp. [see Lev 4:11,12,21; 16:27]

 13:12  And so Jesus, so that He should sanctify the people through [His] own blood, suffered outside the gate.

 13:13  So let us be going out to Him outside the camp, bearing His disgrace.

 13:14  For we do not have here a lasting city, _but_ we are seeking the coming [one].

 13:15  Therefore, through Him let us through all [fig. always] be offering up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, [the] fruit of lips [fig., our words], confessing [fig., giving thanks to] His name (ALT).

>From what I have found, v.10 states that those who refuse the gospel message of Christ and remain in Judaism, or return to it after "accepting" Christ are therefore separated from Him and "have no right to eat" from that altar. Verse 12 tells of the bodies of atonement offerings being burned outside the city gates, and then v.13 speaks of us going out to Him, bearing his reproach." I understand v.12 to relate to the heifer and goat offered as atonement sacrifices on the Day of Atonement, and Christ is thus shown as such a sacrifice, though only needed to be offered once and entirely sufficient. I also understand that v.14 speaks of the New Jerusalem to come and that v.15 shows what sacrifice is good and pleasing to God since the Mosaic sacrificial practice was being or had been eliminated).<

This all sounds accurate.

>Going back to v.9, we find mention of diverse and strange doctrines concerning eating foods to obtain grace (the Mosaic and Catholic practice). Now, if the Jewish author of this book is writing to Jewish readers, why would he refer to Mosaic Law doctrines as "diverse and strange?" I wonder if he were not referring instead to some known doctrine (I'm guessing it a heresy) at the time that said you had to eat certain foods to receive grace. <

I hadn't thought of that before. But you are correct: "diverse and strange" does seem like a strange way to refer to Mosaic regulations. But given the context, this seems likely. It probably could to either way.

>While I know this is not directed at Catholicism, can it be used to help show that the sacrifice of the mass (and thus the real presence) are not sound doctrines?<

As you say, this verse obviously doesn't have RCC doctrines in mind, and it is really difficult to know exactly what is being referred to if it is not Mosaic food decrees. So any application to the RCC would be by an extension at best.

>It is clear, the writer is saying what one eats doesn't matter spiritually (cp. Rom 14:17). However, a RCC would probably say the there is more to the Eucharist than just eating, but eating it is no matter what they say. The verse would probably apply more directly to RCC rules about not eating meat on Fridays during Lent.

> I'm convinced, but my wife's entire family are still Catholic and they have just learned that we no longer are. Following 1 Pet 3:15, we are preparing to state our reasons for why we have left the RCC and share with them God's truth. I guess I see verses 9&10 as going together on the same point. Verse 9 says that eating foods to bring grace is not profitable, and v.10 says that we have an altar from which those that serve the tabernacle (those refusing the gospel or reverting back to Judaism) have no right to eat. Can't this be used to show that the "diverse and strange" doctrine of the real presence (which is supposed to impart a variety of graces to the recipient, including remission of "venial" sins and eternal life) does not profit where grace is concerned and that since the RCC teaches a gospel other than Christ's, they are essentially separated from the "altar" v.10 speaks of?<

Again, any application of this passage to RCC would be by way of an extension at best. But you could use it to get your relatives thinking about the genuine Gospel of Christ.

>I realize this gets theologically deep (and I'm not a strong swimmer ;) and I'm sorry for such a long letter. I feel as though I'm on the right track here, but want to bounce it off someone who knows what they are doing and can read the original Greek and better understand it. <

You done a very good job on your own. The questions however, remain as to if the verse is referring to Mosaic laws and how applicable it would be to the mass. Both are debatable.

>We met with one of our former parish priests to explain ourselves, out of courtesy primarily, and found that he downplayed the Catholic catechism, searched for some reference in Scripture about Bishops having control over Scripture (which rang no bells with me) and seemed shocked when I told him I no longer believed in the real presence. Oh, he tried to find that section of Scripture he was looking for in 2 Timothy, chapter 3. I then paraphrased to him what 3:15-17 said from memory and he said, "No, that's not it", which was obvious. I saw when he gave up and put his Bible down that he'd been using the "Catholic Youth Bible". This man has been through seminary and should be very familiar with the word of God! He is, however, a Catholic priest and we both know how little emphasis Scripture has in that church.<

That is really sad.

> Thank you for any time you can give in reply. I will pray for you and your ministry each time I visit the site.

Jesus is Lord!

I hope the above helps some. In sum, the verse might apply, but there would probably more clear verses to use early in Hebrews.

Exchange #2


Thanks so much for the very prompt reply. I know you are busy with your ministry and that your health problems no doubt detract you from many things, your work for the Lord being among them. Your reply was helpful and I appreciate it. I realize that Scripture many times is directed toward an immediate problem or concern at the time it was written, but that God has given us something that is timeless nonetheless. Many specific incidents from Scripture are as applicable today as they were when written. I suppose that is where I was going with Hebrews 13:9-10.

Humorous comment about my consulting the ALT. I couldn't very well write to you with a Scripture interpretation question without consulting it, could I? ;)

I like the idea of it and I'm sure I will be back to it many times in the future. I also am becoming quite fond of the LITV. Last week I sat down with Galatians in the LITV and it was as if I'd read it for the very first time.

On the topic of translations, I was confused about which to read for awhile. I've heard the KJV-only arguments and also those in opposition. It was in the midst of that when I found your site and read what you have to say about it. I poured over your correspondence concerning the KJV vs. NKJV (along with the rest of your Bible translation commentary) and found that I am comfortable with the NKJV. The only one I have is a Gideon's NT pocket Bible (with Psalms and Proverbs...a very nice little Bible and it is great that the Gideons are handing these out all over the world).

I am hoping to purchase a good (i.e. expensive) Bible soon (i.e. after receiving our income tax refund). I own a KJV with no notes (not even references to other Scripture or text notes), a "Living Insights Study Bible" in NIV (I really like Chuck Swindoll, but why did he have to use the NIV for his study Bible? I got this one the same time my wife got her NIV Study Bible and I agree that the study notes in it are pretty good), the Harper-Collins Study Bible (you haven't heard of this one and neither has anyone else I've asked about it) in NRSV and the Gideon's NT pocket Bible. I no longer use my NIV (except to read Swindoll's book introductions, which I like) or my NRSV. Since I became satisfied with the NKJV I've read nothing else really (unless I'm reading the OT, then I turn to the KJV or NAB).

After saying all that, is there a NKJV interlinear Bible in existence? Actually, could you recommend a Bible to me in the NKJV, interlinear or not? I really like the readability of the NKJV and after reading your comments I feel I can trust the accuracy of the translation. God willing, this will be the last Bible I ever buy for myself. Thanks in advance and, once again, I appreciate your time.

Jesus is Lord!

I would recommend the The NKJV Interlinear (now titled The Majority Text Interlinear), by Arthur Farstad et.al., published by Thomas Nelson, and the New Geneva Study Bible, also by Thomas Nelson.

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