Barry Newman's Blog

October 25, 2012

The Sacraments (part XI)

Filed under: The Sacraments — barrynewman @ 8:16 pm

Re: Hebrews 6: 4, 5

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews writes, “It is impossible for those who were once enlightened and who have tasted the heavenly gift and who were made partakers of the Holy Spirit and who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and who fall away, to restore (them) again to repentance …” (6: 4 – 6).

It is the word, “tasting”, when first used that some have thought is a reference to partaking of something considered to be “the Lord’s Supper”.  In the previous section the writer has extolled Jesus as the heavenly priest but begins chapter 6 with a reference to “the elementary doctrine of Christ and not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith towards God.” (6: 1) In the following verses the question of the possibility of restoring people again to repentance is not unnaturally raised. That there should also be a reference to Christ in the same context would also not be unexpected.  So assuming that “the heavenly gift” is a reference to Christ is not an unreasonable one.

But the use of the word “tasting” can readily be understood as metaphorical usage and this would seem to be particularly obvious when used in connection with “the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come”. If these words were considered on their own, is it not unlikely that people would see in them a reference to a celebratory meal?  It becomes somewhat difficult therefore to state, justifiably, with any confidence that the first reference to “tasting” is a literal reference to tasting at a meal.  Of course it is possible to see the first usage of “tasting” as literal and the second as metaphorical with the first being a reference to something experienced when taking part in a meal understood as something akin to “the Lord’s Supper” and to additionally claim that partaking of the Holy Spirit is what also happens when taking part in such but a long bow is being used to come to either of these conclusions. One can understand the strong desire to find a particular view of “the Lord’s Supper” that one already has, somewhere in Scripture but at very best it is veiled here.  There is no explicit context in this text or thereabouts for a celebratory meal.

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