Book Review: Hebrews: From Flawed to Flawless Fulfilled!

by T. Everett Denton


A good exposition! But before delving into the book’s emphasis, maybe I should lay out its axiomatic suppositions. Denton writes from the perspective that Hebrews was authored by the apostle Paul, sometime in the early 60’s. He presents a minimal argument for Paul as the writer (an exhaustive argument would be outside the scope of the book), and this forces the authorship of Hebrews to pre-war days.

Without known authorship, the dating of Hebrews is difficult, made doubly so because much of its focus is in comparing Christ to the Jewish priesthood. Hebrews sometimes appears to be saying the priesthood still exists (thus, its writing must be dated before 70 A.D.), and sometimes appears to be saying the priesthood has been disbanded (therefore written after the war, when the Temple was leveled). Compare verse 7:23 with 8:4 for an example. I think Denton’s stance is that Hebrews was originally written from a pre-war perspective, but later redactors, after the war, changed the reading to reflect a post-war perspective … and missed a few passages. If I’ve misunderstood, I apologize!

Denton’s argument may be reasonable, but I do want to point out that it’s daring; most Bible scholars date the book of Hebrews to the mid-80s, believing that it reflects a period of persecution, probably under Domitian, and a post-war let-down, when some of the Jewish Christians dreamed of returning to Judaism after Christ failed to reappear. This, if correct, means it cannot be written by Paul.

Pauline authorship, however, allows Denton to evaluate many of Hebrew’s passages under the light of Paul’s letters. For example, he can compare the New Covenant with the New Jerusalem (Galatians 4:24-26). It also turns the many references to the fall of the priesthood into prophecies, not explanations. Paul, as we know, had an uncanny sense of impending doom, and was proven right.

Denton’s eschatology also differs from the traditional futuristic view. The Heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:12) is not some city in the sky, it’s a spiritual kingdom, the New Testament kingdom.

Now that you understand the premise of Denton’s writing, I have to say it’s very good. You’ll appreciate Denton’s research regardless of your own beliefs. Hebrews’ hangup about Melchizedek finally makes sense. Hebrews’ theme of Christ bringing a superior kingdom, in every way, stands out. More than a verse-by-verse exposition, this is essentially a word-by-word exposition! The writing isn’t as smooth as I would have liked—it reads a little like a collection of notes—but it’s easy to follow. The research is deep and meaningful, and you’ll be keeping it handy as a reference long after you’re done reading.

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