[b-greek] Re: present active participle in Hebr. 6:6

From: Harold R. Holmyard III (hholmyard@ont.com)
Date: Mon May 07 2001 - 20:06:06 EDT

Dear Bob,

I wrote:

>> HH: The writer of Hebrews describes such people as though they
>> were in the condition described. Such people are like farmland
>> that receives careful care but produces only thistles and thorns.
>> The end of such land, and such people, is burning.

You replied:

>Without addressing the nature of the participles, it seems to me that
>context (as it should) has been dictating some of the Greek interpretation
>of this passage. If we assume, as above, that the writer is talking about
>burning people, then we limit the possible interpretations that the
>participles can provide us (as the "people" in question are
>>>obviously<< damned.

HH: I was assuming that the people were, in the hypothetical description,
damned if they persisted in that condition. The writer of Hebrews says that
for his readers he hopes better things and ones having salvation (Heb 6:9).
The implied contrast indicates to me that the people he compared to the
burnt field had the worse things, things not having salvation.

>However, let us really look at the context of this entire passage. Our
>compass though this oft debated section should be the writer's use of TEL
>and TELEOW (5:14-6:1 and 6:8). These are the concrete bookends that must
>form the boundaries of our understanding of the writer's intent. TEL does
>not refer to an absolute sudden "end," but is always concerned with the
>results of a process. Can we jump from a discussion of growth ("for by
>reason of time") and maturity, to a mid point of "we will keep on growing
>if God permits", to He is going to fry those who don't grow???

HH: I think there is an also implied contrast here. Remember that the
letter is generally assumed to be written to Jewish professors of
Christianity who are tempted to retreat from Gospel truth, perhaps back to
the Law. That is, there is the possibility of their being unsaved, which
would be evidenced by a lack of perseverence. The writer calls his readers
to mature in Christ (5:13-6:1). And really that is the only direction they
can go, he implies. He cannot again lay a foundation of repentance from
dead works and faith in God (6:1), for these people have already been
enlightened and so forth (6:4-5). One cannot preach the word of the
beginning of Christ to such people, for they already know such things.
Moreover, people who turn away from such things cannot hear the Gospel
afresh for repentance, since they are making a conscious decision to
crucify to themselves the Son of God (6:6). So there is really nowhere for
the writer to go but on to things of maturity, hoping that his readers will

>The passage concerning burning does not say that those who fail to thrive
>in their Christianity are cursed, but are near to it. So what is the
>It is a continuing part of the process moving toward an "end" (TEL).

HH: Yes, they have not been cursed yet. The writer compares the apostates
described to unproductive land. Such land is close to receiving a curse
from its owner, and its end is burning, or destruction. Sure, the farmer
can then use the land for something else, but not for the purpose into
which he had invested himself.

>Think logically with me for a moment: if a farmer burns off an unfruitful
>field, does that assume that he is then required to turn the title deed of
>that property over to his enemy?

HH: By the imagery in 6:7-9 the writer gives a picture of fruitlessness,
frustration, and destruction. Jesus used a similar image of burning for
judgment in John 15:6. Discussion of the rights of ownership seems to go
beyond the intent of the imagery, which is to make a simple comparison with
the lives of apostates. There are no hidden elements to the comparison, no
secondary factors to be considered, to my understanding.

>Does he forever turn his back on that
>burnt field? Of course not! What was the purpose of his actions? He burns
>off the waste so that he may take that exact same field, replant it, and
>bring to maturity a better crop -- on the exact same field. In the
>context of the whole book of Hebrews, there are five major "negative" or
>"judgment" passages. This is the only one that has ever been used to
>imply loss of salvation or never having salvation.

HH: Hebrews 10:26-31 has certainly been used to describe the apostate who
faces final judgment. You may underestimate the many warnings about the
need to persevere so as to be a partaker of salvation.

>Why not rather look at
>this passage in the light of "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth." If
>"going on to maturity" is NOT the context of this passage -- and the book
>as a whole-- then please explain to me why the writer continually resorts
>(throughout the epistle) to words using the TEL root?

HH: The book presents two basic options for the original recipients of the
letter: they can fall away from the truth or they can grow to maturity in
Christ. They seem to be in an amorphous middle ground, even though the
writer has confidence in them. So he sometimes shows the extreme
consequences of falling away from the truth. He does this to stir the
readers to godly fear and prod them on to maturity. It is not irrelevant to
talk of finally unsaved professors, for that is a possibility, however

                                Harold Holmyard
                                Dallas, TX

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