Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews, Part 9: Departure from Earthly Trappings

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The comments in the beginning of the program are found in a post at the Christogenea Forum titled Geography Trannies.

Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews, Part 9: Departure from Earthly Trappings (and: Greek Cherubs, Hebrew Sphinxes)

In the earlier chapters of this epistle to the Hebrews, Paul of Tarsus had spent considerable time proving to his readers from Scripture that there is an eternal priesthood which both precedes and transcends the Levitical priesthood, and that the beloved king David in the Psalms had prophesied of such a coming priest, which is after the “order of Melchizedek”, and that this prophecy was fulfilled in the person of Yahshua Christ. Then in Hebrews chapter 8 Paul connected this prophesied priest to the promise of a new covenant which is found in Jeremiah chapter 31, which Paul had cited at length.

Presenting that last chapter of Hebrews, among the subjects which we had discussed we hope to have substantiated three things, and, in a digression, a fourth. Firstly, that the writings of the Old Testament announce a new covenant in prophecies other than the one in Jeremiah chapter 31 which Paul had quoted. So in that regard we cited Hosea and Ezekiel as second and third witnesses to Jeremiah’s prophecy. Secondly, that the old covenant was broken, first by the people and then by Yahweh God Himself, and therefore nobody can claim to still be under that covenant. In that regard we cited Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Zechariah. There is another witnesses in Scripture to the breaking of the old covenant, and the promise of a new, and that is Isaiah, whom we did not cite last week.

In Isaiah chapter 24 Yahweh pronounces judgement upon Israel for breaking the old covenant, and He says in part: “1 Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof. 2 And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him. 3 The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the LORD hath spoken this word. 4 The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish. 5 The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.” This breaking of the covenant on the part of the people was mentioned again in Isaiah chapter 33, and it was explained in Isaiah chapter 28 that the people had made a covenant with death when they forsook their God.

Then from Isaiah chapter 42 we begin to see promises of a new covenant in Messianic prophecies. The opening verses of that chapter read, in part: “1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Nations. 2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. 3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. 4 He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law. 5 Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: 6 I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Nations; 7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” In the Gospels, parts of that passage were cited several times in reference to Yahshua Christ.

In his second epistle to the Corinthians, Paul of Tarsus quoted from Isaiah chapter 49 in reference to Christ, where it says: “7 Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee. 8 Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; 9 That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places.”

In Isaiah 55:3 the Word of Yahweh says to the children of Israel that “I will make an everlasting covenant with you”, and in Isaiah chapter 61, “I will make an everlasting covenant with them.” Speaking of a future everlasting covenant, the old covenant must be set aside as having been neglected. Yahshua Christ is that new covenant, as He is the Messiah who came before the rebuilt Jerusalem was destroyed, as it is prophesied by Daniel. So those who deny Christ also deny Daniel and Isaiah, as well as Jeremiah and the rest of the prophets. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, which Paul did not live to see although he forewarned of it in his epistle to the Romans, is the absolute historic proof that Yahshua Christ is the Messiah of Daniel’s prophecy, and therefore He must also be the Savior and Redeemer of Isaiah’s prophecy.

So we clearly see that many of the prophets substantiate Paul’s claim that there is a new covenant, and that there is also an old covenant, meaning a covenant that is no longer in force and effect in spite of the vain protests of those who call themselves Jews today. That old covenant was still in the process of being eliminated completely, an act which was not fulfilled until 70 AD when Jerusalem was destroyed, as prophesied by Daniel. So when Paul wrote this epistle in 58 or 59 AD, his words are accurate where he said in the final verse of Hebrews chapter 8 that “In saying ‘New,’ He has made the first Old, and that which is growing old and aged is near vanishing.”

Thirdly, we noted that the new covenant, both according to the prophet Jeremiah and according to Paul where he had quoted Jeremiah without qualification, was made exclusively and explicitly with the very same people who had been under the old covenant. In fact, the several promises of a new covenant in Ezekiel are also intended exclusively for the same children of Israel, which is fully apparent in the context of those promises as they appear in Ezekiel chapters 34, 37 and elsewhere. In Isaiah chapter 61, after the promise by Yahweh that He “will make an everlasting covenant with” the children of Israel, He then says “And their seed shall be known among the Nations, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath blessed.” The time for that acknowledgment is now, as only Identity Christians have the key to this prophetic fulfillment.

Furthermore, as we had also mentioned in a rather lengthy digression, as we see the descriptions of Israel being divorced in the prophet Hosea, we see accompanying promises that Israel would nevertheless be betrothed to Yahweh God forever. Later on Judah, in Ezekiel chapter 23, was told that she would suffer the same fate, or drink from the same cup, that Israel had suffered. Therefore the fourth subject which we hoped to substantiate as fact is that Judah was divorced from Yahweh as well as Israel. One of those same chapters in Isaiah where a new covenant is promised, Isaiah chapter 49, uses similar language likening the collective children of Israel to be the bride of Yahweh her God. We have cited the covenant promise in verses 7 through 9, and then we read just a few verses later: “13 Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. 14 But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. 15 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. 16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. 17 Thy children shall make haste; thy destroyers and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee. 18 Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold: all these gather themselves together, and come to thee. As I live, saith the LORD, thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on thee, as a bride doeth.” In the captivity of Israel, they were to become many nations and a great multitude of people who would later be reconciled to Yahweh their God in Christ. Those are the nations of the ministry of Paul of Tarsus.

Many centuries later, Yahshua Christ is described as a bridegroom, but He came only for the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” which Ezekiel described as wandering the mountains in chapter 34 of his prophecy, and it was the task of Paul of Tarsus to wander after them, bringing them the Gospel as it is announced in Isaiah chapter 52 where the Word of Yahweh says “6 Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I. 7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” Every tribe and nation to whom Paul had brought the Gospel had descended from the ancient Old Testament Israelites, and he himself provides proof of this throughout his epistles. So wherever Paul referred to “all men” while writing to any particular nation, he is not referring to any men outside of these covenant arrangements which Yahweh had made with Israel. Paul’s words cannot be interpreted outside of these predefined Biblical boundaries which he himself has upheld.

So while it was not a topic directly related to Paul’s words in Hebrews chapter 8, we nevertheless also hope to have established the fact that the ancient people of Judah and well as the people of Israel were both divorced from Yahweh their God. The old covenant was represented in Scripture as a marriage covenant between Yahweh and Israel, and when it was broken, the bonds were broken between all parties. As we cited in Hosea as well as in certain New Testament passages, the new covenant is also representative of a bond of marriage between Yahweh and Israel, as Christ is called a bridegroom in the Gospels and epistles. For Judah to be a party to the new covenant, Judah must have been divorced from Yahweh when the old covenant was broken. Those who maintain that Judah was never divorced by Yahweh seek to make excuses for the Jews, and completely miss the subsequent statements referring to Judah being put away just like Israel had been put away. For those we cited Ezekiel chapter 23 and Jeremiah chapter 33 (33:24), where it is made clear that Judah was indeed divorced from Yahweh their God. But the Jews of today had nothing to do with those statements, since they are not of Israel.

But in any event, whether we speak in reference to Judah, Judaeans or even Jews, examining the prophecies concerning the end of the old covenant in Daniel chapter 9, Zechariah chapter 11 and elsewhere, it is clear that according to the Word of the God of the old covenant, there is no more old covenant by the time in which Jerusalem was destroyed. This alone demonstrates the corrupt origins of Judaism as well as the corrupt minds of today’s Judaized denominational clergy, which somehow accepts Judaism as a valid religion although it clearly has no part in any covenant. Even rejecting the New, they cannot make any valid claim to still be a party to the Old.

After citing the prophecy in Jeremiah concerning a new covenant, here in Hebrews chapter 9 Paul proceeds by describing some of the trappings of the sacrificial system of the old covenant and contrasts that to the superior sacrifice made by the new high priest, Yahshua Christ. Here it also becomes apparent that the sacrifice of Christ was made on behalf of the same children of Israel that the old Levitical high priests had at one time served at the altars of the Temple.

9 1 So indeed the first had decrees of service, and the earthly sanctuary. 2 A tabernacle was prepared, the first, in which was the lampstand and the table and the presentation of the wheat loaves which is called Holy.

After the words for “wheat loaves”, the Codex Vaticanus (B) inserts the phrase “and the golden censer”. Rather than just the word “holy” at the end of the verse, that same Codex has “the Holies”, and the 3rd century papyrus P46 and the Codices Alexandrinus (A) and Claromontanus (D) have “Holy of Holies.” The text here follows the Codices Sinaiticus (א) and Freerianus (I), and the Majority Text which varies insignificantly.

The phrase “Holy of Holies”, which never appears in the King James Version, first appears in the Septuagint at Exodus 26:33, where the King James Version has “the most holy”. It also appears in the Septuagint at 2 Chronicles 3:8 (KJV: “the most holy house), Ezra 2:63 and Nehemiah 7:65 (KJV: “most holy things”). All of the manuscripts employed for our translation except the third century papyrus P46 have the phrase “Holy of Holies” in verse 3, which also supports the fact that Paul was indeed using the Septuagint Greek, or a very similar Greek manuscript, as his Scriptural text.

In verse 1, the reference to the first is a reference to the old covenant mentioned in the last verse of Hebrews chapter 8. For that reason the King James Version adds the word covenant into the text. In verse 2, the reference to the first is a reference to the earthly tabernacle, which is the temple. Paul certainly seems to wax nostalgic where he describes the relics of the Old Testament Israelites and the rituals and implements of the temple. But notice that he also speaks of them in the past tense, where he had written “the first had decrees of service”, even though the temple of Herod is still standing as he wrote. This is because the second and third temples, those of Zerubbabel and of Herod, were missing some of the important items which Yahweh had the Israelites make in the wilderness, and which were brought into Solomon’s temple.

The term lampstand is, we believe, a more practical translation for what the King James Version renders as candlestick. The phrase “the presentation of the wheat loaves” is a very literal translation of the Greek words ἡ πρόθεσις [which is the presentation, singular] τῶν ἄρτων [which is of the wheat loaves, plural]. Some translations simply write “the shewbread” or “the consecrated bread”. The English Standard Version, followed by some of the others, changes the case of each noun in the phrase and inverts their positions where it writes “the bread of the Presence”, since the Greek informs us that the presence is of the bread. This may seem rather trivial, but it exhibits how some translations have no qualms corrupting the simplest aspects of the original language. The Darby translation did better, and wrote “the exposition of the loaves.” Throughout the King James Old Testament, the equivalent Hebrew term is translated as shewbread, which first appears in Scripture in Exodus chapter 25. There, describing the tabernacle constructed in the wilderness, Yahweh states “30 And thou shalt set upon the table shewbread before me alway.” It is apparent that the shewbread which was to remain on the table in the temple at all times before God, was itself prophetic of the true purpose of God, to represent the Body of Christ as His symbolic communion with His people.

3 Then after the second veil a tabernacle which is called Holy of Holies, 4 having a golden censer and the chest of the covenant, having been coated with gold on every side, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and the staff of Aaron that sprouted, and the tablets of the covenant, 5 and up above it, effulgent sphinxes overshadowing the seat of propitiation, concerning which there is not now opportunity to speak.

In verse 3, the third century papyrus P46 wants the word translated “of Holies”. The text follows the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Claromontanus (D), Freerianus (I) and the Majority Text, and also the Codex Vaticanus (B) which varies slightly. The Codex Vaticanus (B) also wants the words translated as “a golden censer and”, but that same manuscript had added similar words in verse 2. A censer is a vessel in which incense was burned. The word κιβωτός is chest here, as the word refers to a wooden chest or a box, for which the King James Version popularly has ark.

Here we are also informed that inside of this wooden chest, or ark, were a golden jar holding the manna, and the staff of Aaron that sprouted, and the tablets of the covenant which Moses had inscribed, mentioned throughout the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. In the Old Testament descriptions of this ark of the covenant, there was a seat called the mercy seat, or seat of propitiation, affixed to the top of the ark. In 1 Kings chapter 8 we learn that the tablets of Moses were within the ark of God, but there is no indication that it held any other objects, as it says “9 There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.” Now, that does not mean these items were never in the ark, but that they were not in the ark at the time that 1 Kings chapter 8 was recorded. There is an indication that Paul is correct here in Numbers 17:10 where we read: “And the LORD said unto Moses, Bring Aaron's rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels; and thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from me, that they die not.”

But the ark of the covenant was not extant at Paul’s time, and the accounts of the destruction of Jerusalem and the first temple which are found in the canonical Scriptures do not inform us of its fate. After the revival in Jerusalem at the time of the good king Josiah, the ark is not mentioned again in Scripture, except for a passage in Jeremiah chapter 3 which says “14 Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: 15 And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more.” When Israel and Judah were divorced from their God, there was no longer any propitiation to be made for their sin.

There is, however, a passage in the Second Book of Maccabees which is of interest, where it says in chapter 2 that: “1 It is also found in the records, that Jeremy the prophet commanded them that were carried away to take of the fire, as it hath been signified: 2 And how that the prophet, having given them the law, charged them not to forget the commandments of the Lord, and that they should not err in their minds, when they see images of silver and gold, with their ornaments. 3 And with other such speeches exhorted he them, that the law should not depart from their hearts. 4 It was also contained in the same writing, that the prophet, being warned of God, commanded the tabernacle and the ark to go with him, as he went forth into the mountain, where Moses climbed up, and saw the heritage of God. 5 And when Jeremy came thither, he found an hollow cave, wherein he laid the tabernacle, and the ark, and the altar of incense, and so stopped the door. 6 And some of those that followed him came to mark the way, but they could not find it. 7 Which when Jeremy perceived, he blamed them, saying, As for that place, it shall be unknown until the time that God gather his people again together, and receive them unto mercy.”

This book known as 2 Maccabees was an abridgment made in the second century BC from a more lengthy and now lost history by Jason of Cyrene which was written perhaps a few decades earlier. Whether or not we accept the account of the fate of the ark which is found in 2 Maccabees, it is certainly a reliable witness in reference to the circumstances of its own time. Knowing that the book dates to such an early time, there is no reason to deny the testimony which it bears in this aspect: that the ark of the covenant was not found in the second temple, which was the temple of Zerubbabel, and therefore neither was the ark in the temple of Herod at the time of Christ. It is important to understand the implications of the missing ark. If there is no ark, then there is no mercy seat, and there is also no testimony of the law which the children of Israel had agreed to keep at Sinai. Therefore according to the law itself, there is no propitiation for sin and all of the sacrifices and rituals of the entire second temple period were of no effect. Here where Paul speaks of the sacrifices made for sin, he is speaking of the past tense, of the time of Solomon’s temple, and not of his own time.

Now we have yet another digression. There is an extant tale that the ark of the covenant exists in Ethiopia, but which is certainly not true. In the Persian period, men of Judah were commissioned as mercenaries to a station at Elephantine, an island in the Nile River at the southern border of Egypt, who were to guard against invaders from the south. The Elephantine papyri reveal that these men had obtained permission to build a replica of the temple in Jerusalem. Building a replica of the temple necessitates building a replica of the ark, which was an important part of the temple. While the temple did not persist, if the Ethiopians really do have an ark, it is certainly this replica ark which they must possess. It is also probable that the so-called Falasha Jews are a vestige of these people, who evidently committed fornication and mingled their seed with the seed of beasts.

Returning our attention to Hebrews 9:3, there is a play on words in this passage which may not be readily apparent. In the opening verse of this chapter, Paul used the term first as a reference to the old covenant and the ordinances for propitiation which it had decreed. Then he used the term first again in relation to the outer chamber of the original temple. Then here in verse 3 Paul used the expression “after the second veil”, in reference to the veil separating the inner chambers of the temple. But while there should be no doubt that Paul used the word second to modify the noun for veil in this passage, he had never mentioned a first veil. For that reason, here we are led to believe that Paul is using the term second in a purposely allegorical way as opposed to the first temple itself where he used the word first in the opening verse of the chapter. The allegory will unfold as he progresses with the chapter, as Paul himself explains this in verses 7 and 8 of this chapter.

But before proceeding we have other words in our translation to discuss, one of which is sphinxes. Here we have purposely written sphinxes, rather than cherubim, choosing a more familiar term for the transliterated Hebrew word. If an ancient Greek were going to translate the word cherub into Greek, he may have written sphinx. It can be argued that the translators of the Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate did not translate the word cherub in this manner, and that is true. They never translated the word at all, but used a transliteration instead, leaving it as cherub. And it is evident that in the Church of that time, they may not have even known what a cherub was. The Roman Catholics often depict the cherub as a little child or infant with wings, which is absurd. The first century Judaean priest and historian Flavius Josephus did not even know what a cherub looked like, as he admitted in Antiquities of the Judaeans, Book 8 (8:73), in a description of the ark of the covenant, that “no one can tell, or even conjecture, what was the shape of these cherubims.” Earlier, in Book 3 (3:137) of his Antiquities, Josephus had said of the ark that “Upon this its cover were two images, which the Hebrews call Cherubims; they are flying creatures, but their form is not like to that of any of the creatures which men have seen, though Moses said he had seen such beings near the throne of God.” (The form of the word cherubims is a grammatical mishap, since in Hebrews cherubim is plural for cherub.) From Assyrian inscriptions, where a very similar term was used, we know the cherub to be a winged bull, usually with the head of a man. The Assyrian inscriptions prove our point that cherubs are sphinxes beyond doubt. From the Egyptians, we know the sphinx to be a winged lion, also having the head of a man. We would assert that both of these forms, the Assyrian which is missing the lion part, and the Egyptian which is missing the bull part, are modifications of the original cherub. If we combine the two forms, we end up with a Hebrew cherub. Josephus and his contemporaries did not have the information which we today have from archaeology, since the monuments of Assyria at the time of Josephus had long been buried and forgotten, but they were dug out of the ground by European archaeologists in the 19th century.

Archaeological finds assure the connection of the sphinx to the cherub, as evidenced in articles found in Biblical Archaeological Review (July-August 2001, p. 44 and July-August 1995 pp. 36-41), Archaeology Odyssey (September-October 2004, p. 29), and various issues of Bible Review. A quote from a 1995 article titled Cherubim: God’s Throne? says that “The cherub symbolized not only omnipotence and omniscience but, as we shall see, a kind of completeness that included all else.” We do not necessarily agree with all of that statement. The Cherub had a lion’s front quarters, a bull’s hind quarters, an eagle’s wings, and the head of a man. The depictions are evocative of the symbols described in Ezekiel 1:10 and Revelation 4:7. Later in history, several different variations of the sphinx (or cherub) were popular. In a book titled The Sea Traders by Maitland A. Edey and the Editors of Time-Life Books, from The Emergence of Man Series © 1974 Time Inc., there is found on pages 126-127 a large illustration of the interior of the ancient Temple at Jerusalem, which is depicted as containing two very large sphinxes overshadowing the Ark of the Covenant, and two small sphinxes affixed to the cover of the Ark. This serves to illustrate that mainstream scholars understand the nature of the cherub from archaeological findings.

To us this is important, because of all of the references to cherubs and depictions of cherubs or sphinxes in early Greek writings as well as Mesopotamian inscriptions, as well as the famous Sphinx of ancient Egypt. The Phoenicians spread carved cherubs, or sphinxes, throughout the lands in which they settled, as many have been found by archaeologists in northern Africa and in Iberia. A marble sphinx with western features was found in a 1,000-year old grave in what is now northern China, an area traversed by Aryan tribes. So this serves to demonstrate that the Greeks, Assyrians and Egyptians, as well as the Hebrews, had many common aspects to their culture which they all shared within the wider ancient world. So here we will quote a few short paragraphs from an article on the sphinx from the Ancient History Encyclopedia found on the internet and based in Britain, and add some of our own comments (any comments in brackets are ours):

A sphinx is a mythical creature with the body of a lion, most often with a human head and sometimes with wings. The creature was an Egyptian invention [this is only assumed by historians] and had a male head - human or animal; however, in ancient Greek culture the creature had the head of a woman. The sphinx is also present in the art and sculpture of the Mycenaean, Assyrian, Persian and Phoenician civilizations.

Sphinxes were first created by the Egyptians and usually wore a nemes (head-dress) as worn by Pharaohs [so they were a symbol of ruler-ship]. Examples exist of sphinxes with human faces but surrounded by a lion’s mane, particularly from Nubia, and in the New Kingdom the head was sometimes that of a ram and representative of Amun [later artistic innovations]. The exact date when the first sphinx appeared is not known and the most famous sphinx of all, the Great Sphinx of Giza, has not been precisely dated; some scholars date it as far back as the reign of Cheops, ca 2500 BCE [this is most plausible]. There is a story that in the Eighteenth Dynasty, Tuthmosis IV, when he was a mere prince, went on a hunting expedition and fell asleep in the shadow of the Sphinx. Whilst asleep he dreamt that the Sphinx spoke to him and promised that he would become king if he cleared the sands that had accumulated around the feet of the statue. In the reign of Chephren [the fourth dynasty, over a thousand years before Tuthmosis IV], sphinxes became more widespread and they were usually placed as guards outside temples, tombs and funerary monuments. [Like the Egyptians, the Assyrians and Persians seem to have used the cherub as a talisman to ward off evil.]

Sphinxes were also present in the art of the Minoan and Mycenaean cultures from the early second millennium BC. The earliest examples are found on clay relief plaques used to decorate pottery vessels and on beaten gold dress ornaments from Minoan Crete. Later, three-dimensional sphinxes were similarly added to clay vessels and a surviving fresco from Pylos also depicted the mythical creature. In the 13th century BCE there are examples of pottery found in Cyprus (but probably manufactured on the Greek mainland) with painted sphinxes in silhouette, often in pairs and positioned heraldically. Sphinxes were also a popular subject for Mycenaean ivory carvings, usually in the form of plaques and small, lidded boxes. [The Mycenaeans were the Danae who had come to Greece from Egypt before 1500 BC.]

The sphinx was also commonly represented in both Assyrian and Persian art, usually with wings and a male human head. Large, sculpted sphinxes in the shape of winged bulls often stood in pairs outside palaces and guarded against evil forces. [In Assyrian inscriptions these creatures were called cherubs.] Such an example is the large sphinx presently in the British Museum which once stood outside the palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud (ca 865 BCE). Persian architecture often incorporated sphinxes in low-relief in walls and gates, examples from Susa (6th century BCE) and Persepolis (4th century BCE) depict male-headed sphinxes wearing divine horned headdresses.

While our translation of this epistle to the Hebrews was first made in 2001, in 2010 we wrote the following short paragraph at Christogenea:

A cherub is, basically, a sphinx. Or, more exactly, a sphinx is a variation on a cherub. While the sphinx is a watered-down version, the cherub was a sphinx-like creature with the head of a man, the wings of an eagle, the fore-body of a lion and the rear-body of a bull. These are the same four symbols described as being a part of the throne of Yahweh, in both the Revelation and the opening chapters of Ezekiel. They are also the same four symbols of the standards of the leading tribes situated around the Tabernacle in the Wilderness.

Here we have seen academic testimony vindicating the connection between cherub and sphinx which we had asserted in our translation of this passage of Hebrews, and we have also seen that such sphinxes, or cherubs, were a prominent aspect of early Aryan art, literature and religious belief in many early White nations. They are found in Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Greece, and they were found as far away as Carthage and Iberia and northern Asia. The first mention of a cherub is found in Genesis chapter 3, and they are an important component of the architecture of the Ark of the Covenant and of the Temple of Yahweh. But while the Egyptians apparently connected the cherub to ruler-ship, and the Hebrews and Persians connected the cherub to divinity, the Greeks had a somewhat more negative view, so for this reason we will continue with one more paragraph from our article:

In contrast to the Egyptian view, the ancient Greeks saw the sphinx as a more troublesome creature and the most famous myth involving a sphinx is that of the Theban prince Oedipus: The territory of Thebes in Greece [which was settled by Phoenicians] was terrorized by a sphinx and Hesiod tells us in his Theogony that the creature was born from the Chimaera (a fire-breathing monster with three heads and a body part lion, goat, snake and dragon) and was sister to the Nemean lion and half-sister of Kerberos (the three-headed dog that guarded Hades). The sphinx created drought and famine and would only leave the Thebans alone if they solved her riddle. This was to define the creature that has two, three or four feet and although it is able to change its form, it moves slower the more feet it uses. Anyone who dared to answer the riddle and failed to do so correctly was killed and devoured by the sphinx. When the sphinx killed his son Haimon, Kreon, the king of Thebes became so desperate at the situation that he offered his kingdom and his daughter Iokaste to anyone who could answer the riddle. Oedipus took up the challenge and gave the correct answer --man-- and in frustration and anger the sphinx leapt to her death from the acropolis of Thebes. Scenes of the hero with the sphinx are the most common depictions in art of the Oedipus myth and appeared from the 6th century BC on pottery, on carved gems and as a decorative device on fabrics.

The Thebans were described by the Tragic poets as Phoenicians, and as having had blonde hair and fair skin. Of course, in the end it did not fare so well for Oedipus and Thebes was brought to disaster. While we cannot account for the negative Greek attitude towards the sphinx in the histories, we can only conjecture that if, as it is demonstrable, the Phoenicians, Danaans, and later Dorians of Greece had descended from the ancient Israelites, perhaps their ambivalence for the sphinx represented their rebellion from Yahweh their God, who was represented by the sphinx on the Ark of the Covenant, and later in His temple. And if the ambivalence was only held originally among the Athenians, to whom much of the literature belongs, perhaps that is because they were outsiders of the competing Ionian tribes. But in either case, that is only conjecture.

We read in the instructions given to Moses in Exodus chapter 25: “And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat.” Here we translated as “seat of propitiation” a phrase which in most versions is “mercy seat”. The same word, ἱλαστήριον, appears in a different context in Romans chapter 3 (3:25), for which the King James Version correctly has propitiation. The root word ἱλασμός is a means of appeasing or propitiating, which in the case of the children of Israel, the propitiation is for sin. This is an aspect of the mercy of God upon Israel which is not always properly conveyed in modern perceptions of the word mercy. Mercy granted by God is a remission of punishment for sin when the propitiation which God requires is made on behalf of the sinner.

6 Now these things having been prepared, the priests are sent into the first tabernacle continually, fulfilling the services. 7 But into the second once in the year only the high priest, not without blood, which he offers for himself and the faults of ignorance of the people;

The tabernacle in the wilderness, as well as the temple built by Solomon, had an outer chamber and an inner chamber. The inner chamber is the “holy sanctuary” in Leviticus chapter 16, and it is called the “Holy of Holies” here in verse 3 and in several passages in the Septuagint. While the priests entered into the outer chamber quite often, the inner chamber was only to be entered into once a year, according to the instructions given first in Exodus and later in Leviticus. Here we shall read from chapter 16 of Leviticus, where it speaks in reference to the high priest and the Day of Atonement: “29 And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you: 30 For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. 31 It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever. 32 And the priest, whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest's office in his father's stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen clothes, even the holy garments: 33 And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation. 34 And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year. And he did as the LORD commanded Moses.”

The complete picture of the procedures of the law is rarely given in most of the chapters of the law, but they may frequently be correlated with other chapters discussing the same subject in order to be better understood. So references to this same sacrificial ritual were given earlier, in Exodus chapter 30, and it says there of the ark of the covenant, where Aaron was also commanded to build an altar for the burning of incense: “6 And thou shalt put it before the vail that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee.” The seat of propitiation sat upon the ark holding the testimony, or tablets of the covenant, and it represented the seat of Yahweh where He accepted the sacrifices made on behalf of the sins of Israel, and granted mercy in return for those sacrifices. For that, the sacrifice made by Yahshua Christ was an eternal replacement, and since the Levitical high priest made propitiation only for the children of Israel, so then it is with Yahshua Christ.

Continuing in reference to the inner chamber, which was only entered into once a year, Paul then says in verse 8:

8 this signifying the Holy Spirit, that not yet has the way of the saints been made manifest, the first tabernacle still having a standing, 9 which [D inserts “first” here] is a parable for the present time, at which both gifts and sacrifices are offered, not being able conscientiously to bring he who is serving to perfection, 10 except in foods and drinks and various cleansings [or immersions, or baptisms]: ordinances of the flesh, being imposed until the time of restoration.

Other words have been translated as restoration in different contexts. Here the word does not refer to the Kingdom or the status of the Adamic man, but rather it is from the Greek word δίορθωσις (Strong’s # 1357), a word which is found only here in the New Testament, and which is literally “a making straight”. Where we have the word parable, the King James Version has figure. But the Greek word is παραβολή, which is usually transliterated as parable in the King James Version.

So Paul implies that the sacrificial rituals of the Old Testament were never expected to bring any man to perfection. Neither could they bring man to perfection for as long as the temple stood, because they were fleshly and, as Paul wrote in reference to God in Romans chapter 3, that “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.” Likewise with this did David agree, in the 143rd Psalm where he wrote speaking to Yahweh God that “in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” Rather, the gifts and sacrifices were a “parable for the present time”, which is when Christ had to die in order to relieve the children of Israel of the penalty of death which they faced for their sins. The sacrifices were imposed until the time when Israel would be offered the opportunity of a “making straight”, so that they would know the way to their God. In a different context, Paul had told the Galatians that “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith,” they also being of the seed of Abraham of the descendants of ancient Israel.

As a side note, we see that the food laws are still in effect, as Paul notes in verse 10 that the ordinances of the flesh are imposed as a part of what is required of men until that time of restoration. One cannot defile one’s body, which is the temple for the spirit, and expect to be perfected. As Paul himself had written in 1 Corinthians chapter 6: “19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit in you? Which you have from Yahweh, and you are not your own?”

So according to Paul here, the inner sanctum, or Holy of Holies of the first temple was a parable which signified the greater reconciliation of the spiritual aspect of the Adamic man with Yahweh his God. But the parable, being fleshly, by itself could not bring man to achieve perfection. This also serves to demonstrate the failure of any reliance on the works of man to achieve perfection. The works, or rituals of the law were never meant to have any efficacy except as a symbolic means of seeking the mercy of God for sin. But as Paul shall state later in this epistle, they themselves could not remove sin. Next he goes on to explain what these rituals were symbolic of:

11 But Christ coming to be high priest [א, A, I and the MT have “But Christ, who is going to be high priest”; the text follows P46, B and D] of the coming good things, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hand (that is, not of this creation,) 12 nor by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, entered once for all into the holy places, procuring eternal redemption.

Yahshua Christ dying and being resurrected, and passing into heaven while He was yet alive, had fulfilled the law and paved the way for man to have reconciliation with God, which in the apostasy of the entire race is something that could only have been accomplished by God Himself. So in verse 24 of this chapter Paul goes on to say that “Christ entered not into holy places made by hand, representations of the true, but into heaven itself, to appear now in the presence of Yahweh on our behalf.” The Spirit of Yahweh, as well as the Adamic spirit, are not of this creation and therefore, being of God, His people may also transcend this creation. Thus it is written in the Wisdom of Solomon, that “God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity.”

So the apostle John wrote in chapter 5 of his first epistle that “18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not [as he explained in an earlier chapter, because they alone have an intercessor in Christ]; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. 19 And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.” Those who are from beneath, the adversaries of Christ, are from below and therefore they cannot transcend this creation.

The inner sanctum of the temple and the sacrifices which were made there served as a parable because it represented the union of man, in the form of the high priest, with that God who appeared in the inner sanctum. This union was a type for Yahshua Christ, the ultimate union of God and man because He was God incarnate as man. That the tablets of the testimony were in the ark was symbolic of the basis by which man could have the mercy of Yahweh God, as Christ Himself had also said that “if you love Me, keep My commandments”.

The law and the old covenants were Yahweh’s means of ensuring His Word and the preservation of a nation and a race in the midst of a sinful world. By these means He kept His Word to Abraham until the people had gone off into sin, and through Christ He now keeps the promises to Abraham in spite of their sins. The promise in Christ transcends the law and the old covenant, of which the entire objective was to produce a Messiah and pave the way by which Yahweh would keep the promises to Abraham.

Consider this: that the old covenant trappings, the rituals and sacrifices, the temple and the priesthood, were only a parable for what was to come – according to Paul of Tarsus himself. As he wrote in the opening verse of Hebrews chapter 10, “For the law, having a shadow of the coming good and not itself the image of the matters, each year with the same sacrifices which they offer in perpetuity, is never able to perfect those coming forth.” If Yahweh had the children of Israel live through a thousand year parable only to teach them the lesson that their own works cannot save them, how do we compare the trials of the present age with the glory of the age which is to come? For this reason, we should now know with certainty that our own deeds cannot save us, and we should seek instead to please Yahshua Christ. We must depart from these earthly trappings, which lead to self-righteousness, and serve our God in the Spirit, whereby we serve one another. That is the foremost lesson of the Gospel.

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