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1. Question Clarification of the Greek Syntax :

How should the word "Almost, [σχεδὸν]" be understood in Hebrews 9:22, and what does it apply to, in view of Greek Syntax, and especially in view of the syllogistic argument/context it is sitting in?

Hebrews 9:22-23, NASB - 22 And according to the Law, [one] may almost [σχεδὸν] [say], all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

23 Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.


2. Possible Interpretations? :

It's Not Entirely True? :

One can almost say, that: ...

The Majority of Things Are Cleansed with Blood? :

... almost all things are cleansed with blood.

Some Forgiveness Can Occur Without the Shedding of Blood? :

... without shedding of blood there is almost no forgiveness.


NOTE: I am trying to address the textual/syntax issue here, first. And, then hopefully another question for the Doctrinal aspect.

  • To further clarify may I ask in what sense are using the term 'syllogism' – Jonathan Chell May 29 '15 at 8:10
  • @Jonathan, I meant to refer to the argument that this verse is sitting in, and specifically if there are implications of the use of "and/καὶ" in this context, (as a logical conjunction). – elika kohen May 30 '15 at 19:30
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The Idea in Brief

The apparent reading is that blood cleanses from sin, but that water provides complete cleansing in respect to the removal of death (covenant separation).

In the Hebrew Bible, blood atones for sin, but it is water that washes away death. This washing away therefore restores one to covenant relationship to the Lord. In this respect, Jewish oral tradition as found in the Babylonian Talmud indicates that not all things are cleansed with blood; that is, water complements blood atonement by washing away covenant separation from the Lord, which is "death."

Discussion

The key to understanding this passage lies in the verses in the immediate context preceding.

Hebrews 9:19-22 (NASB)
19 For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. 22 And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

NOTE: The highlighted words come from Exodus 24:8.

The shedding of blood provided for forgiveness; however, complete cleansing only comes with water, which washes away death--for example, the once dead flesh on the leper was sanctified by water (Lev 14:4-7); and of course the recipe for cleaning people contaminated by things dead was the water filtered through the ashes of the red heifer (Nu 19:1-22).

The writer of the Book of Hebrews in this very context made allusion to Exodus 24:3-8 (ref: highlighted words in the verses quoted above), where Moses sanctified the book of the covenant with blood. That is, the author of the Book of Hebrews indicated that there was not only blood involved, but also water (although the water has no explicit mention in the context of Exodus 24:3-8), since we read "...water and scarlet wool and hyssop..."

The writer of the Book of Hebrews therefore appears to have been familiar with Jewish oral tradition, which is captured by the Jewish Talmud, and, according to the translation by Neusner (2011), the Babylonian Talmud makes the same assertion in Yebamot Folio 46B. That is, although Exodus 24:3-8 makes no mention of water, Jewish oral tradition indicates that water was, in fact, involved within the context of conversion (baptism). That is, the Talmud indicates that water cleansing brought the convert into living covenant relationship with the Lord.

Conclusion

The writer of the Book of Hebrews recognizes Jewish oral tradition in that the scope of Exodus 24:3-8 was not limited to blood, but to water as well. This living water washed away death. That is, while blood atoned for sin, it was water that washed away the death (covenant separation) from the Lord. In this respect, the writer of the Book of Hebrews is careful to say ALMOST all things are cleansed with blood. The reason is because blood (which stems from death) does not wash away death: water instead is the agent for washing away death, and thus provides for complete cleansing and restoration of covenant relationship with the Lord, which brings life.

SOURCE:
Neusner, Jacob (2011). The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary (Vol. 8). Peabody: Hendrickson, 236-237.

  • @e.s.Kohen - the blood atones for all sin, but unless there is washing by water (that is, until the convert is baptized in living water), then there is no complete cleansing. The blood and water complement one another to provide complete cleansing. Thus we have to say that almost all things are cleansed with blood. – Joseph Jun 1 '15 at 2:56
  • @e.s.kohen - I see what you are saying. My explanation was only one suggestion from the perspective of oral Jewish tradition as codified in the Babylonian Talmud (that is, how the Jewish mind may have understood the relationship between blood and water in Heb 9:22). – Joseph Jun 1 '15 at 14:57
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In parsha Ki Tisa - Shmoth (Exodus) 30.12, 13 we read: "When you take the sum of the children of Israel according to their numbers, let each one give to the L-RD an atonement for his soul when they are counted; then there will be no plague among them when they are counted. This they shall give, everyone who goes through the counting: half a shekel according to the holy shekel. Twenty gerahs equal one shekel; half of [such] a shekel shall be an offering to the L-RD."

From this passage, it can be easily deduced that the giving of the half shekel atones for the soul; and that a blood sacrifice is not necessary for atonement of the soul.

In fact, according to Hebrews 9.22 the word, (almost) σχεδόν schedon - readily admits there are exceptions to "atonement by blood sacrifices" - a flour offering atoned, (VeYikrah [Leviticus] 5.11), and a censer with incense atoned (B'midbar [Numbers] 17.12). Nowhere does the Torah say, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness: The fact is, the people of Nineveh in the Sefer (Book) of Yonah (Jonah) were forgiven by "prayer and fasting" which turned away HaShem's wrath ....

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