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We read in Hebrews 6:1: “Therefore let us abandon (or leave behind)(Gk. aphentes) the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to more maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works but of faith toward God.” The same verb aphentes is properly translated in Mark 1:18 as "threw aside." (Donahue & Harrington, The Gospel of Mark (2005) at 74.)

What is the writer of Hebrews trying to say?

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  • It means that the themes, subjects, or topics which will be discussed henceforth (starting with the sixth chapter) by the author and his audience will not be the basic ones (with which all converts and catechumens are familiar anyway), but rather the more advanced ones.
    – Lucian
    May 11 '19 at 19:18
  • Can you please highlight those themes? May 14 '19 at 14:05
  • Suffice to say, the six mentioned in 6:1-2 are absent.
    – Lucian
    May 14 '19 at 16:17
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It is clear from a multitude of other places in scripture that repentance is a necessary precursor to faith. It is the elementary stage in making personal spiritual progress. But there comes a time, when, as we see in John's gospel account, that the disciples left John and followed Jesus, John 1:35-40.

To stay with John as Jesus passed by and passed on, would have been to shun further progress in spiritual experience.

In this place in Hebrews 6:1, the writer uses the verb ἀφίημι, aphiemi to express leaving one thing and progressing to another. This link to the Strong number 863 shows Thayer's extensive treatment of the verb.

I can see no cause in that treatment of Thayer to suggest an abandoning of lessons learned in the initial stages of spiritual experience learned in repentance.

But it is necessary not to go round and round in circles, ever learning the same lessons and never making progress.

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Sometimes, the artificial chapter divisions added later get in the way of surveying the context of a passage. This is one such case. If you read the preceding verses, we learn what the "Wherefore" is 'therefore.'

Hebrews 5:10-14 (DRB) Called by God a high priest according to the order of Melchisedech. 11 Of whom we have much to say, and hard to be intelligibly uttered: because you are become weak to hear. 12 For whereas for the time you ought to be masters, you have need to be taught again what are the first elements of the words of God: and you are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13 For every one that is a partaker of milk, is unskillful in the word of justice: for he is a little child. 14 But strong meat is for the perfect; for them who by custom have their senses exercised to the discerning of good and evil.

The writer wants to lead his readers on to a maturer knowledge of Christ, "not laying against" (6:1) the basics of the Christian faith, "the things of the beginning of Jesus Christ," or "the elementary things of Christ" (6:1). He says if you remain only a partaker of milk (or basics) you will never mature, but will remain a "little child," and not become "perfect" (5:14).

Obviously the author doesn't intend to throw a away baptism or repentance from evil works or the laying on of hands or the resurrection from the dead, or doctrine on hell, or faith in God—all fundamental parts of Christianity. Yet you'd be amazed how far people can go to avoid "repentance" or "baptism" from being a fundamental part of the Christian faith, among other things, turning this into a list of doctrines not actually the fundamentals of the Christian faith, but obsolete components of the Old Testament. Amazing.

"Forsaking" or "leaving now" (aphentes) the things that are for the "little children" and "those who have need of milk and not strong meat" in context refers to moving on to something else, not making what preceded obsolete and irrelevant. Clearly the strong meat is a richer understanding of what the milk already contains implicitly.

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The KJB reads

"Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,"

The verse is calling for us to grow in faith and knowledge of Christ/God. Belief/repentance and faith in God are the doctrines of Christ. This verse is calling for us to move forward, to grow in purity, to grow in holiness. To "desire the sincere milk of the word". To grow closer to that perfection. To become more like Christ Jesus. Putting off the lusts of the world, the desires of the carnal mind, anything that is not well pleasing unto God and done for God.

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