7 Questions on Hebrews in the 21st Century Commentary Series
Steven Charles Ger (ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary) grew up in a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York and Aberdeen, New Jersey, where he was educated in both church and synagogue due to his distinctive heritage as a Jewish Christian. He is the founder and director of Sojourner Ministries, an organization dedicated to Exploring the Jewish Heart of Christianity. The name of the ministry is derived from the Hebrew meaning of Mr. Ger’s surname. In Hebrew, the word “ger” means sojourner or wanderer. This particular “wandering” Jew’s faith journey has led him to the conviction that Jesus is the Messiah who was foretold in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Steven’s first book, the commentary The Book of Acts: Witnesses to the World was released in 2005. This was followed by The Popular Bible Prophecy Commentary (co-author 2007, re-released in 2011 as Exploring Bible Prophesy from Genesis to Revelation). His latest release is the audiobook, From the Ten Commandments to Gods and Kings: The Biblical Moses that Hollywood Forgot (2015). He also a contributing author to the books The Gathering Storm (2005), The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy (2006), and Zondervan King James Version Commentary: Old Testament (2010).
Mr. Ger has led 16 tours to Israel with extensions to Egypt, Greece, Jordan, Turkey and Germany. He is an adjunct professor of Jewish Studies at Criswell College, and has lectured at Dallas Theological Seminary and taught at Tyndale Seminary. He served for seven years as Director of Worship and Christian Education within the local church and another seven years as Worship Leader at Messianic congregation Adat Shalom. Steven currently serves as Senior Pastor at Messianic congregation Beth Sar Shalom in Plano, Texas.
1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Hebrews?
Originally, someone else was slated to contribute the Hebrews commentary in the series. However, that entry ran into some trouble and I was asked, at first, to do a rewrite. After we realized how much effort that would have entailed, it was decided that I would start from scratch with an original commentary. The commentary I did a few years earlier on Acts was what led to this assignment. My strengths in Jewish cultural, sociological, and religious backgrounds are what put me on their radar for Hebrews. As to preparation, make no mistake – nothing can fully prepare a commentator to wrestle with the complex text of Hebrews! Nonetheless, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be immersed in this particular book.
2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?
I wrote this to be a “go anywhere” commentary. It is intended to have value to a wide level of audiences, as it addresses many Jewish cultural background issues that are reflected in the text and that are not always addressed in other commentaries. One of my frustrations when I began my studies in preparation for the commentary was the absence of a Jewish perspective from other authors. My commentary is intended to supplement grammatical and technical commentaries without replacing them. What makes it useful is that it does discuss the Greek but not to the extent that it would alienate the educated layman. My Acts commentary is currently used by a few colleges and universities as a textbook, and feedback is strong. I try to write on a level that will engage pastors preparing their weekly sermons, students writing papers, Sunday school teachers preparing lessons, Bible Study groups making their way through Hebrews, and everyone in between. I have made my best effort to turn people on to the Word of God and to provide value to someone’s study.
3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Hebrews?
Hebrews is an odd duck in the world of New Testament books, in that most other books have lent themselves to clear theological interpretive positions, which generally fall along denominational lines. In other words, there is a dispensational take, a Presbyterian take, a Methodist take, etc. With Hebrews, denominational lines blur and after two thousand years, we have all these different interpretations even within denominational perspectives. No one can agree on how to interpret this book, even within a single theological camp. This led me to inquire as to why that might be. What I determined is that all the theological diversity out there after all this time stems from refusing to commit to recognizing that the book we call “Hebrews” was actually written to a group of first century Christian Jewish believers. Once I committed to that framework and perspective, I was able to answer all the famously difficult passages that most people are afraid to authoritatively address. I cannot sufficiently underscore how important reading Hebrews from a Jewish perspective is in unlocking the book’s mysteries.
4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?
Oddly, the area that took the most of my time was the introduction. Wrapping my head around what I had for all my life considered to be the most intimidating book of the New Testament was a challenge. Yet once I discovered the book of Hebrews “Rosetta stone” (an all out presuppositional commitment to a full Jewish theological, sociological, historical and cultural perspective), I went from having nothing to say to not being able to shut the fount. The original manuscript’s introduction was three times its final published size. One day I will have to release the introduction’s “director’s cut,” which was designed to answer every question about Hebrews that had ever been asked.
5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?
Hebrews is the NT book with the highest, most elevated Christology. As a Jewish believer myself, I was repeatedly struck with the presentation of Messiah as deity. The author of Hebrews (whomever he was and – spoilers – I don’t answer that question in the commentary) is exceptionally forthright about who Jesus is and His relationship to the Father. The first 3 verses alone veritably slap you across the face with the “God-ness” of Jesus. Additionally, without Hebrews, we would not see as clearly that our Messiah is also our High Priest and replacement in full for the Levitical system. Other books may emphasize the sacrificial component of the Messiah, but it is only the author of Hebrews who draws a complete picture of the relationship between our Messiah, the priesthood, the sacrifices and Temple worship, not to mention the very clear emphasis on, the new covenant and its impact on the Mosaic covenant. Reading the book of Hebrews is akin to navigating the terrain of a cookie bursting with chocolate chunks, with each chunk being a quotation, reference or allusion to the Hebrew Bible and Jewish theological concepts.. I find Hebrews to be one of the most indispensable books in the canon.
6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Hebrews?
I love the one by David L Allen for the New American series. Sadly, our commentaries were both published around the same time, so I lacked access to his work (and my commentary is the poorer for it). Who knows how my commentary would read if I could have consulted David’s scholarship? I also think that the little book edited by Herb Bateman on Four Views on the Warning Passages does a tremendous job fairly presenting four different perspectives on what may just be the most difficult passages in the NT. I particularly appreciate the contribution of Randall Gleason to that book and his perspective. [Editor’s note: please see Best Bible Commentaries’ Q & A with David Allen on Hebrews in the NAC seres.]
7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?
I recently self-published an audio-only commentary of the autobiographical passages of Moses in the Torah called, “The Biblical Moses that Hollywood Forgot.” Due for publication in 2020 is a commentary on the Gospel of John. As with my other works, this will be written from a Messianic Jewish perspective and lean very heavily on Jewish backgrounds.
Get Dr. Ger’s Hebrews commentary
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