Last week, I completed my paper for the PhD seminar in biblical theology. This will be my last paper – well, except for my prospectus and dissertation – for the PhD program at SEBTS. The title of this paper was “Theology of Encouragement in Hebrews”. (I’ve written about this research briefly in my posts “Theology of Encouragement in Hebrews“, “Peterson on Encouragement in Hebrews“, “Mutuality“, “A reminder of our priesthood from Hebrews“, and “Encouragement as Trajectory in Hebrews“.)
In general, there are two parts to a study in biblical theology: analysis and synthesis. Analysis includes exegeting relevant passages, placing them in their historical context and in the context of the book or section of Scripture. For this research, I primarily studied the passages in the Book of Hebrews that included the Greek terms for encouragement. Those terms are found in 3:13, 6:18, 10:25, 12:5, 13:19, and 13:22.
In the synthesis section of the paper, I attempted to combine the information found in the analysis section. In biblical theology, the information is gathered into categories and themes that represent the author’s intent and purpose in writing. This differs from systematic theology, which attempts to answer questions raised by modern culture.
I gathered the information concerning encouragement in Hebrews into these categories: 1) the trajectories of encouragement, 2) the sources of encouragement, and 3) the importance of examples in encouragement.
1. Trajectories of Encouragement
I’ve written about this previously in a post called “Encouragement as Trajectory in Hebrews“. Primarily, the author sees encouragement as both negative and positive trajectories, that is, moving away from undesirable actions and attitudes and moving towards desirable actions and attitudes.
2. Sources of Encouragement
Besides seeing a double trajectory in encouragement, the author also recognizes different sources of encouragement. The author expects his readers to be encouraged from Scripture (OT), from his own letter (Hebrews), and from each other.
3. Importance of Examples in Encouragement
The author also expects examples to offer encouragement to his readers. For Hebrews, examples are primarily found in Old Testament saints (Chapter 11, for example) and leaders (13:17). (Interestingly, the author of Hebrews does not offer his own life as an example, as Paul often does in his letters.)
A study in biblical theology does not normally address modern implications. However, for those of us who believe that Scripture is important and even authoritative in our lives, we must make the next step and decide how to apply biblical theology.
So, I will leave that exercise to you, my readers. How would you apply these three themes of encouragement from the Book of Hebrews? How do we encourage today using different trajectories? Should we still seek encouragement from Scripture and from one another? Are examples still important for encouragement? What other implications do you think this study has for us today?