What constitutes a faithful life? At its most basic level, the New Testament book of Hebrews considers this essential question and pleads with its audience to find in faithful living the rest that Christ offers. The book begins with a poetic reflection on the one who lived the most faithful of lives—Jesus—and concludes with words of exhortation to go and do likewise.
In the 37th volume in the Believers Church Bible Commentary series, scholars Debra J. Bucher and Estella Horning examine at great length one important aspect of Hebrews: Jesus as the “new covenant” and the “once for all,” better sacrifice who replaces the daily and yearly sacrifices offered in the temple in Jerusalem. The authors give attention to the ways this idea has been used to minimize the value of other religious traditions and even to legitimize the horrors of the mid-twentieth century. They carefully unpack the language around sacrifice and covenant based on the saving work of Jesus, drawing out encouragement found in Hebrews to live as individuals and as a community led by Jesus, the pioneer and high priest.
Bucher and Horning don’t shy away from the difficult language in Hebrews, but rather help readers understand its historical context and then how to use the text with love within our own context.
About the Believers Church Bible Commentary series
This readable commentary series is for all who seek more fully to understand the original message of Scripture and its meaning for today—Sunday school teachers, members of Bible study groups, students, pastors, and other seekers. —From the Series Foreword
Debra J. Bucher is head of collections and discovery at Vassar College Libraries. She has also taught first-year writing seminars on the history of the Bible as book, and most recently a course on race and racism in the historical collections at Vassar. She grew up in the Church of the Brethren and received a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 2009. She also enjoys gardening, baking, singing, and taking long walks in the Hudson Valley with her husband Mark Colvson.
Estella Horning is a retired professor of biblical studies at Bethany Theological Seminary and Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is also an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren and served as a missionary in Ecuador for 15 years and in Nigeria for 4 years. She served on the editorial council of the Believers Church Bible Commentary series for over 20 years. She received her PhD in religious and theological studies from Northwestern University and Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary. She currently lives in Lombard, Illinois.
“All preachers, pastors, and other followers of Jesus who seek to understand the mysterious Letter to the Hebrews will find a source of God’s loving and life-giving Word for today in this wise and insightful commentary. With reverent attention to the Jewish roots of Christian faith (and keen awareness of the damaging effects of Christian supersessionism), Debra J. Bucher and Estella Boggs Horning stay close to human experiences and struggles as they help us search for what it means to live faithfully and simply in today’s multilayered and complex world.”
~Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, Brightbill Professor of Preaching and Worship at Bethany Theological Seminary and senior editor of the journal Homiletic
“The rich theology of Hebrews comes to life in this well-written and accessible treatment by Debra J. Bucher and Estella Boggs Horning. They frame the main point of the book as an argument for understanding the work of Jesus in salvation and what faithful followers in the midst of struggle should do in response. To do so, this commentary on Hebrews draws heavily on texts from the Hebrew Bible, especially those from the Psalms, Jeremiah 31, and Leviticus. In addition to these primary texts, Bucher and Horning discuss links across the Hebrew Bible as well as other New Testament books and a wide range of material from the Second Temple period and the Greco-Roman world to illuminate the message of Hebrews within its first-century context, and also make helpful applications to contemporary concerns.”
~Steven Schweitzer, academic dean and professor at Bethany Theological Seminary
“The Letter to the Hebrews provides a welcome addition to the Believers Church Bible series as it brings a believers church perspective to one of the most venerated and least understood epistles in the New Testament. The Greek of the epistle is more elegant but also more difficult, as it is different from much of the Greek elsewhere in the New Testament. Debra J. Bucher and Estella Boggs Horning bring Church of the Brethren tradition and cross-cultural and international experience that informs their reading of the epistle. This is a Believers Church treat.”
~Stephen Breck Reid, professor of Christian Scriptures at George W. Truett Theological Seminary and vice provost for faculty diversity and belonging at Baylor University
“Debra J. Bucher and Estella Boggs Horning offer a timely gift as they read this beautiful and difficult New Testament book. Their essays on atonement and on anti-Jewish interpretations of Hebrews, by themselves, are worth the price of the volume. Beyond that, those with Anabaptist heritage and all Christians who pick up this commentary can grasp the through line of our call to be ‘the people of God living in exile as resident aliens.’”
~Nancy Heisey, professor emerita of biblical studies at Eastern Mennonite University
“This study of Hebrews is the result of the best of the believers church traditions—the product of multiple persons gathered around the Scriptures. Debra J. Bucher and Estella Boggs Horning offer a rich resource not just for exploring the Letter to the Hebrews as a text, but as a companion for contemporary Christian discipleship. They have composed much more than a commentary in the classic sense of the genre and offer important essays to engage the questions that arise in contemporary readings of the letter. The product is a resource that should be found in the libraries of pastors and scholars, seminaries, and congregations.”
~Joshua Brockway, director of spiritual formation for the Church of the Brethren
“In a clear and understandable style, Debra J. Bucher and Estella Boggs Horning chart an illuminating path through the famously difficult epistle to the Hebrews, providing an interpretation that deftly points toward Jesus as the best way to not lose our footing as we traverse territory that is at once familiar and strange to us as contemporary readers. I particularly appreciated their respectful treatment of Judaism throughout. Their attention to the history of interpretation of difficult passages is an effective way to show that there is never only one way to understand a particular text. The focus on perseverance and fidelity—alongside hope and love—in their reading of the epistle is very encouraging to those of us who are engaged with others, both past and present, in following Jesus today.”
~Nancy Elizabeth Bedford, Georgia Harkness Professor of Theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and author of Who Was Jesus and What Does It Mean to Follow Him?
“Hebrews is one of the most complicated books in the New Testament, a theologically dense homily whose interpretation requires special sensitivity to its Jewish milieu. Debra J. Bucher and Estella Boggs Horning have written a commentary on Hebrews that judiciously balances attention to historical detail, the best of modern scholarship, and accessibility to a wide audience. Throughout the commentary, they display a particular sensitivity to the history of anti-Jewish interpretations of Hebrews, rejecting a ‘Christian triumphalist’ reading in favor of a reading of Hebrews ‘within Judaism.’ In doing so, they challenge the church’s interpretive missteps while inviting a reading of Hebrews that is meaningful for the life of the church today.”
~Timothy Reardon, assistant professor of New Testament at Eastern Mennonite University
“Hebrews richly rewards readers who listen well to its poetic preaching about the supreme but mysterious revelation that God has given us in Christ. Estella Boggs Horning and Debra J. Bucher skillfully lead readers through the linguistic and theological challenges of Hebrews into wise discussions of its implications for faith-filled living today. This thirty-seventh volume of the Believers Church Bible Commentary series is definitely worth the wait.”
~Daniel Ulrich, Wieand Professor of New Testament Studies at Bethany Theological Seminary
“As a preacher, I was content to limit my sermons from Hebrews to the hoped-for substance of faith, that cloud of witnesses, and the intriguing possibility of entertaining angels unawares. That’s why I am most pleased that Estella Boggs Horning (whose class in Hebrews I took many years ago) and Debra J. Bucher peel away my blinders to seemingly arcane topics like priests, temples, and cutting-edge covenants new and old, as well as sacrifice, which formerly seemed irrelevant to my Anabaptist attitudes. Thanks to their work, this homily proves to be infused with applicability, inspiration, and a serene beauty.”
~Frank Ramirez, Church of the Brethren pastor and writer