Hebrews: It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish: A Study Guide To The Most Encouraging Book In The New Testament, by Dr. Kathy Stewart,
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
Many avid readers of my blog will know that I am quite fond of the book of Hebrews , and for those who are not aware of the book of Hebrews but have plenty of time and the willingness to read a lot of scriptural references, this book provides a good study guide as an introduction to the book of Hebrews. There are a lot of areas where beginners will find a lot to appreciate about this book–short chapters, a generally chronological organization, thematic chapters that have a lot of cross references to many scriptural references that Hebrews has, some useful and thought-provoking discussions about the characteristic language of Hebrews (including the many ways in which Jesus Christ is said to be “better than” someone else, whether angels or Moses or the Levitical priesthood, to name three of the most obvious examples). The book also manages to be honest about its more notable areas of speculation (notably the author and audience of Hebrews), has a good sense of humor in the asking of some mostly rhetorical questions (and in the commentary on those questions and their answers), as well as in its relevance to contemporary American readers.
That is not to say that this book is perfect. The fact that it comes from a clearly Protestant perspective, ignoring the command of fellowship as well as the full understanding of the doctrine of the Sabbath and its pivotal importance in defending seventh-day observance for believers in light of both the historical and prophetic implications of the Sabbath rest, is something that is to be expected. The book is also front-loaded where it spends about 75% of its space talking about the doctrinal implications in Hebrews 1-10 and the last 25% talking about some of the practical implications of the rest of the book in addition to the notes and appendices and charts. For beginning readers who need to recognize how Hebrews fits in with the rest of the Bible, this is not an imbalance that will be problematic. As it is beginning readers who form the intended reading audience of this work, it will be an educational work that ought to be greatly appreciated and that focuses on the Christological implications of the book, which are what gives it its encouraging nature.
To be sure, there are some intriguing ironies about this book. One of the most intriguing is the book’s title. While the subtitle: “It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish” could be viewed as a sign of encouragement (and it certainly was viewed this way by me when I chose to read this book), the way that this particular subtitle is discussed in the book is not as hopeful as might be expected, as it comes in a discussion of the unpardonable sin, the deliberate rejection of Jesus Christ by many of the Jews of Jesus’ day, and the parable of the sower and the seed, which is all far darker of a tone than would be expected. This is one of those books, filled with rather serious commentary, that tends to forget that its titular claims are for encouragement. The fact that this book includes elements of admonition and even rebuke is not necessarily a bad thing (it would be rather hypocritical for me to condemn other people for something that I engage in on a regular basis in my own writing), but readers of this book need to be aware that this is a serious and straightforward work and not all sunshine and smiles. Nevertheless, those who read this book, if they take it seriously, will gain a greater appreciation for the depth and message of Hebrews, as well as its relevance for believers, especially the way in which it critiques then-contemporary Judaism. This is a worthwhile purpose, and a considerable achievement.
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