I have just been reading an excellent forthcoming book by Barry Joslin called Hebrews, Christ and the Law - top notch stuff. Anyway, it has compelled me to ask again a question that has bugged me for a while:
What would James think about the book of Hebrews?
Here's the puzzle. Hebrews appears to be very clear that Christ, a high priest in the order of Melchizadek, makes the Levitical priesthood redundant and his sacrifice replaces all the sacrifices of the Temple cult. The impression that one would get is that the coming of Christ brings about a change in the parts of the Law that apply to the cult and that participation in the Jerusalem cult would, in effect, be a denial that Christ had indeed initiated the new covenant.
But our evidence suggests that the earliest Jewish Christ-believers did participate in the Temple rituals including the sacrifices (I include the big names here like Peter, James and, yes even Paul). They did not seem to see any problem with maintaining that Christ's sacrifice was THE sacrifice and participating in the cult (which, one would imagine, they saw as being fulfilled in Christ).
So what would they make of Hebrews? And what would the author of Hebrews make of them? Or could it be that they are actually singing from the same hymn sheet and, if so, how does that work? Any thoughts? Did they think that their ongoing participation in the cult was a temporary and transitional phase? Hmmmmm. I guess that if Jesus has foretold the destruction of the Temple they may well have been aware that things would not go on this way forever but ... Hmmmmm. Help