- Locate the passage.
The author begins a new paragraph in Heb 9:15 with the use of oun, left untranslated in the NIV. The rhetorical question in 9:14 and the use of kai and dia touto in 9:15 further serve to mark the beginning of a new paragraph at 9:15. The conclusion of this paragraph at v. 22 is signaled by the use of oun, “then,” again at 9:23 which marks the inception of the final paragraph of Hebrews 9.
Expository. No command forms occur.
- Determine the structure of the text
Hebrews 9:15–28 is the second major section in Hebrews 9, and is composed of the following paragraphs: 15–22, and 23–28.
Hebrews 9:15 is the hinge verse in the entire chapter. It begins the second major paragraph (9:15–28); it is marked by the use of a compound conjunction in Greek; draws a conclusion based on the preceding paragraph: the superiority of the shed blood of Christ with its atoning and cleansing effects; and it is semantically the theme of Heb 9.
- Exegete the passage
The internal structure of 9:15 contains three major propositions. The first is the statement “Christ is the mediator of a new covenant.” This statement functions as a conclusion to 9:1–14. The second proposition provides the result of Christ’s mediation of the new covenant: “those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.” The condition upon which this result is founded is stated in the third proposition: the necessity of Christ’s death to provide atonement.
The central sentence in 9:15 summarizes 9:15–28. Three concepts are stated in 9:15 which are then elaborated in vv. 16–28: Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant, the covenant is established through death, and the death of Jesus brings about the forgiveness of sins.
9:16–18 elaborates on the necessity of death for ratifying the covenant; 9:19–22 elaborates on the necessity of death, sprinkling of blood, and the forgiveness of sins; and 9:23–28 elaborates on how the death of Jesus inaugurates the new covenant and provides forgiveness of sins.
Verses 16–17 contain one of the thorniest interpretative issues in the epistle. Considerable debate exists over whether the translation of diathēkē in 9:16–17 should be rendered as “will/testament” or “covenant.” Consult the commentaries for the evidence both ways.
Hebrews 9:16–17 is one sentence in the Greek text. The introductory particle in Greek functions temporally or circumstantially to the event idea encoded in the noun “covenant.” The meaning of the infinitive “to prove” can be interpreted in three different senses: (1) in the sense of “offering” within a sacrificial context; (2) “to be represented,” or (3) in the sense of “bringing something forward.”
Verse 17 provides the grounds for what was stated in v. 16 as evidenced by the use of the Greek subordinating conjunction gar, “for.”
Hebrews 9:18–22 is a sub-paragraph functioning to provide an example from Exodus to illustrate the necessity of the death of a sacrifice argued in vv. 16–17 which is summarized in v. 22: “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” The unit is straightforward: v. 18 states the old covenant was inaugurated with blood, vv. 19–21summarize the ratification of the covenant according to the ceremony by Moses in Exod 24:1–8, and v. 22 draws two conclusions: the law demands cleansing with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
Hebrews 9:23–28 is the final paragraph of the chapter. The paragraph begins a new topic and is built around three sentences in the Greek New Testament (vv.23, 24–26, 27–28) with a pair of contrasting clauses in each sentence.
Verse 23 is introduced with the discourse marker of prominence in Greek, the conjunction oun, “then,” which could also be translated “consequently” to bring out the conclusion to 9:22. It is possible this connector reaches back to 9:11–12, but it certainly connects to 9:15–22. “It was necessary” is emphatic by word order, being placed at the front of the clause. The notion here is the necessity is grounded in God’s purpose.
Verse 24 restates 9:11–12 and further states a negative reason for the necessity of better sacrifices.
Verse 25 continues the Greek sentence with a hina clause, which if it expresses purpose, necessitates the supplying of the verb “to be.”
Verse 26 continues the argument from the previous verse by drawing a conclusion. It shows the absurdity of the alternative if Christ’s one sacrifice were not sufficient: Christ would have had to suffer and die over and over again.
Verse 27 begins the final sentence of the chapter in the Greek text. Both a comparison as well as the grounds for the following clause is introduced by “just as.”
Verse 28 completes the comparison with “so.” Christ “was sacrificed,” aorist passive participle, indicating something appointed to him with God as the implied agent.
See Neva Miller, The Epistle to the Hebrews: An Analytical and Exegetical Handbook, 257–75; J. Harold Greenlee, Hebrews: An Exegetical Summary, 333–59; and David L. Allen, Hebrews, 474–90, for more detailed exegetical and semantic analysis of the text.
- Let the structure of the text drive the structure of the sermon.
1. 9:15 (Summary statement of 9:15-28.)
(1) 9:18-22 (functions as an example for 9:16-17)
I. 9:23-28 (Draws a conclusion on the basis of 9:15-22.)