Today we'll look at a very difficult and controversial passage: Hebrews 6:4-6. As a reminder this blog series is not intended to contribute anything new to the discussion but rather is a survey of the various study Bibles and the notes that are made on those passages. In particular we want to look at passages which allow for more than one interpretation. Hebrews 6 certainly qualifies. The central issue in the debate over this passage is can a genuinely saved person lose their salvation. Five major views have been offered. 1) These are genuinely saved people who do in fact lose their salvation through an act of apostasy. 2) These are genuinely saved people who are not pressing on to maturity and therefore are risking the loss of rewards but not their salvation. 3) The passage is only making a hypothetical warning. No real loss is experienced. 4) The passage is talking about the community as a whole and not individuals. 5) These are not genuinely saved people but rather those who have gone through the motions and have experienced a superficial taste of what it really means to be a Christian. There is no loss of salvation because the people were never saved to begin with. So, how do the study Bibles compare?
For this text I compared the following Bibles: ESV Study Bible, TNIV Study Bible (the notes in this Bible are the same as the NIV Study Bible), NLT Study Bible, NKJV Study Bible, The Life Application Study Bible, The MacArthur Study Bible and The Ryrie Study Bible. The first to note is all these study Bibles come from varying degrees of a Calvinist perspective which leads one to ask don't the Arminians have a study Bible? Well, they certainly don't have the choices that the Calvinists do. A couple that have gone out of print are The Reflecting God Study Bible (which was an adaption of the NIV Study Bible and the old The Wesley Study Bible. There is a new Wesley Study Bible due to come out next year from Cokesbury. Otherwise some have pointed to the Life in the Spirit Study Bible which is Arminian but also Pentecostal. The Society of Evangelical Arminians has a small write up on this Bible and its treatment of election which some will find useful. With that aside let's look at the "Calvinist" study Bibles.
The ESV Study Bible offered the most view points (4). It certainly has the longest note and dedicated a couple of different notes for the passage. It argues heavily for the view that these are not genuine Christians and salvation may not be lost. The TNIV Study and the Ryrie Study Bible name three different views. The former leans in the direction of these being "professing Christians" and the latter, while a bit vague, seems to lean in the direction of the hypothetical view. (This is, in fact, his viewpoint if you check his Basic Theology, p 385-86.) MacArthur presents only one view at the verse itself but offers more discussion in a section called "Interpretive Challenges." In typical MacArthur fashion he states, "There is no possibility of these verses referring to losing salvation." The NLT Study Bible and the Life Application Study Bible offer an interpretation but do not indicate there are other options. The former does say it is "one of the most difficult" passages.
Overall I think the ESV study Bible has the best coverage (from a Calvinistic perspective). The TNIV Study Bible would be my second choice. Let's remember notes are just that--notes, not dissertations. While it is nice when a study Bible offers a little lengthier note (as in this case with the ESV) that is not always possible. If a note at least alerts the reader of interpretive options then they can pursue further study if so desired. Those that offered only one interpretation (NLT Study Bible and Life Application) would be last on my list. What about Ryrie and MacArthur? I understand that in these notes I'm getting the author's unique perspective. I don't expect them to give alternate views although I think it is nice when they do.
Next week we'll look at I Tim 2:12 and the issue of women in the church.