Two Questions on Hebrews 22:1 and the "Cloud of Witnesses"


#1

I was having a conversation earlier with a friend on Hebrews 22:1 about whether the cloud of witnesses are witnesses because they can see what the church is doing on earth, or whether they are only witnesses in the sense that they are examples for how we should conduct ourselves. I was hoping to get some additional opinions.

1) Do you believe the Old Testament saints here being called a "cloud of witnesses" indicates by itself in context and apart from other books of the Bible that they have knowledge of our affairs on earth, and how does this fit with chapter 11?

A second question arose while I was thinking tonight about the verse.

2) Do you think that there is a deliberate connection between this phrase and what is said in 1 Corinthians 10?

"Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ."


#2

Here’s my article on this. The Intercession & Communion of Saints


#3

[quote="QNDNNDQDCE, post:1, topic:326611"]
I was having a conversation earlier with a friend on Hebrews 22:1 about whether the cloud of witnesses are witnesses because they can see what the church is doing on earth, or whether they are only witnesses in the sense that they are examples for how we should conduct ourselves. I was hoping to get some additional opinions.

1) Do you believe the Old Testament saints here being called a "cloud of witnesses" indicates by itself in context and apart from other books of the Bible that they have knowledge of our affairs on earth, and how does this fit with chapter 11?

[/quote]

The "cloud of witnesses" refers to martyr's (martyr's are said to be baptized in blood), and, well, anyone who is a saint. A cloud is not weighed down, neither is the soul of a man that has been purified and has no sin to weight him down. Paul is teaching us that they are witnesses of Christ, they are sharing in the one Spirit that we all share in, but they have achieved their crown and are sons of God, and that we should look to Christ and avoid sin, is the main lesson here.

[quote="QNDNNDQDCE, post:1, topic:326611"]

A second question arose while I was thinking tonight about the verse.

2) Do you think that there is a deliberate connection between this phrase and what is said in 1 Corinthians 10?

"Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ."

[/quote]

I think that the only connection is the use of the word cloud, to indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit. Here though, no mention of the Witnesses. The lesson here is this: The Jews, St Paul argues, were figuratively baptized when they were hidden by the fiery cloud and passed through the Red Sea, as we are mystically associated by baptism with the passage of Christ through the tomb (Rom. 6.2-4; Col. 3.3). They became, figuratively, communicants when they ate the bread of angels, the manna, and were nourished from the rock, as we are sacramentally nourished from the side of Christ (John 19:34). Baptized communicants, in this figurative sense, they nevertheless fell away from God and incurred his anger. The Corinthians, then, must not think that they, as baptized communicants, are proof against every temptation; they must avoid the occasions of sin, especially that of idolatry.

I think that it would do you some good to read what Saint John of Damascus wrote about the Saints:

newadvent.org/fathers/33044.htm -- scroll down to Chapter 15.


#4

I personally I like the thought of it as an allusion to saints in heaven, but St. Thomas Aquinas, nor Chrysostom, Theodoret, nor the Douay-Rheims Study Bible (I consulted them) made that connection.


#5

[quote="QNDNNDQDCE, post:1, topic:326611"]
I was having a conversation earlier with a friend on Hebrews 22:1 about whether the cloud of witnesses are witnesses because they can see what the church is doing on earth, or whether they are only witnesses in the sense that they are examples for how we should conduct ourselves. I was hoping to get some additional opinions.

1) Do you believe the Old Testament saints here being called a "cloud of witnesses" indicates by itself in context and apart from other books of the Bible that they have knowledge of our affairs on earth, and how does this fit with chapter 11?

[/quote]

In my opinion, yes, I think it does support the doctrine of the Communion of Saints and means that the saints in heaven can see what we are doing on earth. This interpretation has several lines of support. One is the word "witness." It means martyr, that is true, but in the original Greek, martyr includes the meaning of "one who sees." Here he is not speaking of seeing Jesus, but seeing us. Another line of support for the "they see us" interpretation is the other imagery in the context: "let us run the race" -- a spectator sport. A "cloud of witnesses" as we "run the race" puts in mind the image of a crowd of spectators cheering us on and rooting for us. I think that is intentional.

I've also noticed in my own reading of Hebrews 11 that when he speaks of Abel, he says, "By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he received approval as righteous, God bearing witness by accepting his gifts; he died, but through his faith he is still speaking." (Heb. 11:4) -- I think that is a reference to his blood crying out for justice after he died. If the author had said this in the past tense I think everyone would see that. But I don't think that changes just because the apostle used the present tense; I think it merely adds to it that he is STILL crying out for justice for the oppressed, and thus that verse supports the idea that the saints pray for us, and it supports the doctrine of the Communion of Saints generally.

A second question arose while I was thinking tonight about the verse.

2) Do you think that there is a deliberate connection between this phrase and what is said in 1 Corinthians 10?

"Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ."

I don't think so. The only thing they appear to have in common is the word "cloud." But it does suggest the Communion of Saints anyway, because he says they spiritually partook of Christ's spirit in the Old Testament, and that suggests that we are united to them too, since we share in the same Christ.


#6

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