Many people contact me asking for clarification on Hebrews 12, specifically verses 4-6. When read in the English it can appear to condone spanking, or at least punishment, but I’m convinced from my research that it does not. I am still researching this verse and don’t consider what is written here as final or conclusive but I’m hoping this will be a comprehensive answer that will cover it from several angles.
First, I want to clarify some things about Bible Study and Hebrews specifically. It’s important to understand what kind of a genre you’re working with. Some books in the Bible are history, some are wisdom writings, some are poetry, some are prophecies or apocalyptic writings, we have the Gospels and then we have the letters. Hebrews is a letter. That means the author is writing to a specific group of people–Jewish believers.
We have to ask why it was written–to encourage them that their faith in Messiah is secure and reasonable.
We also have to ask by whom it was written–in the case of Hebrews we simply don’t know.
The author makes no claim to authorship so we can only speculate. Some believe it was written by Paul, but it is one of the last books written and doesn’t fit with the progression of maturity and development of ideas in Paul’s letters.
It was likely written by someone attempting to write in the style of Paul which was something done quite regularly at the time and was considered a sign of deep respect for the person who’s style was being copied.
One very interesting thing to note about Hebrews is that the author presents himself and his arguments more as a thesis than a personal letter. In other words he makes most of his points with secondary sources. Like a paper in college he doesn’t make his own arguments and let them stand for themselves but rather cites other Biblical sources to support his ideas and presents his ideas as secondary to the original sources.
This is what we find going on in Hebrews 12:4-6. “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.'”
The author is actually making his point by citing three other Biblical passages so let’s go see what those are in order to understand the point he’s trying to make.