Monday, April 21, 2014

Kibbe Reviews McKelvey, Pioneer and Priest

Mike Kibbe reviews R. J. McKelvey, Pioneer and Priest: Jesus Christ in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

I reviewed the book last July here. My review gives a more thorough overview of the book, while Mike's review appears to be more critical than mine. I agree that the book is hard to classify genre-wise; I consider it to be a commentary-like monograph. I also agree that a weakness of the book is the failure to give adequate treatment to chapter 1 of Hebrews. I also agree that I would not use the book as a stand-alone textbook for a course on Hebrews; it would need to be supplemented with additional materials.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Two New Book Reviews

Two additional book reviews should be noted:

Philip Church reviews for RBL: Herbert W. Bateman. Charts on the Book of Hebrews.

Shawn J. Wilhite reviews Rowan Greer. Captain of Our Salvation: A Study in the Patristic Exegesis of Hebrews.

Two New Articles on Hebrews

Two new articles on Hebrews have come out this month:

Michael Kibbe. "Is It Finished? When Did It Start? Hebrews, Priesthood, and Atonement in Biblical, Systematic, and and Historical Perspective." Journal of Theological Studies 65.1 (2014): 25–61.

"Current atonement debates usually revolve around models and metaphors (Christus victor, penal substitution, etc.). However, another lesser-known debate regarding the sequence of the atonement has raged at least since Faustus Socinus argued in 1578 that Christ accomplished atonement not on the cross, but via his post-resurrection appearance and self-offering in heaven. This debate, moreover, has received new life in the recent work of David Moffitt (Atonement and the Logic of the Resurrection in the Epistle to the Hebrews; 2011), who adheres closely to the Socinian view. For those seeking to close the gap between biblical and theological scholarship, both Socinus’s anti-Trinitarian approach and Moffitt’s narrowly historical approach remain problematic even though they present strong arguments for their interpretation of particular texts. What is needed, then, is an appraisal of the Socinian perspective that takes their exegesis seriously but does so in conversation with the broader New Testament witness and its theological implications. This essay puts both exegetical and theological questions on display; it does not attempt to answer all of these questions, but rather suggests a number of ways in which the next phase of the discussion ought to engage them."

In the same issue, Nicholas Moore has a review of Jared Calaway, The Sabbath and the Sanctuary: Access to God in the Letter to the Hebrews and Its Priestly Context. Journal of Theological Studies 65.1 (2014): 236–239.

Nicholas Moore also has an article of his own: "Jesus as "The One Who Entered His Rest': The Christological Reading of Hebrews 4.10." Journal for the Study of the New Testament 36.3 (2014).

"This article argues that in Heb. 4.10 the substantival aorist participle ὁ εἰσελθών should be translated ‘the one who entered’, and that its implied subject is Christ; it further suggests that, understood this way, this verse coheres with Hebrews’ strong emphasis on the completed nature of Christ’s salvic work, expressed in particular with the image of Christ’s enthronement or session using Ps. 110.1. The article thus challenges the view that the rest motif in Heb. 3–4 is purely a ‘sermon illustration’ with no connection to the strong Christology pervading the rest of the letter; additionally it underscores the creativity with which the author expresses the sufciency of the Christ event, and strengthens the proximity of the motifs of entering rest and entering the heavenly sanctuary."

Interview with Bateman about his book on the General Letters

Shaun Tabatt interviews Herbert Bateman about his new book, Interpreting the General Letters: An Exegetical Handbook.

I will add a link to this interview under the Multimedia tab.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Hebrews Highlights March 2014

William Mounce, commenting on Hebrews 13:21, argues that we should respect the parts of speech when translating.

BakerAcademic posted an excerpt of R. Michael Allen's on the topic of Justification in Hebrews.

Ben at Arminian Perspectives queries, Was Jesus Really Tempted in All Points as We Are?

Ken Schenck has some thoughts on Hebrews 1:1–4:13.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

New Selwyn Article Added

Rob Bradshaw continues to do a tremendous work by making available public domain articles for access on the internet. He has recently added the first twenty volumes of the Journal of Theological Studies, which includes this article on Hebrews:

Selwyn, E. C.  "On ΨΗΛΑΦΩΜΕΝΩ  in Heb. XII 18." Journal of Theological Studies 12.45 (Oct 1910): 133–34.

Naturally, I have added a link to this article on my Articles page. I will continue to add new links to articles as I become aware of them.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

R.I.P. Rowan Greer

Rowan Greer, Emeritus Professor at Yale Divinity School, recently passed away. While he was a professor of Anglican studies at Yale, he did make contributions to New Testament studies, particularly The Captain of Our Salvation: A Study in the Patristic Exegesis of Hebrews, published by Mohr in 1973. Yale has an obituary. Another obituary.

Peeler Review of Lamp, Greening of Hebrews?

Review of Biblical Literature has posted a new review by Amy Peeler on Jeffrey S. Lamp's, The Greening of Hebrew?: Ecological Readings in the Letter to the Hebrews.

You may also read my more detailed review and critique of Lamp's book which I did in May of last year.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Congratulations to Mike Kibbe

Congratulations to Mike Kibbe who successfully defended on Friday his dissertation, "Godly Fear or Ungodly Failure? Hebrews 12:18–29 and the Sinai Narratives," at Wheaton College, under the direction of Douglas Moo.


A cursory glance at Hebrews’ critique of Israel’s fear at Sinai in Heb 12:18–29 suggests that the author has misunderstood or manipulated his sources. In the Pentateuch, the appointment of Moses as Israel’s mediator following their unwillingness to stand too close to YHWH receives explicit approval (Deut 5:28), while Heb 12:25 labels that request for mediation a “refusal” to heed the word of God spoken to them from the mountain. In this dissertation I argue that Hebrews’ use of the Sinai narratives resides on a complex trajectory established by four points: the Sinai covenant according to Exodus, the reenactment of that covenant according to Deuteronomy, the call for a new covenant according to Jeremiah, and the present reality of that new covenant established by God and mediated by Jesus Christ.

The basis for Hebrews’ critique arises from its insight that Israel’s request established covenant-from-a-distance, whereas Jesus demonstrates that true covenant mediation brings two parties into a single space rather than perpetually crossing the gap between them. The shortcomings of this arrangement are demonstrated by the golden calf incident; the relationship between this event and the earlier request for a mediator are hinted at in Exodus, made clear in Deuteronomy, and fully exploited in Hebrews.

The purpose for Hebrews’ critique lies in its summons to Zion, the mountain on which Jesus sits at the right hand of God as the forerunner of eschatological humanity and the high priestly mediator of the new covenant. To flee from Zion as Israel fled from Sinai is to reject one’s inheritance as Esau did (12:16–17); it is to deny one’s own sibling relationship to Jesus. Zion is the gateway to the eschaton—the only gateway. Israel’s rejection of God gave way to the making of a new covenant wherein those sins were done away with (9:15), but to reject the new covenant and turn away from its celebration leads not to further provision, but to the wrath of God, the judge of all (12:22) and a consuming fire (12:29).

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Hebrews at Regional SBL Meetings

The following are papers that will be delivered at regional SBL meetings this spring, as far as I can ascertain. I will be attending the Southwest regional meeting.

Midwest Region

Saturday, February 8, 9:00-10:30

Burke 411
Chair: Amy L. B. Peeler, Wheaton College

Carl Mosser, Eastern University (Visiting Scholar, Univ. of Notre Dame)
Synagogue Instruction, “Word of Exhortation,” and the Genre of Hebrews
"Many assert that the phrase “word of exhortation” in Acts 13:15 formally designates a synagogue sermon. Hebrews is commonly identified as a sermon based on the coincidence of this phrase in Hebrews 13:22. However, extant first-century evidence consistently suggests that sermons or homilies were not yet typical forms of synagogue instruction. This paper argues that “word of exhortation” instead refers to a form of prophetic utterance. In Acts it is Paul’s speech which took place after the regular teaching on the Law and Prophets. In Hebrews it likely refers to an oracle
alluded to in 12:25-26, not the epistle itself."

Nicholas A. Elder, Marquette University
The Hortatory and Performative Function of Hebrews 6:4-12
"Hebrews 5:11-6:20, 10:26-39, and 12:25-39 have been labeled second calls for attentive listening, deliberate shifts for refocusing and refreshment, digressions, or respites from a sustained argument. The typographic bias of historical criticism has too often diminished these sections because they are
thought to be reprieves from the rigors of rational argument. In a performative and oral framework, however, hortatory and emotive appeals function as essential rhetorical tools for affecting the audience and causing them to make a decision. This paper argues that the performative function
of Hebrews 6:4-12, far from serving as mere reprieve, is essential to the overall purpose of the text of Hebrews."

Hans Moscicke, Wheaton College
Anti-Imperial Rhetoric in Hebrews 1:5-9
"This paper will examine Heb 1:6 in the broader context of Hebrews 1 as a gateway into the examination of anti-imperial rhetoric via hidden transcripts and figured speech in the Epistle to the Hebrews. I will consider the author’s use of elliptical language in Heb 1:6, such as πρωτότοκος
and οἰκουμένη, and the nature of sonship and adoption in the imperial cult. The aim of the paper is to shed light on the author’s use of elliptical rhetoric aimed against the Emperor’s many exalted roles and titles, not least Pontifex Maximus."

Sunday, February 9, 9:00-10:30

Burke 411
Chair: Amy L. B. Peeler, Wheaton College

Wesley Dingman, Loyola University Chicago
Melchizedek Traditions and Hebrews
"Scholars have long puzzled over the apparent diversity of functions ascribed to Melchizedek in the second temple period. It is often held that the disparate portrayals cannot successfully be integrated to form a coherent whole. But this is not the case. Melchizedek served as a conventionalized warrant for justifying the importance of Jerusalem, its temple, its leaders, and its people. He functioned in this way both for the priests operating the temple and for the community at Qumran. At issue was not if Melchizedek legitimized the priesthood, but which branch of the tribe of Levi was his legitimate heir. Hebrews’ use of Melchizedek therefore constitutes a novel appropriation of Melchizedek."

Lee Zachary Maxey, First Baptist Church, North Chicago
Classical Rhetoric and the Epistle to the Hebrews: The Ergasia of Hebrews 12:4–13
"Over the last twenty years the rhetorical criticism of Hebrews has occasioned a lively scholarly conversation. One of the directions in which this conversation has moved has involved the rhetorical critical readings of shorter units (3–10 verses), and larger constituents within Hebrews (e.g., chs. 3–4, 7, and 11). My presentation aims to contribute to this direction in the conversation by arguing that Hebrews 12:4–13 is an ergasiaor an elaboration of a chreia. Analysis of 12:4–13 as a chreia elaboration will ultimately allow for advancing a set of important conclusions regarding Hebrews and classical rhetoric, Auctor’s education, and his hermeneutical methods."

Pacific Coast Region

Monday, March 31, 1:30-3:00

S31-5 New Testament: Epistles and Apocalypse II
Joseph Hyung S. Lee, Regent College
“‘Yet Once More’ (eti hapax): Exodus and the ‘Shaking’ Use of the Old Testament in Hebrews 12:25–29”

Southeastern Region

Sunday, March 9,  9:00-11:00

New Testament V
Peachtree Room
Theme: Judaism and Hellenism
Annie Tinsley, Shaw University, presiding

Ken Vandergriff, Campbell University
διαθήκην καινήν–New Covenant As Jewish Apocalyptic in Hebrews 8

Southwest Region

Saturday, March 8
Theme: Hebrews and Johannine Traditions
Presiding: James Thompson, Abilene Christian University

1:30 Michael Martin and Ron Guzman, Lubbock Christian University
Is Hebrews 5:11-6:20 Really a Digression?

2:00 Warren Johnson, East Texas Baptist University
A Disciplinary Theodicy in the Epistle to the Hebrews: A Window into the Homiletical Purpose

Colloquy on Hebrews as a Frontier Writing

The Universitè catholique de Louvain is sponsoring an upcoming colloquy on April 7–9, 2014:

L’Épître aux Hébreux comme écrit «à la frontière»

The brochure in French.

English description:
"The Epistle to the Hebrews as a Frontier/Border Writing
The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews produces a “border writing”. Situated at the border between the pagan and Jewish intellectual worlds, the author claims to stand “in these last days” (Heb 1:2), when the old realities he describes as skia, shadow, will be fulfilled in the new world. This may explain why it was somewhat ignored among the texts of the New Testament. He also thinks of himself as a pioneer. He initiates the use of typology and defines the Christian life as a “frontier” life in which, like the patriarchs, we are required to live as “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb 11:13). His writing itself stands at the boundaries of the canon; it only slowly gained acceptance among the books received.

This conference will explore the concepts of border, boundary, and frontier related to Hebrews, not only in the letter itself, but also in its reception.

The meeting will first focus on the definition of Hebrews as a text at the confluence of various cultural worlds: Elaborated in the Diaspora, can the letter/sermon be characterized as a middle course between a so-called “Jewish world” and a so-called “pagan world”? Within the Jewish cultural world, did it really hold a marginal position? Is its nuanced attitude toward the priesthood and the Temple the first step outside Judaism, as it has long been claimed?

Then, we will consider the history of reception. Why did Hebrews stand so long at the boundaries of the canon? How did the Church Fathers and later theologians receive the writing? Today it seems less known and less used than Paul’s letters or the Gospels. Was it always “at the margin”? And what can we say today of the situation of foreigners and pilgrims that the letter assigns to Christians?

This interdisciplinary conference welcomes contributions from biblical scholars, patrologists, historians, theologians, liturgists or other researchers interested in the Letter to the Hebrews. Free communications sessions are organized for young researchers. Contributions may be made in English
or French."

HT: Jordi Cervera

Review of Kuma, Centrality of Blood in the Theology of Hebrews

Review of Biblical Literature has a new review:

Kuma, Hermann V. A. The Centrality of Αιμα (Blood) in the Theology of the Epistle to the Hebrews: An Exegetical and Philological Study. Edwin Mellen Press, 2012. Review by James Harrison

You can also read my review of Kuma's book.

Harrison is more familiar with the scholarship on "blood" than I am, so his review nicely complements my more detailed description of the contents.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Hebrews Highlights February 2014

The Hebrews Highlights for the month of February:

Phillip Long continues his series on Hebrews:
Hebrews 6:4–12 - "It is Impossible . . ." (Part 1)
Hebrews 6:4–12 - "It is Impossible . . ." (Part 2)
Hebrews 7:1–3 - The Priesthood of Melchizedek
Hebrews 7 - Melchizedek and Typology
Hebrews 12:18–29 - Marching to Zion

Peter Head discusses a textual variant in Hebrews 5.6 in P46. He makes a convincing case that in this instance the more difficult reading is NOT to be accepted.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Another New Book on Hebrews on the Horizon

Another book on Hebrews has appeared on the horizon, this one by my Baylor colleague:

Jason A. Whitlark. Resisting Empire: Rethinking the Purpose of the Letter to "the Hebrews." T & T Clark International. Expected: August 28, 2014.

"This book offers a fresh reading about the purpose for which Hebrews was written. It argues that Hebrews engages both the negative pressures (persecution) and positive attractions (honor/prosperity) of its audience's Roman imperial context. Consequently, the audience of Hebrews appears to be in danger of defecting to the pagan imperial context and not the Jewish synagogues as proposed by much of scholarship on Hebrews. Due to the imperial nature of these pressures, Hebrews obliquely critiques the imperial script according to the rhetorical expectations in the first-century Mediterranean world - namely, through the use of figured speech. This critique is the primary focus of Whitlark's project. Whitlark moves to on suggest that Hebrews functions much like Revelation, that is, to resist the draw of the Christians' Roman imperial context, in part, by providing a covert opposition to Roman imperial discourse. He offers a possible explanation for why Hebrews circulated widely in the early Christian movement and makes some suggestions for dating Hebrews and the ethnic/socio-economic make-up of the authorial audience of Hebrews."

Table Of Contents
1. Introduction: Hebrews and Its Imperial Context
2. Rhetoric of Resistance: Figured Speech and the Critique of Imperial Power
3. Resisting Assimilation: The Warning against Idolatry
4. Resisting Assimilation: A Better Hope
5. Resisting Imperial Claims: The Eternal City and Its Ruler
6. Resisting Imperial Claims: Jesus? Defeat of the Devil
7. Resisting Imperial Claims: Jesus? Herculean Labor of Liberation
8. Resisting Imperial Claims: Answering the Theodical Challenge of Flavian Triumph
9. Conclusion

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Two New Books on Hebrews on the Horizon

I have discovered that two new books on Hebrews are on the horizon:

Matthew C. Easter. Faith and the Faithfulness of Jesus in Hebrews. Society for New Testament Monograph Series. Cambridge University Press. Expected: August 31, 2014

"This volume is the first to investigate manifestations of faith in the book of Hebrews across four dimensions: ethical, eschatological, Christological, and ecclesiological. Matthew C. Easter illustrates that two contrasting narrative identities emerge in Hebrews: the author of the epistle proclaims that "we are not of timidity unto destruction, but of faith unto the preservation of the soul" (Hebrews 10:39). Easter classifies the former as the default human story, which lacks faith and results inevitably in death. The latter represents the story of faith, in which one endures suffering to the point of death and thereby achieves eschatological life. The epitome of faithfulness, Jesus confirms the truth of this conclusion and perfects faith through his resurrection. Humans participate in the story of faith by enduring suffering with the traveling people of God and, in doing so, look forward to being raised with Jesus."

Jonathan I. Griffiths. Hebrews and Divine Speech. The Library of New Testament Studies. Bloomsbury T & T Clark. Expected: October 9, 2014.

"The theme of divine speech appears at the opening of the Hebrews (1.1-2) and recurs throughout the book, often in contexts suggesting connections to other areas of scholarly interest (christology, soteriology, cosmology, and the writer’s understanding of the nature of his discourse). This study begins with a consideration of the genre and structure of Hebrews (offering a new structural outline), concluding that Hebrews constitutes the earliest extant complete Christian sermon and consists of a series of Scriptural expositions. The investigation then turns to consider Hebrews’ theology of divine speech through an exegetical analysis of eight key passages. Throughout it examines the widely held (but largely untested) assumption that logos and rhema function as key terms in the author’s presentation of divine speech.

Analysis of the exegetical data shows that Hebrews presents God’s word, which finds full expression in the incarnate Christ, as the central means by which salvation is made available and the place of divine rest is accessed. The study finds that the terms logos and rhema are used with a high degree of consistency to signify forms of divine speech, logos usually signifying verbal revelation (and three times specifically identifying the author’s own discourse) and rhema typically signifying non-verbal revelation in the cosmos. The investigation leads to the ultimate conclusion that the author believes that, through his discourse, he himself communicates that divine word and effects an encounter between his hearers and the God who speaks."

Monday, February 24, 2014

Listen to the Book of Hebrews in Greek

I came across this video in which Anton Tasos reads the Book of Hebrews in Greek:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

My Book Is Now Published!

At the beginning of this month, I received word from Brill that my book, The Characterization of Jesus in the Book of Hebrews, has now been published and is available for purchase.

"In The Characterization of Jesus in the Book of Hebrews Brian Small applies the tools of literary and rhetorical criticism to reconstruct the author of Hebrew’s portrayal of Jesus’ character. The author of Hebrews uses a variety of literary and rhetorical devices in order to develop his characterization of Jesus. The portrait that emerges is that Jesus is a person of exemplary character, who exhibits both divine and human character traits. Some of the traits reveal Jesus’ greatness while others reveal his moral excellence. Jesus’ exemplary character plays a prominent role in the author’s argument and has profound implications for his audience. Jesus’ character produces many benefits for his followers and his character entails certain obligations from his followers."

The book tries to make a contribution to the study of Hebrews in a number of ways:

In chapter 1, I try to situate my study within the context of previous research on Hebrews. In my survey, I tried to include every study that takes a rhetorical or narratival approach to Hebrews. Most of these works are included in the footnotes of the book. Basically, anyone who wants to take a rhetorical or narratival approach to Hebrews will want to consult my book for the works that I include in my survey. I also tried to situate my study within the context of previous christological studies of Hebrews. However, the number of works dealing with Christology in Hebrews was too numerous to include everything. Instead, I tried to outline four basic approaches that have been taken towards the Christology of Hebrews and tried to give representative examples of each.

In chapter 2, I survey the modern literary theory and practice of characterization. I begin with my own definition of character based on my study of literary theory. I then provide a comprehensive survey of the modern literary theory and practice of characterization. My advisor, Mikeal Parsons, told me it was the best survey he has read on the topic. In the chapter I also briefly discuss the ancient literary theory of characterization. I argue that ancient theory of characterization was well-developed not in literary theory, but in rhetorical theory.

In chapter 3, I then develop a comprehensive overview of the theory and practice of characterization in the ancient Greco-Roman rhetorical handbooks, highlighting the various rhetorical techniques that were used in the characterization of persons. Among other things, I argue that Hebrews uses a form of prosopopoiea/ethopoeia when it places Scripture quotations into the mouths of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. While there have been a couple of works that have argued this, no one has made a case for it to the extent that I do in my book. In the course of the chapter I make a modest proposal about the rhetorical genre of Hebrews. At the end of chapter I conclude with a synthesis that shows the affinity between modern literary theory and ancient rhetorical theory and I demonstrate briefly how Hebrews makes use of literary and rhetorical devices in order to characterize Jesus.

In chapter 4, I present a comprehensive reconstruction of the characterization of Jesus in Hebrews. I arrange the chapter according to the relevant encomiastic topics employed by the author of Hebrews. I reveal the portrait of Jesus, highlighting the various character traits that emerge from the assorted techniques employed in Hebrews.

In chapter 5, I explore the role of the author's characterization of Jesus in the overall argument of Hebrews. I engage in a sequential reading of Hebrews indicating how the emerging portrait of Jesus contributes to the development of the author's argument in the book. I conclude with an examination of the signficance of the character of Jesus for the audience. Jesus' character brings many benefits but it also entails many obligations from the audience.

Obviously, it remains for the scholarly guild to decide whether I have been successful in my contribution to the study of the book of Hebrews.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

RIP Daniel Harrington

I got word via Joel Green on Facebook that Daniel Harrington, Professor of NT at Boston College, has passed away. See the obituary and tribute.

Harrington has made contributions to Hebrews studies. He wrote a small commentary on Hebrews for Liturgical Press, and a history of Hebrews research in English, What Are They Saying about the Letter to the Hebrews? for Paulist Press. Of course, he was the author and editor of numerous other books on the New Testament, too numerous to list here.