Monday, March 30, 2009

In Few Words

Shalders, E. W. “In Few Words: A Note on Hebrews xiii. 22.” Expositor. First Series, 7 (1878): 155-57.

Shalders finds the author’s statement in 13:22 strange: “And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words” (KJV). But there is nothing short about the book of Hebrews, when compared to other letters. Shalders claims that hortatory addresses must be brief to be efficacious.

Shalders takes the expression λογος παρακλησεως to refer, not to the whole book, but to the admonitions in the last chapter. Furthermore, in the phrase δια βραχεων επεστειλα υμιν, the verb επιστελλω should be rendered “to enjoin” or “command”—a meaning that is confirmed by Liddell and Scott. Thus Shalders prefers the following rendering of the verse: “And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation; for I have admonished you in few words” (157).


  1. Could it be that most of Hebrews is a homily, as suggested by Witherington and others, and that the exhortation is an addition to the text, by the author, making it into letter form?

    By the way, how do you like studying at Baylor?

  2. Yes, I have said in some of earlier posts that Hebrews is a homily, but in written form. That is, I don't believe that it was delivered as a homily first before being written down, but was meant to be orally delivered as a homily to the community addressed in the book. I think the last chapter is original to the book (contrary to what some people think). If I may put it this way, as an analogy: the homily proper ends at chapter 12, and then the preacher steps out from behind the pulpit, as it were, and talks to the congregation pastorally in chapter 13 with some scattered exhortations and personal remarks. Of course, the sermon is done in letter form because the author cannot be physically present with the congregation. That is how I envision what is going on in the book.

    Shalders, whose article is summarized here, has a problem with the author's comment that he writes "briefly" to the congregation, since his writing is quite lengthy, so he posits the idea that the "word of exhortation" does not refer to the whole book, but only to the admonitions in the final chapter. It is at least something to ponder.

    Of course, many scholars see the "word of exhortation" as referring to the whole book, and that it was an early term identifying a homily. The same expression is used in Acts 13:15 where a homily or sermon seems to be in view.

    Since you ask, Baylor has been good for me. Although it was not my first choice since there are no specialists in Hebrews here, they have some fine scholars here who have helped make me a better scholar. They specialize in literary approaches and authorial reader approaches and I have found such approaches compatible with my own interests. We are looking forward to the addition of Bruce Longenecker to our faculty in the Fall. Not only is he a top-notch scholar, but he seems like a really great guy. I think with his addition, it will raise Baylor to one of the top-tier programs in NT in the country, in my estimation.

    By the way, thanks for your endorsement of my blog in your blog.