Felix Cortez’ review of my book has recently appeared on the RBL website. In his critique of my book, he says that I failed to uncover the story world of Hebrews. However, it was not my intent to uncover the entire story world of Hebrews except for that part of the story world which was pertinent to revealing the character of Jesus. The story world of Hebrews also “includes the stories of the OT . . . as well as the story of the community to which the author was writing” as I note on page 204 in my book. Ken Schenck has already attempted to uncover the story world behind Hebrews in his popular introduction Understanding the Book of Hebrews: The Story behind the Sermon. Cortez notes that I trace the characterization of Jesus in the argument of Hebrews, not its story world, in chapter 5 of my book. But I do reconstruct part of the story world of Hebrews in chapter 4 of my book.
Cortez takes issue with some of my reconstruction of the chronology of Jesus’ life. At the time I was writing my dissertation I did associate the cleansing of sins and atonement with Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Certainly there are those who contend that the cleansing of sins and atonement is not completed until after Jesus enters heaven and offers his blood. This interpretation has certainly come to the fore with the publication of David Moffitt’s monograph Atonement and the Logic of Resurrection in the Epistle to the Hebrews. I think Hebrews can lend itself to either interpretation and hence this remains a contested issue in Hebrews’ study.
Cortez, I think, wrongly critiques me on his next point: “it is difficult to understand why the submission of the enemies under Jesus—or submission of all things—is included in the list before his appointment as high priest.” He contends that the submission of enemies should be listed after his appointment as high priest. I, in fact, do not believe that the submission of enemies takes place before his appointment as high priest. As I note before compiling the chronology, “a strict chronological framework is impossible since many of the deeds occur simultaneously” (p. 203). It is impossible to narrative simultaneously deeds that take place simultaneously. If two things happen at the same time, one can only describe one thing and then the other. I connect the submission of Jesus’ enemies with Jesus’ enthronement as king, not with his appointment as high priest. Hence, on page 205 I describe all the events associated with his enthronement first, and then I describe the events associated with his high priesthood second. I do say “simultaneously with his enthronement, Jesus was also appointed as high priest” (p. 205). The submission of enemies takes place after Jesus’ enthronement and his appointment as high priest.
Cortez then remarks in the next sentence: “There is, however, the more fundamental question whether this reconstructed story of Jesus is coterminous with the story behind Hebrews or just a part of it.” I take it, then, that Cortez believes that the story of Jesus is coterminous with the story world of Hebrews. I, however, take the story of Jesus as only part of the larger story world that lies behind Hebrews. His suggestion in the penultimate paragraph certainly points to further avenues for exploration.