Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Rare Find On Ebay

Yesterday I had a nice little package awaiting me in my mail box when I got home: It is a book entitled, The Epistle to the Hebrews; Being the Substance of Three Lectures Delivered in the Chapel of the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn, on the Foundation of Bishop Warburton. With a Preface Containing A Review of Mr. Newman's Theory of Development by Frederick Denison Maurice, who was chaplain of Guy's Hospital, and one of the Professors of Divinity in King's College, London. It is a rare book dating from 1846. The book shows considerable wear on the exterior and the covers are loose enough that they could probably come off with a good yank, but the interior is still remarkably intact. The book is a little unusual: the preface, being 124 pages, is longer than the main contents of the book--the three lectures--which only comes to 96 pages! I found the book on ebay and only paid $2.50 plus shipping. Quite a steal, in my estimation, for such a rare book!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

This Week on the Book of Hebrews

Alan Knox reflects upon Hebrews 10:19-25 in his posting A reminder of our priesthood from Hebrews. He believes that the phrase "with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water" refers not to baptism, but to the cleansing and consecration rites of the priests in the OT. In the new covenant era we are able to approach God as priests through the cleansing and consecrating he brings.

Tommy Wasserman reports that he is working on A Commentary on Hebrews for the Swedish commentary series, Nya Testamentets Budskap (NTB). He asks the question, "If you were to choose one text-critical problem of exegetical significance in Hebrews what would you pick?" See the discussion regarding this question.

The Bibbiablog has a blurb on the new book by Clare Rothschild, Hebrews as Pseudepigraphon.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Crosby on Hebrews 10:26-27

Crosby, Howard. "Heb. x. 26-27." Journal of the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis 7 (Dec 1887): 1-2.

Howard Crosby (1826-1891) was appointed professor of Greek at New York University in 1851 and at Rutgers College in 1859. He was chancellor of New York University, 1870-1881. He was also a Presbyterian minister, serving churches in Brunswick, NJ and in NYC.

Crosby takes issue with the KJV translation of Hebrews 10:26-27 which reads as follows:

"For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries."

First, "judgment" (κρισεως) and "indignation" (ζη should not be coordinated. Instead "the fearful looking for" should be paralleled with "indignation" (since both are in the nominative case).

Second, he doesn't like the use of the word "certain" in this context since readers would regard it as a translation of βεβαια rather than τις.

Third, Crosby believes that both "fire" and "judgment" are personified. It is not humans who expect judgment, the expectation belongs to judgment. In the same way, fire seeks to devour its victims. Crosby states, "We thus have two contrasted pictures. On one side is the sacrifice for sins burning on the altar, and on the other is stern judgment waiting to strike, and the penal fire (not the altar's fire) crouching like a tiger to spring upon its victim."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Another Article on Hebrews 9:16-17

Keating, H. S. “On Hebrews ix. 16, 17.” Expositor. Third Series, 4 (1886): 240.

Here is another article on this hotly contested passage. In contrast to the previous two articles I reviewed (Purton; Gardiner), Keating takes the meaning of διαθηκη in Hebrew 9:16-17 to be testament. He argues that the Jews got the idea from the Romans.

According to Keating, the paterfamilias sold his family and estate to a trusted friend (called the heres) who would carry out his wishes after his death. The heres “was looked upon not merely as a distributor of goods, but as the purchaser and master of the family.” Keating suggests the following interpretation:

“By the first διαθηκη the Hebrews were purchased and became the bondsmen of the Law . . . but by a new διαθηκη our Lord purchased them with His blood (Acts xx. 28), as the heres . . . purchased the inheritance, and having thus purchased the inheritance of the Law, became the new master of the bondsmen of the Law, and the mediator, or executor of a new dispensation. But inasmuch as the right of the heres can only come into operation after the death of the testator (the Law), it is evident that, if the new dispensation has begun, the Law is dead and is no longer their master.”

Keating’s article is very brief and so he doesn’t expound on how this conception fits into the larger argument of Hebrews 9. Does the author of Hebrews have such a conception about the law? But, more damaging, there appears to be something self-contradictory about this interpretation. If the Lord in fact purchases them by His blood, then he purchases them by His death, but Keating says that the testator (the Law) also dies. So, both the testator and the executor have to die to carry out the will? It may be that the audience of Hebrews was familiar with Roman wills, but Keating’s particular articulation of how this works in Hebrews doesn’t seem to jive with the larger context.

On the Use of Kai in Hebrews 10:38

Goodwin, D. R. “On the Use of kai, in Hebrews x. 38.” Journal of the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis 5 (1885): 84-85.

In this brief article Goodwin argues that και in Hebrews 10:38 is not part of the author’s quotation from Hab 2:4 LXX. Instead the author quotes Hab 2:4 as two independent statements, separated by και and transposing the order. Thus the author of Hebrews is not furnishing a new subject, ο δικαιος, for υποστειληται; he is simply contrasting those who have faith with those who draw back.

I think the analysis is absolutely correct. In 2:12-13 the author also uses και to split a quotation, from Isaiah 8:17-18, thus making it into two different statements (although he does not transpose the order as he does in 10:38).

What Does a Non-Bishop Oversee?

Alan Knox has a posting on the meaning of επισκοπεω in Hebrews 12:15. He says that in the context the word means "to show vigilant concern."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hebrews at the International SBL Meeting in Rome

It looks like this year's international SBL meeting in Rome has a number of interesting papers on Hebrews. The presentations are listed below, along with the dates and times. Click on the titles for the abstracts. Now I want to go!

Methods in New Testament Studies
8:30 AM to 12:00 PM

Matthew Easter, University of OtagoMatthew Easter, University of Otago

Toward a Theological-Narratival Reading of the Epistle to the Hebrews

Relevance Theory and Biblical Interpretation
8:30 AM to 11:30 AM

Margaret Sim, SIL
Kaiper as a Necessary Constraint on Relevance: A Study of Hebrews 5:8; 7:5; et alia

Pastoral and Catholic Epistles
1:30 PM to 3:00 PM

Felix H. Cortez, Universidad de Montemorelos
“Partakers of Christ”: Davidic Traditions and the relationship between the Son and the sons in Hebrews

Eric F. Mason, Judson University
The Conception of the Heavenly Sanctuary in Hebrews: Literal or Metaphorical?

Biblical Interpretation in Early Christianity
8:30 AM to 11:15 AM

Theme: Hebrews in Early Christian Interpretation
Dan Batovici, University of Bucharest, Presiding

Stephen O. Presley, University of St. Andrews-Scotland
The Speaking God in Hebrews 1 and Early Christianity

D. Jeffrey Bingham, Dallas Theological Seminary
Irenaeus and Hebrews

Kevin Hill, Durham University
'Partakers of the Holy Spirit': Athanasius' Pneumatological Exegesis of Hebrews 6:4

Paul A. Hartog, Faith Baptist Theological Seminary
Charis, Choris, and a Chorus of Patristic Interpreters of Hebrews 2:9

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Diatheke in Hebrews 9:16-17

Gardiner, Frederic. On διαθηκη in Heb. ix. 16, 17." Journal of the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis 5 (1885): 8-19.

Frederic Gardiner (1822-1889) was an American Episcopal clergyman. He became professor of the literature and interpretation of scripture at Gambier (Ohio) Theological Seminary in 1865, professor of OT language and literature in Berkeley Divinity School (Middletown, Conn.) in 1867, and professor of NT interpretation and literature in 1883, also at Berkeley. In 1880 he founded the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis and was the first editor of its journal, 1880-1883, and served as its president, 1887-1889.

The term διαθηκη in Hebrews 9:16-17 has been alternatively rendered as testament or covenant in various English translations. Commentators are equally divided over the meaning of the term in this passage. Gardiner attempts to resolve this difficult problem, arguing that διαθηκη is best rendered as covenant.

Gardiner first looks at the surrounding verses of the passage. He believes that διαθηκη in verse 15 is best rendered as covenant. He gives several reasons for this conclusion: 1) διαθηκης καινης is the ordinary scriptural designation for the Christian dispensation, 2) the term μεσιτης requires the sense of covenant, 3) πρωτη διαθηκη is never used of will, but of covenant, 4) “inheritance” is always used in respect of humanity, never of God, 5) the idea of a will as the disposition of property after one’s death was a foreign idea to ancient Israelites, 6) the author of Hebrews obviously has the new covenant of Jeremiah 31 in mind, and 7) the sanction of the old covenant by blood in Exodus 24:5-8 is especially in view in 9:18-20.

In Classical Greek the term διαθηκη usually referred to a testament or will—the disposition of property by the owner after his death—although on occasion it could mean covenant. In Koine Greek the term usually meant covenant (e.g., Philo). The LXX uses διαθηκη as the translation of ברת and always was used in the sense of covenant. In the majority of the passages in the NT the meaning is clearly covenant.

Proceeding to verses 18-20, Gardiner points out that this these verses refer to Exodus 24 in which the covenant is sanctioned with blood. Here the meaning of διαθηκη can only mean covenant.

In verse 16 the phrase οπου γαρ διαθηκη clearly indicates that διαθηκη must have the same sense as the previous verse. Likewise, in verse 18 the connective οθεν clearly points back to the previous verses. Therefore, in order for the passage to make sense, διαθηκη must be consistently construed as covenant.

There are some terms in these two verses that some say require the meaning of testament. There is the mention of the death of the διαθεμενοι, and the διαθηκη is in force επι νεκροις. These are the two crucial expressions that must be explored. The verb διατιθημι is frequently used in conjunction with διαθηκη in the LXX and it always is in the context of making a covenant. The LXX overwhelmingly translates the Hebrew term כרת as διαθηκη. It always means covenant; it never refers to a will. The term νεκροις must essentially refer to the same thing as the διαθεμονος. The plural noun νεκροις poses problems for those favoring the rendering testament, for there can only be one testator for one testament. This problem is lessened, according to Gardiner, if the sense were covenant.

Gardiner concludes that the term διαθεμονος must refer to the victim who “makes” (i.e., ratifies or confirms) the covenant. Although he acknowledges that this usage is unusual, it poses less problems than the translation testament, and it makes perfectly good sense within the larger context. In verse 15 Christ is spoken of as the mediator and the sin-offering of the new covenant. These ideas are reiterated towards the end of the same chapter. Thus, this double idea must apply to verses 16-17 as well. Christ is both the mediator of the covenant and the sacrificial victim whose death ratifies the covenant.

I think that Gardiner makes a very persuasive case that we must construe διαθηκη as covenant consistently throughout the whole of chapter 9 in Hebrews.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

William Robertson Smith on Christ and the Angels

Smith, W. Robertson. “Christ and the Angels: Hebrews 1.” Expositor. Second Series, 1 (1881): 25-33.

Smith, W. Robertson. “Christ and the Angels: Hebrews ii. 1-9.” Expositor. Second Series, 1 (1881): 138-47.

Smith, W. Robertson. “Christ and the Angels: Hebrews ii. 11-17.” Expositor. Second Series, 3 (1882): 63-79.

Smith, W. Robertson. “Christ and the Angels: Hebrews ii. Ver. 17, 18.” Expositor. Second Series, 3 (1882): 128-39.

William Robertson Smith (1846-1894) was a Scottish orientalist, Old Testament scholar, professor of divinity, and minister of the Free Church of Scotland. He taught at Aberdeen Free Church College, 1870-1881, and Cambridge University, 1883-1894. In 1887 he became the editor of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. A brief biography may be found here.

Smith’s series of essays deals with Hebrews’ argument that Christ is superior to the angels. According to Smith, chapter 1 deals with two aspects of Christ’s person: 1) metaphysical – that which “belongs to Christ already in his preexistence” and 2) historical – “what pertains to Him only as historically manifested and glorified” (26). Smith sets out to explore which statements pertain to his eternal preexistence and which pertain to his historical exaltation.

Two points are clear to Smith: 1) Christ attains superior status to the angels at his exaltation to the right hand of God. This is evident from the fact that the angels worship him at his second coming (1:6) and that Christ was temporarily subordinate to the angels (chap. 2). For Smith, then, the adjective κρειττων refers not to “natural” but “official” superiority (27). Christ’s exaltation endows him with dignity which is consonant with the name of Son, but it also has soteriological significance. 2) Christ’s Sonship does not begin at his exaltation, but is eternally inherent in his person.

Christ’s eternal preexistence is clearly indicated in the statement that he is the effulgence or radiance of God’s glory, and that he is the impress of God’s hypostatic being. These statements point in the direction of the doctrine of eternal generation—a generation that is “not before time but in the eternal NOW” (28). The statement that Christ upholds all things by his mighty word also points to his preexistent status.

Smith then raises the question, “When was the Son constituted heir of all things?” Was it at his exaltation or did it belong to him from eternity? Was it his “metaphysical prerogative” or is it “dispensational, having a relation to his work of redemption?” Smith believes that Christ’s heirship is related to Christ’s work of salvation, which is closely connected to his exaltation to the right hand of God (28; cf. Rom 8:17; Eph 1:20-22).

Smith’s final question is, “What is conferred on Christ at his exaltation which He had not before?” Smith’s answer is that Christ becomes superior to the angels, not in terms of his ontological status, but in terms of his relation towards the created order. Hebrews’ argument is based not on Christ’s “personal dignity” but on the “dignity of function in the administration of the economy of salvation” (29). This thesis then becomes the starting point for chapter 2. The intervening verses merely illustrate and reinforce the author’s main thesis.

Quotations from the OT are applied to Christ without any apparent need for justification; they would have been readily accepted as Messianic by his audience. For example, the author does not attempt to defend his assertion that creation was the work of the preexistent Christ (1:10-12), since precedents were already found in Jewish thought. What the author does set out to prove is that the Son is superior in name and office to the angels. Angels were held in high regard in many Jewish circles and were often seen as deeply involved in the creation of humanity. Angels were sometimes worshipped, and some even considered Christ an angel.

So, the author of Hebrews argues that angels could not be addressed in Psalm 2:7, and that the subordination of the angels to Christ at his second coming is predicted in Psalm 97:7. He then proceeds to characterize angels in OT language demonstrating the superior of Christ: angels are physical, mutable, and earthly; Christ is spiritual, eternal, and heavenly. Angels are identified with winds and flaming fire, suggesting an unstable and ephemeral existence. On the other hand, Christ is immutable. In conclusion, the author contrasts the exalted royal dignity of Christ with the servile roles of the angels (1:13-14).

In the second article, Smith notes that the author’s use of Psalm 8 is the key to understanding 2:5-9. The author plays off the paradox contained in the antithesis between two statements: “Thou hast made him for a little while lower than the angels” and “Thou hast put all things under his feet” (138). Here is the doctrine of the temporary subordination of humanity to the angels, followed by their permanent elevation over the angels. Smith notes that this is supported by the author’s interpreting βραχυ τι of the LXX in a temporal sense.

As noted in the first article, Hebrews declares that Christ is exalted above the angels. The author focuses upon the angels because of the belief that the Mosaic Law was mediated by angels (cf. also Gal 3:19; Acts 7:38, 53). The basis for this belief is found in such passages as the LXX version of Deut 33:2 (where angels are said to accompany God at Sinai), and Psalm 68:17 (the myriad chariots of God are the angelic host, cf. 2 Kings 6:17). Often theophanies in the OT are accompanied by heavenly hosts, either by chariots and horses (Hab 3:8; Isa 66:15) or without a metaphor (Zech 14:5; Joel 3:11).

In the OT, no theophany is a direct manifestation of God. God’s presence must be mediated to humanity, since no one can see God and live (Exod 33:20). God’s presence is often accompanied by fiery brightness, but as Smith notes, Psalm 104:4 indicates that fire of the theophany may also be a form of angelic manifestation. Smith declares that “to say that God appeared on Sinai in fire, and to say that He appeared surrounded by the angelic host, is just to say the same thing in two different ways” (140). Angels are the agents of God’s presence (see Exod 3:2, 4; Isa 63:9; Josh 5:14ff.; Gen 18; compare Exod 33:20 with 34:10). Thus in Heb 2:2 the angels are regarded as God’s “authoritative agents, every act of disobedience to their word being followed by a just recompense of reward” (141).

In the Old Covenant, since humanity is unable to have direct access to God, angels functioned as intermediaries. This underscores the limitations of the Old Covenant for the author of Hebrews. The abolition of the Old Covenant allows for the emancipation of humanity from subordination to the angels. Psalm 8 provides proof that subordination is inconsistent with humanity’s ultimate destiny to have dominion over all creation. Humans are inferior to the angels, not by their nature, but by their office. But the author of Hebrews notes that we do not yet see all things put into subjection under humanity (2:8). This is where Jesus comes in: he shared human nature in order to win humanity’s destined glory; the blessings of the world to come are earned for humanity by Jesus.

Smith demonstrates that the expression “made less than the angels” finds equivalent expressions in the Pauline letters. In Galatians 3-4 Paul says that humans are “under the law.” This law came through the agency of angels (Gal 3:19). Christ was born “under the law” in order to redeem humanity which was enslaved to the law. Likewise, Paul talks about bondage to the “elemental things” (στοιχεια; cf Gal 4:3, 9). In the context of Colossians 2 (especially verse 8, 20), these “elemental things” appear to refer to cosmic forces which include angels. Worship of angels is forbidden (2:18). Moreover, it states that God has thrown off the angelic authorities and powers and “made an open display of triumph over them in Christ” (147). The Old Covenant in which angels mediated the law is now superseded by the new dispensation in which Christ breaks the bondage of the law.

In the remaining two articles Smith resorts to a more traditional verse-by-verse exposition. For verse 11 Smith expounds at length on the topic of sanctification. The NT borrows the idea of sanctification from the OT in which it primarily belongs to the realm of worship. Believers are holy by the fact that they are set aside as worshippers of God, not as moral agents. In the NT Christians are acknowledged as “holy” because they replace the OT people as the worshipping people of God.

In Hebrews sanctification is the purification of the worshipper for his religious service (9:13-14; cf. 10:2). Christ sanctifies the believer through his own blood (10: 10, 14, 29; 13:12) so that the believer may approach God (as a worshipper) with a clean conscience (10:19-22). The nature of worship that the sanctified believer performs is one of thankfulness (12:28; 13:15-16) and loving obedience (6:10). Christian service also has a moral aspect in which the believer draws near to God to share in His holiness (12:10, 14) and to pursue peace with all people.

The quotations of verses 12-13 demonstrate Christ’s identification with humanity. The quotation from Isaiah 8:17-18 is divided into two to emphasize two distinct points: Christ associates with the children given him by God and he associates with them in the act of faith.

In verse 14 the statement that Christ partook of “flesh and blood” indicates that he took on physical human nature in order that he might experience death. The days of his flesh (5:7) refers to his earthly struggles and suffering. But in his glorified state he no longer partakes of flesh and blood.

Smith explains that verses 14b-15 refers to Christ’s victory over the devil or the fear of death. The devil is the accuser whose business is to remind God of the sins of His people. The fear of death refers to the fear that God will reject the believer and visit upon him his sins. By experiencing mortality and death Jesus removes the fear that death is not the sign of separation from God’s grace. In the OT the fear of death was often associated with the approach of an impure worshipper before God (Num 17:13). It was the priest’s job to attend to the obligations of the tabernacle so that the wrath of God would not fall upon the people of Israel (Num 18:5). Thus, verses 16-17 give another reason for Jesus’ incarnation and passion: Jesus must become like his brethren in order to become an adequate high priest before God.

In the fourth and final article, Smith completes his exegesis of verses 17-18. He notes that it is the function of the high priest to make propitiation for the sins of the people. Doubtlessly, the author has the image of the Day of Atonement in mind.

In order to become an effective high priest Jesus had to become like his brethren (cf. 5:1). The author of Hebrews, however, emphasizes qualifications that transcended the OT priesthood. Jesus is merciful (ελεημων) and trustworthy and loyal (πιστος) in the discharge of his duty, qualities that the OT priests failed to exhibit.

Verse 18 has two possible renderings: the first is “For inasmuch as He hath suffered, having Himself been tempted, He is able to succor those that are tempted”; the second is “For having Himself been tempted in what He suffered He is able ….” Smith explains, “On the one interpretation, temptation is viewed as a painful experience; on the other, the pains of human life are presented as occasions of temptation” (132). Smith prefers the first option, “for certainly not every temptation arises out of the painful experiences of life; yet we know that Jesus was in all points tempted like as we are yet without sin” (4:15). Smith believes that Christ’s temptation must be viewed “in connection with his moral vocation as Author of our salvation” (133). Christ’s life is one of lifelong self-renunciation; his life was a constant struggle between “self-conservation and self-development” versus “the interests of God’s will and kingdom” (134).

Christ’s experience of temptation enables him to come to the aid of those who are under temptation. Christ helps believers, not by removing the decision to commit temptation, but by enabling believers, through moral sympathy, to conquer temptation for themselves. But Christ also aids believers by atoning for their sins. The New Covenant as promised in Jeremiah (cf. Heb 10:16-17) comes to fulfillment in the believer whenever he approaches God with the confidence of the forgiveness of sins along with the expectation of moral transformation of his heart according to the law.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Hebrews in the Blogosphere

Charles Savelle on his blog Bible X informs us that Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has posted audio sessions from the 2009 Expository Preaching Workshop. In particular, David Allen has a session on "Preaching the Difficult Passages of Scripture - Hebrews 6:1-6." In short, he argues that the passage is not dealing with salvation, but Christian maturity.

Alan Knox offers a brief reflection on the necessity of mutuality based on his research on the theology of encouragement in Hebrews.

Michael Bird gives a Good Friday meditation on Hebrews 2 using the analogy of tasting tabasco sauce.

A number of blogs have been noting that SAGE publications is offering free access to all their journals until May 31. There are a number of articles and book reviews on Hebrews that are available. I will not list them here since free access is only temporary, but a simple search will easily find them.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Habakkuk 2:4 in Hebrews 10:38

I have decided to note new postings on Hebrews only once a week, but this past week Hebrews has not gotten much discussion in the blogosphere. Last week Brian Leport on his relatively new blog, Near Emmaus, has a brief discussion on the quotation of Habakkuk 2:4 in Hebrews 10:38.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

New Arrival from Germany

I just received this new arrival in the mail from Germany:

Heinrich Appel, Der Hebraerbrief: Ein Schreiben des Apollos an Judenchristen der korinthischen Gemeinde. Leipzig: Deichert, 1918.

I think the title makes it pretty explicit where he stands.

New Book from Mohr Siebeck

I received a catalog from Mohr Siebeck in the mail today and noticed the announcement of a new book on Hebrews:

Susan E. Docherty, The Use of the Old Testament in Hebrews: A Case Study in Early Jewish Bible Interpretation.

The blurb in the catalog reads as follows:

"Susan Docherty argues that the Letter to the Hebrews can be better understood if it read as an example of first century Jewish biblical interpretation, taking seriously the fact that it was written before the so-called "parting of the ways". Her study applies to key sections of Hebrews some of the highly sophisticated contemporary approaches to analyzing the exegetical techniques present in the Jewish midrashim, in order to provide a new and more precise explanation of the interpretative techniques at work in Hebrews, and of the often neglected question of the author's underlying axioms about the nature of scripture."