Thursday, November 29, 2012

Apostasy in Hebrews

My thanks goes to Michele Ciccarelli who has sent me information regarding a relatively recent article that he published on the subject of apostasy in Hebrews:

M. CICCARELLI, "Un pentimento impossibile. L’apostasia nell’Epistola agli Ebrei e nell’Halakhah mishnaica", in Bibbia e Oriente LII, 245-246 (2010), 171-226.

This study aims at comparing the theme of the sin of apostacy in the Epistle to the Hebrews with the same subject as it is considered in rabbinic literature, especially in halakhic material in the Mishna. The Epistle to the Hebrews considers apostasy from faith as an unforgivable sin (Heb 6:4-6; 10:26-29; 12:17). On the contrary, the Rabbis, although they were concerned about apostates and those who attempted to abandon the covenantal community, strove to show the importance of true repentance as a way by which even an apostate could turn back to the Covenant stipulated by God with the people (Yoma VIII,8; Tos.Yom.Kip. 5,9; b.Sheb. 13a; Pesikta R. Kahana 24,12). The main theme of Hebrews is that there is only one sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, for the perfect salvation of mankind (Heb 7:25.27; 9:27-28; 10:10.12.14). The rhetorical style of the Epistle allows the author to avoid dealing with various cases in which one can obtain forgiveness, and instead to speak about the impossibility of a Christian renewing his/her life after apostasy. The reason for such impossibility is that metanoia is not seen, as in rabbinic writings, as a means to restore the previous purity. On the contrary, it is considered as a penitential process which is completed and finished through adhesion of faith to the unique and once and for all sacrifice of Christ. In other words, faith needs to be upheld and it is important to know that repentance and internal conversion cannot be earned by the individual apart from the salvific mediation of Christ.

Michele Ciccarelli
Pontificia Facoltà dell'Italia Meridionale
Istituto Superiore di Scienze Religiose "G. Moscati" - Avellino

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