Saturday, April 20, 2013

Hebrews at the International Meeting of the SBL

The international meeting of the SBL this year is at St. Andrews from July 7 to July 11.  It looks like a nice slate of papers on Hebrews this year:

Biblical Characters in the Three Traditions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam)
9:00 AM to 12:00 PM

Felix H. Cortez, Universidad de Montemorelos
Not All Comparisons Are Created Equal: Moses and Aaron as Types of Jesus in the Letter to the Hebrews (25 min)

"The Letter to the Hebrews compares Jesus to both Moses and Aaron and these comparisons are the cornerstone of its argument. It is often considered a truism that Jesus is both a new Moses who inaugurated the new covenant with its heavenly sanctuary and heavenly priestly order and a new Aaron who has offered a more excellent sacrifice to provide cleansing for believers. But, is Jesus both a Moses and an Aaron figure at the same time? Is his sacrifice both the inauguration of the New Covenant and a greater or final Day of Atonement? I will argue that not all comparisons are created equal—especially in Hebrews—and that the comparisons to Moses and Aaron in Hebrews are of different nature and serve different purposes. A better understanding of these comparisons would illuminate the relationship of Christianity as expressed in Hebrews to the traditions contained in the Hebrew Scriptures."

Bible and Syriac Studies in Context
3:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Theme: Syriac Perspectives on Scripture

Joshua Falconer, University of Oxford
The Dominion of Death in The Syriac Tradition of Heb 2:16 (25 min)

"In the Syriac version of Hebrews 2:16, there is a remarkable variant that apparently does not have any Greek precedent. The Greek version of this passage is usually translated, ‘For clearly he did not take on [him the nature of] angels; but he took on [him] the seed of Abraham.’ But the Syriac version has, ‘For it was not over angels that death had authority, but over the seed of Abraham it had authority.’ This variant appears in the earliest Syriac manuscripts dating to the fifth to sixth centuries where the passage is preserved. Because of its antiquity, unusual character and contextual coherence, Gwilliam and Pinkerton regarded it as the earlier Peshitta reading in their 1920 edition, and Michael Gudorf’s 1992 dissertation on Peshitta Hebrews also concluded that it must be the earliest reading for similar reasons. However, there are serious reasons to reconsider the variant, as will be shown by this new research of the external and internal evidence. This paper therefore poses the following questions: What can we know about the inception and early reception of this strange variant? Which of the Peshitta variants is earlier? How does it relate to other variants in the Syriac tradition? Finally, what does this information tell us about the early character of the Peshitta text? Modeled after Sebastian Brock’s 1985 investigation of Hebrews 2:9b, this contribution may be considered on its own or as a companion piece to Brock’s study. In the end, it proposes the possibility that Hebrews 2:9 and 2:16, along with several related passages in the Syriac tradition, may be linked to one or more systematic revisions with Christological underpinnings, recognizable by their common ‘Theopaschite’ readings, and indicating that the Peshitta may not be so consistent across Western and Eastern lines after all."

Epistle to the Hebrews
9:00 AM to 12:00 PM

Theme: Interpretative Issues in Hebrews 8-10
Eric F. Mason, Judson University, Presiding

David M. Moffitt, Campbell University
Exploring Jesus’ High-Priestly Service in Heb 8–10: A Survey of Contemporary Debates (35 min) 

"The nature, location, and particulars of Jesus’ high-priestly service and the ways these issues relate to Hebrews’ understanding of the New Covenant continue to be matters actively discussed in the secondary literature. This paper will survey a number of recent publications on Hebrews relating to these topics. The goal of the paper is two-fold: 1) to identify approaches that appear to provide innovative and positive ways to advance the debates, and 2) to introduce some common points of reference to help guide the Consultation’s discussion on this central section of this enigmatic text."

Grant Macaskill, University of St. Andrews
Hebrews 8–10 and New Testament Apocalyptic Theology: Generic and Conceptual Issues (35 min)

"The ‘apocalyptic’ character of the Epistle to the Hebrews has been the focus of much recent research into the book. Specialists in Jewish apocalyptic writings (e.g., Rowland/Morray Jones) have seen the imagery of the heavenly temple, and the designation of Jesus as the high priest over this sanctuary, as reflecting the Jewish mystical traditions attested in apocalyptic writing. This has allowed detailed study of the epistle to locate it conceptually in relation to apocalyptic Judaism, facilitating correctives to those readings that understand the book to reflect Platonic conceptuality. This has implications for our understanding of the ontology of the covenant mediator in chapters 8-10, whose real physical humanity must be maintained, even in his heavenly role. It also, however, means that Hebrews bears distinctive witness to an apocalyptic dimension in early Christian theology, which provides important context to the discussions of apocalyptic theology in other New Testament writers, notably Paul. The extent to which Hebrews maintains the role of covenant as a central component of its apocalyptic schema, and does so with a particular representation of the activity of faith, must be allowed to speak to the Pauline discussion, all the more so when the two bodies of writing are seen to share a construal of the Incarnation. This paper will trace the significance of the apocalyptic parallels for the proper reading of Hebrews before bringing the findings to bear on the discussions of apocalyptic theology in Pauline scholarship. We will note significant conceptual overlaps between the bodies of writings, suggesting substantial continuity of theology (a ‘family resemblance’), which supports the view that Paul’s apocalyptic account, centred on the Christ-event, also locates itself in relation to the covenants between God and Israel, according to an eschatological scenario that is more complex than the commonly assumed ‘two-ages’ scenario."

Georg Gäbel, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
What’s So Interesting about Old Furniture? Israel’s Desert Tabernacle According to Heb 9:1-5, or How (Not) to Approach the Divine Presence (25 min)

"This paper will explore the way in which Hebrews uses a brief description of Israel’s desert tabernacle in Heb 9:1-5 to lay the ground for the subsequent critique of the cult performed on earth and for the description of the cultic performance of the heavenly High Priest. Special attention will be payed to early Jewish traditions relating to some of the furnishings of the tabernacle mentioned in Heb 9:1-5, both in the Hebrew Bible and in parabiblical and related literature."

Nicholas J. Moore, Keble College, University of Oxford
From "Hapax" to "Ephapax": Singularity and Repetition in Covenants Old and New in Heb 9 (25 min)

"The argument of the Letter to the Hebrews regarding the finality and sufficiency of Christ’s death as a sacrifice of atonement for God’s people depends in part upon a contrast with the repetition of sacrifices in the tabernacle cult (cf. esp. Heb 7.23-28; 9.23-10.14); such repetition is taken to reveal their inefficacy (Heb 10.1-4). This deployment of repetition is often associated with – indeed, to a large extent it underlies – Christian (and especially Protestant) denigration of repetition as characteristic of pointless, ineffectual ritual, whether in the old covenant cultus, medieval Roman Catholic worship, or elsewhere. Focussing particularly on Heb 9.1-14, 23-28, this paper argues in contrast to this tradition that repetition has a more variegated role, and does not exist in simple opposition to singularity in the letter. Firstly the complex and nuanced function of repetition within Hebrews, including its various constructive roles, is established; in the light of this, it is argued that a positive function for repetition obtains in Heb 9.6. Secondly, on the basis of the typological relationship between the high priest’s single entry into the inner sanctuary on Yom Kippur and Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice it is suggested that Hebrews finds precedent for the singularity and particularity of atoning sacrifice precisely within and not in opposition to tabernacle worship. Drawing these two points together, it is argued that the intricate comparative structure of Heb 9.1-14 presents both the high priest’s singular entry and the priests’ repeated activity – and therefore the tabernacle cult as a whole – as adumbrations of what is now fully realized in Christ. The paper thus demonstrates that repetition and singularity have a polyvalent rather than a uniform function within Hebrews, and in so doing aims to contribute to current re-examination of received traditions of reading the letter."

Benjamin J. Ribbens, Wheaton College (Illinois)
The Positive Functions of Levitical Sacrifice in Hebrews (25 min)

"Scholars typically assume that the author of Hebrews strips the levitical sacrifices of any efficacy and sees them as merely external rituals that were unable to address the problem of sin. This paper will challenge this presiding assumption. Every first-century reader of the Septuagint understood that sacrifice achieved atonement, forgiveness, and purification, so that the author of Hebrews does not need to highlight this basic understanding of levitical sacrifice. Rather, such a positive understanding of the levitical sacrifices permeates the author’s thinking. The levitical sacrifices were offered according to the law (8:4; 10:8), which attributed them efficacy. The author repeatedly notes that the sacrifices were for sins (5:1, 3; 7:27; 9:7; 13:11), and he works with the assumption that the old covenant sacrifices achieved forgiveness (9:22; 10:18). Further, the description of Jesus’ death in the pattern of a sacrifice loses any significance if the author does not think the levitical sacrifices achieved anything efficacious. After arguing for a positive view of the levitical sacrifices in Hebrews, this paper will note how a positive understanding fits with the author’s critical statements about the levitical cult, such as its inability to perfect, redeem, take away sin, cleanse the conscience, etc. Rather than making a blanket statement regarding the inefficacy of the levitical sacrifices in Hebrews, this paper will call for a more nuanced position that acknowledges some efficacy for the levitical sacrifices in the midst of predominantly negative statements about their inability." 

Epistle to the Hebrews
3:00 PM to 6:00 PM
David M. Moffitt, Campbell University, Presiding

John Goldingay, Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena)
Don’t You Love It, Don’t You Hate It? An Old Testament Reading of Hebrews (25 min)

"The paper will examine ways in which Hebrews influences Old Testament interpretation and ways in which the Old Testament raises questions about the epistle. It will consider (a) the constructive aspect to Hebrews’ use of the Old Testament, in its assumptions about the Law, about divine sovereignty and human responsibility, and about the analogy between the church’s theological position and Israel’s. (b) the more problematic aspect to its influence in its understanding of sacrifice as essentially concerned with atonement, its appeal to Old Testament characters as examples, its declaration that Jeremiah’s new covenant has been implemented, and its statement that forgiveness requires the shedding of blood. (c) the process whereby it came to be part of the New Testament canon and the possible theological implications of that process, and the theological questions raised by the ambiguity of its influence. It will interact with recent work on Hebrews such as the symposia edited by Gabriella Gelardini, Hebrews: Contemporary Methods—New Insights (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2005), by Richard Bauckham and others, A Cloud of Witnesses (LNTS 387; London/New York: Clark, 2008) and The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology (Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2009), by Eric F. Mason and Kevin B. McCruden, Reading the Epistle to the Hebrews (Atlanta: SBL, 2011), and by Jon C. Laansma and Daniel J. Trier, Christology, Hermeneutics, and Hebrews (LNTS 423. London/New York: Clark, 2012)."

Michael Kibbe, Wheaton College
Moses Feared and Israel Fled: Deuteronomic Historiography in Hebrews (25 min)

"The Old and New Testaments include three accounts of Israel’s reaction to the theophany at Sinai/Horeb: Exodus 20:18–21, Deuteronomy 5:23–27, and Hebrews 12:18–29. While Hebrews 12 depends on both earlier accounts, this paper focuses on its relationship to the Deuteronomic version. Hebrews and Deuteronomy both depict Israel as fearfully withdrawing from the presence of God and requesting that no more direct revelation take place. Deuteronomy emphasizes the mediating role of Moses and of his prophetic successors, and the rightness of Israel’s request for those mediators (5:27–31; 18:15–18). Hebrews, on the other hand, portrays Moses as no less fearful than the people (12:21), and condemns their request as a refusal (12:19, 25) to listen to God. In this paper I suggest that Hebrews’ attentiveness to Deuteronomy’s “emphatic contemporaneity”—its conflation of various moments in Israel’s history in order to reenact Sinai for present and future audiences—sheds light on the tension between these two accounts. For example, Deuteronomy claims that the Moab generation, rather than their predecessors who died in the wilderness, stood at Sinai (4:10–15). Likewise, Hebrews exaggerates the terror of the Sinai theophany with a reference to Moses’ fear (Heb 12:21), a fear that actually overtook Moses following the golden calf incident (Deut 9:19). Deuteronomy also insists that true fear leads to obedience (e.g., 6:1–3). Yet it also insists that the fear demonstrated by Israel’s request for a mediator did no such thing (5:29; 9:7). Deuteronomy presents, in other words, a fear that promised obedience to mediated revelation (5:23–27) but could not fulfill that promise. Hebrews, similarly, condemns not fear in and of itself (12:28), but fear that shrinks from accountability and therefore comes under the judgment of the God who is a “consuming fire” (Deut 4:24; 9:3; Heb 12:29)."

Eric F. Mason, Judson University
Golden Calf Traditions and the Epistle to the Hebrews (25 min)

"Connections between Hebrews and golden calf traditions in the Jewish Scriptures have not traditionally been the topic of much discussion, and there are no explicit references to the golden calf in Hebrews. Nevertheless some interpreters of Hebrews in recent years have argued that the golden calf traditions provide a significant backdrop for understanding the argument of this text. This paper briefly considers these proposals and surveys several passages in Hebrews that have been cited as reflecting golden calf traditions. The thesis of this paper is that the author of Hebrews does indeed make light use of golden calf traditions, but through the influence of Deuteronomy (rather than Exodus) and in combination with other Sinai and wilderness traditions. This raises the question of why the author of Hebrews avoids direct mention of this episode despite his emphasis on the unfaithfulness of the wilderness generation."

Kyu Seop Kim, University of Aberdeen
The Meaning of the Firstborn Son in Hebrews and Its Implication (25 min)

"What is the meaning of the firstborn son in Heb 1:6; 11:28; 12:23 (12:16)? Why did the author employ this word in order to explain the status of Christ and Christians? What is the traditional-historical backdrop of the word? These questions still remain unsolved. Scholars interpret Christ as the firstborn son in 1:6 in the following three perspectives: 1) a Davidic Messiah; 2) an heir of the promise; and 3) the older brother of Christians. This study, however, will argue that the firstborn son in Hebrews should be considered according to the following two perspectives. First, the firstborn son in Hebrews should be understood in terms of the self-definition and identity of Israel as the elect who has a superior and exclusive status over the non-elect or the Gentiles according to its traditional-historical background in the OT and Jewish literature. We should also note that the firstborn son in Heb 11:28 and 12:16 respectively occur in the context of the conflict between Israel and Egypt and between Jacob and Esau. Secondly, the firstborn son in Hebrews should be understood in terms of “heavenly Israel” tradition in Jewish literature. The firstborn son in Prayer of Joseph and Philo will shed a light on the reason why the firstborn son in Heb 1:6 occurs with Christ’s ascension (1:6) and heavenly enthronement (1:1-14) and why the assembly of the firstborn son in 12:23 exists in heavenly Zion. Therefore, the firstborn son in Hebrews implies the recipients’ superior status over the outer group as the firstborn sons who exist now in heaven with Christ. This study will provide the new understanding of the meaning of “otherness” and the aspects of present eschatology in Hebrews."

Jaroslav Broz, Univerzita Karlova v Praze
Themes and Motives of the Priestly Christology in Heb 11 (25 min)

"Chapter 11 of Hebrews is considered by many commentators a section independent from the central part of the composition dealing with the Christ’s priesthood. With Hebrews 11 (or 10:19) indeed starts the concluding exhortation that apparently misses any characteristics of priestly vocabulary or other means of coherency with the main theme of the letter. The presentation tries to demonstrate that the author of Hebrews planned his work as a whole that should be interpreted in all parts through the key of his priestly Christology. Its three main aspects – sacrifice, eschatology and ecclesiology – are perceivable throughout the whole of chapter 11, which presents the reinterpretation of the main and secondary figures of the Old Testament history of salvation. Even if there are not many direct literal connections between this chapter and the central section of the letter, after a deeper analysis of singular motives the theological homogeneity of both parts of the composition becomes visible."

Benjamin Laird, University of Aberdeen
The Postscript of Hebrews as a Pauline Endorsement: A Consideration of the Canonical Implications of the Ending of Hebrews (25 min)

"One peculiar feature of the Epistle to the Hebrews is the absence of a customary opening salutation, an absence which is noticeable given the presence of a fairly traditional epistolary postscript. This peculiarity has created a number of challenges for interpreters, not least the difficulty it presents in accounting for the epistle’s genre and early canonical history. Can the text rightly be described as an epistle? If so, how may we account for the absence of a traditional salutation in the opening verses? If the text was not originally dispatched as an epistle, how might we account for the presence of the postscript? William Wrede proposed that the postscript was added by a later admirer of Paul in order for the text to be accepted as an inspired writing. This theory has been argued more recently by scholars such as Gert Steyn. A similar theory, that the postscript was written by the same pseudepigrapher who wrote the remainder of the text, has recently been proposed by Clare Rothschild. One possibility which has not been seriously considered is that the postscript of Hebrews was personally written by the apostle Paul in order to authenticate the work of one of his companions, who, as Origen suggested many centuries ago, “remembered the apostolic teachings, and wrote down at his leisure what had been said by his teacher.” This particular theory is consistent with what is known of the standard literary practices of the first century and also accounts for the close relationship between Hebrews and the Pauline letters in early Christianity. This paper will examine a number of internal clues which support this possibility and will also discuss several canonical implications this theory may hold for the development of the Corpus Paulinum." 

Bible and Empire
9:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Theme: New Testament

Jason A. Whitlark, Baylor University
The God of Power and the End of the Old Covenant: A Theodical Response to the Challenge of Flavian Triumph in Hebrews
(20 min)

"Some of the ancient rhetorical handbooks discuss a form of figured speech that asserted multiple aims for a discourse, some overt others covert. Assuming that Hebrews was written to Christians in Rome living under Flavian rule, this paper proposes that the discourse of Hebrews has, among others, a figured theodical aim in response to the challenge of Flavian triumph. In order to demonstrate the proposed theodical aim, the paper will first examine the literary, monumental, and numismatic presentations of Flavian triumph over the Jewish revolt in Judea. Central to this presentation was the Roman theology of victory that served to legitimate Flavian rule. Second, the paper will examine the challenge that Flavian legitimation was to both Jewish and Christian communities whose god had been dishonored in the destruction of his temple and in the parading of its cultic vessels in the triumphal procession. Jews had already developed responses to such challenges from the destruction of the first temple and drew upon those resources when the second temple was destroyed. Some scholars have point out that Christians also drew upon those resources and developed alternative responses. Thus, in light of this context, the paper will suggest that Hebrews develops in its comparison of covenants a unique, figured theodical response to the dishonor of God in its assertion that God had already brought an end to old covenant institutions. Additionally, the primary locus of God’s honor or reputation, according to Hebrews, now resided in the community’s fidelity. Importantly, such a response did not involve the denigration of the Jewish heritage of the Christian community."

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