Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Hebrews Highlights December 2014

Paul Himes gives some recommendations for Resources for Studying and Teaching the Epistle to the Hebrews. However, he misidentifies the author of the WBC series, who is William Lane (not William Lane Craig). He does not mention another good conservative commentary: the one by Gary Cockerill in the NICNT series. I am puzzled why he identifies Lane's, and even Attridge's, commentary as secular. I would add Craig Koester's contribution to the Anchor Bible Commentary and David deSilva's contribution to the Social-Scientific Commentary series as top commentaries.

Peter Leithart opines about Atonement according to Hebrews. He also comments on the enigmatic passage, "We Have an Altar," in Hebrews 13:10–12.

Benesh Dissertation on Hebrews

I see that the latest Tyndale Bulletin (65.2) has a summary of Dana Benesh's  dissertation:

Dana Benesh. "Thomas Aquinas on Hebrews: The Excellence of Christ."

"Due to the influence of his two great Summae, Thomas Aquinas' reputation as a 'systematic' theologian far surpasses his reputation as a biblical exegete. Yet his commentaries merit attention due to Thomas' ability to explicate Scripture, his contributions to the development of exegesis, and the fact that his commentaries reflect the same doctrinal and theological concerns as his better-known works. An examination of Thomas Aquinas' commentary on Hebrews is worthwhile, given the growing interest in pre-modern exegesis as well as the priority that Thomas assigned to the epistle. Organizing the entire corpus of Scripture according to the purposes of God, Thomas orders the Old Testament books in regard to God as king or Father and the New Testament books in regard to Christ and the church. In Thomas' scheme, Hebrews comes immediately after the four gospels. Among all the epistles, Hebrews is preeminent, according to Thomas, because it reveals the power of the grace of Christ as head of the church. The aim of this dissertation is to understand and appreciate Thomas' exposition of Hebrews in the context of his theological works and in the context of medieval exegesis."

Dana is a former colleague of mine at Baylor. I had not heard the news, so congratulations to her!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hebrews Highlights November 2014

Chuck Grantham continues to assemble antique commentary quotes: Hebrews 11:1–7, Hebrews 12:1–7, 12:18–24, 13:1–8.

Henry Neufeld has been active this month as he is revising his book on Hebrews. He has Some Thoughts on the Christ of Faith after Reading Hebrews. He also muses about whether the best reading is Chwris or Chariti in Hebrews 2:9. He then discusses A Gender Neutral Example in Hebrews 2:6–8. He then offers a Quick Follow-up on Hebrews 2:6–8. Then he has a lengthy post on Hebrews Background. He comments on Yet More Hebrews and Old Testament-New Testament Continuity. He then explains How and Why Ezekiel, Hebrews, and Leviticus Shaped [His] Theology.

Mark Beuving distinguishes between Discipline vs. Punishment in his discussion of Hebrews 12:5–11.

Steve Walton summarizes Ross Wagner's paper at IBR on Hebrews and its usage of Psalms 8 and 40.

Ken Schenck has some thoughts on Hebrews and the New Perspective.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hebrews at the Annual Meeting of the SBL

The following are papers on Hebrews that will be delivered at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature:


Institute for Biblical Research
4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Room: 202 B (Level 2 (Indigo)) - Hilton Bayfront (HB)Theme: Emerging Scholarship on the New Testament
This session showcases emerging New Testament scholars sponsored by Fellows of the Institute of Biblical Research. All are welcome to attend the session. Summaries of the papers will be read at the session leaving opportunity for discussion. Full papers will be available at the Institute of Biblical Research website: (click on Emerging Scholarship on the New Testament Group) no later than October 1, 2014. For information on this session please contact Ruth Anne Reese (

Ruth Anne Reese, Asbury Theological Seminary, Presiding

Phillip Strickland, McMaster Divinity College
“Le style, c’est l’homme”: The Use of Literary Stylistics in the Defense of Lukan Authorship of Hebrews—A Critical Assessment (10 min)
Discussion (20 min)


9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room 3 (Upper level) - San Diego Convention Center (CC)Amy Peeler, Wheaton College (Illinois), Presiding

Forays into the Reception of Hebrews in Systematic Theology

Martin Wessbrandt, Lunds Universitet
The Reception of Hebrews’ Doctrine of the High Priesthood of Christ in First Clement (25 min)

Michael Kibbe, Wheaton College Graduate School
Sacrifice On the Cross or Offering After the Cross? The History and Significance of a Key Issue in Hebrews’ View of the Atonement (25 min)

Cynthia Westfall, McMaster Divinity College, Respondent (15 min)

David Moffitt, University of St. Andrews
Although He Was the Son: Reevaluating Supersessionist Accounts of the Christology and Soteriology of Hebrews in light of Jesus’ Perfection (25 min)

Hebrews and Rhetoric

Jason A. Whitlark, Baylor University and Michael Martin, Lubbock Christian University
Designing Hebrews: A Proposal for Its Rhetorical Structure (25 min)

Alan Mitchell, Georgetown University, Respondent (15 min)

Discussion (20 min)


Hebrews; New Testament Textual Criticism; Papyrology and Early Christian Backgrounds
Joint Session With: Hebrews, New Testament Textual Criticism, Papyrology and Early Christian Backgrounds
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room 28 B (Upper level) - San Diego Convention Center (CC)Theme: The Transmission and Reception of Hebrews: Perspectives from Early Manuscripts
Gabriella Gelardini, Universität Basel, Presiding (5 min)

AnneMarie Luijendijk, Princeton University
The Hebrews Papyri from Oxyrhynchus (25 min)

Georg Gäbel, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Separated by Grace?! Heb 2:9 and the Mutual Interdependence of Christological Debates and Textual Transmission (25 min)

Craig Koester, Luther Seminary, Respondent (20 min)
Thomas Wayment, Brigham Young University, Respondent (20 min)
Matthew Novenson, University of Edinburgh, Respondent (20 min)
Discussion (25 min)


Development of Early Christian Theology
4:00 PM to 6:15 PM
Room: Room 32 B (Upper level) - San Diego Convention Center (CC)Theme: Spirit and Bible: The Development of Early Accounts of the Spirit in the Christian Scriptures
Mark Weedman, Johnson University, Presiding

Matthew W. Bates, Quincy University
The Spirit as Distinct Person: Prosopological Exegesis and Divine Differentiation (25 min)


Letters of James, Peter, and Jude
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: 502 B (Level 5 (Cobalt)) - Hilton Bayfront (HB)Theme: The Letters of James, Peter, and Jude in the History of Interpretation
Alicia Batten, Conrad Grebel University College, Presiding

Liz Myers, Independent Scholar
Authorship of 1 Peter as Witnessed by the Epistle to the Hebrews (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)


Intertextuality in the New Testament
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: 204 A (Level 2 (Indigo)) - Hilton Bayfront (HB)Theme: Varieties of Intertextual Methods
Erik Waaler, NLA University College, Presiding

Liz Myers, Independent Scholar
Assessing the Direction of Intertextual Borrowing between New Testament Books: A New Methodology and Application to 1 Peter and Hebrews (30 min)
Discussion (15 min)


Children in the Biblical World
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: 500 (Level 5 (Cobalt)) - Hilton Bayfront (HB)Theme: Children and Sacrifice
This is a joint session with the AAR Childhood Studies and Religion section.
John W. Martens, University of Saint Thomas, Presiding

Tsui Yuk Louise Liu, Chinese University of Hong Kong
Offering of Isaac and Its Reception: Mediating Children and Sacrifice in Early Judaism and Early Christianity of Isaac (25 min)


Rhetoric and the New Testament
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: 400 B (Level 4 (Sapphire)) - Hilton Bayfront (HB)Theme: Rhetorics of Vision and Visual Rhetorics: Ekphrasis and Beyond I
Lillian Larsen, University of Redlands, Presiding

Scott D. Mackie, Independent Scholar
Seeing a Way in the Wilderness: Visually Oriented Rhetoric in Hebrews 3–4 (25 min)
Discussion (20 min)


Social History of Formative Christianity and Judaism
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: 202 B (Level 2 (Indigo)) - Hilton Bayfront (HB)Theme: Priests, Meats, and Sacrifice: Representation and Praxis
Gil Klein, Loyola Marymount University, Presiding (5 min)
Philippa Townsend, Ursinus College
“Priest of the Uncircumcised”: Melchizedek and the Gentiles in Hebrews and Beyond (25 min)


Mysticism, Esotericism, and Gnosticism in Antiquity
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: 410 B (Level 4 (Sapphire)) - Hilton Bayfront (HB)Theme: Early Christianity
Featuring reviews of Jared Calaway, The Sabbath and the Sanctuary: Access to God in the Letter to the Hebrews and its Priestly Context (Mohr Siebeck, 2013).

Jeffrey Pettis, Fordham University, Presiding

Gabriella Gelardini, Universität Basel
Review of Jared Calaway, The Sabbath and the Sanctuary (20 min)

Eric F. Mason, Judson University
Review of Jared Calaway, The Sabbath and the Sanctuary (20 min)

Jared Calaway, University of Mississippi, Respondent (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)

Benjamin Ribbens, Trinity Christian College
The Function of the Heavenly Cult in Hebrews and Its Predecessors (30 min)


9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room 29 D (Upper level) - San Diego Convention Center (CC)Theme: Putting Mark in Its Place — Mark and the Rest of the NT (not Gospels or Paul)
Papers are sent to formal members to be read in advance. Presentations consist of a short summary followed by extended discussion among seminar members.
Tom Shepherd, Andrews University, Presiding

Elizabeth Shively, University of St. Andrews
Redemption from Satan, Sin, and Death: Mark 10:45b and Its Relationship to Images of Redemption in Hebrews (10 min)
Discussion (30 min)

Hebrews at the 2014 ETS Annual Meeting

The following are papers dealing with Hebrews at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society.

Thursday, November 20

8:30 AM-11:40 AM
History & Interpretation: How Important is History to Interpreting the General Letters

11:00 AM—11:40 AM
What has Social History to do with Hebrews? Familial Language within an Interpretive Framework

3:00 PM-6:10 PM
Pacific Salon Six
(McMaster Divinity School)
3:00 PM—3:40 PM

(Wheaton College)
Can You Get There From Here? Hermeneutical Trajectories and the Use of the OT in Hebrews
3:50 PM—4:30 PM

(Trinity Christian College)
Does Christ Atone for Sins in Heb 2:17?
4:40 PM—5:20 PM

(Philomath, OR)
Who Used Whom? The Likely Direction of Borrowing between Hebrews and 1 Peter in Light of Probable Literary Dependence
5:30 PM—6:10 PM

(University of Manchester)
The Combined Concept of Priesthood and Covenant in Hebrews

3:00 PM-6:10 PM
General Studies 3
(Grace Bible College)
3:00 PM—3:40 PM

(The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
Literary Design in Hebrews 11: Possible Inclusios and the Theme of Death and Deliverance

4:40 PM—5:20 PM
(University of Notre Dame)
The Implausibility of a Roman Destination for Hebrews

5:30 PM—6:10 PM
(McMaster Divinity College)
Sprinkling the Blood–A Study of Intertextuality in Heb 9.1–22

Friday, November 21

1:00 PM-3:40 PM
Royal Palm Salon Five
(Wheaton College & Graduate School)

1:00 PM—1:35 PM
(Wheaton College)
The Covenant of the Father

1:45 PM—2:15 PM
(Wheaton College & Graduate School)
Putting Words in His Mouth: The Son Speaks in Hebrews
2:25 PM—3:00 PM

(University of St. Andrews)
The Worship of the Great High Priest: Some Reflections on the Humanity and Atoning Work of the
Son in Hebrews
3:10 PM—3:40 PM

(Yale University)
How Atoning Sacrifice Works in Hebrews

1:00 PM-4:10 PM
General Studies 5

2:40 PM—3:20 PM
(Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary)
Did Ignatius use Hebrews?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

New Stolz Article on Hebrews 1:6

A new article on Hebrews has appeared in the latest issue of Biblica:

Lukas Stolz. "Das Einführen des Erstegeboren in die οικουμενη (Hebr 1,6a)." Biblica 95 (2014): 405–23.

Here is the synopsis:
"The meaning of the firstborn's ei)vsagwgh/ into the oi)koume/nh in Hebrews 1,6a is greatly disputed. Proposed interpretations are the presentation of the Son after the creation, his incarnation, his baptism, his exaltation and his parousia. The arguments seem to speak for the lastmentioned and against the currently very popular exaltation reading."

Interesting. In my research, I detected that the current trend is towards the exaltation reading as the synopsis indicates. I adopted the exaltation reading myself in my dissertation. It will be interesting to see if Stolz has any new arguments favoring the parousia reading.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cowan Dissertation Available Online

Christopher Wade Cowan's dissertation "'Confident of Better Things': Assurance of Salvation in the Letter to the Hebrews" is also available on the Boyce Digital Library online site.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Jamieson Thesis Available Online

Robert Bruce Jamieson's Th.M. thesis, "Purging God's People and Place: Levitical Sacrifice as a Prolegomenon to Hebrews" is available on The Boyce Digital Library webpage.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Attridge Reviews Cockerill's Commentary

Harold Attridge reviews Gary Cockerill's NICNT commentary The Epistle to the Hebrews in the most recent issue of The Journal of Theological Studies. Most of the review is hidden behind a subscription wall, but I thought I would draw attention to it anyway.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Scacewater Review of Ounsworth, Joshua Typology in NT

Todd Scacewater reviews Richard Ounsworth's monograph Joshua Typology in the New Testament for Westminster Theological Journal.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hebrews Highlights September 2014

Durham University has announced a conference on Neglected Texts and Early Christian Identities. These texts include Hebrews.

Chuck Grantham has assembled antique commentary quotes on Hebrews 1:1–4, Hebrews 2:1–4, and Hebrews 2:14–18, Hebrews 3:7–15.

Denny Burk comments on What the Bible teaches about spanking. The discussion includes seven propositions about discipline from Hebrews 12:4–11.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Thomas Schreiner's New Commentary on Hebrews

Thomas Schreiner informed me that his non-techncial commentary on Hebrews will be coming out in February 2015:

Commentary on Hebrews. Biblical Theology Christian Proclamation Commentary (Holman).

Part of the blurb on the Amazon website:

In his volume on Hebrews, Thomas R. Schreiner says, "The words of Jesus on the cross, 'it is finished' (John 19:30) capture the theology of Hebrews.

"My aim in this commentary is to focus on the biblical theology of the letter. The emphasis on biblical theology shows up especially in the introduction and conclusion where theological structures and themes are considered. In the introduction I will examine four different structures that are woven into the entire letter: 1) promise/fulfillment; 2) eschatology; 3) typology; and 4) spatial orientation (which can also be described as the relationship between heaven and earth in the letter). The commentary will conclude, after presenting an exegesis of each chapter, with a discussion of some major theological themes in Hebrews.
"Most modern commentaries consist of significant introductions and then conduct an intensive exegesis of the text, chapter by chapter and verse by verse. By way of contrast, the introduction and the commentary are relatively brief and non-technical.  With the proliferation of commentaries today, a new commentary should have a distinctive approach. We now have many excellent commentaries on Hebrews which examine the letter in some detail. Many of these commentaries provide a useful function in that they draw on other parallels from both Jewish and Hellenistic literature to illuminate Hebrews. The advantage of such an approach is that the reader is plunged into the cultural world of the author. On the other hand, the careful sifting of various traditions may cause the reader to lose track of the argument of the letter. At the same time, the theology of the author may be muted, not because it isn’t recognized but because it may be difficult to follow in the welter of information given to readers. I hope a commentary that probes the theology of Hebrews will prove to be helpful. I have been helped by many scholars in preparing this commentary, especially those who have written in depth commentaries and those who have written monographs on the letter. No one writes from an objective standpoint, and hence I should state up front that I write as an evangelical Christian who believes that the scriptures are the living and authoritative word of God."

Friday, September 5, 2014

Amy Peeler's New Book on Hebrews

Amy Peeler's dissertation is now published as a book:

Amy L. B. Peeler. You Are My Son: The Family of God in the Epistle to the Hebrews. The Library of New Testament Studies. Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2014.

Blurb from the web page:

"The author of Hebrews calls God 'Father' only twice in his sermon. This fact could account for scholarship's lack of attention to the familial dynamics that run throughout the letter. Peeler argues, however, that by having God articulate his identity as Father through speaking Israel's Scriptures at the very beginning and near the end of his sermon, the author sets a familial framework around his entire exhortation. The author enriches the picture of God's family by continually portraying Jesus as God's Son, the audience as God's many sons, the blessings God bestows as inheritance, and the trials God allows as pedagogy. The recurrence of the theme coalesces into a powerful ontological reality for the audience: because God is the Father of Jesus Christ, they too are the sons of God. But even more than the model of sonship, Jesus' relationship with his Father ensures that the children of God will endure the race of faith to a successful finish because they are an integral part of comprehensive inheritance promised by his Father and secured by his obedience. Because of the familial relationship between God and Jesus, the audience of Hebrews - God's children - can remain in the house of God forever."

Amy and I attended classes together at Princeton. We were working on our dissertations simultaneously and we had articles published in the same issue of Perspectives in Religious Studies in 2012. I am happy to endorse her book.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Hebrews Highlights August 2014

Here are some of the highlights on Hebrews for the month of August:

New Book Announcement:

The T & T Clark blog announces the publication of Jonathan I. Griffiths' book, Hebrews and Divine Speech.

Synopsis from their website:
"Griffiths offers here an analysis of the theme of divine speech in Hebrews, which recurs throughout the book, often in contexts suggesting connections to other areas of scholarly interest (Christology, soteriology, cosmology, and the writer’s understanding of the nature of his discourse). Through exegetical analysis of the text, and specific focus on the key terms of logos and rhēma, Griffiths finds that, for the writer, God’s speech is the means by which the place of divine rest is accessed, and is supremely expressed in the person of his Son. Hebrews is thus a means of communicating the divine word and effecting an encounter between his hearers and the God who speaks."

Book Reviews:

Carl Mosser reviews Jody Barnard's,  The Mysticism of Hebrews.

Kevin McCruden and Gabriella Geleardini review Gary Cockerill's commentary on The Epistle to the Hebrews.

See my previous post for other reviews.

New Online Articles:

The following article is now available on the Bulletin for Biblical Research website:

Stewart, Alexander. “Cosmology, Eschatology, and Soteriology in Hebrews: A Synthetic Analysis.” Bulletin for Biblical Research 20.4 (2010): 545–60.


Cliff Kvidahl interviews George Guthrie on Studying the Book of Hebrews.


Henry Neufeld queries How Detailed Can We Get? when discussing introductory issues in Bible books. He also comments on the Prologue to the Hebrews.

Jared Compton summarizes Gary Cockerill on the Point of Hebrews 11.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Book Reviews

I have not posted on this blog lately because I moved over the summer and there has been very little activity regarding Hebrews on the biblioblogs. However, there are a number of book reviews that I need to draw your attention to:

Herbert Bateman's Interpreting the General Letters: An Exegetical Handbook has gotten some considerable attention. See the reviews by Charles Savelle, Brian Renshaw, Joel Watts, and Jason Gardner. I just received a copy of the book for review from RBL, but my review will not come out for some time since I have other books to review ahead of it and RBL takes a while to publish reviews submitted to it.

Mike Kibbe reviews Georg Walser's Old Testament Quotations in Hebrews. My own review for RBL should be out soon.

Shawn Wilhite reviews Jon Laansma's essay in his volume co-edited with Daniel Treier, Christology, Hermeneutics and Hebrews: Profiles from the History of Interpretation.

Clifford Kvidahl reviews the first chapter of George Guthrie's The Structure of Hebrews: A Text-Linguistic Analysis.

Jared Compton reviews David Moffitt's Atonement and the Logic of Resurrection in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Do read the exchange between Jared and David in the comments section. The comments section also draws attention to an earlier review of David's work by Aubrey Sequeira.

Finally, I should mention that Christian Brady has posted a synopsis of the paper he presented at the international SBL, "Hebrews 11 is a Midrash of 1 Macc. 2."

Monday, June 30, 2014

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

R.I.P. Ellen Aitken

I received this shocking bit of news this evening: Ellen Aitken, Dean of the Faculty of Religious Studies at McGill University passed away on Saturday after a short bout with cancer.

While I have only had a couple of brief conversations with her over the years, I saw her nearly every year at the national SBL meeting since she was on the steering committee for the Hebrews Group and was usually at the Hebrews sessions. She had a chapter on Hebrews in her dissertation-turned monograph, Jesus' Death in Early Christian Memory: The Poetics of the Passion. She produced several articles/essays on Hebrews and delivered many papers on Hebrews at various conferences.

May she rest in peace.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Review of Kevin Anderson's Commentary on Hebrews

Kevin L. Anderson. Hebrews: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition. New Beacon Bible Commentary. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 2013.

First, I want to thank Barry Russell of Beacon Hill Press for a review copy of this book.
As the subtitle indicates, this is a commentary written in the Wesleyan theological tradition (Beacon Hill Press is a Church of the Nazarene publisher). The author, Kevin L. Anderson, is associate professor of Bible and theology at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky [full disclosure: Asbury University is my alma mater; however, I do not personally know Kevin Anderson]. This commentary is geared towards pastors and students, so it is written in a more popular style than the standard critical commentaries.

The introduction deals with the customary critical issues surrounding Hebrews. Anderson first develops a profile of six characteristics of the author before turning to consider in detail three of the most popular suggestions for authorship: Paul, Barnabas, and Apollos (31–38). He considers both external and internal evidence and presents the pros and cons for each candidate, but ultimately does not decide for any one of them. A chart on pages 35–36 briefly presents the rationale for some of the other candidates who have been proposed for authorship.

Anderson next turns to consider the destination (38–41). While he notes that various destinations have been proposed, he gives particular attention to three destinations: Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Rome. Given the external and internal evidence Anderson seems to favor the view that Hebrews was written to one of several house churches located in Rome.

Anderson next discusses the date and situation of Hebrews (42–44). He makes a plausible case that Hebrews was written before the destruction of the temple before AD 70. First, the author makes a number of statements that “could hardly have been expressed in the same way if the temple were already in ruins” (e.g., 8:13; 9:9; 10:1, 2, 11). Second, if the temple had been destroyed, it is hard to imagine the author not mentioning this since it would have contributed to his argument. Anderson tries to narrow the situation down further. He believes that the earlier troubles that the community experienced could be attributed to the persecution of the Jews in AD 49 when Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome. The community was now experiencing a new round of persecutions under Nero after the great fire of Rome in AD 64.

When considering the genre (44–46), Anderson argues that the letter was a sermon based on its oral character, its personal tone, its interpretive approach to Scripture, and its rhetorical display. Hebrews is also a letter as evidenced by its epistolary ending, but its sermonic character is the dominant genre.

Anderson next considers the purpose of Hebrews (46–48). Hebrews was written as an encouragement to Christians who were suffering for their faith and were considering abandoning their Christian commitment. Anderson adheres to the more traditional view that the audience was considering reverting back to Judaism. For Anderson this makes the best sense of all the contrasts between the Old Testament dispensation and the new covenant ushered in by Christ.

Anderson next turns to a consideration of the theology of Hebrews (48–55). He notes that eschatology undergirds all of the scriptural interpretation and argumentation of the book. The author’s eschatological perspective can be seen in the comparison between the old covenant and the new covenant and in the perfection language that pervades the book. Christ’s coming has inaugurated the time of fulfillment but Hebrews also looks forward to the consummation of God’s purposes when Christ will come again to bring full salvation and all enemies are subdued.

In terms of Christology, Anderson points out that Hebrews depicts Jesus’ full career: preexistence, incarnation, death, resurrection, exaltation, heavenly intercession, and second coming. The two most important titles in Hebrews are Son and High Priest. Hebrews, more than any other NT book, explains why Jesus had to become human. He had to be perfected through sufferings and learn obedience to be equipped to become high priest. Hebrews is also the only book that gives a sustained justification for Jesus’ high priesthood.

When discussing soteriology, Anderson highlights the vast range of soteriological imagery found in Hebrews. Cultic language is particularly prominent throughout the letter. He also notes that Hebrews calls believers to a journey or pilgrimage to the heavenly kingdom. This concept manifests itself in four images: approaching/drawing near to God, entering into God’s rest, sojourning, and running the race.

The commentary proper is broken down into a large tripartite structure: 1:1–4:13; 4:14–10:18; and 10:19–13:25. This schema is followed by many Hebrews scholars. Each section is further divided down into smaller and smaller sections for the purpose of commentary. For instance 1:1–4:13 is broken down into two subsections, 1:1–2:18 and 3:1–4:13. Each of these subsections is further subdivided into smaller units.

For each unit, the commentary proceeds in a threefold manner. The first section “Behind the Text” deals with the relevant background material needed to understand the text, such as historical information, literary context and features, and sociological and cultural features. The second section “In the Text” deals with the text proper; it deals with grammatical details, word studies, and flow of thought. Hebrew and Greek words are transliterated. The third section “From the Text” deals with how the text is/has been received by readers: theological significance, intertextuality, history of interpretation, use of the Old Testament in the New Testament, history of effects, and application. The commentary is generously sprinkled with sidebars, charts and excurses that provide additional information for the reader.

It will of course be impossible to give an overview of the commentary proper. I will note some of his important exegetical decisions and then end with an assessment. Anderson argues that 1:1–2:4 constitutes the exordium of the book, rather than just the first four verses. He reasons that 1:1–4 is too short to be an exordium for a work of this length, that the whole unit is framed with carefully balanced sentences (1:1–4 and 2:2–4), and that the whole unit follows a careful structure (58–59). The purpose of the exordium is to introduce key themes and to make the readers favorably disposed towards the remainder of the speech (60).

The section that follows (1:5–14) strings together a series of seven quotations in the form of a catena. Anderson views them as enthymemes (I do not recall seeing this suggestion before). He tries to identify the major and minor premises and the conclusions, some of which are unstated or assumed by the author (70–76).

Anderson takes 2:5–16 to be the narratio and 2:17–18 to be the propositio of Hebrews. Anderson believes that the narratio in Hebrews addresses the “central challenge to the listeners’ commitment to the lordship of Christ: the off-putting notion that the Son of God came to suffer and die” (82). As far as I can determine, then, Anderson has proposed a rhetorical structure for Hebrews that has not been offered before. His proposal differs from Keijo Nissilä, Walter Übelacker, Ceslas Spicq, Hans-Friedrich Weiss, Knut Backhaus, Lauri Thurén, Craig Koester, Andrew Lincoln, and James Thompson.

Anderson adopts the christological reading of Psalm 8 in Hebrews 2:6–8 (89). He acknowledges that an anthropological or dual reading is also possible, but he highlights a few good reasons for adopting the christological reading (87–88).

At 2:10 Anderson adopts the minority position (e.g., Ernst Käsemann) in taking agagonta as referring to Jesus and not God because it agrees with archegon which immediately follows it (93). However, Anderson is surely mistaken at this point since agagonta almost certainly goes with the subject of the infinitive teleiosai which is God.

Anderson views 3:1–4:13 as a type of second exordium. Yet he also identifies it as a digression, which is not really a digression (104–105). He finds parallels in this section with the opening exordium. Both have a comparison of Jesus (with Moses in 3:1–6 and the angels in 1:1–14) and both contain a warning to the audience (2:1–4 and 3:7–4:13). He views 4:14–16 as a restatement and expansion of the propositio in 2:17–18 (106).

At 3:14 Anderson discerns business terminology (124): “To hold (katechein) was used in commercial contexts of holding or retaining possession of property. Firmly (bebaios) often applied to the validity or guarantee of a legal agreement or contract . . ., and till the end (mechri telous) to its date of termination.” Moreover, he interprets metochoi in the sense of business partner (124) and ten archen tes hypostaseos as “initial commitment” in terms of commitment to a business venture (125), rather than as “confidence” or “assurance.” I do not recall encountering this interpretation before and so this may be one of Anderson’s distinctive contributions.

On pages 148–149 Anderson gives a brief history of interpretation of Heb 3:7–4:13. He gives particular attention to Wesleyan and holiness interpretations of the passage and then follows with a critique of these interpretations (149–152). He notes that the rest is not simply a step in the process of salvation but is the eschatological endpoint (150).

Anderson views the central part of Hebrews (4:14–10:18) as the probatio, which is framed by the parallel passages 4:14–16 and 10:19–23 (154). Anderson follows many scholars regarding this particular structural pattern in Hebrews. This section contains a lengthy digression which is “strategically placed to prepare the audience for the most crucial and difficult portion of the homily” (175).

In his discussion of 5:7 one only gets an inkling of the controversy that has swirled around this passage (166–170). Anderson rejects the notion that the phrase “from death” should be restricted to a reference to the realm of death as proposed by Attridge and others (169), but, in my mind, this explanation leaves unresolved the problem of explaining how Jesus’ prayer was heard since he had indeed experienced death.

In his interpretation of 6:4–6, Anderson does not soften the harsh tone of this passage. The word impossible “is emphatic and unequivocal. . . . There is no escaping the terrifying conclusion that, for Hebrews, final apostasy is irreversible” (187). Anderson rightly concludes that the person described in verse 4–5 is one who has truly experienced the benefits of salvation (189). The author is not describing a hypothetical situation, but a real possibility. The impossibility of restoring apostates to repentance is due to God’s judgment not his inability (190). Anderson will later add that apostasy is a “deliberate, active, and public repudiation” of the benefits that God bestows upon the believer (207). Furthermore, since salvation in Hebrews is future-oriented, it is improper to say that one can lose one’s salvation “because one cannot lose that which one has not yet fully possessed or inherited” (209). I find Anderson’s comments to be right on target.

In his discussion of 7:1–3 Anderson does not believe that the author of Hebrews viewed Melchizedek as some sort of angelic or heavenly figure. Rather, the author has employed a type of argument from silence to claim that Melchizedek was “without father, without mother, without genealogy” (211, 218). There are many scholars who differ with Anderson on this matter, but I tend to side with Anderson and others (e.g., Fred Horton, Bruce Demarest, Gary Cockerill) who view Melchizedek as merely a historical figure in Hebrews.

Chapter 9 contains a few contested passages. At 9:14 Anderson interprets “through eternal spirit” as a reference to the Holy Spirit rather than to Jesus’ own eternal spirit. At 9:16–17 Anderson believes that diatheke means “will or testament” here. Some scholars believe that “covenant” should be the translation throughout the whole passage. Anderson suggests that the author is simply using a wordplay on the term. For the difficult passage of 9:23 Anderson surveys four options for explaining why the heavenly things needed to be cleansed with a better sacrifice. He concludes that “the heavenly sanctuary itself was defiled by human sin and required purification” (254) much in the same way that the earthly tabernacle needed cleansing because of the sins of the Israelites.
Anderson considers the entirety of the final chapters to be the peroratio or conclusion of the discourse. He notes that the peroratio has two purposes: (1) to summarize the argument, and (2) to move the audience emotionally to make a decision or action. The author of Hebrews, however, does not do much by the way of summarizing his argument in this section (269).

At 11:1 Anderson engages in some discussion regarding the meaning of hypostasis. He rejects the translation “assurance, confidence” on the grounds that the word was not used in the subjective or psychological sense. He also rejects the translation “substance, reality” because it inserts a philosophical meaning into the passage and it goes against the whole tenor of the passage in which faith is expecting things that have not yet come to realization. He instead opts for “guarantee” which interjects a legal meaning into the text. He remarks that “faith is the certificate of ownership, the title deed that lays claim to the future realities we hope for” (295). The legal meaning also goes along with elenchos in the same verse which means “evidence, proof.”

At 12:2 Anderson gives no inkling that the meaning of the phrase anti tes prokeimenes auto charas has been highly contested by scholars. The controversy centers on the meaning of anti. Some scholars take the preposition to mean “instead of, in place of.” The idea is that Jesus gave up his heavenly or earthly privileges in order to die on the cross. Anderson apparently takes the second option, which construes anti as “because of”; Jesus endured the cross in order to obtain the heavenly joy that awaited him. Anderson notes the athletic metaphor here: “He was looking beyond the contest itself to the prize awaiting the victor” (317). I agree with Anderson at this point (In my mind, Clayton Croy’s dissertation has decisively demonstrated that this is the correct interpretation).

Chapter 13 contains a number of difficult and contested passages. Anderson construes the “foods” of 13:9 to be a reference to the Jewish dietary laws (352). At 13:10 Anderson interprets the “altar” to be a reference to Christ’s atoning sacrifice, rather than to an altar in the heavenly sanctuary or to the Eucharist. At 13:12, when the author urges his audience to go “outside the camp” to bear Christ’s disgrace, Anderson embraces the traditional view: “the ‘altar’ believers have (13:10) symbolizes the sacrificial death of Jesus (v 12) and is superior to all of the cultic trappings of the old covenant: sacrifices (v 11), priesthood and tabernacle (vv 10-11), food laws (v 9). So the readers are being called to separate themselves from the security and ostensible holiness afforded to them under the old covenant, since it has been superseded. Their commitment to Christ outside the camp entails abandoning any attachment to the temporal and earthly order centered in Jerusalem, even though it means embracing suffering, shame, and ostracism” (355).

Evaluation: This is a solid mid-range commentary. It is comparable to the Paideia series or Smyth & Helwys commentary series in terms of engagement with scholarship. Anderson does comment on the Greek text, he brings in comparative literature to help illuminate the text and he occasionally interacts with other scholarly literature. However, he does not give an in-depth analysis of the Greek syntax nor does he always weigh the interpretive options to the degree that one finds in the more technical commentaries. His style is very readable throughout. Hence, the commentary gives a good sense of Hebrews’ argument without overwhelming the reader with excessive exegetical detail. Anderson is usually sound in his exegetical decisions even if one might disagree with an interpretative decision here or there.

Seasoned Hebrews scholars will probably not find much that is new in the commentary. I think that his proposed rhetorical structure will be one of his contributions. However, with all of the proposed rhetorical structures of Hebrews that have been given, it is hard to be confident that any one of them is correct. Anderson does show familiarity with Greco-Roman rhetoric and he often comments on the author’s rhetorical devices and strategies. Anderson’s Wesleyan leanings certainly come through in his interpretation of the warning passages, but he also occasionally interacts with Wesleyan and holiness writers who may be less familiar to mainstream biblical scholars.

I would certainly consider using this commentary for an undergraduate course on the Book of Hebrews. I would probably use a more technical commentary for graduate level students. The book would also be useful for pastors and interested laypersons.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

New Resources Added

I have added links to a few resources that I have recently come across:

Dyer, Bryan R. “The Epistle to the Hebrews inRecent Research: Studies on the Author’s Identity, His Use of the OldTestament, and Theology.” Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 9 (2013): 104–31.

McNeile, Alan Hugh. “A Note on Heb. IX 12.” Journal of Theological Studies 24.96 (July 1923): 402.

Redmond, Alan. "The Obsolete Covenant in Hebrews Chapter Eight." M.A. thesis, Providence Seminary, 2008. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Walser Dissertation Available Online

I am in the process of reviewing Georg Walser's monograph, Old Testament Quotations in Hebrews for RBL. In trying to find something out about the author, I discovered that his dissertation is available online:

"Textual and Contextual Background of the Old Testament Quotations in Hebrews." Ph.D. diss., University of Leicester, 2013.

His monograph is a slightly revised version of the dissertation. Naturally, I am adding a link to this dissertation on my theses and dissertations page.

A partial preview of his monograph can be found on the Google Books site.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Review of Bateman, Charts on the Book of Hebrews

Herbert W. Bateman IV. Charts on the Book of Hebrews. Kregel Charts of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2012.

First, I want to thank Kregel Academic for a review copy of this book.

I like the book of Hebrews and I like chart-books, so when the two are combined, it has to be a winning combination. Herbert Bateman has provided us with just such a book in the Kregel Charts of the Bible series.

The book is divided into four major parts. Part one deals with introductory matters such as authorship; destination, recipients, and dating; genre and structure; and canonicity. Part two is concerned with OT and Second Temple influences in Hebrews. This section features charts on OT quotations and allusions, the Jewish cultic system, the high priesthood, and messianic figures. Part three covers theology in Hebrews and is organized under the subheadings of Godhead, theological themes, and words of exhortation. Part four deals with exegetical matters and is divided into interpretive issues, text critical issues, figures of speech, and important words. Bateman comments on these charts towards the end of the book on pages 239–253.

In part one, His first chart on authorship lists many of the proposed authors for Hebrews and the scholar who first proposed it. The chart is not exhaustive as others could have been added to the chart. He identifies 19 options, but I know of at least 23. The next two charts (2–3) contain listings of scholars and their various proposals for the authorship of Hebrews. Charts 4–7 helpfully lay out in turn the pros and cons for the candidacies of Barnabas, Paul, Luke, and Apollos.

Chart 8 surprisingly only lists five locations for the possible destination of Hebrews. As many as fifteen different destinations have been proposed so this chart is by no means exhaustive. Charts 10–12 deal with the recipients of Hebrews whether or not they were Jewish Christians and the evidence of the audience’s regeneration.

Chart 13 weighs four pieces of evidence for the dating of Hebrews: the possibility that they were second generation Christians, the mention of Timothy, the mention of persecution, and the silence regarding the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

Charts 16–17 consider respectively the evidence for the genre of Hebrews as a sermonic letter or as letter of exhortation. Chart 19 identifies four options for the structuring of Hebrews: (1) thematic; (2) rhetorical; (3) chiastic literary; and (4) text-linguistic literary. Charts 20–24 identify representatives for each one of these options. Again, the charts are not exhaustive. For example, he only features the rhetorical arrangements of Harold Attridge and Craig Koester. Hence, he omits the important proposals of Walter Übelacker, Keijo Nissilä, James Thompson, and others. Likewise, he only highlights the text-linguistic structure of George Guthrie, but omits the one proposed by Cindy Westfall.

Chart 26 features interesting information regarding the canonical placement of Hebrews. Chart 27 lists early patristic citations of Hebrews. Charts 28–29 feature early canon lists which included or omitted Hebrews.

In part two, he begins with a chart (30) identifying 36 quotations from the OT listed according to their appearance in Hebrews. The following chart (31) arranges them according to canonical books. Identifying a quotation can be a little tricky and scholars have offered different numbers for Hebrews. Even more elusive is identifying allusions to the OT. He lists these in charts 32–33. Surprisingly, he lists only two allusions in Hebrews 11. However, this chapter certainly contains many more allusions than that. It raises the question what Bateman considers to be an allusion. He lists OT figures who are named in Hebrews in chart 34.

Charts 35–38 are dedicated to the references to the tabernacle and its component parts, while charts 39–40 list references to OT feasts and the Day of Atonement respectively.

Charts 41–43, 45, 47 include a historical listing of all high priests from the OT, Persian, Hellenistic, Hasmonean, and Herodian periods. He includes charts on the Hasmonean (44) and Herodian (46) family trees.

His remaining charts in this part deal with anointed figures (48), messianic figures and titles (49–50), Melchizedek (51–52), regal priests (53–54), and divine beings (55) in the OT and other early Jewish literature. Again, these charts are probably not comprehensive. For example in chart 51 he only lists references to Melchizedek in the OT, Dead Sea Scrolls, Hebrews, Josephus, and Philo. References in other bodies of literature could certainly be added.

In part three, Bateman begins with a series of charts outlining the portrait of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit (56–59). Charts 60–64 deal with parallels to the Jewish wisdom tradition. Chart 65 lists titles ascribed to Jesus and organizes them according to messianic and regal, non-regal, and divine titles. The following chart (66) lists titles of Jesus shared with other NT writings.

The next group of charts (67–82) organizes references to various phrases (e.g., “better than”; “once for all”) and concepts/themes (e.g., covenant, perfection, rest, faith) found in Hebrews. The final group of charts in this section deals with words of exhortations (83), apostasy (84–85), and the warning passages (85–87).  Chart 87 specifically lists six positions on the warning passages in Hebrews and identifies some of the major proponents of each position.

In part four, which deals with exegetical matters, Bateman begins with a series of charts comparing the citations in the Hebrew, the LXX, and Hebrews (88–90). These charts are helpful in getting a side-by-side comparison of the quotations in these three bodies of literature. These kinds of charts can be found elsewhere (i.e., Gleason L. Archer and Gregory Chirichigno, Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament), but certainly needed to be included in this collection.

In chart 91 Bateman gives examples of Jewish exegesis in Hebrews. Bateman did his dissertation on the use of Jewish exegesis in Hebrews 1:5–13, so you could say that this is a particular specialty of his. In charts 92–93 he gives a few examples of chiasm in Hebrews. Numerous articles and monographs have given attention to this feature in Hebrews, so the examples he lists here are only the tip of the iceberg.

Charts 94–96 helpfully deal with the manuscript evidence for Hebrews. Chart 97 lists the major text-critical issues (42 of them) in Hebrews. For each of the conflicted readings he gives the significance and an explanation of the issues involved.

Charts 98–101 list various figures of speech and literary devices that are used throughout Hebrews. Chart 102 lists words frequently used in Hebrews. Chart 103 has an alphabetical listing of Greek words unique to Hebrews. I am assuming this is in reference to the rest of the NT and not to the whole body of Greek literature. Chart 104 organizes these hapax legomena according to their appearance in Hebrews.

Bateman has provided us with many useful charts on the book of Hebrews. He organizes and distills vast amounts of information in a readily digestible format. Readers can easily find charts that give an overview of evidence for a contested issue such as the authorship or dating of the epistle, or the various views on the warning passages. Many of the charts provide a nice distillation of background materials that are useful for understanding Hebrews. The charts are very useful for locating references for various words and topics. Bateman should also be commended for his creativity in the variety and types of charts that he provides.

The charts, however, often are not exhaustive. Bateman is heavily dependent on the major English commentaries for the distillation of his information (he gives credit to his sources in his explanations at the back of the book). Hence, many important monographs and articles, not to mention non-English commentaries, appear to be largely overlooked. Naturally, one can attribute these omissions to human finitude; one can accomplish only so much given the limitations in time and space. Nevertheless, the charts are very helpful and can be used as a starting point for further research in Hebrews. I commend the book to anyone who is interested in this fascinating early Christian document.