Tuesday, February 18, 2014

My Book Is Now Published!

At the beginning of this month, I received word from Brill that my book, The Characterization of Jesus in the Book of Hebrews, has now been published and is available for purchase.

"In The Characterization of Jesus in the Book of Hebrews Brian Small applies the tools of literary and rhetorical criticism to reconstruct the author of Hebrew’s portrayal of Jesus’ character. The author of Hebrews uses a variety of literary and rhetorical devices in order to develop his characterization of Jesus. The portrait that emerges is that Jesus is a person of exemplary character, who exhibits both divine and human character traits. Some of the traits reveal Jesus’ greatness while others reveal his moral excellence. Jesus’ exemplary character plays a prominent role in the author’s argument and has profound implications for his audience. Jesus’ character produces many benefits for his followers and his character entails certain obligations from his followers."

The book tries to make a contribution to the study of Hebrews in a number of ways:

In chapter 1, I try to situate my study within the context of previous research on Hebrews. In my survey, I tried to include every study that takes a rhetorical or narratival approach to Hebrews. Most of these works are included in the footnotes of the book. Basically, anyone who wants to take a rhetorical or narratival approach to Hebrews will want to consult my book for the works that I include in my survey. I also tried to situate my study within the context of previous christological studies of Hebrews. However, the number of works dealing with Christology in Hebrews was too numerous to include everything. Instead, I tried to outline four basic approaches that have been taken towards the Christology of Hebrews and tried to give representative examples of each.

In chapter 2, I survey the modern literary theory and practice of characterization. I begin with my own definition of character based on my study of literary theory. I then provide a comprehensive survey of the modern literary theory and practice of characterization. My advisor, Mikeal Parsons, told me it was the best survey he has read on the topic. In the chapter I also briefly discuss the ancient literary theory of characterization. I argue that ancient theory of characterization was well-developed not in literary theory, but in rhetorical theory.

In chapter 3, I then develop a comprehensive overview of the theory and practice of characterization in the ancient Greco-Roman rhetorical handbooks, highlighting the various rhetorical techniques that were used in the characterization of persons. Among other things, I argue that Hebrews uses a form of prosopopoiea/ethopoeia when it places Scripture quotations into the mouths of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. While there have been a couple of works that have argued this, no one has made a case for it to the extent that I do in my book. In the course of the chapter I make a modest proposal about the rhetorical genre of Hebrews. At the end of chapter I conclude with a synthesis that shows the affinity between modern literary theory and ancient rhetorical theory and I demonstrate briefly how Hebrews makes use of literary and rhetorical devices in order to characterize Jesus.

In chapter 4, I present a comprehensive reconstruction of the characterization of Jesus in Hebrews. I arrange the chapter according to the relevant encomiastic topics employed by the author of Hebrews. I reveal the portrait of Jesus, highlighting the various character traits that emerge from the assorted techniques employed in Hebrews.

In chapter 5, I explore the role of the author's characterization of Jesus in the overall argument of Hebrews. I engage in a sequential reading of Hebrews indicating how the emerging portrait of Jesus contributes to the development of the author's argument in the book. I conclude with an examination of the signficance of the character of Jesus for the audience. Jesus' character brings many benefits but it also entails many obligations from the audience.

Obviously, it remains for the scholarly guild to decide whether I have been successful in my contribution to the study of the book of Hebrews.