Thursday, September 27, 2018

My RBL Review of Kleinig's Commentary

My review of John Kleinig's Hebrews commentary in the Concordia Commentary series has now been published with RBL.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Melchizedek in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature

Here is a new article that is tangentially pertinent to Hebrews study:

Stuckenbruck, Loren T. “Melchizedek in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 41.1 (2018): 124–38.

"The study of especially apocalyptic traditions from the Second Temple period that are concerned with the figure of Melchizedek throws light on a vitality of interest that presupposes but is no longer simply dependent on the pre-texts of Gen. 14 and Ps. 110 in the Hebrew Bible. Although the epistle to the Hebrews is clearly influenced by these pre-texts, the latitude its author takes in focusing on Jesus as both priest ‘after the order of Melchizedek’ and as Son may be said to have been shaped by the kind of creative and imaginative engagement with tradition reflected in other Second Temple texts."

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Forthcoming Book on John Owen and Hebrews

Another forthcoming book, due January 24, 2019:

John W. Tweeddale. John Owen and Hebrews: The Foundation of Biblical Interpretation. T & T Clark Studies in English Theology. T & T Clark.

Book description from website:
"John Owen is frequently acknowledged as a leading figure of the Puritan and nonconformist movements of the 17th century. However, while his reputation as a pastor, statesman, educator, polemicist, and theologian are widely recognized, his efforts in biblical interpretation are often overlooked; including his massive commentary on Hebrews that represents the apex of his career and which exemplifies many of the exegetical methods of the post-Reformation. John W. Tweeddale reappraises Owen's work as a biblical exegete, offering the first analysis of his essays, or “exercitations,” on Hebrews.

Beginning with an evaluation of the state of research on Owen's commentary on Hebrews, as well as to suggest reasons for its neglect in current scholarship, Tweeddale then places Owens' work within the context of his life; considers the function of federal theology in Owen's essays and how his promise of-fulfillment hermeneutic fits within the broader scope of reformed discussions on the doctrine of covenant; Owen's attempts to resolve the challenge posed by a Christological reading of the Old Testament to a literal interpretation of Scripture; how his essays represent a refining of the exegetical tradition of the Abrahamic passages in Hebrews; and how his exegesis distinguishes himself from the majority of reformed opinion."

Forthcoming Book on Jesus' Death and Heavenly Offering in Hebrews

I've known of this book for sometime but had not made any announcement of its forthcoming publication. It is expected to come out in November (just in time for SBL!).

R. B. Jamieson. Jesus' Death and Heavenly Offering in Hebrews. Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series 172. Cambridge.

Book description from website:
"This book addresses two crucial, related questions in current research on the Epistle to the Hebrews: when and where did Jesus offer himself? And what role does Jesus' death play both in Hebrews' soteriology as a whole, and specifically in Jesus' high-priestly self-offering? The work argues that the cross is not when and where Jesus offers himself, but it is what he offers. After his resurrection, appointment to high priesthood, and ascent to heaven, Jesus offers himself to God in the inner sanctum of the heavenly tabernacle, and what he offers to God is the soteriological achievement enacted in his death. Hebrews figures blood, in both the Levitical cult and the Christ-event, as a medium of exchange, a life given for life owed. Represented as blood, Christ's death is both means of access and material offered: what he achieved in his death is what he offered to God in heaven."

Hebrews at the British New Testament Conference

I wish I could attend this conference:

British New Testament Conference
St. Mary's University, Twickenham
September 6–8, 2018

Seminar Details:

Chairs: David Moffitt and Loveday Alexander

Session One: Friday morning | 9-10.30am | Room B13
Issues in Interpreting Hebrews
Jonathan Rowlands, University of Nottingham: The Creative Element of Divine Speech in Hebrews 1:5a
Philip Alexander, University of Manchester: Philo and the Epistle to the Hebrews Revisited

Session Two: Friday morning | 11am-12.30pm | Room B13
Hebrews, Heavenly Temple and Heavenly Sacrifice
Zoe Hollinger, Queen’s University Belfast: Jesus: the minister of the heavenly tabernacle, or the heavenly temple (Heb 8:1-5)? A relevance-theoretic approach to the absence of temple language in Hebrews
Justin Duff, University of St Andrews: “The Oil of Gladness” and Priestly Investiture in the Epistle to the Hebrews

Session Three: Saturday morning | 9.15-10.45am | Room B13
Nicholas Moore, University of Durham: ‘He Sat Down’: Christ’s Session in the Heavenly Tabernacle as the End of His Offering
David Moffitt, University of St Andrews: Response to Nicholas Moore


Session One: Issues in Interpreting Hebrews

Jonathan Rowlands, University of Nottingham
The Creative Element of Divine Speech in Hebrews 1:5a
Speech and, more specifically, divine speech, has become an important topic of discussion amongst Hebrews scholars. The first instance of divine speech quoted in Hebrews is found in Heb. 1.5a, wherein the author cites Ps. 2.7: υἱός μου εἶ σὺ, ἐγὼ σὴμερον γεγέννηκά σε. This quotation opens the famous catena of scripture (1.5-13), outlines the origins of Christ’s Sonship (cf. 1.1-4), and proleptically highlights the importance of the Father/Son dynamic which will culminate in the author’s claim that the audience themselves are υἱοί θεοῦ (cf. 12.4-6). Much discussion has ensued regarding the precise point in the meta-narrative of salvation history at which these words are spoken: when is the ‘today’ in question? Is this spoken to the Son in his pre-existent state, or—as in 1.6—as he enters εἰς τὴν οἰκουμένην (however one understands this), or do these words follow His atoning sacrifice offered in the heavenly tabernacle? However, one issue yet to be fully addressed is the nature of the speech at work in this divine conversation. More specifically, is this utterance—“you are my Son...” – descriptive or creative? This is to say, is this declaration simply a response to something that is already the case (ie, descriptive) or does this declaration become true because it is spoken by God? In this paper I will argue for a creative reading of Heb 1.5a over against the more common descriptive reading, suggesting Jesus ontologically becomes the Son only as these words are spoken to Him by God. I will then end by briefly discussing the implications such a reading has not only for the Christology of Hebrews but for the author’s understanding of the power of divine speech more generally.

Philip Alexander, University of Manchester
Philo and the Epistle to the Hebrews Revisited
Since the publication of Ronald Williamson’s monograph in 1970, Philo and the Epistle to the Hebrews, study of Philo has advanced apace, with many new insights into his theology, his exegesis, and the world of Hellenistic Judaism to which he belonged. This short paper will survey recent developments in Philonic Studies and assess how they might refine our understanding of Philo’s relation to the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Session Two: Hebrews, Heavenly Temple and Heavenly Sacrifice

Zoe Hollinger, Queen’s University Belfast
Jesus: the minister of the heavenly tabernacle, or the heavenly temple (Heb 8:1-5)? A relevance-theoretic approach to the absence of temple language in Hebrews
The absence of any explicit reference to the temple in Hebrews has proved troublesome for scholars, with various explanations being proposed to explain its omission. Two recent explanations for Hebrews’ supposed lack of interest in the temple, as offered by Jason Whitlark and Philip Church, are here examined from the standpoint of Relevance Theory (RT), which stresses the importance of ostensive (explicit) communication and how communication serves to modify a hearer’s cognitive environment. Both Whitlark and Church suggest that, although the author uses tabernacle language, he intends the audience to understand an implicit reference to the temple in Heb 8:1-5. However, an alternative explanation for how the audience might hear this language is suggested by RT. First, as the author of Hebrews draws ostensibly from the Pentateuch in his depiction of the tabernacle, priesthood and sacrifices, the audience would be unlikely to understand the tabernacle as a coded reference to the temple. Second, by encouraging the audience to view themselves in a situation analogous to Israel in the wilderness, the author modifies their cognitive environment; here, a reference to tabernacle, not temple, would thus be appropriate in describing what the audience draws near to. Indeed, tabernacle language has important implications for the audience. Tabernacle language enables the readers to understand how they are to relate to God in the present as they journey towards their Promised Inheritance and implies that their relationship to the tabernacle, like Israel’s, is temporary only, en route to the goal of their journey: entering Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem.

Justin Duff, University of St Andrews
“The Oil of Gladness” and Priestly Investiture in the Epistle to the Hebrews
The anointment of Jesus with the “oil of gladness” (Heb 1:9) is rightly regarded as a royal investiture. Jesus’s anointment is associated with enthronement, the sceptre, and the kingdom (Heb 1:8). The citation in Heb 1:8–9 is also drawn from Psalm 44 LXX, a hymn celebrating Israel’s king. The pronounced relationship between Jesus’s anointment and his kingship, however, may overshadow another function of the oil: high priestly consecration. Like Israel’s kings, Levitical priests were anointed with “holy oil” at their instalment (Exodus 29–30, Leviticus 8, 11QT 15:3–16:4). The high priest was also called the “anointed priest” (Lev 4:3, 16:32). Moreover, Hebrews’ “main point” (8:1–2) is that Jesus became a high priest after Melchizedek’s order, a royal ruler and holy minister in the heavenly sanctuary. Although some scholars have briefly considered a priestly anointment in Heb 1:9, the possibility has not been explored in depth. Moreover, the conversation is rarely brought into conversation with the broader Septuagint and second temple tradition. In this paper, I engage these traditions and propose that the anointment in Hebrews appears to consecrate Jesus for two offices: high priest and king. When read against Jewish apocalyptic and early Christian texts in particular, divine anointment may signal a bodily transformation that safeguards new priests for heavenly space. I therefore propose that Jesus’s anointment may be connected to his inheritance of the “indestructible life” required by priests after Melchizedek’s order (7:16–17), a quality of life that eschews physical weakness and endures forever in the heavens (7:28).

Session Three

Nicholas Moore, University of Durham
‘He Sat Down’: Christ’s Session in the Heavenly Tabernacle as the End of His Offering
The nature of Christ’s heavenly work in the Letter to the Hebrews has been a subject of debate since at least the Reformation. The prevailing assumption in scholarship and beyond has been that Christ’s atoning work is essentially finished on earth and at the cross, paving the way for his ascension into heaven where his only work is to pray. This assumption has been challenged by Aelred Cody, Walter Brooks, Richard Nelson, and most extensively and recently by David Moffitt. These scholars point to the logic of the Day of Atonement sacrifice to argue that the high priest’s actions within the Holy of Holies—and therefore also Christ’s work in the heavenly sanctuary—form an integral, indeed climactic, part of the sacrifice he offers. This perspective is still being digested by scholars but has increasingly been adopted (see R. B. Jamieson’s CBR taxonomy). However, a significant question remains as to the precise extent and nature of the process of Christ’s sacrifice. This paper will argue that the session of Christ in the heavenly tabernacle is integral to resolving this issue. I will first survey the heavenly session motif in Second Temple texts and across the New Testament. Then I turn my attention to Hebrews, which evokes heavenly session in five places. I will argue that the combination of this royal enthronement motif with the ritual movement of Yom Kippur is an innovation on the author’s part, albeit one prompted by Psalm 110. The two are carefully integrated to indicate a definitive end point to Christ’s sacrifice, after his heavenly entrance but not co-extensive with his heavenly intercession.

Forthcoming Book on the Atonement in Hebrews

This forthcoming book has just come to my attention:

So Great a Salvation: A Dialogue on the  Atonement in Hebrews. Edited by Michael Allen, George H. Guthrie, Jon C. Laansma, and Cynthia Long Westfall. Bloomsbury T & T Clark. Projected publication date: May 16, 2019.

HT: Cliff Kvidahl

Monday, September 3, 2018

New Dissertation on the Divine Christology in Hebrews

Nick Brennan  informed me that his Ph.D. dissertation has been accepted at the University of Otago in New Zealand. Here is the pertinent information and abstract:

Thesis title: The Son as God: the Theological Salience of Divine Christology in the Epistle to the Hebrews

Primary supervisor: Paul Trebilco
Examiners: Harold Attridge, Craig Koester, Gareth Cockerill

This thesis investigates the divinity of the Son in the Epistle to Hebrews. In spite of a burgeoning interest in divine Christology in NT studies, the Son’s divinity in Hebrews has received little specific attention, being variously assumed, questioned, or treated as largely unnecessary in recent scholarship. Against this backdrop, I explore the portrayal of Christ’s divinity within the Epistle, and seek to demonstrate that the theme is, at once, present, pervasive and theologically salient.
               In the Introduction I survey the state of contemporary scholarship on the Son’s divinity in Hebrews, and discuss issues connected to predicating divinity of the Son in the Letter. From there I move to three chapters which explore controverted texts in Hebrews and their contribution to the Son’s depiction as divine, via the exercising of divine prerogatives.
               In Chapter 2, I focus on the application of OT texts to the Son which, in their original context, refer to God (1:6; 10–12), and seek to demonstrate how the Pastor, through them, not only affirms the Son’s divinity but also the soteriological significance of his exaltation as God.
               In Chapter 3, I discuss how Heb 3:3, 4 has been dismantled as a proof-text for the Son’s divinity.  I argue that the text does witness to the divinity of the Son in Hebrews, identifying him as the God who builds the final house of His people, exercising a power that belongs solely to the Creator.
               In Chapter 4 I survey debate on the relation of the Son’s “indestructible life” (Heb 7:16) to his divinity. I argue that, though both divinity and humanity are active in the text, the Son’s divine nature is foundational to the “indestructible life” which qualifies him for High Priestly ministry.
               Chapters 5 and 6 are more synthetic, demonstrating how two concepts in Hebrews reinforce the Son’s divinity. Chapter 5 explores the largely neglected connection of the Son’s divinity to the concept of covenant, arguing that the Son’s action as New Covenant surety is the properly divine fulfilment of God’s self-binding oaths to Abraham. Chapter 6 seeks to explore Christ’s Sonship, tensions around which have problematised the Son’s divinity in Hebrews. I argue that the Son’s identity as son has pre-temporal origins that depict him as divine, and yet displays itself through two other sonships, human and Davidic. I suggest that it is within this framework that appeal to the Son as God’s radiance (1:3), or as “God” (1:8), make most sense, and that, though the descriptions may secondarily involve his humanity, they portray a Son who is divine.
               The conclusion of the thesis is that, in spite of questions which have been raised, and the relative neglect of the theme in recent Hebrews scholarship, the Epistle serves as a rich witness to the identity of the Son as God. Moreover, this witness is not limited to brief portions of the Letter, but is a pervasive aspect of its thought, and is indeed theologically salient to the reading of the Epistle as a whole.