Friday, December 20, 2019

Atonement in Hebrews and the Qur'an

Here is a unique study dealing with Hebrews:

Bennett, Matthew Aaron. Narratives in Conflict: Atonement in Hebrews and the Qur’an. American Society of Missiology Monograph Series 42. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2019.

Description from the website:
"Did Jesus die on the cross for our sins as the Gospels describe? Or, as Muslims often contend, was Jesus rescued to heaven in order to avoid the shameful crucifixion that would be unbefitting of a messenger of God? This debate has raged for generations and has caused no shortage of frustration among those seeking to explain the central teaching of the Christian faith to those influenced by the Qur’an. What this book aims to do is uncover four barriers to understanding the biblical teaching on atonement that likely exist in the minds of our Muslim friends prior to asking about the historical reality of the Christ event.

What we will discover is that the Qur’an diverges from the biblical teaching on atonement at the lexical, ritual, narrative, and worldview levels. Each of these points of divergence presents a barrier to communication. Therefore, before arguing with our Muslim friends that Jesus died on the cross, we must provide an answer to the prior question, why would it matter? This book argues that the Letter to the Hebrews provides a particularly helpful biblical starting point for overcoming all four barriers."

Here is the abstract of the work which is based on his doctoral dissertation with Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2017:

"As the last 1400 years of Christian–Muslim dialogue have demonstrated, there are several areas of Islamic theology and Qur’anic claims that conflict with the message of the Bible. One such area of conflict is at an area of vital concern to the Bible: the concept of atonement. In the Hebrew Bible atonement is a logically unified concept whereby God grants his people means of achieving forgiveness and purification by accepting the blood of a sacrificial animal as a ransom–purgation. The book of Hebrews highlights the way the Christ Event accomplishes atonement by connecting Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension with the ritual actions of the high priest on the Day of Atonement.

The Qur’an, however, despite both claiming to continue and complete prior revelation and while including similar language often understood to mean atonement, teaches a very different doctrine of forgiveness. Despite the presence of the component parts of biblical atonement—sacrifice, forgiveness, purification, ransom, blood—the Qur’an keeps each aspect conceptually separate from the others. Such separation is most clearly seen in the Qur’an’s refusal to acknowledge blood’s role in achieving forgiveness or purification. Thus, while atonement language and the concepts of forgiveness and purification are present in both texts, there is an underlying disunity in the biblical and qur’anic ideas of atonement (conveyed through the Arabic word, kaffāra).

Where many scholars accuse the Qur’an of being blatantly mistaken or ill– informed in its retelling of quasi–biblical narratives, this dissertation will show that a generous reading of the Qur’an reveals a potentially nuanced intertextuality resulting in a PREVIEW xiii different understanding of continuation. Exegesis of Sura 5 demonstrates that the Qur’an sees sacrifice as a demarcation given to mark off new dispensations of revelation. This understanding of the purpose of sacrifice gives the Qur’an the ability to claim to stand in the stead of Judaism and Christianity without having to account for some of the details of underlying meaning and overt ritual. Thus, rather than assuming the Qur’an to be negligent in its treatment of Jewish and Christian atonement, the Qur’an simply makes a different claim to continuation than the book of Hebrews makes.

Ultimately, Hebrews offers a narrative–driven answer to the question, “Why did the Christ Event occur as the Bible indicates?” In so doing, it challenges the Qur’anic claims to continuation of prior revelation more forcefully than does the mere factual question, “Did the Christ Event occur as the Bible indicates?” The affirmative answer given to the latter question gains impact through understanding the whole biblical narrative that the Christ Event brings to a climax. The book of Hebrews demonstrates the climactic nature of the Christ Event, and thus its portrayal of Christian atonement coheres more seamlessly with biblical ritual, metanarrative, and worldview than does the disjunctive metanarrative suggested by the Qur’an. Ultimately, the argument of this dissertation is that Christ’s fulfillment of the Day of Atonement, as presented in the Book of Hebrews, exposes distinct worldviews between the Qur’an and Bible, and can be used to challenge Qur'anic claims to completing prior revelation."

Monday, December 9, 2019

Dissertation on the Use of Psalm 102 in Hebrews

I want to thank Jon Rinker for sending me a copy of his dissertation:

Jonathan A. Rinker. "Creation, Consummation, Perseverance and the Use of Psalm 102:25–27 in Hebrews 1:10–12." Ph.D. diss., Baptist Bible Seminary, 2017.

Jon is the Vice President for Development and Chair of Bible/Theology Deptment at Appalachian Bible College.

With his permission, I print the abstract:

"The heavy use of Old Testament quotation in Hebrews is spawned in Heb 1 as the author describes the glory of God’s revelation in his Son. This dissertation considers how the author of Hebrews uses one of those quotations, LXX Ps 101:26–28 in Hebrews 1:10–12, in order to show the significance of this quotation for his exposition and exhortation.

Chapter two explores the structure and message of Ps 102, which weaves lament for suffering and the unrealized Davidic promises, along with a hymn of praise that envisions these promises fulfilled in Zion’s restoration. Chapter three examines Ps 102:25–27 in its OT context. On the surface, this prayer acknowledges Yahweh as the eternal and changeless Creator. However, in light of the psalmist’s desperate suffering, his prayer demonstrates a persevering trust in Yahweh’s word, although still unfulfilled.

Chapter four turns to examine the literary and historical contexts of Hebrews, noting the serious threats to the faith of the recipients, and the author’s expository and hortatory aims in order to warn and comfort his congregation. Chapter five closely examines Heb 1:10–12 in the argument of 1:1–14 and its distant parallel in 12:25–29.

Chapter six examines the text form of the citation, noting its origin in the LXX, and the questions this raises about the author’s hermeneutical warrant. Next, this chapter provides a detailed exegesis of 1:10–12 in order to discern its meaning and significance in context. The conclusion here is that the psalm citation at Heb 1:10–12 makes a strong contribution to the author’s portrayal that Jesus has been appointed as the Davidic heir who rules in the world to come, fulfilling the promises for Israel’s restoration in Zion.

Chapter 7 broadens the scope to consider the quotation’s contribution of the argument of Hebrews. The conclusion here is that Heb 1:10–12 is foundational for both the author’s exposition on the Son, and his exhortation to the sons. Finally, chapter 8 summarizes this study, notes some of its unique contributions, and suggests opportunities for further study."

Anyone who wants a copy of the dissertation, let me know. He has granted me permission to distribute the dissertation.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Zeitschrift für Neues Testament Issue on Hebrews

An entire issue of Zeitschrift für Neues Testament (Volume 15, Issue 29, June 2012) is dedicated to Hebrews and is available for download

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Survey of Recent Hebrews Research

At the recent SBL conference I picked up a copy of a new survey of recent research in New Testament studies:

Scot McKnight and Nijay K. Gupta. The State of New Testament Studies: A Survey of Recent Research. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2019.

As is appopriate in such a survey, one chapter (19) is devoted to recent research on Hebrews. David M. Moffitt, senior lecturer in New Testament studies at the University of St. Andrews, is the author of this chapter.

The survey covers the period from 2003, when the last major surveys by George Guthrie and Daniel Harrington were done, to 2017 (no works published in 2018 appear in this survey).

Moffitt organizes his survey according to the following headings:

I. Questions of Historical Background: The Contexts of Hebrews
  A. Authorship
  B. Genre
  C. Structure
  D. Situation
  E. Greco-Roman Backgrounds
  F. The Interplay of Platonic and Apocalyptic Ideas
    1. Studies Emphasizing Hebrews' Platonism
    2. Studies Emphasizing Hebrews' Jewish Eschatology and Apocalypticism
  G. Hebrew and the Heavenly Tabernacle

II. Thematic Studies
  A. Faith and Faithfulness
  B. Hebrews' Critique of Judaism and the Mosaic Covenant
  C. Various Methodological and Thematic Studies

III. Hebrews' Use of the Old Testament
  A. Hebrews, the Septuagint, and Jewish Exegesis
  B. The Role of Specific Old Testament Figures and Texts
    1. Joshua
    2. Zion and Sinai
    3. Usage of Specific Old Testament Texts
    4. Hermeneutics and God's Speech

Moffitt concludes with some reflections on the current trends in Hebrews' research.

Naturally in a span of 18 pages (389–406) it is impossible to be comprehensive. Moffitt does mention most of the major commentaries, collections of essays, and monographs that have appeared in the 15 years covered, but he does overlook a few major studies. Most of the collections of essays and commentaries are simply listed in the footnotes. Moffitt also does not engage in any evaluation of the works surveys but simply highlights the major arguments. Understandably, summarizing a monograph in a few lines is quite challenging. For example, while he does a fair description of my book, I do not feel he fully captured the entirety of what I was doing in my monograph. I was also a bit surprised that there was no mention of discussions concerning the rhetorical structure of Hebrews. Nevertheless, Moffitt provides a useful survey of recent research on Hebrews. Anyone interested in getting started in Hebrews' research would certainly want to read this survey, along with some of the other major surveys I have catalogued on my History of Research page.

A Hebrews Commentary in Swedish

I collect all things Hebrews. Tommy Wasserman, a Swedish NT professor who specializes in NT textual criticism, kindly brought me a copy of his commentary on Hebrews all the way from Sweden (thus saving me shipping costs ;-) ). His commentary appears to be on a more popular level. There are no footnotes and a brief annotated bibliography of six English-language works is attached to the end. The commentary is divided into 13 sections (but not necessarily by chapter) and a few excurses are sprinkled throughout. The commentary was published in 2010. The title basically means "with eyes fixed on Jesus." Here is a translation of the blurb for the book from one website:

With eyes fixed on Jesus is a commentary on Hebrews in the New Testament Message series. This letter addresses, among other things, as the name of the letter suggests, the relationship between Judaism and Christianity and addresses, among other things, the cultural issues that relate to this relationship. But here are also some problem texts that can be difficult to interpret and where this commentary tries to give answers to how they might be applicable today.

This is the fifth book in the commentary series New Testament Message (NTB) for Bible readers who want to understand more. Like previous books in the series, it can be studied on its own but can also be used in study circles or home groups. Tommy Wasserman is a teacher in the New Testament and educational director at Örebro Theological University. His doctoral dissertation at Lund University was about textual criticism of Greek manuscripts in the letter of Judas. "... he succeeds well with the balance between interpreting and explaining the texts in his context and relating to our time and contemporary human life issues." Håkan Stenow, Library Services.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Hebrews at the Annual Meeting of SBL

I will be attending the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. They have an added section to Hebrews this year:

Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting
San Diego, CA
November 23–26, 2019

Minoritized Criticism and Biblical Interpretation / Racism, Pedagogy and Biblical Studies
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Balboa (South Tower - Level Three) - Marriott Marquis
Theme: Critical Race Theory and Biblical Criticism

Jennifer T. Kaalund, Iona College
What Inheritance Awaits You? Boundaries and Belonging in Hebrews (25 min)
"Genealogies are social constructs. They are political instruments that have multiple functions. For one, they connect the past to the present and the future. Promoting a genealogy can be a strategy of self-authorization. It can also be an assertion of a particular background or lineage. In the book of Hebrews, we encounter ἀγενεαλόγητος, one without a genealogy. Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of the Most High God is described as one without father or mother (7:2). The lack of a genealogy here serves to further elucidate the author’s work to establish a new one in the chapters that follow. The author constructs a genealogy of faith; those who preserve and are faithful become God’s people, grafted into this lineage of those who “obtained a good testimony through faith, but didn’t not receive the promise”(10:39). An inheritance of hope is granted and salvation awaits the newly designated sons and daughters of God. In a contemporary context, genealogies remain formative tools, both personally (one’s relatives) and professionally (one’s teachers). Our own genealogies are seen as predictive even determining factors. This paper will explore how (fictive) kinship functions as a way to create peoplehood with a disparate group of people. Concomitantly, kinship ties can be exclusionary. Kinship is always social and establishes not only relationship but more specifically relationships of power. Drawing on critical race theory and utilizing a cultural comparative analyses, I will argue that belonging is a dangerous illusion when boundaries are tenuous– one is never fully accepted, but one is always working to be accepted."

The Bible in Ancient (and Modern) Media11/23/2019
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: 31A (Upper Level East) - Convention Center

David Young, Boston University
Author Function in the Reception of the Epistle to the Hebrews among Editions of the Pauline Corpus and Eusebius' Catalogue of Christian Scriptures (30 min)
"Judgments regarding the authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews played a significant role in Hebrews’ reception in antiquity. Such judgments, however, typically entailed more than mere assessments about who most likely authored the epistle. Attributions of authorship to Hebrews served a specific function in the diverse social contexts in which they were employed. The reception of Hebrews among editions of the Pauline corpus and in Eusebius’ catalogue of Christian scriptures are two specific contexts in which the function of author attribution and the diverse purposes to which it may be employed are particularly evident. One of the most critical tasks in the creation of an edition of an author’s writings in antiquity was the separation of authentic works from spurious ones. Early Greek and Latin manuscripts which include Hebrews suggest that one of the primary concerns in the epistle’s reproduction was its relationship to the Pauline corpus and thus also ideas about its authorship. Eusebius similarly discussed the authorship of Hebrews, as well as other Christian writings, utilizing his training in bibliographic method to separate authentic works from spurious ones. Although authorship served a significant function in both the creation of editions in antiquity and ancient bibliographic method, Eusebius transformed the latter in subtle yet significant ways, introducing new criteria into his catalogue of Christian scriptures, thereby employing author function to new ends."

Intertextuality in the New Testament / Hebrews
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: 28C (Upper Level East) - Convention Center
Theme: Intertextuality in the Letter to the Hebrews and the Old Testament/Jewish Literature
The Hebrews Section and The Intertextuality in the New Testament Section have collaborated for two joint plenary sessions. This is the first of two which features invited papers with responses that pay particular attention to the intertextual methods employed by the author of Hebrews with the Old Testament and Jewish literature.
Max Lee, North Park Theological Seminary, Presiding

Susan Docherty, Newman University Birmingham
Israel’s Scriptures in Hebrews (25 min)
"The deep engagement with Israel’s scriptures evident throughout Hebrews has ensured that this aspect of the epistle has been thoroughly treated by commentators in every age. The subject has been explored from all angles, with substantial and valuable studies available on everything from the nature of the author’s textual sources to his characteristic exegetical techniques, and from his overall understanding of scripture to the theological and rhetorical functions of specific citations. This paper aims to navigate a way through this almost bewildering wealth of material by drawing out from it the key areas of current debate and highlighting any potentially significant new approaches. It will set the scene, therefore, for the wider discussion in this session of Hebrews’ intertextual connections with the OT and Jewish Literature, by asking what scholars are saying now about how Hebrews uses scripture, and what they might be saying about this in the future."

David Moffitt, University of St. Andrews
Isaiah 53, Hebrews, and Covenant Renewal (25 min)
"This paper argues that Hebrews draws on aspects of Isaiah 53 and the servant’s role in restoring the fractured covenant relationship with God’s people. As such, Hebrews recognizes a distinction between the work that Jesus does to restore the covenant and the work that Jesus does as high priest to maintain it. In keeping with some other Second Temple Jewish evidence (e.g., 2 Maccabees), Hebrews does not conflate the singular suffering of the servant on behalf of God’s people with the normal sacrificial means of atonement."

Lori Baron, Saint Louis University, Respondent (10 min)

George Guthrie, Regent College
High Priestly Sacrifice and “Intertextual Layering” in Hebrews (25 min)
"In the past half century, strides have been made in assessing numerous dynamics in Hebrews' intertextual tapestry, including attention to a wide variety of the author's appropriation and rhetorical techniques. The current paper proposes the addition of "intertextual layering," a particular form of "fat" reflection on the Scriptures, the author alluding to or echoing various texts, associated through verbal analogy, to draw out diverse implications of a single dimension of the Christ Event. As illustration of the phenomenon, the paper focuses on the language of high-priestly sacrifice at Heb. 5:3 and 9:7, suggesting that the verbal analogy in these verses should be read as alluding respectively to sacrifice at the ordination of the priests in Lev. 9 and that on the Day of Atonement in Lev. 16. The implication suggested is that Christ's sacrifice is read as having a "layered" theological effect, accomplishing both the Son's ordination as a superior High Priest and his Day of Atonement sacrifice on behalf of his new covenant people."

Nicholas Perrin, Trinity International University
Two Psalms and a Priest Walked into a Bar: The Traditionsgeschichte behind Jesus’ Sacerdotal Sonship in Hebrews (25 min)
"A nagging question in the study of Hebrew relates to the notional origins of Jesus’ high priesthood qua ‘son’. Some scholars propose that the author derived this concept from traditions shaped by post-Easter atonement theology; others suggest a more directly Jewish influence; still others understand the move as pure innovation. Against all these approaches, this paper will argue that in grounding Jesus’ priesthood in Psalms 2 and 110, the auctor Hebraeos is drawing on a well-established interpretative tradition that was both derived from the earliest Jesus traditions and reinforced through the church’s liturgical life. If sustainable, this thesis calls for a fresh repositioning of one of the major theological planks animating Hebrews."

Erik Waaler, NLA University College, Respondent (10 min)

Discussion (30 min)

Hebrews / Intertextuality in the New Testament
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: 2 (Upper Level West) - Convention Center
Theme: Intertextuality in the Letter to the Hebrews and the Classical Tradition/Greco-Roman Literature
The Hebrews Section and The Intertextuality in the New Testament Section have collaborated for two joint plenary sessions. This is the second of two which features invited papers with responses that pay particular attention to the intertextual methods employed by the author of Hebrews with the classic tradition and Hellenistic/Greco-Roman literature.
David Moffitt, University of St. Andrews, Presiding

Kenneth Schenck, Houghton College
Echoes of Philo in the Sermon of Hebrews? (25 min)
"In 1970, Ronald Williamson set out to show that the supposed parallels between Hebrews and Philo were either superficial or misinterpreted. He effectively turned the direction set by Çeslas Spicq and others, who saw the author of Hebrews as a Philonist of sorts. What is striking about Williamson’s study, however, is the sheer number of potential parallels he considers. David Runia has also shown striking parallels to Philo in the way Hebrews cites a handful of biblical passages. Richard Hays’ work with intertextual “echoes” suggests another way to approach these parallels, namely, as echoes rather than direct engagement. This paper suggests that the sheer volume of such echoes seems too extensive to be mere coincidence and that the author of Hebrews was likely impacted at least indirectly by the work of Philo of Alexandria."

Madison N. Pierce, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
The Origins of Prosopological Exegesis and Features of Its Use in the Epistle to the Hebrews (25 min)
"The author of Hebrews is creative in his use of Scripture. One particularly noteworthy feature of his intertextual connections is the recontextualization of passages, which often results in different participants speaking or being addressed. For example, Jesus is portrayed as the speaker of Greek Psalm 39 in Hebrews 10. Likewise, in the interpretations of early Christian writers, the portrayed speaker (e.g., the Psalmist) is sometimes said to be speaking “from the person of” Christ (or God or the Spirit or the Church among others). These ancient interpreters heard the voice of these characters in the Psalms and Prophets. This phenomenon now is referred to most commonly as “prosopological exegesis.” As others have noted (Andresen, Rondeau, and more recently, Bates), early parallels to this technique are likely found in Hebrews. In almost every quotation of Scripture some new character emerges as a speaker or addressee. This paper will provide some suggestions regarding the origins of this exegetical method from Greco-Roman rhetorical education and literary criticism. In addition to a discussion of these origins, the paper also will outline some features common to the quotations being incorporated by our author."

Max J. Lee, North Park Theological Seminary, Respondent (10 min)

Scott D. Mackie, Independent Scholar
Divine Testing, Toil, and Confession of Divine Kinship in Philo, Congr. 163–180 and the Epistle to the Hebrews 12:1–17 (25 min)
"The relationship of the Epistle to the Hebrews to Philo of Alexandria has been the subject of debate since 1644, when Hugo Grotius first proposed that the author of Hebrews “seems to have read Philo.” Interpretive interest in this relationship has been grown substantially in the years since Ceslas Spicq famously endorsed Eugene Ménégoz’s claim that the author was “un philonien converti au christianisme.” Though this assertion has been challenged, a near consensus has been reached concerning the relationship of the two authors: they stand in proximate streams of Hellenistic Judaism. This paper identifies and analyzes a cluster of motifs that occur in Philo’s treatise, On the Preliminary Studies 163–180, and Heb 12:1–17. These shared themes include the benefits of testing, trials, toil and pain, life as an agonistic/athletic contest, weakened hands and limbs, gymnastic training, confessing kinship with God, bitterness, turning away from God, profane people, the figure of Esau, “peaceable” things, and “justice/righteousness.” In Congr. 163–180, Philo enlists these themes while defending the necessity of toil and hardship on the path of moral and philosophic progress, while in Heb 12:1–17 they are theodicial in intent, promoting perseverance in the face of persecution. A comparison of these two related texts and their varying protreptic goals is mutually illuminative, and it raises the possibility that the author of Hebrews may have been exposed to Philo’s treatise on the encyclical studies."

Jason A. Whitlark, Baylor University
Humor in Hebrews: Rhetoric of the Ridiculus in the Example of Esau (25 min)
"One area from the Greco-Roman world that has proven illuminating to the study of Hebrews has been classical rhetoric. Several dimensions of classical rhetoric have been explored in Hebrews—arrangement, characterization, style, vivid descriptions, and figured critique to name only a few. Notably, one area in the examination of classical rhetoric and Hebrews that has gained little attention has been humor and its role in declamation. The topic is treated at length by the Latin theorists Cicero and Quintilian. According to rhetorical theorists, humor was an effective strategy in rousing emotions, attacking an opponent, or targeting foolish actions. One topic of humor was the incongruity of exchanges. In addition to its characterization in the rhetorical handbooks, incongruous humorous exchanges are found in Homer’s Iliad, Lucian's Toxaris, and especially Aristophanes’s comedy, Aves. Moreover, art also tended to use disproportion or caricature to make humorous representations. Similar tendencies are present in Hebrews 12:16. In Hebrews 12:16, the author of Hebrews possibly engages in a little bit of humor through the example of Esau. Specifically, through a clever choice of words and emphasis upon the foolish incongruity in the exchange of Esau's birthright for temporary relief of hunger, the author of Hebrews wittily points out the absurdity of apostasy. Moreover, this engagement with the emotions comes at a point where the theorists specifically recommend the arousing of emotions—in a peroratio or, in the case of Heb 12:16, a secondary peroratio. The function of such a shaft of wit in the very serious discourse of Hebrews would have been to diminish the temptation to leave the community because it is ridiculed as an absurd choice in light of the “birthright” that the community has through the Son. This strategic use of humor supports the deliberative focus of the discourse of Hebrews that encourages perseverance in the confession of the Son and ongoing identification with the suffering of the community. Additionally, modern studies of humor have emphasized that shared humor helps create and maintain community identity and solidarity."

B. J. Oropeza, Azusa Pacific University, Respondent (10 min)

Discussion (30 min)

1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: 1A (Upper Level West) - Convention Center
Madison Pierce, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Presiding

Bryan R. Dyer, Calvin College/Baker Academic
"In the Days of His Flesh": The Humanity of Jesus in the Argument of Hebrews (30 min)
"By many scholars and in numerous ways, the significance of the humanity of Jesus has been identified within the argument of Hebrews. Yet, there has not been a full-length treatment pulling together the threads of the author’s argument in which Jesus’ humanity plays an important role. The intent of this essay is to identify those areas of Hebrews’ argument where Jesus’ humanity is discussed and to begin to address the question of why Christ’s humanity is so important for the author. In the essay I identify five aspects of Hebrews’ argument where Jesus’ humanity plays a role. First, I follow Moffitt in seeing Jesus’ humanity as the point of contrast with the angels in Hebrews 1-2. It is his humanity that allows Jesus to be elevated above the angels and reign in the world to come. Second, the humanity of Jesus is vital for the author’s presentation of Jesus as a high priest. Looking closely at 5:1-10, I trace how Jesus’ humanity is a key qualification for his high priesthood. Third, the author develops Jesus’ humanity to establish not only that Jesus is a high priest, but that he is a merciful and sympathetic one. Fourth, Jesus’ humanity is key to understanding not only how Christ is qualified to serve as a high priest in the heavenly sanctuary, but also to understanding what he offers God. That is, it is Jesus’ perfect humanity that he offers to God in the heavenly sanctuary. Finally, the parenetic function of the epistle is clear in the author’s presentation of Jesus’ humanity as it establishes him as an exemplar of faithful endurance for the recipients in their own struggle."

Michael Kibbe, Great Northern University
The Ascended Son (and His Siblings): Storied Theology in Hebrews 1 (30 min)
"It is quite common today for scholars to argue or assume that the context of at least some of the divine words to the Son in Hebrews 1 is his ascension and enthronement. This is rarely disputed concerning Heb 1:5 (citing Ps 2:7 and 2 Sam 7:14) and 1:6 (the source of the citation is less clear, though Deut 32:43 is the preeminent candidate), and nearly goes without saying in 1:13 (citing Ps 110:1). Some scholars furthermore argue that the conceptual location of the whole catena (1:5–13) is the Son in his incarnate state, rather than (as Hebrews has sometimes been read) Hebrews 1 being “about” Jesus’ deity and Hebrews 2 being “about” his humanity (e.g., Hurst, Schenck). A few go so far as to call the catena a “hymnic celebration” of the enthronement moment (Jipp, “Entrance into the Heavenly World, 558). This paper takes the argument one more step, suggesting that the entire paternal monologue of Heb 1:5–13 is precisely a description of the event itself—that is, of the Father’s words to the Son at the moment of his reception before the inhabitants of heaven. The arguments for this position are as follows: 1) concrete indicators of the timing of the statement in 1:5, 6, and 13; 2) the lack of any indication that the narrative context has shifted in 1:7–12; 3) the likely post-earthly-life setting of 1:9; 4) the suitability of 1:5–13 as a description of events in between the pivotal moments of 1:3 (atonement and session); 5) Hebrews’ broader interest in heavenly events (e.g., Jesus’ heavenly offering); 6) the similar (though pre-incarnate, in this case) narratival speech sequence in 10:5–7; 7) the Davidic-king-enthroned-on-Zion context of several of the texts cited in 1:5–13; 8) the consistency with which other NT authors use the Psalms to describe Jesus’ ascension and enthronement (e.g., Acts 2; Ephesians 4); 9) the identification of all these words as divine speech rather than written text—thus the appropriateness of the question “in what context did God speak these words?”; and 10) the enthronement scene as the basis for the incarnate Son’s superiority over the angels in preparation for the argument in Hebrews 2 that the Son and his siblings, rather than the angels, will rule over the world to come."

Seth Whitaker, University of St. Andrews
Future Hope and Ancient Songs: The Eschatology of Psalms in Hebrews 1–2 compared with Midrash and Targum Traditions (30 min)
"Citing 8 Psalms in just 22 verses (Heb. 1:5–2:12), the author of Hebrews gives us a glimpse of how he reads Jewish Scripture in light of the Son who speaks in 'these last days' (Heb. 1:2). The central confession that Jesus is the great heavenly priest for those in the contemporary wilderness waiting for the Lord’s eschatological rest is initiated and sustained by Psalm 110 and Psalm 95 respectively. Similarly, the Psalms frame Hebrews' initial portrait of Jesus and provide the foundation for eschatological hope in the first two chapters of the exhortation. Containing similar references to eschatological convictions such as ’the world to come’ (cf. Heb. 2:5; 6:5), the Midrash and Targum of the psalms found in Hebrews 1–2 provide correlated interpretations insightful for better understanding early Jewish exegesis. The Midrash concerning Psalm 102 (cited in Heb. 1:10-12) specifically interprets the prayer of the afflicted as an atoning prayer for 'a later generation' (Ps. 102:1, 18; cf. Heb. 13:15). And the Targum readings of Psalm 22 (cited in Heb. 2:12) expand the Hebrew for a unique addition of 'Abraham’s seed' (cf. Heb. 2:16) who will worship the LORD and tell of his might, again, to 'a later generation' (Trg. Ps. 22:31). Through this study, it seems likely that other Jewish interpretive traditions read the Psalms (particularly the psalms found in Hebrews 1–2) as particularly relevant for communities in the eschatological latter days. In this sense, the articulation of future hope is conceived by an appeal to the ancient songs of the Psalter."

Nicholas Moore, Cranmer Hall, St John's College, Durham University
Once More Unto the Breach: The Sanctuary Veil in Hebrews in Pentateuchal, Apocalyptic, and Synoptic Perspective (30 min)
"The temple/tabernacle curtain (καταπέτασμα) is mentioned six times in the NT, once in each of the Synoptic Gospels at the veil-tearing during Jesus’ crucifixion, and three times in Hebrews (at 6:19; 9:3; 10:20). A strong case has been made for understanding the Synoptic veil-rending accounts in apocalyptic terms (Daniel Gurtner). In Hebrews scholarship much attention has been given to the difficult phrase τοῦτ᾽ ἔστιν τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ in Heb 10:20, and also to the background of the veil imagery in an apocalyptic rather than gnostic conceptuality (Otfried Hofius responding to Ernst Käsemann). Less attention has been given to other key passages within Hebrews, to the connection between Hebrews and the Septuagint (especially Pentateuch) material on the veil, or to the relationship between Hebrews and the Synoptics. This paper will establish the importance of broadening our scope within Hebrews to include two passages where the curtain is strikingly absent (4:14-16 and 9:6-14), and on this basis will argue two further points: (1) Textually Hebrews depends in large part on the LXX, with influence from Second Temple apocalyptic traditions. (2) While there is little intertextual connection between Hebrews and the Synoptics, they display considerable conceptual overlap. Both construe heaven as an open sanctuary as a result of the Christ event, although with significant differences in the manner, timing, and agency of the breaching of the veil."

Vincenz Heereman, University of Notre Dame
How Abel Ended up in Hebrews: Reexamining the Origins of Heb 11:4 and the Problem of Dating the Targumim (30 min)
"Abel’s mention in Heb 11:4 has long been a challenge for interpreters. He is credited with faith and righteousness, two characteristics conspicuously absent from the laconic scriptural record of Gen 4. While from the earliest days commentators of Genesis have sought to fill in the gaps of the narrative, exegetes of Hebrews have wondered where in the tradition Abel came to be associated with faith. In 1961, French Targum scholar Roger Le Déaut claimed to have found the missing link: a significant haggadic tradition, reflected in the Palestinian Targumim (PT) and capable of providing the context for an adequate understanding of the Abel trope in Heb 11:4 and 12:24 (see his article “Traditions targumiques dans le corpus paulinien ? [Hebr 11,4 et 12,24; Gal 4,29-30; II Cor 3,16],” Bib 42 [1961]: 28–48). In Tg. Neof. Gen 4:8 Cain and Abel are portrayed as discussing the existence of a judge, a final judgment, and retribution in the world to come. What Cain denies, Abel steadfastly defends, and his profession of faith leads to his being murdered by his brother. This tradition, Le Déaut claims, belongs to the older strata of Targumic material and was known to the author of Hebrews. Le Déaut’s proposal was hesitantly received and can be found in the footnotes of some later commentaries. Upon the whole, however, NT scholars showed the usual misgivings about the possibility to rely on Targumic material to explain NT tropes—the main source of doubt being the late dating of the Targumim, at least as regards their final redaction. Was Le Déaut right in his assessment, or did he succumb to the temptation of an anachronistic parallelism? In my paper, I begin by surveying other ancient texts containing traditions about Cain and Abel (i.a. Life of Adam and Eve, 1 Enoch, various works of Philo), trying to establish whether any of them could provide a more suitable background to explain Abel’s characterization in Hebrews. None of what this survey yields seems to be what Hebrews has as its immediate backdrop. Nevertheless, a close inspection of the Philonic material concerning Abel reveals at least a certain kinship both with Hebrews and the PT. I then turn to canvass Rabbinic texts that refer to Abel. The result is intriguing. While the NT and subsequent Christian literature is consistent in portraying Abel as a hero, the Rabbinic sources are far from exclusively positive in their assessment. Their lack of enthusiasm, it seems, stems from the desire not to overemphasize a biblical character that had been christologically colonized by the Church. My investigation thus partially confirms Le Déaut’s argument. The PT’s positive stance toward Abel reflects an early origin, possibly contemporary to the exegetical traditions found in Hebrews and Philo. However, the recensions of the PT containing a detailed description of Cain and Abel’s faith-centered debate, more likely belong to a later generation of Jewish exegesis where the dialogue between believer and unbeliever had become a common trope."

The Bible in Ancient (and Modern) Media / Performance Criticism of Biblical and Other Ancient Texts
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: 29A (Upper Level East) - Convention Center
Theme: Hermeneutics of Sound and Biblical Text
This session is organized jointly by the Bible in Ancient (and Modern) Media section and the Performance Criticism of Biblical and Other Ancient Texts section. This session will address such issues as sound mapping, linguistic studies, and auditory analysis. The papers for this session will feature discussion on literature from both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

Jeffrey E. Brickle, Urshan Graduate School of Theology
"Sing in Me, Muse": Converging Soundscapes in the Prologues of the Odyssey and Hebrews (25 min)
"While reflecting radically different eras, outlooks, genres, and styles, both Homer’s Odyssey and the Epistle to the Hebrews capitalize on the theme of an epic homecoming. The “hero” of each work seeks to lead his people on a journey fraught with danger in order to arrive safely at the intended telos. This essay will explore the prospect that the opening of Hebrews may aurally evoke the opening of the Odyssey, a well-known cultural text celebrated in antiquity for its literary characteristics, frequently deemed a mimetic exemplar, and deeply embedded in the psyche and paideia of Greco-Roman society. By investigating (1) key shared words and concepts, (2) the distinctive sound signatures developed by these prologues, (3) subjecting both prologues to the principles for euphonious composition advocated in Dionysius of Halicarnassus’s On Literary Composition (which, incidentally, begins with a quotation from the Odyssey and frequently cites Homer), and (4) examining aural resonances between these passages, the essay will attempt to demonstrate the value of utilizing sound mapping for interpreting biblical texts. Importantly, the study will evaluate the auditory effects obtained when Dionysius’s recommendations on elements such as word order, melody, rhythm, variety, and appropriateness are factored into our comparative analyses. This essay will advance the preliminary inquiry into this topic proposed by the author in his contribution to Sound Matters: New Testament Studies in Sound Mapping, volume 16 in Cascade’s Biblical Performance Criticism series."

Intertextuality in the New Testament
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: 30C (Upper Level East) - Convention Center
Theme: Intertextuality in the Epistles

Ryder A. Wishart, McMaster Divinity College
Cain and Abel in Second Temple Jewish Culture: The Intertextual Negotiation of Social and Theological Values (25 min)
"References to Cain and Abel in the New Testament exemplify the problematic nature of trying to identify direct connections between texts. Sometimes a reference does not use the same lexemes as the supposed reference text. At other times, a single lexeme is used in context to indicate an entire thematic structure. Context is critical within texts themselves, which is what Jay L. Lemke calls “thematic meaning.” Rather than seeing such references as allusions, echoes, or any other kind of document-to-document connection, they should be understood as text-to-culture-to-text connections. In other words, where scholars in the field trace direct connections between texts, these should be reconsidered as indirect connections, connections by way of shared cultural meanings. I will show that the NT references to Cain and Abel, though following the LXX tradition in some respects, nevertheless evidence engagement with the MT tradition as well. The reason these references engage both traditions simultaneously is because they engage neither directly. With this shift in perspective, I will show how Hebrews answers a question raised by the Masoretic Text tradition that many different Jewish communities over the centuries sought to answer, namely, what kind of sacrifice pleases God? In order to demonstrate this argument, I will trace one particular line of discussion in the secondary literature on Cain and Abel, namely the relationship between construal of Cain and Abel in the Masoretic Text, Septuagint, and New Testament. Using Lemke’s model of heteroglossic intertextual relations, I will then bring these “canonical” text traditions into dialogue with a number of non-canonical primary sources, illustrating the broad nature of the cultural conversation on Cain and Abel within Second Temple Judaism. Finally, I will demonstrate how faith, as the disposition acceptable to God in Hebrews 11:4 (and 12:24), allies and opposes other uses of the Cain and Abel tradition in Second Temple culture."

Hebrews at the Annual Meeting of ETS

I don't attend the ETS meetings, but they always seem to have a bunch of interesting papers on Hebrews:

Evangelical Theological Society Annual Meeting
San Diego, CA
November 20–22, 2019

Wednesday, November 20, 9:00–12:00

Biblical Theology: Christ in All Scripture
Second Floor – Seaport F

9:50 AM—10:30 AM
Dana Harris
(Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)
On the Lips of Jesus: Scripture Citations and Christology in Hebrews

Wednesday, November 20, 2:00 PM –5:10 PM

New Testament: Hebrews
33rd Floor – Cuyamuca Peak

Moderator: Bryan R. Dyer
(Baker Academic)

2:00 PM—2:40 PM
Nathan William Harris
(Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)
Sonship and Superiority: How Second Temple Angelology Informs the Christology of Hebrews 1-2

2:50 PM—3:30 PM
J. Michael McKay Jr.
(Cedarville University)
Jesus Speaks the Old Testament? Tracing the Trajectory of “him who is speaking” in Heb 12:18-29

3:40 PM—4:20 PM
Albert Bisson
(Mississippi State University)
The Translation of Paideia as Critical to Understanding the Argument Presented in Heb 12:3-11

4:30 PM—5:10 PM
Joseph K. Pak
(Taylor University)
Christ's High Priesthood and Perseverance of the Saints 

Thursday, November 21, 8:30 AM-11:40 AM

Biblical Worship: Worship in Hebrews
Second Floor – Gaslamp C

Moderator: Scott Aniol
(Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)

8:30 AM—9:10 AM
David Allen
(Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)
"Draw Near": Worship in Hebrews

9:20 AM—10:00 AM
Ron Man
(Worship Resources International)
Proclamation and Praise: Hebrews 2:12 and the Christology of Worship

10:10 AM—10:50 AM
Barry Joslin
(The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
New Covenant Worship

11:00 AM—11:40 AM
Panel Discussion

New Testament Canon, Textual Criticism, & Apocryphal Literature
Third Floor – Mission Beach BC

10:10 AM—10:50 AM
Benjamin Laird
(Liberty University)
The Early Canonical Reception of Hebrews in Western Christianity

Friday, November 22, 1:00 PM-4:10 PM

New Testament: General Studies
Third Floor – Hillcrest C

2:40 PM—3:20 PM
Andrew B. Spurgeon
(Singapore Bible College)
Hebrews 6:7–8 and the Lord Jesus’s parable of the sower, Mark 4:3–20

3:30 PM—4:10 PM
Jesse Coyne
(Athens College of Ministry)
The Harrowing of Hell, Matthew’s Walking Dead, and the Heavenly Assembly in Hebrews 12:22–24

New Testament: Hermeneutics and Rhetoric
33rd Floor – Pyramid Peak

1:00 PM—1:40 PM
David I. Starling
(Morling College, ACT and University of Divinity)
Preaching Christ in All Scripture: Hebrews and the Hermeneutics of Expository Preaching

Biblical Theology II
33rd Floor – Kingston Peak

1:00 PM—1:40 PM
Josiah Way
(California Baptist University)
Christ as Leitourgos: The Vision of Worshiping Priest in Heb 8:1–13 and Implications on Practice

3:30 PM—4:10 PM
Jason P. Kees
(Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)
Having our Hearts Sprinkled: The Influence of Ezekiel 36:25-26 on Hebrews 10:22

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Review of Vanhoye, A Perfect Priest

J. Michael McKay reviews Albert Vanhoye, A Perfect Priest: Studies in the Letter to the Hebrews, edited by Nicholas J. Moore and Richard J. Ounsworth, in RBL.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Charles Hodge on Hebrews

I've just been made aware that this book is coming out:

Charles Hodge. Exegetical Lectures and Sermons on Hebrews. Banner of Truth.

Description from the website:

This book has two parts, both of which contain material not previously published.

The first part contains Charles Hodge’s exegetical and expository notes on the letter to the Hebrews. These date from 1821, the year of his ordination, and 1842, when he delivered a series of lectures on Hebrews at Princeton Theological Seminary. Like his other published commentaries, this is an exegetical exposition, following Calvin’s pattern of brevity and simplicity. Hodge skilfully engages the Greek text in a way that enhances the reader’s understanding of the details and flow of the whole. Those familiar with Hodge’s commentaries on other New Testament epistles will immediately recognize his style and method. Broad themes and fine points merge together in a coherent whole, as the commentator allows the text of Scripture to speak for itself.

Also among the archival collection of Charles Hodge’s manuscripts at Princeton are a series of sermon outlines, and some full manuscript sermons, on passages from the letter to the Hebrews, most of which were never published. In 1879 A. A. Hodge included four of these as part of a wider collection of sermon outlines which were published following his father’s death as Princeton Sermons. These four sermons, along with all of Hodge’s other manuscript sermons on Hebrews are brought together for the first time in this volume.

The sermons on Hebrews in Part Two supplement the commentary in Part One, providing the reader with a more expansive exposition and application of numerous key sections of Hebrews. A few are more text-topical in their orientation, revealing Hodge’s masterful ability to communicate the rich themes of biblical and systematic theology with earnest clarity and simplicity. Others are more exegetical and expository, with application aimed at growth in Christian living. Together they display Hodge’s ‘adoring love for Christ,’ and even more, Christ’s love for his church.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Heaven's Revolving Door?

The newest article on Hebrews:

Moore, Nicholas J. “Heaven’s Revolving Door? Cosmology, Entrance, and Approach in Hebrews.” Bulletin for Biblical Research 29.2 (2019): 187–207.

Abstract: "The significance of “entering” and “approaching” terminology in Hebrews has been contested, with some scholars viewing these terms as clearly distinct, and others arguing they are fully synonymous. This debate is often framed in eschatological terms: when rest or heaven is entered. This article instead explores these questions from a cosmological point of view. First, language of “vertical” and “horizontal” as applied to Hebrews’ cosmology is critiqued for its imprecision and lack of explanatory power with respect to the entrance and approach passages in the letter. In place of a neat vertical/horizontal distinction, it is suggested that we find a complex and plural, yet nevertheless consistent, distinction between earth and heaven. Secondly, four passages in Hebrews are examined at greater length in the context of OT and Second Temple period texts, in order to demonstrate that it is more coherent in cosmological terms to regard approaching and entering as separate rather than identical movements."

Friday, October 4, 2019

Melchizedek and Jesus

Claude Mariottini reflects on the significance of Melchizedek and Jesus in Hebrews.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Friday, September 6, 2019

Origen on Paul's Authorship of Hebrews

Peter Gurry has a brief discussion on Origen's view of Pauline authorship of Hebrews: Origin Did Think Paul Wrote Hebrews. He is reacting to this recent article, which is linked in the blog post:

Thomas, Matthew. “Origen on Paul’s Authorship of Hebrews.” New Testament Studies 65.4 (2019): 598–609.

Carrell Review of Church, Hebrews and the Temple

Here is a review I just became aware of:

Peter Carrell reviews Philip Church's book, Hebrews and the Temple: Attitudes to the Temple in Second Temple Judaism and in Hebrews.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Hebrews Highlights August 2019

I haven't had a Hebrews Highlights now for several months. It seems that no one is blogging on Hebrews lately. Here are a couple of posts that came in at the end of the month.

Henry Neufeld reflects on Hebrews 11:1–3.

John Oswalt reflects on Hebrews 9:12–14.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

A Small Theology of Hebrews

ISD has announced the publication of the following new book:

Joachim Ringleben. Wort und Geschichte: Kleine Theologie des Hebräerbriefs. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

The blurb:
"Die Worttheologie des Hebräerbriefes denkt die Einheit des ewigen Gottes und seines Redens in der Geschichte nicht als eine Folge verschiedener "Worte" Gottes, sondern sprachlich angemessen als einen zeitlich-ewigen Satz. So erschliessen sich Kontinuität und Differenziertheit des göttlichen Redens vom Alten bis zum Neuen Bund (Hebr 1,1f). Dabei ist die wenig gewürdigte Logik der Aufhebung (10,9b; 8,13a; 11,40) grundlegend. Vor diesem Hintergrund lässt sich die sprachförmige Christologie (zwischen Schöpfung und Eschatologie) ebenso rekonstruieren wie der wortbezogene Glaube (11,1) in Relation auf die verschiedenen Gestalten göttlicher Rede sowie auch das Verhältnis von Wort und Glaube in ihrer Geschichte im Alten Testament (11,4-38). Diese führt zu einer ausgeformten Eschatologie des sich vollendenden Wortes, und sie erlaubt schliesslich die für den Hebräerbrief spezifische "Typologie" als Gottes Sich-Entsprechen im heilsgeschichtlichen Weiterreden in ihrer sprachlichen Logik zu verstehen."

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Open Access to Bullinger's Commentary on Hebrews

The publisher, Theologischer Verlag Zürich, has provided open access to Heinrich Bullinger's commentary on Hebrews and the Catholic Epistles:

Heinrich Bullinger. Kommentare zu den neutestamentlichen Briefen. Hebräerbrief - Katholische Briefe.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Friday, July 12, 2019

Hebrews at the International SBL

The following are abstracts of papers on Hebrews that were delivered at the recent international SBL meeting in Rome, Italy (HT to Gregory Lamb for making these available):

Epistle to the Hebrews
2:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: C209 - Central
Madison Pierce, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Presiding

Albert Coetsee, North-West University (South Africa)
Hebrews 12:9 Revisited: The Background of the Phrase “and Live” (30 min)
The a fortiori argument of Hebrews 12:9b asks: “Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?” (ESV). The majority of scholars agree that the reference to “the Father of spirits” (τῷ πατρὶ τῶν πνευμάτων) probably echoes Numbers 16:22 or 27:16, although other possibilities are also pursued (e.g. 2 Mac 3:24; Jub 10:3; 1 Clem 59:3; 64:1; 1 Enoch 37:2). However, when it comes to the possible background of the result clause “and live” (καὶ ζήσομεν), most scholars are silent. The majority of those that venture to propose a possible background, vaguely refer to Proverbs 6:23b (“the way of life [is] reproof and discipline” [καὶ ὁδὸς ζωῆς ἔλεγχος καὶ παιδεία]). Only a handful of scholars take another route by arguing that in the whole of Hebrews 12:5-11 the writer exegetes Proverbs 3:11-12 on the basis of Deuteronomy 8:2-5, and consequently propose the latter as the background of these verses (cf. Allen 2008; Thiessen 2009; Kibbe 2016; Spellman 2016). Of these, only one explicitly links the result clause “and live” to Deuteronomy 8:5, and he does this in passing (Allen 2008). In this paper I argue that the background of the clause “and live” in Hebrews 12:9 is Deuteronomy 8:1-5 on the basis of the grammar, context and argument of both passages. Not only does obedience to God which results in life have a strong Deuteronomic ring to it, but the nuance of the concept of “life” in Deuteronomy 8:1-5 and Hebrews 12:9 is strikingly similar. This paper contributes to the small but growing amount of studies on Deuteronomy in Hebrews, and also the even smaller amount of studies done on Hebrews 12:5-11.

Kyu Seop Kim, Asia United Theological University
The Concept of Διαθήκη in Hebrews 9:16–17 (30 min)
Many exegetes assume that testaments were of immediate effect when they were written, and that it was common to transfer the unrestricted ownership of property to heirs regardless of the testators’ death in Greco-Roman society, but these assumptions are not sustainable in its historical context. In documentary papyri, the transfer of patrimonum rarely took place during the lifetime of the testator, and the death of the testator was a significant prerequisite for the efficacy of the testament. These findings lead the reader to have a new understanding on Christ’s death in Heb 9:16-17: through his atoning death, Christ realised the promise of the inheritance and enabled the believers to participate in ‘the promised eternal inheritance’ according to διαθήκη.

Silviu N Bunta, University of Dayton
Hebrews 9 and the Temple-Sinai Tradition: A Reinterpretation of “Covenant” (30 min)
Ever since the early Middle Ages the concept of covenant, interpreted along contractual lines, has dominated many Christian theologies. This paper argues that, at a closer look at the “covenant” vocabulary in late Second Temple Judaism, Hebrews 9 can be instrumental in recovering an older understanding of the concept, that of an inherited life that God gives to humanity in succession of self-offering liturgical communions. It is particularly significant that Hebrews 9 frames the Christian communion precisely in this sense, a “new” handing down of the same inheritance (like a passing down of the same inheritance to a new generation of heirs). The argument is also made here that, instead of the prevailing contractual vocabulary, the ancient language of liturgy and the modern language of fluency seem to be more appropriate in deciphering the complex ancient realities behind “covenant.”

Epistle to the Hebrews
4:00 PM to 5:30 PM
Room: C209 - Central
Part 2 of 2W
David Allen, Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education, Presiding

Madison N. Pierce, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
The World Spoken through the Son: Divine Speech and Creation in the Epistle to the Hebrews (30 min)
In Hebrews, a word establishes a priesthood, offers an unchanging promise, and creates the visible out of that which is invisible. The author of Hebrews highlights the power of speech in two ways: first, through his consistent use of spoken quotations to re-contextualize Scripture for the contemporary age, and second, through his frequent appeal to divine speech acts that alter the course of history. One such speech act is his creation of the world, which the author claims we understand “by faith” (Heb. 11:3). In this paper, I will argue that Hebrews 11:3 is intended to be read christologically by the author of Hebrews so that the "Word of God" is the "Son of God."

Jason A. Whitlark, Baylor University
Hebrews in Eucharistic Liturgies and Ecclesial Art (30 min)
Among modern scholars, Hebrews has played a role in the discussion of the Eucharistic tradition. Often the goal is to identify the presence of Eucharistic practice and belief in Hebrews. For instance, Heb 13:10 (“we have an altar from which those who minister in the tent have no authority to eat”) is seen by some as a palpable reference to the Eucharist. Hebrews 6:4-5 is also believed to substantiate sacramental practices in the community addressed by Hebrews. This paper, however, will consider the ways Hebrews was used by Christians to fortify the observance of the Eucharist. Particular focus will be given to the way in which Hebrews encouraged the use of the meeting of Melchizedek and Abraham in Eucharistic liturgies and ecclesial art to demonstrate that the practice instituted by Jesus was even more ancient than the observances instituted under the Law. This exploration will consider the Roman Canon and the art of Italian churches such as Santa Maria di Maggiore, Sant’Apollinare, San Vitale, San Marco, San Rufino, and the Baptistery of Parma. We will also consider presentation of the meeting of Melchizedek and Abraham in Vienna Genesis, the Stavelot portable altar, the art of Peter Paul Rubens, the art of Coptic Churches, and responses by some Protestants.

Broz Jaroslav, Charles University of Prague
Function of Philoxenia and Its Motivation in Hebrews 13:2 (30 min)
An exhortation to hospitality (philoxenia) in Hebr 13:2 is one of hints indicating the situation of addressees of the Epistle. The concept will be discussed in the context of hospitality in its Mediterranean setting and in the Biblical and Jewish tradition. Based on the analysis of the text and of additional extrabiblical data the real situation of recipients of the Epistle will be proposed and confronted with the current solutions of their identity.

Botner Reviews Church, Hebrews and the Temple

Max Botner reviews Philip Church, Hebrews and the Temple: Attitudes to the Temple in Second Temple Judaism and in Hebrews in the latest batch of RBL reviews.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Review of Martin and Whitlark, Inventing Hebrews

Michael Wade Martin, and Jason A. Whitlark. Inventing Hebrews: Design and Purpose in Ancient Rhetoric. Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series 171. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018. Pp. xiv + 305.

The structure and rhetorical genre of Hebrews has been a matter of long-standing debate in Hebrews studies. Michael Martin and Jason Whitlark (henceforth, “the authors”) offer here an important and valuable contribution to this ongoing debate.

In the opening chapter the authors briefly outline the problem of structuring Hebrews. Various approaches have been applied to the structuring of Hebrews including thematic/topical approaches, structuring the discourse according to scriptural quotations, and the use of literary indicators to structure the discourse (i.e., the tripartite arrangement suggested by Nauck, the chiastic arrangement offered by Vanhoye, and the discourse analysis approaches of Guthrie, Westfall, and Gelardini). The authors opt for an audience-critical approach, that is, they believe that the structure of Hebrews should be ordered according to the expectations of ancient audiences, who would have anticipated a speech arranged according to Greco-Roman rhetorical conventions. The authors address two possible objections. First, there is no hard evidence that Hebrews is patterned after a synagogue homily. Second, while ancient speakers were not bound to rigid forms, their adaptability and creativity still must be assessed according to the expected elements of rhetorical arrangement. As a sort of an appendix to the chapter, the authors provide a survey of select proposals for the rhetorical arrangement of Hebrews [I do something similar in my book The Characterization of Jesus in the Book of Hebrews; see pages 17–20 and the accompanying footnotes].

The remainder of the book is divided into two unequal parts. Part 1, consisting of chapters 2 and 3, lays the foundation for the structural arrangement of Hebrews with particular attention to the rhetorical device of syncrisis. (Previous versions of these chapters appeared as two articles in the journal New Testament Studies.) Part 2, comprised of chapters 4 through 10, arranges the discourse of Hebrews according to ancient rhetorical design.

Chapter 2 deals with one of the key rhetorical devices of Hebrews: syncrisis or comparison. Hebrews employs a five-part epideictic syncrisis demonstrating the superiority of the new covenant to the old. This syncrisis is arranged both chronologically and topically from ultimate origins to ultimate eschatological ends. The authors first identify four key rules formulated by ancient progymnasmata regarding syncrises that are pertinent for Hebrews: (1) comparisons consider whole subjects according to their parts; (2) the parts to be compared are the encomiastic topics employed in praise of a person; (3) the encomiastic topics, chronologically arranged, serve as the compositional outline of the syncrisis; (4) when comparing things, one employs topics analogous to those used in comparing persons (pp. 25–29).

The authors then set forth their thesis regarding the argument and structure of Hebrews’ “syncritical project.” The authors identify five epideictic syncrises in Hebrews, outlined as follows (p. 30):
              I. Angels vs. Jesus (1:5–14)
             II. Moses vs. Jesus (3:1–6)
            III. The Aaronic High Priests vs. Jesus (5:1–10)
            IV. The Levitical Priestly Ministry vs. the Melchizedekian Priestly Ministry (7:1–10:18)
             V. Mt. Sinai vs. Mt. Zion (12:18–24)
These five comparisons correspond to encomiastic topics used in syncrises of persons. The authors make the following correlations (pp. 32–33):
              I. Origins: Syncrisis of Covenant Mediators
             II. Birth: Syncrisis of Covenant Inaugurators
            III. Pursuits – Education: Syncrisis of the Priestly Apprenticeships of Each Covenant
            IV. Pursuits – Deeds: Syncrisis of the Priestly Deeds of Each Covenant
             V. Death/Events after Death: Syncrisis of Covenant Eschata
In the remainder of the chapter, the authors elaborate on how each of these comparisons carry out the author’s syncritical argument.

In chapter 3 the authors demonstrate the relationship between the epideictic syncrises and the deliberative syncrises found in the hortatory sections of Hebrews. While some scholars have argued that Hebrews is primarily an epideictic oration, the authors side with those who contend that Hebrews is a deliberative discourse. First, the authors turn to the rhetorical handbooks to identify two characteristic traits of deliberative syncrisis: (1) as deliberative rhetoric, its aim is to show the merit (or lack thereof) of a proposed course of action; (2) as syncritical argument, it takes one of three logical forms: comparison to the greater, comparison to the lesser, or comparison to the equal.

The authors identify six explicit deliberative syncrises in Hebrews: 2:2–4; 4:2; 6:13–20; 10:28–29; 12:9; and 12:25. These six syncrises share two features: (1) each syncrisis adopts the classical deliberative aim of the advantageous/disadvantageous, that is, perseverance in the faith is advantageous to the audience, while apostasy is disadvantageous; (2) each syncrisis is a comparison to the lesser: what is true in the lesser case (the old covenant) is also true in the greater case (the new covenant). Five of these deliberative syncrises (with the exception of 12:9) are directly related to the five epideictic syncrises identified in chapter 2. In the remainder of the chapter the authors demonstrate how each of the five deliberative syncrises not only follow logically from the five epideictic syncrises, but they also derive their topics from them.

Chapter 4 briefly discusses the ancient compositional theory of arranging an ancient speech. Ancient speeches consisted of four main parts: exordium, narratio, argumentatio (which could be further subdivided into different parts), and peroratio. According to the authors, all the parts of a speech were optional except for the argumentatio. Hence, the authors propose beginning with an identification of the argumentatio when analyzing the structure of a discourse. Identifying the individual proofs will aid in ascertaining the argumentatio of a speech.

In chapter 5 the authors attempt to identify the argumentatio in Hebrews. They begin, once again, by returning to the rhetorical handbooks to identify the key features in argumentatio.  First, there are three types of speeches that have different aims. Deliberative speeches use exhortation and dissuasion to move an audience to make a decision about a future course of action that is advantageous or disadvantageous. Judicial speeches employ accusation and blame to persuade an audience to decide whether the actions of a defendant in the past are just or unjust. Epideictic speeches use praise and blame and address the audience as a spectator who is not required to render a judgment. Second, argumentatio employs deductive (such as enthymemes) and inductive (such as examples) proofs for its argumentation. Third, argumentatio draws upon standard topics regarding persons or things/actions/deeds for making its argumentation. Fourth, argumentatio uses argumentative amplification. Fifth, they contain propositio or summary statements or claims to be demonstrated by proof. The propositio can occur multiple times in a speech and may take the form of advice or exhortation.

Having established the main features of argumentatio, the authors turn their sights on Hebrews. They argue that the five deliberative sections (2:1–18; 3:7–4:13; 5:11–6:20; 10:19–12:17; 12:25–29) are the argumentatio. They give close attention to the first of these deliberative sections, identifying the probatio at 2:2–4, the propositio at 2:1, and the amplificatio at 2:5–18. Then in an extended outline on pages 117–126, the authors detail the various parts in each of the deliberative sections and demonstrate that they evince the characteristic features of argumentatio that they identified in the first part of the chapter.

In chapter 6, the authors argue that the epideictic sections previously identified (1:5–14; 3:1–6; 5:1–10; 7:1–10:18; 12:18–24) form the narratio of Hebrews. The purpose of epideictic is to amplify, and syncrisis or comparison is one of the commonest means of amplification. This is precisely what we find in these epideictic sections. Furthermore, epideictic has an auxiliary function; it can serve deliberative rhetoric but deliberative rhetoric never serves epideictic. The authors argue that the narratio in Hebrews is a “disjoined narratio,” that is, it is distributed piecemeal throughout the discourse, alternating with the deliberative sections. The authors then advance eleven arguments (see the summary on pages 132–133) that support their contention that these epideictic sections constitute the narratio of Hebrews. With meticulous attention to detail, the authors demonstrate that these sections fulfill the requirements as the narratio.

In chapter 7, the authors seek to identify the exordium of Hebrews. The exordium seeks to gain favor with the audience by earning their goodwill, attentiveness, and receptivity to the message. The authors contend that 1:1–4 achieves this purpose. Moreover, the exordium is not intended to introduce the central claims of the speech, which is what we find in 1:1–4. The authors give four additional reasons for demarcating the exordium at 1:1–4: (1) the authors have already delineated the narratio and the argumentatio; (2) it evinces a periodic form; (3) it contains a hymnos in verses 3 and 4; (4) verse 4 forms an appropriate transitional link with what follows. The authors also identify a secondary exordium at 4:14–16, which introduces the longer section devoted to the topic of pursuits (5:1–12:13). The secondary exordium seeks to win the favor of the audience, it briefly enumerates the major points to come in the following section, it fits well between the argumentatio of 3:7–4:13 and the narratio of 5:1–10, and verse 16 forms an appropriate link to the next section.

Chapter 8 turns to a discussion of the peroratio of Hebrews. The authors aver that 13:1–25 forms the peroratio for the entire discourse, while 12:14–17 functions as a secondary peroratio. First, 13:1–25 appears at the end of the discourse after the argumentatio, where we would expect to find it. Hebrews 12:14–17 meanwhile is located at the end of the lengthy central section, forming an inclusio with 4:14–16. The authors identify four functions of the peroratio: (1) it disposes the audience favorably toward the speaker; (2) it amplifies the proofs of the case; (3) it stirs up the emotions of the audience; and (4) it recapitulates the arguments of the speech. The authors contend that 13:1–25 and 12:14–17 fulfill the expectations of the peroratio. First, the authors claim that the two passages do recapitulate the content of prior components of the discourse. Second, the two passages do appeal to a variety of emotions. Stylistically, they excite the emotions through a variety of techniques: the usage of asyndeton, vivid description, metaphorical language, exhortations, and the doubling of words. Moreover, they also employ key examples. Third, they exhibit brevity.

In chapter 9, the authors basically sum up the arguments of chapters 5 through 8. Their arguments advance two accomplishments. First, the argumentation of the previous four chapters demonstrates that Hebrews conforms to the conventional expectations of classical rhetoric. Second, it demonstrates that Hebrews has primarily a deliberative aim.

In chapter 10, the authors draw some implications from their study of the rhetorical structure of Hebrews. First, they propose that “Hebrews is our earliest self-identifying Christian speech (or sermon) to an assembly of Christ-followers” (p. 261). This has three implications: (1) there was a need for deliberative sermons for the early Christians because of the precarious social context in which they lived; (2) some early Christians did have a high level of rhetorical training; (3) Christians readily adopted classical forms of rhetoric to advance their own purposes. Second, the authors propose that Hebrews’ warnings against apostasy were “directed against imperial pagan culture and not non-Christian forms of Judaism” (p. 265). They advance four reasons for this conviction. Ultimately, they claim that “the comparative rhetoric of Hebrews . . . is intended to heighten resistance to pagan imperial culture and is in no way aimed at other forms of Judaism” (p. 270). [One can read Jason Whitlark’s monograph, Resisting Empire, for a further elaboration of this thesis]

This is a meticulously argued book. While at times the prose gets a little tedious because of the detailed argumentation, it is necessary in order to show how the different parts of the discourse of Hebrews fit together and meet the expectations of ancient classical rhetoric. While the proposal that Hebrews is deliberative rhetoric is not a new thesis, the rhetorical structure of a disjointed narratio and argumentatio, along with a dual exordium and peroratio, is completely novel. But their arguments are well-grounded in the rhetorical handbooks of antiquity. They adduce copious references and quotations from these handbooks to bolster their argument. I think they have persuasively demonstrated that Hebrews is primarily deliberative rhetoric. Certainly, one might question certain parts of the argument. For example, I am not fully convinced that Hebrews 13 engages in recapitulation—at least not to the extent that the authors propose—largely because the chapter seems to introduce so many new themes not addressed elsewhere in the discourse. Nevertheless, I do believe they have correctly identified it as the peroratio, because of its location, appeals to emotion, and the stylistic features that they highlight. Their proposal that the epideictic rhetoric is meant primarily to praise the new covenant according to the ancient topoi of persons is a very intriguing thesis and is certainly worthy of consideration. At the end of the day, the authors have presented a formidable argument for the rhetorical structure and genre of Hebrews. Any future studies on the structure of Hebrews will need to seriously engage with the arguments advanced in this book. Certainly scholars and advanced students who are interested in Hebrews or the application of classical rhetoric to New Testament studies will find this book of great interest.

I want to thank Jason Whitlark and Cambridge University Press for sending me a review copy of this book. Furthermore, a much abbreviated review will appear in a future issue of Religious Studies Review.