Friday, August 13, 2021

Hebrews at the BNTS Annual Meeting

The British New Testament Society will be having its annual meeting in hybrid format at Durham University from August 19 to August 21. Two papers on Hebrews are of interest for this blog:

Session 3: Hebrews

Chair: Nick Moore, Durham University

Angela Costley, St Mary’s College, Oscott, ‘By faith, Abraham has offered up Isaac”: Death and Resurrection in Hebrews 11:17’

In Hebrews 11:17, we are told that by faith Abraham offered Isaac. In Hebrews 11:19, we read that Abraham’s faith consisted of the fact he believed that God is able even to raise someone from the dead. This seems a little strange if we take it as a reference to Genesis 22 as we now have it. In the Akedah, when Abraham attempts to sacrifice his son, his arm is stayed by an angel (Gen. 22:11). However, there is possibly another, darker, tradition that might lie behind Hebrews’ comment. In this other tradition, Abraham does slay Isaac. Indeed, various scholars have explored the redaction of the Genesis account and the suggestion that, originally, Isaac was indeed killed – T. Freitheim, RE Friedman, CTR Hayward, JD Levenson, to name a few – a tradition that persisted and is found in Rashi’s commentary and Pirke de Rab. Eliezer, where he also rises.   This paper will explore the fascinating possibility Hebrews knew this tradition and suggest Hebrews is reliant upon a typological theology in which Isaac was truly sacrificed. 

Owen Edwards, University of Chester, ‘A Scarlet Thread Leading Beyond the Camp: Yom Kippur, the Red Heifer, and Rahab’

Diverse texts in Hebrews – texts on the eternal Sabbath, the red heifer sacrifice, the journey of Jesus outside the Camp, and the example of Rahab, particularly – seem disconnected or only tangentially related, yet an investigation of the source and traditions of those subjects, as well as their rhetorical use in Hebrews, reveals that they are closely and intentionally connected. Drawing on parallel Rabbinic texts, Philo, and (especially) the Epistle of Barnabas, this paper will show that this network of texts is clearly connected in the tradition that Hebrews drew upon. Furthermore, this complex but clear example of intertextual exegesis spanning the whole letter furnishes an excellent example of the Epistle’s allegorical interpretation of Scripture – with even the lack of explicit textual links serving the author’s purpose, as the Christian is commanded to seek spiritual “meat” over “milk”.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

In Memoriam: Albert Vanhoye 1923-2021

While I was on vacation the news broke that Cardinal Albert Vanhoye passed away on July 29. Vanhoye was one of the most prolific Hebrews scholars and his work on the structure of Hebrews would prove to be most influential. I want to thank Nick Moore for preparing the following bio and selected bibliography for this blog:

Pope Francis mourns world's oldest cardinal 'authoritative biblical  scholar' Cardinal Albert Vanhoye

In memoriam Albert Vanhoye (1923–2021)

Albert Vanhoye was born on 24 July 1923 in Hazebrouck, in the far north of France, the second of five children in a devout Roman Catholic family of Flemish extraction. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1941; this was during the German occupation of France in the Second World War, and Vanhoye had to cross the demarcation line clandestinely in order to reach the noviciate. He spent brief spells in the chantier de jeunesse (the replacement for military service in Vichy France) and in the French Army following the Allied landings. After the War he completed his studies in literature at the Sorbonne, and went on to study philosophy at Vals-près-le-Puy and theology at Enghien in Belgium. At the completion of his training he was ordained priest, on 25 July 1954. He taught New Testament for a short period in Chantilly, at the Jesuit scholasticate recently relocated from Enghien. He completed a doctorate in sacred scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1961, on the structure of the Letter to the Hebrews, which was to form the basis for his published work on this topic. In 1963 he began to teach at the Pontifical Institute, where he would spend the rest of his career. He was Dean of the Biblical Faculty there from 1969–1975, and Rector of the Institute from 1984–1990. Alongside his work at the Institute, Vanhoye had teaching responsibilities at the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical Lateran University, and supervised a number of doctoral students. He retired in 1998 at the age of 75.

Among his ecclesiastical appointments and responsibilities, Vanhoye was part of the commission which prepared the Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana (1979), on ecclesiastical universities and faculties. He was a member and for two terms secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission; during his first term of office the Commission published L’Interprétation de la Bible dans l’Église (1993; English version The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, issued 1994), an important and well received document open to Catholic engagement with the full variety of interpretative methods being used in biblical studies. He was also Consultor of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (1980–1996), and a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In the scholarly community Vanhoye joined the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas in 1964, and served as its President in 1995. His presidential address was subsequently published in New Testament Studies and is included as the third essay in this volume. He served on the editorial board of the journal Biblica from 1969, and was editor from 1978 until he stepped down from the board in 1984. In later life he was appointed Cardinal, with as his titular church the Deaconry of Santa Maria della Mercede and Sant’Adriano in Villa Albani. This was in 2006, when he was over 80 and therefore excluded from an elective conclave of the College of Cardinals, and thus the appointment was purely honorific, and Vanhoye was not consecrated bishop. The further honorific pro hac vice (temporary) elevation of the Deaconry of Santa Maria della Mercede and Sant’Adriano to a presbyteral title – and thus of Vanhoye to Cardinal-Priest – took place in 2016. In 2008 he led the Lenten retreat for the Roman Curia, using the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises and focussing on the theme of Jesus as High Priest. Vanhoye was the oldest member of the College of Cardinals, having turned 98 just days before his death in Rome on 29 July 2021.

The nature of Vanhoye’s appointments reflects a lengthy and distinguished career in which he has made a significant contribution to the life of both the church and the academy. This is reflected by his numerous publications in several European languages, across eight decades, and at both scholarly and more popular levels. Among numerous publications on Hebrews he made notable contributions on the letter’s structure and on its portrayal of priesthood, as well as writing two commentaries on the letter in later life.

[This tribute includes material excerpted and modified from the introduction to Albert Vanhoye, A Perfect Priest: Studies in the Letter to the Hebrews, ed. and trans. by Nicholas J. Moore and Richard J. Ounsworth (WUNT II/477; Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen: 2018)]


Selected publications

Vanhoye, Albert. 1963a. La Structure littéraire de l’Épître aux Hébreux. Paris: Desclée de Brouwer.

———. 1963c. Traduction structurée de l’Epître aux Hébreux. Rome: Institut biblique pontifical.

———. 1964c. Structured Translation of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Translated by James Swetnam. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute.

———. 1967b. Structure and Theology of the Accounts of the Passion in the Synoptic Gospels. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.

———. 1969a. Le Christ est notre prêtre. Supplément à ‘Vie chrétienne’ no. 118. Paris.

———. 1969c. Situation du Christ : Hébreux 1–2. Paris: Cerf.

———. 1976a. La Structure littéraire de l’Épître aux Hébreux. 2nd edn. Stud-Neot 1. Paris: Desclée de Brouwer.

———. 1977b. Le Message de l’Épître aux Hébreux. Cahiers Évangile 19. Paris: Cerf.

———. 1977c. Our Priest Is Christ: The Doctrine of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Translated by M. Innocentia Richards. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute.

———. 1980. Prêtres anciens, prêtre nouveau selon le Nouveau Testament. Parole de Dieu 20. Paris: Éditions du Seuil.

———. 1986. Old Testament Priests and the New Priest: According to the New Testament. Translated by J. Bernard Orchard. Petersham, MA: St Bede’s Publications.

———. 1989. Structure and Message of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Translated by James Swetnam. Subsidia Biblica 12. Rome: Editrice Pontificio Istituto biblico.

———. 2005. Le Don du Christ: Lecture spirituelle. Christus. Paris: Bayard.

———. 2008. Accogliamo Cristo nostro sommo sacerdote : esercizi spirituali predicati in Vaticano, 10-16 febbraio 2008. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

———. 2010b. L’Epistola agli Ebrei : “un sacerdote diverso.” Translated by Carlo Valentino. Bologna: Dehoniane.

———. 2010c. L’Épître aux Hébreux : “un prêtre différent.” Pendé: Gabalda.

———. 2010d. Let Us Confidently Welcome Christ Our High Priest: Spiritual Exercises with Pope Benedict XVI. Translated by Joel Wallace. Leominster: Gracewing.

———. 2011a. A Different Priest: The Epistle to the Hebrews. Translated by Leo Arnold. Rhetorica Semitica. Miami: Convivium.

———. 2011b. I carismi nel Nuovo Testamento. Analecta biblica 191. Rome: Gregorian & Biblical Press.

———. 2015. The Letter to the Hebrews: A New Commentary. Translated by Leo Arnold. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.