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”.


  1. Also, this one:

    Nicholas Moore, Durham University, ‘Putting the Temple in its Place: Revisiting the Stephen–Hebrews Relationship’

    Certain similarities between Acts 7 and the Letter to the Hebrews have long been noted, and both texts have been important in source-critical and socio-historical reconstructions of divergent groups within the early church. While current scholarship is more reticent regarding distinct factions of ‘Hebrews’ and ‘Hellenists’, the textual similarities remain and have been evaluated as more or less weighty by different commentators. This paper re-examines the relationship in the light of recent studies of both Acts 7 and Hebrews that contest a cult-critical reading. It first revisits and amends Lincoln Hurst’s assessment of shared lexical and conceptual points. It then argues on the basis of these commonalities that the two texts approach Israel’s sanctuary/ies through engagement with Old Testament traditions to similar ends: by attending to the heavenly sanctuary, the earthly sanctuary is neither overly exalted nor condemned, but is instead put in its rightful place, both spatially and temporally.