Wednesday, December 13, 2017

New Article on the Sabbath Rest in Hebrews

The following article has just appeared in NTS:

Langziner, Daniel. “‘A Sabbath Rest for the People of God’: (Heb 4.9): Hebrews and Philo on the Seventh Day of Creation.” New Testament Studies 64.1 (2017): 94–107.

Abstract:
"This article examines the background of the concept of Sabbath rest (σαββατισμός) in Heb 4.1–11. Special attention is given to the relation between God's rest and God's activity, which seemingly are in tension with each other: on the one hand, the author's argument is based on the assumption that God entered his rest at the seventh day of creation and stopped working forever (4.10); on the other hand, there is a clear reference to God's works after creation (3.9–10). A comparison with Philo's explanations of the seventh day of creation, however, reveals that for a Jewish Middle Platonist this tension does not appear to be a problem because rest and activity in God are two sides of the same coin. It is argued that this background helps to explain Hebrews’ concept of Sabbath rest. A concluding outlook shows that the suggested Middle Platonic understanding of Hebrews 4 fits well the context of the epistle as a whole, as the same coexistence of rest and activity can also be found in Hebrews 7 in relation to Jesus’ intercession in the heavenly tabernacle."

Church on the Temple

A link to the following dissertation has been added to the dissertations page:

Church, Philip Arthur Frederick. “Wilderness Tabernacle and Eschatological Temple: A Study in Temple Symbolism in Hebrews in Light of Attitudes to the Temple in the Literature of Middle Judaism.” Ph.D. diss., University of Otago, 2012.

HT: Cliff Kvidahl

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Jesus' Indestructible Life

A new article has appeared which discusses Jesus' indestructible life:

Kibbe, Michael. “‘You are a Priest Forever!’ Jesus’ Indestructible Life in Hebrews 7:16.” Horizons in Biblical Theology 39.2 (2017): 134–55.

Abstract:
"Hebrews 7:16 suggests that Jesus entered the priesthood by virtue of his “indestructible life.” But what sort of life is that? How and when did he obtain it? If it pertains to his resurrected-human life, was he therefore not a priest prior to that moment (including, in particular, during his death on the cross)? If it pertains to his divine life (thus he possesses it always), in what sense could the man Jesus have actually died? I suggest that the author has neither deity nor resurrection in view as the source of Jesus’ indestructible life; rather, the point is merely that Jesus’ perpetual existence undergirds the oath that immediately follows in 7:17. However, Hebrews as a whole requires that we envision that existence in relation to both Jesus’ deity and his resurrection, and I argue, furthermore, that the two cohere via the divine Son’s agency in his own resurrection."

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

New Books and Essays on Hebrews

Having recently returned from the annual SBL conference, I came across a few new resources on Hebrews.

First, Concordia has come out with a commentary on Hebrews by John Kleinig:

"This commentary is built on the common agreement that this book is a written sermon by an unknown speaker. John Kleinig, the author of this Concordia Commentary, proposes an interpretation of the text that uses a new kind of liturgical rhetoric, a new method of discourse analysis, and a new consideration of the context and purpose of the homily."

Second, InterVarsity Press has come out with the latest installment in the Reformation Commentary on Scripture series with its volume on Hebrews-James by Ronald Rittgers:

"In this volume of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture, church historian and theologian Ronald K. Rittgers guides readers through a diversity of early modern commentary on both Hebrews and James. Readers will hear from familiar voices as well as lesser-known figures from a variety of theological traditions, including Lutherans, Reformed, Radicals, Anglicans, and Roman Catholics.

Drawing on a variety of resources—including commentaries, sermons, treatises, and confessions—much of which appears here for the first time in English, this volume provides resources for contemporary preachers, enables scholars to better understand the depth and breadth of Reformation commentary, and helps all who seek the assurance and conviction that is found in Christ alone."







Third, GlossaHouse has produced a festschrift for Donald Hagner, entitled Treasures New & Old. It contains a couple of essays on Hebrews:

Schreiner, Thomas R. "Another Look at the Warnings in Hebrews: A Response to Critics." Pages 231–48.

Mackie, Scott D. "Experiential Cultic Soteriology and the Origins of Hebrews' High Priest Christology." Pages 249–67.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Hebrews at SBL

The annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature will be held on November 18–21, 2017 in Boston, MA. The following are sessions relevant to the book of Hebrews.

P17-204

Institute for Biblical Research
11/17/2017
1:00 PM to 3:15 PM
Room: Back Bay C (Second Level) - Sheraton Boston Hotel (SB)Theme: Scripture and Doctrine Seminar
The Scripture and Doctrine Seminar (SADS) focuses on the intersection of Scripture and Doctrine. It explores how Scripture leads to the formulation of doctrine and how doctrine illuminates our reading of the Bible. For further information contact the chair, Benjamin Quinn (bquinn@sebts.edu) and see http://www.stgeorgesonline.com/centre/sads/ and https://www.ibr-bbr.org/ (Click on Research Groups). The Seminar is a joint venture between the St. George’s Centre for Biblical and Public Theology and the St. Paul Centre for Biblical Theology.
Benjamin Quinn, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Presiding
Benjamin Quinn, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Welcome (10 min)
Steve Harris, Hamilton, ON, Canada
Hebrews in Historical Theology: The Contours (20 min)
Craig Bartholomew, KLICE, Tyndale House, Cambridge
Creation, the Ongoing Priesthood of Jesus, and Divine Action in Hebrews (15 min)
Gareth Cockerill, Wesley Biblical Seminary
The Present Priesthood of the Son of God (15 min)
Break (3 min)
Luke Stamps, Anderson University
"No One Greater": Hebrews and Classical Christian Theism (15 min)
Scott Hahn, Franciscan University of Steubenville
Covenant, Sacrifice, and Divine Action in Hebrews (15 min)
Break (2 min)
Q & A Panel with Presenters
Discussion (40 min)
Q & A Additional Panelists
Michael Rhodes, Memphis Center for Urban Theological Studies, Panelist
Amy Peeler, Wheaton College, Panelist
Closing Prayer

S18-247

Space, Place, and Lived Experience in Antiquity
11/18/2017
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Tufts (Third Level) - Boston Marriott Copley Place (MCP)Theme: Sanctuary, Space, and Place in Antiquity
Perspectives on sanctuary, space, and place in antiquity.

Kenneth A. Vandergriff, Florida State University
Power, Empire, and Space: Constructing Sanctuary in a First Century CE Church and American Sanctuary Churches (30 min)

S19-124

Intertextuality in the New Testament
11/19/2017
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Republic A (Second Level) - Sheraton Boston Hotel (SB)Theme: Pentateuch in the New Testament

Channing L. Crisler, Anderson University (SC)
Abel as a Protological and Polyvalent Figure in Early Christian Intertextuality (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)


S19-222

Hebrews
11/19/2017
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Beacon H (Third Level) - Sheraton Boston Hotel (SB)Theme: Current Issues in Hebrews
David Moffitt, University of St. Andrews, Presiding
Brad Bitner, Oak Hill College
Dexiosis and the Son in Hebrews 1:3-4: Divine Kingship in Light of Epigraphical and Sculptural Evidence (30 min)
Shawn J. Wilhite, California Baptist University
“To which of the angels did God ever say?”: Filial Language and the Angelic Polemic in Hebrews 1–2 (30 min)
Eyal Regev, Bar-Ilan University
Hebrews' Priestly Christology and the Understanding of the Death of Jesus: Taking the Temple Cult Seriously (30 min)
J. Harrison Duff, University of St. Andrews
A Sacrifice for His Own Sins? Heb 4:15 and 7:27 in the Sixteenth Century and Beyond (30 min)
Paul Middleton, University of Chester
‘It is for discipline that you have to endure’ (Hebrews 12.7a): Persecution as divine chastisement in Hebrews (30 min)

S19-319a

Intertextuality in the New Testament
11/19/2017
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: New Hampshire (Fifth Level) - Boston Marriott Copley Place (MCP)

Caroline Schleier Cutler, McMaster Divinity College
Finding Sophia: The Use of the Book of Wisdom in Hebrews 1:3 and Its Christological Implications (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)

S20-103

African-American Biblical Hermeneutics
11/20/2017
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Maverick A (Second Level) - Hilton Boston Back Bay (HBB)Theme: Experimental Methods, New Meanings, and New Voices
This is an open session that pushes the field beyond current methodological and interpretive boundaries.

Eric A. Thomas, Drew University
On the PULSE of Mo(u)rning: Reading Hebrews 11:29-12:2 Between Orlando and Charleston (25 min)

S20-218

Hebrews
11/20/2017
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Back Bay A (Second Level) - Sheraton Boston Hotel (SB)Theme: Hebrews as Interpreted in the Reformation
Amy Peeler, Wheaton College (Illinois), Presiding
Presenter withdrew (30 min)
Bruce Gordon, Yale Divinity School
Protestant Reformers and the Priesthood of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:1-10) (30 min)
Peter Opitz, Swiss Reformation Studies Institute, Zurich
Zwingli and Bullinger as Exegetes of Hebrews (30 min)
Jennifer Powell McNutt, Wheaton College
Don’t Do It Yourself: Hermeneutics for Hebrews through the Material History of Sixteenth-Century Reformed Bibles (30 min)

S20-249

Writing Social-Scientific Commentaries of the New Testament
11/20/2017
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Tremont (First Level) - Boston Marriott Copley Place (MCP)Theme: Social Identity Theology Investigations: Critical Advances and Evaluations
Visitors are most welcome to the sessions of the seminar. Papers are distributed beforehand and only summarized in the sessions. If you are interested in participating and receiving the papers, please contact the chairs: Petri.Luomanen@helsinki.fi or Brian.Tucker@moody.edu

Matthew Marohl, Saint Olaf College
Comparing the Faithfulness of a Servant to that of a Son (Hebrews 3:1-6) (10 min)
Discussion (30 min)

Hebrews at ETS

The 69th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society will be held Wednesday through Friday, November 15-17, 2017 at the Rhode Island Convention Center and the Omni Providence Hotel. The following sessions are relevant to the book of Hebrews.

Wednesday, Novermber 15
2:00 PM – 5:10 PM
Omni – Providence II
Letter to the Hebrews
Moderator: George Guthrie 

(Union University)

2:00 PM – 2:40 PM
Jesse Coyne
(Mercer University)
Tabernacle, Transition, and Turbulence: Hebrews and Numbers in Concert

2:50 PM – 3:30 PM
Todd R. Chipman
(Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)
Weapons, Wealth and the End of the World: Investigating Hag 2:6 in 1QM and Hebrews 12

3:40 PM – 4:20 PM
Shawn J. Wilhite
(California Baptist University)
“To which of the angels did God ever say?”: Filial Language and the Angelic Polemic in Heb 1–2

4:30 PM – 5:10 PM
Matt Kimbrough
(Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)
‘You Ought to Be Teachers’: Community Obligation in Hebrews 5:12 

Wednesday, November 15
2:00 PM – 5:10 PM
Convention Center – 556
New Testament
General Studies II

4:30 PM – 5:10 PM
Matthew C. Easter
(Missouri Baptist University)
Esau as Prototypical Defector from the Community of Faith in Hebrews 12:16-17

Thursday, November 16
3:00 PM – 6:10 PM
Convention Center – 553 B
Letter to the Hebrews
The Atonement in Hebrews
Moderator: Jon C. Laansma
(Wheaton College and Graduate School)


3:00 PM – 3:40 PM
Michael Allen
(Reformed Theological Seminary)
Living and Active: The Exalted Christ in the Epistle to the Hebrews

3:50 PM – 4:30 PM
Gabriella Gelardini*
(Universität Basel)
Faith

4:40 PM – 5:20 PM
David Moffitt*
(University of St. Andrews)
Priesthood

5:30 PM – 6:10 PM
Derek Z. Rishmawy
(Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)
Offered Up through the Eternal Spirit: A Dogmatic Reading of Christ’s Pneumatological Priesthood in Hebrews 9:14

Monday, November 6, 2017

Hebrews Greek Reading Videos

Todd Scacewater has informed me that Exegetical Tools.com is providing a Greek reading video series on Hebrews. The author is Amy Peeler, who is Associate Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. She walks you through translating every verse in the epistle to the Hebrews in 48 videos. The $49.95 fee will give you access to all of the online videos. There is a preview video you can look at.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Hebrews Highlights October 2017

Michael Kruger argues that One of the Best (and Most Overlooked) Passages that Demonstrates the Divinity of Jesus is Hebrews 1.

Mike Heiser has posted his latest podcasts on Hebrews 3 and Hebrews 4:1–13. (I'll be adding links to the podcasts on my multimedia page as they become available)

Ken Schenck has some thoughts on Hebrews and New Perspectives. This looks like a section in a book that he is writing on Hebrews.

Charles Savelle poses Five Questions with Roger Pugh on Hebrews. Pugh has written a new commentary on Hebrews: Hearing God's Voice and Responding in Faith: A Commentary on Hebrews, available on Amazon.com. It appears to be on a more popular level.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Monday, October 16, 2017

Jesus as the Immolated Goat in Hebrews?

In a recently published monograph, Andrei Orlov argues that, in Hebrews, Jesus is identified with the immolated goat of the Yom Kippur ritual. His argument can be found in the following chapter:

Orlov, Andrei A. “Jesus as the Immolated Goat in the Epistle to the Hebrews.” Pages 65–72 in The Atoning Dyad: The Two Goats of Yom Kippur in the Apocalypse of Abraham. Studia Judaeslavica 8. Leiden: Brill, 2016.

Thanks to Andrei for a copy of the chapter.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Review of Laansma, The Letter to the Hebrews


Laansma, Jon C. The Letter to the Hebrews: A Commentary for Preaching, Teaching, and Bible Study. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2017. Pp. xxii + 342.


This commentary was originally slated to be a part of Baker’s Teach the Text series, but that series was cancelled. Laansma states, “The intended reader of this commentary is a motivated, curious, experienced reader of the Scriptures . . . who wants a specialist to get straight to the bottom line with each passage” (xiii). References to primary and secondary sources are kept to a minimum. The commentary is geared towards busy pastors and teachers.

In the introduction, Laansma notes that the genre of Hebrews is best described as a sermon with an epistolary ending. He believes that chapter 13 is a genuine part of the book. The author is a rhetorically skilled communicator, but he does not follow a set rhetorical structure but shapes his argument in order to address pastoral concerns. Laansma briefly outlines the argument of Hebrews and presents an outline. The outline follows the fairly standard paragraph divisions. Laansma divides the commentary into 37 units for the purposes of exposition.

The author of Hebrews cannot be determined. He is likely a highly educated male. There are some good reasons to suspect that the audience was in Rome, but nothing definitive can be asserted. Laansma surmises that the audience was ethnically mixed. He seems inclined towards a date in the 60s, but again nothing definitive can be determined. The church addressed has been in existence for some time. It started out as a robust Christian community but persecution had begun to wear on them and some were beginning to flag in their faith. The author calls them to persevere in their faith.

Laansma next considers the reception and canonicity of Hebrews. Hebrews was more quickly accepted in the East than in the West. It did not receive broad acceptance until well into the fifth century. Laansma opines that “Hebrews declared its own authority and its place in the Christian canon, possessing the (finally) irrepressible voice of apostolicity” (p. 12). Ultimately, Hebrews has passed the test of time and must be read as “inspired, canonical divine speech” (p. 12).

Laansma gives an overview of the preacher’s strategy. It involves including the readers in the salvation story of Israel which finds its culmination in the Son. He then considers the author’s thought world. While Hebrews seems to share similarities with Philonism, these similarities are more confined to “parallels of expressions that substantially differ in meaning” (p. 17).

Laansma then examines the Christology of Hebrews. He focuses in particular on the names and titles (Son, Jesus, Christ, Lord, priest, mediator) and what they reveal about him, though he cautions that we should not understand these titles apart from whole portrait of Christ portrayed in the book. Hebrews also affirms both the full deity and humanity of Christ. Hebrews appropriates the Old Testament witness. It foreshadows the person of Christ, but not in a complete way. Laansma then makes some comments about the heavenly tabernacle in Hebrews. It is not entirely clear whether we should take Hebrews’ imagery literally or figuratively; these may be modern categories imposed upon an ancient text. Nor is Hebrews’ heavenly tabernacle imagery entirely consistent. What the imagery does accomplish is point to the person of Christ.

Laansma then discusses the vast soteriological terminology of Hebrews (i.e., purification, sanctification, atonement, perfection, forgiveness, redemption). He then analyzes Hebrews’ soteriology through the lens of John Barclay’s paradigm of “the gift”. Laansma also notes that “covenant” is one of the driving themes in the discourse of Hebrews.

Laansma also spends some time situating Hebrews within the larger witness of the apostolic writings. The Jewish people are “near” to God by virtue of God’s grace, while the Gentiles are “far” away and must be grafted into God’s elect people. Yet in another respect the Jew is just as far from God as the Gentile; both need forgiveness and cleansing. The history of Israel is also humanity’s history for it is through the Jewish people that God would enact his saving plan for humanity. Furthermore, the history of humanity is divided between the time before Christ and the time after; between Moses’ covenant and the new covenant of Christ.

Laansma then notes that the goal of salvation, according to Hebrews, is a place: the Most Holy Place in which resides God’s throne; it is God’s resting place; it is the heavenly Jerusalem. It is the place of the holy God to whom access is obtained only through the bodily sacrifice of his Son. Hebrews summons its readers to obedience by drawing near to this God through Christ.

In the commentary proper, each unit is divided into five parts: (1) context: situates the passage within the literary context of Hebrews. Some of the chapters contains outlines which help give a sense of the flow of thought in Hebrews; (2) background: deals with background material that will aid in the interpretation of the passage; (3) comments on wording: this section is essentially a verse-by-verse commentary on the phrases and clauses contained within each passage. However, it is not an exhaustive, detailed commentary. The commentary is more in the way of notes or brief comments; (4) comments on theological terms; and (5) teaching Hebrews: this section highlights certain themes that will aid in teaching the book. For example, for 1:1–4 the themes highlighted are: scripture, revelation, and canon; Christology; salvation; and preaching.  Occasional side-bars are found sprinkled throughout the text. The commentary contains one excursus on “the Sabbath celebration in God’s resting place.”  End matter includes a moderate-sized bibliography and a subject index.

As can be seen in the previous paragraph, this commentary is somewhat distinctive from other commentaries. First, let us be clear about what this commentary is not. It is not a highly technical commentary. It does not deal with text-critical issues; it does not delve into the grammatical or syntactical issues of the Greek text; it references comparative literature sparingly; and it does not often weigh interpretive option regarding contested passages. Rather, this commentary is pitched at a more popular level (which is not to imply that it is unscholarly). Its writing style is more accessible and occasionally the author uses homely illustrations and metaphors to get his point across. I would say that this commentary is directed more towards busy pastors and teachers who need to get at the heart of the message of Hebrews, without plodding through the lengthier, more technical treatments of some Hebrews commentaries. I will confess that I prefer commentaries that having a running exposition of the text, but some readers may prefer the more segmented approach of this commentary.

It will be impossible to note all of the exegetical decisions that Laansma makes throughout the commentary. I will simply note some things that stood out for me.

Hebrews 1:6 has been a highly contested passage. Scholars are divided as to whether the passage refers to Jesus’ incarnation (birth), exaltation (enthronement), or second coming. Laansma takes it as a reference to Jesus’ enthronement when he will receive worship. The majority of recent scholars take the passage to be a reference to Jesus’ exaltation and so Laansma falls within the majority at this point.

Laansma raises the question of whether we should adopt the exegetical methods of the apostolic writings. Many scholars find their exegetical methods strange. Laansma proposes that we neither replicate nor replace their exegetical methods, but to translate them “into our cultural setting for the sake of effective proclamation and mission” (p. 60). The challenge, of course, is how to do this effectively.

In the commentary on Heb 2:5–9, Laansma seems to take an anthropological reading of Psalm 8, rather than a Christological one—scholars are equally divided over which reading is best. However, Laansma does a good job of noting how the author reinterprets the psalm in light of Christ.

Hebrews 2:11 is another contested passage. The phrase “from one” has been variously interpreted as referring to God, Adam, or Abraham, or to a more generic term like family, race, seed, or source. Laansma believes that it refers to Abraham, although he gives allowance for the possibility that it refers to God.

On page 85, Laansma notes that Heb 2:5–18 provides a storyline of Jesus: (1) humiliation: when he becomes human and descends below the angels; (2) exaltation: when he is raised, crowned with glory and honor, and acts as heavenly high priest; and (3) final dominion: when he places all things under his feet and provides aid to his brothers and sisters.

In an excursus on “the Sabbath celebration in God’s resting place,” Laansma explains that the Sabbath and God’s resting place is a celebration, it is a summation of all of Israel’s festivals, it is an entrance into the full shalom of God, it is a time of casting out wickedness and blessing the poor, it is an enjoyment of the presence of God, it is the goal of the journey of faith.

Along with many other interpreters of Hebrews, Laansma notes that 4:14–16 and 10:19–25 are framing passages for the central unit which focuses on Jesus’ high priesthood and self-offering.

In his discussion of 6:4–6, Laansma notes that in the NT documents there is tension between preservation and perseverance. He believes that Hebrews contains both, but generally presents believers as pilgrims on a journey towards salvation. So, in this respect one cannot truly lose one’s salvation because one has not arrived.

When dealing with 7:1–10 Laansma argues that Hebrews does not view Melchizedek other than as a human figure. This goes against the grain of many interpreters who believe Melchizedek is portrayed as an angelic or heavenly figure. Rather, Laansma argues that Hebrews simply makes a textual argument. Hebrews is rather restrained in its depiction of Melchizedek compared to the wild speculation of other contemporary literature. There is no evidence in the text that Hebrews was influenced by Melchizedek speculation.

Hebrews 9 contains a number of exegetical difficulties. Regarding the placement of the altar of incense in the tabernacle (9:4), Laansma chooses not to resolve the difficulty since it has little impact on the interpretation of Hebrews (He does provide a helpful diagram illustrating the placement of the altar of incense according to Hebrews’ and the Old Testament’s scenarios).

Regarding the enigmatic statement in 9:8, Laansma takes this to mean “that as long as the first (the Mosaic) tabernacle was operative, the way into the (second, the genuine and heavenly) Most Holy Place had not been disclosed” (p. 197). Now the way into the heavenly sanctuary has been revealed thus displacing the earthly sanctuary.

Regarding the symbolic value of the offering of blood, Laansma ultimately does not settle on whether blood represents life or death since the biblical texts are ambiguous regarding the manner in which it brings atonement. Laansma concludes that “Hebrews’ interest is to advance that Christ’s blood . . . effects cleansing and forgiveness rather than to explore how it does” (p. 198).

Another highly contested passage is 9:14. The phrase “through eternal Spirit” has variously been interpreted as a reference to the Holy Spirit or to Christ’s own spirit. Laansma takes it as a reference to the Holy Spirit while only briefly acknowledging the difficulty of the passage.

Laansma makes an interesting argument when discussing 9:15–22. Hebrews does not have one Old Testament ritual in view when discussing Christ’s sacrificial death. The author moves fluidly from Day of Atonement imagery to the inauguration of the covenant imagery. Laansma contends that in Hebrews all of the OT rituals are summed up in the one ministry of the Son. Hence, Hebrews frequently conflates OT ritual imagery throughout his argument. I think this is an important point that he makes and should be kept in mind when struggling to interpret the cultic imagery in the central portion of the book.

With many interpreters, Laansma believes that the author employs a word play for diatheke in 9:16–17. Diatheke can mean both “covenant” and “last will and testament.” The author exploits the ambiguity of the word in his argument. Just as the author shifts between Day of Atonement and covenant inauguration imagery seamlessly, so he shifts between the two meanings of diatheke.

Hebrews 9:23 is a notoriously difficult passage. Why does the author claim that “heavenly things” need to be cleansed? Laansma interestingly interprets the cleansing of the heavenly things as the new covenant people who have received their heavenly calling. It is the new covenant people who are cleansed. This is an intriguing suggestion that I don’t recall encountering before.

The quotation of Ps 40:6–8 (39:7–9 LXX) in Heb 10:5–7 involves a perplexing textual problem. The Hebrew literally reads, “my ears you have dug.” However, Hebrews quotes the LXX translation which reads, “a body you have prepared for me.” Laansma contends that the author used Ps 40 based on deeper theological reflection on the context of the psalm and not merely due to the fortuitous wording of the LXX.

Hebrews 10:20 is another difficult verse. Scholars have alternatively identified “flesh” with the “veil” or with “way.” Another question deals with how the preposition dia functions in the sentence (i.e., locally or instrumentally). Laansma briefly notes the difficulty of the verse but does not probe into the interpretive option. He simply opts for the view that Jesus’ “flesh” is the means of entrance into the heavenly realm.

Regarding the warning passage in Heb 10:26–31, Laansma remarks that “10:26–31 asserts the objective fact that rejecting this sacrifice is to leave one with no sacrifice, since there is no other; it does not explicitly repeat the threat of the impossibility of repentance (6:4–6)” (p. 253).

Hebrews 12:2 also has been variously interpreted. Laansma simply mentions in passing that “the joy set before him was the joy of sharing his salvation with his brothers and sisters (2:5–18)” (p. 300). From my research, this appears to be a minority view. More commentators take the joy to be the heavenly reward that awaited Jesus after enduring the crucifixion. This seems to me to be the more probable meaning of the verse, although Laansma's view is certainly possible.

As I noted above, this is not a highly technical commentary. Readers looking for intricate discussions on the Greek text or the weighing of interpretive options will need to go elsewhere. Only on a few occasions does Laansma acknowledge the difficulty of certain passages, but often he gives no hint that some passages have been highly contested among scholars. Clearly Laansma has other purposes in mind for this commentary. I think he has tried to offer a more accessible commentary by gliding over some of the more contested passages. This commentary is quite distinctive, not only in its format, as I have noted above, but also in much of its discussions. His discussions are not the usual fare that one finds in many of the more technical commentaries. I think readers will find that the unique manner in which he discusses the text will help them discover some fresh angles from which to view Hebrews.

Thanks to Jon Laansma for an electronic copy of this book and to James Stock of Wipf & Stock for a complimentary hard copy of the book.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Hebrews Highlights September 2017

Hebrews has seen some considerable discussion this month, but it has all been on Michael Kok's blog: He provides some Ancient External Evidence for the Authorship of Hebrews. He links to articles about Irenaeus and Origen on the Epistle to the Hebrews. He then examines the Internal Evidence for the Authorship of Hebrews. He then considers evidence for The Date of the Epistle to the Hebrews. He then provides a nice overview about the issues regarding The Audience of Hebrews. He provides some links to some online scholarly Outlines of Hebrews. He explores a couple of options for The Genre of Hebrews. He then discusses why Hebrews make Jesus out to be A Priest Like Melchizedek. He then discusses New Covenant Theology and Interfaith Dialogue. He then highlights Jewish Scholars on the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Friday, September 15, 2017

New Mackie Article Available

Scott Mackie has made available his most recent article on his "blog":

Mackie, Scott D. "Visually Oriented Rhetoric and Visionary Experience in Hebrews 12:1–4." Catholic Biblical Quarterly 79.3 (2017): 476–97.

Thanks, Scott!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Mike Heiser Podcasts on Hebrews

Mike Heiser has been doing a series of podcasts on his blog The Naked Bible. His most recent one is on Hebrews 1:5–14. I will be adding links to his podcasts on my Multimedia page as they become available.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Michael Kok Blogs on Hebrews

Michael Kok, author of the blog The Jesus Memoirs, has begun blogging about Hebrews. His first post deals briefly with introductory issues, theology of Hebrews, and supercessionism in the Patristic period. In his second post he plugs my own blog (thanks for the endorsement!).

A word of clarification: the "bibliography" I provide on the blog are links to books, articles, etc. that are available online and, for the most part, not hidden behind paywalls (This changed somewhat when RBL decided to put its book reviews behind a paywall, but I have not removed the links).

Dyer Reviews Hebrews in Context

Bryan Dyer reviews Hebrews in Contexts, edited by Gabriella Gelardini and Harold W. Attridge.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Two New Articles Added

I have added the following two articles:

Wenkel, David H. “Sensory Experience and the Contrast between the Covenants in Hebrews 12.” Bibliotheca Sacra 173 (2016): 219–34.

Wenkel, David H. “Two Contrasting Portraits of the Exodus Generation in Hebrews: How Redemptive History Explains the Text.” Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 33.2 (2015): 151–62.

HT: David Wenkel

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hebrews at the CBA International Meeting

The Catholic Biblical Association will have its eighteenth international meeting on August 5-8, 2017 at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. They will be having a continuing seminar on the Epistle to the Hebrews. The following is the slate of speakers:

Frank J. Matera, Pastor, St. Mary’s Church, Simsbury, CT: "A Study of Two Soteriologies: Romans and Hebrews."

Christopher T. Holmes, McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University: "Locating Apostasy: Fidelity as Solidarity in Hebrews."

Archie Wright, Regent University: "Hebrews and 2TP Apocalyptic Literature: The Problem with Angels."

HT: Kevin McCruden

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

My Newest Acquisition

This just came in the mail today:

Markus-Liborius Hermann. Die "hermeutische Stunde" des Hebräerbriefs: Schriftauslegung in Spannungsfeldern. Herders Biblische Studien 72. Freiburg: Herder, 2013.


Friday, July 14, 2017

A Biblical Theology of Hebrews

I received this new book in the mail:

Peter T. O'Brien. God Has Spoken in His Son: A Biblical Theology of Hebrews. Apollos/InterVarsity Press, 2016.

Blurb from the Amazon site:
"Hebrews is one of the most attractive and powerful yet challenging books of the New Testament. It begins with a magnificent presentation of Jesus as the divine Son through whom God has spoken his final word (Heb. 1:1-4). These opening lines set the trajectory for the whole discourse.

The polished literary character of Hebrews and its careful exposition of the superiority of Christ, the Son of God and great high priest led earlier generations to conclude that it was mainly or simply a theological treatise. However, particularly in the last three decades, its purpose has been understood as hortatory; this is made clear by the exhortatory passages that flow from, and are grounded in, the expositions that appear throughout the discourse.

Peter O'Brien's excellent, cohesive exposition of Hebrews examines the major interlocking themes highlighted by the author as he addresses his 'word of exhortation' (13:22) to the congregation. These themes include God speaking, Christology, salvation, the people of God, and warnings and encouragements.

In this New Studies in Biblical Theology volume, O'Brien shows how Hebrews employs profoundly rich theology to serve the didactic, hortatory and pastoral goals of urging the hearers to endure in their pursuit of the promised reward, in obedience to the word of God and especially on the basis of their new covenant relationship with the Son.

Addressing key issues in biblical theology, the works comprising New Studies in Biblical Theology are creative attempts to help Christians better understand their Bibles. The NSBT series is edited by D. A. Carson, aiming to simultaneously instruct and to edify, to interact with current scholarship and to point the way ahead."

Friday, June 30, 2017

Dreaming about Commentary Writing

Ken Schenck dreams about writing a commentary on Hebrews. Go for it, Ken!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Is Apostasy Possible For Christians?

Ben Witherington argues that Hebrews 6 does state that it is possible for Christians to fall away from the faith.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

McCruden Reviews Vanhoye's Commentary

Kevin McCruden has sent along to me a link to a fresh review of Albert Vanhoye's commentary, The Letter to the Hebrews: A New Commentary.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

When and Where Did Jesus Offer Himself?

This new article is worth checking out!:

Jamieson, R. B. “When and Where Did Jesus Offer Himself? A Taxonomy of Recent Scholarship on Hebrews.” Currents in Biblical Research 15.3 (2017): 338–68.

Abstract:
"This article surveys how recent scholarship answers the question, ‘According to Hebrews, when and where did Jesus offer himself?’ Much interest has been paid to this topic in the wake of David Moffitt’s 2011 monograph, but the debate is often framed in potentially reductionistic binary terms: either Hebrews depicts a sacrificial sequence beginning on the cross and culminating in heaven, or else Jesus’ ‘heavenly offering’ is a metaphor for the cross. By contrast, this article asks how scholars correlate three variables: Jesus’ death, offering, and entrance to heaven. It registers five answers that have been offered, explores the textual basis taken to support each, and articulates the issues which divide each view from the others. Further, the article surveys recent answers to two material questions that arise in the wake of this formal one. First, is Hebrews’ sacrificial theology coherent? Second, in Hebrews, is Jesus’ death atoning?"

Thanks to Bobby Jamieson for the heads up.

Monday, June 19, 2017

My Newest Acquisition

I only recently became aware of this work and have managed to find a used copy from Germany:

 Winter, Aloysius. Die überzeitliche Einmaligkeit des Heils im “Heute”: Zur theologie des Hebräerbriefes. Neuried: Ars Una, 2002.

Blurb translated from the back cover:

"The author examines the meaning of the words 'hapax' and 'ephapax' in Hebrews, which are usually translated as 'once for all' and understands them on the basis of their origin and context in the sense of 'once finally' and 'at once finally', which is of considerable importance for sacramental theology. It has been shown that, according to the Platonic-Philonic model, the symbolism of the last 'day' in the pointedly used 'today' presupposes a Greek understanding of time, which was abolished by the God-human act of salvation in the eternal today of God. Thus, the final uniqueness of the 'perfection' effected by Christ is clarified, which is accomplished in 'sanctification' by means of baptism, Eucharist, and other ways, by direct and common participation in the sacrifice which has happened historically and at the same time exists in his person."

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Some New Articles and Essays on Hebrews

Here are some new articles and essays that I have come across in the blogosphere:

Samra, Jim. “Faith as an Epistemology: Hebrews 11:3 and the Origins of Life.” Bulletin of Ecclesial Theology 4.1 (2017): 1–12.
 -The whole journal is available for download.

Scott Mackie has made available his essay which is part of the recent festschrift for Gary Cockerill:

‘Let us draw near . . . but not too near’: A Critique of the Attempted Distinction between ‘Drawing Near’ and ‘Entering’ in Hebrews’ Entry Exhortations,” in Listen, Understand, Obey: Essays on Hebrews in Honor of Gareth Lee Cockerill (ed. C.T. Friedeman; Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2017), 17–36.

The following essay has appeared in this collection on faith:

Benjamin Schliesser. "Glauben und Denken im Hebräerbrief und bei Paulus. Zwei frühchristliche Perspektiven auf die Rationalität des Glaubens." In Glaube: Das Verständnis des Glaubens im frühen Christentum und in seiner jüdischen und hellenistisch-römischen Umwelt. Edited byJörg Frey, Benjamin Schliesser, and Nadine Ueberschaer, with the collaboration of Kathrin Hager. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 373. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2017.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

New Hebrews Commentary by Jon Laansma

Jon Laansma informed me that his commentary on Hebrews will be coming out soon. It is entitled The Letter to the Hebrews: A Commentary for Preaching, Teaching, and Bible Study. It will be published with Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf & Stock. The commentary was originally slated to be part of Baker's Teach the Text series, but that series has been cancelled.

Laansma is Associate Professor of Ancient Languages and New Testament at Wheaton College. He is the author of "I Will Give You Rest"  The Rest Motif in the New Testament with Special Reference to Mt 11 and Heb 3-4 in the WUNT series published by Mohr Siebeck; and is the co-editor of Christology, Hermeneutics, and Hebrews. Profiles from the History of Interpretation, published with T&T Clark.

He has sent me an electronic copy of his commentary for review. Stay tuned.



Friday, May 12, 2017

Jesus' Heavenly Sacrifice in Early Christian Reception of Hebrews

Here is the latest article on Hebrews to appear:

David M. Moffitt. "Jesus’ Heavenly Sacrifice in Early Christian Reception of Hebrews: A Survey." Journal of Theolical Studies 68.1 (2017): 46–71.

Abstract:
"Modern readings of Hebrews tend to reduce the text’s language of Jesus’ sacrificial offering to the event of his crucifixion. In my book, Atonement and the Logic of Resurrection in the Epistle to the Hebrews, I argue that such a reduction does not adequately account for either the presence or significance of Jesus’ resurrection and bodily ascension for Hebrews’ Christology and soteriology. The book’s claims have rightly raised questions about why Hebrews has not been read this way in the past. This article offers an initial exploration of some early Christian reception of Hebrews. I demonstrate that, while not universal, a variety of texts from the early centuries of Christianity interpret Hebrews’ language of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice as referring to Jesus’ post-resurrection offering of himself to the Father in the heavens. These findings suggest that early Christian reflection on Hebrews, Jesus’ sacrifice, and atonement could approach these interrelated concerns more holistically—that is, orientated towards the full, creedal narrative of the incarnation, than do some accounts of the atonement that reduce Jesus’ sacrifice to his death on the cross."


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

New Book Honoring Gary Cockerill

In their latest catalog, Wipf & Stock has announced the publication of this book:

Caleb T. Friedeman, editor. Listen, Understand, Obey: Essays on Hebrews in Honor of Gareth Lee Cockerill.

"This volume brings together a diverse group of scholars, including biblical, systematic, and historical theologians, to honor Gareth Lee Cockerill, longtime professor of New Testament at Wesley Biblical Seminary (Jackson, MS) and distinguished scholar of the book of Hebrews. The essays focus on various aspects of Hebrews’ theology, ranging from the nature of “rest” in Hebrews to the interpretation of Hebrews in early Methodism. Readers will find resources to hear and comprehend Hebrews afresh and will be challenged to draw near to the throne of grace with confidence (Heb 4:16)."

Congratulations, Gary!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Hebrews on Genesis 1–11

New article:

Casey Croy. "Humanity as City-Builders: Observations on Human Work from Hebrews’ Interpretation of Genesis 1–11." Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies 2.1 (2017): 32–41.

"Hebrews 11:10 claims that Abraham “was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (ESV). The Genesis narrative, however, seems devoid of any indication that Abraham was looking for a city, leading some modern interpreters to conclude that the author of Hebrews was allegorizing the Genesis narrative. On the contrary, reading Genesis 1–11 (the preceding context of the Abraham narrative) from the perspective of the author of Hebrews reveals details which indicate that he is making a valid inference from the text of Genesis. Specifically, the text of Genesis presents the city of Babel (Gen 11) as the antithesis of God’s original plan for human flourishing. The author of Hebrews’s reading of the Genesis narrative reveals his theological perspective on God’s original purpose for humanity, which has several implications for how Christians should reconsider the divide often assumed between sacred and secular work."

The entire issue is available online here.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

IBR Scripture and Doctrine Seminar

IBR has announced this program for the Scripture and Doctrine Seminar at the upcoming SBL meeting in November:

We are entering our third year of partnership with the Scripture and Doctrine Seminar. The following program has been arranged for 2017:

Welcome and Introduction:
Dr. Benjamin Quinn, Assist. Prof of Theology and History of Ideas, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Presenters:
Dr. Steve Harris, Independent Scholar, Hamilton, ON—“Hebrews in Historical Theology—The Contours”
Dr. Craig Bartholomew, H. Evan Runner Professor of Philosophy, Redeemer University College—“Creation, the Ongoing Priesthood of Jesus, and Divine Action in Hebrews”
Dr. Gareth Cockerill, (retired) Academic Dean, Professor of Biblical Interpretation and Theology, Wesley Biblical Seminary—“The Present Priesthood of the Son of God”
Dr. Luke Stamps, Assistant Prof of Christian Studies, Anderson University—“’No One Greater’: Hebrews and Classical Christian Theism”
Dr. Scott Hahn, Franciscan University of Steubenville—“Covenant, Sacrifice and Divine Action in Hebrews”

Question-and-Answer Panel to include Presenters and the Following:
Mr. Michael Rhodes, Dir. of Community Development, Memphis Center for Urban Theological Studies
Dr. Amy Peeler, Associate Professor of New Testament, Wheaton College

Monday, April 10, 2017

Didsbury Lectures on Hebrews

Alas, I probably won't be able to attend this:


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Christ-Centered Exposition on Hebrews

I received in the mail today, R. Albert Mohler Jr.'s new commentary on Hebrews in the Christ-Centered Exposition series. According to the blurb on the back page, this series is "presented as sermons, divided into chapters that conclude with a 'Reflect & Discuss' section, making this series ideal for small group study, sermon preparation, and personal devotions."

The commentary is divided according to paragraph divisions of Hebrews. Each chapter begins with an outline of the passage, which becomes the basis of the exposition that follows. The opening chapter also has a brief introduction dealing with the title, audience, date, and authorship of Hebrews. Excurses are interspersed throughout the book. Each chapter concludes with a "Reflect and Discuss" section comprising ten sets of questions. End matter includes a very modest Works Cited section that lists largely Reformed authors, and a Scripture index.This is a popular-level commentary that appears to be designed for its stated purpose.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Church on the Temple in Hebrews

Philip Church's book appears to be available now with Brill:

Philip Church. Hebrews and the Temple: Attitudes to the Temple in Second Temple Judaism and in Hebrews.

Abstract:
"In Hebrews and the Temple Philip Church argues that the silence of Hebrews concerning the temple does not mean that the author is not interested in the temple. He writes to encourage his readers to abandon their preoccupation with it and to follow Jesus to their eschatological goal. Following extensive discussions of attitudes to the temple in the literature of Second Temple Judaism, Church turns to Hebrews and argues that the temple is presented there as a symbolic foreshadowing of the eschatological dwelling of God with his people. Now that the eschatological moment has arrived with the exaltation of Christ to the right hand of God, preoccupation with the temple and its rituals must cease."


Saturday, March 18, 2017

A Couple of New Articles on Hebrews


Baugh, S. M. “Hyperbaton and Greek Literary Style in Hebrews.” Novum Testamentum 59.2 (2017): 194–213.

Abstract:
“Hyperbaton,” the separation of words that are semantically and syntactically inter-connected, is used in the epistle to the Hebrews nearly sixty times. Classicist Daniel Markovic has shown that various kinds of hyperbaton were used by Greek literary authors to indicate the boundaries of their basic informational unit, the colon (κῶλον), and sometimes of larger units of discourse like the period (περιόδος). This essay confirms Markovic’s conclusions by studying the instances of hyperbaton in Hebrews which the author used to frame colons while also adding some secondary reasons for its use throughout the composition.


Church, Philip. “Hebrews 1:10–12 and the Renewal of the Cosmos.” Tyndale Bulletin 67.2 (2016): 269–86.

Abstract:
The suggestion that the author of Hebrews is indebted to Philo sometimes leads to the assertion that he has a negative bias against the creation. One text where scholars have detected this bias is Hebrews 1:10-12, quoting Psalm 102:25-27, seemingly to predict the dissolution of the cosmos. The text is part of a Psalm that predicts the restoration of Zion and the gathering of the nations there to worship, and expresses the confidence that the descendants of the servants of Yahweh will live securely in Yahweh’s presence. This makes it unlikely that verses 25-26 predict the dissolution of the cosmos, and exegesis of the verses in question indicates not dissolution, but renewal after the destruction resulting from the exile. Attention to the context of the quotation in Hebrews indicates that dissolution there is also unlikely. The text supports the claim that the exalted Son upholds all things (Heb. 1:3) and sits alongside a discussion of the dominion of humanity over the world to come (2:5-9). A more remote co-text refers to the gathering of the nations to Zion (12:22-24), itself a further echo of the Psalm. The Psalm quotation functions to predict not the dissolution, but the renewal of the decaying cosmos.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

My Review of Griffiths, Hebrews and Divine Speech


This review originally appeared in Review & Expositor 112.4 (November 2015): 628–29. Thanks to Nancy Declaisse-Walford and Review & Expositor for permission to publish this review here. 
 
***** 
Jonathan I. Griffiths. Hebrews and Divine Speech. Library of New Testament Studies 507. London: Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2014. xvi +200 pp. $112.00. ISBN 9780567655523.

This monograph, a revision of the author’s doctoral dissertation submitted to the University of Cambridge under the direction of Peter Head, is probably the first full-length exploration in English concerning the motif of divine speech in the Book of Hebrews. It achieves this task through an exegetical analysis of eight key passages, giving particular attention to the significant role that the terms λόγος and ῥῆμα play in the author’s theology of divine speech. The book contains a straightforward structure beginning with an introductory chapter, followed by eight chapters that treat each one of the key passages in sequential order (1:1–4; 2:1–4; 4:2–16; 5:11–6:12; 6:13–7:28; 11:3; 12:18–29; and 13:7, 17, 22), and ending with a concluding chapter. The book is punctuated with two excurses that are rather important for his overall argument.

Chapter 1 presents the purpose, thesis, and methodology of the study. The chapter also gives a brief consideration of the historical and intellectual contexts, the genre, and the structure of Hebrews. Griffiths considers Hebrews to be a homiletical address with an epistolary postscript. He offers his own structural analysis in an excursus that follows the chapter. In chapters 2–8 Griffiths engages in a detailed exegetical examination of all the key passages in Hebrews that touches upon the theme of divine speech. He addresses the critical issues and weighs the interpretive options for each passage. Each chapter ends with a conclusion summarizing the results. His exegesis is guided by three lines of inquiry, whose conclusions are encapsulated in the final chapter.

The first line of inquiry considers whether Hebrews contains a logos Christology. While Hebrews never explicitly identifies Jesus as the logos, it evinces “a discernible and sustained ‘word’ Christology” (p. 162). The term λόγος is never used to identify Jesus; instead it primarily refers to divine speech, but secondarily to the author’s own message. The term ῥῆμα also refers to divine speech, but Griffiths discerns a distinction between the two terms: “while λόγος typically imports the communication of information (particularly the Gospel message), ῥῆμα occurs in contexts where a physical manifestation of God’s speech is in view, particularly as it is expressed in the created order” (p. 164). The second line of inquiry concerns the interplay between divine speech, Christology and soteriology. He concludes that salvation is obtainable through a positive response to the divine word which finds its fullest expression in the person and work of Christ. But an encounter with the divine word may also be an occasion for judgment for those who reject it. The third line of inquiry explores the author’s own view regarding his discourse in relation to divine speech. Griffiths contends that the author identified his own sermon as a form of divine speech. God often uses human agents to communicate his divine message.

The book contains a number of strengths. First, it is written with lucid, flowing prose. Second, it is well-researched as is evidenced by the copious footnotes and fulsome bibliography. Third, the exegetical discussions are sound and generally persuasive. Griffiths does not force the exegesis, even in places where it could support his thesis (for example, he does not discern a logos Christology in 4:12). Fourth, the second excursus provides a useful overview of the term λόγος and its relationship to word/wisdom personalizations in other ancient literature.

I have a couple of quibbles with the book. First, I did not find his proposed structure for Hebrews to be entirely persuasive. Griffiths discerns eleven cycles of a threefold pattern of exempla, explanation/application, and exhortation in Hebrews. His divisions, however, seem to split up blocks of material that naturally go together. For example, some of the more natural divisions of Hebrews would be 2:5–18; 3:1–6; 3:7–19; and 4:1–13. By contrast, Griffiths detects cycles at 2:5–3:3; 3:4–13; 3:14–4:1; and 4:2–11. In my opinion, his proposed structure is the weakest part of the book. Second, Griffiths makes a novel suggestion that 4:12 is alluding to the Ehud story in Judges 3. This is an intriguing suggestion since Ehud announces to the king of Moab that he has a “secret word/thing” or a “word/thing of God” for him (there is a word-play in the Hebrew). The “word” of course is a two-edged sword that he thrusts into the king’s belly. In the Septuagint the phrase for two-edged sword (μάχαιραν δίστομον) is the same one Hebrews uses as a metaphor for the word of God in 4:12. The allusion, however, is unlikely since there is nothing in the context to suggest that the author had this story in mind and an allusion to Ehud would be overly subtle. Finally, I have a suggestion for further exploration. The author of Hebrews often attributes scripture quotations to God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. While Griffiths notes this feature cursorily in his final chapter, it would be profitable to reflect more fully on how scripture as divine speech contributes to an understanding of the author’s theology of divine speech. Despite these minor reservations, I think that Griffiths has made a commendable contribution to Hebrews research.


Monday, February 20, 2017

A New Commentary on Hebrews from a "Pro-Torah" Perspective

I just got in the mail a new two-volume commentary set that would probably not be on most scholars' radar because it is not published with your standard scholarly publishers:

Tim Hegg. Commentary on the Book of Hebrews. Volume 1:Chapters 1–8; Volume 2: Chapters 9–13. Tacoma, WA: Torah Resources, 2016. Pp. 355 + 370. Paper.

Some initial observations:
The commentary is apparently written from a Hebraic perspective, and in particular, from a "pro-Torah" perspective. It takes issue with scholar who claim that Hebrews says that the new covenant has forever replaced the old covenant. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in his exegesis.

The commentary also evinces some scholarship. The author provides a modest bibliography of commentaries used—all in English. All of them are scholarly, but he is missing some key ones. Other works cited are in the modest footnotes used throughout the commentary. The author uses Greek and Hebrew, which are often translated and/or transliterated. The writing style seems accessible enough for non-specialists.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Peeler Reviews Moore, Repetition in Hebrews

Amy Peeler reviews Nicholas Moore's monograph, Repetition in Hebrews: Plurality and Singularity in the Letter to the Hebrews, Its Ancient Context, and the Early Church, for RBL.

(I've just started into the book for a review that I will be doing for BBR)


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Riddles of Hebrews

Ken Schenck gives a summary of his paper delivered at the panel discussion on Hebrews at the recent midwest regional of the SBL: The Riddles of Hebrews.

British New Testament Society Call for Papers

The British New Testament Society is calling for papers for its upcoming meeting at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth on 31 August – 2 September 2017. The Hebrews seminar group led by David Moffitt (dm206@st-andrews.ac.uk) has the following directions:

Whilst papers on any topic relating to Hebrews will be considered, the Hebrews Group particularly invites proposals relating to the much debated question of the cosmological assumptions underlying this early Christian text.

Paper proposals are due by the 21st of April.

New Articles and Book Reviews Added

In the days to come I will be adding new links to dozens, if not hundreds, of articles and book reviews. The book reviews tend to be of older works on Hebrews and shorter in length. Nevertheless, hopefully you find something useful. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Friday, February 3, 2017

Hebrews at the Midwest Regional

In a week from today I will be headed up north to South Bend, IN to attend the 2017 Midwest Regional of the SBL at St. Mary's College. Hebrews will be featured in a number of sessions, one of which I am chairing. Session C of the Hebrews & Catholic Epistles section will feature five Hebrews specialists who will be answering the question, "What Is Hebrews?" In session D, Eric Mason will be giving a response to the five papers and then a panel discussion will ensue. Fun should be had by all!

Saturday, February 11
10:30–11:30

HEBREWS & CATHOLIC EPISTLES (B)
Chair: Jason Whitlark, Baylor University

Andrew W. Higginbotham, HUC–JIR
No Time ... or No Need? Hebrews 11:32 in Light of Tannaitic Parallels and Second Temple Mentions
"While one may understand abbreviating coverage of David, Samuel and the prophets at the end of the “hall of faith” (Heb 11:32), the mention without elaboration there of Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah is curious. While the use of tannaitic materials as parallels to New Testament texts is potentially problematic, the similarities of the traditions found in Tosefta Rosh Hashanah, the Mekhiltot, and Sifre Devarim in their own mentions of the four judges are compelling enough to garner consideration. This paper will examine for the potential of a tradition that lies behind both Hebrews and the tannaitic sources."

Erhard H. Gallos, Andrews University
The Spirits of the Righteous Made Perfect
"Who are “the spirits of the righteous made perfect” in Hebrews 12:23? Are they the immortal, bodiless people in a metaphysical sphere? What is the background for understanding the phrase “the spirits of the righteous made perfect?” Is it Jewish apocalyptic literature, like 1 Enoch 22.3-9; Wis 3:1; Philo Leg. all. 3.74; 3 Enoch 43.1 or is the answer to be found within the book of Hebrews itself? A closer look, however, at the homily of Auctor ad Hebraeos will shed new light into the perennial enigma."

1:00–2:30
HEBREWS & CATHOLIC EPISTLES (C)
Chair: Eric F. Mason, Judson University
“What Is Hebrews?”—Panel Presentations

Jared C. Calaway, Illinois College
"This paper will illustrate the possibilities and limitations of examining the Epistle to the Hebrews through the lens of spatial theory, spatiotemporal theory, and migration studies."

Amy Peeler, Wheaton College
"The author’s chief concern is to present the ethos (character) of God so that the recipients can trust God and, therefore, endure in their confession."

Clare M. Rothschild, Lewis University
"Hebrews is a deliberate pseudepigraphon—its centuries-long attribution to Paul, an explicit intention of the author."

Ken Schenck, Indiana Wesleyan University
"Hebrews was a sermon sent from a Jewish male of the Pauline circle, someone acquainted with Philo, who was writing to Rome in the aftermath of the destruction of the temple to encourage a largely Gentile audience not to abandon Christian Judaism."

Jason A. Whitlark, Baylor University
"Hebrews is a deliberative speech written to former pagans in Flavian Rome to exhort them to faithfulness in view of God’s promised hope and Christ’s new covenant ministry and to warn them against apostasy, namely defection to the pagan imperial society."

3:00–4:00
HEBREWS & CATHOLIC EPISTLES (D)
Chair: Brian Small, Grand Rivers (Kentucky) United Methodist Church
“What Is Hebrews?”—Response and Discussion

Response: Eric F. Mason, Judson University

Jared C. Calaway, Illinois College
Amy Peeler, Wheaton College
Clare M. Rothschild, Lewis University
Ken Schenck, Indiana Wesleyan University
Jason A. Whitlark, Baylor University

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hebrews Highlights January 2017

Henry Neufeld reflects on the notion that God is perfected through suffering (Hebrews 2:10).

Neufeld also has a "review" of Luke Timothy Johnson's commentary on Hebrews.

Neufeld also discusses Perfection and Maturity in Hebrews 6:1.

Ian Paul summarizes a booklet by Colin Buchanan on Worship in the Letter to the Hebrews.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Moore Reviews Filtvedt

Nicholas Moore gives a review of Old Jakob Filtvedt's monograph, The Identity of God's People and the Paradox of Hebrews on the Review of Biblical Literature website. Unfortunately, you now have to be a member of SBL to access it.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Review of Schreiner's Commentary on Hebrews


Thomas R. Schreiner. Commentary on Hebrews. Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation. Nashville: Holman Reference, 2015. Hardback. Pp. xviii + 539.

Thomas Schreiner’s Commentary on Hebrews is the inaugural volume of the new Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation commentary series. The series seeks to be distinct from other commentaries. It does not try to exhaustively examine the biblical texts, but instead it takes a biblical theological approach to the texts. It seeks to explore how each text contributes to an understanding of the theology of the Scriptures as a whole. Moreover, the series is geared toward the proclamation of the text. Hence, while not unscholarly, this series is targeted towards Christian ministers who will be preaching and teaching about the texts.

In the introduction, Schreiner briefly addresses some of the critical issues of Hebrews. He highlights some of the leading candidates for authorship (i.e., Paul, Barnabas, Luke, Apollos) but he does not decisively opt for any one of them. He prefers a pre-70s date for Hebrews because (1) it refers to the tabernacle in the present tense, implying that the Jewish cultus was still in operation; (2) it does not mention the destruction of the temple which would have contributed to the author’s argument that the old covenant was obsolete; and (3) it was used by 1 Clement and hence would need time to circulate. However, none of these reasons are decisive for a pre-70s date. As Schreiner himself notes, some texts that post-date the destruction of the temple still referred to the temple in the present tense. If the temple was still in existence, it is odd that Hebrews makes no mention of it. And Hebrews could have circulated much quicker than the 25+ year time gap between the destruction of the temple and the supposed writer of 1 Clement, especially if Hebrews was sent to the Roman church.

Schreiner believes that the addressees were Jewish Christians living in Rome (although he admires the strength of Carl Mosser’s argument that the audience was living in Jerusalem), who were tempted to revert to Judaism due to external pressure or persecution. He notes the oral character of Hebrews and concludes that it is a sermon or exhortation written in epistolary form. The purpose of the letter is to admonish the audience not to fall away from Jesus and the new covenant and to return to the Mosaic Law and old covenant. He discusses some of the proposals for the religious-cultural background of Hebrews but doesn’t seem to settle on any one of them. He presents a very straightforward outline of the book.

Some of the distinctive features of the commentary begin to emerge in the next two sections. First, Schreiner recounts the storyline of the Bible beginning from Genesis through to the New Testament. He wants to place Hebrews within its canonical context. He notes how Hebrews connects with the storyline of the Bible and echoes many of its major themes. Schreiner remarks that the Old Testament needs to be read in light of its fulfillment in the person of Jesus. In the next and final section of the introduction, Schreiner deals with four biblical and theological structures that lie behind the theology of Hebrews. First, Hebrews has a promise-fulfillment orientation. Old Testament promises find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Second, Hebrews has an already-but-not-yet eschatology. God’s promises have been inaugurated in Jesus Christ but they have not reached their ultimate consummation. Third, Hebrews utilizes typology. Schreiner defines typology as “a historical correspondence between events, institutions, and persons found in the OT and the NT” (pp. 36–37). He further qualifies his definition by stating that the typology is something intended by God. He notes also that there is an “escalation” in Hebrews’ typology; the fulfillment is always better than the type. Fourth, Hebrews has a spatial orientation. Hebrews contrasts the earthly and the heavenly realms. Schreiner adduces many examples from Hebrews for each of these theological structures.

The commentary proper analyzes Hebrews passage by passage and follows the following format: (1) An outline situates the passage within the larger flow of thought of Hebrews; (2) Scripture translation from the Holman Christian Standard Bible; (3) context; (4) verse-by-verse exegesis; and (5) a bridge which summarizes the exegesis and transitions to the next passage. The exegesis does not get into the intricacies of the Greek text. Greek, when used, is always translated. The exposition is primarily concerned with bringing out the theology of the text.

In what follows, I will highlight some of Schreiner’s exegetical decisions. At 1:6 he interprets “firstborn” to be a reference to Jesus’ exaltation and not his incarnation or parousia. Thus, Schreiner is in line with the current trend which prefers the exaltation view. In his discussion of 2:5–9 he seems to read Hebrews’ use of Ps 8 anthropologically, rather than christologically. Scholars are decidedly split over these two options.

In his discussion of the verb γεγόναμεν in verse 3:14, Schreiner says, “Some interpreters read too much into the perfect tense, interpreting the condition as evidence to inference. It is preferable to read the condition here in accord with the other conditional statements in Hebrews. It is certainly possible that the author makes the point that those who have truly become Christians in the past are those who will persevere in the future. Theologically, I have no objection to that reading. It is questionable, however, whether such nuanced reading fits the context of Hebrews. Elsewhere in the letter the author doesn’t make the point that only true Christians persevere. Instead, he admonishes believers to persevere until the end so they will receive the final reward. In other words we should beware of imposing a theological reading on the text that goes beyond the boundaries of what the author wants to do here. He is simply saying that the readers are sharers of Christ if they persevere to the end. He is not arguing here that true believers will definitely persevere, for it is a conditional statement. Nor is he saying that those who are truly believers will persevere. It is better to read the text as a simple condition” (128). I appreciate Schreiner’s integrity here. He is trying to understand Hebrews on its own terms rather than impose his theological presuppositions upon the text.

In his discussion of 4:12, which talks about the word of God “penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit,” Schreiner makes the following comments: “It is difficult to know . . . what the author could possibly mean by ‘the separation of soul and spirit.’ It is not apparent elsewhere from the OT or the NT that clear distinctions should be erected between the soul and spirit. In some popular and devotional literature, this verse is used to justify distinguishing between the soul and the spirit, and sometimes a whole spirituality springs up that separates the spirit, the soul, and the body. These tripartite understandings of human beings are speculative, testifying to the creativity of their authors more than they reflect the teaching of the NT” (147). I am glad to read such a measured statement by a leading scholar.

When dealing with the controversial passage, 6:4–6, Schreiner argues that the persons in view are real Christians and the danger in view is apostasy. He rejects the “loss of rewards” view as espoused by David Allen and others. He notes that the warning passages are the means by which God preserves believers.

In his discussion of Melchizedek at 7:1–10, Schreiner rejects the view that Melchizedek was a preincarnate appearance of Jesus as the Son of God. First, Hebrews uses typology; hence, Melchizedek’s priesthood simply adumbrates Jesus’ priesthood. Second, Melchizedek is only likened to Jesus, not equated with him. Schreiner argues that the author of Hebrews simply uses the silences in the Genesis account to make his case about Melchizedek. What Schreiner does not mention is that a large number of scholars believe that Hebrews views Melchizedek as a supra-human or heavenly being. Schreiner certainly does not adopt this interpretation.

Schreiner’s Calvinistic leanings seep through in his discussion of the new covenant at 8:11. He avers that those who are truly new covenant people will never fall away. If a new covenant member does fall away, it only demonstrates that that person was not truly regenerate.

Schreiner deals with a number of controversial issues in 9:11–14. First, he indicates that the author is not talking about a literal tabernacle in heaven. It is figurative language used “for depicting the presence of God” (267). Second, Jesus does not literally bring his blood into heaven. Moreover, the blood refers to Jesus’ self-sacrificial death and not to Jesus’ presentation of his life to God (268n432; see also his discussion on 279). Forgiveness comes from the death of the victim, not from the release of the victim’s life. Third, “through eternal spirit” at 9:14 most likely refers to the Holy Spirit and not to Jesus’ human spirit.

Regarding the reference to the cleansing of heavenly things at 9:22, Schreiner again does not take the language literally: “the imagery should not be pressed, as if somehow heaven itself is defiled by human sin. The writer uses spatial and typological language to communicate the effectiveness of Christ’s sacrifice, but it is unwarranted to conclude that he actually believes there are heavenly places that literally need cleansing. . . . the reference to the cleansing of the heavenly places should not be understood literally or univocally but analogically” (283).

The final chapter of the commentary deals with the biblical and theological themes of Hebrews. This chapter provides a nice encapsulation of the biblical theology of Hebrews. He divides his analysis under nine major headings: (1) God; (2) Jesus Christ; (3) the new covenant; (4) the Spirit; (5) warnings and exhortations; (6) sojourners and exiles; (7) faith, obedience, and the situation of the readers; (8) assurance; and (9) the future reward.

At the beginning of the section on Jesus Christ, Schreiner summarizes at length my 2010 Perspectives in Religious Studies article on “The Use of Rhetorical Topoi in the Characterization of Jesus in the Book of Hebrews.” To my knowledge, Schreiner is the first person to cite one of my works in publication. Regrettably, he cites my article rather than my monograph which was a fuller and more mature articulation of what I was doing in the article. At any rate, it was a bit startling to see my article referenced to such length. I want to clarify two statements Schreiner makes about my article. First, he states, “Small argues that by using narrative criticism the excellency of Jesus is presented” (441–42). While I certainly could have used a narrative critical approach to Hebrews, I actually used a rhetorical approach. As I demonstrate in my monograph, characterization is a method that is used in both narrative and rhetorical genres, but in slightly different ways. Second, Schreiner notes that I take the word ἀπαύγασμα (1:3) to mean “reflection,” rather than “radiance.” Actually, I am not dogmatic about it; the context gives us little to go on to determine the meaning. “Radiance” is certainly a stronger term, but if I had to fall off the log in one direction or the other, I would lean towards “reflection” as the meaning of the term in the context of Hebrews.

In the remainder of the section on Jesus Christ, Schreiner considers the Christology of Hebrews under the following headings: (1) divine Son; (2) the humanity of the Son; (3) the priesthood of Jesus; (4) Jesus’ better sacrifice and human anthropology; (5) perfection and assurance; (6) Jesus’ resurrection and exaltation.

In the section on the warnings and exhortations of Hebrews, Schreiner highlights four approaches to the warning passages: (1) Arminian: the warnings are addressed to true Christians who may renounce their faith and lose their salvation. The warnings encourage them to hold on to their faith. Schreiner notes that the “Arminian view is the most common one among commentators today and has the virtue of being a straightforward readings” (480). I agree! (2) Free Grace: the warnings are addressed to true Christians who cannot lose their salvation. The warnings caution against the lack of fruitfulness in their lives. (3) Tests of Genuineness: the warnings are addressed to a mixed audience of Christians and almost-Christians; those who fail to heed the warnings were not true Christians to begin with; true Christians cannot lose their salvation. (4) Means of Salvation: warnings are addressed to true Christians who cannot lose their salvation. The warnings are one of the means God uses to preserve believers in the faith. Schreiner defends the last view, noting that this view is similar to the Arminian view. The only difference is in regard to the function of the warnings. I think Schreiner is right that the warning passages are addressed to true Christians, that the issue at stake is apostasy, and that the consequences of falling away is final judgment. I remain unpersuaded by his contention that the warning passages are merely the means of keeping the elect in the faith. I believe that the warning passages have real urgency because apostasy remains a real possibility for believers.

Over all this is a solid little commentary. The commentary is not overly technical, so someone looking for a detailed analysis of the Greek text will need to look elsewhere. Seasoned Hebrews scholars will probably not find much that is new in this commentary. What the commentary does accomplish is provide the theological payoff to the exegesis of the text. Moreover, the final chapter provides a nice summation of the biblical theology of Hebrews. Schreiner usually makes sound exegetical decisions, and while I don’t agree with the Calvinist tinge that he applies to Hebrews, I do appreciate his irenic approach to the discussion of the issues and his openness to draw insights even from Arminian authors (such as Gary Cockerill or I. Howard Marshall). His approach is a refreshing contrast to the Calvinist commentary I reviewed in the previous post. Of the five new commentaries that I reviewed recently, I would recommend this one first.

Thanks to Chris Cowan and B&H Publishing Group for a review copy of the book.