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.

"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.

"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

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.

"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.

“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.

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 ( 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

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."

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."

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.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Review of McWilliams' Commentary on Hebrews

David B. McWilliams. Hebrews. The Lectio Continua Expository Commentary on the New Testament. Powder Springs, GA: Tolle Lege Press, 2015. Hardback. Pp. xxxvii + 408.

The Lectio Continua Expository Commentary on the New Testament is a new expository commentary series that seeks to fulfill what series editor Jon Payne says is the greatest need of the church: “the recovery of sound biblical preaching that faithfully explains and applies the text, courageously confronts sin, and boldly trumpets forth the sovereign majesty, law, and promises of God” (xv). The contributors of this series are pastor-scholars in the Reformed tradition from both sides of the Atlantic. The format of the series is to provide a systematic verse-by-verse expository proclamation of the biblical text. Its purpose is to provide a contemporary model of expository preaching. The series is not intended to be academic or highly technical. References to other works are minimal. There is no bibliography; all references to other works are located in the footnotes.

In the brief introduction, McWilliams lays out some reasons why we should study Hebrews today. He notes that the author is unknown and that it was written to Jewish Christians who were tempted to return to Judaism. In giving an overview of the flow of the book, he highlights some of the main themes of Hebrews: (1) the priestly work of Christ is inseparable from his person; (2) the finished work of Christ is foundational to his heavenly ministry; (3) the sympathy of our high priest finds a specific point of contact with the tempted and tried people of God; and (4) the intercession of our high priest is the great theme of Hebrews (xxxiii–xxxv).

The commentary proper is divided into 24 expository sermons dealing with the text of Hebrews of varying length. Each chapter is headed by a translation from the ESV text. The commentary rarely deals with the Greek text, and when it does, the Greek is transliterated. The English translation being commented upon appears in italics throughout the exposition.

The exposition is overtly in the Reformed and Calvinist traditions. McWilliams frequently refers to the Westminster Confession and various Reformed and Calvinist theologians (e.g., John Calvin, Martin Luther, Geerhardus Vos, A. W. Pink, William Gouge, John Murray, John Brown, John Gill, John Bunyan, John Owens, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, Louis Berkhof, Matthew Henry), as well as to Calvinist hymn writers (e.g., August Toplady, Isaac Watts). However, a few Arminian authors and hymn writers manage to slip through (e.g., William Lane, Charles Wesley).

In what follows we will look at some of the characteristic features and interpretive decisions in the exposition. At 1:5 McWilliams states that while the quotation of Ps 2:7 refers to the resurrection/exaltation of the Son, it could also equally be a reference to the eternal generation of the Son. At 1:6 he believes that “firstborn” refers to Jesus’ incarnation. Many commentators have taken it this way, but I have found that increasingly scholars believe that it is a reference to Jesus’ exaltation. In fact, the whole of the catena in chapter 1 is likely an allusion to the exaltation of the Son.

At the beginning of his discussion of 2:1–4, McWilliams asserts that Hebrews “is thoroughly committed to the final perseverance of the saints; a true believer cannot be lost” (40). This is a claim that he needs to demonstrate rather than assert. He claims that God “uses warnings to preserve his people” and that “false professors” must be warned (40). Yet, it makes no sense, if one claims that God predestines some to salvation and some to damnation, to also claim that God uses warnings to save the elect and to condemn the damned. Since, both the elect and the unelect cannot really change their destinies, the use of warnings is simply unnecessary. McWilliams later claims that the “Scriptures clearly teach that when a professing Christian walks away from his profession that [sic] he was never a true believer to begin with” (46). This is certainly an unfalsifiable claim. If a person shows all the signs of being a Christian, one would assume that the person is a Christian, but if that person then abandons the faith, is it a logical necessity to assume that person never really was a Christian? It is like the Calvinist wants his cake and to eat it too. However, if the Calvinist claim is correct, then ironically there can be no real assurance of salvation, since one can never really know whether one is elect or just one of the “false professors.”

Towards the end of this sermon, McWilliams engages in a bit of polemics by claiming that “Today, once again evangelical churches are drifting into Arminianism and the ‘openness of God’ heresy” (53). It is clear that he considers Arminianism to be an aberration and departure from true Christianity. He also sets his guns on emergent Christians and the New Perspective on Paul. I certainly believe that Calvinists are true Christians even if I don’t agree with their theology, so it is very sad to see that some Calvinists are so uncharitable towards other Christians with whom they disagree.

At 2:9, where Hebrews says that Christ “tasted death for everyone,” McWilliams denies that this refers to universal atonement (62). He takes the common Calvinist tactic of denying the plain meaning of the word everyone, and instead interpreting it in a limited sense.

In his discussion of the highly contested passage 6:4–6, McWilliams naturally rejects the Arminian interpretation that the truly regenerate can become lost. Rather, he takes the Calvinist position that the warnings of Hebrews 6 address only professing believers who really do not possess what they profess. He exclaims that the “writer speaks of those who have been in the sphere of the church, but who have never been regenerated, converted, or justified. In order to hold to this position, naturally he has to downplay the description of the one who falls away in verses 4–5 to be that of professing Christians and not genuine Christians, although there is nothing in the descriptions to suggest this interpretation. The author of Hebrews describes genuine Christians who have fallen away. The irony of McWilliams’ position is that Christians can have no real assurance of salvation since they may be professing something that they in fact they do not possess. Only time can tell if professors are true possessors.

In his discussion of “through eternal spirit” at 9:14, McWilliams presents some strong arguments in favor of the view that this phrase refers to Christ’s divine nature. Nevertheless, he believes that it refers to the enablement of the Holy Spirit in accomplishing redemption. First, it is the most natural reading of the phrase. Second, other NT passages refer to the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in the life and ministry of Jesus. Third, the text seems to have the suffering servant passages in mind. At 9:16–17 McWilliams prefers to understand diatheke to refer to “covenant” rather than “testament.” He notes that even in ancient covenant making a death was normally required.

At 10:36 the author of Hebrews urges the need for endurance in his readers. McWilliams engages in a bit of polemics again here. He remarks, “Arminianism has never been able to understand, based as it is upon a faulty view of God and man, that these exhortation do not imply that true believers may fail to arrive at the promised destination. Calvinism understands that these exhortations are essential to Christian living. God’s promise does not make exhortation unnecessary” (297). In essence, McWilliams claims, again, that God uses exhortation to insure that the elect will arrive at their appointed end. Again, I respond, commanding the elect to persevere is superfluous if God has already predetermined their eternal salvation.

In his discussion of the definition of faith in 11:1, McWilliams adopts the view of Moulton and Milligan that hypostasis refers to the “title-deed” of things hoped for. The title-deed guarantees the obtaining of the object of faith. Hebrews 11:3 mentions that by faith we understand that God created the universe by his word. McWilliams takes some space at this point in the exposition to denounce evolution (308–309).

Let us be clear what this commentary is. It is presented as a series of expository sermons on Hebrews. However, these are meaty theological treatises. This might be a series that one preaches to a seminary-trained audience rather than to your typical Sunday morning congregation. You will not find here homely illustrations such as you would find, for example, in R. Kent Hughes’ two-volume collection of sermons on Hebrews. Instead, sermon “illustrations” largely consist of quotations—some quite lengthy—of Calvinist theologians or hymn-writers.

I am reluctant to recommend this commentary for two reasons. First, rather than interpreting Hebrews on its own terms, McWilliams takes pains to make the author of Hebrews sound like a Calvinist. I am afraid that his theology has controlled his exegesis. The Calvinist who wants to reinforce his bias will surely want to snatch up a copy of this book. Second, on occasion McWilliams is uncharitable towards those with whom he disagrees. I have noted some of his polemics above. He does not engage in polemics in most of his expositions, but the few places where he does employ them makes the commentary unpalatable to me.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Review of Vanhoye's Commentary on Hebrews

Albert Vanhoye. The Letter to the Hebrews: A New Commentary. New York: Paulist Press, 2015. Paperback. Pp. v + 266.

Albert Vanhoye is one of the most prolific writers on the Book of Hebrews. In my compiled bibliographies on Hebrews, I count 42 works by Vanhoye, including commentaries, monographs, and articles. His writings appear in several languages, including English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and even Latin. The work currently under review is the second commentary by Vanhoye that has appeared in recent years. I reviewed the other commentary, A Different Priest, over five years ago. Since I reviewed that commentary at length elsewhere, this review will be much shorter.

This is a mid-range commentary. While the commentary evinces scholarly research, it is written at a popular level. The commentary does not delve into the Greek text. Footnotes are not used and a very modest bibliography, along with a Scripture index, appears at the end of the book.

Vanhoye deals with some critical issues in the modest introduction (pages 1–20). He first considers genre. He believes that Hebrews is a sermon that was delivered to several different churches. This letter is then one instantiation of the sermon which became fixated in writing. This is an intriguing thesis which is certainly worthy of consideration. I find one problem with it: some of the passages in Hebrews seem to be dealing with the specific situation of a particular congregation (5:11; 6:10; 10:32–34), rather than to a broader audience.

In terms of doctrinal content, Vanhoye considers Hebrews to be a treatise on Christology. In particular, it depicts Jesus as a priest, a feature that is unique in the NT. He believes that the oracle in Psalm 110 prompted the author to consider Jesus’ status as a priest.

In his discussion of authorship, Vanhoye notes that Hebrews evinces some non-Pauline features, including a different literary style, different quotation practice, and a focus on Jesus’ priesthood. Nevertheless, Hebrews also shares some elements with Pauline theology. Vanhoye argues that the “dispatch note” at the end of the homily (13:19, 22–25) is by a different author than the rest of the work. He believes that the dispatch note evinces Pauline characteristics and hence concludes that Paul was giving his approval of a homily by a close colleague, who was most likely Barnabas.

Regarding other features of the composition of the homily, Vanhoye claims that the recipients were Christians, but he does not decide whether they were Jewish or Hellenistic. The “strength of the tradition” that the letter was readily accepted in the East persuades him that the homily was most likely written in Rome. He sets the date at around 66 or 67 CE, that is, before Paul’s martyrdom.

Vanhoye is most known for his work on the structure of Hebrews. In the introduction he gives a brief analysis, dividing the homily into five major parts:
     Exordium (1:1–4)
     Part 1 (1:5–2:18)
     Part 2 (3:1–5:10)
     Part 3 (5:11–10:39)
     Part 4 (11:1–12:13)
     Part 5 (12:14–13:19)
     Conclusion and doxology (13:20–25)
A briefer outline follows, which subdivides each of the five major parts. The introduction is followed by a long section (pages 21–50) entitled “Text of the Letter Annotated.” This section consists of a translation (which is not identified and appears to be the author’s own) with cross-references. The verses are arranged in order to highlight the literary structure of the homily. The commentary proper is divided into sections. Each section or subsection is headed by the structured translation followed by an exposition.

Aside from Vanhoye’s view of the composition of Hebrews, there is little that stands out for me from this commentary. Perhaps I have read too many commentaries on Hebrews. This commentary will give a good overview of the flow of thought of Hebrews, but persons seeking a more in-depth treatment of the Greek text will need to look elsewhere.

Review of Healy's Commentary on Hebrews

Mary Healy. Hebrews. Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2016. Paperback. Pp. 316.

Mary Healy, professor of Sacred Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, has produced one of the most recent commentaries on Hebrews. This one belongs to the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture. According to the series editors, the series “aims to serve the ministry of the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church” (9). The series intends to provide an accessible commentary on each book of the NT for the benefit of pastors and other interested persons. The series will “focus on the meaning of the text for faith and life rather than on the technical questions that occupy scholars” (10). The commentary uses ordinary language that does not require expertise on the part of the reader. The series is naturally from the Catholic perspective, but it will draw on the scholarship from other traditions.

In the modest introduction, Healy deals briefly with some of the critical issues of Hebrews. She says that Paul was likely not the author and sets out the usual reasons for rejecting Pauline authorship. She then briefly considers other candidates but concludes that the author is simply unknown. She believes that the recipients were likely Jewish Christians, not Gentiles, who were in danger of falling away from their faith. Jerusalem was a possible destination for the book, but it was more likely sent to Rome. She prefers the date of composition to be sometime in the early to mid-60s CE. She notes some of its literary form and features, including Hebrews oral character, its alternation between doctrine and moral exhortation, its rich vocabulary and use of various literary devices. She considers Hebrews to be an example of an early Christian homily. She notes that the structure of the book revolves around seven “primary reflections on biblical passages” (24).

Healy highlights six theological themes in Hebrews, which she designates as follows: (1) Jesus our high priest, (2) solidarity with sinners, (3) the power of Christ’s death, (4) old and new, (5) the pilgrim church, and (6) drawing near to God. She concludes the introduction with a reflection on “Hebrews for today.” The introduction is followed by a straightforward outline of Hebrews.

In the commentary proper, each chapter begins with an overview of the passage under consideration. Each chapter usually includes several subsections which deal with the text in smaller portions. Each subsection begins with a translation from the New American Bible followed by cross-references to the OT, NT, the Catholic catechism, and the lectionary. The exposition of the text proceeds with a verse-by-verse analysis. The English translation being commented upon appears in bold print within the exposition. References to the Greek text scarcely appear and the Greek is in transliteration when it does appear. Two types of “sidebars” are sprinkled throughout the commentary. First, are Biblical Background sidebars that deal with historical, literary, or theological issues. Second, are Living Tradition sidebars that “offer pertinent material from the postbiblical Christian tradition, including quotations from Church documents and from the writings of saints and Church Fathers” (10). Many of the chapters or subsections conclude with a “reflection and application.” A glossary is included at the end of the book for more specialized terms.

In what follows, I will highlight a few passages that stood out to me in the commentary. At 1:4, Healy believes that the name that Jesus inherits is the divine name. In this she is following some recent scholars such as Richard Bauckham and Amy Peeler. Generally speaking, most scholars have taken the name that Jesus inherits to be that of Son.

At 2:10, where it states that Jesus was “perfected” through suffering, Healy notes that the Greek word teleioo means to “ordain” a priest. However, the LXX almost always uses teleioo with tas cheiras, “the hands,” when referring to ordination. Ordination is probably not its primary meaning in Hebrews. Rather, it likely refers to Jesus’ vocational perfection. Jesus was perfected for his role as high priest.

At chapter 4, Healy opines that the “rest” that the author of Hebrews speaks about is both a future and present reality. On the one hand, “Hebrews is probably referring to the future heavenly kingdom, when we will finally be free from all the toils, trials, and troubles of this life” (89). On the other hand, “God’s rest is a present reality that we are invited to enter” today (90).

In her discussion of the warning passage of chapter 6, Healy rightly rejects eternal security: “Some Christians have embraced the misguided doctrine of ‘eternal security,’ which is sometimes expressed as ‘once saved, always saved.’ However, this view is inconsistent with many New Testament texts that warn Christians of the possibility of forfeiting our eternal salvation” (129).

At 7:3, Healy remarks that the author does not view Melchizedek as some sort of supernatural beings. Rather, the author makes his argument about Melchizedek based on the gaps in the Genesis account regarding his parentage and genealogy.

In her reflection on 9:1–10, Healy avers that, symbolically, the floor plan of the tabernacle signified three things. The outer and inner spaces signified respectively: (1) the former age and the new age; the new covenant versus the old; (2) the exterior and the interior of the person; outward ritual purity versus inward purity of the conscience; and (3) earth and heaven. She makes the interesting correlation that they correspond to the threefold spiritual sense of Scripture, according to Christian tradition: allegorical, moral, and anagogical. She also notes that the objects of the tabernacle mentioned by Hebrews typologically foreshadow Christ.

At 9:11 Healy claims that “the greater and more perfect tabernacle” refers to Christ’s own risen body. This explanation fails to explain how Christ can “pass through” his own exalted body. At 9:14 Healy argues, following Vanhoye, that the phrase “through eternal spirit” likely alludes to the fire on the altar of sacrifice, which the priests were never to let extinguish. The fire transformed the sacrifices into smoke and made them acceptable to God. She remarks, “Hebrew suggests, then, that the ‘perpetual fire’ foreshadowed the eternal divine fire that engulfs Jesus’ sacrifice: the Holy Spirit” (176).

At 9:23 Healy argues that the heavenly things that need cleansing are “the law written on the heart, the redeemed people of God, the true tent that is Christ’s glorified humanity, and the new covenant liturgy” (185–86).

At 10:20, which seems to equate the veil with the flesh of Christ, Healy suggests that “as God was present but hidden behind the veil of the tabernacle, so in Christ God is present but veiled by his human nature” (211). She also indicates that the reference to Jesus’ flesh and blood in 10:19–20 is an allusion to the Eucharist. She believes this passage is an invitation to the readers to join the Christian community in worship, “which takes place supremely in the Eucharistic liturgy” (211). Healy finds additional allusions to the Eucharist in 6:4 (“tasted of the heavenly gift”) and 13:10 (“We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat”).

In the reflection and application section on 11:30–40, Healy has a particularly compelling tribute to contemporary Christian heroes who exemplified living by faith.

This is a solid mid-range commentary. It evinces interaction with the scholarly literature while not being overly technical. The commentary does not give a detailed explication of the Greek text will, but rather provides a good overview of the flow of thought of Hebrews. The closest technical equivalent to this series would be the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, but it differs from this series with its inclusion of sidebars.

Clearly the commentary is geared towards Catholic readers. Occasionally Healy refers to the Catechism or she quotes one of the popes, or she makes mention of well-known Catholic figures of the past. Nevertheless, these references are occasional and Christians of other traditions can benefit from her commentary.

Healy usually makes sound exegetical decisions, but naturally one will not agree with everything. For example, I do not think there are any allusions to the Eucharist in Hebrews. As noted, I also believe that Jesus’ perfection does not refer to his ordination as high priest but to his vocational perfection in his role as high priest.