Friday, December 2, 2016

Whitfield Reviews Wisdom Commentary on Hebrews

Bryan Whitfield reviews the Wisdom Commentary on Hebrews for Review of Biblical Literature.

I hope to have my review of the book up by the end of the month.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Book on Hebrews in Hebrew

A new book on Hebrews in Hebrew:

Yair Zakovitch and Serge Ruzer. God’s Word Is Powerful: Eight Conversations on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 2016.

"The character of the Epistle to the Hebrews differs greatly from all other letters included in the New Testament. It is actually a sermon interpreting numerous biblical verses with the aim to substantiate its unique claim for Jesus' heavenly priesthood. The reliance on biblical proof-texts enables the writer to establish his innovative claims vis-a-vis both the broader Jewish tradition and the competing outlooks existing within the Jesus movement itself.

The eight conversations in the book discuss the Epistle's interpretative strategies in order to unearth the worldview of its author and the nature of its target audience."

HT: Jody Barnard

Updated Scholars Page

I have done a thorough revision of the Scholars page. I have added some profiles and additional information and updated links. I would certainly welcome any help on updating this page.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Hebrews: Writing at the Borders

At the recent meeting of the SBL, I saw an advance copy of this book which is scheduled to come out very soon:

The Epistle to the Hebrews: Writing at the Borders. Edited by R. Burnet, D. Luciani, and G. Van Oyen. Contributions to Biblical Exegesis and Theology 85. Leuven: Peeters, 2016.

"This volume contains the exegetical contributions of a conference held in Louvain-la-Neuve in 2014. The participants explored the concepts of border, boundary, and frontier related to Hebrews, not only in the letter itself, but also in its reception. The book first focuses on the definition of Hebrews as a text at the confluence of various cultural worlds: elaborated in the Diaspora, can the letter/sermon be characterized as a middle course between a so-called 'Jewish world' and a so-called 'pagan world'? Within the Jewish cultural world, did it really hold a marginal position? Is its nuanced attitude toward the priesthood and the Temple the first step outside Judaism, as it has long been claimed?"

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Hebrews at the Annual SBL Meeting

Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature
San Antonio, Texas
November 19–22, 2016


Institute for Biblical Research
1:00 PM to 3:45 PM
Room: Lone Star F (2nd Level) - Grand Hyatt (GH)Theme: Scripture and Doctrine Seminar (SADS)
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. The SADS committee consists of Kevin Vanhoozer, Scott Hahn and Craig Bartholomew. For further information contact Craig Bartholomew ( and see 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. The SAHS/SADS/SACS Dinner will take place on Saturday at 7:30 PM. Contact Gillian Fernie for details at For further information on IBR see the Institute of Biblical Research website: (click on Research Groups).
Divine Action and Hebrews: The Ongoing Priesthood of Jesus
Benjamin Quinn, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Presiding
Benjamin Quinn, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Introduction
Craig Bartholomew, Redeemer University College and Luke Stamps, California Baptist University
Context Setting Introduction (5 min)

Andrew Pinsent, Oxford University
The Second-Person Perspective on Divine Action in Hebrews (20 min)

Amy Peeler, Wheaton College (Illinois)
A Fearful Thing to Fall Into the Hands of a Living God: Divine Action In Human Salvation (20 min)

Alan Torrance, University of St. Andrews
What does the Continuing Priesthood of Christ tell us about the Doctrine of God? (20 min)

Mary Healy, Sacred Heart Major Seminary
The Holy Spirit and Christ’s Ongoing Priesthood in Hebrews (20 min)

Break (10 min)
Panel discussion, with Scott Hahn, Franciscan University of Steubenville, joining the panel
Discussion (55 min)


Institute for Biblical Research
4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Room: Bonham E (3rd Level) - Grand Hyatt (GH)Theme: Research Group: The Relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament
This research group focuses on the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament. For further information contact Creig Marlowe ( and Gareth (Gary) Cockerill ( and see the Institute of Biblical Research website: (click on Research Groups).

Gareth Lee Cockerill, Wesley Biblical Seminary
Hebrews, Typology, and Contemporary OT Interpretation (20 min)


Institute for Biblical Research
4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Room: Presidio C (3rd Level) - Grand Hyatt (GH)Theme: Research Group: Scripture in Global Context
One effect of globalization is an increasing consensus that biblical and theological discourse can no longer be a solely Western phenomenon. As Christianity continues to expand in the global South and East, demand has grown for thoughtful theological analysis that addresses the concerns of the majority of Christians. This study group, in collaboration with “Theology in Global Context” group in ETS and with Eerdmans (first volume on Christology is published), aims to harness this promising moment by addressing both classical and non-traditional theological loci through engagement with the best resources from non-Western Christianity, bringing them into dialog with each other and Western thought. For information contact Gene Green ( and K. K. Yeo ( and see the Institute of Biblical Research website: (click on Research Groups).

Peter Nyende, Uganda Christian University
Assembly on Mt. Zion: An Ecclesiology from Hebrews for African Christianity (20 min)


Cognitive Linguistics in Biblical Interpretation
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: 208 (2nd Level - West) - Convention Center (CC)Robert von Thaden, Mercyhurst College, Presiding

Alexandra Gruca-Macaulay, Independent Scholar
A Rhetorical Cognitive Linguistic Investigation of Torrey v. Harnack in the Question of Priscilla as the Author of Hebrews (30 min)


Religious Experience in Antiquity
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Texas B (4th Level) - Grand Hyatt (GH)
The Religious Experience in Antiquity section investigates the experiential elements of religions from the ancient near east to late antiquity, with a particular interest in examining (1) the relationship between texts and experience, (2) religious practices in the context of ritual, prayer, ecstasy, dreams and visions, 3) the role of embodied experiences (cognitive, neurological, and sensory) in the generation of religious ideas and commitment. Angela Kim Harkins, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, Presiding

Silviu N. Bunta, University of Dayton
Transformational mysticism in the liturgy of Hebrews (25 min)


Women in the Biblical World
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Travis A (3rd Level) - Grand Hyatt (GH)Theme: Women’s Agency in Antiquity

Nicholas Bott, Stanford University
Female Procreative Agency: Sarah and Abraham as Critical Case Study (25 min)


Intertextuality and the Hebrew Bible; Joshua-Judges
Joint Session With: Intertextuality and the Hebrew Bible, Joshua-Judges
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: 301B (3rd Level) - Convention Center (CC)Theme: Judges, Intertextuality, Gender 

Brad Embry, Regent University
Jephthah (and his daughter?) in Hebrews 11: A Rereading (30 min)


Ecological Hermeneutics; Poverty in the Biblical World
Joint Session With: Ecological Hermeneutics, Poverty in the Biblical World
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: 303C (3rd Level) - Convention Center (CC)Theme: Poverty, Ecology, and the Bible

Jared C. Calaway, Illinois College
Foreigners upon the Earth: Marginality, Movement, and Migration in the Letter to the Hebrews (25 min)


African-American Biblical Hermeneutics
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: 303A (3rd Level) - Convention Center (CC)Theme: Experimental Methods, New Meanings, and New Voices
This is an open sessions that pushes the field beyond current methodological and interpretive boundaries.

Jennifer T. Kaalund, Iona College
Bodies Out of Place: Identity, Race and Space in Hebrews (30 min)


9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Conference Room 1 (3rd Level) - Marriott Rivercenter (MRC)Theme: Critical Theological Issues in the Epistle to the Hebrews
Amy Peeler, Wheaton College (Illinois), Presiding

David Moffitt, University of St. Andrews
But We Do See Abel: Hebrews and Depictions of Abel’s Sacrifice in Some Mosaics of Ravenna (30 min)

Hermut Loehr, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Sin as Defilement in Hebrews (30 min)

Jesse B. Coyne, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
Resurrection and the Logic of New Creation in the Epistle to the Hebrews (30 min)

Benjamin Ribbens, Trinity Christian College
The Ascension and Atonement: Johannes Cocceius and John Owen respond to Socinian Ideas of Christ’s Atonement (30 min)

Ken Schenck, Indiana Wesleyan University
"Through His Own Blood" (Heb 9:12): Did Jesus Offer His Blood in Heaven? (30 min)


1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Bonham A (3rd Level) - Grand Hyatt (GH)Theme: Critical Theological Issues in the Epistle to the Hebrews
David Moffitt, University of St. Andrews, Presiding

Madison N. Pierce, Durham University
Intra-divine Discourse and the New Covenant in Hebrews (30 min)

Daniel A. Giorgio, McGill University
The Dual Themes “Faith-Perseverance” and “Unbelief-Shrinking Back” in the Warning Passages of the Epistle to the Hebrews (30 min)

Seth Whitaker, Oral Roberts University
A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing: A Contextual Reassessment of Salient Theological Conclusions in the Epistle of Hebrews (30 min)

Scott R. Moore, University of Denver/Iliff School of Theology
A Gravitational Shift: Revisiting Hebrews’ Theology of Scripture (30 min)

David A. deSilva, Ashland Theological Seminary
Grace Under Fire: To What Extent Do Greco-Roman Codes of Reciprocity Inform the Theology of Hebrews? (30 min)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

New French Commentary on Hebrews!

I am pretty psyched about getting this new French commentary on Hebrews in the mail:

Jean Massonnet. L'épître aux Hébreux. Commentaire biblique: Nouveau Testament 15. Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 2016. Pp. 493. Paperback.

Jean Massonnet, a priest of the diocese of Lyon, is a graduate of the Pontifical Biblical Institute and professor emeritus of the Faculty of Theology of the Catholic University of Lyon where he was director of the Christian Center for the Study of Judaism from 1990 to 2005.

This is a pretty substantial commentary. The layout of the commentary is as follows. After the forward and abbreviation page, there is a general bibliography consisting of commentaries, studies on Hebrews, and other studies. The thirty-page introduction covers authorship and canonicity, recipients, date of the writing, literary genre, structure and movement, the milieu of Hebrews, the message of Hebrews, and the text.

In the commentary proper, each pericope begins with a translation followed by text-critical and translation notes and a brief bibliography. The interpretation proceeds on a verse-by-verse basis. Additional notes and occasional excurses round out each section. End matter includes indices on modern authors, primary sources, and topics; a list of excurses; and a table of contents (typically at the back of the book as is standard practice in French books). My only qualm with the book so far is that Greek is transliterated in the interpretation (but Greek is used in the more technical notes).

This is the first major commentary to appear in French since Samuel Bénétreau's two-volume commentary came out in 1989–1990! It doesn't surpass Ceslas Spicq's magisterial two-volume commentary, but Spicq's commentary, which came out in 1952–1953 is quite dated.

Hebrews at ETS 2016

Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society
San Antonio, TX
November 15–17, 2016

Wednesday, November 16
8:30 AM-11:40 AM
Marriott-Rivercenter - Room 3
Letter to the Hebrews

Moderator: Cynthia Long Westfall
(McMaster Divinity College)

8:30 AM—9:10 AM
Thomas Schreiner
(The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
Another Look at the Warnings in Hebrews

9:20 AM—10:00 AM
Nick Brennan
(University of Otago, New Zealand)
‘The builder of everything is God’: Heb 3:3,4 as a Locus Probans for the Deity of Christ

10:10 AM—10:50 AM
Michael Kibbe
(Moody Bible Institute - Spokane)
The God-Man's Indestructible Life: A Theological Reading of Hebrews 7:16

11:00 AM—11:40 AM
Jesse B. Coyne
(New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary)
Exodus, New Exodus, and Final Exodus: The Wilderness Motif in the OT, STL, & Hebrews

Thursday, November 17
1:00 PM-4:10 PM
Grand Hyatt - Presidio A
Letter to the Hebrews: Hebrews and the Atonement

Moderator: Jon C. Laansma
(Wheaton College Graduate School)

1:00 PM—1:40 PM
L. Michael Morales
(Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary)
The Atonement in Hebrews: Old Testament Background

1:50 PM—2:30 PM
Nicholas Perrin
(Wheaton College Graduate School)
Jesus as Priest in pre-Hebrews Traditions

2:40 PM—3:20 PM
Eckhard Schnabel
(Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary)
The Atonement in Hebrews: Pagan Greco-Roman Context

3:30 PM—4:10 PM
George Guthrie
(Union University)
Time and Atonement in Hebrews

Friday, November 11, 2016

Review of Barnard, The Mysticism of Hebrews

Jody A. Barnard. The Mysticism of Hebrews: Exploring the Role of Jewish Apocalyptic Mysticism in the Epistle to the Hebrews. WUNT 2/331. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012.

This monograph represents a revision of the author’s doctoral dissertation submitted to Bangor University (in Wales) in 2011. The purpose of the study is to explore the role of Jewish apocalyptic mysticism in Hebrews. In the opening introductory chapter Barnard first deals with some of the basic critical issues concerning Hebrews. Hebrews is likely a sermon in epistolary form written by a well-educated Hellenistic Jewish Christian male with possible connections with the Pauline circle. The audience consists most likely of Hellenistic Jewish Christians. The book likely has some connection with Rome before 90 CE. Earlier scholarship (e.g., Ménégoz; Spicq; Moffatt) assumed a Middle Platonic background to Hebrews, but later scholarship (e.g., Williamson; Barrett; Hurst) began to question this contention and pointed to Jewish apocalyptic literature as the more likely conceptual background for Hebrews. Scholarship is now currently divided on the conceptual background for Hebrews. Some favor the Platonic/Philonic influences while others emphasize the Jewish apocalyptic influences. But while these two thought-worlds are not necessarily mutually exclusive, Barnard will attend to the role of Jewish apocalyptic mysticism in Hebrews. Barnard will focus his attention on apocalyptic and mystical texts in the late Second Temple period.

Barnard develops his argument in three parts. In part I (chapters 2–3), he examines the Jewish apocalyptic texts on their own terms. In part II (chapters 4–7), he applies the insights from part I to Hebrews. In part III (chapters 8–9), he applies the conclusions of part II to a specific passage in Hebrews (1:5–13). Chapter 10 rounds out the study with his conclusions.

In chapter 2, Barnard determines which texts should be included in the construction of the Jewish apocalyptic mystical worldview. He divides the texts into three “levels of priority.” First are the texts which are indisputably Jewish and can be used confidently in the construction of the apocalyptic mystical background for the NT. These include: the Book of the Watchers, the Astronomical Apocalypse, the Dream Visions, the Epistle of Enoch, Jubilees, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch, the Aramaic Levi Document, and the mystical texts from Qumran. Second are Jewish texts that were written towards the end of the Second Temple period or a little beyond and must be used with greater caution for various reasons (such as Christian interpolations into the texts). Among these he includes the Similitudes of Enoch, 2 Enoch, the Apocalypse of Abraham, the Apocalypse of Zephaniah, the Testament of Levi, and 3 Baruch. The third level is represented by Christian texts which emerged as “testimony to the overtly Christian manifestations of Jewish apocalyptic mysticism” (p. 54). These texts include Revelation, the Ascension of Isaiah, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the Testament of Abraham.

Chapter 3 highlights some of the major themes that emerge in Jewish apocalyptic literature. The heavenly realm is full of splendor and glory and is often characterized by fire. It exists in another dimension or parallel universe. The heavenly realm is often depicted as God’s true temple and is multi-tiered (usually seven levels). A righteous famous figure or hero from Israel’s past ascends at God’s initiative into the heavenly realm, where he experiences both terror and transformation. Numerous angels appear everywhere and function as cosmic supervisors, guardians, priests, and/or guides. The journey of the ascender usually climaxes with an anthropomorphic appearance of the Most High God seated on His throne. The visions, dreams, and revelations narrated in these texts are claimed to be mystical experiences of their authors.

Chapter 4 explores the conception of the heavenly temple/tabernacle in Hebrews. Barnard does not see a significant distinction between the tabernacle and the temple. He offers a couple of reasons why the author may have focused upon the tabernacle instead of the temple. If the temple still existed, the author may have chosen to criticize it indirectly by attacking the tabernacle instead. On the other hand, if the temple no longer existed, his focus upon the tabernacle gives his argument a timeless character. Barnard counters those who claim that there are parallels between the cosmology of Hebrews and Platonism. Hebrews, for the most part, lacks the technical terminology and interpretive schema of Platonism. Instead, Hebrews’ temporal orientation of the heavenly sanctuary finds closer parallels in apocalyptic traditions. Barnard next explores the nature of the heavenly temple in Hebrews. Hebrews’ conception of the heavenly sanctuary is both literal and metaphorical. The heavenly sanctuary is envisioned as a multi-chambered structure through which Jesus progresses.

In chapter 5 Barnard argues that Jewish apocalyptic mysticism played a part in Hebrews’ formulation of a high priestly Christology. Despite some apparent similarities, Philo’s conception of the Logos bears little resemblance to the Christ of Hebrews. On the other hand, Barnard detects possible influences in Jewish apocalyptic mysticism with such ideas as an eschatological Yom Kippur, priestly messianism, and Melchizedek speculation. Another theme that is common in Jewish apocalyptic mysticism is the theme of heavenly ascents that result in transformations which often are portrayed as priestly investitures. This theme finds correspondences to Hebrews which depicts Jesus receiving his high priesthood when entering the heavenly realm. Barnard finds various allusions to Jesus’ investiture to the high priesthood in chapter 1, including Jesus’ inheritance of the divine name (1:4), the declaration that he is God’s Son (1:5), his wielding a scepter, and his anointing with oil (1:8–9).

Chapter 6 deals with the theme of the heavenly enthronement of the Son. In apocalyptic literature the heavenly throne is usually envisioned to be in the celestial Holy of Holies. This conception is taken for granted by Hebrews. The Ark of the Covenant is deemed to be the earthly counterpart to the heavenly throne of God. Only one throne in heaven is envisioned. Hence, the Son shares the throne with God seated at his right hand side, the position of honor. Christ’s position on the throne is one of everlasting privilege. In Hebrews Christ’s role on the throne is not to mediate judgment but mercy. Christ is seated on his throne indicating that his work of atonement is completed. His position on the throne also indicates his royal identity. The opening prologue of Hebrews depicts Jesus as “the divine Name-bearing enthroned Glory of God” (149). Hebrews 1:3 identifies Jesus as the visible manifestation of God upon the throne in the celestial Holy of Holies. Hebrews 1:3 seems to reflect Jewish wisdom traditions, but Hebrews never calls Jesus Wisdom. Barnard thinks that the influence of wisdom speculation on Hebrews is quite limited. Barnard argues that the name that Jesus receives in 1:4 is not the name of Son but the divine name YHWH. Jesus’ inheritance of the divine name is powerful proof for his superiority over the angels.

Chapter 7 shifts the focus from the themes and motifs of Jewish apocalyptic mysticism in Hebrews to the experiential dimensions contained in the book. Barnard argues that Hebrews’ appropriation of Jewish apocalyptic mystical themes is not merely conceptual or literary but that there is an experiential impulse involved. He identifies several passages in Hebrews which may suggest mystical experiences on the part of the author and his audience, or in which the author invites his audience to participate in mystical experiences: 2:1–4, 9; 3:1; 4:3, 14–16; 6:4–6, 19–20; 10:19–25; 12:22–24; 13:9–15. These mystical experiences may have included dreams and visions of the exalted Jesus.

In the conclusion to Part II, Barnard determines that “the evidence discussed throughout Chapters 4–6, which bear witness to the author’s conceptual indebtedness to Jewish apocalyptic mysticism, should not simply be regarded as evidence for common ideas, but also common practices and experiences” (214). He believes that passages that share affinities with Jewish apocalyptic mysticism probably reflect prior mystical experiences. He includes Hebrews 1:3–4 among these passages. The author of Hebrews may have been drawing upon his own experiences while writing the prologue.

In Part III, Barnard applies the results of his study to the analysis of a specific passage, Heb 1:5–13. In chapter 8, he examines the use of Scripture in this passage. The catena of quotations is likely the author’s own construction and not a prior compilation of authoritative proof-texts, but the author’s basis of selection and his method of exegesis remain a puzzle to interpreters. Scholars have concluded that Hebrews’ method of exegesis most closely aligns with other Second Temple Jewish midrashic techniques. Barnard contends, however, that while this helps us to understand how Hebrews employs Scripture in most of the book, it does not explain his use of Scripture in chapter 1. As Barnard puts it, “Heb 1:5–13 does not easily lend itself to the paradigm of text oriented, contextually sensitive exegesis” (229). He insists, rather, that Jewish apocalyptic mysticism offers a better explanation for the author’s use of Scripture in chapter 1. Hebrews 1:5–13 is distinctive from the rest of the book in terms of its use of Scripture. Elsewhere, the author comments on the texts he uses. In contrast, in chapter 1 the author builds his argument through the selection and arrangement of Scripture citations. Text-oriented exegesis cannot adequately explain the author’s selection and interpretation of his Scripture proof texts. In chapter 1, the Scripture proof texts are decontextualized from their original context and given new meaning by being placed in a new context. The Scripture texts are not given as quotations but as “heavenly declarations from the mouth of God” (235). It is important to understand Heb 1:5–13 within its immediate context following directly after the opening prologue which “is reminiscent of certain apocalyptic visions and presents the Son as the divine Name-bearing anthropomorphic Glory of God enthroned in the celestial sanctuary” (237). The author’s own mystical orientation was the primary impetus for his selection and use of texts in chapter 1.

In chapter 9, Barnard sets out to demonstrate how the author’s own mystical context influenced his use of scripture in Heb 1:5–13. Jewish apocalyptic mysticism was preoccupied with angels, and this provides the most plausible explanation for Hebrews’ attention to angels in the opening chapter. Barnard provides a detailed passage-by-passage analysis of each Scripture quotation in the catena. The themes of chapter 1 imply that the author was influenced by Jewish apocalyptic mysticism and that he has personally had mystical experiences of the heavenly realities expressed in chapter 1.

Chapter 10 includes a summary of conclusions and some final reflections. End matter includes a bibliography of primary and secondary sources; and indices on ancient sources, modern authors, and subjects.

Barnard has provided a solid contribution to the study of Hebrews. The book is well-written and he presents his argument well. I think that Barnard convincingly demonstrates that Jewish apocalypticism provides a more plausible background for Hebrews than Platonism/Philonism. He demonstrates that many of the themes of Jewish apocalypticism find expression in Hebrews.

I would push back a little on Barnard’s contention that the use of Scripture in the catena of Hebrews 1 is not contextually sensitive. In Heb 1:5, for example, the author quotes from Psa 2, which is a royal psalm, and from 2 Sam 7, in which is contained the promise of God to David that a descendant of his will sit on the throne forever. While the author does not explicitly comment on these passages, understanding the original context of these two quotations together helps us to recognize that “Son” is a royal designation. The two quotations together not only illustrate Jesus’ filial relationship to the Father, but also—along with some of the other quotations in the catena—indicate Jesus’ royal status. The original context of these passages probably played some part in their selection as proof-texts in the catena.

Barnard’s contention that the author’s own mystical experiences was a primary impetus for the themes he raises in his book is certainly possible, but ultimately cannot be proven decisively. While the author was likely influenced by Jewish apocalypticism, Hebrews is not an apocalypse. In other words, we do not get descriptions of visions of otherworldly journeys, nor are we given fantastical imagery of the supernatural world which needs to be explained by interpreting angels. The author makes no explicit claim of having mystical experiences of the supernatural world or visions of the exalted Jesus. It certainly makes sense that the author’s theology was not merely an intellectual assent to certain affirmations but would also be shaped by his subjective experiences of the divine. But whether his experiences included mystical visions remains an open question. I am certainly not ruling it out. Barnard has offered a provocative study that should be taken into consideration by future studies on Hebrews.

Thanks to Mohr Siebeck for a review copy of this book.

Monday, October 24, 2016

New Exodus in Hebrews

I just received the following book for review:

Bong-chur Shin. New Exodus in Hebrews. Apostolos New Testament Studies. London: Apostolos Publishing, 2016.

Amazon only has a kindle version available, but the book is available for purchase directly from Apostolos Publishing in hardcover or softcover form.

"For many readers the Epistle to the Hebrews is among the most difficult books of the New Testament. Korean scholar Bong-chur Shin’s work provides a welcome insight into interpretive issues for biblical scholars and serious students. The book provides an exegetical framework which helps readers navigate the meaning of the text, by examining the epistle in the light of the New Testament’s ‘New Exodus’ imagery.

By discussing the underlying themes of corporate deliverance, Christ as a royal priest who (by means of his redeeming sacrifice) leads his people out of exile and provides for them during their pilgrimage journey, the author provides an interpretative key which helps unlock a fuller understanding of the epistle in its original context."

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Saara-Martin Jurva on Hebrews

Richard Goode announces that Saara-Maria Jurva of the University of Eastern Finland is speaking at Newman University on Monday, October 24 about her doctoral research on "The Cognitive-Emotive Function of Renarrated Biblical Stories in the Letter to the Hebrews."

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Jamieson on Hebrews 9:23

Bobby Jamieson has informed me that his article on Hebrews 9:23 has recently been published:

Jamieson, R. B. “Hebrews 9:23: Cult Inauguration, Yom Kippur and the Cleansing of the Heavenly Tabernacle.” New Testament Studies 62.4 (2016): 569–87.

"The prima facie sense of the assertion of Hebrews 9.23 that the heavenly things themselves needed to be cleansed is often rejected as fantastic or preposterous. Consequently, the verse is often read as describing the cleansing of conscience or the inauguration, not purification, of the heavenly tabernacle. Both interpretations are critiqued here. Positively, this essay argues that in Heb 9.23 Christ's sacrifice cleanses the tabernacle in heaven from antecedent defilement in order to inaugurate the new covenant cult. I argue that the structure of 9.23–8 and the manner in which Hebrews appropriates both cult inauguration and Yom Kippur support this conclusion."

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Relatively New Book with a Chapter on Hebrews

I just learned that this book contains a chapter on Hebrews, entitled "Historical Exegesis in the Epistle to the Hebrews": 

Sargent, Benjamin. David Being a Prophet: TheContingency of Scripture upon History in the New Testament. Beihefte zur Zeitscrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 207. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2014.

Aims and scope (from the de Gruyter website):
"This book seeks to identify a distinct approach to interpreting Scripture in the New Testament that makes use of assumptions about a text's author or time of composition. Focusing upon the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Acts of the Apostles and the Davidssohnfrage in the Synoptic Gospels, it is argued that in certain cases the meaning of a scriptural text is understood by the New Testament author to be contingent upon its history: that the meaning of a text is found when the identity of its author is taken into account or when its time of origin is considered. This approach to interpretation appears to lack clear precedents in intertestamental and 1st Century exegetical literature, suggesting that it is dependent upon distinctly Christian notions of Heilsgeschichte. The analysis of the Davidssohnfrage suggests also that the origins of this approach to interpretation may be associated with traditions of Jesus' exegetical sayings. A final chapter questions whether an early Christian use of history in the interpretation of Scripture might offer something to contemporary discussion of the continuing relevance of historical criticism."

Google Books has a preview.

Wenkel on Sensory Experience in Hebrews 12

A new article on Hebrews (available on

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

"Studies of the contrast between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion in Hebrews 12:18–24 have overlooked the key element of sensory experience. On this basis two propositions are set forth. First, the Mosaic covenant is a covenant of the senses because Mount Sinai was unapproachable yet perceivable by the senses. Second, the new covenant’s Mount Zion is superior because it is unperceivable by the five senses while being approachable."

Friday, September 23, 2016

Docherty on Recent Interpretations of Hebrews 3–4

Docherty, Susan. “Recent Interpretation of Hebrews Chapters 3–4: Critical Issues and Scholarly Trends.” Irish Theological Quarterly 81.4 (2016): 385–96. 

"Chapters 3–4 have emerged as key to much recent scholarly interpretation of the epistle to the Hebrews. This paper offers an evaluative review of major recent publications which treat this section of Hebrews, drawing out some common themes and recurring critical issues. The questions addressed in these studies have significant implications for an understanding of Hebrews more widely, as they impact on judgements about subjects such as the letter’s structure and main message, the author’s use of the Old Testament, and the religious and conceptual background to his thought."

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Hebrews Highlights - August 2016

A bit late but here are the highlights from the month of August:

Allan Bevere reflects upon Hebrews 11:1–3, 8–16.

Ben Witherington discusses The Sin of Apostasy in Hebrews 6.

Ken Schenck opines on The Timing of Hebrews.

Henry Neufeld reviews the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible by looking at how it treats Hebrews.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Review of Peeler, You Are My Son

[This review first appeared in Bulletin for Biblical Research 26.2 (2016): 297–99. It is reprinted here by permission.]

Amy L. B. Peeler. You Are My Son: The Family of God in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Library of New Testament Studies 486. London: Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2014. Pp. xiv + 224. ISBN 978-0-5676-6501-0. $29.95 paper.

While many scholars have noted the familial language in the Book of Hebrews, Amy Peeler’s monograph is probably the first full-length study to explore this theme in Hebrews. In the brief introduction, Peeler highlights the familial language in Hebrews: God is portrayed as a Father; Jesus as God’s Son and heir; and believers as children of God, Jesus’ siblings, and heirs. Peeler contends that the familial relationship between God the Father and Jesus the Son is foundational for the theology of Hebrews. God calls Jesus to suffer and to be exalted to his right hand, where he becomes heir of all things. This process enables believers to become part of God’s household and participate in Jesus’ inheritance. Peeler approaches her argument in a straightforward manner. The four chapters that form the heart of the book deal with all of the pertinent passages in Hebrews in a sequential manner.

Chapter 1 examines the familial language in the first chapter of Hebrews. Verse 5 is the key verse which establishes the familial relationship between God the Father and Jesus the Son: God announces by means of two OT passages that Jesus is his Son and that he is his Father. Verse 5 thus becomes the basis for interpreting the story of God’s Son as narrated in verses 1–4. These verses describe the character of the Son and reflexively also define the character of the Father. In the remaining verses of the catena (verses 6–13), God articulates the privileges and responsibilities that Jesus inherits as the Son. One important insight that emerges from Peeler’s investigation is that Jesus’ preexistence is a personal one: God has a relationship with a person distinct from himself, not an aspect or function of God’s self. Peeler also argues that the name that Jesus inherits from his Father is “Lord God” (κύριος θεός), in contrast to the majority of interpreters who propose that the name is “Son.” “Son” is a title that is unique to Jesus and thus cannot be descriptive of the Father.

In chapter 2 Peeler engages in a close exegetical analysis of Heb 2:6–16. Jesus the Son must become human and experience suffering and death in order to be perfected as God’s heir. As heir Jesus inherits God’s many sons and daughters as his possession and he leads them as the ἀρχηγός into their own inheritance. Jesus displays his character as the Son by trusting God to the point of becoming human and experiencing suffering and death. God reveals his character as Father by using suffering as a means of perfecting his children.

In chapter 3 Peeler turns to the central cultic section of Hebrews (chapters 3–10). She first demonstrates the intimate relationship between Jesus’ Sonship and his high priesthood. First, it is God, in his role as Father, who appoints Jesus to the priesthood. His appointment includes the necessity of becoming human. Hence, Peeler makes the interesting observation that τῷ ποιήσαντι in 3:2 refers both to his appointment as high priest and his being made human. Second, it is precisely the fact that Jesus is God’s Son that disqualifies him for the Levitical priesthood but qualifies him for the priesthood of Melchizedek. Third, Jesus is perfected for the vocation of high priesthood because he is obedient to the Father in carrying out his filial role in experiencing the human condition of suffering and death, and because he receives the inherited blessing of exaltation from the Father. Fourth, it is Jesus’ priestly actions that secure the possession of his own inheritance, God’s many sons and daughters. Jesus’ priestly offering removes sin, achieves cleansing, and obtains redemption for God’s children. Jesus’ death enables them to obtain their inheritance of eternal salvation, and he aids his siblings in their attainment of salvation through his priestly intercession.

Chapter 4 focuses on the final two chapters of Hebrews and highlights the shared status that Jesus and the audience have in their relationship to God. The audience’s relationship to God as children correlates to Jesus’ relationship to God as Son. The author assures the audience that they are children of God by appealing to Prov 3:11–12.  God disciplines the audience like a father disciplines his son. Peeler contends that the author is emphasizing the educative rather than the punitive aspects of God’s παιδεία. Just as God the Father used suffering in order to perfect Jesus the Son, in the same way God is using suffering to perfect the audience in righteousness and holiness. The author employs four positive injunctions to urge the audience to endure suffering and he warns them with the negative example of Esau, who lost his inheritance when he gave away his birthright. The author assures his audience that they now stand at the foot of the mountain where God’s children dwell, and that they are privileged to hear God speaking to them as a Father; hence they should respond appropriately as obedient children. The concluding chapter summarizes the argument of the book and proposes seven ways in which the book makes contributions to scholarship on Hebrews.

Peeler articulates her thesis well and clearly lays out her argument throughout the book. By viewing Hebrews through the lens of familial language, Peeler brings into focus interesting new insights into Hebrews. She convincingly demonstrates the importance of the familial motif in the argument of Hebrews. Her analysis does raise a couple of questions for me. First, is it appropriate to say that Jesus inherits his own family members? Inheritance normally refers to the possession of land or property, and not to the possession of one’s own family members. As “big brother” Jesus is the guardian who is entrusted with the care of his siblings until they enter into their own inheritance, but do they become part of Jesus’ inheritance? Second, while Hebrews does emphasize the educative aspects of God’s παιδεία, does it exclude the punitive aspects? The quotation from Prov 3:11–12 uses the language of reproof and flogging. Both terms suggest that correction or punishment was included in the author’s concept of παιδεία. The author does occasionally chastise his audience, and the audience, while certainly sharing many things with Jesus, does not share his sinlessness. Could not God’s παιδεία of his children include both educative and corrective aspects? These two questions aside, readers will find that this monograph makes important contributions to the understanding of Hebrews.