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Abstract

In 1963, when the “linguistic turn” had evidently taken hold of New Testament studies, Albert Vanhoye, a linguistically trained Catholic priest, published a monograph entitled La structure littéraire de l’épître aux Hébreux, which was to influence and stimulate Hebrews scholarship like none other in the twentieth century. Vanhoye and the so-called French school of Hebrews scholarship carried out what the “linguistic turn” had heralded: the turn to language. From the very outset, however, in this philosophical movement language was studied along two lines: the structuralist line focused on the structure and logic of language, and the pragmatic one maintained interest in its use. The first section of this essay provides a short history of ideas and highlights issues relevant to biblical studies and Hebrews scholarship. While the French school engaged mainly in structuralism, the two subsequent schools, the German and the American, turned to pragmatics. Each school made key contributions to advancing the scholarly understanding and interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Section two considers their history, methods, structures, and main theological emphases. Based on the distinction between structure and pragmatics and on the three key insights of Hebrews scholarship—concentric structure, homiletic form, and covenant theology—the third section formulates a new structural proposal. The article aims to demonstrate that the argumentation on the macrostructural level follows a concentric catena (or anadiplosis iterata), whereas that on the microstructural level operates in terms of concentric circles of thought (Gedankenkreise) throughout the entire book (which are exemplified with reference to Heb 3–6). The result produced allows for an interpretative comparison of sister paragraphs and generates a hermeneutical key capable of placing all parts of the book into a logical and coherent whole.

In: Deciphering the Worlds of Hebrews

Abstract

This article begins with the observation that the author of Hebrews makes extensive use of biblical quotations but varies the methodology and concentration of citations from section to section in the book, a technique most closely paralleled in synagogue homilies. It continues by providing an introduction to ancient synagogue practices, architecture, and liturgy before turning to describe the nature of and expectations for synagogue homilies. In the reading presented, the key biblical passages undergirding the homily are Exod 31:18–32:35 (the Torah text, or sidrah, with the theme of covenant breaking) and Jer 31:31–34 (the related reading from the Prophets, the haphtarah, on covenant renewal). The overall structure is that of a three-part petichta homily with elaborate expectations for the use of scriptural citations in each section. It is asserted that the key texts from Exodus and Jeremiah were paired in the reconstructed ancient Jewish triennial reading cycle between the two fast days of Tammuz 17 and Av 9, the former commemorating the destruction of the law tablets by Moses in response to the golden calf incident and the latter the rebellion at Kadesh-Barnea. Both were also associated with the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians, with Tisha be-Av moreover related to the fall of the Second Temple and the failure of the Bar Kokhba revolt. As the lowest points on the Jewish calendar, they are shadow images of its highest point, Yom Kippur, and this explains the importance of the Day of Atonement rite for the author of Hebrews.

In: Deciphering the Worlds of Hebrews

Abstract

This article offers a form-critical, historical, and intertextual analysis of Hebrews. It starts by acknowledging that Hebrews is frequently categorized formally as an ancient synagogue homily with its consequent Sitz im Leben within the Sabbath gathering. By considering the liturgical conventions in ancient production and reception aesthetics of synagogue homilies, it shows that Hebrews must have functioned as the interpretation, teaching, and application of a first reading from the Torah (sidrah) and a second reading from the Prophets (haphtarah). The article shows that the sidrah must stem from Exod 31:18–32:35 (breaking of the covenant) and the haphtarah from Jer 31:31–34 (covenant renewal). As is usual for homilies conforming to the petichta type, the sidrah in the introduction of the homily is not quoted but rather referred to in a midrashic manner, except that it quotes—as it should—the last verse prior to (or the first verse of) the sidrah, namely Exod 31:17b in Heb 4:4. As expected, the complementary haphtarah is quoted explicitly in the central part of the homily. The fact that these readings appear so central for the theme and structure of the homily, and moreover serve as its hermeneutical key, demonstrates the obvious importance and extraordinary quantity of quotations from the LXX in Hebrews. The two reconstructed readings are part of the liturgical reading cycle, the Palestinian Triennial Cycle in early form, and both of them hint at the most important day of fasting in Jewish tradition, Tisha be-Av. This suggestion is confirmed when the central quotations and the theological concepts in Hebrews are compared with extra-biblical texts and information on this fast day.

In: Deciphering the Worlds of Hebrews

Abstract

Rhetorical criticism—including classical rhetoric and New Rhetoric—has been and remains the most popular method applied to the so-called Epistle to the Hebrews. The first part of this contribution reflects its application in historical perspective, particularly in regard to the most disputed aspects of genre and arrangement in Hebrews. The exemplary and theoretical reflections in the second part show that all three classifications of Hebrews—as epistle, homily, and oration—are theoretically plausible but remain historically unverifiable. Rhetorical criticism therefore has not proven useful for the prescriptive analysis of the text of Hebrews. Applied as a descriptive method, however, it has had a great deal to offer.

In: Deciphering the Worlds of Hebrews

Abstrakt

Menschsein beschreibt der Hebräer im Kontext seiner hellenistisch-jüdischer Symbolwelt als ein noch nicht vollendetes, aber seinem Ziel nahe gekommenes Projekt des Schöpfer- und Erlösergottes. Sein Bild vom Menschen orientiert sich dabei an dem vollkommenen Menschen Christus, der dieses Ziel bereits erreicht hat, obschon er an den Schwachheiten und Begrenzungen der Menschheit teilgenommen hat, die von diesem Ziel noch entfernt ist. Kreatürliche Sterblichkeit und Sünde kennzeichnet die menschliche Ferne zum göttlichen Ursprung und Ziel. Das “Fleisch” markiert dabei die zu überwindende Grenze, der Tod seine Überwindung. Ein Aufstieg in den Himmel und die Nähe Gottes, zu einem Leben in unerschütterlicher Dauer, ist also nur postmortal möglich. Es sind die Gerechten, die im Unrecht leidend gleichwohl ihren Glauben an die unsichtbare Welt bewähren, die das “Organ” für die Ewigkeit haben. Sie blicken nicht vom Tod her auf das Leben, sondern vom Ideal eines Menschen, der in allen Schwächen und Versuchungen das Gerechte, das heisst die Treue zur Tora, bewahrt hat. Das Setzen auf einen “höchsten Zweck” des Menschen ist die Perspektive, aus der heraus der Hebräer den Ursprung und das Ziel des Geschöpfes in der Nähe zu Gott formuliert. Die Transformation zur Vollkommenheit, die der Hebräer vor Augen hat, ist deshalb letztlich zu messen an diesem Grundgesetz der “Heiligung des Lebens” und der Verheissung, die damit verbunden wird. Ernstlicher ist die kreatürliche Grenze des Menschlichen kaum zu bedenken als so, dass die ethischen Ansprüche an das Leben, das vor ihr liegt, bedacht, ja, zentral einbezogen werden. Dabei eröffnet der himmlische Gegenentwurf aus Sicht der rhetorischen Klimax dieses Schreibens, dem Hinzugetreten zum himmlischen Jerusalem, das Potential, irdische und leidvolle Existenz aus der gläubigen Sicht von oben neu zu deuten.

In: Deciphering the Worlds of Hebrews

Abstract

This article analyzes Heb 13, particularly vv. 7–19, applying the methods of spatial analysis. Of specific interest is the space described as “outside the camp” in Heb 13:11–13. As the term seems to allude to three different spaces in time, namely, the spaces outside the desert camp, outside Jerusalem, and outside Rome (the addressees’ location as generally assumed), a practice of overlapping maps can be observed, in which the first shapes all subsequent maps. This first map points to Sinai, where the ritual related to Yom Kippur was introduced. As Sinai is also the location where Israel’s leader Moses, to whom Jesus in Hebrews is compared, left the camp because of its defilement, the primary intertext underlying Heb 13 is identified in Exod 33, particularly in vv. 7–11. A detailed spatial analysis of the Sinai narrative adopting Edward W. Soja’s trialectic of Firstspace, Secondspace, and Thirdspace, together with additional readings from various Targumim as well as Philo of Alexandria, results in a useful model that seems to have served the author of Hebrews to interpret the spaces, bodies, and actions in ch. 13. This analysis not only sheds new interpretative light on a chapter widely considered to be a crux interpretum but also strengthens the position that this chapter is an integral part of the preceding text in Hebrews.

In: Deciphering the Worlds of Hebrews

Abstract

This article is concerned with food and communal meals in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Hebrews 13:9-16 is identified as the central passage on the subject, and the link to its central intertext in Exod 32-34 lends these verses (and the entire homily) their particular meaning. The actual problem of the examined pericope is wonderfully captured in Lucas van Leyden’s triptych entitled The Dance of the Jews around the Golden Calf, at that time as well as at the time of the audience: He or she who consumes useless foods, that is, meat sacrificed to idols, has fallen away (Heb 3:12) and takes part in idolatry; idolaters, however, whom the author calls “fornicators” (12:16), are responsible for covenant breaking and for God’s turning away. Whoever seeks reconciliation with God, and that is exactly what the author calls for, goes to the “sacrificial altar” of the suffering Jesus, as did those willing at the time of Moses. They are invited to the somewhat different “table” in the tent, which some intertexts call house of study. For there the repentant ones receive from the good teacher the right teaching, namely “solid food,” as Heb 5:12, 14 put it, in order to obtain Jesus’ forgiveness. Regardless of the virtual character of this food at a sacred time, a true and proper “communal meal” nevertheless takes place, and that is on the outside. This place creates identity, because there the brothers and sisters committed to love are given not only reconciliation and fellowship (Heb 13:1), but also a future, an unshakeable kingdom (Heb 12:28). On the outside this kingdom is already recognizable, which is why this causes spontaneous sacrifices of (or spiritual) praise to flow from willing mouths.

In: Deciphering the Worlds of Hebrews

Abstract

This article takes up recent approaches to New Testament books informed by human geographic methods of “critical spatiality,” not least as developed theoretically by Edward W. Soja. His “trialectic” is especially fruitful when it comes to what he calls “thirdspace,” that is, the ideological and actually executed power over against ruled minorities and their resistance in specific spaces. An overlap is then evident between counter-imperial approaches to Hebrews and critical spatiality readings. This is clear, for example, comparing the Aeneid and other Augustan concepts of universal history; the concept of an everlasting Roman dominion without borders in time and space finds in Hebrews a counter-imperial concept which at the same time claims a “counter space” (Soja), a location “outside the camp” as one of suffering and a counter space in heaven as the destination of the Jesus movement as they follow their high priest to an eternal repose (κατάπαυσις).

In: Deciphering the Worlds of Hebrews

Abstrakt

Dieser Aufsatz erörtert zunächst die Wende hin zur Raumsoziologie im Rahmen postkolonialer Studien, deren grundlegender Ansatz es ist, dass historische und kulturelle Phänomene nicht bloss einen zeitlichen Rahmen haben, sondern auch Interaktionen mit und in Räumen sind. In diesem Zusammenhang erweist sich das Konzept der Trialektik als hilfreich, das in der Humangeographie durch Edward W. Soja Aufnahme und über ihn auch Einfluss auf die Bibelwissenschaft fand. Sie unterscheidet zwischen physischen (firstspace), erdachten (secondspace) als auch Räumen, die durch soziale Handlungen konstruiert sind (thirdspace). Insbesondere Letztere machen deutlich, dass Räume demnach keine neutral beschreibbaren Wirklichkeiten sind, sondern Orte von imperialen und anti-imperialen, sozialen und militärischen Handlungen, von Herrschaft, Unterwerfung und Widerstand. Anspruch auf Macht erhob auch das römische Imperium, doch die AdressatInnen des Neuen Testaments, einschliesslich jener des Hebräers, sahen sich nicht nur der damit in Verbindung stehenden realen Herrschaft ausgesetzt, sondern auch seiner Propaganda, welche die Römer göttlich autorisiert zu einem imperium sine fine sah, zu einer Herrschaft ohne Grenzen in Raum noch Zeit. Eine räumkritische Analyse des Hebräers nun macht Dreierlei deutlich: Einerseits – und vermutlich durch die Katastrophe der Tempelzerstörung bedingt – dass im Text irdische Räume weitgehend fehlen, was seine Entsprechung in der Aussage findet, dass es auf Erden keine bleibende Stadt gäbe. Andererseits äussert sich darin Widerstand, weil es ewigen Bestand auch für Rom in Abrede stellt. Und schliesslich wird demgegenüber die einzige ewige Stadt hervorgehoben, das himmlische Jerusalem, welche allerdings nur im Ausserhalb zu sehen sei. Dieses Ausserhalb wird als Gegenort konstruiert, weil im Aufbruch dahin – der auch Leid implizieren kann – das Ende des Imperiums eingeläutet ist.

In: Deciphering the Worlds of Hebrews
In: Deciphering the Worlds of Hebrews