Saturday, May 18, 2013

A preliminary note on the Letter to the Hebrews

This morning I began my preparations for leading a thirteen session Bible study on The Letter to the Hebrews. Along with a few other commentaries, my preparations led to me look at the part of the revised edition of Luke Timothy Johnson's The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation that deals with what is likely an ancient homily. Johnson notes that one of the reasons many Christians are not more familiar with this inspired text is that, across virtually its entire thirteen chapters (excepting perhaps only verses 22-25 of chapter 13), it makes "a sustained argument from beginning to end."

It is interesting that Johnson locates the crux of this sustained argument towards the end of the fourth chapter, where the writer, using the image "The Sabbath Rest," exhorts his hearer/reader:
Therefore, let us strive to enter into that rest, so that no one may fall after the same example of disobedience. Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account (4:11-13)
I am also finding attributions to various authors fascinating. While I agree with Origen's conclusion that "God only knows" who the author is, I found the arguments in favor of attributing the letter to Apollos plausible, but not convincing. I was intrigued by this especially in light of the fact that to Apollos is often attributed the faulty concept of resurrection that St. Paul seeks to correct in 1 Corinthians 15.

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