Thursday, November 20, 2008

Introduction of my Saturday Hebrews paper

I don't imagine I will seek to publish my Saturday paper for the Intertextuality in the New Testament Consultation at SBL. So I thought I would post it here in three posts over the next few days. I'll likely link the full text to my archive site afterward. I might give some snippets of my Sunday paper here on Sunday, but I think I might actually try to publish it somewhere.

Here's the introduction to my Saturday paper:

Heaven as the True House of God: Intertextual Soundings in Hebrews

Before I engage the subject at hand, I might express a slight regret that I did not fully understand the topic for this session when I made the proposal. The predominant use of the Greek word οἶκος in Hebrews is in reference to the household of God’s people, which Hebrews redefines in terms of those who confess Jesus as the Son of God and who endure to the end (e.g., 3:6). By inference, the author seems now to include Gentiles in this house without mentioning or feeling the need to defend such an inclusion, simply calling all members of Christ’s household the “seed of Abraham” (2:16). Moses was also faithful in his house, the house of Israel (3:2, 5; cf. 8:8, 10), which the author may very well see as coextensive with the household of the Christ. The author can also liken such households to physical houses (3:3, 4). Certainly the question of how Hebrews redefines the house of God in this respect would have made an interesting study!

But we must instead turn to the use of the word οἶκος in Hebrews 10:19-22:

"Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the Holies with the blood of Jesus, a new and living way that he made for us through the veil, that is, his flesh, and [since we have] a great high priest over the house of God, let us enter with a true heart in the fullness of faith, having sprinkled our hearts from an evil conscience and having washed our body with pure water."

Given the background in Hebrews 3 we mentioned earlier, it seems more than likely that the author of Hebrews intends a double entendre here in 10:21. Jesus is indeed a great high priest over the household of God, the people of God, the “seed of Abraham.” At the same time, the “starting sense” of the statement is surely a reference to the heavenly sanctuary, to which the author has been referring in the previous chapters.

It is quite clear that Hebrews does not understand the earthly sanctuary of the Jewish Scriptures in the same way ancient Israel did. The “true tent” of Hebrews (8:2)—which the Lord pitched, not a mortal—is a heavenly one. Hebrews has thus “reconfigured” the significance of the earthly sanctuary as a mere pointer toward the true, heavenly one (e.g., 8:4). In the next few moments I will describe how Hebrews has reconfigured the significance of the houses of God in the Jewish Scriptures and suggest that the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70CE played a significant role in the particular form that reconfiguration took. Of course the most important factor in this reformulation is the significance the author now affords Christ's death. The paper will then close by looking at some possible ways in which Hebrews’ engagement with other Jewish Scriptures possibly echo Jerusalem’s destruction.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

I find that God's spiritual house is nothing more than an attempt by those experiencing persecution to survive and create their own unique identity. And what better way to create identity than have "god" attached to it? I think that all of us seek asylum for our own self-interest. We flourish most fully (even morally, according to Moral Development Under Democracy) when we are allowed freedom(s). So religious and political persecution brings about a created story to maintain a identity and feel safe in an usafe world.

Ken Schenck said...

Angie, I think there is a link to you in the online dictionary under the term "reader response."