Friday, June 30, 2017

If I wrote a commentary on Hebrews...

... how would I lay it out? Just day-dreaming here. If you're a publisher, this would have the characteristic of a book Hebrews scholars and commentators buy because it's so unique and they need to footnote it in disagreement. :-)

I. Overview of Hebrews
  • Literary Survey of Hebrews in paragraph form (with a visual outline also). What are the main divisions of Hebrews as a book? How do the parts of Hebrews interrelate with each other? What are the primary themes that run throughout the book? 
  • A key feature would be dialog with the main "players" in Hebrews research right now. So there would be a beefy page long text box in this section engaging George Guthrie and Cynthia Long Westfall.
  • Purpose of Hebrews. Why was it written? In an attempt not to bias the interpretation too much, I would sketch out the main possibilities and present the scenario toward which I lean, but the other options would be given their space both here and in the commentary
  • This would include a look at the genre. A dialog partner on genre is Gabriel Gelardini. I lean toward sermon.
  • The question of dating is crucial here. A Tale of Two Datings. I lean toward soon after the temple was destroyed.
  • Destination. I lean toward Rome. Significant. Point of origin less significant (Ephesus?)
  • Audience. I lean toward Gentile. Significant.
  • Author. We don't know. I think someone in contact with the Pauline circle. Male. Apollos fits but it would be perilous to say so.
  • Many will know my favored scenario, a sermon sent to a predominantly Gentile church in Rome ahead of the author to encourage them in the wake of the temple's destruction and an ensuing crisis of confidence.
II. The Commentary
  • The commentary would proceed as normal, according to the outline (largely Walter Uberlacker's): chapters 1-2 as a kind of narratio, with chapter 1 as a celebratory introduction. chapters 3-10:18 as the argumentatio with frequent hortatory interruptions (a la Guthrie). 10:19-12 as a peroratio, the practical take-aways. Chapter 13 as a letter conclusion to a sermon.
  • The commentary would continue to have interruptions with beefy text boxes engaging key Hebrews scholars of the day and excursuses that engage key questions like Christology, cosmology, Middle-Platonism, apocalypticism, word studies, etc.
  • Another key feature would be my engagement with the development of Christian thinking in the early church. Here you would have unique hypotheses on topics like the development of early Christian worship, soteriology, the pre-existence of Christ, afterlife. 
  • For Christian readers, there would also be textboxes and/or excursuses with "canonical" and theological readings of key passages. How do (and have) Christians read key passages? 
  • Basically, all the weird ideas that people associate with me would be on pretty full display.
III. Reflections
  • The goal would be to create a commentary that could be read from beginning to end in a process of discovery, perhaps in a somewhat casual style. It is thus appropriate to stop and reflect at the end to see how the tentative hypotheses of the beginning ended up playing out.

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