Saturday, June 13, 2020

Docherty 2: Previous Scholarship

This weekend I'm trying to speed read Susan Docherty's book on the use of the OT in Hebrews. About two chapters to skim today.


1. Chapter 2 is the predicable history of research chapter. We expect this chapter of any dissertation to conclude something like, "After looking at what everyone else has done, I conclude that my research project needs to be done." In that sense, this was an easy chapter to skim and mostly skip. However, it does provide a nice overview of some classic commentaries and works on Hebrews.

2. First she goes through major commentaries with a view to how they analyze Hebrews' use of the OT and how they engage the Greek text of the OT. Delizsch, Westcott, Moffatt, Windisch, Spicq, F. F. Bruce, Michel, Attridge, Lane, Ellingworth, deSilva, and Koester.

Then she goes through "theological and structural studies" of Hebrews. This begins with a claim that is not really defended. "It seems improbable that a valuable study of it [Hebrews] can be undertaken which does not engage seriously with the author's use of scripture" (51).

I'm rolling this section over in my head. Is she assuming that Hebrews' use of Scripture must play a role in its literary structure? Certainly some have proposed that, but it seems far from self-evident. And on that macro-level, I'm not sure it would play into her focal task. We shall see.

She then looks at Lehne, Nairne, Isaacs, Vanhoye, D'Angelo, Swetnam, I did not read this section although I know these names. Several of them are mentioned in my dissertation too. I'm not sure how this section contributes to her task.

3. The last section of the chapter gets down to business. This one is material to the project. "Studies of the Interpretation of the Old Testament in Hebrews." She looks at Caird, Markus Barth, Anthony Hanson, Kenneth Thomas, Friedrich Schröger, Cecil McCullough, Dale Leschert, Stephen Motyer, and George Guthrie.

I was struck in this chapter with the age of the sources. This dissertation was submitted in 2007 but its engagement with scholarship barely reaches into the 2000s.

One of the most important debates to surface in this section is whether Hebrews 1) feels free to intentionally alter the LXX text in front of the author (Kenneth Thomas), 2) sticks pretty closely to the Vorlage at hand (Cecil McCullough), or 3) perhaps chooses the exemplar before him that best fits his purposes (this could be her position).

A key feature of this debate, in my opinion, are the theological biases of the interpreter. For example, it is very difficult for some interpreters to handle anything but biblical authors who are as concerned to stick with the precise text and historical/contextual interpretation as they are. As someone from the holiness tradition, this is not a beef of mine and so I have long believed I am in a better position to be objective about such things than some others. You'll thus forgive me for completely ignoring the work of Dale Leschert.

4. She draws four trends from Guthrie's 2003 review important in concluding the chapter. First, more appreciation is needed for the complexity of the textual state of the Septuagint. Second, she believes the OT citations in Hebrews are the key to the structure of the letter. Third, more study needs to be done on the exegetical techniques used by Hebrews, and finally, the hermeneutical axioms of the author need to be identified.

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