Antithesis in Heb 8-10

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  • 7/31/2019 Antithesis in Heb 8-10


    HTR 79:1-3(1986)1-9


    Harold W. AttridgeUniversity of Notre Dame

    The interaction between early Christianity and the Judaism from whichit emerged took many and diverse forms, and Christians' attitudestoward their Jewish heritage varied considerably. The Epistle to theHebrews represents a particularly complex case of both the appropriation and the rejection of that heritage. This ambivalent attitude reachesits climax in the central expository section of the text, where thesignificance of the death of Christ is explored using primarily the anal

    ogy of the Yom Kippur sacrifice. This portion of Hebrews is repletewith exegetical difficulties which cannot be resolved here. What thisessay will attempt is an analysis of the literary techniques throughwhich the model of the Yom Kippur ritual is appropriated.

    The examination needs to begin with a consideration of what theboundaries of the central expository section are. For while many commentators recognize 8:1-10:18 as a single literary unit, some dividethis material into discrete blocks. Most influential among the latter is

    Albert Vanhoye.1

    Using a variety of indices, he articulates the centralexpository section of Hebrews into three segments: 7:1-28; 8:1-9:28;and 10:1-18. To construe the surface structure in this fashionobscures the literary dynamics of Hebrews' key argument.

    1 Vanhoye's preliminary works on the structure of Hebrews ("Les indices de la structure littraire de Pptre aux Hbreux," StEv II [TU 87; ed. F. L. Cross; Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1964] 493-507 and "De structura litteraria Epistolae ad Hebraeos," VD40[1962] 73-80) culminated in La structure littraire de Vpitre aux Hbreux (StudNeot

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    2 Essays in Honor of Krister Stendahl

    A review of Vanhoye's analysis and its weakness2will suggest an

    alternative. Vanhoye first finds in Heb 5:9-10 an announcement of the

    themes of the chapters which follow.3

    The participle "perfected"(0) announces the theme of perfection to be developed in8:1 -9:29. The designation of Christ as the "cause of eternal salvation"( ) prepares for the theme of 10:1-18. Thereference to the order of Melchizedek ( )prepares for chap. 7. Vanhoye's third "announcement" is beyonddispute and chap. 7 is clearly a discrete unit. The other "announcements" are, as we shall see, problematic.

    In support of a division of 8:1-9:28 from 10:1-18 Vanhoye invokesother structural indices. Both segments are, he claims, marked byinclusions involving various forms of the verb "to offer" ()at 8:3; 9:28; 10:1; and 10:18. Next Vanhoye finds that the two sectionsare distinguished by characteristic vocabulary, terms such as "offer,gifts and sacrifices, sanctuary, tabernacle, blood and covenant" for thefirst and "offering, sanctification and sacrifice" for the second. Finally,

    Vanhoye finds a catchword association between the two sections in theterms for offering, at 9:28 and at 10:1.


    We may consider these structural indices in reverse order. First, theproposed catchword is hardlya good example of this device which certainly does play a role elsewhere in Hebrews.

    5Here the audial dissimi

    larity and distance between the supposedly interlocking terms suggestthat their presence serves no structural function. Of equal importanceis the fact that we are dealing here with a verb which is ubiquitous inthe central chapters of Hebrews. This fact diminishes its value as astructural index of any sort.

    Second, the supposedly distinctive vocabulary of the two segments ishardly that at all. Of six items assigned by Vanhoye to 8:1-9:28, fouralso appear in 10:1-18. Of nine items assigned to 10:1-18, six appear


    Despite its wide acceptance, Vanhoye's analysis has had its critics. See esp. JohnBligh, "The Structure ofHebrews," HeyJ5 (1964) 170-77; Jukka Thurn, Dos Lobopfgrder Hebrer: Studier^ zum Aufbau und Anliegen von Hebrerbrief13 (Acta Academiaeboensis A, 47, 1; Abo: Akademie Verlag, 1973); Michel Gourges, "Remarques sur lastructure centrale


    auxHbreux," RB

    84(1977) 26-37; James Swetnam,

    "Form and Content in Hebrews 1-6," Bib 53 (1972) 368-85; and idem, "Form andContent in Hebrews 7-13," Bib 55 {1974) 335-48. Space does not permit a full treat

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    Attridge: Hebrews 8-10 3

    in 8:1-9:28. Forms of , which Vanhoye curiously lists asdistinctive of each segment, appear with roughly equal frequency in

    both, five times in 8:1 -9:28 and seven times in 10:1-18.Third, the inclusions, all involving , are as unpersuasive as

    the catchword. If offering language by itself is to be taken as an inclusion, its appearance at 8:3 and 10:18 could function as such.

    Finally, the announcement of the themes at 5:9-10 is quite artificial.A minor problem is that the order of the themes as they are laterdeveloped appears in the "announcement" as 2, 3, 1. In a text such asHebrews, which so often displays neat parallelisms and chiastic arrange

    ments, this is jarring. More significantly, 8:1 -9:28 has a rather tenuousrelationship with the theme of perfection, announced by 0 at5:9. Verbally the only links are & karpevovra at 9:9 and? at 9:11. In other cases of themes announced anddeveloped the explicit verbal connections are more explicit.

    6The other

    portions of the central expository section 7:1-28 and 10:1-18 havesuch verbal links

    7and are equally relevant to the development of this

    complex theme.8

    In chap. 7 there is a presentation of Christ in his perfected or exalted state, culminating in the participle at

    7:28, which encapsulates what it means for Christ to be a priest"according to the order of Melchizedek." In chaps. 8 through 10 as a

    whole there is a development of the process by which Christ attainsthat exalted state, a process which in turn "perfects" his followers(10:2, 14).

    Structural indices of the sort which Vanhoye uses appear in Hebrews,but they clearly point to the unity of 8:1-10:18. Motifs which areprominently developed in that section are anticipated or announced in

    chap. 7. These motifs include the reference to the weakness of thepriests of the old order, noted at 7:23 and 28 and reaffirmed at 9:6-10,9:25, and 10:1-3; and the reference to the covenant, mentioned at 7:22and developed in 8:6-13; 9:15-20; and 10:16. But if there is anything

    which announces the overarching theme of 8:1-10:10, it is the phraseof 7:27, "he did this, having offered himself for all."

    9This is the first

    reference to Christ's self-sacrifice in Hebrews. This theme is extensively and explicitly explored throughout the next three chapters.


    The most obvious major "announcements" are at 1:4; 2:1718; and 10:36-39

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    4 Essays in Honor of Krister Stendahl

    An inclusion also marks off those chapters. In fact the most obviouscase of this device in Hebrews is the repetition at 10:16-17 of part of

    the quotation from Jer 31:31-34, first cited at 8:8-12. Another smallbut significant item marks the boundaries of 8:1-10:18. The sectionbegins at 8:1 with an allusion to one of the key scriptural texts ofHebrews, Ps 110:1 and its image of Christ "seated at the right hand."The repetition of the material from Jeremiah is introduced with anotherallusion to the same text at 10:12, the first such allusion since 8:1.

    In the review of Vanhoye's discussion of vocabulary characteristic ofthe material from 8:1 to 10:18, it became clear that the language of

    offering was a common feature of these chapters. It is also significantthat the verb appears in what has emerged as the"announcement" of this section, 7:27. Another element of that verseoccurs regularly and emphatically in these chapters, the adverb or. The vocabulary characteristic of the section is thus closelyconnected with another major structural index.

    A further structural indexalternation of genrewhich Vanhoyeuses to analyze Hebrews elsewhere, he does not find relevant to thearticulation of the central section. Indeed, the section does not alternate between exposition and exhortation as does Hebrews as a whole.Nonetheless, the section marked by the other structural indices whichwe have considered does have a formal generic identity which meritsconsideration. Like other well-defined blocks of material in Hebrews,8:1-10:18 consists basically of a citation from scripture and commentsrelated to that citation.

    The closest formal parallel to the section under consideration is3:1-4:13, well analyzed by Vanhoye.

    10That pericope begins with a

    brief introductory paragraph (3:1-6), contrasting Moses and Christ asexamples of fidelity in different capacities. The paragraph serves as atransition from the portrait of Christ as a faithful high priest (2:17-18)to the exhortation to be faithful, based on the events of the Exodus.There follows a lengthy quotation from Psalm 95 (3:7-11), then a hortatory exposition and application of the text (3:12-4:11). This exposition concludes with a rhetorical flourish on God's word (4:12-13),


    which balances the quotation from the Psalm. The text moves on with

    a resumptive paragraph beginning at 4:14 with the phrase "having

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    Attridge: Hebrews 8-10 5

    therefore a great high priest."The central expository section, 8:1-10:18, is a unit much like the

    block of material focused on Psalm 95. The pericope begins with atransitional introduction (8:1-6) summarizing the image of Christ as anexalted or heavenly high priest which emerged from chap. 7. Therefollows a lengthy quotati