Monday, May 29, 2017

“‘Let us draw near . . . but not too near’: A Critique of the Attempted Distinction between ‘Drawing Near’ and ‘Entering’ in Hebrews’ Entry Exhortations,” in Listen, Understand, Obey: Essays on Hebrews in Honor of Gareth Lee Cockerill (ed. C.T. Friedeman; Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2017), 17–36

Link to pdf of the full essay

This essay addresses a common misinterpretation of the most important verbs used in conjunction with Hebrews’ theology of access: προσέρχομαι (“to draw near”) and εἰσέρχομαι (“to enter”). Though a number of scholars contend that Hebrews maintains a careful distinction between these terms, with προσέρχομαι representing “drawing near,” and εἰσέρχομαι reflecting actual “entry” into the inner sanctum of heavenly sanctuary, such a distinction fails to withstand close scrutiny for a number of reasons: (1) at the heart of Hebrews’ hortatory agenda is a mimetic replication of Jesus’ entry into the heavenly sanctuary and a confession of his sonship (cf. 2:9–10; 4:14–16; 6:19–20; 10:19–23). Such a confession requires that the community occupy a position “within earshot” of God and his Son. (2) The profound architectural, psychological, and mystical/experiential changes effected by Jesus’ high priestly accomplishment, as documented in 10:19–23, are severely attenuated by appeal to a dubious reading of one word, προσέρχομαι.
(3) Hebrews’ sparse and suggestive depictions of the heavenly sanctuary/throne room are supplanted by cultic architectural imagery imported from more elaborate OT texts. These cultic texts, which use προσέρχομαι in their LXX translations, are forced onto the entry exhortations in Hebrews. It is surely significant that the cultic sacrifices of Leviticus are generally depicted as entirely “speech-less” acts. Given the prominence of aural/oral elements in Hebrews’ entry exhortations, more appropriate LXX texts should then be sought, texts which use προσέρχομαι to represent the attainment of communicative and relational proximity to the deity.

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