Sunday, December 4, 2011

“Ancient Jewish Mystical Motifs in Hebrews’ Theology of Access and Entry Exhortations," New Testament Studies 58.1 (2012): 88–104

This article builds on and reinforces the "Heavenly Sanctuary Mysticism" article I published in the Journal of Theological Studies earlier this year.

Link to PDF of the full article

Cambridge University Press copyright rules: Material on these pages is copyright Cambridge University Press or reproduced with permission from other copyright owners. It may be downloaded and printed for personal reference, but not otherwise copied, altered in any way or transmitted to others (unless explicitly stated otherwise) without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. Hypertext links to other Web locations are for the convenience of users and no not constitute any endorsement or authorisation by Cambridge University Press.

A number of motifs found in ancient Jewish accounts of the heavenly throne room appear in the Epistle to the Hebrews. These elements include the throne of God, the temple veil, the glory of God, and participation in angelic worship. Though in ancient Jewish texts they are all depicted as presenting nearly insurmountable obstacles to the presence of God, the author of Hebrews transforms these conceptions, and instead depicts them as encouraging, facilitating, and even ensuring access to a welcoming God. This is especially apparent in the passages promoting the author’s ultimate hortatory goal: the community’s entry into the heavenly sanctuary (2.5-10; 4.14-16; 6.18-20; 10.19-23; 12.22-24).

Monday, March 21, 2011

"Heavenly Sanctuary Mysticism in the Epistle to the Hebrews," Journal of Theological Studies 62.1 (2011): 77-117.

This article situates Hebrews in the context of ancient Jewish mysticism, with particular focus on heavenly ascent and mystical visuality.

Link to pdf of the full article

Oxford University Press copyright page

This paper focuses on the supernatural experiential elements and events that attend the Epistle to the Hebrews’ portrayal of the heavenly sanctuary, and attempts to demonstrate the integral relationship of these elements and events to the author’s overarching hortatory effort. Hebrews’ narratival construction of the heavenly sanctuary is not simply an ‘updated and expanded’ version of the tradition, intended to stir the addressed community’s imagination; rather, the author’s goal is for the community to actually be present in that sacred place, to truly benefit from Christ’s actions performed there, and to participate in the Son’s exaltation. Their presence and participation is effected via the author’s repeated calls to ‘draw near’ and enter the heavenly sanctuary (4:14–16; 6:18–20; 10:19–23; 12:22–24), which have as their goal a transformative encounter with God and his Son, as well as their involvement in a divine adoption ceremony (2:12–13). Mystical visuality, working in concert with the rhetorical practices of ekphrasis and enargeia, together provide crucial assistance to this effort: besides a number of vivid descriptions of the heavenly sanctuary and Jesus’ sacral actions therein, the author exhorts the community to ‘see’ the exalted Son (2:9; 3:1; 9:24–26; 12:2) and their involvement in the adoption ceremony (2:13; 10:24–25). This visual program directly serves the author’s ultimate hortatory purpose: just as Moses ‘persevered by seeing him who is invisible’ (11:27), so also the community’s waning commitment will be reversed when they actualize their true identity as the family of God, and ‘see’ in Jesus that their steadfastness in suffering will surely issue in vindication (2:6–10).