Friday, September 15, 2017

“Visually Oriented Rhetoric and Visionary Experience in Hebrews 12:1–4,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 79.3 (2017): 476–497

Link to pdf of the full article

Though a "vision-centered " perspective is apparent in a variety of contexts in Greco-Roman life and literature, of particular interest to this essay are the visually oriented rhetorical techniques that Greco-Roman authors and orators used to appeal to the visual imaginations of their audiences. Through these well-theorized techniques, authors and orators hoped not only to engage their audiences' visual imaginations but also to transport them emotionally into the described scene. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews was to all appearances well versed in these techniques, and perhaps this is nowhere more evident than in Heb 12:1-4. Enlisting the language and imagery of agonistic sport and spectacle, this visually evocative text helps the community reenvision their current situation. Their sufferings are thus reconfigured as normative to the athletic sphere, while their commitment to Christ and his community is translated into a test of endurance in a footrace. Integral to this agonistically shaped exhortation is the vivid portrayal of Jesus as the "forerunner" and victorious "finisher" of the same contest of faith in which the community is presently competing. Ekphrasis and epiphany coalesce in this mimetic portrayal, signaled by the author's exhortation to "fix our gaze" on the one who has triumphed over adversity and adversaries.

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.