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.