Heythrop Journal 43 (1):60–72 (2002)
AbstractFew, if any, present‐day undergraduate degree courses in Theology include in their syllabus a study of the Epistle to the Hebrews or other New Testament writings other than the Gospels and the Pauline epistles. The result is in effect that we create a canon within a canon.This paper, originally read at a postgraduate seminar, gives reasons why Hebrews in particular should not be neglected.Hebrews provides evidence of the diversity of early Christian tradition, for example, with its teaching that it is impossible to be re‐admitted to the community of faith, having once abandoned it, and with its unique use of Israel’s day of Atonement rites in its presentation of Christ. Moreover, the very genre of Hebrews merits particular interest.Hebrews also evidences a Christian community which has yet to break with Judaism. Its thoroughly Jewish background illustrates for students of the New Testament the necessity of knowing the Jewish Scriptures as well as the writings of the New Testament. Moreover, a study of the Epistle could make a constructive contribution to present‐day Jewish–Christian dialogue, even if in the past it has been enlisted on the side of a thinly‐disguised anti‐Semitism.Finally, Hebrews brings the student face to face with the metaphorical character of much of the language of the New Testament – a form of language which is not to be taken less seriously than other kinds of language; and in this case, Hebrews’ Day of Atonement metaphors issue in new insights – in an innovative theology of access to God.For this and other reasons, the study of Hebrews has an important contribution to make to theology degree syllabuses
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