A Conviction of Texts Not Seen: Perceiving Exodus as the Generative Text of Hebrews


The Book of Hebrews has increasingly come to be regarded as a remarkable example of Jewish-Christian scriptural exegesis and biblical intertextuality. Scholars routinely apply terms associated with ancient Jewish exegesis to Hebrews, including midrash, gezerah shewa, qal wahomer, and synagogue homily. One problem, however, is that most analyses in which Christian views of scripture are operative tend to overlook key elements of Jewish concepts of scripture, particularly with regard to the significance of the Pentateuch. The Pentateuch, or Torah, forms the nucleus of the Scriptures from a Jewish perspective, the first and most important division of the Scriptures, different in nature and priority than the rest of the Hebrew Bible. Most ancient Jewish exegesis was Torah-centric, as is evident by the prominence of the Books of Moses in works like the Mekilta on Exodus, the oldest collections of rabbinic midrash, and even biblical texts and exegetical works like Jubilees among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Most studies of Hebrews, on the other hand, prioritize texts from the Psalms and Prophets in interpretation. Hebrews has often been characterized as a midrash on Ps 110 or as a series expositions on texts from the Prophets and Writings, for instance. Those approaches do not adequately account for the fundamental and generative role of the Pentateuch. If Hebrews is, indeed, an exegetical work like midrash or a form of synagogue homily, we would, instead, expect it to be based on a generative text (or texts) from the Pentateuch. This study proposes that the Sinai pericope of Exodus (Exod 19-40) serves as the primary generative text of Hebrews and that the many citations of the Prophets and Writings function exegetically in relation to Exodus. Hebrews\u27 message emerges from the juxtaposition of texts and themes of Exodus with texts from the Prophets and Writings. The Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Haggai are all used to explain and expound upon Pentateuchal paradigms such as the Sinai Covenant, Moses, Aaron\u27s priesthood, and the wilderness sanctuary, showing how Jesus and his ministry relate to what had been the reigning paradigms for centuries. This study examines five major exegetical sections of Hebrews to demonstrate how Hebrews uses texts from the Prophets and Writings in its exegesis of themes, passages and verses from Exodus 19-40 to legitimize and explain the person and ministry of Jesus in relation to the Law of Moses

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This paper was published in University of Denver.

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