Chiasm And The Concept Of Faith In Hebrews 12:1-29 -- By: Victor (Sung-Yul) Rhee

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 63:2 (Fall 2001)
Article: Chiasm And The Concept Of Faith In Hebrews 12:1-29
Author: Victor (Sung-Yul) Rhee


Chiasm And The Concept Of Faith In Hebrews 12:1-29

Victor (Sung-Yul) Rheea

I. Introduction

Erich Grässer, in his book Der Glaube im Hebräerbrief points out that Paul’s concept of faith has an unbreakable relationship with the salvation event, which is Christ himself. He states that, for Paul, faith is always faith in Christ (e.g., Col 2:5; Gal 2:16; 3:22; Rom 3:22; Phil 3:9).1 However, he argues that faith in Hebrews is not directed to Christ in any way. According to him, the specific christological notion of faith finds no continuation either in the reflective sense of Paul or unreflective synoptic sense.2 Grässer believes that faith in Hebrews is transformed from a soteriological, personal reference (πίστις εἰς Χριστόν) into an ethical category (i.e., a mere characteristic of steadfastness).3 Grässer’s basic motive for advocating the de-christologized ethical view lies in his understanding of eschatology in Hebrews. He considers that in Hebrews the eschatological paradox of “already” and “not yet” is dissolved into the purely temporal scheme of indefinite time in the future. Thus, according to Grässer, the tension between “already” and “not yet” is relaxed, and the interval of time (zwischen) is transformed into the time of waiting,4 namely, into the spatial concept similar to that of Philo.5 Because of the delay of the Parousia, “the existential meaning

of faith, characteristic of an earlier period, yields, as time goes by, to the treatment of faith as a virtue appropriate to a situation where the parousia is no longer expected soon.”6

In this essay I will demonstrate through a careful exegesis of Heb 12:1–29 that the author of Hebrews portrays Jesus as both the model and object of faith for believers as in the Pauline epistles, even though it is not expressed in terms of “faith in Christ.” In discussing the concept of faith in Heb 12, the literary device of “chiasm” will be empl...

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