Ministering in the Tabernacle: Spatiality and the Christology of Hebrews -- By: Annang Asumang

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 01:1 (Mar 2006)
Article: Ministering in the Tabernacle: Spatiality and the Christology of Hebrews
Author: Annang Asumang

Ministering in the Tabernacle:
Spatiality and the Christology of Hebrews1

Annang Asumang2

Bill Domeris3


Two of the perplexing features of Hebrews, its Christological comparisons and the spatial emphases are intertwined. Application of appropriate sociological and literary theories in Spatiality to examine the expositions in the epistle will demonstrate that the author used the spaces of the Pentateuchal wilderness camp and tabernacle as his heuristic and typological tool for the Christological expositions. This served as the primary vehicle for channelling his pastoral teaching aimed at addressing the problems of social liminality and spiritual malaise of the congregation. The author’s approach should serve as template for our understanding and applications of the theology of the tabernacle.

1. Introduction

Two of the dominant phenomena in the epistle to the Hebrews whose authorial purposes have eluded scholars are the Christological comparisons and the spatial emphases of the expositions. Scholars agree that the expositions focus on the superiority of Jesus the Son of God and our Eternal High Priest by employing an elaborate comparison and contrast of Jesus with the Angels, Moses, Joshua, Aaron and the Levitical priests. What remain disputed however are the author’s reasons for the comparisons, his criteria for choosing these persons and how the contrasts fit with the exhortations and harsh warnings in the other parts of the epistle. The commonest and oldest assumption that the comparisons constituted an anti-Judaist polemic now appears flawed (Williamson 2003:266 & Isaacs 1996:145). Recent advances in the application of Rhetorical Criticism to Hebrews have brought helpful insights to understanding the rhetorical nature of the comparisons, but have not adequately explained the authorial purpose(s). DeSilva’s (2000) application of ancient social anthropological insights such as honour and shame and patron-client paradigm to the epistle, though offers an interesting explanation, has been rightly criticized for being “strained” (Nongbri 2003:269). C Koester’s (2002:103–123) suggestion that the comparisons are part of a rhetorical device to encourage perseverance in suffering, though useful, does not completely address all the issues at stake.

Similarly, the spatial pre-occupations of the author have attracted various explanations, from Spicq’s (1977) Mid-Platonic dualistic cosmology, Isaacs’ “vehicle of eschatology” (2002:12) to MacRae’s suggestion that the ...

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