The Migrant Camp of the People of God: A Uniting Theme for the Epistle to the Hebrews -- By: Annang Asumang

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 03:1 (Mar 2007)
Article: The Migrant Camp of the People of God: A Uniting Theme for the Epistle to the Hebrews
Author: Annang Asumang

The Migrant Camp of the People of God:
A Uniting Theme for the Epistle to the Hebrews

Annang Asumang1

Bill Domeris2


Although the movement motif is prominent in Hebrews, it has not been demonstrated that it unites the epistle. In a previous article, we proposed that the author used the spaces of the wilderness camp and tabernacle as a heuristic device for the Christological expositions. This article will employ the root metaphor of migration to explain the exhortations and suggest that “the Migrant Camp of God’s People” serves as a uniting theme for Hebrews. Judging that the precarious state of his congregation typologically corresponded to that of the Exodus generation, the author has provided us with a Christian interpretation of the Book of Numbers as its solution. This relationship also accounts for the epistle’s unique literary structure.

1. Introduction

Craig Koester’s (2002:103–123) proposal that the community behind the epistle to the Hebrews developed through three historical phases of conversion, persecution and malaise has significantly elucidated its contextual background.3 What now remains to be resolved is the question of a uniting theme or “master idea” (Saydon 1961:19) that seamlessly connects the author’s distinctive theological emphases and choices with his literary and rhetorical approach aimed at addressing the pastoral problems. Lindars’ (1991:26) suggestion that “[i]t is a mistake to look for a leading idea as the key to the whole”, while understandable as an expression of the frustration involved in the venture, is perhaps mistaken as an approach. Earlier generations of scholars, from Davidson (1882) to Swetnam (1974), favoured the doctrine of the high priesthood of Christ as the “central category” (Moule 1950:37), and Hughes’ (1977:2) proposition that “the absolute supremacy of Christ” is the epistle’s “comprehensive theme” is well known, but they both fail to provide fitting links with the exhortations. Since, according to Attridge (1990:211), the purpose of Hebrews is “not to socialize new members of a group, to legitimize a structure of authority, or to polemicize against an external social unit and its symbol system, but to reinforce the identity of a social sub-group in such a way as not to isolate it from its environment”, any proposal must demonstrate how this reinforcement of identity is achieved. In addition, it must also fit the socio-historical context of the epistle, as far as that may be ascertained, and explain the unique liter...

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