The Christ Of Hebrews And Other Religions -- By: Grant R. Osborne

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 46:2 (Jun 2003)
Article: The Christ Of Hebrews And Other Religions
Author: Grant R. Osborne


The Christ Of Hebrews And Other Religions

Grant R. Osborne

[Grant Osborne is professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 2065 Half Day Road, Deerfield, IL 60015.]

In a very real sense, the topic of other religions is the subject matter of the entire NT, since every book to one extent or another addresses the clash between Christianity and the religions that surround it. That is especially true of Hebrews, where the conflict of religions is especially pervasive. This study will attempt to probe this clash and contextualize it for the current situation. First, we will study the situation behind the book, then map the rhetorical strategy of the author in correcting it, especially in terms of the christological solution, and finally note implications for the witness of the church in the postmodern conflict of religions.

I. The Social Situation Behind The Book

Virtually every aspect of this subject is clouded by massive debate. The only general area of agreement is the danger addressed in the book, namely apostasy and the need for faithfulness on the part of the readers. But who were they? For much of the history of the church, it was assumed that they were Jewish, hence the title “To the Hebrews,” which goes back at least as far as Tertullian. However, many see this as an early conjecture, perhaps in order to provide a canonical response to Judaism for the early church.1 In fact, the title has been challenged by some who argue that the contents of the book do not point to a Jewish audience. Several characteristics are taken as evidence of a more Gentile readership: (1) the strong Hellenistic style of the rhetoric, employing techniques of deliberative rhetoric like synkrisis (comparison), anaphora (repetition of key words), and both a grammatical style and 154 hapax legomena that betray rich acquaintance with Hellenistic thought; (2) the danger of “turning away from the living God” (3:12) and “carried away by all kinds of strange teachings”2 (13:9), pointing more to a Hellenistic than Jewish setting; (3) “repentance from acts that lead to death” in 6:1; 9:14 favors conversion from paganism; (4) the typology regarding the real and the shadow in 8:5; 9:23; 10:1; (5) the challenge to honor marriage vows would better fit a Gentile setting; (6) the OT quotations from the LXX, fitt...

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