The Old Testament Concept Of Solidarity In Hebrews -- By: G.W. Grogan

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 49:1 (NA 1998)
Article: The Old Testament Concept Of Solidarity In Hebrews
Author: G.W. Grogan

The Old Testament Concept Of
Solidarity In Hebrews

G.W. Grogan


Despite the criticisms of some, the concept of solidarity is an important one in the Old Testament. It is seen in kinship, marriage, common residence and occupations, covenants and, more subjectively, in affection. It applies to Yahweh’s relationship with Israel in terms of covenant and representation and has many-sided consequences and implications. In the New Testament it is particularly important for Hebrews, which applies it in its inaugurated eschatology. Christ’s oneness with his people as the true human being, high priest and sacrifice are central to the author’s thought, and the people of Christ are shown to be one with each other as members of the city of God.

I. Introduction

The great debt of the Epistle to the Hebrews to the Old Testament is not simply a matter of general background and copious quotation. It extends to fundamental Old Testament ways of thinking which are constantly presupposed and which underlie passages otherwise quite diverse. This article will argue that the concept of solidarity is one of these.

Solidarity may be defined as ‘an entire union of interests and responsibilities in a group’, involving communal ‘interests, objectives or standards’.1 The term ‘solidarity’ is not much in fashion, but because it has a well-defined meaning and because any alternatives are verbose, I propose to use it here. In particular, solidarity highlights the way in which God has given humanity in general and his people in particular a common life with common concerns and responsibilities,

so that the actions of one may deeply affect others for good or ill. The Epistle to the Hebrews is not unique in its debt to this Old Testament concept, but is a particularly striking example of its application, particularly in the way that it portrays Christ’s solidarity with humanity.

II. The Concept Of Solidarity In The Old Testament

Thirty years ago, earlier work done by scholars like H. Wheeler Robinson, S.H. Hooke and S. Mowinckel,2 which viewed Israelite religion as dominated by a mystical primitivism in which the group was everything and the individual almost nothing, was still influential. Changes in the social sciences, however, have undermined this. ‘Mystical primitivism’ has been thought to be an inappropriate term to describe Israelite religion, with more recognition being given to individual freedom.3 Nevertheless, J.W. Rogerson, one of the concept...

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