Studying Hebrews

This past semester I taught a course on the Letter to the Hebrews.  I was a bit intimidated and often felt overmatched because I had not given Hebrews much sustained attention in the past.  I took a Greek exegesis course on Hebrews in seminary, but we focused far more on Greek constructions to the neglect of its content and theology.

But I think the class was a success and I’m satisfied with the course’s structure.  It was certainly an education for me!

We used James Thompson’s and David DeSilva’s excellent commentaries as course texts.  Their discussions complemented each other quite well and they proved to be reliable guides for graduate-level seminary students.  I also used a number of readings from The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology

Students wrote three major essays on Hebrews’ Christology, Hebrews’ conception of Judaism, and the theological challenges posed by the warnings passages.  On the latter topic, I asked students to engage the essays by Thomas Schreiner (SBJT 2 [1998]: 32-62.) and Scot McKnight (TrinJ 13NS [1992]: 21-59), in  addition to the presentations of Thompson and DeSilva.

When I teach it again, I may add a brief introduction, perhaps Barnabas Lindars’s, and I’ll look forward to working through Gareth Lee Cockerill’s new volume in the NICNT.

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6 responses to “Studying Hebrews

  • jonathan mcgill

    Sounds like it was a great course! I’m interested to know what percentage of students leaned more towards Schreiner or McKnight?

  • seanleroy

    Tim, was there a consensus or majority reading among your students on the View of Judaism?

    • timgombis

      Yes, for the most part we concluded that Hebrews should be considered a Jewish document, sent from a Jesus-following Jew to a community of Jesus-following Jews. It isn’t anti-Jewish at all, but rather demonstrates the superiority of Jesus’ ministry to the Levitical temple cultic practices. Christian Jews were free to engage in these, but because of some crisis in the community, there was some sort of disruption in that. Hebrews is written, it seems, to reassure the readers that because of Jesus’ work, their leaving aside participation in the temple apparatus won’t jeopardize their relationship to the God of Israel. But that’s to say nothing of Jews having to leave aside Judaism and embrace Christianity–a completely anachronistic conception.

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