Eve's Children: The Biblical Stories Retold and Interpreted in Jewish and Christian Traditions

By Gerard P. Luttikhuizen | Go to book overview

ABEL'S SPEAKING IN HEBREWS 11.4 AND 12.24

TON HILHORST

The text which occupies us in this contribution, the Letter to the Hebrews, is surrounded by mystery. It begins as a sermon but ends as a personal letter. Yet, in spite of its personal ending, it is hard to establish where, by whom, and to whom it was written. It is quite unlike other early Christian writings. Indeed, we might well apply to it the qualification which, in chapter 7 verse 3, it applies to Melchizedek: 'He is without father or mother or genealogy, and has neither beginning of days nor end of life'. True, we can be slightly more confident about its date. The author mentions the addressees' leaders as persons from the past (13.7), so the apostolic period seems to have ended. On the other hand, there is a terminus ante quem in Clement's letter to the Corinthians, written in Rome probably about A.D. 96; and Clement uses phrases so unmistakably reminiscent of Hebrews that we must conclude he has used it.1 Consequently, Hebrews was known in Rome before the middle of the last decade of the first century. Thus, a date between A.D. 60 and A.D. 90 seems reasonable. It has been argued that the letter must predate A.D. 70 because it mentions the sacrificial cult as being extant. However, since it consistently alludes to the tabernacle, and not to the temple, we cannot assume that an historical situation is meant to be discussed at all.2 The author seems to have received a good literary education and, stylistically, he is regarded as the best of the New Testament writers.3 On the other hand, at times he clearly lacks the perceptiveness we are accustomed to in the principal writers of Greek literature.

1 Cf. D.A. Hagner, The Use of the Old and New Testaments in Clement of Rome
(Supplements to Novum Testamentum 34), Leiden 1973, 179–95; A. Lindemann,
Die Clemensbriefe (Handbuch zum Neuen Testament 17), Tübingen 1992, 17–20;
G. Schneider, Clemens von Rom: Epistola ad Corinthios: Brief an die Korinther. Übersetzt und
eingeleitet (Fontes Christiani 15), Freiburg etc. 1994, 26–9. H.E. Lona, Der erste
Clemensbrief: Übersetzt und erklärt (Kommentar zu den Apostolischen Vätern 2), Göttingen
1998, 52–6, explains the agreements by the use of common traditions.

2 Cf. H. Conzelmann – A. Lindemann, Arbeitsbuch zum Neuen Testament (Uni-
Taschenbücher 52), Tübingen 200013, 405.

3 See N. Turner, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, IV, Style, Edinburgh 1976,
106–8. This was already the view of the church fathers, cf. Eusebius Hist. Eccl.
6.25.11 (quoting Origen); Jerome Vir. Ill. 5.10–11.

-119-

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