Early Jewish Hermeneutics and Hebrews 1:5-13: The Impact of Early Jewish Exegesis on the Interpretation of a Significant New Testament Passage

By Hay, David M. | Journal of Biblical Literature, Summer 2000 | Go to article overview

Early Jewish Hermeneutics and Hebrews 1:5-13: The Impact of Early Jewish Exegesis on the Interpretation of a Significant New Testament Passage


Hay, David M., Journal of Biblical Literature


Early Jewish Hermeneutics and Hebrews 1:5-13: The Impact of Early Jewish Exegesis on the Interpretation of a Significant New Testament Passage, by Herbert W. Bateman. American University Studies; Series 7-Theology and Religion 193. New York: Peter Lang,1997. Pp, xiv + 438. $61.95.

This is a revised Dallas Theological Seminary Ph.D. dissertation whose author is currently Associate Professor of New Testament Studies at Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. It seeks to contribute to a better understanding of the Scripture quotations in Hebrews 1 by viewing them in the light of selected Qumran documents and the seven exegetical rules attributed to Hillel. Bateman argues that those rules evolved over a long period of Jewish scriptural interpretation and that they were used at Qumran and by the author of Hebrews. Or, as he puts the matter cautiously at the end of his study (p. 245), "shadows" of Hillel's rules may be found in texts such as 4Q Florilegium and Heb 1:5-13.

Approximately the first hundred pages of the book are devoted to discussion of Hillel's rules and Qumran data. Bateman's endnotes cite a wide range of scholarly literature, and he often emphasizes disagreements among experts regarding ancient Jewish hermeneutics and the meaning of terms such as "midrash." He clearly defines his own views on controverted matters (sometimes, however, without arguing for them in detail). He differentiates and describes three types of biblical interpretation at Qumran: targum (illustrated by llQtgJob), midrash (illustrated by 4Q Florilegium), and pesher (illustrated by 1QpHabakkuk). Each type involves both a literary genre and a distinctive process of interpretation. Bateman argues that all three types as attested at Qumran interpret Hebrew Bible texts objectively and with respect for original context and meaning, and all three employ Hillel's exegetical rules. At the same time, Qumran exegetes typically "recontextualize" scriptural passages, often explaining them in relation to eschatology, messianic concepts, and the Qumranites' understanding of themselves as God's chosen community.

When, in part 2, Bateman turns to a discussion of Heb 1:5-13, he begins by comparing each of the passage's quotations with the corresponding Septuagint and Hebrew texts; like most other scholars, he concludes that the epistle's author essentially relied on the Septuagint but introduced some modifications to express his own convictions. In his sixth chapter Bateman discusses each of the biblical passages cited in Hebrews 1 in relation to both its original meaning and its interpretation in the Dead Sea Scrolls and some other intertestamental literature. …

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