Re: Wisdom of Solomon and Hebrews

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Feb 07 1996 - 09:04:36 EST

On 2/7/96, wrote:

> dear Ken,
> I have found Hebrews to be the most difficult book in the NT. For
> example, the passage 8.1-6 posits a present tense "liturgy" for the risen
> NENOMOTHETHTAI. "and now he has achieved a more excellent 'liturgy' in
> so far as he is mediator of a better covenant, one founded on better
> promises."
> To understand Hebrews one needs help to see how it is that a heavenly
> liturgy can be a model for the realm below.
> The elaborate metaphors of Philo and WS are a window to that world of
> metaphors that the author of Hebrews lives in. One can then read Hebrews in
> the "realist" mode, e.g., the heavenly liturgy is the new covenant, and
> because it is heavenly and divinely "real", it is better than any old
> covenant.
> My advice: put off reading through your own eyes; try reading it
> rhrough the eyes of WS (or Philo) to see if it works. I would say that the
> book of Hebrews cannot be understood in terms of modern theology but can be
> understood through its own predecessors. It is not enough to say that the
> Son is better than Sophia; it is more important to see that both were
> understood within the same metaphors.

I suppose Richard is using "realist" in the Medieval philosophical sense
rather than in the modern colloquial sense: the transcendental realm is
real. I have always felt that the contrast between earthly and heavenly,
temporal and eternal, sensible and intelligible, is fundamentally Platonic.
In that regard it clearly belongs in the sphere of Hellenistic Jewish
tradition--and yes, Philo is very close and WS is also. In many respects
Hebrews seems to me very much like an Alexandrian work. On the other hand,
its conception of Jesus as a High Priest performing a once-for-all-time
sacrifice seems to rest closely upon an argument to people who have known
and cared about a sacrificial cultus of the Jerusalem Temple, a cultus that
is no more after 70. I know this is not an original view, and I scarcely
know what to conclude about provenance and dating of Hebrews, other than to
say its affinities are with a very Hellenized Judaism.

Incidentally, I want to ask Ken Litwak another question. The first time
that you referred to Priscilla as author(ess) of Hebrews, I assumed you
were joking. But you've repeated it more than once, and I would really like
to know where this notion comes from if it is not the purest idle
speculation. It's not that I have any objection to her having written it--I
just would like to know what on earth suggests the notion that she did?

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:37:37 EDT