Re: Studying the Book of Hebrews

From: clayton stirling bartholomew (
Date: Sun Mar 21 1999 - 02:05:37 EST

> I am currently studying Hebrews and am wondering if it is better to examine
> the book from a Hebrew perspective or a Greek persepective. The style of
> the Greek seems to be different than what I have studied in the past. If
> it is true that the writer was most likely schooled in Alexandria, and was
> a Jew himself, would it be better to look for Hebraic patterns of
> thought/rhetoric or Greek patterns of thought/rhetoric?


In the last 8 years I have spent most of my time studying Hebrews and
Luke/Acts. I have not found much in the syntax of these works which
cannot be explained in terms of Hellenistic Greek. I know there is an
endless debate about Hebraisms in the NT but on the level syntax I find
little need to consult Hebrew grammars. The exception to this is the
quotes and allusions from the LXX. The syntax of the LXX material is a
totally different topic from the language use of the author of Hebrews.

On the question of Hebrew thought patterns I am a complete agnostic due
to reading the standard works by James Barr. The book of Hebrews does
draw extensively on the OT sacrificial system, but that is a question of
content not "thought patterns."

The only reason I am responding to this post at all is a sort of vague
conclusion I have arrived at through reading the more literary portions
of the the NT, Hebrews and Luke/Acts. This vague conclusion is that
these texts are different from the rest of the NT but the difference is
one of literary style and the educational background of the authors. To
move from 1John to Hebrews is like reading "To The Lighthouse" (V.
Woolf) after reading "The Sun Also Rises" (E. Hemingway). They are both
superbly written but the difference is shocking to the reader.

The late Bill Lane did his magnum opus on Hebrews in the *Word Biblical
Commentary. I don't have his book handy but I would be somewhat
surprised if he did not cover this sort of question in his work which is
most thorough.

Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Three Tree Point
P.O. Box 255 Seahurst WA 98062

*BTW, steep discounts on the WBC series were available as late as last week at Westminister Seminary:

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