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RE: [Synoptic-L] Date of Hebrews: [was Smith on Paul on Mark]

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic (GPG) In Response To: Leonard On: Date of Hebrews From: Bruce Delightful to hear from Leonard on some topic other than Markan posteriority. To my
    Message 1 of 4 , Aug 25, 2011
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      To: Synoptic (GPG)
      In Response To: Leonard
      On: Date of Hebrews
      From: Bruce

      Delightful to hear from Leonard on some topic other than Markan
      posteriority. To my comment that Hebrews is easier to imagine after the
      destruction of the Temple and the consequent elimination of its sacrifices,
      he replied:

      LEONARD: The problem is that the theory leaves unexplained some striking
      grammatical features of Heb 9:6-10, in particular the use of present tense
      verbs in Greek throughout, as the author describes the rituals of priests in
      the Jerusalem temple. This usage continues, significantly and rather
      strikingly, even in 9:13 (hAGIADZEI, with the blood of animals as subject),
      after the author has mentioned the coming of Christ as high priest of the
      good things coming about, who "entered" (aorist tense used here) once into
      the holy of holies. I do not say that a post-70 date for Hebrews is
      impossible to argue; only that such an argument is obligated to account
      reasonably for these linguistic data in particular. I have heard such
      arguments -- and they sound strained to me.

      BRUCE: The shift from past in the preceding verses to present in Heb 9:6f is
      indeed striking, and has been noticed by the commentators. Moffatt (1924, ad
      loc), "In v6 DIA PANTOS = continually, as in BM 1/42:6 (ii BC). . . EISIASIN
      (which might even be the present with a futuristic sense, the writer placing
      himself and his readers back at the inauguration of the sanctuary: Now, all
      this being ready, the priests will enter," etc)."

      Similarly, Attridge (1989, ad loc), "Attention now shifts to the rituals
      that revolve around the tabernacle and its furnishings, whose "construction"
      (KATESKEUASMENWN) was just described. The "first" (PRWTH) tabernacle, which
      is clearly the outer portion of the whole (vs 2), is the realm of the
      ordinary priests. Of their activity Hebrews uses a present tense "they are
      entering" (EISIASIN) which indicates nothing about the existence of the
      temple they serve. The focus of the discussion is still not the Herodian
      temple, but the Mosaic tabernacle. The verb emphasizes the continuous,
      repeated aspect of the priests' activity (n105, "For other examples of the
      present tense of generally valid affirmations based upon scripture, cf
      5:1-4; 7:5, 8; 8:3, 5; 9:2 LEGETAI, 25; 10:1), which aspect is reinforced by
      the adverbial phrase "always" DIA PANTOS (n106, "Cf 13:15, Luke 24:53, Acts
      2:25 (Ps 16:8), 10:2; 24:16; Rom 11:10 (Ps 69:24)."

      And Moffatt is even more stern than Attridge toward those who see in Heb 9:6
      an indication of the date of Heb generally: "It is perhaps not yet quite
      superfluous to point out that the use of the present tense (eg in 7:8, 20;
      8:3f; 9:6f; 13:10) is no clue to the date, as though this implied that the
      Jewish temple was still standing. The writer is simply using the historic
      present of actions described in scripture. It is a literary method which is
      common in writings long after AD 70, eg in Josephus, who observed (c. Apion,
      1:7) that any priest who violates a Mosaic regulation . . . (so Ant
      3/6:7-12, 14/2:2, etc). Clement of Rome similarly writes as though the
      Mosaic ritual were still in existence (40-41 . . .)."

      The usage (present for Biblically habitual) seems to be sufficiently well
      established, and the warnings of Moffatt and Attridge about not
      overinterpreting it, as indications of the date of Heb itself, seem to me
      correspondingly well founded.


      I forbear to enter in detail upon this complicated topic at this moment;
      instead, just a couple of notes.

      That Heb is post-Pauline (Paul died in c60) is obvious; that it was known to
      and used by 1 Clement (c96) is also demonstrable. Heb 13 is an appendage, in
      all probability designed to give Heb Pauline credentials and so assist its
      entry into the canon (Heb seems to be rejected in the Muratorian list, if so
      I may interpret its reference to a pseudoPauline epistle to the
      Alexandrians; this is a long time after 1 Clement). It comes to a sonorous
      and satisfactory expository end in Heb 12:29 (Purdy ad loc: "This is the
      real climax of everything that has been said from the beginning. Ch 13
      contains more practical exhortations. But the epistle could end on this
      note, which has been the dominant concern throughout"). We thus cannot use
      Heb 13, one way or another, as evidence for date. It is earlier than 1
      Clement (96), sufficiently so that this probably Alexandrian text could
      become familiar at Rome. Moffatt thinks that this requires a decade.
      Clement's treatment, respectful yet free, suggests something of recent
      acquaintance rather than long standing, but again, that date would be its
      introduction to Rome, rather than its composition. We may note Moffatt's
      suggestion as a ballpark guess for the date of Roman introduction, rather
      than that of composition.

      Moffatt notes, what is strictly speaking obvious, that we do not know who
      the author was (in the same strict sense, we do not know who was the author
      of Philippians, or of the Apostolic Constitutions, both of which, at one
      point or another, make claims to be first person statements of Paul).
      Moffatt then proceeds, from the evidence of the text, to describe the
      author, and the description is a remarkably close assemblage of everything
      we know or can deduce about Apollos. This was Luther's suggestion (though
      not necessarily original with him), and it was seen as the most probable of
      several possibilities by Purdy 1955 (so also Attridge). My own work in this
      area seems to offer further support. I think that Apollos too may
      presentably be adopted as a working first approximation. Does his
      authorship, taking it *as* a working first approximation, have any influence
      on the date of Heb? I should think it might, since Apollos was already
      known, and had a supporting faction, at Corinth by the mid 50's. That he was
      still writing impassioned reinterpretations of Jewish sacrificial practices
      in the mid 80's (that is, in his own mid 80's) is a lot to ask. For that
      effort, a date in the 70's seems more reasonable, leaving good time for it
      to travel to Rome and become familiar there. Given Apollos' own probable
      age, a date in the early 70's seems kinder than one in the late 70's, and as
      we move closer to 70 itself, the extinction of the Temple sacrifices
      presents itself as an increasingly plausible inspiration for its

      The Paulinity of Hebrews is incomplete (it ignores some doctrines dear to
      Paul), as would fit a colleague and yet a rival of Paul, whose position
      differed from Paul's sufficiently for a faction to form around it, in
      preference to that of Paul. With what epistles of Paul does Heb show
      contact? Except for one place in Colossians (on a point also made in 1 Cor
      and other places within the safe corpus), Heb does not show necessary
      knowledge of anything outside the genuine corpus. Would a friendly rival of
      Paul's have known that many of his letters, or otherwise be aware of that
      many of his doctrines? Maybe, but it seems slightly easier to assume that
      Heb followed the first collection of Paul's letters; in fact, that event too
      might have been a sort of stimulus: here is Paul's work being summed up;
      what about summing up the somewhat divergent views of his distant colleagues
      also? Not impossible.

      Then when were the Pauline letters first collected? Goodspeed's suggestion
      of the end of the 1c will not wash; it requires the assumption that Paul
      upon his death instantly passed into obscurity, an idea which the
      post-Pauline literature, some of it eager to preserve and refine Paul, some
      of it zealous to controvert him, and some of it merely irenic, sufficiently
      refutes. Like Heb, the collection cannot date within the lifetime of Paul,
      hence after 60. The Neronian persecutions (64) were perhaps inconducive to
      the effort of gathering in the Pauline manuscripts, a later date (though not
      necessarily later than 70) will be easier to envision. Be it noted that
      Peter died in the Neronian unpleasantness (64), and at that point, for many,
      the Apostolic Age had ended. It would not be unreasonable to suppose that
      this inspired more than one effort to collect and preserve the Apostolic
      heritage, as far as could then be done. I have earlier given reasons for
      thinking that Onesimus looks like a possible leader of the movement to get
      Paul's heritage together in written form, with Colossians written as a sort
      of introduction, and to constitute a Seventh Church Letter in the new
      corpus. That suggestion, whether right or wrong, is independent of
      inferences about date and place.

      Zahn's chronology (at the very end of his 3v work) puts the composition of
      Heb at c80. To me, that splits the probable composition date and the
      probable date of Heb being introduced to Rome well enough for present
      purposes. Future comment, and new evidence, always welcome.


      E Bruce Brooks / University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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