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Leviticus in Hebrews

A Transtextual Analysis of the Tabernacle Theme in the Letter to the Hebrews

Mayjee Philip

Scholarly consensus on the relationship of the Letter to the Hebrews to the Old Testament is far from universal or uniform. This book aims to address this area in Hebrews scholarship, which is lacking a critical account of the dependence of Hebrews on the Old Testament, especially Leviticus, in constructing a meaningful text. The book examines how the author of Hebrews uses the textual levitical tabernacle theme to construct the central motif of the heavenly tabernacle in Hebrews. In analysing the ways in which Hebrews relates to the Old Testament, the author makes use of literary theorist Gérard Genette’s concepts of transtextuality and transformation. These concepts help set in relief the variegated textual relationships Hebrews has with the Old Testament in general, and Leviticus in particular, and the transformations that are central to constituting meaning in Hebrews.


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Chapter 1 - Introduction -1


Chapter 1 Introduction The opening lines of the Letter to the Hebrews, “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds” (1:1–2), draw even today’s read- ers into a seemingly ongoing conversation without giving us so much as a clue to basic information about the author1 and audience of Hebrews. Lacking the typical introductory features of letters, Hebrews reads like a sermon but ends like a letter. Its literary character is defined for us by the author himself: it is a “word of exhortation” (13:22), “in the form of [a] sermon or homily …” (Bruce 1990, 25). Without the regular features of a letter stating from whom and to whom, when or why it was written and further complicated by the mention of Italy in 13:24, Hebrews continues to be an enigma. Equalled by one of his heroes, Melchizedek, whom he describes as, “[w]ithout father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life” (7:3), after centuries of scholar- ship, the identity of the author of Hebrews, besides other details, is best attested by Origen’s famous “God only knows the truth”.2 The author’s use of the Old Testament (OT) is noteworthy, in one instance he introduces a text from LXX Ps. 8 by the words “… someone has...

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