Lectionary Year B
April 6, 2003
Hebrews 5:5-10

Step IV: Context


1) In general history-of-religion backgrounds and the secondary literature pertaining to this step, especially the figure of Melchizedek, can be found in H. Attridge, "Hebrews" (Hermeneia), Phil. 1989, pp. 145-154 (esp. N. 113).

2) vv. 7ff raise the question of the background from the Gethsemane story tradition. Whereas Attridge acknowledges the potential background from Mk. 14:32-42 [cf. lectionary gospel reading for March 23] and parallels, he points out that these graphics here would more easily be traced back to an independent Gethsemane tradition or might even simply "correspond quite closely to a traditional Jewish ideal of a righteous person's prayer, and ideal based on language in the Psalms and developed explicitly in Hellenistic Jewish sources." (ibid, pp. 148f, Ns. 143-150). Some examples of "prayers and supplications" in classical Hellenistic Jewish texts would be:

"This done, they united in supplication, beseeching the Lord of mercy..." (II Macc. 8:29)

"Then did I remember the loving-kindness of Jahveh and his mercies which have been from of old who delivereth them that trust in him and redeemeth them from all evil and I lifted up my voice from the earth and cried out for help from the gates of Sheol. Yea, I cried: O Jahveh, my Father art Thou, for Thou art the hero of my salvation ; forsake me not in the day of trouble in the day of wasteness and desolation. I will praise Thy name continually and will sing Thy praise in prayer.Then did Jahveh hear my voice and gave heed to my supplication; and he redeemed me from all evil and delivered me in the day of trouble. Therefore will I give and offer praise and bless the name of Jahveh..." (Sirach 51: 8-12)

The outer margins of the Nestle text point one also to the Gethsemane story in Mt. 26:38ff and John 12:27 as well as to Psa. 22:25 and Isa. 45:17 for these vv. 7-10. Within the NT the margin invites comparison with the Christological hymn in Phil. 2:5ff and further within Hebrews itself to 2:10; 7:28; and 4:14. Above we suggested that the story of the prodigal son within the context of the household might be a fruitful comparison too. As pertains to the "source" (Gr. "aitios") question in v. 10, Attridge also points to the parallel in 2:10 (ibid. pp. 153f).

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