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Title: An investigation into the origin of the High Priest christology in the Epistle to the Hebrews
Author: Griffin, Hayne Preston
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 1978
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The Epistle to the Hebrews presents mysteries which will continue to interest scholars for years to come, e.g. authorship, addressees, and precise literary genre. It also demonstrates a detailed concern with doctrines or subjects which are not significantly dealt with in other New Testament writings, e.g. the concept of "rest", the heavenly sanctuary, and the High Priesthood of Jesus. Because of the mysteries surrounding this writing and the uniqueness of some of its major themes vis-a-vis other New Testament writings, numerous backgrounds have been proposed to resolve the mysteries and account for the unique major themes. This thesis examines the proposed origins of the High Priest christology of the Epistle and the christological concerns of the Epistle itself in order to determine the origin of its High Priest christology. Chapter One is an examination of the hypothesis maintaining that the author of Hebrews originated the High Priest christology as a polemic against the expectation of the so-called "Messiah of Aaron" by Christians who had been converted from the Qumran community. This chapter presents the basic hypothesis that the Qumran community actually expected a priestly Messiah and reveals that there is no substantial evidence in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is therefore not possible that the High Priest christology of the Epistle to the Hebrews is linked with the Qumran community. In Chapter Two the suggested backgrounds of Philo and his Logos-priest, the Gnostic Urmensch, and Jewish Merkabah mysticism are examined as possible origins of the Epistle's High Priest christology. Philo's Logos-priest and his treatment of Melchizedek do not suggest that the author of Hebrews derived his High Priest christology from Philo. It is also considered highly improbable that the author's High Priest christology is derived from the Gnostic Urmensch. Whereas the proposed Gnostic background to the Epistle to the Hebrews never received widespread support, recent studies have leveled serious questions regarding the extent to which Gnosticism (or pre-Christian Gnosticism) has influenced the New Testament writings, and the Epistle to the Hebrews in particular. And finally, proposals to cast the Epistle against a background of Jewish Merkabah mysticism raise insurmountable problems which effectively disqualify Jewish Merkabah mysticism as a source of the Epistle's major themes. Chapter Two concludes with an analysis of factors which indicate that the author is aware of early Christian concepts and refers to or employs early Christian traditional materials. Chapter Three is an investigation into the titles and "marginal titles" of Jesus in the Epistle to the Hebrews, excluding "High Priest". The Epistle demonstrates a marked preference for the simple human name, Jesus, always emphatically used, as well as, appositionally placed with each title or "marginal title" in the Epistle. The use of the simple human name emphasizes Jesus' humanity, and therefore his solidarity with mankind. This christological solidarity is also indicated by the author's correspondence of titles/"marginal titles" of Jesus. It is also significant that although the author uses many titles/"marginal titles" common to other New Testament writings, he is not reluctant to employ titles not found within other New Testament writings. Chapter Four consists of observations on the use of the Old Testament in the Epistle to the Hebrews. The author appears to have based his Epistle upon the framework of four Old Testament texts. Each of these texts demonstrate the inadequacy of the Old Order and a promise or prophecy which the author argues is now fulfilled in the New Christian Order. These primary Old Testament texts are supported by secondary Old Testament texts. Chapter Five is an examination of the Epistle's key christological Old Testament texts in regard to the High Priest christology. Chapter Six draws together in a brief manner the pertinent conclusions of the previous chapters regarding the origin of the High Priest christology in the Epistle to the Hebrews. It is suggested that the slight traces of a priestly character to Jesus' death in other New Testament writings indicate that Jesus' death was considered in priestly terms before the Epistle to the Hebrews was written. There is no indication that Jesus referred to himself as "High Priest", and the Synoptic Gospels do not portray him in such a role. The originality of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews is apparent. The author's christology of solidarity which permeates the Epistle is also seen as an important contribution to the christology of the New Testament. This christological solidarity is most appropriate for the One who is designated "High Priest". The Epistle's contribution to the christology of the New Testament rests in both its emphasis on christological solidarity and its High Priest christology.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available