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The Letter to the Hebrews in Social-Scientific Perspective (Cascade Companions)

, 2012
ISBN: 9781606088555
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A great deal of mystery surrounds the book of Hebrews, especially regarding its authorship, date, and audience. However, by asking the right kind of questions, one can move beyond the impasses typical of historical investigation of the book. In this volume, David deSilva explores Hebrews through a social-scientific lens, asking one of the most important questions when interpreting letters and sermons: What was going on in the community to occasion such a response? DeSilva looks for clues concerning the anonymous author, his education level, the influence of the Greek environment, and his perception of his own authority. In addition, by forming a social profile of the audience that includes location, ethnicity, and class status, deSilva brings to light the author’s aims of helping protect Christian converts from persecution and social shame. This book not only helps the sermon “to the Hebrews” take on flesh and blood for contemporary readers; it also expands the readers’ tools for asking fresh questions and exploring new dimensions in biblical texts.

In the Logos edition, all Scripture passages in The Letter to the Hebrews in Social-Scientific Perspective are tagged and appear on mouse-over, and all Scripture passages link to your favorite Bible translation in your library. With Logos’ advanced features, you can perform powerful searches by topic or Scripture reference—finding, for example, every mention of “Melchizedek” or “sacrifice.”

Save more when you purchase this book as part of the Cascade Companions Series (15 vols.).

Resource Experts
  • Exploration of authorship questions, such as “Who is the explicitly mentioned or implied author-sender of the text?”
  • Examination of the level and nature of the author of Hebrews’ education
  • Analysis of how the sermon is strategically constructed to address the particular challenges that the author identifies
  • The Author of Hebrews: A Social Profile
  • The Audience of Hebrews: A Social Profile
  • Sociorhetorical Strategy I: Dealing with Social Shame
  • Sociorhetorical Strategy II: Grace and Reciprocity in Hebrews
  • Sociorhetorical Strategy III: Reinforcing Group Identity and Commitment

Top Highlights

“His goal is to motivate the hearers to persevere in their commitment to one another, to the sacred ratio at the core of the sect’s formation, and to the ethos (the values and practices) that the sect’s ratio nurtures. In other words, he wants to see the community maintain the identity, practices, and boundaries that led to its experience of high tension with the society, and thus to persist in maintaining that very tension (rather than defect or compromise).” (Page 55)

“Linguistically, Hebrews is composed in very stylish and difficult Greek. The author uses extensive and rare vocabulary (Hebrews has the highest number of words occurring only once in the New Testament of all New Testament writers).” (Page 36)

“But the title ‘To the Hebrews’ is a second-century conjecture about the original audience based on the copyists’ observations about its content, namely its interest in Jewish rites and scriptures.9 Second-century Christians might have tended to view this letter as addressing Christian Jews precisely because the Christian group needed some kind of canonical ‘response’ to the parent religion that had rejected them, a manifesto of the superiority of Jesus and the movement formed in his name to the parent religion.” (Pages 32–33)

“These believers became the target of society’s deviancy-control techniques, most notably shaming, which aimed at coercing the believers to return to a lifestyle that demonstrated their allegiance to the society’s values and commitments. Honor was a primary social value in the cultures of the first-century Mediterranean.” (Page 46)

Modern readers too often forget that the sermon we call Hebrews—a powerful, timeless word that reaches to the heavens—was written in a nitty-gritty, socio-cultural context and was profoundly shaped by that context . . . Whether analyzing the author’s rhetorical strategy, the demands of gratitude upon the audience, or the shaping of social identity in a religious group, deSilva provides his readers with a new lens through which to follow the author’s arguments and assess the implications for ‘hearing’ Hebrews in the modern world.

—George H. Guthrie, Union University

David deSilva is a recognized expert in socio-rhetorical analysis, honor-shame discourse, and the Epistle to the Hebrews. All three converge in this slender but rich volume. It is conversant with modern theory, but thoroughly rooted in the ancient sources. While chiefly focused on the first century biblical message, deSilva’s analysis will also help modern readers to be shaped and sustained by this ‘word of exhortation’ (Heb 13:22).

—N. Clayton Croy, Trinity Lutheran Seminary

  • Title: The Letter to the Hebrews in Social-Scientific Perspective
  • Author: David A. deSilva
  • Series: Cascade Companions
  • Publisher: Wipf & Stock
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Pages: 204
David A. deSilva

Dr. David A. deSilva, PhD, is the Trustees’ Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Greek at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ohio, where he’s taught since 1995.

He’s written over 20 books in the areas of New Testament and Second Temple Judaism, including Unholy Allegiances: Heeding Revelation's Warning (Hendrickson, 2013), The Jewish Teachers of Jesus, James, and Jude (Oxford, 2012),Seeing Things John’s Way: The Rhetoric of the Book of Revelation (WJKP, 2009), An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods & Ministry Formation (IVP, 2004), Introducing the Apocrypha (Baker Academic, 2002), and Perseverance in Gratitude: A Socio-rhetorical Commentary on the Epistle “to the Hebrews” (Eerdmans, 2000). He’s also interested in spiritual formation, having written Sacramental Life: Spiritual Formation through the Book of Common Prayer (IVP, 2008) and Praying with John Wesley (Discipleship Resources, 2001).

He’s ordained in the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, and serves as director of music and organist at Christ United Methodist Church in Ashland. He and his wife, Donna Jean, have three sons.


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Digital list price: $20.99
Save $4.00 (19%)