This study attempts to analyze the text of Hebrews with a method of discourse analysis primarily based on a form of systemic functional linguistics developed for Hellenistic Greek, but it is also informed by other linguistic studies. It begins with a general survey of the literature that is either influential or representative of approaches to the structure of Hebrews. The survey is followed by an introduction to the terminology and definitions of discourse analysis, as well as the theory behind the methodology and a description of the methodology itself.
Hebrews is treated as having three sections. The first section of Hebrews (1:1–4:16) demonstrates the organization of the units, the topic of the units, the prominent text, and the relationship of the first section with the rest of the discourse. The second section of Hebrews (4:11–10:25) is described in two parts (4:11–7:28 and 8:1–10:25) because of its length. There is an overlap between the first and second sections in 4:11–16 and between the second and third sections in 10:19–25. Both of these passages have a concluding function for the preceding co-text and a staging function for the following co-text, so that they look backwards and forwards. The third and final section in 10:19–13:25 contains the climax or discourse peak. The study concludes with a description of the coherence of the discourse and a presentation of a mental representation of the text.
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. . . A more specialized biblical studies collection may wish to invest in what is without doubt a major study of this area and a good example of this particular methodological approach.
—Theological Book Review
Westfall is to be congratulated on a remarkable fusion of the insights of current linguistic theory with a detailed, down-to-earth reading of the Greek text of Hebrews, producing what is in effect a special type of commentary.
—Paul Ellingworth, translation consultant, the United Bible Societies
Cynthia Long Westfall is assistant professor of New Testament at McMaster Divinity School. She has served as cochair of the Biblical Greek and Linguistics section of the Society of Biblical Literature, cochair of the Evangelicals and Gender section of the Evangelical Theological Society, and the steering committee of the Hebrews section of the Evangelical Society.