Johnson's study of Hebrews is unusual in adopting a social-scientific analysis. He examines the implicit sociological data in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and locates the implied society within the context of the larger Graeco-Roman world. From this he concludes that the author of Hebrews advocates an ideal society that is both more open to outsiders and more willing to assimilate fully new members than was first-century CE hellenistic Judaism.
According to the group/grid paradigm developed by Mary Douglas, the implied society can be categorized as +weak' group/'weak' grid, in contrast to +strong' group/'strong' grid Hellenistic Judaism. The critique of the levitical system in Hebrews can be seen as supporting the author's advocacy of that implied open society.
Richard Johnson is Assistant Professor of Religion, Charleston Southern University, Charleston, South Carolina.