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Book Reviews 151 The Jewish Heroes of Christian History: Hebrews 11 in Literary Context, by Pamela Michelle Eisenbaum. Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series 156. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997. 250 pp. $39.95. Pamela Michelle Eisenbaurn proposes to demonstrate the originality ofthe list ofheroes in Hebrews 11 by contrasting it with its Greco-Jewish literary environment, which is not merely the biblical story but also the biblical story as mediated through competing (also complementary?) interpretations. She finds the selection of heroes in Hebrews 11 extraordinary and locates them outside Israel's national leadership. Her thesis is that Hebrews denationalizes Jewish scripture and revalues Jewish history to construe ethnic particularity as irrelevant for the authorial audience. Aside from an introduction, the book comprises four chapters: "Hagiography in Antiquity," "Hebrews and Hermeneutics," "Heroes and History," and "Hebrews and Historiography." Chapter 1 classifies Hebrews 11 as a list of heroes which entails a summary of biblical history and compares it with other such lists and summaries. Against other biblical summaries, Hebrews 11 allegedly neglects the Sinaitic covenant and the possession ofthe land. Eisenbaurn distinguishes between longer and briefer lists ofJewish heroes, but notes that longer lists also emphasize Sinai and the land. Briefer lists function to exemplify a point. Eisenbaum locates Hebrews in proximity to Jewish lists that have a unified story, but also detects kinship with Greco-Roman rhetoric in the variety ofheroes. In particular Hebrews includes women. Further, Eisenbaurn discovers dissimilarity between these heroes and the ultimate faith that Hebrews advocates, so that the heroes are not examples for imitation. Chapter 2 discusses three ways Hebrews appropriates scripture. It interprets precursor texts, uses them as factors in its own composition, and employs them in intertextual dialogue. Noting that citations usually represent direct speech whereas narrative material appears as retelling, Eisenbaum suggests that citations claim the impact of the immediacy of the original whereas reiterated narrative distinguishes the present from the past. Thus, these distinct modes ofappropriating citations and narrative enable Hebrews to quote God's words against historical precedents in the narrative. This revisionary appropriation of scripture continues in chapter 3 particularly in two distinct uses of "promise." Heroes from the past in Hebrews 11 may experience fulfillment of particular "promises," but not Christian eschatological fulfillment. Eisenbaurn attempts to identify a principle of selection that determines why characters as disparate as Rahab and Abraham belong in the same list. She settles on their standing apart from Israel as a nation. This chapter also contains Eisenbaum's discussion on "faith" in which she cautiously adopts my view that faith in Heb 11:1 has to do with the ultimate subjection of all things to Christ. The final chapter discusses the power of persuasion of Hebrews among early Christians. Eisenbaurn maintains that Hebrews advances new interpretations ofscripture 152 SHOFAR Summer 1999 Vol. 17, No.4 as paradigmatic truth. Thus, the list of heroes advances an interpretation of the one continuous story of scripture. On the basis of the transvaluation of the heroes and the thesis of denationalizing, Eisenbaum concludes that biblical heroes in Hebrews (Abraham and Moses explicitly) appear not as Israelites or Jews but essentially Christians, and this move dispossesses Jews from their national heritage and substitutes Christians as the heirs. This ambitious attempt to locate Hebrews 11 within its literary environment nearly succeeds. The study of the appropriation of scripture in Hebrews as well as of the mediation of the story of scripture through other interpretations is comprehensive, though, as Harold Bloom has shown, temporal relationships between precursor and successor texts are more complex than either the recovery of the original for the present in citations or the separation of present from past in narrative retelling. The scope of secondary literature is also impressive. But in my judgment, the thesis that the heroes and therefore the scriptures are denationalized fails. Against Eisenbaum's conclusion that Hebrews neglects the promise of the land, the world to come in 2:5 and the "rest" in 3:7-4: 11 are derivative of the Abrahamic promise of the land. The new covenant from Jer 31:31-34 is for the house oflsrae1 and the house of Judah (Heb 8:8), and it is derivative...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 151-152
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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