Jesus’ heavenly sacrifice in early Christian reception of Hebrews: a survey

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Abstract

Modern readings of Hebrews tend to reduce the text’s language of Jesus’ sacrificial offering to the event of his crucifixion. In a recent book, Atonement and the Logic of Resurrection in the Epistle to the Hebrews, I argue that such a reduction does not adequately account for either the presence or significance of Jesus’ resurrection and bodily ascension for Hebrews’ Christology and soteriology. The book’s claims have rightly raised questions about why Hebrews has not been read this way in the past. This article offers an initial exploration of some early Christian reception of Hebrews. I demonstrate that, while not universal, a variety of texts from the early centuries of Christianity interpret Hebrews’ language of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice as referring to Jesus’ post-resurrection offering of himself to the Father in the heavens. These findings suggest that early Christian reflection on Hebrews, Jesus’ sacrifice, and atonement could approach these interrelated concerns more holistically—that is, orientated toward the full, creedal narrative of the incarnation, than to do some accounts of the atonement that reduce Jesus’ sacrifice to his death on the cross.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-71
JournalJournal of Theological Studies
Volume68
Issue number1
Early online date20 Apr 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017

Keywords

  • Hebrews
  • Atonement
  • Patristics
  • Ascension
  • Sacrifice

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