James Swetnam, «Tw~n lalhqhsome/nwn in Hebrews 3,5», Vol. 90 (2009) 93-100
The words tw~n lalhqhsome/nwn in Heb 3,5 allude to the words of Christ at the institution of the Eucharist. This is argued from 1) the contrast between Christ and Moses in Heb 3,1-6 as understood against the background of Num 12,7[LXX]; 2) the thematic use of lale/w in Hebrews; 3) the relevance of Heb 9,20; 4) the place of Heb 3,5 in the structure of Heb 1,1–3,6. All to be understood against a Eucharistic interpretation of Heb 2,12 and Heb 13.
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Twn lalhqhsomevnwn in Hebrews 3,5
The words tw'n lalhqhsomevnwn in Heb 3,5 have not received the attention
they merit. They occur in a verse which has echoes of Num 12,7[LXX], and
this tends to direct the attention to their Old Testament antecedents (1). In
addition, the word lalevw seems to resume the theme of Godâ€™s â€œspeakingâ€ at
the beginning of the epistle, at Heb 1,1 (2). Both of these indications merit
further investigation. But they need to be considered in the context of still a
third line of reasoning which points to Heb 9,19-20, where lalevw is used in
connection with Mosesâ€™ inauguration of the Sinai covenant. But this third line
of reasoning must be carried out in the structured context of Heb 1,1â€“3,6 if it
is to be suasive.
The present study will examine first the approaches based on the
relevance of Num 12,7[LXX] and the thematic use of lalevw, and will then
turn to the relevance of Heb 9,19-20 before studying the results of these
investigations in the structured context of the first part of the epistle.
1. The Relevance of Numbers 12,7[LXX]
The presence of the words Mwu>sh'", qeravpwn, oi\ko" and pistov" in the text
of Num 12,7[LXX] has led to the inference that the author of Hebrews had this
verse in mind when he wrote 3,5 (3). But, as not infrequently in Hebrews, the
author of Hebrews puts the words to different use. Moses is indeed â€œfaithfulâ€,
but for the author of Hebrews he is assigned a role subordinate to the â€œsonâ€,
i.e., Jesus. In this subordinate role he gives a witness to that which â€œwill be
spokenâ€ instead of being the one to whom God â€œspeaksâ€ (4).
This subordination of Moses to Jesus is the true relevance of Num 12,7
with regard to the explanation of tw'n lalhqhsomevnwn in Heb 3,5. For just as
the parallelism of Jesus with Moses dominates Heb 3,1-6, so, by implication,
it dominates the allusion contained in tw'n lalhqhsomevnwn. If Moses is giving
witness in 3,6 there is only one person, judging from the context of 3,1-6, he
could be giving witness to â€” Jesus. Hence the meaning of tw'n
lalhqhsomenwn is to be found in some relation invoking Moses and Jesus.
2. The Relevance of lalevw
The fact that the word lalevw occurs so prominently at the very beginning
of the epistle, with regard to God in 1,1 and with regard to the son in 1,2,
(1) Cf.: H.W. ATTRIDGE, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Hermeneia; Philadelphia, PA
1989) 111; W.L. LANE, Hebrews 1â€“8 (WBC 47A; Dallas, TX 1991) 78. For a lengthy
commentary on the possibilities as regards the Old Testament cf. P. ELLINGWORTH, The
Epistle to the Hebrews. A Commentary on the Greek Text (NIGCT; Grand Rapids, MI â€“
Carlisle, England 1993) 207-208.
(2) Cf. ATTRIDGE, Hebrews, 111; LANE, Hebrews.
(3) Cf. F. SCHRÃ–GER, Der Verfasser des HebrÃ¤erbriefes als Schriftausleger (BU 4;
Regensburg 1969) 95-101.
(4) Cf. ATTRIDGE, Hebrews, 111.