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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98 James Swetnam
But they refuse to pursue the matter further because they say the author of
Hebrews has no particular interest in the Eucharist. The present writer begs to
differ and has offered considerations regarding the Eucharist in the epistle (24).
But even apart from the above considerations, which point indirectly to
the words of Moses in Heb 3,5 as being compared implicitly to the words of
Jesus spoken at the institution of the Eucharist, there is the immediate context
of Heb 3,5 which points to Eucharist implications. This immediate context is
understood to be Heb 3,1-6. As argued recently in this journal, Heb 3,1-6 has
not only a decidedly liturgical caste, but a specifically Eucharistic meaning.
The reason for this is the use of the words ajpovstolo" and ajrciereuv" in
parallel at the beginning of the passage at Heb 3,1, and the relevance of the
word ajpovstolo" to Heb 2,12 and the Christian tÃ´dÃ¢, as argued in great detail
in the note alluded to above (25).
4. Hebrews 3,5 in the Light of the Structure of Hebrews 1,1â€“3,6
Considerations about the structure of the first chapters of Hebrews can
also be adduced to support a Eucharistic interpretation of Heb 3,5. The
framework in which the verse occurs may plausibly be viewed as follows (26):
1,1-4: exordium to the entire epistle and to what immediately follows;
1,5-14: exposition on Jesus as son [of God];
1,1-4: paraklÃªsis based on preceding exposition;
2,5-18: exposition on Jesus as son of man;
3,1-5: paraklÃªsis based on the preceding exposition.
In 2,3 there is reference to a salvation which had a beginning of â€œbeing
spokenâ€ (lalei'sqai) â€œthrough the Lordâ€. The present writer has interpreted
these words as an allusion to the Eucharist, which had its beginning with
Christ and hence is the beginning of Christian salvation (27). This â€œbeginning
of being spokenâ€ indicates that the Christian salvation consisted in words that
were uttered by Christ and heard by persons different from the author of the
epistle and his addressees (persons referred to as â€œusâ€ by the author of the
epistle). The transmission was of such a solemn type that the author speaks of
its being â€œvalidatedâ€ as it was handed on, a process which suggests
tradition (28). In an epistle in which the Eucharist figures prominently a
Eucharistic interpretation of a process involving a validation of tradition
makes excellent sense (29).
In the context of 2,1-4 the â€œsalvationâ€ referred to is contrasted with
nur in Zusammenhang mit einer realistischen Abendmahlehre verstÃ¤ndlichâ€ (O. MICHEL,
Der Brief an die HebrÃ¤er [KKNT 13; GÃ¶ttingen 121966] 320).
(24) With regard to Heb 13 cf. n. 17 above, and with regard to Heb 2,12 cf.: J.
SWETNAM, â€œ jEx eJnov" in Hebrews 2,11â€, Bib 88 (2007) 522-524 and J. SWETNAM, â€œoJ
apostolo" in Hebrews 3,1â€, Bib 89 (2008) 255-256.
(25) Cf. SWETNAM, â€œoJ ajpovstolo" in Hebrews 3,1â€, 252-262. This note is to be
interpreted with the caution explained in n. 4 at the beginning of this note.
(26) Cf. SWETNAM, â€œ jEx eJnov" in Hebrews 2,11â€, 518.
(27) Cf. J. SWETNAM, â€œThe Structure of Hebrews: a Fresh Lookâ€, Melita Theologica 41
(28) Cf. ATTRIDGE, Hebrews, 67.
(29) Again, cf. note 4 at the beginning of this animadversio.