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.
See more by the same author
Tw'n lalhqhsomevnwn in Hebrews 3,5 99
Mosaic Law which also was â€œvalidatedâ€, i.e., just as the Mosaic Law was
Godâ€™s official means of providing for the salvation of the Exodus generation,
to the words spoken by Christ are Godâ€™s official means of providing for the
salvation of the Christians. In 2,1-4 the context is of a word of encouragement
on the basis of the son as God (1,5-14). When juxtaposed with the Mosaic
Law in contrast, this allusion to the Eucharist would seem to refer to the
Eucharist as the divine presence amid Godâ€™s people. Just as the â€œbook of the
Lawâ€ (cf. Heb 9,19) was the symbol of Godâ€™s presence among the people of
the Exodus generation, so the Eucharist is Godâ€™s real presence (cf. Heb 13,8)
among the people of the Christian generation who are engaged in their own
exodus (cf. Heb 3,6â€“4,12) (30).
A Eucharistic interpretation of Heb 3,5 would create a parallel to the
Eucharistic interpretation at Heb 2,3. But the context would be Jesus as son of
man, not as son of God. Just as Heb 2,3 builds on the son as divine to interpret
the son as the divine presence for the Christian generation, so Heb 3,5 builds
on the son as man to interpret the expiatory effects of the Eucharistic blood
(cf. Heb 2,17 and Heb 9,19), effects which are made possible by the sonâ€™s
blood and flesh (cf. Heb 2,14) (31). Thus the relevance of Heb 3,5 for Heb
2,13b-18 (expiation of sin based on Christâ€™s blood) matches the relevance of
Heb 3,5 for Heb 9,20 (purification of the blood sprinkled by Moses).
Finally, this interpretation of the words tw'n lalhqhsomevnwn in Heb 3,5
would illumine the use of lalei'sqai at Heb 2,3: the â€œspeakingâ€ in Heb 2,3
refers to God â€œspeaking in a sonâ€ just the â€œspeakingâ€ in Heb 3,5 refers to God
â€œspeaking in a prophetâ€, with the latter speaking foreshadowing the former.
The present note has attempted to interpret the words tw'n
lalhqhsomevnwn in Heb 3,5 in a Eucharistic sense. Four complementary
approaches were suggested as a way to understand Heb 3,5:
1) the relevance of Num 12,7 [LXX] as used in Heb 3,1-6 (the author of
Hebrews uses the text as the source of his vocabulary to contrast Moses and
the â€œsonâ€, i.e., Jesus);
2) the relevance of the thematic use of the word lalevw in Hebrews (it is
used of Godâ€™s speaking â€œin the prophetsâ€ and â€œin a sonâ€;
3) the relevance of Heb 9,19-20 (the only instance in Hebrews where
Moses is said to â€œspeakâ€ [lalevw] is in a context in which the Eucharist is
plausibly seen as being alluded to) makes a good pairing with the words of
Moses in 3,5 which occur in a context in which the Eucharist is a key them);
4) the relevance of the structure of Heb 3,1â€“3,6 (a Eucharistic allusion at
Heb 3,5 would match a Eucharistic allusion at Heb 2,3). All of this
argumentation was set against the present writerâ€™s Eucharistic interpretations
of Heb 13 and Heb 2,12 previously published elsewhere.
(30) The vocabulary of Heb 2,4 also conveys the idea that the Christians are engaged in
an exodus which mirrors the first Exodus. Cf. ATTRIDGE, Hebrews, 67. n. 60.
(31) The well-known inversion of the â€œblood and fleshâ€ instead of â€œflesh and bloodâ€ in
Heb 2,14 is probably caused by the authorâ€™s desire to call attention to the role of the sonâ€™s
blood in expiating sin in what follows. Cf. ELLINGWORTH, Hebrews, 171.