Charts on the Book of Hebrews (Kregel Charts of the Bible)
Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2012. Pp. 266. Paperback. $26.99. ISBN 978-0-8254-2466-3
With gratitude to Kregel Academic for this review copy
Admittedly, I am not one for a book of charts or graphs. Although they can be useful and fun to look at, often times they remain unopened and unused on my shelf. But when I first heard of Kregel’s latest release of charts on Hebrews, well that piqued my interest; if it has anything to do with Hebrews I want to give it a look. What I found in Herbert Bateman’s Charts on the Book of Hebrews is a wealth of information, organized in the most helpful way. Needless to say, I was well pleased with this very informative and useful tool.
In some ways, Bateman’s Charts is a one-stop shop for quick and easy access to some of the key background and textual issues surrounding the book of Hebrews. Bateman has helpfully organized his work into four parts: Introductory Considerations in Hebrews, Old Testament and Second Temple Influence in Hebrews, Theology in Hebrews, and Exegetical Matters in Hebrews. By organizing his book in such a manner, Bateman has done a great service for anyone looking for an organized and concise visual display of some key areas of discussion on Hebrews. A few page samples from Bateman’s work will help highlight the value of this book.
Authorship of Hebrews
One of the most asked questions in regards to Hebrews scholarships is the question of authorship. Every major commentary has a section in their introduction dedicated specifically to the question of authorship. Each of the major candidates for authorship are examined, with the most probable author suggested as the most likely author of Hebrews. But more times than not, commentators end their discussion on authorship with these famous words of Origen: “Who wrote Hebrews, in truth, only God knows.”
Bateman has collected the evidence and source for every major argument and has organized it in a most helpful manner. As you can see from the sample page copy, Bateman formats his chart with four columns: Proposed Author, Proponent, Date, and Source. By formatting the chart this way he allows the reader to easily find a particular suggested author of Hebrews and the relevant information needed to track down the exact source for his or her research. For a student writing a paper on the background of Hebrews, a chart like this would be a valuable time saver. It provides just the information one needs to be able to track down original sources and conduct ones own research.
Textual Issues in Hebrews
The section on “Textual Issues in Hebrews” consists of 9 pages of concise, yet informative information on forty-two key text-critical issues in Hebrews. Bateman has organized each column according to the passage from Hebrews, both the reading from the critical text and the variant reading (supplied with an English translation of both readings), and a brief explanation of the probable or preferred reading. According to Bateman this last column “identifies the significance of each option as it might relate to grammar, syntax, style, literature, exegesis, and theology; and it chooses and explains what option is best based upon an eclectic methodological that evaluates both external and internal evidence” (253). While this is Bateman’s work is helpful and and thorough, there will do doubt be some who would disagree on some of his conclusions.
One such example of disagreement comes at Heb 2:9. The NA28/UBS4 reads ὅπως χάριτι θεοῦ ὑπὲρ παντὸς γεύσηται θανάτου, where as the variant reading is ὅπως χωρὶς θεοῦ ὑπὲρ παντὸς γεύσηται θανάτου. This reviewer tends to lean towards the variant reading based on the surrounding context and the theological tension it supplies to the passage in question. Nevertheless, Bateman’s explanations are strong and well defended.
The Structure and Genre Of Hebrews
Other important subjects that Bateman discusses include the the genre and structure. Here, Bateman looks at the different approaches that commentators have used to help determine the structure of Hebrews. Each chart gives the name of the commentator, the series the commentary is part of, and the genre classification and structure each commentator concludes the author of Hebrews utilized for his work. Most of the authors who have specifically done work in this area are represented: Vanhoye, Koester, Guthrie, and Attridge, to name a few. I did notice one glaring omission. Cindy Westfall’s Discourse Analysis of Hebrews is surprisingly missing. Although discourse analysis is fairly new in New Testament studies, I think the decision to leave Westfall’s work out of any discussion on the structure and genre of Hebrews is a weak point here, especially when her work interacts with the works of Guthrie and Vanhoye.
In all, Bateman’s work is a must have for any student of Hebrews. It is written and organized in such a way that the reader will consisting refer back to it before turning to the critical commentaries and studies on Hebrews. From now on, Bateman’s Charts on the Book of Hebrews will remain close by whenever I am working on a passage of Hebrews.