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Neues Testament


Church, Philip


Hebrews and the Temple. Attitudes to the Temple in Second Temple Judaism and in Hebrews.


Leiden u. a.: Brill 2017. XVIII, 615 S. = Novum Testamentum. Supplements, 171. Geb. EUR 156,00. ISBN 978-90-04-33950-7.


Georg Gäbel

Crispin Fletcher-Louis recently claimed that »[t]he notion that Jews in the Second Temple period believed in a heavenly temple up there as a model for the one down here is […] a modern scholarly myth«. This might have served as a motto for the book under review by Philip Church (Laidlaw College, Auckland, New Zealand). Its two parts deal with attitudes to the temple in Second Temple Jewish Literature and with »temple symbolism« in Hebrews. What holds the two parts together is interest in the ways heavenly and earthly sanctuaries are described in temporal and/or spatial, eschatological and/or cosmological categories.
Part 1 is organized in four chapters, »Temple Affirmed«, »Temple Contested«, »Temple Rejected«, and »Temple Destroyed.« C. con-cedes that the Book of Watchers speaks of a temple in heaven (he seems less clear on TLev). But he rejects a description of the rela-tionship between heavenly and earthly sanctuaries in terms of archetype and representation, even regarding SapSal 9:8, where other scholars find this implied (C. here lays the groundwork for his exegesis of Heb 8:5). He also argues that the Qumran Sabbath Shirot evoke a sense of participation in the angelic liturgy, and since no heavenly ascent is described, it follows, he contends, that the temple envisaged encompasses heaven and earth. He makes similar (but in my view unconvincing) claims concerning Heb 10: 19–25; 12:22–24, interpreting heavenly sacred space as encompassing the habitation of the addressees on earth.
According to C., some early Jewish sources show that a critique of the second temple need not refer to it explicitly, but may draw on the desert tabernacle or the first temple, and C. argues that Heb may be read in similar fashion. Indeed the lack of a mention of the temple cannot be decisive for a post-70 C. E. dating, though I am not convinced by C.’s contention that Heb 10:1–4, 11–12 implies the existence of the temple.
Not all the many and diverse texts discussed in part 1 are similarly relevant to C.’s exegesis of Heb, of course. One may quibble with details of C.’s treatments of some of them. To mention two points: Regarding PsPhil, C. concludes from LAB 26:13 that, in the future, God will build an eschatological temple; I do not see this implied in the text cited. On 2 Bar, C. claims that this writing, too, expects an eschatological temple, but this seems debatable, since the passages cited (6:9; 32:3) mention an eschatological Jerusalem, not an eschatological temple.
I turn to part 2. C. claims that, in Heb, the heavenly sanctuary is not a »structure,« meaning, presumably, that it is not a temple in heaven, but heaven (or the universe?) as a temple. Indeed C. argues that the »rest« mentioned in Heb 4 is in the »temple-universe« cre-ated in the beginning, and he variously identifies its referent with those of the heavenly Jerusalem and the world to come. He thinks that, according to Heb 12:26–27, the created universe will continue to exist, and what will remain in the end is the world to come, a temple, God’s dwelling place. The mention of the heavenly temple in Heb is therefore (C. thinks) a metaphorical reference to God’s eschatological dwelling with his people, and C. also speaks of a »symbolic« or »metaphorical« temple. (At one point [348], he seems to claim that the adjective »heavenly« makes clear that the mention of heavenly Jerusalem should be understood metaphorically.) The eschatological dwelling of God, C. argues, is prefigured by the sanctuary on earth: He reads the correlation between earthly and heavenly realities in Heb in terms of foreshadowing and fulfil-ment, giving precedence to temporal categories over spatial ones. C. further thinks that Heb has an eschatological outlook throughout, but that, while Heb calls its readers away from involvement in Jewish ritual meals (13:6–10), they are not called to follow another religion (»modified relapse theory,« 435).
The following examples may show how, on the basis of his assumptions, C. grapples with some exegetical problems.
C. argues that the heavenly sanctuary in Heb is unicameral. The mention of a veil in the heavenly sanctuary (Heb 6:19–20) should be understood figuratively, C. thinks, since an actual veil would not accord with what he sees as the intention of Heb, to show that access to God is open. The veil indicates »the presence of God, where Jesus is now exalted« (391). Similarly, C. argues that, in Heb 9:11, διά is used instrumentally, but that the reference to the »tent« in this verse is metaphorical, meaning that Jesus entered by virtue of a new order, that is, by virtue of his offering of himself. C.’s figural/metaphorical readings allow him to take considerable liberties with details of the text that would seem to stand in tension with his understanding of »temple symbolism.«
On Heb 8:5, C. notes that »copy« is not the lexical meaning of ὑπόδειγμα. He thinks that ὑπόδειγμα καὶ σκιά means »symbolical foreshadowing« (importing the temporal aspect from 10:1). While Heb speaks of heavenly realities, C. wishes to eschew the notion of a sanctuary in heaven, therefore claiming that τὰ ἐπουράνια denotes eschatological goods. He therefore needs to separate 8:5a from 8:5b (where Moses is said to have been instructed to make the tabernacle according to a τύπος shown him) and also needs to separate the τύπος of 8:5b from τὰ ἀντίτυπα in Heb 9:23. So, referring to 1 Pet 3:21, C. claims that τὰ ἀντίτυπα in Heb 9:23 has a temporal meaning, but is only »obliquely related« (427) to τύπος in 8:5b. C. claims that the sanctuary on earth is a foreshadowing of eschatological fulfilment, but this stands in tension with the statement of Heb 9:8–9 that the first tent on earth is a symbol of the present time. Therefore, C. identifies the »present time« and the »time of correction« (9:10); but according to Heb 9:9, the »present« is characterized by sacrifices and offerings that cannot perfect the worshipper.
C. claims that the heavenly things mentioned in Heb 9:23 are eschatological goods such as God’s promises and the new covenant, through which »forgiveness and purification comes« (425). Heb 9:23 does say, however, that, for the heavenly things, better sacrifices were necessary, implying that they required cleansing, and this can hardly be said about God’s promises and the new covenant. Perhaps C. simply means that there is no sanctuary in heaven, and that therefore the problem »evaporates« (425). But that would still leave the statement of 9:23 unexplained.
In summary, I have not been convinced by C.’s interpretation of »temple symbolism« in Heb in cosmological-eschatological terms and by many of the exegetical decisions implied. There are, more-over, two important desiderata: C. does not discuss in detail his understanding of metaphor and symbol (used by him synonymously), so important for his argument, and there is no in-depth exegesis of Heb 9:1–5, the most prominent passage in Heb con-cerning Israel’s desert tabernacle.