OVERCOMING THE FEAR OF DEATH: PHYSICAL BODY AND COMMUNITY IN HEBREWS

Russell B. Sisson

Abstract


The writer of Hebrews draws an analogy to athletic competition in exhorting his
audience to imitate Christ’s example of enduring suffering and death. The analogy
to athletic competition is rhetorically significant because of the manner in which it
evokes knowledge of values and ideals associated with a prominent social arena and
cultural institution of the Mediterranean world. The Hebrews audience is expected
to “see” points of similarity between Greek athletic games and the way of life to
which they are called. The “contest” to which the Hebrews audience is called differs
from those common in Greek athletic games with respect to the nature of the
struggle. What the two contests share in common is the expectation of contestants to
demonstrate fearlessness in the face of death. Fearlessness in the face of death is
thus regarded as a virtue, and those who publicly embody it receive special honour
and become models to be imitated. The athletic analogy in Hebrews unifies the
exhortation of 12:1-13.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7833/90-0-1057

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ISSN 2305-445X (online); ISSN 0254-1807 (print)

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