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