2011 NT & Second Temple Judaism

Session 1

Gen. 47:31 in Second Temple Judaism and Heb. 11:21

According to one of the most detailed recent commentaries on Hebrews (Grässer 1997) “The addition of Gen. 47:31 [in Heb. 11:21] is mysterious … the action as such is not unambiguous.” But not only is the action of Jacob ambiguous, the context of his action is not the same in Genesis and Hebrews. Moreover, the interpretations of Gen. 47:31 in the early post Second Temple Jewish communities as well as in the early Church are varied to say the least, but interestingly enough, there are clear affinities between the early Jewish interpretations of the text and those found in the early Church. Unfortunately, however, these early Jewish interpretations have hitherto not been taken into account when trying to understand the quotation of Gen. 47:31 in Heb. 11:21. Hence it is suggested that taking these early interpretations into account could help to shed some light on the interpretation of Gen. 47:31 in Hebrews.

Further, taking the early interpretations into account also could have some impact on the actual text of Hebrews. In fact one variant reading in one of the best manuscript of Hebrews has been neglected in all modern editions, although the text produced by this variant reading is also found in the early Jewish sources. Actually, several commentators on Hebrews have expressed surprise that this reading is not found in Hebrews, apparently being unaware of this variant reading.