We are Jesus’ House: A Socio-Narratological analysis of Hebrews 3:1–6

Notwithstanding the significance of its topic, Hebrews 3:1–6 has not received the attention that it deserves. Since D’Angelo’s 1976 monograph on the Christological implications of Moses in Hebrews, only a handful of articles have been published on this corpus. Most of these works have followed D’Angelo’s lead and concentrated on how Moses sheds light on a particular attribute of Jesus (cf. Jones 1979; Layton 1991; Enns 1993; Scott 1998; Steyn 2014; Lierman 2016). The underlying assumption is that the primary purpose of the author’s recollection of Moses and his story is to offer a novel insight of who Jesus is. This view is shared among Hebrews scholars, as evidenced by the subheadings of major commentaries: “The Son Greater than Moses” (Johnson 2008), “Jesus’ Superiority to Moses” (Allen 2010), and “Moses the servant, Jesus the Son” (Guthrie 1983).

While it is true that Moses plays an essential role in audience’ understanding of Jesus, this study proposes that Moses and his story are primarily meant to function as a frame in which the audience interprets other less acknowledged, yet crucial matter, namely, their own identity. In fact, the author begins this section by referring to the audience as “holy brothers and sisters” and “partners of a heavenly calling” in the nominative of direct address. Furthermore, as Westfall (2000) points out, the word oikos (x6), which is the most prominent in this corpus, linkes Moses most directly to the present audience (“we are [Jesus’] house”).

Consequently, the goal of this study is to demonstrate that the primary purpose of the author’s remembrance of Moses and Numbers 12 is to urge his audience to remain in the house of Jesus without following the example of Miriam (apostle) and Aaron (high priest), who were known as the most holy (cf. “holy brothers and sisters” 3:1), but were expelled from the house of God for their disapproval of Moses’ unique role before God. Thus, the audience who share such memory is empowered to shape their identity around Jesus despite the on-going crisis and temptations that they are going under (cf. Dyer 2015).

The methodology this paper utilizes is the strategy of “keying” and “framing” pioneered by social memory theorist Berry Schwartz in combination with the narratological approach as developed by A. J. Grimes who was succeeded by Richard Hays. As the author strategically evokes the significant past of Israel, which was collectively remembered in the form of a narrative, my methodology will ascertain its legitimacy in answering the questions of our passage related to the dynamics of memory, narrative, and identity.

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