While all of the New Testament writings offer windows into the personal religious experiences of their authors, says Kevin McCruden, the Letter to the Hebrews affords us a truly exquisite example of a particularly creative interpretation of such religious experience. It also supplies us with something all too rare in many of the documents of the New Testament: a glimpse into the personal experiences of the ancient persons who first heard this text.
Partially obscured beneath the author's characteristic emphasis on the superiority of transcendent realities is the indelible imprint of the real-life experiences of early Christians who suffered emotionally and physically for the countercultural commitment that they placed in Jesus. For such persons, Hebrews vividly celebrates the unseen vindication of Jesus and, in this way, provides a hope-filled portrait of the victorious Son of God. At the same time, Hebrews is also very much concerned with what we might call the life of Christian discipleship-that is, what it means to journey this side of the age to come in a manner that is faithful to the countercultural character of God's kingdom embodied by Jesus. This brief study will help illumine for readers something of this creative balance between the transcendent and the concrete that Hebrews illustrates so well.
Kevin B. McCruden is associate professor of religious studies at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. He is the author of numerous scholarly articles and essays on diverse topics in the New Testament as well as Solidarity Perfected: Beneficent Christology in the Epistle to the Hebrews and coeditor (with Eric F. Mason) of Reading the Epistle to the Hebrews: A Resource for Students.
Illuminating the faithfulness displayed during the human experience of Jesus, McCruden introduces major issues in the field of Hebrews' study as he sets them in the applicable context of the letter's spirituality. Insightful treatments on topics such as prayer and the speaking blood of Abel contribute to a call to follow the sermon's countercultural exhortation to faithfulness. I will recommend this text for those just beginning to study Hebrews, even as I plan to use it on my own continuing work on the epistle.
Amy Peeler, Assistant Professor of New Testament, Wheaton College
Prof. McCruden's careful reading of Hebrews yields a persuasive religious interpretation of the letter that is both constrained and richly informed by historical criticism. `Spirituality,' defined as the intersection of the transcendent with the concrete circumstances of the letter's readers, finds its focus in Christ not merely because he is `God with us' but primarily because Jesus' path to perfection includes his earthly life of obedience, suffering, and death, as well as his exaltation to the transcendent heavenly sanctuary. Thus, the spirituality of Hebrews, understood in corporate terms, depends on the paradigmatic and exemplary role of Jesus and is meant to guide his followers in their present journey along the path to the transcendent goal Jesus has already attained.
Rowan A. Greer Professor Emeritus Yale Divinity School
In this attractively concise volume, McCruden offers new insights into the Letter to the Hebrews from the viewpoint of its often neglected spirituality. . . . This book can be recommended not only as a helpful introduction to Hebrews for beginners but also as providing new insights for more advanced students of this most intriguing NT letter.
John Paul Heil, The Catholic University of America, Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology
Kevin B. McCruden brings a scholarly mind and a pastoral heart to this volume. The result is an accessible, engaging exposition of the theological message of the Epistle to the Hebrews that is grounded in an expert's understanding of the text and its ancient setting. McCruden especially shines when addressing the epistle's discussion of suffering.
Eric F. Mason, Professor of Biblical Studies, Judson University, author of `You Are a Priest Forever': Second Temple Jewish Messianism and the Priestly Christology of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah 74; Leiden: Brill, 2008).
This volume brings theology, biblical study, and spirituality comfortably into conversation with one another. Thus, McCruden helps to move this engaging epistle out of the hands of historical critics and into the service of Christian communities as they strive to embody fidelity. This volume deserves readership not only from those interested in authentic Christian spirituality and the theological interpretation of scripture, but also from historical critics who seldom dive into the richness of this text due to endless debates about its anonymous author and the uncertainty surrounding its audience.
Kyle M. Nicholas, Catholic Books Review
Despite that fact that, in recent years, much has been written about the New Testament's most difficult book to understand and interpret, Hebrews, an important theme of the sermon, its spirituality, has been neglected. Kevin McCruden, an accomplished commentator on Hebrews, has turned his attention to this aspect of Hebrews and has presented a clear, coherent, and compelling study of its spirituality. His presentation of Christian spirituality as a commitment to the transcendent presence of God in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ establishes the basis for the religious experience of the recipients of Hebrews as fundamentally Christocentric. Considering also the very real concerns and sufferings of the actual Hebrews' community, McCruden shows how the author of Hebrews presents Jesus as a model of the perfect response to God in perseverance and obedience, to offer encouragement and incentive to his audience. Jesus' own pilgrimage from the mundane to the eternal establishes a pattern to be emulated by the recipients of Hebrews, on their own pilgrimage toward God. In this way, the spirituality of Hebrews is also communal as it enriches the life of an ecclesial community accessing God though Christ in the midst of the challenges of daily living. Opening up a much-needed area of the study of Hebrews, McCruden's work will benefit a wide audience ranging from scholars dedicated to the study of Hebrews to students eager to discover what Hebrews has to offer them.
Alan C. Mitchell, Associate Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins; Director, The Annual Georgetown University Institute on Sacred Scripture Georgetown University Washington, DC
Many scholars have examined the theology of Hebrews, but Kevin McCruden has done what few have attempted. He has teased out the spirituality of one of the most engaging books of the New Testament. Clearly written and always in conversation with the best of contemporary scholarship, McCruden's study challenges scholars to view Hebrews from a new vantage point. Most important, by bridging the gap between theology and spirituality, this work provides all of us with an engaging way to understand our lives as Christians today.
Frank J. Matera, Pastor, St. Mary's Church, Simsbury, Connecticut, Author, The Sermon on the Mount