A Promise Remains: A Study of Promise in the Epistle to the Hebrews

Change log
Stevens, Daniel 

Despite receiving little direct attention, the theme of promise often features in scholars’ discussions of the central themes of the Epistle to the Hebrews, with some even asserting that promise is the foundational motif of the entire work. However, the way in which the author of Hebrews portrays divine promises and uses them to contribute to the structure of his theology has not yet been satisfactorily described. What the author means by promise, how promise relates to other types of divine commitments, and the content and timing of the promise’s fulfilment all need clarification and more precise attention. Through an exegesis of the relevant passages of Hebrews, this thesis provides a new reading of promise in Hebrews. After an exegesis of the epistle, I then describe Hebrews’ overall theology of promise. I argue that, unlike in previous analyses, rest is not the primary content of promise, nor is it the primary lens through which the other instances of promise language should be understood. On the contrary, I argue that the promise is most closely associated with the benefits promised to Abraham, and then mediated through the various subsequent covenants. Further, while previous studies have left it unclear how the divine promise relates to both the Old and New Covenants, I argue that Hebrews develops a view of salvation history in which covenants are founded upon promises and then bring those promises to fruition. This is true of both the Old and New Covenants, though in different ways. I then demonstrate the ways in which this understanding of promise sheds light on the author’s hermeneutic and on his method of achieving his hortatory purposes for the epistle. Finally, I conclude by re-asserting the consistency of the author’s thought regarding promise and by addressing questions raised by earlier studies of this theme.

Gathercole, Simon
Epistle to the Hebrews, Hebrews, New Testament, Promise, Theology of Promise, New Testament Theology
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
Gates Cambridge Trust