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. 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.