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The Jewish Heroes of Christian History: Hebrews 11 in Literary Context
Pamela Michelle Eisenbaum
Publication Date
January 1998


This work investigates the catalog of biblical heroes found in Hebrews 11. By comparing the catalog with other hero lists and retellings of biblical history, and by placing it within the context of Hebrews’ hermeneutical perspective, the ideology implicit in the text emerges. Eisenbaum concludes that the heroes of Hebrews are not described as national leaders—as was more typical with hero lists—but rather as marginalized characters who are situated outside the national destiny of Israel. By portraying the biblical heroes as marginalized, the author of Hebrews constructs a radical, denationalized reading of Jewish scripture. Such a reading, in turn, became significant for the use of Jewish scripture by early Christianity.

“This is a well-written, tightly argued piece of scholarship. Eisenbaum shows a broad knowledge of rhetoric and literature in the Jewish–Greco-Roman world. Those who study Hebrews in the future will need to take her theory of the hero list in Hebrews 11 into consideration. No study will be complete without examining it.”
Journal of Biblical Literature

“This is a thorough and well-argued treatment of one of the best-known passages in Hebrews. Eisenbaum challenges the idea that the heroes listed in Hebrews 11 as examples of faith can be viewed as typical Jewish heroes. Instead, she argues that the author’s selection of figures and his mode of presentation denationalize Jewish history, so that the list depicts a series of Chrisian rather than Jewish heroes.… a welcome addition to the current literature on Hebrews.”
Catholic Biblical Quarterly