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Apollos, Hebrews, and Corinth: Bishop Montefiore's Theory Examined

  • L. D. Hurst (a1)


Wide circulation has been given by H. W. Montefiore to a theory, first proposed by H. Appel and later taken up by F. Lo Bue, that the background of Hebrews is to be found in the involvement of Apollos in the cross currents of the Corinthian church. The argument, particularly as formulated by Montefiore, has been generally well-received by scholars and will undoubtedly continue to fascinate readers of his popular commentary. To the present, however, no attempt has been made to subject the hypothesis to any form of searching analysis. This neglect has been unfortunate, since, while prima facie attractive, the foundational assumptions of the theory are questionable. We shall therefore attempt a brief analysis of the argument in the interest of stimulating further discussion.



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page 505 note 1 Monlefiore, H. W., The Epistle to the Hebrews (London, 1964).

page 505 note 2 Bue, F. Lo, ‘The Historical Background of the Epistle to the Hebrews’, Journal of Biblical Literature 75 (1956), pp. 5257.

page 505 note 3 cf, e.g., Bruce, F. F., ‘Recent Contributions to the Understanding of Hebrews’, Expository Times LXXX (1969), who calls Montefiore's presentation ‘an unusually fascinating and carefully argued case for a setting closely interwoven with Paul's missionary activity … The thesis is ingeniously constructed; it is surprising to realise how many points can be adduced in its support.’ Barrosse, T., Interpretation 19 (1965), pp. 484ff, claims that ‘ … a careful collation of all this with what I and II Corinthians tells us of Apollos and the Corinthian church builds up an impressive argument’. C. F. D. Moule, in his review of Grässer's, E.Der Glaube im Hcbräerbrief (Journal of Theological Studies n.s. XVII (1966), pp. 147ff.), criticises Grässer for not taking into account the case of Montefiore and Lo Bue.

page 506 note 4 Lo Bue, op. cit., p. 54; Montefiore, op. cit., p. 18.

page 506 note 5 Montefiore, op. cit., p. 16.

page 506 note 6 Bultmann, R., ‘Gnosis’, Journal of Theological Studies n.s. III (1952), quoted in Lo Bue, op. cit., p. 55, n. 24.

page 507 note 7 Lo Bue, op. cit., p. 55.

page 507 note 8 Montefiore, op. cit., p. 27.

page 507 note 9 cf. Barrett, C. K., ‘Paul's Opponents in 2 Corinthians’, New Testament Studies 17 (1970–1971), pp. 233ff., who feels thai the failure of Paul 10 dispute that the individuals of 2 Cor. 11.22 arc ‘servants of Christ’ in v. 23 distinguishes them from the other group in 2 Corinthians which Paul describes as ‘pseudo-apostles’ and ‘servants of Satan’ in 11.13–15. ‘We must conclude either that the situation was a complex one, involving at least two groups over against Paul, or that Paul was lashing out blindly, and using language irresponsibly’ (p. 237). This might seem, therefore, 10 provide evidence for Montefiore's thesis that the ‘Hebrews’ of 2 Cor. 11.22 might constitute a group within the Corinthian church, rather than one invading it from the outside. Barrett, however, fails to distribute a middle term by interpreting Paul's words loo literally. Paul's question, ‘are they servants of Christ?’ is a rhetorical response conditioned by the boasts of these ‘superlative apostles’.

page 507 note 10 Kümmel, W. G., Introduction to the New Testament, 14th ed. (Nashville, 1966), pp. 209f. (italics mine).

page 508 note 11 cf. the references to Bultmann, Schmithals, and Dinkier cited in Kümmel, op. cit., p. 209.

page 508 note 12 cf. his treatment of Heb. 6.7= 1 Cor. 3.6 (pp. 24c); Heb. 6.1 = 1 Cor. 3.10f. (P.25).

page 508 note 13 Montefiore, op. cit., p. 27

page 508 note 14 Barrett, C. K., The First Epistle to the Corinthians (London, 1971), pp. 250254.

page 508 note 15 Montefiore, op. cit., p. 18.

page 508 note 16 Lo Bue, op. cit., p. 54.

page 508 note 17 Montefiore, op. cit., p. 18.

page 509 note 18 Lo Bue, op. cit., p. 54, n. 14, however, feels that‘they of Italy’ may be‘an expression of that “representative” character of the early Christian communities amid the Gentile nations’, as outlined by J.Munck. This, however, contributes nothing to the identity of these people as Priscilla and Aquila.

page 509 note 19 Montefiore, op. cit., p. 21.

page 509 note 20 ibid., p. 26.

page 510 note 21 In this case one is asked to believe not only in the existence of such a letter, but in the identity of this letter as Hebrews.

page 510 note 22 Moule, C. F. D., The Birth of the New Testament (London, 1962), p. 111.

page 511 note 23 Moffatt, James, The First Epistle of Paul to Ike Corinthians (London, 1938), p. 49 (italics mine).

page 511 note 24 Montefiore, op. cit., p. 28.

page 511 note 25 cf. Caird, G. B., ‘The Descent of Christ in Ephesians 4.7–11’, Studia Evangelica II (1964), pp. 534545.

page 511 note 26 Montefiore, op. cit., p. 26.

page 512 note 27 ibid., p. 30.

page 512 note 28 cf., e.g., Moffatt, James, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Edinburgh, 1924), p. 234, and Williamson, R., ‘The Eucharist and the Epistle to the Hebrews’, New Testament Studies 21 (1975), pp. 309ff.

page 512 note 29 Williamson, ibid., p. 309.

page 512 note 30 Montefiore, op. cit., p. 23.

page 512 note 31 ibid., p. 28.

page 513 note 32 It is interesting 10 note thai Montefiore, commenting on Heb. 13.20, states: ‘This is the only reference to the resurrection in the whole Epistle, a fact which suggests that our author may not have been the original author of this prayer.’ Heb. 2.4, however, which is likewise the only reference in Hebrews to the gifts of Pentecost, is considered original to the author of Hebrews, and may even precede Paul's discussion in 1 Cor. 12–14

page 513 note 33 cf. points (3), (6), (7), (9), and (11), found in Montefiore, op. cit., pp. 23–6.

page 513 note 34 Robinson, J. A. T., Redating the New Testament (London, 1976), p. 216.

page 513 note 35 Robinson, ibid., suggests that Paul uses the same argument as does the author of Hebrews in 1 Cor. 3.1–4; thus the ‘spiritual men’ of 1 Cor. 3.1 would be the same as the ‘teachers’ of Heb. 5.12. While attractive, this suggestion is hardly certain. One may be ‘spiritual’ without having the skill to do the detailed OT exposition which the author produces throughout his epistle.

Apollos, Hebrews, and Corinth: Bishop Montefiore's Theory Examined

  • L. D. Hurst (a1)


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