The past experience of the Christian community as an exemplum for its present and immediate future: a study of Heb 10:32-39

José Adriano Filho


One of the striking features of the Letter to the Hebrews is the use of the rhetorical device called exemplum (“example”) to strengthen the arguments the text provides and encourage its addressees to persevere “to the end”. Heb 10:32-39 uses this rhetorical resource as it stresses the community’s commitment and courage when they “endured great struggles and suffering” in the past, and sets it forth as a model for action in its present and immediate future. This paper, after highlighting the real sufferings experienced by the community in “those earlier days”, indicates how the recollection of its endurance that time serves as a basis for an exhortation to endure in the present. The description of the community’s past suffering allows for a perspective look at its current situation. The community must maintain its “confidence”, not silence its testimony or turn away from the people of God.

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