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Serving in the tabernacle in heaven: sacred space, Jesus’s high-priestly sacrifice, and Hebrews’ analogical theology

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In Hebrews the sacred space of the heavenly tabernacle and the sacrifice Jesus offers there are often interpreted as part of an extended metaphor intended to explain the salvific benefits of the event of Jesus’s crucifixion in terms of Jewish blood sacrifice. I argue here that, as in some apocalyptic texts, the author of Hebrews conceives of heaven as a multi-layered space whose highest level contains the true tabernacle structure upon which the earthly temple and priestly ministry are patterned. The heavenly sanctuary, therefore, is to be thought of not as coextensive with heaven, but rather as the most sacred space within “the heavens.” In Hebrews, Jesus is thought to have ascended to and entered this most holy heavenly space after his resurrection. There he presented himself before God as the ultimate atoning sacrifice. Yet this kind of cosmological and theological reflection on Jesus’s service in the heavenly tabernacle implies that the author is thinking in terms not of sacrificial metaphors, but of analogies between the high priest’s entry into the earthly sacred space of the temple and Jesus’s entry as the great high priest into the ultimate sacred space within the heavenly tabernacle.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHebrews in Contexts
EditorsGabriella Gelardini, Harold Attridge
ISBN (Print)9789004311688
StatePublished - May 2016

Publication series

NameAncient Judaism and Early Christianity
ISSN (Print)1871-6636

    Research areas

  • Analogy, Heavenly Tabernacle, Metaphor, Sacrifice, Sacred Space

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ID: 228022490