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A TOUCH OF CONDEMNATION IN A WORD OF EXHORTATION: APOCALYPTIC LANGUAGE AND GRAECO-ROMAN RHETORIC IN HEBREWS 6:4-12

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We propose that the author of Hebrews employs threats of eternal condemnation using words and imagery familiar from apocalyptic literature, particularly 4 Ezra, to evoke a specific kind of fear in his audience. The audience members should, rather than fearing the reproach of society, have angst for falling away from the community, which in our author's eyes, is an offense for which no repentance is available. To effectively bring about such fear, these threats, contrary to the assertions of many recent commentators, must be real and must concern genuine believers. The author of Hebrews uses this severe language, however, in good rhetorical fashion, following his threats with words of consolation to encourage his audience members to stand fast in their marginalized community.

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