Insider Ethics for Outsiders: Identity and Ethics in Hebrews 13

The ethical advice in Heb 13:1-6 is neither an imitation of Pauline paraenesis nor an unconnected appendix to the argument of the homily, but the expression of the communal ethos that corresponds to the identity of the listeners that the author establishes in the first twelve chapters. The author responds to the community’s outsider status (cf. 10:32-34), following the precedent established by Jewish teachers of the diaspora who appealed to communal identity as a basis for shared moral norms. The marginalized readers of Hebrews find their communal identity as heirs of the promise to Israel, as family members who anticipate their inheritance, and as participants in the heavenly worship service. The specific instructions in Heb 13:1-6 provide an insider ethic for outsiders, establishing community cohesion for listeners whose confession has taken them “outside the camp” of their surroundings. Appropriate conduct within the community is the sacrifice that distinguishes the community from those who offer sacrifices in the earthly sanctuary. The author derives the content of these norms from the summaries of the law that were current in the diaspora.