"It Is for Discipline That You Have to Endure" (Hebrews 12.7a): Persecution as Divine Chastisement in Hebrews

In second and third century Christian Acts of the Martyrs, persecution generally has a Satantic origin. The Devil is largely responsible for the tortures Christians faced in the arena, or he directly inspires mob violence against the Church (e.g. Mart. Perp. 10.14; Mart. Lyons 1.4-5, 8, 27). Ignatius similarly attributes persecution directly to Satan (Rom 5.3). This idea that opposition to the Church came from the Devil developed from the New Testament. In their cosmic struggle, Christians had to resist the Devil (e.g. Eph 6.27; 1 Tim 3.6-7; 2 Tim 3.26; cf. Mark 8.33), and Satan could be held responsible for pain and suffering (2 Cor 12.7; Rev 2.10; 12.11; 13.7). However, in Hebrews 12.3-13 suffering at the hands of outsiders does not have a Satanic, but divine origin; persecution is, unusually for early Christianity, interpreted as God’s chastisement on his people. This paper will place the theology of persecution found in Hebrews within the matrix of Second Temple Judaism (particularly Maccabean literature), alongside other New Testament accounts of divine chastisement, and conclude that Hebrews represents an important transition between ‘Jewish’ and ‘Christian’ accounts of suffering, persecution, and martyrdom.