Understanding the people we meet in the Letter to the Hebrews (hereafter: Hebrews) with Western concepts of personality is misleading. This is because people in today’s Western society are different from those who lived in Mediterranean societies during the first-century. This article uses personality as a social-scientific model to study Hebrews. It will be shown that first-century Mediterranean concepts of personality allow for a full appreciation of the author’s rhetoric and appeal to the audience. After discussing social-scientific criticism and some models of first-century personality, the relevant aspects of the theories on personality are used as a lens through which to consider Hebrews’ appeal to its readers. The study concludes that Hebrews portrays its readers as typical collectivist persons with a group orientation, who are concerned primarily with the pursuit of goals and interests related to the group.
This article represents a reworked version of portions of the Ph.D. dissertation submitted by Seth Kissi, titled Social Identity in Hebrews and the Akan Community of Ghana, in the Department of New Testament Studies, University of Pretoria, with Prof. Dr. Ernest van Eck as supervisor. (http://hdl.handle.net/2263/61186)