7 When the author writes of Jesus as ‘the pioneer and perfecter of faith’, he means Jesus’ own faith, as commentators almost unanimously recognize. C. R. Koester writes: Jesus ‘takes faith to its goal, going where others have not yet gone. He is the source and model of faith for others … Jesus pioneers and completes faith by fully trusting God and remaining faithful to God in a way’ that others are to follow (Hebrews (New York: Doubleday, 2001), 523). Curiously, a number of outstanding translations, like the New Jerusalem Bible of 1985 and the New Revised Standard Version of 1989, insert an ‘our’ that is not found in the original Greek text and translate accordingly: ‘the pioneer and perfecter of our faith’ (NRSV) and ‘Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection’ (NJB). See G. O’Collins, Christology: A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Study of Jesus (2nd edn., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 262 80.

Hebrews introduces a long roll-call of heroes and heroines of faith. Right from the opening example of Abel, it is clear that faith regularly made these men and women vulnerable to suffering, persecution, and even violent death. Hebrews notes that many of these persons of faith were tortured, mocked, flogged, and imprisoned (Heb. 11: 35–6), as well as mentioning three ways in which some of them died: ‘they were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword’ (11: 37). In this list of heroes and heroines of faith we find one royal name, King David (11: 32), a general reference to ‘the prophets’ (also vs. 32), but no priests as such, even if several of those listed (like Abel, Noah, Abraham, and King David himself ) did on occasion perform some cultic, priestly action. The Gospels report that Jesus recognized that a prophetic vocation might well involve suffering and even violent death: ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!’ (Matt. 23: 37 par.; see also Matt. 23: 34 par.). Jesus is also remembered as having mentioned the killing of Zechariah (Matt. 23: 35 par.), a priest who, by command of King Joash, was stoned to death ‘in the court of the house of the Lord’ (2 Chron. 24: 20–2). There are good grounds for taking these statements as stemming substantially from Jesus, and thus concluding to what should be a relatively uncontroversial position: Jesus himself acknowledged the dangers that attended a prophetic and priestly vocation.8