Indisputably, “pioneer” (Heb 2:10; 12:2) and “priest”/“high priest” (2:17; 3:1; 4:14–15; 5:5–6, 10; 7:11, 15, 17, 21, 26; 8:1, 4; 9:11; 10:21) are key descriptions of Jesus in the letter to the Hebrews. In this brief volume (205 pp., including appendices) McKelvey sets out to trace their importance throughout the letter, examining them not as discrete concepts but as irrevocably intertwined. The result is a book that is somewhat difficult to classify genre-wise; sometimes it reads like a collection of short essays or lectures, other times like a commentary, and other times like a monograph. In the end, it serves rather like the photographs or drawings one finds at a “point of interest” along a path—telling you what you ought to be noticing at that particular moment in your journey, but saying little about how you are supposed to get from that point to the next one.
In terms of the main thesis of the book (the interconnectedness of “pioneer” and “priest” as central Christological motifs in Hebrews), McKelvey’s case is solid, if hardly revolutionary. He suggests that Roman Catholic interpreters have emphasized priesthood to the exclusion of Jesus’ pioneering work, and that Protestant scholars have done the reverse (xxiv), but time would fail me were I to list all of the exceptions to this supposed rule! McKelvey’s contribution is not primarily in the newness of his argument but in its synthesis of the material.
Below I deal with two overarching issues: the content and argument of the book, and its usability as a textbook. The need for the second follows on my conclusion to the first; I do not think this book moves the scholarly conversation forward in any significant way, but I do think it could serve to bring up to speed those less familiar with that conversation.