In this study, I provide a new outlook on how to assess the social health of the community to which the Letter to the Hebrews was directed. I challenge the general assumption that the community was on the brink of abandonment by comparing the text with the documentary data produced by the associations of the Greco-Roman world. While these associations reveal that the critical measure of communal health is absenteeism, Hebrews shows very little concern with attendance (with the possible exception of Heb 10:24–25). The Hebrews community, though struggling with unknown difficulties, was relatively healthy because it at least consisted of members who were both present in attendance and likely to heed the exhortations found in the overall speech. It was both implausible and unnecessary for the Hebrews community to penalize its absent members financially; its leadership structure and ability to offer incentives and warnings were sufficiently compelling to motivate attendance. I propose and apply four methodological steps for how to use documentary texts to interpret literary writings with the hopes that these steps can stimulate further methodological reflection and provide guidance for future research that seeks to utilize epigraphical and papyrological data.

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