Introduction to Hebrews

Although the author of the book of Hebrews is not identified in the book, scholars through the centuries have suggested several possibilities.

Among the suggested authors are …
• Barnabas — suggested in the first centuries after Christ
• Luke — suggested in the first centuries after Christ
• Apollos — suggested by Martin Luther in the Reformation years because of Apollos’ oratory skills
• Paul — suggested by scholars from the 5th to the 16th centuries
• Philip the evangelist, Peter, Silas, and Jude are among others suggested as possible authors
• “But who wrote the epistle, God only knows the truth.”
(Origen, a third century Christian writer, as quoted by Eusebius in Ecclesiastical History)

Clues about the author include …
• He was a second-generation Christian (see Heb. 2:3).
• He had intimate knowledge of Jewish traditions, institutions, and history.
• He was very familiar with the Old Testament and quoted extensively from the Septuagint
(ancient Greek translation of the OT).
• The mention of Timothy in Heb. 13:23 suggests that he probably knew Paul or those close to him.
• He had visited his readers and hoped to visit them again soon (Heb. 13:19,23).

Scholars generally agree that the book was probably written sometime after the Roman Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews and Jewish Christians from Rome (in AD 49) and before the persecution under Nero (beginning in AD 64) in which many believers died. A date in the sixties is supported because the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in AD 70 is not mentioned.

The book was written to Hebrew (or Jewish) persons who had come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah but who had grown content or complacent about the salvation they had received. Some of these believers were considering renouncing their faith and returning to Judaism, perhaps because of persecution (Heb. 10:32-34). The book warns these believers of the danger of drifting away from Christ (2:3), to persevere in the faith (3:6), and encourages them to grow up in Christ!

Major Theme
The recurring theme of the book of Hebrews is found in the use of the word “superior” or “better” which occurs throughout the book (see 1:4; 6:9; 7:7,19,22; 8:6; 9:23; 10:34; 11:16,35,40; 12:24).

Basic Outline
The Superiority of Christ
Hebrews 1:1—2:18……………………….Jesus is superior to the prophets and angels
Hebrews 3:1—4:16……………………….Jesus is superior to Moses
Hebrews 5:1—8:5…………………………Jesus is superior to the Jewish priesthood
Hebrews 8:6—10:39……………………..The new covenant is superior to the old covenant
The Superiority of Faith
Hebrews 11:1—13:25…………………….Faith is important

Why Study the book of Hebrews?

The writer of Hebrews encouraged persecuted Jewish believers to stay the course and to not renounce their faith and return to their former religion. Hebrews challenges us to persevere and to not yield to the temptation to turn back to the inferior things we knew before coming to Christ—old life-styles, materialism, selfishness.

In our pluralistic and highly tolerant post-modern society in which all religions, isms, philosophies, and alternate life-style are embraced, Hebrews challenges us to look to Christ alone for salvation. He alone is qualified to be the savior of mankind.

Hebrews pictures Jesus as our high priest. The role of the high priest in the Old Testament was to represent the people before God and to offer sacrifices to atone for their sins. As our high priest Jesus is available to hear us when we pray and guarantees our access to the Father.

Hebrews affirms that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and forever put an end to the need for any other sacrifices. In Christ our sins are completely forgiven—past, present, and future.

Hebrews encourages believers to move past immaturity and to journey toward spiritual maturity. Although the path to maturity has many obstacles, we must develop the spiritual disciples that will enable us to press on.

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