- THE TITLE
This book is titled Hebrews because it is thought to have been addressed to Hebrew Christians.
- THE WRITER
The writer's name is nowhere mentioned in the epistle, and scholars disagree concerning its authorship. However, the weight of evidence favors Paul. Others sometimes named as the writer include Luke, Apollos, Barnabas, Clement, and Priscilla. Concerning the authorship Origen said: "Who wrote the Epistle God only knows certainly." It is not within the province of this survey to discuss such a controversial issue. Suffice it to say that the Holy Spirit inspired the materials for the Christian's admonition and learning.
- THE ONES ADDRESSED
The epistle is addressed to Hebrew Christians. Whether they constituted one local congregation, or lived in a special locality, or were Jews of the "Dispersion" living in Gentile lands is a matter of dispute. Some scholars believe that they were Hebrew Christians scattered over the old Jewish settlement of Judea. Others hold that the writer is addressing Jewish Christians in a more definite locality.
- TIME AND PLACE OF WRITING
When and where this epistle was written cannot be definitely determined. That it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 is evident, and some place the date A.D. 62-64. It was probably written in Rome, Italy, though some name Jerusalem and others Alexandria as the point of origin.
- THE CONTENTS
The theme of this book is the superiority of Christianity over Judaism. It begins with the beginning, "sweeps across the prophetic centuries to 'these last days,' and passes beyond the races run by men to the judgment of God." Here we see the prophets of the past, an interpretation of the present, and a prediction of the future. No informed person can read this epistle with an unbiased mind and fail to see that Christianity with the gospel of Christ has superseded Judaism with the law of Moses. A formal treatise on Christian doctrine, its practical aim was to encourage Hebrew Christians to renounce the shadows of Judaism for the realities of the gospel. Warnings against apostasy are constantly stressed.
- TOPICS FOR STUDY
- Concerning the writer.
- There is no proof that someone besides Paul was the writer.
- The style, contents and argument are Pauline.
- Personal allusions coincide with the known history of Paul.
- Paul was thoroughly familiar with the Jewish system discussed.
- Scholars of the second century named Paul as the writer.
- It was written during Paul's lifetime, for the temple was standing.
- It was written by a friend of Timothy (13:23).
- The writer was or had been in Italy (13:23,24).
- Peter speaks of an epistle by Paul to Hebrews (I Pt 1:1; II Pt 3:1,15).
- The epistle closes with the usual Pauline benediction.
- Concerning the ones addressed
- They were Hebrew Christians (2:1; 3:1; 4:1; 6:1f).
- They had been Christians for some time (5:12-14).
- They were acquainted with the writer (13:18,19).
- They also knew Timothy who intended to visit them (13:23).
- They were in danger of returning to Judaism (12:1-4; 5:11; Chs. 6-9).
- They were suffering intense persecutions (12;3,4; 4:15,16).
- Apparently they lived in some particular region (13:23).
- Apparently they constituted a church with recognized leaders (13:17).
- They had been sympathetic toward other Christians (6:10; 10:32f).
- They had a tendency to disbelieve Christ (12:1-3; 3:12).
- Concerning other matters
- Outline the epistle under the general theme, "The Superiority of Christianity over Judaism."
- Make a list of all the terms of comparison.
- Summarize the teaching of the epistle concerning the high-priesthood of Christ.
- Contrast the Levitical priesthood with the Aaronic.
- Study closely the writer's use of the typical character of the Old Covenant institutions and ordinances.
- Why is the tabernacle used instead of the temple throughout the discussion?
- Consider carefully the danger of rejecting the sacrifice of Christ.
- What does Hebrews teach concerning salvation by faith?
- Discuss the benefits of affliction.
- What sources were likely involved in causing the Hebrew Christians to consider returning to Judaism?