One of the most interesting and exciting books in the Bible is the book of Hebrews. One of the intriguing aspects of the book is that no one really knows who wrote it, the exact time it was written and to whom the book was written. Traditionally, the writing of the book is associated with the Apostle Paul, but it is anything but a sure bet that he is the author. A number of scholars believe Barnabas, Luke, Apollos or even someone unknown to us in the writings of the New Testament could have penned the sermon.
That the book of Hebrews is a sermon is the one thing that most students of Hebrews can agree upon. “I appeal to you, brethren, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.” Hebrews 13:22 there are no greetings at the beginning of the book as there would be if the work were a letter. The entire work reads like a homily and has the feel of a sermon.
Another intriguing aspect of Hebrews is that the very name of the book, Hebrews, is not original to the sermon but is a simple deduction based upon the nature of the book. Who these Hebrews were that the author of the sermon was trying to convince to stay close to Jesus is unsure. In 13:24 we read, “Greet all your leaders and all your saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings.”
Whoever the author was, he had a number of people with him that had come from Italy and were sending greetings to the people receiving the sermon. This would imply that the people with the writer knew the people and that the destination of the sermon was probably somewhere in Italy and most likely Rome, but we can’t be sure.
The author was personally acquainted with his readers (6:9-12; 10:32-34) and expressed his hope to return to them. (13:29-32) Also, to add to the intrigue, the author expresses the fact that Timothy is a mutual friend, “You should understand that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon.” Hebrews 13:23
A number of scholars believe the book was written by a second generation Christian and was writing to people who had heard the gospel from men who had actually heard Jesus teach. As a result of this assumption the date for the book is all over the map and runs from as early as 70 A.D. to as late as the last decade of the first century A.D.
What is accepted about the book, with little dispute, is that the people being written to were Jewish Christians who were facing persecution and it was not yet to the point of martyrdom (12:4) but it was severe. (10:32-34) These Jewish Christians were at the point of abandoning their faith in Jesus and returning to Judaism with all its ramifications.
The author of the sermon sends these discouraged Christians this amazing piece of work to encourage them to stand fast in their faith in Jesus as their Savior and Lord. (4:14; 10:33) As a result of this sermon we have an insight into the superiority of Jesus over everything and everyone.
The book of Hebrews is rich not only in teachings but also in practical applications of learning to trust and believe in the saving power of Jesus the true Messiah and High Priest. The study of Hebrews is important for us New Covenant Christians because it unfolds in vivid detail the superiority of the new over the old. We are given a panoramic view of Jesus as the fulfillment of all the Old Covenant promises, rituals, laws and ceremonies. Almost every verse of this extraordinary sermon exalts Jesus and claims His faithfulness and power to save. It is in Hebrews that we are exposed to the role of Jesus as our mediator and great High Priest ministering on our behalf while seated at the right hand of the Father.
Over and over throughout the sermon the heavenly and eternal that are found in Jesus are contrasted with the temporal and earthly as represented by the Old Covenant system that could only point forward to the true redeemer—Jesus.
In the introduction to the Harper Study Bible on Hebrews we read these exciting words, “He is superior to the prophets, to angels, to Moses, Joshua, and the Aaronic priesthood, His covenant is superior, His sacrifices and promises better.”
Also it is important to remember that the real humanity of the person of Christ is here emphasized as in no other book in the New Testament. (2:9-10; 2:14-18; 4:15; 5:7-9; 12:3; 13:12) Also found in Hebrews is the roll call of Hero’s of the faith (chapter 11) that have encouraged and strengthened Christians ever since the book was first written.
So, the question arises why is this book studied so little in our own day? I am not sure of all the answers but it seems to me that one reason it may not be studied as it should is that it is filled with Old Testament terminology, textual references and an assumption that its readers have a good grasp on Jewish ceremonial and covenant theology. In other words it is a great deal of work to read and study the book, but wow – is it worth the effort.
I have had the privilege to study the Gospel of John over the last two years with an amazing group of people who have made every evening a joy. We are now winding down our study of John and I’ve thought about Hebrews but with a number of people now attending who have little background in Scripture it would be unfair to overwhelm them with such an intricate book.
Alternatively I have thought of writing another series of studies on Hebrews as I previously did on James and Galatians that are still available to read on this blog. I’ve also thought about offering a study on Hebrews on a separate evening from the Bible studies for people who want to dive headfirst into the book.
So, I’m asking for your input. If there is enough interest I would be willing to write a series of studies and post them on the blog. These would not take the place of the regular posts, however, but would be in addition to them. It means a great deal of work on my part so I really need to know the level of interest.
Both the studies I posted on Galatians and James were well received and a good number of you read the studies and from your private emails many of you enjoyed and were helped by them. If we do these studies I need your feedback and input as I hope it will be a learning and sharing experience for all of us.
If you are interested drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment after this post.
* The persecution of Christians has not stopped. If anything it’s increased. The main stream media doesn’t talk about it much anymore but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Pray and stay informed and inform others. Please take the time to read some of their stories at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…