Survey of the Bible - Hebrews
Text: Hebrews 1
I. While Christianity started among the Jews, as time went on, many Jewish Christians were abandoning the faith to return to Judaism.
A. The letter, originally titled “To Hebrews” lists the reasons why Christianity is superior to Judaism
B. It was written in Italy - Hebrews 13:24
1. Priesthood and sacrifices mentioned in present tense as on going - Hebrews 5:1-4; 8:4; 10:2-3
a. Thus, written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem
2. If author is Paul, then there is mention of being released soon - Hebrews 13:18-19, 23; compare with Philippians 2:23-24
a. This would put it about the same time as Philippians, about AD 62.
1. Most likely written to the Jewish Christians scattered in what we now call Asia Minor
2. Persecution had started, but wasn’t deadly yet - Hebrews 10:34; 12:4
3. Those addressed had not personally seen the Lord - Hebrews 2:3-4
4. Those addressed had some financial means to help others - Hebrews 6:10
a. Palestine at this time had suffered a famine and had received aid from Christians in Asia and Greece.
A. The authorship has been debated because the name of the author is not mentioned in the letter.
1. But the author was clearly known by those who received the letter - Hebrews 13:18-24
B. Early Christian writers are divided as to who was the author, candidates are Paul, Barnabas, or Luke. But by far, the weight of external opinion is for Paul’s authorship of Hebrews
1. “But as for myself, if I were to state my own opinion, I should say that the thoughts are those of the apostle [Paul], but that the diction and phraseology are those of someone who wrote down at his leisure what had been said by his teacher. Therefore, if any church holds that this epistle is by Paul, let it be commended for this. For not without reason have the ancients handed it down as Paul’s. But who wrote the epistle, in truth, God knows” [Origen, cited by Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 6.25].
2. “Paul wrote the Hebrews in the Hebrew language and that Luke carefully translated it into Greek.” [Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215), cited by Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 6.14].
C. Against Paul
1. Hebrews 2:3 - “confirmed to us by those who heard him.” The argument is that since Paul did hear Jesus, he would not put himself in the third person.
a. A weak argument considering that what is being discussed is the witness of Christ while he was on earth.
b. The author states that message was confirmed, not necessarily originally taught to us, by those who were with Christ.
c. It should also be noted that Paul is sometimes loose with “us” - I Thessalonians 4:17 as an example
2. A lack of Paul’s customary salutation that includes his name.
3. Quotes from the Old Testament are strictly from the Septuagint version in Hebrews, but in the letters of Paul there is a mix of Septuagint and Hebrew quotes
a. Problem is that Paul while often following the Septuagint, never quotes it exactly, showing an influence by God for better interpretation of Hebrew into Greek than the Septuagint.
4. A lack of compound titles for Jesus that Paul usually uses.
D. For Paul
1. The letter was circulated in packets as one of Paul’s fourteen letters
a. “ It is also worthy of note that in several of the early Greek manuscripts this epistle is located, not after Philemon as in our Bibles, but grouped among the other Pauline epistles, thereby revealing that those who arranged the manuscripts considered Hebrews to be of Pauline origin” [Dr. W. Gary Crampton, “Hebrews: Who Is the Author?”]
b. “Next come the 14 epistles of Paul (2 x 7). 5 The Book of Hebrews is placed after Second Thessalonians and before First Timothy. Then afterward we have what are known as the Pastoral Epistles given to pastors or evangelists, all individuals: Timothy, Titus, Philemon and then last of all is the great prophetic book of Revelation. The position of Hebrews in the vast majority of official manuscripts shows it in the midst of the epistles of Paul” [Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., “The Book of Hebrews”].
2. The style is very similar to Paul’s other letters
a. But scholars find Hebrews to be written in a more polished Greek than Paul’s other letters. Since this is a matter of opinion, it is a poor argument, especially in light of Clement’s statement that Luke translated it.
b. Other authors, such as John, changed styles when addressing different audiences, so the difference can’t be weighed as an absolute.
c. Interestingly, the style is so similar to Paul’s other letters that any alternative is chosen among people closely associated with Paul.
3. Why no salutation?
a. “And as the blessed presbyter[Pantaenus] used to say, since the Lord, as being the apostle of the Almighty, was sent to the Hebrews, Paul through his modesty, inasmuch as he was sent to the Gentiles, does not inscribe himself apostle of the Hebrews, both on account of the honor due to the Lord, and because it was a work of supererogation that he addressed an Epistle to the Hebrews also, since he was herald and apostle of the Gentiles.” [Clement as cited by Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 6.14].
b. It has been suggested that Paul left out his name because of the bias against him as the apostle to the Gentiles.
4. There is a reference to Timothy, Paul’s companion - Hebrews 13:23
a. Others were in prison with Paul
(1) Aristarchus - Colossians 4:10
(2) Epaphras - Philemon 23
b. That Timothy might also have been in prison during this time is not hard to understand
c. We know that Timothy spend time with Paul while he was in prison in Rome - Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; Philemon 1
d. The word apoluo, translated as “released,” can also be translated as being sent on a task - Acts 13:3; 15:30-33
(1) Such matches Paul’s letter to the Philippians - Philippians 2:19
5. There are allusions to imprisonment while in Italy
a. Hebrews 10:34 - author is in chains
b. Hebrews 13:18-19 - “restored to you”
6. The letter ends with the same words as all of Paul’s other letters: “Grace be with you all”- Hebrews 13:25
a. Romans 16:20; I Corinthians 16:23; II Corinthians 13:14; Galatians 6:18; Ephesians 6:24; Philippians 4:23; Colossians 4:18; I Thessalonians 5:28; II Thessalonians 3:18; I Timothy 6:21; II Timothy 4:22; Titus 3:15; Philemon 25
b. Paul said this is how he finishes every letter - II Thessalonians 3:17-18.
7. Peter was the apostle to the Jews and Paul to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7-9). Peter seems to indicate that Paul wrote to the Jewish Christians, if we say that Peter was writing to Jewish Christians - II Peter 3:15
E. While I believe the evidence most heavily weighs toward Paul, it really doesn’t matter because it is still God’s words.
A. Christianity is better
1. Christ is better than angels - Hebrews 1:4
2. We have a better hope - Hebrews 7:19
3. We have a better covenant - Hebrews 7:22; 8:6
4. It has better sacrifices - Hebrews 9:23
B. Exhortation to hold on - Hebrews 13:22
1. Hebrews 3:6 - to be a part of Christ’s house
2. Hebrews 3:14 - to be partakers with Christ
3. Hebrews 4:11 - to enter the rest
4. Hebrews 6:11 - to gain the full assurance of hope
5. Hebrews 10:23 - The confession of our hope
6. Hebrews 10:35-39 - The promise of a great reward
7. Hebrews 12:1-3, 12-13 - Don’t be discouraged
1. Dangers of neglect - Hebrews 2:1-4
2. Dangers of unbelief - Hebrews 3:7-4:13
3. Dangers of not maturing - Hebrews 5:11-6:20
4. Dangers of drawing back - Hebrews 10:26-39
5. Dangers of refusing God - Hebrews 12:25-29
A. Christ is better - Hebrews 1:1-8:5
1. Christ is better than the prophets - Hebrews 1:1-3
2. Christ is better than the angels - Hebrews 1:4-2:18
a. Because of his deity - Hebrews 1:4-2:4
b. Because of his humanity - Hebrews 2:5-18
3. Christ is better than Moses - Hebrews 3:1-4:13
4. Christ is better than Aaron - Hebrews 4:14-8:5
B. A better covenant - Hebrews 8:6-10:18
1. Based on better promises - Hebrews 8:7-13
2. Based on a better sanctuary - Hebrews 9:1-11
3. Based on a better sacrifice - Hebrews 9:12-10:18
C. A better life - Hebrews 10:19-13:17
1. The full assurance of faith - Hebrews 10:19-11:3
2. Examples of faith - Hebrews 11:4-40
3. The endurance of faith - Hebrews 12:1-29
4. Loving others - Hebrews 13:1-7
5. Loving God - Hebrews 13:8-17
D. Final words of encouragement - Hebrews 13:18-25
V. Do you appreciate what God has given us?