Christianity started among the Jews, but as time passed many Jewish Christians were abandoning the faith to return to Judaism. We can see the difficulty in Paul’s travels and his letters as he confronted false teachers bent on making Christianity more a sect of Judaism. To combat this trend, the letter to the Hebrews lists reasons why Christianity is superior to Judaism.


  1. Read through the book of Hebrews as you would read a letter. If you can, try to go through the entire book in one sitting.
  2. Read through the book a second time, but at a slower pace.
    1. What words or phrases do you notice keep recurring?
    2. Mark verses that refer to the people receiving this letter in a color of your choice.
    3. Mark verses referring to the author in another color of your choice.


The letter was written from Italy as the author relays greetings to brethren (Hebrews 13:24).

In trying to establish a date for the letter, we note that the Jewish priesthood and the sacrifices are spoken of in the present tense (Hebrews 5:1-4; 8:4; 10:2-3). The priesthood still existed and they were still offering sacrifices. This means the letter was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

The author mentions being released soon from prison (Hebrews 13:18-19, 23). If the author is Paul, this is similar to Philippians 2:23-24 and would mean the two letters were written in the same time period (A.D. 62).


Given the emphasis on the Old Law, this letter is most likely written to the Jewish Christians living in the region we now refer to as Asia Minor. I conclude this because those addressed had not personally seen the Lord (Hebrews 2:3-4), but there would have been Jews in Palestine and Galilee who had seen the miracles of Jesus (I Corinthians 15:6). At the time the letter was written, persecution had started but wasn’t deadly yet (Hebrews 10:34; 12:4). The audience also had some financial means to help others (Hebrews 6:10). Palestine at this time had suffered famine and had received aid from Christians in Asia, Macedonia, and Greece (I Corinthians 16:1; II Corinthians 9:1-4).


The authorship of the letter to the Hebrews has been debated because the name of the author is not mentioned in the letter. However, it appears that the author was well-known to those receiving the letter (Hebrews 13:18-24).

Early Christian writers are divided as to who they considered to be the author of Hebrews. The frequently mentioned possibilities are Paul, Barnabas or Luke, but by far the weight of opinion was that Paul authored Hebrews.

“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].

“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].


Reasons Against Paul Being the Author

In Hebrews 2:3, the author said, “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. Unfortunately, it is a weak argument considering that under discussion is the witness of Christ while he was on earth. Paul did not see Christ until after he returned to heaven. Notice also that the author said the message was confirmed to us by those who were with Christ. He did not say that the message was originally taught to them by those who were with Christ. It also should be noted that Paul is sometimes loose with the plural pronoun. An example would be, “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord” (I Thessalonians 4:17). Paul is not saying that he expects to be alive when the Lord returns.

Another argument is that the letter lacks Paul’s typical salutation that appears in his letters to churches and individuals.

The quotations in the letter to the Hebrews are strictly from the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, but in the letters of Paul, there is a mix of Septuagint and Hebrew quotes. The argument is not that strong because while Paul often follows the Septuagint in his quotations, he rarely quotes it exactly. Thus, he is showing God’s influence for a better interpretation of the Hebrew into Greek than what was done by the Septuagint translators. It is just possible that the verses quoted in Hebrews from the Septuagint are fairly accurate.

Finally, it is noted that Paul tends to use compound titles for Jesus, such as “Jesus Christ” while the writer of the Hebrews letter uses simple titles.


Reasons for Paul Being the Author

The letter was circulated in packets as one of Paul’s fourteen letters.

“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?”]

“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”].

The style is very similar to Paul’s other letters. However, 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. Other authors, such as John, changed styles when addressing different audiences, so the difference can’t be weighed as an absolute. Interestingly, the style is so similar to Paul’s other letters that any alternative is chosen among people closely associated with Paul. So while it is different, it is not that different.

Why no salutation? It has been suggested that Paul left out his name because of the bias against him as the apostle to the Gentiles. Leaving out his name would mean a better consideration by his intended audience.

“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].

There is a reference to Timothy, Paul’s companion (Hebrews 13:23). Others were in prison with Paul, such as Aristarchus (Colossians 4:10) and Epaphras (Philemon 23). That Timothy might also have been in prison during this time is not hard to understand. We know that Timothy spent time with Paul while he was in prison in Rome (Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; Philemon 1).

The word apoluo, translated as “released” in Hebrews 13:23, can also be translated as being sent on a task (Acts 13:3; 15:30-33). If that was the intention, then it matches Paul’s letter to the Philippians, where Paul talks about sending Timothy (Philippians 2:19).

There are allusions to the author being imprisoned while in Italy. He is in chains (Hebrews 10:34) and he speaks of being restored to the brethren (Hebrews 13:18-19).

The letter ends with the same words as all of Paul’s other letters: “Grace be with you all” ( Hebrews 13:25). See: 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. Paul said this is how he finishes every letter and it is his distinguishing mark (II Thessalonians 3:17-18).

Peter was the apostle to the Jews and Paul to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7-9). If we say that II Peter was written to Jewish Christians, then Peter’s statement in II Peter 3:15 that Paul wrote to the same people in Peter’s audience would indicate that Paul did not write exclusively for the Gentiles.


While I believe the evidence most heavily weighs toward Paul being the author of the letter to the Hebrews, it really doesn’t matter because the letter is still God’s inspired words.

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