Introduction – Hebrews
The Author. The writer nowhere indicates his name, and there is difference of opinion as to who wrote it. I am personally inclined to the view of those who regard Paul as the author, which for a long time was the common view. The main points against his authorship are that the language and style are dissimilar to Paul’s and that it is less like an epistle than any other book that bears his name. It seems clear, however, that the thoughts and course of reasoning are Pauline and the differences otherwise may be explained by the difference of purpose and spirit in writing. For the arguments for and against his authorship the student is referred to the larger commentaries and introductions to the New Testament literature.
Those To Whom It Was Written. It was, no doubt, addressed to Hebrew Christians, but whether to a special church or to those in a special locality, is a matter of dispute. Several things, however, may be learned about them. (1) They had steadfastly endured persecution and the loss of property. (2) They had shown sympathy with other Christians, 6:10; 10:32-34. (3) They had been Christians some time, 5:12. (4) They knew the writer whom they are, by their prayers, to help restore to themselves, 13:19. (5) They knew Timothy who was to visit them, 13:23. (6) They were now in danger of apostasy to Judaism but had not yet resisted to blood, 12:3-4; 5:11; 6:9. Their danger of going back to Judaism might arise from several sources. (1) There was a tendency to disbelieve Christ and his claims, 3:12. (2) The elaborate worship of the Temple compared with the simple worship of the Christian church. (3) The Jews branded them as traitors and taunted them for turning against the law, which was given by prophets, angels, and Moses, and from the sanctuary ministered to by the priests of God. (4) They were suffering persecution.
Purpose and Contents. The purpose was to prevent apostasy from Christianity to Judaism and incidentally to comfort them in their suffering and persecution. To accomplish this purpose the author shows, by a series of comparisons, that the religion of Christ is superior to that which preceded it. “Better” is the key-word, which along with other terms of comparison such as “more excellent” is constantly used to show the superiority of Christianity. It is very much like a sermon, the author often turning aside to exhort, then returning to the theme.
Date. It was written from Jerusalem, Alexandria or Rome some time before A. D. 70, since the temple was still standing, 9:6-7; 10:1.
- Christianity is Superior to Judaism because Christ through Whom it was Introduced is Superior to the Messengers of Judaism, chs. 1-6.
- 1. He is superior to prophets, 1:1-3.
- 2. He is superior to angels. 1:4-2 end.
- 3. He is superior to Moses, including Joshua, chs. 3-6.
- Three points in each of these comparisons are the same.
- 1. He is God’s son.
- 2. He is man’s Saviour.
- 3. He is man’s high priest.
- Neither prophets nor angels nor Moses equal Jesus in these points. There are two notable exhortations, (a) 2:1-4; (b) 5:11-6 end.
- Christianity in Superior to Judaism because Its Priesthood is Superior to that of Judaism, 7:1-10:18.
- Christ its priest is superior to the priests of Judaism, 7:1- 8:6.
- Its covenant is superior to that of Judaism, 8:7 end.
- Its tabernacle is superior to that of Judaism, ch. 9.
- Its sacrifice is superior to those of Judaism, 10:1-18.
- Christianity is Superior to Judaism, because the Blessings it Confers are Superior to those of Judaism. 10:19-11 end.
- In the liberty of approach to God, 10:19 end.
- In the superior ground of faith, 11:1-12:17.
- In our coming to Mount Zion instead of Mount Sinai, 12:18 end.
- Practical Conclusion, ch. 13.
For Study and Discussion. (1) Description of Christ. 1:1-3. (2) Christ’s superiority to angels. 1:3-14. (3) Christ’s humiliation for our salvation, 2:9-18. (4) How is Christ superior to Aaronic priests, 3:14, 15; 5:1-7, 9; 7:28. (5) The two covenants, 8:6-12. (6) Typical character of the old ordinances. 9:1-10:4. (7) Our assurance and hope, 6:13-20. (8) The danger of rejecting Christ, 10:26-31. (9) The benefit of affliction, 12:4-11. (10) The comparisons of 12:18-29. (11) The warning of 13.-8-15, (12) The exhortations of the book, as 2:1-4. Make a list. (13) All the terms of comparison, as better and more excellent. Make a list. (14) Every reference to Christ as high priest. (15) Every reference to the Holy Spirit-What are his works and where in the book is it taught?