Easton's Bible Dictionary
Its canonicity. All the results of critical and historical research to which this
epistle has been specially subjected abundantly vindicate its right to a place
in the New Testament canon among the other inspired books.
Its authorship. A considerable variety of opinions on this subject has at different
times been advanced. Some have maintained that its author was Silas, Paul's companion.
Others have attributed it to Clement of Rome, or Luke, or Barnabas, or some unknown
Alexandrian Christian, or Apollos; but the conclusion which we think is best supported,
both from internal and external evidence, is that Paul was its author. There are,
no doubt, many difficulties in the way of accepting it as Paul's; but we may at
least argue with Calvin that there can be no difficulty in the way of "embracing
it without controversy as one of the apostolical epistles."
Date and place of writing. It was in all probability written at Rome, near the
close of Paul's two years' imprisonment ( Hebrews
13:19 , 13:24
). It was certainly written before the destruction of Jerusalem ( Hebrews
To whom addressed. Plainly it was intended for Jewish converts to the faith of
the gospel, probably for the church at Jerusalem. The subscription of this epistle
is, of course, without authority. In this case it is incorrect, for obviously
Timothy could not be the bearer of it ( Hebrews
Its design was to show the true end and meaning of the Mosaic system, and its
symbolical and transient character. It proves that the Levitical priesthood was
a "shadow" of that of Christ, and that the legal sacrifices prefigured the great
and all-perfect sacrifice he offered for us. It explains that the gospel was designed,
not to modify the law of Moses, but to supersede and abolish it. Its teaching
was fitted, as it was designed, to check that tendency to apostatize from Christianity
and to return to Judaism which now showed itself among certain Jewish Christians.
The supreme authority and the transcendent glory of the gospel are clearly set
forth, and in such a way as to strengthen and confirm their allegiance to Christ.
It consists of two parts: (a) doctrinal ( Hebrews
1 - 10:18
), (b) and practical ( Hebrews
10:19 - ch.
13 ). There are found in it many references to portions of the Old Testament.
It may be regarded as a treatise supplementary to the Epistles to the Romans and
Galatians, and as an inspired commentary on the book of Leviticus.
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
descendants of Heber
Smith's Bible Dictionary
The author --
There has been a wide difference of opinion respecting
the authorship of this epistle. For many years Paul was considered the author;
others think it may have been Luke, Barnabas, or Apollos. Much of the theology
and the language are similar to Paul's, but the authorship of the epistle is still
To whom written . --
The epistle was probably addressed to the Jews in Jerusalem and Palestine. The
argument of the epistle is such as could he used with most effect to a church
consisting exclusively of Jews by birth, personally familiar with and attached
to the temple service.
It was evidently written before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, probably
about A.D. 62-64.
Place . --
It was probably written in Italy, while Paul was a prisoner at Rome.
Contents . --
With respect to the scope of the epistle, it should be recollected that while
the numerous Christian churches scattered throughout Judea, ( Acts
9:31 ; Galatians
1:22 ) were continually exposed to persecution from the Jews, ( 1
Thessalonians 2:14 ) there was in Jerusalem one additional weapon in the hands
of the predominant oppressors of the Christians. The magnificent national temple
might be put against the Hebrew Christian; and even if this affliction were not
often laid upon him, yet there was a secret burden which he bore within him, the
knowledge that the end of all the beauty and awfulness of Zion was rapidly approaching.
The writer of this epistle meets the Hebrew Christians on their own ground, showing
that the new faith gave them Christ the Son of God, more prevailing than the high
priest as an intercessor; that his Sabbath awaited them, his covenant, his atonement,
his city heavenly not made with hands. Having him, believe in him with all your
heart, with a faith in the unseen future strong as that of the saints of old,
patient under present and prepared for coming woe, full of energy and hope and
holiness and love. Such was the teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
In the King James Version and the English Revised Version the title of this book
describes it as "the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews." Modern scholarship
has disputed the applicability of every word of this title. Neither does it appear
in the oldest manuscripts, where we find simply "to Hebrews" (pros Hebraious).
This, too, seems to have been prefixed to the original writing by a collector
or copyist. It is too vague and general for the author to have used it. And there
is nothing in the body of the book which affirms any part of either title. Even
the shorter title was an inference from the general character of the writing.
Nowhere is criticism less hampered by problems of authenticity and inspiration.
No question arises, at least directly, of pseudonymity either of author or of
readers, for both are anonymous. For the purpose of tracing the history and interpreting
the meaning of the book, the absence of a title, or of any definite historical
data, is a disadvantage. We are left to infer its historical context from a few
fragments of uncertain tradition, and from such general references to historical
conditions as the document itself contains. Where no date, name or well-known
event is fixed, it becomes impossible to decide, among many possibilities, what
known historical conditions, if any, are pre-supposed. Yet this very fact, of
the book's detachment from personal and historical incidents, renders it more
self-contained, and its exegesis less dependent upon understanding the exact historical
situation. But its general relation to the thought of its time must be taken into
account if we are to understand it at all.
1. The Author's Culture and Style
The writer was evidently a man of culture, who had a masterly command of the Greek
language. The theory of Clement of Alexandria, that the work was a translation
from Hebrew, was merely an inference from the supposition that it was first addressed
to Hebrew-speaking Christians. It bears none of the marks of a translation. It
is written in pure idiomatic Greek. The writer had an intimate knowledge of the
Septuagint, and was familiar with Jewish life. He was well-read in Hellenic literally
(e.g. Wisdom), and had probably made a careful study of Philo (see VI below).
His argument proceeds continuously and methodically, in general, though not strict,
accord with the rules of Greek rhetoric, and without the interruptions and digressions
which render Paul's arguments so hard to follow. "Where the literary skill of
the author comes out is in the deft adjustment of the argumentative to the hortatory
sections" (Moffatt, Introduction, 424 f). He has been classed with Luke as the
most "cultured" of the early Christian writers.
2. Letter, Epistle or Treatise?
It has been questioned whether Hebrews is rightly called a letter at all. Unlike
all Paul's letters, it opens without any personal note of address or salutation;
and at the outset it sets forth, in rounded periods and in philosophical language,
the central theme which is developed throughout. In this respect it resembles
the Johannine writings alone in the New Testament. But as the argument proceeds,
the personal note of application, exhortation and expostulation emerges more clearly
(Hebrews 2:1 ; 3:1 - 12 ; 4:1 , 14 ; 5:11 ; 6:9 ; 10:9 ; 13:7); and it ends with
greetings and salutations (Hebrews 13:18). The writer calls it "a word of exhortation."
The verb epesteila (the Revised Version (British and American) "I have written")
is the usual expression for writing a letter (Hebrews 13:22). Hebrews begins like
an essay, proceeds like a sermon, and ends as a letter.
Deissmann, who distinguishes between a "true letter," the genuine personal message
of one man to another, and an "epistle," or a treatise written in imitation of
the form of a letter, but with an eye on the reading public, puts Hebrews in the
latter class; nor would he "consider it anything but a literary oration--hence,
not as an epistle at all--if the epesteila, and the greetings at the close, did
not permit of the supposition that it had at one time opened with something of
the nature of an address as well" (Bible Studies, 49-50). There is no textual
or historical evidence of any opening address having ever stood as part of the
text; nor does the opening section bear any mark or suggestion of fragmentariness,
as if it had once followed such an address.
Yet the supposition that a greeting once stood at the beginning of our document
is not so impossible as Zahn thinks (Introduction to the New Testament, II, 313
f), as a comparison with James or 1 Peter will show.
So unusual is the phenomenon of a letter without a greeting, that among the ancients,
Pantaenus had offered the explanation that Paul, out of modesty, had refrained
from putting his name to a letter addressed to the Hebrews, because the Lord Himself
had been apostle to them.
In recent times, Julicher and Harnack have conjectured that the author intentionally
suppressed the greeting, either from motives of prudence at a time of persecution,
or because it was unnecessary, since the bearer of the letter would communicate
the name of the sender to the recipients.
Overbeck advanced the more revolutionary hypothesis that the letter once opened
with a greeting, but from someone other than Paul; that in order to satisfy the
general conditions of canonization, the non-apostolic greeting was struck out
by the Alexandrians, and the personal references in Hebrews 13:22 - 25 added,
in order to represent it as Pauline.
3. A Unity or a Composite Work?
W. Wrede, starting from this theory, rejects the first part of it and adopts the
second. He does not base his hypothesis on the conditions of canonization, but
on an examination of the writing itself. He adopts Deissmann's rejected alternative,
and argues that the main part of the book was originally not an epistle at all,
but a general doctrinal treatise. Then Hebrews 13, and especially 13:18, were
added by a later hand, in order to represent the whole as a Pauline letter, and
the book in its final form was made, after all, pseudonymous. The latter supposition
is based upon an assumed reference to imprisonment in 13:19 (compare Philemon
1:22) and upon the reference to Timothy in Hebrews 13:23 (compare Philippians
2:19); and the proof that these professed Pauline phrases are not really Pauline
is found in a supposed contradiction between Hebrews 13:19 and 13:23. But 13:19
does not necessarily refer to imprisonment exclusively or even at all, and therefore
it stands in no contradiction with 13:23 (compare Romans 1:9 - 13). And Timothy
must have associated with many Christian leaders besides Paul. But why should
anybody who wanted to represent the letter as Pauline and who scrupled not to
add to it for that purpose, refrain from the obvious device of prefixing a Pauline
greeting? Moreover, it is only by the most forced special pleading that it can
be maintained that Hebrews 1 - 12 are a mere doctrinal treatise, devoid of all
evidences of a personal relation to a circumscribed circle of readers. The period
and manner of the readers' conversion are defined (2:3 f). Their present spiritual
condition is described in terms of such anxiety and hope as betoken a very intimate
personal relation (Hebrews 5:11 ; 6:9 - 11). Their past conflicts, temptations,
endurance and triumph are recalled for their encouragement under present trials,
and both past and present are defined in particular terms that point to concrete
situations well known to writer and readers (Hebrews 10:32 - 36). There is, it
is true, not in Hebrews the same intense and all-pervading personal note as appears
in the earlier Pauline letters; the writer often loses sight of his particular
audience and develops his argument in detached and abstract form. But it cannot
be assumed that nothing is a letter which does not conform to the Pauline model.
And the presence of long, abstract arguments does not justify the excision or
explaining away of undoubted personal passages. Neither the language nor the logic
of the book either demands or permits the separation of doctrinal and personal
passages from one another, so as to leave for residuum a mere doctrinal treatise.
Doctrinal statements lead up to personal exhortations, and personal exhortations
form the transition to new arguments; they are indissolubly involved in one another;
and chapter 13 presents no such exceptional. features as to justify its separation
from the whole work. There is really no reason, but the unwarrantable assumption
that an ancient writer must have conformed with a certain convention of letter-writing,
to forbid the acceptance of Hebrews for what it appears to be--a defense of Christianity
written for the benefit of definite readers, growing more intimate and personal
as the writer gathers his argument into a practical appeal to the hearts and consciences
of his readers.
III. THE AUTHOR
Certain coincidences of language and thought between this epistle and that of
Clement of Rome to the Corinthians justify the inference that Hebrews was known
in Rome toward the end of the 1st century AD (compare Hebrews 11:7 , 31 and 1:3
with Clement ad Cor 9 , 12 , 36). Clement makes no explicit reference to the book
or its author: the quotations are unacknowledged. But they show that Hebrews already
had some authority in Rome. The same inference is supported by similarities of
expression found also in the Shepherd of Hermas. The possible marks of its influence
in Polycarp and Justin Martyr are too uncertain and indefinite to justify any
inference. Its name does not appear in the list of New Testament writings compiled
and acknowledged by Marcion, nor in that of the Muratorian Fragment. The latter
definitely assigns letters by Paul to only seven churches, and so inferentially
When the book emerges into the clear light of history toward the end of the 2nd
century, the tradition as to its authorship is seen to divide into three different
|(1) Alexandrian: Paul
In Alexandria, it was regarded as in some sense the work of Paul. Clement tells
how his teacher, apparently Pantaenus, explained why Paul does not in this letter,
as in others, address his readers under his name. Out of reverence for the Lord
(II, 2, above) and to avoid suspicion and prejudice, he as apostle of the Gentiles
refrains from addressing himself to the Hebrews as their apostle. Clement accepts
this explanation, and adds to it that the original Hebrew of Paul's epistle had
been translated into Greek by Luke. That Paul wrote in Hebrew was assumed from
the tradition or inference that the letter was addressed to Aramaic-speaking Hebrews.
Clement also had noticed the dissimilarity of its Greek from that of Paul's epistles,
and thought he found a resemblance to that of Acts.
Origen starts with the same tradition, but he knew, moreover, that other churches
did not accept the Alexandrian view, and that they even criticized Alexandria
for admitting Hebrews into the Canon. And he feels, more than Clement, that not
only the language, but the forms of thought are different from those of Paul's
epistles. This he tries to explain by the hypothesis that while the ideas were
Paul's, they had been formulated and written down by some other disciple. He found
traditions that named Luke and Clement of Rome, but who the actual writer was,
Origen declares that "God alone knows."
The Pauline tradition persisted in Alexandria, and by the 4th century it was accepted
without any of the qualifications made by Clement and Origen. It had also in the
same period spread over the other eastern churches, both Greek and Syrian. But
the Pauline tradition, where it is nearest the fountain-head of history, in Clement
and Origen, only ascribes Hebrews to Paul in a secondary sense.
(2) African: Barnabas
In the West, the Pauline tradition failed to assert itself till the 4th century,
and was not generally accepted till the 5th century. In Africa, another tradition
prevailed, namely, that Barnabas was the author. This was the only other definite
tradition of authorship that prevailed in antiquity. Tertullian, introducing a
quotation of Hebrews 6:1 , 4 - 6, writes: "There is also an Epistle to the Hebrews
under the name of Barnabas .... and the Epistle of Barnabas is more generally
received among the churches than that apocryphal 'Shepherd' of adulterers" (De
Pudicitia, 20). Tertullian is not expressing his mere personal opinion, but quoting
a tradition which had so far established itself as to appear in the title of the
epistle in the MS, and he betrays no consciousness of the existence of any other
tradition. Zahn infers that this view prevailed in Montanist churches and may
have originated in Asia. Moffatt thinks that it had also behind it "some Roman
tradition" (Introduction, 437). If it was originally, or at any time, the tradition
of the African churches, it gave way there to the Alexandrian view in the course
of the 4th century. A Council of Hippo in 393 reckons "thirteen epistles of the
apostle Paul, and one by the same to the Hebrews." A council of Carthage in 419
reckons "fourteen epistles of the apostle Paul." By such gradual stages did the
Pauline tradition establish itself.
(3) Rome and the West: Anonymous
All the evidence tends to show that in Rome and the remaining churches of the
West, the epistle was originally anonymous. No tradition of authorship appears
before the 4th century. And Stephen Gobarus, writing in 600, says that both Irenaeus
and Hippolytus denied the Pauline authorship. Photius repeats this statement as
regards Hippolytus. Neither he nor Gobarus mentions any alternative view (Zahn,
Intro, II, 310). The epistle was known in Rome (to Clement) toward the end of
the 1st century, and if Paul's name, or any other, had been associated with it
from the beginning, it is impossible that it could have been forgotten by the
time of Hippolytus. The western churches had no reason for refusing to admit Hebrews
into the Pauline and canonical list of books, except only that they did not believe
it to be the work of Paul, or of any other apostle.
It seems therefore certain that the epistle first became generally known as an
anonymous writing. Even the Alexandrian tradition implies as much, for it appears
first as an explanation by Pantaenus why Paul concealed his name. The idea that
Paul was the author was therefore an Alexandrian inference. The religious value
of the epistle was naturally first recognized in Alexandria, and the name of Paul,
the chief letter-writer of the church, at once occurred to those in search for
its author. Two facts account for the ultimate acceptance of that view by the
whole church. The spiritual value and authority of the book were seen to be too
great to relegate it into the same class as the Shepherd or the Epistle of Barnabas.
And the conception of the Canon developed into the hard-and-fast rule of apostolicity.
No writing could be admitted into the Canon unless it had an apostle for its author;
and when Hebrews could no longer be excluded, it followed that its apostolic authorship
must be affirmed. The tradition already existing in Alexandria supplied the demand,
and who but Paul, among the apostles, could have written it?
The Pauline theory prevailed together with the scheme of thought that made it
necessary, from the 5th to the 16th century. The Humanists and the Reformers rejected
it. But it was again revived in the 17th and 18th centuries, along with the recrudescence
of scholastic ideas. It is clear, however, that tradition and history shed no
light upon the question of the authorship of Hebrews. They neither prove nor disprove
the Pauline, or any other theory.
2. The Witness of the Epistle Itself
We are therefore thrown back, in our search for the author, on such evidence as
the epistle itself affords, and that is wholly inferential. It seems probable
that the author was a Hellenist, a Greek-speaking Jew. He was familiar with the
Scriptures of the Old Testament and with the religious ideas and worship of the
Jews. He claims the inheritance of their sacred history, traditions and institutions
(Hebrews 1:1), and dwells on them with an intimate knowledge and enthusiasm that
would be improbable, though not impossible, in a proselyte, and still more in
a Christian convert from heathenism. But he knew the Old Testament only in the
Septuagint translation, which he follows even where it deviates from the Hebrew.
He writes Greek with a purity of style and vocabulary to which the writings of
Luke alone in the New Testament can be compared. His mind is imbued with that
combination of Hebrew and Greek thought which is best known in the writings of
Philo. His general typological mode of thinking, his use of the allegorical method,
as well as the adoption of many terms that are most familiar in Alexandrian thought,
all reveal the Hellenistic mind. Yet his fundamental conceptions are in full accord
with the teaching of Paul and of the Johannine writings.
The central position assigned to Christ, the high estimate of His person, the
saving significance of His death, the general trend of the ethical teaching, the
writer's opposition to asceticism and his esteem for the rulers and teachers of
the church, all bear out the inference that he belonged to a Christian circle
dominated by Pauline ideas. The author and his readers alike were not personal
disciples of Jesus, but had received the gospel from those who had heard the Lord
(Hebrews 2:3) and who were no longer living (Hebrews 13:7). He had lived among
his readers, and had probably been their teacher and leader; he is now separated
from them but he hopes soon to return to them again (Hebrews 13:18).
Is it possible to give a name to this person?
|(1) Paul not the Author
Although the Pauline tradition itself proves nothing, the internal evidence is
conclusive against it. We know enough about Paul to be certain that he could not
have written Hebrews, and that is all that can be said with confidence on the
question of authorship. The style and language, the categories of thought and
the method of argument, all differ widely from those of any writings ascribed
to Paul. The latter quotes the Old Testament from the Hebrew and Septuagint, but
He only from Septuagint. Paul's formula of quotation is, "It is written" or "The
scripture saith"; that of Hebrews, "God," or "The Holy Spirit," or "One somewhere
saith." For Paul the Old Testament is law, and stands in antithesis to the New
Testament, but in Hebrews the Old Testament is covenant, and is the "shadow" of
the New Covenant. Paul's characteristic terms, "Christ Jesus," and "Our Lord Jesus
Christ," are never found in Hebrews; and "Jesus Christ" only 3 times (10:10; 13:8),
and "the Lord" (for Christ) only twice (2:3; 7:14)--phrases used by Paul over
600 times (Zahn). Paul's Christology turns around the death, resurrection and
living presence of Christ in the church, that of Hebrews around His high-priestly
function in heaven. Their conceptions of God differ accordingly. In Hebrews it
is Judaistic-Platonistic, or (in later terminology) Deistic. The revelation of
the Divine Fatherhood and the consequent immanence of God in history and in the
world had not possessed the author s mind as it had Paul's. Since the present
world is conceived in Hebrews as a world of "shadows," God could only intervene
in it by mediators.
The experience and conception of salvation are also different in these two writers.
There is no evidence in Hebrews of inward conflict and conversion and of constant
personal relation with Christ, which constituted the entire spiritual life of
Paul. The apostle's central doctrine, that of justification by faith, does not
appear in Hebrews. Faith is less the personal, mystical relation with Christ,
that it is for Paul, than a general hope which lays hold of the future to overcome
the present; and salvation is accomplished by cleansing, sanctification and perfection,
not by justification. While Paul's mind was not uninfluenced by Hellenistic thought,
as we find it in Alexandria (as, e.g. in Col and Eph), it nowhere appears in his
epistles so clearly and prominently as it does in Hebrews. Moreover, the author
of Hebrews was probably a member of the community to which he writes (Hebrews
13:18), but Paul never stood in quite the relation supposed here to any church.
Finally, Paul could not have written Hebrews 2:3, for he emphatically declares
that he did not receive his gospel from the older disciples (Galatians 1:12; 2:6).
The general Christian ideas on which He was in agreement with Paul were part of
the heritage which the apostle had left to all the churches. The few more particular
affinities of Hebrews with certain Pauline writings (e.g. Hebrews 2:2 parallel
Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 12:22; 3:14 parallel Galatians 4:25; Hebrews 2:10 parallel
Romans 11:36; also with Ephesians; see yon Soden, Hand-Commentar, 3) are easily
explicable either as due to the author's reading of Paul's Epistles or as reminiscences
of Pauline phrases that were current in the churches. But they are too few and
slender to rest upon them any presumption against the arguments which disprove
the Pauline tradition.
(2) Other Theories
The passage that is most conclusive against the Pauline authorship (Hebrews 2:3)
is equally conclusive against any other apostle being the author. But almost every
prominent name among the Christians of the second generation has been suggested.
The epistle itself excludes Timothy (Hebrews 13:23), and Titus awaits his turn.
Otherwise Luke, Clement of Rome, Barnabas, Silas, Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila,
Philip the Deacon, and Aristion have all had their champions.
|(a) Luke and Clement
The first two, Luke and Clement, were brought in through their connection with
Paul. Where it was recognized that a direct Pauline authorship could not be maintained,
the Pauline tradition might still be retained, if the epistle could be assigned
to one of the apostle's disciples. These two were fixed upon as being well-known
writers. But this very fact reveals the improbability of theory. Similar arguments
from language and thought to those derived from the comparison of Hebrews with
the Pauline writings avail also in the comparison of Hebrews with the writings
of Lu and Clement. Both these disciples of the apostle adhere much closer to his
system of thought than Hebrews does, and they reveal none of the influences of
Alexandrian thought, which is predominant in Hebrews.
(b) Barnabas; Priscilla and Aquila; Philip; Aristion; Apollos
Of all the other persons suggested, so little is known that it is impossible to
establish, with any convincing force, an argument for or against their authorship.
|(i) Barnabas was a Levite of Cyprus (Acts 4:36), and once
a companion of Paul (Acts 13:2). Another ancient writing is called "the Epistle
of Barnabas," but it has no affinity with Hebrews. The coincidence of the occurrence
of the word "consolation" in Barnabas' name (Acts 4:36) and in the writer's description
of Hebrews (13:22) is quite irrelevant. Tertullian's tradition is the only positive
argument in favor of the Barnabas theory. It has been argued against it that Barnabas,
being a Levite, could not have shown the opposition to the Levitical system, and
the unfamiliarity with it (Hebrews 7:27; 9:4), which is supposed to mark our epistle.
But the author's Levitical system was derived, not from the Hebrew Old Testament,
nor from the Jerusalem temple, but from Jewish tradition; and the supposed inaccuracies
as to the daily sin offering (7:27), and the position of the golden altar of incense
(9:4) have been traced to Jewish tradition (see Moffatt, Introduction, 438). And
the writer's hostility to the Levitical system is not nearly as intense as that
of Paul to Pharisaism. There is nothing that renders it intrinsically impossible
that Barnabas was the author, nor is anything known of him that makes it probable;
and if he was, it is a mystery why the tradition was confined to Africa.
(ii) Harnack has argued the probability of a joint authorship by Priscilla and
Aquila. The interchange of "I" and "we" he explains as due to a dual authorship
by persons intimately related, but such an interchange of the personal "I" and
the epistolary "we" can be paralleled in the Epistles of Paul (e.g. Romans) where
no question of joint authorship arises. The probable relation of the author to
a church in Rome may suit Priscilla arid Aquila (compare Romans 16:5 with Hebrews
13:22-24), but even if this interpretation of the aforementioned passages were
correct, it is possible and probable that Luke, Barnabas, Apollos, and certainly
Clement, stood in a similar relation to a Roman church. Harnack, on this theory,
explains the disappearance of the author's name as due to prejudice against women
teachers. This is the only novel point in favor of this theory as compared with
several others; and it does not explain why Aquila's name should not have been
retained with the address. The evidences adduced of a feminine mind behind the
epistle are highly disputable. On the other hand, a female disciple of Paul's
circle would scarcely assume such authority in the church as the author of Hebrews
does (13:17; compare 1 Corinthians 14:34 f). And nothing that is known of Priscilla
and Aquila would suggest the culture and the familiarity with Alexandrian thought
possessed by this writer. Acts 18:26 does not prove that they were expert and
cultured teachers, but only that they knew and could repeat the salient points
of Paul's early preaching. So unusual a phenomenon as this theory supposes demands
more evidence to make it even probable. (But see Rendel Harris, Sidelights on
New Testament Research, 148-76.)
(iii) Philip the Deacon and Aristion, "a disciple of the Lord" mentioned by Papias,
are little more than names to us. No positive knowledge of either survives on
which any theory can be built. It is probable that both were personal disciples
of the Lord, and they could not therefore have written Hebrews 2:3.
(iv) Apollos has found favor with many scholars from Luther downward. No ancient
tradition supports this theory, a fact which tells heavily against it, but not
conclusively, for someone must have written the letter, and his name was actually
lost to early tradition, unless it were Barnabas, and that tradition too was Unknown
to the vast majority of the early churches. All that is known of Apollos suits
the author of Hebrews. He may have learned the gospel from "them that heard" (2:3);
he was a Jew, "an Alexandrian by race, a learned (or eloquent) man," "mighty in
the Scriptures," "he powerfully confuted the Jews" (Acts 18:24), and he belonged
to the same Pauline circle as Timothy and Titus (1 Corinthians 16:10-12; Titus
3:13; compare Hebrews 13:23). The Alexandrian type of thought, the affinities
with Philo, the arguments from Jewish tradition and ceremonial, the fluent style,
may all have issued from "an eloquent Jew of Alexandria." But it does not follow
that Apollos was the only person of this type. The author may have been a Gentile,
as the purity of his Greek language and style suggests; and the combination of
Greek and Hebrew thought, which the epistle reflects, and even Philo's terms,
may have had a wide currency outside Alexandria, as for instance in the great
cosmopolitan cities of Asia. All that can be said is that the author of Hebrews
was someone generally like what is known of Apollos, but who he actually was,
we must confess with Origen, "God alone knows."
The identity of the first readers of Hebrews is, if possible, more obscure than
that of the author. It was written to Christians, and to a specific body or group
of Christians (see I above). The title "to Hebrews" might mean properly Palestinian
Jews who spoke the Hebrew language, but the fact that the epistle was written
in Greek excludes that supposition. It therefore meant Christians of Jewish origin,
and gives no indication of their place of residence. The title represents an early
inference drawn from the contents of the document, and the tradition it embodies
was unanimously accepted from the 2nd century down to the early part of the last
century. Now, however, a considerable body of critics hold that the original readers
were Gentiles. The question is entirely one of inference from the contents of
the epistle itself.
1. General Character of the Readers
The readers, like the writer, received the gospel first from "them that heard"
(Hebrews 2:3), from the personal disciples of the Lord, but they were not of their
number. They had witnessed "signs and wonders" and "manifold powers" and "gifts
of the Holy Spirit" (Hebrews 2:4). Their conversion had been thorough, and their
faith and Christian life had been of a high order. They had a sound knowledge
of the first principles of Christ (Hebrews 6:1). They had become "partakers of
Christ," and had need only to "hold fast the beginning of (their) confidence firm
unto the end" (Hebrews 3:14). They had been fruitful in good works, ministering
unto the saints (Hebrews 6:10), enduring suffering and persecution, and sympathizing
with whose who were imprisoned (Hebrews 10:32-34). All this had been in former
days which appeared now remote. Their rulers and ministers of those days are now
dead (Hebrews 13:7). And they themselves have undergone a great change. While
they should have been teachers, they have become dull of hearing, and have need
again to be taught the rudiments of the first principles of the gospel (Hebrews
5:12), and they are in danger of a great apostasy from the faith. They need warning
against "an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God" (Hebrews
3:12). They are become sluggish (Hebrews 6:12), profane like Esau (Hebrews 12:16),
worldly-minded (Hebrews 13:5). Perhaps their religion was tending toward a false
asceticism and outward works (Hebrews 13:4,9). And now that this moral dulness
and spiritual indifference had fallen upon them, they are being subjected to a
new test by persecution from outside (Hebrews 10:36; 12:4), which renders the
danger of their falling away from the faith all the more imminent. The author
apparently bases his claim to warn them on the fact that he had been a teacher
among them, and hoped soon to return to them (Hebrews 13:18). The same might be
said perhaps of Timothy (Hebrews 13:23). Both author and readers had friends in
Italy (Hebrews 13:24) who were with the author when he wrote, either in Italy
saluting the readers outside, or outside, saluting the readers in Italy. In all
this there is little or nothing to help to fix the destination of the letter,
for it might be true at some time or other of any church.
2. Jews or Gentiles?
The old tradition that the readers were Jews claims some more definite support
from the epistle itself. The writer assumes an intimate knowledge of the Old Testament
and of Jewish ceremonial on their part. The fathers of the Hebrew race are also
their fathers (Hebrews 1:1; 3:9). The humanity that Christ assumed and redeemed
is called "the seed of Abraham" (Hebrews 2:16). All this, however, might stand
in reference to a Gentilechurch, for the early Christians, without distinction
of race, regarded themselves as the true Israel and heirs of the Hebrew revelation,
and of all that related to it (1 Corinthians 10:1; Galatians 3:7; 4:21; Romans
4:11-18). Still there is force in Zahn's argument that "Hebrews does not contain
a single sentence in which it is so much as intimated that the readers became
members of God's people who descended from Abraham, and heirs of the promise given
to them and their forefathers, and how they became such" (Intro to New Testament,
II, 323). Zahn further finds a direct proof in Hebrews 13:13 that "both the readers
and the author belong to the Jewish people," which he interprets as "meaning that
the readers were to renounce fellowship with the Jewish people who had rejected
Jesus, to confess the crucified Jesus, and to take upon themselves all the ignominy
that Jesus met at the hands of his countrymen" (ibid., 324-25). But that is too
large an inference to draw from a figurative expression which need not, and probably
does not, mean more than an exhortation to rely on the sacrifice of Christ, rather
than upon any external rules and ceremomes. Nor were the "divers and strange teachings"
about marriage and meats (13:4,9) necessarily Jewish doctrines. They might be
the doctrines of an incipient Gnosticism which spread widely throughout the Christian
churches, both Jewish and gentile, toward the end of the 1st century. There is
otherwise no evidence that the apostasy, of which the readers stood in danger,
was into Judaism, but it was rather a general unbelief and "falling away from
the living God" (3:12).
It is the whole argument of the epistle, rather than any special references, that
produced the tradition, and supports the view, that the readers were Jews. The
entire message of the epistle, the dominant claims of Christ and of the Christian
faith, rests upon the supposition that the readers held Moses, Aaron, the Jewish
priesthood, the old Covenant and the Levitical ritual, in the highest esteem.
The author's argument is: You will grant the Divine authority and greatness of
Moses, Aaron and the Jewish institutions: Christ is greater than they; therefore
you ought to be faithful to Him. He assumes an exclusively Jewish point of view
in the minds of his readers as his major premise. He could scarcely do that, if
they had been Gentiles. Paul, when writing to the mixed church at Rome, relates
his philosophy of the Christian revelation to both Jewish and Gentilepre-Christian
revelation. Gentile Christians adopted the Jewish tradition as their own in consequence
of, and secondary to, their attachment to Christianity. Even Judaizing GentileChristians,
such as may be supposed to have belonged to the Galatian and Corinthian churches,
adopted some parts of the Jewish law only as a supplement to Christianity, but
not as its basis.
Von Soden and others have argued with much reason that these Christians were not
in danger of falling back into Judaism from Christianity, but rather of falling
away from all faith into unbelief and materialism, like the Israelites in the
wilderness (Hebrews 3:7), or Esau (Hebrews 12:16). With all its references to
Old Testament sacrifice and ceremonial, the letter contains not a single warning
against reviving them, nor any indications that the readers were in danger of
so doing (Hand-Commentar, 12-16). But it has been too readily assumed that these
facts prove that the readers were not Jews. The pressure of Social influence and
persecution rendered Jews and Jewish Christians, as well as GentileChristians,
liable to apostatize to heathenism or irreligion (The Wisdom of Solomon 2:10,20;
2 Macc 4; 6; 7; Philo, De Migratione Abrahami, XVI; Matthew 24:10,12; Acts 20:30;
1 Corinthians 10:7,14; 2 Thessalonians 2:4; 1 John 2:18; 5:21; Pliny Epistle X,
96). Von Soden's argument really cuts the other way. If the writer had been dealing
with Gentile Christians who were in danger of relapsing into heathenism or of
falling into religious indifference, his argument from the shadowy and temporary
glories of Judaism to the perfect salvation in Christ would avail nothing, because,
for such, his premises would depend upon his conclusion. But if they were Jewish
Christians, even though leaning toward heathenism, his argument is well calculated
to call up on its side all the dormant force of their early religious training.
He is not arguing them out of a "subtle Judaism" quickened by the zeal of a propaganda
(Moffatt, Introduction, 449-50), but from "drifting away" in Heb (2:1), from "neglect"
(2:3), from "an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God" (3:12),
from "disobedience" (4:11), from "a dulness of hearing" (5:11), but into "diligence
.... that ye be not sluggish" (6:11 f), into "boldness and patience" (10:35 f),
and to "lift up the hands that hang down, and the palsied knees" (12:12); and
this he might well do by his appeal to their whole religious experience, both
Jewish and Christian, and to the whole religious history of their race.
3. The Locality of the Readers
The question of the locality of these "Hebrews" remains a matter for mere conjecture.
Jerusalem, Alexandria, Rome, Antioch, Colosse, Ephesus, Berea, Ravenna and other
places have been suggested. Tradition, since Clement of Alexandria, fixed on Jerusalem,
but on the untenable ground that the letter was written to Aramaic-speaking Jews.
The undisputed fact that it was written in Greek tells against Jerusalem. So does
the absence of all reference to the temple ritual, and the mention of almsgiving
as the chief grace of the "Hebrews" (6:10). Jerusalem received rather than gave
alms. Nor is it likely that all the personal disciples of the Lord would have
died out in Jerusalem (2:3). And it could not be charged against the mother church
that it had produced no teachers (5:12). These points also tell with almost equal
force against any Palestinian locality.
Alexandria was suggested as an alternative to Jerusalem, on the supposition that
those references to Jewish ritual which did not correspond with the Jerusalem
ritual (Hebrews 7:27; 9:4; 10:11) might refer to the temple at Leontopolis. But
the ritual system of the epistle is that of the tabernacle and of tradition, and
not of any temple. The Alexandrian character of the letter has bearing on the
identity of the author, but not so much on that of his readers. The erroneous
idea that Paul was the author arose in Alexandria, but it would have been least
likely to arise where the letter was originally sent.
Rome has lately found much favor. We first learn of the existence of the letter
at Rome. The phrase "they of Italy salute you" (Hebrews 13:24) implies that either
the writer or his readers were in Italy. It may be more natural to think of the
writer, with a small group of Italian friends away from home, sending greetings
to Italy, than to suppose that a greeting from Italy generally was sent to a church
at a distance. It is probable that a body of Jewish Christians existed in Rome,
as in other large cities of the Empire. But this view does not, as von Soden thinks,
explain any coincidences between Hebrews and Romans. A Roman origin might. It
could explain the use of Hebrews by Clement. But the letter might also have come
to Rome by Clement's time, even though it was originally sent elsewhere. The slender
arguments in favor of Rome find favor chiefly because no arguments can be adduced
in favor of any other place.
1. Terminal Dates
The latest date for the composition of Hebrews is clearly fixed as earlier than
96 AD by reason of its use by Clement of Rome about that time. There is no justification
for the view that Hebrews shows dependence on Josephus. The earliest date cannot
be so definitely fixed. The apparent dependence of Hebrews on Paul's Epistles,
Galatians, 1 Corinthians and Romans, brings it beyond 50 AD.
2. Conversion and History of the Readers
But we have data in the epistle itself which require a date considerably later.
The readers had been converted by personal disciples of the Lord (Hebrews 2:3).
They did not, therefore, belong to the earliest group of Christians. But it is
not necessary to suppose a long interval between the Lord's ascension and their
conversion. The disciples were scattered widely from Jerusalem by the persecution
that followed the death of Stephen (Acts 8:1). "We may well believe that the vigorous
preaching of Stephen would set a wave in motion which would be felt even at Rome"
(Sanday, Romans, xxviii). They are not, therefore, necessarily to be described
as Christians of the 2nd generation in the strict chronological sense. But the
letter was written a considerable time after their conversion. They have had time
for great development in Heb (5:12). They have forgotten the former days after
their conversion (10:32). Their early leaders are now dead (13:7). Yet the majority
of the church still consists of the first converts (2:3; 10:32). And although
no argument can be based upon the mention of 40 years (3:9), for it is only an
incidental phrase in a quotation, yet no longer interval could lie between the
founding of the church and the writing of the letter. It might be shorter. And
the church may have been founded at any time from 32 to 70 AD.
3. Doctrinal Development
The doctrinal development represented in Hebrews stands midway between the system
of the later Pauline Epistles (Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians) and that of
the Johannine Writings. The divers and strange teachings mentioned include only
such ascetic tendencies about meat and marriage (Hebrews 13:4,9) as are reflected
in Paul's Epistles early and late. There is no sign of the appearance of the full-blown
heresies of the Ebionites, Docetists, and Gnostics, which became prevalent before
the end of the 1st century. On the other hand the Logos-doctrine as the interpretation
of the person of Christ (Hebrews 1:1-4) is more fully thought out than in Paul,
but less explicit, and less assimilated with the purpose of Christianity, than
in the Fourth Gospel.
4. The Fall of Jerusalem
It has been argued that the letter must have been written before the fall of Jerusalem
in 70 AD, because in writing to a Jewish community, and especially in dealing
with Jewish ritual, the writer would have referred to that event, if it had happened.
This point would be relevant, if the letter had been addressed to Jerusalem, which
is highly improbable. But, at a distance, an author so utterly unconcerned with
contemporary history could easily have omitted mention of even so important a
fact. For in fact the author never mentions the temple or its ritual. His system
is that of the tabernacle of the Old Testament and of Jewish tradition. The writer's
interest is not in historical Judaism, and his omission to mention the great catastrophe
does not prove that it had not occurred. The use of the present tense of the ritual
does not imply its present continuance. "The present expresses the fact that so
it is enjoined in the law, the past that with the founding of the New Covenant
the old had been abolished" (Peake, Hebrews, 39).
A point of contact with contemporary history is found in the fact that Timothy
was still living and active when Hebrews was written (13:23), but it does not
carry us far. Timothy was a young man and already a disciple, when Paul visited
Galatia on his 2nd journey about 46 AD (Acts 16:1). And he may have lived to the
end of the century or near to it. It cannot be safely argued from the mere mention
of his name alone, that Paul and his other companions were dead.
6. Two Persecutions
Two incidents in the history of the readers are mentioned which afford further
ground for a somewhat late date. Immediately after their conversion, they suffered
persecution, "a great conflict of sufferings; partly, being made a gazingstock
both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, becoming partakers with them that
were so used" (Hebrews 10:32). And now again, when the letter is written, they
are entering upon another time of similar trial, in which they "have need of patience"
(Hebrews 10:36), though they "have not yet resisted unto blood" (Hebrews 12:4).
Their leaders, at least, it would appear, the writer and Timothy, have also been
in prison, but one is at liberty and the other expects to be soon (Hebrews 13:19,23).
It has been conjectured that the first persecution was that under Nero in 64 AD,
and the second, that in the reign of Domitian, after 81 AD. But when it is remembered
that in some part of the Empire Christians were almost always under persecution,
and that the locale of these readers is very uncertain, these last criteria do
not justify any dogmatizing. It is certain that the letter was written in the
second half of the 1st century. Certain general impressions, the probability that
the first apostles and leaders of the church were dead, the absence of any mention
of Paul, the development of Paul's theological ideas in a new medium, the disappearance
of the early enthusiasm, the many and great changes that had come over the community,
point strongly to the last quarter of the century. The opinions of scholars at
present seem to converge about the year 80 AD or a little later.
1. Summary of Contents
|I. The Revelation of God in His Son (Hebrews 1-2).
|1. Christ the completion of revelation (Hebrews 1:1-3).
2. Christ's superiority over the angels (Hebrews 1:4).
|(1) Because lie is a Son (Hebrews 1:4-6).
(2) Because His reign is eternal (Hebrews 1:7).
3. The dangers of neglecting salvation through the Son (Hebrews 2:1-4).
4. The Son and humanity (Hebrews 2:5).
|(1) The lowliness and dignity of man (Hebrews 2:5-8).
(2) Necessity for the Incarnation (Hebrews 2:9).
|(a) To fulfill God's gracious purpose (Hebrews 2:9) .
(b) That the Saviour and saved might be one (Hebrews 2:11-15).
(c) That the Saviour may sympathize with the saved (Hebrews 2:16).
II. The Prince of Salvation (Hebrews 3:1-4:13).
|1. Christ as Son superior to Moses as servant (Hebrews 3:1-6).
2. Consequences of Israel's unbelief (Hebrews 3:7-11).
3. Warning the "Hebrews" against similar unbelief (Hebrews 3:12).
4. Exhortations to faithfulness (Hebrews 4:1-13).
|(1) Because a rest remains for the people of God (Hebrews
(2) Because the omniscient God is judge (Hebrews 4:12).
III. The Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-10:18).
|1. Christ's priesthood the Christian's confidence (Hebrews
2. Christ has the essential qualifications for priesthood (Hebrews 5:1-10).
|(1) Sympathy with men (Hebrews 5:1-3).
(2) God's appointment (Hebrews 5:4-10).
3. The spiritual dulness of the Hebrews (Hebrews 5:11-6:12).
|(1) Their lack of growth in knowledge (Hebrews 5:11).
(2) "Press on unto perfection" (Hebrews 6:1-3).
(3) The danger of falling away from Christ (Hebrews 6:4-8).
(4) Their past history ground for hoping better things (Hebrews 6:9-12).
4. God's oath the ground of Christ's priesthood and of the believer's hope (Hebrews
5. Christ a priest after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:1).
|(1) The history of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:1-3).
(2) The superiority of his order over that of Aaron (Hebrews 7:4-10).
(3) Supersession of the Aaronic priesthood (Hebrews 7:11-19).
(4) Superiority of Christ's priesthood (Hebrews 7:20-24).
(5) Christ a priest befitting us (Hebrews 7:24).
6. Christ the true high priest (Hebrews 8:1-10:18).
|(1) Because He entered the true sanctuary (Hebrews 8:1-5).
(2) Because He is priest of the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:6).
(3) A description of the old tabernacle and its services (Hebrews 9:1-7).
(4) Ineffectiveness of its sacrifices (Hebrews 9:8-10).
(5) Superiority of Christ's sacrifice (Hebrews 9:11-14).
(6) The Mediator of the New Covenant through His own blood (Hebrews 9:15).
(7) Weakness of the sacrifices of the law (Hebrews 10:1-5).
(8) Incarnation for the sake of sacrifice (Hebrews 10:6-9).
(9) The one satisfactory sacrifice (Hebrews 10:10-18).
IV. Practical Exhortations (Hebrews 10:19-13:25).
|1. Draw near to God and hold fast the faith (Hebrews 10:19-23).
2. The responsibility of Christians and the judgment of God (Hebrews 10:24-31).
3. Past faithfulness a ground for present confidence (Hebrews 10:32).
4. The household of faith (Hebrews 11:1).
|(1) What is faith? (Hebrews 11:1-3).
(2) The examples of faith (Hebrews 11:4-32).
(3) The triumphs of faith (Hebrews 11:33).
5. Run the race looking unto Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-3).
6. Sufferings as discipline from the Father (Hebrews 12:4-11).
7. The duty of helping and loving the brethren (Hebrews 12:12-17).
8. Comparison of the trials and privileges of Christians with those of the Israelites
9. Various duties (Hebrews 13:1-17).
|(1) Moral and social relations (Hebrews 13:1-6).
(2) Loyalty to leaders (Hebrews 13:7).
(3) Beware of Jewish heresies (Hebrews 13:9-4).
(4) Ecclesiastical worship and order (Hebrews 13:15-17).
10. Personal affairs and greetings (Hebrews 13:18).
|(1) A request for the prayers of the church (Hebrews 13:18).
(2) A prayer for the church (Hebrews 13:20) .
(3) "Bear with the word of exhortation" (Hebrews 13:22).
(4) "Our brother Timothy" (Hebrews 13:23).
(5) Greetings (Hebrews 13:24).
(6) Grace (Hebrews 13:25).
2. The Main Theme
The theme of the epistle is the absoluteness of the Christian religion, as based-upon
the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ, the one and only mediator of salvation. The
essence of Christ's preeminence is that He fully realizes in His own person the
principles of revelation and reconciliation. It is made manifest in His superiority
over the Jewish system of salvation, which He therefore at once supersedes and
fulfils. The author's working concept is the Logos-doctrine of Philo; and the
empirical data to which it is related is the religious history of Israel, as it
culminates in Christianity. He makes no attempt to prove either his ideal first
principles or his historical premises, and his philosophy of religion takes no
account of the heathen world. The inner method of his argument is to fit Judaism
and Christianity into the Logos-concept; but his actual is related to the ideal
in the way of Plato's antithesis, of shadow and reality, of pattern and original,
rather than in Aristotle's way of development, although the influence of the latter
method may often be traced, as in the history of faith, which is carried back
to the beginnings of history, but is made perfect only in the Christian consummation
(Hebrews 11:40). In a number of other ideas the teleological movement may be seen
cutting across the categories of shadow and reality (Hebrews 1:3; 1:10; 4:8; 5:8;
9:12; 10:12; 12:22).
3. Alexandrian Influences
The form of the argument may be described as either rabbinical or Alexandrian.
The writer, after laying down his proposition, proceeds to prove it by quotations
from the Old Testament, taken out of their context and historical connection,
adapted and even changed to suit his present purpose. This practice was common
to Palestinian and Alexandrian writers; as was also the use of allegory which
plays a large part in Hebrews (e.g. Hebrews 3:7-4:11; 13:11 f). But the writer's
allegorical method differs from that of the rabbis in that it is like Philo's,
part of a conscious philosophy, according to which the whole of the past and present
history of the world is only a shadow of the true realities which are laid up
in heaven (Hebrews 8:5; 9:23; 10:1). His interest in historical facts, in Old
Testament writers, in Jewish institutions and even in the historical life of Jesus,
is quite subordinate to his prepossession with the eternal and heavenly realities
which they, in more or less shadowy fashion, represent. That the affinities of
Hebrews are Alexandrian rather than Palestinian is further proved by many philological
and literary correspondences with The Wisdom of Solomon and Philo. Most of the
characteristic terms and phrases of the epistle are also found in these earlier
writers. It has been argued that Hebrews and Wisdom came from the same hand, and
it seems certain that the author of Hebrews was familiar with both Wisdom and
the writings of Philo (Plumptre in The Expositor, I, 329, 409; von Soden in Hand-Commentar,
5-6). In Philo the dualism of appearance and reality finds its ultimate synthesis
in his master-conception of the Logos, and although this term does not appear
in Hebrews in Philo's sense, the doctrine is set forth in Philonic phraseology
in the opening verses (1:1-4). As Logos, Christ excels the prophets as revealer
of God, is superior to the angels who Were the mediators of the old Covenant,
and is more glorious than Moses as the builder of God's true tabernacle, His eternal
house; He is a greater Saviour than Joshua, for He brings his own to final rest;
and He supersedes the Aaronic priesthood, for while they ministered in a "holy
place made with hands, like in pattern to the true," under a "law having a shadow
of the good things to come, not the very image of the things" (Hebrews 9:24; 10:1),
He "having come a high priest of the good things to come, through the greater
and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands .... nor yet through the blood
of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the
holy place, having obtained eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:11).
4. The Christian Factor
Yet it is possible to exaggerate the dependence of Hebrews on Alexandrian thought.
Deeper than the allegorical interpretation of passages culled from the Septuagint,
deeper than the Logos-philosophy which formed the framework of his thought, is
the writer's experience and idea of the personal Christ. His central interest
lies, not in the theoretical scheme which he adopts, but in the living person
who, while He is the eternal reality behind all shadows, and the very image of
God's essence, is also our brother who lived and suffered on earth, the author
of our salvation, our "fore-runner within the veil," who "is able to save to the
uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make
intercession for them" (Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:14; 2:10; 5:7-9; 4:14-15; 6:20; 7:25).
As in Paul and John, so in Hebrews, the historical and ever-living Christ comes
in as an original and creative element, which transforms the abstract philosophy
of Hellenistic thought into a living system of salvation. Because of His essential
and personal preeminence over the institutions and personalities of the old Covenant,
Christ has founded a new Covenant, given a new revelation and proclaimed a new
gospel. The writer never loses sight of the present bearing of these eternal realities
on the lives of his readers. They are for their warning against apostasy, for
their encouragement in the face of persecution, and for their undying hope while
they 'run the race that is set before (them), looking unto Jesus the author and
perfecter of .... faith (Hebrews 2:3 ; 3:12 ; 4:1 ; 10:28 ; 12:1 , 22).
|(1) Commentary by A. S. Peake, Century Bible; A.B. Davidson,
Bible Handbooks; Marcus Dods, Expositor's Greek Test.; T.C. Edwards, Expositor's
Bible; F. Rendall (London, 1888); Westcott3 (1903); von Soden, Hand-Commentar;
Hollmann, Die Schriften des New Testament.
(2) Introductions by Moffatt, Introduction to the Lit. of the New Testament; A.
B. Bruce in HDB; von Soden in EB; Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament; H.H.B
Ayles, Destination, Date, and Authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews; Harnack,
"Probabilia, uber die Addresse und den Verfasser des Hebraerbriefes," ZNTW, I
(1900); W. Wrede, Das literarische Ratsel des Hebraerbriefes (1906).
(3) Theology: Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews; Milligan, The Theology of the
Epistle to the Hebrews; Menegoz, La theologie de l'epitre aux Hebreux. For fuller
list, see Moffatt, in the work quoted
bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, book of hebrews, define, epistle to the hebrews, new testament