Introduction to Hebrews

INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF HEBREWS

(The title of the book is not inspired, but was added by translators)

I. WHO WAS THE BOOK WRITTEN TO?


The book was written to “Hebrew Christians.”

A. They were “holy brethren” (Heb. 3:1).


B. They had been “enlightened” (Heb.
10:32).

C. They were Christians who could “pray” (Heb.
13:18).

D. They were “good Christians” (Heb.
10:32-34).

E. They were not new converts (Heb.5:12)

F. It was written to Jewish Christians probably living in and around Jerusalem.

II. WAS THE BOOK WRITTEN FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL?


The book, while addressed to the Hebrews, was written for all Christians.

A. What Jesus said to apostles, He said to all. (Mark 13:17).


B. The letter Paul wrote to Titus was for the benefit of all. (Titus 1:4 &
3:15).

C. All the epistles were written for all to read and observe. (Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:27)

D. What Jesus said to the church in
Ephesus was for all to hear. (Rev. 2:1 & 7)

E. The above references are enough to show that Hebrews (as well as all the books of the New Testament) was written for the benefit of all Christians.

III. WHAT IS THE THEME 0F THE BOOK?

The theme of the book is “the superiority o£ Christianity over Judaism” or “the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old Covenant” or as I would say it, “
The Superiority of the Lord’s Authority
.”


A.  Hebrews deals with the Lord’s authority over the devil and death.
1. Jesus destroyed him who had the power of death. (Heb. 2:9)

B. The book deals with the Lord’s superiority over the Law of Moses.
         

1. He took away the old covenant in order to establish the New. (Heb. 10:9)


2. He replaced the “first covenant” (old) with the “second” (new). (Heb. 8:6-12).

C. The book also deals with the Lord’s authority over sin and temptation.

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1. He helps those who are tempted. (Heb. 2:14-18)

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2. There is always grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:15-16)
IV.

WHAT IS A GOOD OUTLINE OF THE BOOK?

(A) The superior PERSON of Christ (Chapters 1-4).

1. Christ is superior to the prophets. (1:1-3)


2. Christ is superior to the angels. (1:4-2:18)

3. Christ is superior to Moses. (3:1-19)

4. Christ is superior to Joshua. (4:1-15)

(B) The superior PRIESTHOOD of Christ (Chapters 5-10).

1. Christ a superior High Priest. (5:1-7:28)


2. Christ has a superior covenant. (8:1-9:22)

3. Christ has a superior sacrifice. (
9:23-10:39)

(C) The superior POSITION of those in Christ (Chapters 11-13).

1. Christians receive superior blessings. (11:1-40)


2. Christians are in a superior kingdom. (12:1-28)

3. Christians offer superior sacrifices. (13:1-25)

V. WHY WAS THE BOOK WRITTEN?

The book was written to warn against falling away from Christ. It was written to discourage these Jewish Christians from leaving Christ and the gospel and returning to Judaism. It was written to encourage them to remain faithful to Jesus and His message.

A. This explains the many warnings against apostasy.

1. They are warned against “neglecting so great salvation.” (Heb. 2:3-4)


2. They are warned against “departing from the living God.” (Heb. 3:12)

3. They are warned against “falling away.” (Heb. 6:1-6)

4. They are warned against “forsaking the assembly of the saints” and “sinning willfully” (Heb.
10:25-31).

5. They were warned against “turning away from Him who speaks from heaven.” (Heb. 12:25)

B. This also explains the statements about the “better” things of Christianity.

1. Better than angels. (Heb. 1:4)


2. Better hope. (Heb. 7:19)

3. Better testament. (Heb. 7:22; 8:6)

4. Better promises. (Heb. 8:6)

5. Better sacrifices. (Heb. 9:23)

6. Better substance. (Heb. 10:34)

7. Better country. (Heb. 11:16)

8. Better thing. (Heb. 11:40)

VI. WHO WROTE THE BOOK?

Only God knows for sure.  Some have suggested: Clement of Rome; Luke; Barnabas; Apollos; and Paul (See Dickson Bible, pg. 1387). I favor the idea that it was Paul.

A. The strongest evidence against Paul being the author (with my response).

1. The language of Hebrews 2:3-4 implies the writer was not an apostle.

 My response: In I Peter 1:12 Peter referred to “those who have preached the gospel to you,” but he was not excluding himself.

2. The writer was associated with the
Jerusalem church, while Paul is mostly associated with Antioch and Gentile Churches. (Heb. 13:19).
 My response:  In Acts 9:26-28 and 15:25Paul was considered part of the Jerusalem Church at times.

3. The writer did not sign it as Paul usually did his letters.
 My response: The author of the book probably had a good reason for not signing his name to it.  The reason could very well be that he didn’t sign the epistle lest it might discourage his Jewish brethren from reading it and judging it by its merits other than its inspiration. This reason applies to no one else so well as to the apostle Paul.  There was strong and general prejudice among both the converted and unconverted Jews of that day against Paul. That is possibly why he didn’t sign it. (See Gospel Advocate Series, pg. 17 & 18).

4. Paul said that his “salutation” was in every letter that he wrote. (2 Thess. 2:17).
  My response: The word “salutation” does not mean “signature.” He did not say he “signed his name” to every letter, but he did give the “salutation” of Paul which is, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (2 Thess. 2:18). In every letter he wrote he invoked “grace” to those to whom he was writing and he did this also in Hebrews 13:25.

B. The strongest evidence for Paul’s authorship.

1. Heb. 10:34 – The writer refers to his “bonds.”  This surely fits Paul.

(See Acts 28:16, 30 & 31; Philemon v.10; Col. 4:18; Phil. 1:16; & Eph, 6:20.)

2. Heb.
13:24 – The writer was in Italy when the book was written. Paul was also in “bonds” and in “Rome” (Italy).  See Acts 28:16, 20, 30, & 31.

3. The writer wanted them to “pray for him.” (Heb. 13:18). A request for prayer is common for Paul. (See Eph. 6:18, 19; 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1; Rom.
15:30; 2 Cor. 1:11; Philemon v.22.)

4. The writer seemed to be a close friend to Timothy (Heb.
13:23).  Paul was close to Timothy.  (See 2 Cor. 1:1; Col. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; & 1 Tim. 1:2.)

5. Peter said Paul had written an epistle to the Jews. (2 Peter 3:15).  This may refer to “Hebrews” (Scholars like Pink and others say it does).

6. The writer invokes “Grace” on his readers. (Heb. 13:25). This surely sounds like Paul.  (See Romans 16:24; 1 Cor. 16:23; 2 Cor. 13:14; Gal. 6:8; Eph. 6:24; Phil. 4:13; Col.4:18; 1 Thess. 5:28; 2 Thess. 3:18; 1 Tim. 6:21; 2 Tim. 4:22; Titus 3:15; Philemon v.25; & Hebrews 13:25).

7. The writer uses the word “mediator” (Heb. 8:6;
9:15; 12:24).  Paul is the only New Testament writer to use this word. See 1 Timothy 2:5 & Galatians 3:19, 20.

8. Many words and expressions used in Hebrews are used by Paul elsewhere.

a. Heb. 5:12,13 – Milk and meat.

1 Cor. 3:1 – Paul refers to milk and meat.

b. Heb. 10:1 – “Shadow of things to come.”
Col. 2:17 – Paul says, “Shadow of things to come.”

c. Heb.
12:14 – “Follow peace with all men.”
Rom. 1.2:18 – Paul says, “Live peaceably with all men.”

d. Heb.
13:20 – God is called “the God of Peace.”
Rom. 16:20 –Paul refers to “the God of peace.” (See 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9; & 1 Thess. 5:23.)

e. Writer quotes Psalms 2:7. (Heb. 1:5).
Paul quotes Psalms 2:7 in Acts 13:33.

f. Compares Christian life to a “race”. (Heb. 12:1).
1 Cor. 9:24-25 compares Christianity to a race.

g. Writer appeals to his “good conscience.” Heb. 13:18.
Paul appeals to his “good conscience” (Acts 23:1).

h. Acts
9:15 – Paul was to bear the name of Jesus, not only to the Gentiles, but also to the Jews.

9. The external evidence favors Paul. Boatman says, “Tradition of the church in the East, where the epistle was first received, is unanimous in ascribing authorship to the apostle Paul (Commentary on Hebrews, pg. 11; College Press Series).


10. It really does not matter who actually wrote the book as long as we understand that that the one who did write it was “moved by the Holy Spirit” to write (2 Pet.
1:20-21).
Wayne Dunaway

gandpministries.org

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