Background on Hebrews

Background on Hebrews

Hebrews is an expositional and pastoral warning not to return to the shadows of Judaism now that Christ the substance has come and to look fully upon the beauty of Christ and remain faithful through trial and persecutions. The fact that it also provides us with some of the clearest theology for how the New Testament now relates to the Old Testament is gracious gift from the Holy Spirit to all of Christ’s church throughout the world and time.


The author of Hebrews is anonymous, and unlike the Gospels (which are also anonymously written), there is no longstanding tradition that supports any particular figure. This has left theologians throughout church history to make their guesses. The most popular suggestion is Paul, which is why Hebrews is placed alongside Paul’s epistles, and despite what some argue regarding stylistic differences, Paul still ought to be a candidate for authorship, since the audience and intent of this letter are significantly different from Romans through Philemon. Barnabas, Apollos, and Luke are commonly presented possibilities as well. Priscilla became popular suggestion in the 19th and 20th centuries but has generally lost traction since the grammar of the letter’s personal sections suggest a male author. The simple truth is that we do not know who the human author of this letter is, but like all of Scripture, it was breathed out by God.


Jesus is better than every element of the old covenant.


As with the author, the audience of this letter is unknown. From the context of the letter, we can gather a few general assumptions. The title Hebrews reflects the predominate belief that this epistle was written to Jewish Christians. Given the detailed explanations about how Christ is superior to the various elements of the old covenant, that is certainly an easy assumption to make.

Some, such as John Brown, suggest that it was written to the church in Jerusalem, but the most common theory today is that it was written to Jewish Christians in Rome. Since the author has a thorough knowledge of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), it is also assumed that these were Hellenistic Jews rather than Hebraic Jews.

Also, given the epistle’s lengthy discussions on the priesthood and sacrificial system without any mention of the destruction of the temple in AD 70, it was very likely written before that date.

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