In the fourth place, the documents at Qumran help us understand the unusual interest that the author of Hebrews had in the Old Testament character Melchizedek. The words "I urge" derive from the Greek verb parakaleo, the verbal form of the Greek noun translated "exhortation" in the same sentence. The book of Hebrews is one of the most challenging books of the New Testament. They probably had many elderly people. As we'll explain in our next lesson, this and similar passages don't imply that true believers can lose their salvation. So we cannot be sure. The internal evidence presented by the book of Hebrews itself indicates an author other than Paul. Why do Matthew and Luke seem to disagree about the circumstances of Jesus’ birth? People who study Bible books often begin with these subjects. Dr. Stephen E. Witmer is Adjunct Professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Lead Pastor of Pepperell Christian Fellowship in Pepperell, MA. Let's begin by examining the author's identity. There is a lot of speculation about who exactly wrote the Book of The better we can understand those situations, the more clearly we can hear how the word of God was speaking into them, and so into our situation as well. Not only was the author of Hebrews a Hellenistic Jew, but we can also add to our profile that he was a passionate intellectual. But there are some other things in the epistle that suggest it wasn’t written to people living in Jerusalem: – The writer says near the beginning, “This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.” So neither the writer nor the audience were eyewitnesses of the ministry of Jesus. 10:11-14 “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering … Why do people use flashing lights in their Christmas decorations? Purpose: The book of Hebrews exalts Jesus and shows that he is superior to the sacrifices of old. As we've just suggested, the author of Hebrews wrote to exhort his audience. By ‘Jewish’, we mean that his family came from the families of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Thanks! Second, it's also likely that the audience was in large part Hellenistic. And then, we'll examine the goal of these exhortations, how the author hoped his audience would respond. There the author listed by name: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the Israelites, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets. View of the Hebrews is an 1823 book written by Ethan Smith, a Congregationalist minister in Vermont, who argued that Native Americans were descended from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, a relatively common view during the early nineteenth century. We’ve been totally in Paul’s epistles now for a long time, and in the last lesson we finished up with Timothy and Titus. Now, in Hebrews 5:11, the writer of Hebrews reprimanded his audience for being "slow to learn." The author of Hebrews responded by affirming that Moses was God's faithful servant. This might suggest an Alexandrian origin of the epistle, even if it has a Roman destination. And the interesting thing is that the book of Hebrews was written acknowledging Italian Christians in the letter, but the Italians all said they did not know who wrote it. Thus, we would have to say "a book by a mysterious unknown writer". This suggestion is confirmed by Hebrews 13:17 where the author told his audience: Fourth, the original audience of Hebrews was persecuted. In fact, in the book of 2 Timothy, Paul's last letter written shortly before his death, Timothy was free to travel and bring Paul supplies. These suggestions are interesting, but the most we can say, with any degree of confidence, is that the original audience consisted in large part of Hellenistic Jews who lived outside of Palestine. The audience of Romans is, by Paul’s own declaration, mixed Jewish and Gentile, but culturally more Greco-Roman, since Paul uses a “diatribe” style in addressing them. For this reason, we can't be certain that the author of Hebrews used the Septuagint. Among many other things, the community at Qumran regularly held sacred communal meals in which they ate specially consecrated food. It then builds to a more complex conclusion that the audience initially doubts, but can now more easily accept. Even though the author of Hebrews should be considered an intellectual, he was not a cold, detached academic. Hebrews was written to fulfill several needs of the first-century church. As early as the patristic period, Clement of Alexandria, who lived from approximately A.D. 150 to 215, and Origen of Alexandria, who lived from around A.D. 185 to 254, acknowledged that there was a variety of opinions on the authorship of Hebrews in their day. But he also encouraged them not to "throw away [their] confidence." None of these considerations are, of course, absolutely conclusive, but they are the kind of things that lead me to believe that Hebrews was written to the community of Jesus’ followers in Rome, not in Jerusalem. Though for some 1,200 years (from c. a.d. 400 to 1600) the book was commonly called “The Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews,” there was no … So, it's quite possible that the larger portion of the original audience remained theologically immature because they didn't properly respect their leaders. It's clear that not all of his audience's persecution was in the past. This division consists of a long series of exhortations, as well as explanations for these exhortations. Must we be dogmatic about it? This type of argumentation begins with a simple premise that isn't disputed by the audience. Luther had a novel but brilliant guess regarding authorship, proposing that the book was written by Apollos. We've seen how the intensity of the author's exhortations is reflected in the frequency with which he exhorted his audience. You can also read or download the study guides in my Understanding the Books of the Bible series by using the Free Study Guides link at the top of this page. Dr. Sean McDonough is Professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Why such a lack of interest in this topic of the Hebrews awareness of Romans? In addition, many commentators have observed that, in passages like Hebrews 5:1-3, the author used the present tense to describe the sacrificial duties of the high priest. The book of Hebrews was written by two authors. So far in our discussion of the background of the book of Hebrews we've focused on the book's authorship. III. Epistle to the Hebrews It will probably surprise some of you to learn that many Bible scholars believe that a New Testament woman named Priscilla wrote the book of Hebrews. They should have made great doctrinal progress. I can definitely recommend this way of experiencing the Bible. It says in Hebrews 13:24 "They of Italy salute you" and this phrase indicates that the letter was written from Italy. And yet I have seen no comment whatsoever as to whether the author or the audience was familiar with the epistle of Romans. Dr. Eckhard Schnabel is the Mary F. Rockefeller Distinguished Professor of New Testament Studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Now, let's consider how the author's rhetorical style also reveals his desire to exhort his audience. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Hebrews. Your introduction says that the recipients of this letter “seem to have lived in Italy.” But as we read through Hebrews, it seemed to us that it was addressing instead a pre-70 A.D. Jerusalem audience—people who needed encouragement to stand strong while on the receiving end of persecution from temple-observant Jews. The author is anonymous, although either Paul or Barnabas was traditionally accepted as the author. Third, the original audience of Hebrews was immature. The book of Hebrews is a long list of reasons to cling to Jesus. It was written mainly to the Hebrew believers. These verbal forms urge or implore and are often translated "let us" do this or that. But outside of Italy and Rome, they all thought that Paul wrote it. Even more, the author wanted them to remain faithful to Jesus as the Messiah. Why did God reject Saul for offering sacrifices, but not David or Solomon. Most scholars today agree that Paul did not write Hebrews. Outline of the Book of Hebrews It's foolish to say that it was written to gentiles unless you don't believe in an inspired inerrant Bible which this man obviously doesn't. Hebrews 2:3-4 seems to imply that the writer was not an apostle. And his vocabulary and style give evidence of a mastery of the language that even surpasses the writings of Luke. (This is why, for example, Paul took up a collection from wealthier believers elsewhere in the empire to help them.) What makes this section of Scripture even more terrifying is when we read the next verse out of context, right along with it. This makes a lot of sense. The Epistle to the Hebrews, or Letter to the Hebrews, or in the Greek manuscripts, simply To the Hebrews (Πρὸς Ἑβραίους) is one of the books of the New Testament.. This is what he meant when he called his book a "word of exhortation." Dr. Fredrick Long is Professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary. The Holy Spirit was the primary author, and the other author was human (2 Peter 1:20-21). It was written approximately 67 A.D. So this passage is not pointed at you, believer. Lastly, we'll examine the date when the book of Hebrews was written. So, he did all he could to urge and persuade them to make the right choices. Now, we're in a position to address the overarching purpose of the book. His devotion and passion for his fellow Christians is evident in his writing. I’ve often wondered if the book was written at least partly with an audience of either Hellenized Jews or Samaritans or both. Kingdom, Covenants & Canon of the Old Testament, Your Kingdom Come: The Doctrine of Eschatology, He Gave Us Scripture: Foundations of Interpretation, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Every book in the New Testament section of the Bible has a human author (i.e., a man who either wrote the revelation down himself, or spoke it to a scribe who did) assigned to it except one, 1 the letter to the Hebrews. In my own reply, I was agreeing to the comment made on this article concerning a woman writing the Book of Hebrews that stated “…ultimately, I’m not sure it matters a ton.” And her comment is quite accurate. The book of Hebrews compares and contrasts Jesus to key historical people and events from the Old Testament. These books have a number of teachings that closely parallel the theological issues addressed in Hebrews. Thank you. We learn from passages like Luke 4:16, Acts 13:15, and 1 Timothy 4:13 that leaders of synagogues and Christian churches supervised the reading and explanation of Scriptures to their congregations. Even at its beginning, the … We'll look in some detail at each of these divisions in our next lesson. To explore the author's purpose, let's look more closely at the intensity of the exhortations that are so prominent in the book. The book of Hebrews hosts so large a controversy over the author that the audience is often overlooked. But we can still construct something of a profile for the author. In the third place, the literature at Qumran helps us understand the focus on angels in the book of Hebrews. And Justin Martyr, who lived from A.D. 100 to 165, did the same. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is an an ordained minister, a writer, and a biblical scholar. I hope you’ve found what you were looking for. Today, the majority of interpreters reject Pauline authorship. It is commonly thought that Hebrews is written to people in the mystery church, the new creature, the Body of Christ, but that would be wrong. At the same time this epistle is also one of the most difficult ones. It lacks the normal, pedestrian roughness researchers expect of the style Paul used in his other letters. In fact, as 2 Thessalonians 2:2 makes clear, Paul was deeply concerned that forgeries had spread under his name. Unfortunately, questions about authorship and the ways some heretical groups misused the book of Hebrews, led some people during the patristic period to doubt if Hebrews should be included in the New Testament Canon. Hebrews 10:26 is a scary passage if we don’t understand who it is written to and why. Well, you bring up an excellent point. The term “kreitton” (literally, “more excellent” or “better”) permeates the book. He is a Council member with The Gospel Coalition and Associate Training Director (Asia/Australia) for Redeemer City to City, a training and church planting ministry. Dr. Craig S. Keener is the F.M. Apparently, the local Jewish community wanted the original audience to reject Jesus as the Messiah because of their beliefs about the appearance of Melchizedek as the great royal high priest in the last days. Therefore, Hebrews must be later than the year 63, and very probably was written towards 67 in view of its urgent call for perfect faith, “all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (10:25). If this letter was addressed to believers in Jerusalem before AD 70, it’s almost certain that some of them would have seen and heard Jesus when he was alive on earth. It is probable that the Epistle was written near his second Roman imprisonment, about 60-62 AD. And around A.D. 64, Emperor Nero persecuted Christians in the vicinity of Rome. And when we look through the book of Hebrews, we recognize that the Christians at that time were up against some really difficult odds. Place Written. I agree with you that this is a very pertinent question that should be addressed in commentaries and study guides, even if we don’t have a good answer to it. This focus was in response to the kinds of beliefs that were similar to teachings in books like The Rule of the Community, The Damascus Covenant, and the War Scroll, as well as the sections of 1 Enoch called "The Book of the Watchers" and "The Book of Dreams." The book of Acts and other scriptures present this reality for our admonition. This little flock was the Jewish church at Pentecost, and after the scattering became the audience of the book of Hebrews. It's my belief – after saying what I would say is likely my favorite book, just by the number of hours reading it in the New Testament – the book of Hebrews – is that it was written to this church in Jerusalem prior to their time of leaving. And most biblical scholars today concur. Dr. Um also teaches New Testament Studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Covenant Theological Seminary, and Emerson College. It contained books like The Rule of the Community, The Damascus Covenant, the War Scroll, The Midrash on Melchizedek, as well as sections of 1 Enoch called "The Book of the Watchers" and "The Book of Dreams". Many view the book of Hebrews as a doctrinal book and it does contain many very helpful doctrinal truths but in the mind of its author, it was a letter of exhortation to believers. The goal of Hebrews' exhortations was not only to urge the audience to reject the local Jewish teachings. Gathering details from the book of Hebrews itself, we … Hebrews 13:24 has been used to support this point of view because it mentions "those from Italy." Did Paul write Hebrews? He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. From a twisted perspective–which would be applying Hebrews 10:26 and 27 to Christians–we can expect some bad stuff from God. 1. Apparently, but I could be wrong, there is no historical source definitively saying who wrote the Bible book of Hebrews. There are over 400 other posts here, on a wide range of biblical topics. For this reason, the book of Hebrews must have been written after Paul's death, which took place sometime around A.D. 65. For this lesson, we'll briefly mention just four topics found in both the book of Hebrews and the documents at Qumran. He was deeply passionate about the Christian faith. Hebrews was written before the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. In fact, he quoted the Old Testament at least 31 times in his 13 chapters. – Finally, as I note in the introductory session to Hebrews in my Deuteronomy/Hebrews study guide, “At the end the author calls the whole work a ‘word of exhortation,’ the technical term for a sermon or homily in the Jewish synagogue.” There were, of course, synagogues in Palestine as in other parts of the empire, but if the question is whether the letter arises out of Diaspora Judaism or temple observance in Jerusalem, the synagogue language points more naturally towards the Diaspora. Questions about sin and human responsibility. In the first century, Jews often had to pay special taxes, and they suffered persecution from time to time. How do these features of the book fit with the immaturity of the audience? Why I Believe Paul Did Not Write Hebrews. But at this point it will help to summarize the central issues in each. Was Jesus the “angel of the Lord” who appeared to the shepherds? It would also appear that the author had a strong Hellenistic upbringing. Why was Hebrews written? Hebrews was written for Christians who had been in the church for a while. But as the author noted, they needed to be taught "the elementary truths of God's word all over again.". So, it seems unlikely that he would have failed to identify himself had he written Hebrews. As modern followers of Christ, we also face temptations to avoid troubles in this life by compromising our commitments to Jesus. It’s written to people who sacrificed animals for forgiveness at the temple, the Jews (see Hebrews 9:22). Having said that, let’s remember that no matter who wrote it, it was GOD WHO INSPIRED THEM TO DO SO. Other Jewish groups in the Mediterranean world held to similar views. But one text found at Qumran, often called 11QMelchizedek or The Midrash on Melchizedek, falsely taught that Melchizedek was a heavenly figure who was going to appear in the last days to proclaim the Day of Atonement and make final atonement for God's people. He was convinced that his audience faced a very serious situation and that it was time for them to make some very difficult decisions. No we have not. Jesus was flesh and blood. The second major division of Hebrews, in 3:1–4:13, demonstrates that Jesus is to be held above Moses' authority. Anything less does not do justice to the believers whose faith and courage in following Jesus brought us the New Testament in the first place. We'll look first at the earliest possible date for the book, or terminus a quo, and then at the latest possible date, or terminus ad quem. It was written to Jewish Christians who were encountering various pressures to purposely abandon the Christian Faith. Each part of this book has its own emphases, and we'll explore these emphases in our next lesson. In the last major division, in 12:1–13:25, the book of Hebrews elaborates on a number of ways that the audience needed to exercise practical perseverance. Now that we've seen how the author's purpose was strengthened by the intensity of his exhortations, we should turn to a second feature of the book: the goal of these exhortations. I would think this would be an obvious question to any commentator who addresses the background of Hebrews (which would be ALL scholarly commentaries). The book of Hebrews certainly falls within Paul’s areas of assignment from Christ, but its writing style is somewhat different from his other epistles. For instance, in 4:14, 16 we read two such exhortations: The author also exhorted his audience by using imperatives, which we often translate as direct orders. While the author did not state his name, he assumed his audience knew him (Hebrews 10.32-34, 13.19, 22-23). Most scholars point to Rome as the most likely destination for the epistle and also say the author was likely connected with Paul (in the “Pauline circle” as they say). When people reject the Christian faith, like some in the original audience of Hebrews were tempted to do, they prove that they never had faith that saves. Rather than simply being discouraged or weakened by sufferings, they were in danger of turning away from Christ entirely. How old was Jesus at his presentation at the temple? The book of Hebrews is a General Epistle (Apostolic Letter). He wanted his audience to reject local Jewish teachings and he wanted them also to remain faithful to Jesus as the Messiah. In the first place, we've already noted that in Hebrews 13:9, the author spoke against a particular example of eating ceremonial foods. At this point, we want to see how the book as a whole was designed to impact the concepts, behaviors and emotions of the original audience. Then he pressed his audience further by arguing "how much more" punishment should come to those who "trampled … under foot" one greater than Moses — "the Son of God.". He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the New International Version (NIV) that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. Letter to the Hebrews, also called Epistle to the Hebrews, abbreviation Hebrews, anonymous New Testament letter traditionally attributed to St. Paul the Apostle but now widely believed to be the work of another Jewish Christian. Romans could have been written ten or more years before Hebrews, but even so, it might not have begun to circulate widely by the time Hebrews was written. We can see from the text that both Jewish and Hellenistic influences shaped the author and his book. And by some reports, Christ's followers are being persecuted more than ever in our own day. But if we'll open our hearts to hear how the author of Hebrews urgently exhorted his original audience, we'll see how crucial it is that we stand strong in our faith, no matter what opposition we may face. None of these considerations are, of course, absolutely conclusive, but they are the kind of things that lead me to believe that Hebrews was written to the community of Jesus’ followers in Rome, not in Jerusalem. – The writer also says, “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” This also wouldn’t fit the situation of the Jerusalem believers, who had already seen some of their number killed for their faith. First, as we've already mentioned, this book is anonymous, and it was Paul's practice to name himself in his epistles. B. Hebrews bares no mention of the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem by Titus in AD 70 28. From all appearances, the original audience of Hebrews was tempted to hold these or similar false beliefs. And by some reports, Christ's followers are being persecuted more than ever in our own day. Dr. Um is the author of several publications, including Why Cities Matter (Crossway, 2013) and Gospel Shaped Mercy (Good Book, 2017). If the Epistle to the Hebrews had not been written by Paul, then there is no name that could be named. There are eight reasons to believe the entire book of Hebrews was written to believers (i.e., When we think about the book of Hebrews, we need to understand that it was a letter. Another rhetorical device in the book of Hebrews is known as exempla. And what would be your take on the question.? To understand the Book of Hebrews’ message, we must first learn some history. Questions like yours, about the background to a whole book, won’t necessarily lead you to a “gem of the day” devotional thought that you can carry around with you. As our title suggests, we'll look at the background and purpose of Hebrews in two ways. Christians who live in peace and safety often compromise their faith even without threats. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. from University of St. Andrews. The Lord was speaking to Christians and telling them to hold to the better covenant and the better priesthood, and not go back into the patterns of Judaism, either to that priesthood or to that assemblage. From what I understand, neither group (and certainly not the latter) was particularly fond of the Jerusalem/Temple-based elite. He informed them doctrinally in order to persuade them to adopt different attitudes and actions. He warned his audience severely because for those who utterly turn away from Christ, "no sacrifice for sins is left." What happens to people who never hear about Jesus? In fact, the author himself noted the priority of sophisticated theological reflection in passages like Hebrews 5:13-14 where he indicated that to distinguish good from evil, followers of Christ must become doctrinally mature. The local Jewish community called for Christians to return to Moses and his ways. In the end, though, it's best to conclude with Origen that only God really knows. AUTHORSHIP:1 It is not possible to be certain about who authored the Book of Hebrews: A. The writer of this letter does not identify himself, but he was obviously well known to the original recipients. It was probably written in Rome before 70 A.D. since there is no mention of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Change ), You are commenting using your Google account. The style of the book is sometimes like his style, but sometimes it seems different. But Jesus was even greater because he was God's royal Son. The teachings of the local Jewish community raised doubts about the Christian claim that Jesus had come to mediate the new covenant promised by Jeremiah. The book of Hebrews doesn't clearly identify its audience by name, city or region. Many have speculated as to who he was but we do not know. Dr. Craig S. Keener is the F.M. But for this study, we'll describe the original purpose of Hebrews in this way: This description of the author's purpose helps orient us to the main ideas found in the book of Hebrews. Not every event that had a significant influence on the writing of Hebrews happened amid the turmoil in and around Jerusalem. The Book of Hebrews does not tell us its author’s name. Thank you for visiting my blog Good Question. https://www.insight.org/resources/bible/the-general-epistles But rather than simply asserting his belief, the author of Hebrews gave his audience a compelling, eight-point comparison between Melchizedek and Christ: their parentage, genealogy, birth, death, office, actions, status and achievements. One rhetorical device, called synkrisis in Greek, is a detailed comparison between two or more things designed to convince audiences to affirm the speaker's point of view. Both of these dates can be determined with some degree of confidence using scriptural and historical evidence. Christ’s Once and for all Sacrifice. We have reached the point in our progress through the covenants God has made with those He has sanctified for His purposes where it becomes helpful to study significant portions of the epistle to the Hebrews to better understand Christ’s and our parts in the New Covenant. For instance, in Hebrews 6:1-2, the author mentioned repentance, faith, cleansing rites (or baptisms), laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. Change ). We saw earlier that the overarching purpose of the book of Hebrews can be defined in this way: As this definition affirms, the goal of the author's exhortations was twofold. Attach an asterisk (*) to the end of a word as a wildcard. Galatians was written to Gentiles and Hebrews was written to Jews but they shared a common purpose. General . It's no wonder, that from as early as the time of Tertullian, who lived from about A.D. 155 to 230, the traditional title attached to this book has been "Pros Hebraious," "For the Hebrews.". If we don't keep this urgency in mind, we'll miss a crucial dimension of the book of Hebrews. The same expression is used to describe John the Baptist's urgent, persuasive call for repentance in Luke 3:18. Listen to the words of Hebrews 2:3: Notice here that the author of Hebrews mentioned how salvation was "first announced by the Lord" — in other words, by Jesus himself — and "was confirmed to us by those who heard him." In spite of the fact that the message of Hebrews is similar to that of Paul's message in that he believes the Law has been done away with, I agree with the scholars for a number of reasons. Every epistle or letter in the New Testament contains exhortations to its audience. Hebrews 1:1-10. Although no author is mentioned (for there is no address), a reference to Timothy (Heb 13:23) suggested connections to the circle of Paul and his assistants.
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