Hebrews

These are all of the chapters of the book of Hebrews. Clicking on a chapter will show you the text of that chapter of Hebrews in the Bible (New International Version).

Bible opened to Hebrews

Who Wrote the Book of Hebrews?

Although long thought to be Paul, the author of Hebrews is in fact unidentified. Based on evidence such as early New Testament manuscripts attributing Hebrews to Paul, historical Pauline association, and similar theology, the King James Version allowed the title of the book to remain as “The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews.” 

But there are reasons to challenge this assumption: dissimilar writing styles, notable theological variations, and a lack of Paul’s customary signature (2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1) to name a few.

Gathering details from the book of Hebrews itself, we can infer several things about the author.

Throughout the years, biblical scholars and historians have suggested many potential authors, including Barnabas, Apollos, Priscilla, Clement, and Timothy. Whether by close connection with Paul or knowledge of both Jewish tradition and the Greek language, many of these suggestions are at least possible, though some are more likely than others. “In truth,” as Origen said about this question of Hebrews authorship, “only God knows.”

Context and Background of Hebrews

Hebrews was written to a group of Jewish believers who were apparently reverting to the old covenant—their laws and traditions. Without a definite author and specific audience (it is not known which group of Jewish Christians the author is addressing, though some have suggested the Qumran community), it is difficult to determine historical context or even ascertain dates with much specificity.

Clement quotes Hebrews in AD 95. And the destruction of the temple in AD 70 — which the author certainly would have referenced as evidence that the old covenant had passed away—indicates a date prior to those events. 

The author also mentions activities involving the temple in the present tense (Hebrews 5:1-3; Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 10:3-4), though historical writers such as Clement and Josephus also discussed temple rituals in the present tense when writing after its destruction.

In AD 60, a period of conflict between Jewish traditions and Christian faith began, making this decade prior to the temple’s destruction a candidate for the writing of Hebrews.

As far as location, the only clear geographical indicator is a greeting from Italy (Hebrews 13:24), which doesn’t really help us determine where the author is writing from or where his audience is. Jerusalem (or somewhere nearby) is a likely place of origin for a letter written to a group of Jewish Christians, but a comparison of the book of Hebrews and Jewish literature produced in Egypt makes Alexandria another possibility. Other suggestions include Spain, Syria, and Corinth.

Main Theme and Purpose of Hebrews

While author and dates may be debated, the theme of Hebrews is unmistakable. The words “better” and “superior” in their Greek forms are scattered throughout the book fifteen times, clearly demonstrating that, as the Messiah, Jesus Christ is the only priest, sacrifice, and covenant the Jews need anymore.

With the goal of encouraging Jewish Christians to hold to their faith and not return to the Law, the writer of Hebrews exalts Jesus Christ above everything Judaism reveres: the prophets (Hebrews 1:1-2), angels (Hebrews 1:4), Moses (Hebrews 3:1-3), and human priests (Hebrews 5:1-10).

Similarly, what Christ did during His ministry is greater than the ministry of the Levitical priests (Hebrews 8:3-6), greater than the old covenant (Hebrews 8:7-13), greater than the old sacrifices (Hebrews 10:1-14), and greater than anything they received at Mount Sinai (Hebrews 12:18-24) — Christ’s ministry is the completion of these things.

What Can We Learn from Hebrews Today?

Not all of us have a background in Judaism, but the author of Hebrews still has a message for us: Jesus is superior to anything we might leave behind as believers. He is our Sacrifice, High Priest, and Mediator, and worthy of every bit of our confidence.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm, and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf...” (Hebrews 6:19-20).

And because He is the completion of all things hoped for, we cannot reject Him and escape judgment. Hebrews offers us the brightest hope the world has ever known, coupled with the sobering consequences of falling away (Hebrews 6:6), being disobedient (Hebrews 4:6), and “deliberately…sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth” (Hebrews 10:26).

Our Favorite Verses from “Hebrews”

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 1:3).

 “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm, and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf…” (Hebrews 6:19-20).

 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Sources

Discovering the New Testament; A Survey of the New Testament; https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/hebrews-theology-of.html; https://www.biblestudytools.com/hebrews/; https://www.britannica.com/biography/Origenhttps://zondervanacademic.com/blog/who-wrote-the-book-of-hebrews.

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Caroline Madison is a freelance editor and writer with a passion for the written word and a special interest in telling and reading stories that present biblical truths in fresh ways. She also enjoys writing flash fiction, drawing pencil portraits, and playing piano.