Introduction to the Book of Hebrews
Written by George Goldman
Since it is an anonymous book almost everyone mentioned in the New Testament has been nominated as its author. Martin Luther suggested Apollos; Clement of Alexandria suggested Luke as the translator; Tertullian nominated Barnabus; and others suggest Paul. Harnack believed the letter is anonymous because a woman wrote it. He nominated Priscilla. Many agree with Origen who said, “God alone knows who wrote Hebrews.”
The date of the book seems to be after many of the eyewitnesses to Christ have died (Heb. 2:3-4). Readers are encouraged to remember the former days (Heb. 10:32). Their first leaders were dead (Heb. 13:7-9 ASV). New leaders had arisen to take their place and exercise oversight (Heb. 13:17, 24). The word used here means to lead or guide (Mt. 2:6; Lk. 22:26; Acts 7:10; 14:12; 15:22).
The book of Hebrews demands an accurate knowledge of the Old Testament, especially a knowledge of the Hebrew sacrificial system. It is addressed to people familiar with the Old Testament. One must first understand the five books of Moses in order to understand Hebrews.
The theme of the book is the supremacy of Christ. The first seven chapters deal with that theme. Christ is greater than the angels (Heb. 1:4-14). Christ is greater than Moses and Joshua (Heb. 3:1 – 4:13). Christ is greater than the Levitical priesthood (Heb. 4:14 – 7:28). Priests were to come from the tribe of Levi; Christ came from the tribe of the priesthood of Melchizedek (Heb. 7 cf. Gen. 14). Melchizedek appeared on the scene without “father or mother;” that is without the proper credentials for priestly service. So also Christ could be a priest without being of the Levitical priesthood.
The next three chapters emphasize the abolishment of the Mosaic law and its replacement with the New Covenant of Christ (Heb. 8 – 10).
The last three chapters give the practical and faithful living required of disciples of the Lord. This kind of living includes a life of suffering. The heroes of faith include Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and countless more “who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fires, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight” (Heb. 11:33f). Chapter 12 tells of the suffering of Christ and the final victory of his immovable kingdom. Chapter 13 deals with the present scene in the first century. They should be thankful to God, kind to their fellowman, and loyal to their leaders.