Route 66 / Stop 58: HEBREWS

Audio File: 
Speaker: 
Dr. Rich McCarrell
Date: 
Sunday, October 28, 2018

Author:           

Uncertain. The authorship of this book has been widely discussed. No author’s name appears in the book and not much is given to establish authorship. The general opinion of the early church has been that the apostle Paul is the author, though some have denied this from about the second century on. Let’s look at some of the key points claiming Paul’s authorship and then some key objections to Paul’s authorship.

  

Arguments for Paul’s authorship:

   * Peter’s statements (2 Peter 3:15, 16). These statements from Peter are coupled with     the fact that Paul had a great concern for Israel and was the primary author of  doctrinal truth directed to the Jews.

   * The author had been in bonds (10:34), wrote from Italy (13:24) and was very closely   associated with Timothy (13:23).

   * The benediction that is used (13:22-25) is very typical Pauline-style and correlates to   other benedictions in other books that we know Paul authored. In fact, note that no other writer used “grace” in his or her endings when speaking of bestowed, divine grace.

   * This book provides the last of the 3 commentaries on Habakkuk 2:4, along with Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11. It seems to make sense that God would have used       the same author for the last commentary as He used for the previous two.

   * The main doctrinal teaching is in line with what Paul wrote in other letters (Heb. 5:12-14 c.f. 1 Cor. 3:2, Heb. 3:12-19 c.f. 1 Cor. 10:1-11, Heb. 10:38 c.f. Rom. 1:17, Heb. 9:15, c.f. Rom. 3:25).

 

   Objections to Paul’s authorship:

   * Some claim that the style and vocabulary used in Hebrews is not the style and             vocabulary that Paul used in other books.

   * Many claim that he was the apostle solely to the Gentiles.

   * Others point out that his name does not appear in the book of Hebrews, but it does appear in every other book written by him.

   * Also, Paul frequently appeals to his own apostolic authority in his letters, while this writer appeals to the authority of others who were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ ministry.

   * Some scholars have suggested other authors, such as Luke, Apollos, Barnabas, Philip and even Priscilla. Many excellent points are made for each of these.

   We come to the conclusion that it is pure speculation, but we have great confidence in what is written here because of 2 Timothy 3:16! So, decide for yourself, and when you get to heaven, check and see if you were correct. I would simply say that if Hebrews was not written by the Apostle Paul, I believe it was certainly written by a disciple of Paul or one who Paul taught or mentored in the faith. This I believe is obvious by the many threads of Pauline teaching and theology that we see running throughout this entire book.

   Why didn’t he/she sign such an incredible work?! My guess is: persecution. Abuse from traditional Jews had been ratcheting up for over 30 years, and now Nero is coming after ’em! Also, if written by Priscilla, societal attitudes would reject the book.

 

Date:

Probably somewhere around A.D. 65-68. We know it had to be written before the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 as various verses indicate clearly that temple worship was still in progress (8:4, 9:6, 10:11, 13:10).

 

Recipients:     

Again, we do not find in any of the opening verses, a specific group of people to which this book is addressed. But we can, by perusing the book make some very clear determinations. This was written to a group of Jewish Christians in a particular locality. The author knew them personally, as we see many personal references made to those he was addressing. The locality was unknown, but they were very familiar with the Old Testament and with temple worship, so it may very well have been in Palestine or Italy. Spiritually, they had made a profession of faith in Christ and had given some good evidences of being saved, but they had too much of a tendency to look backward to the old covenant. Also, some were involved in spiritual sluggishness that made the author doubt whether they had truly come to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

 

Theme: Our great High Priest – the theme verse being 4:14. Secondary theme verse 13:8.

 

Purpose:    

The author wrote to show how great Christ is and how much better He is than Judaism or any other old system. As the writer speaks of the present ministry of our Savior, he uses the word “perfection” 11 times, and the phrase “better than” 13 times. Truly Jesus is the answer to all God has for us. Christ is pictured as a better high priest. Christ is pictured as the perfect mediator. Christ is pictured as the perfect and better way to God. There is no need for the temple, because Christ Jesus has cleared the way for direct access to God’s throne, not through animal blood, but through His better blood, the blood of the Lamb of God (God-Man). Because it is the blood of the Lamb of God, it continually and forever has taken away our sin, this is a better way than the abolished Jewish system that required repeated sacrifices. This book deals fully with the priestly ministry of Christ, His superiority over all previous revelations of God and the new covenant’s superiority over the old covenant. This is the only book, which deals fully with these subjects. The author, through all of his presentation, is admonishing the young believers to go on with the Lord and grow in grace. We’ve already spoken of some key words, but to note some others . . . “eternal” 13 times, “heaven” 16 times, “faith” 31 times!

 

Outline:          

In conjunction with the purpose, the very simple outline of Hebrews is the following:

 

1. Christ is “better” in His person (chapters 1-7)

* As we move through these chapters, we see that because He is God, He is better than the angels, Moses, Joshua, Abraham, Levi.

2. Christ is “better” in His performance (chapter 8:1-10:18)

* As we move through this section, we see that this comparison is based on a better covenant, a heavenly sanctuary, His own blood and His finished work.

3. Christ is “better” in His provision (10:19-13:25)

* In this section, we find the truth of full assurance, perfect possession of   all that He has accomplished for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three questions are involved in determining the readership of this letter. (1) What was the racial background of these readers? Although some have held that they were Gentiles, all evidence points to their Jewish background-the title of the book, “to the Hebrews”, the references to the prophets and angels ministering to Israel, and the citations concerning the Levitical worship. (2) Where did they live? Palestine or Italy have been the answers most often given. The preference seems to be Italy, for these readers were not poor (and the saints in Palestine were, 6:10, 10:34; Rom. 15:26); the Septuagint is used exclusively for quotations from the old Testament (one would not expect this if the readers were Palestinian)’ and “those from Italy greet you” (13:24) sounds as though Italians outside of Italy are sending greetings back home. (3) What was their spiritual condition? Most were believers (3:1), though, as in every church group, there were doubtless some who merely professed Christianity. The author calls this letter a “word of exhortation” (13:22) necessitated by the fact that some were in danger of abandoning their faith in Christ and reverting to Judaism. The readers were being persecuted, though not to the point of being martyrs (10:32-34; 12:4), and in the face of this, some were running the risk of becoming apostate. The letter is a stirring apologetic for the superiority of Christ and Christianity over Judaism in terms of priesthood and sacrifice. The author displays outstanding literary and rhetorical skill. The style is a model of Hellenistic prose. Both the author and readers are very familiar with the Old Testament in the Greek translation (the Septuagint). There are 29 direct quotations from the Old Testament plus 53 clear allusions to various other passages. These are used to demonstrate both the finality of the Christian revelation and its superiority to the old covenant. The theme of the book is the superiority of Christ and thus of Christianity.

(Charles Ryrie)

 

The occasion of the epistle was the need of special exhortation for Hebrew readers who had professed faith in Jesus as the Messiah, some of whom were wavering in their attitude. The purpose of the book, then, was (1) to confirm Jewish Christians by showing that O.T. Judaism had come to an end through the fulfillment by Christ of the whole purpose of the law; (2) to warn some who had identified themselves as Christians against (a) falling back into Judaism or (b) pausing short of true faith in Christ; and (3) to bring to the attention of Christians everywhere the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ. The key concept throughout the book is superiority (1:4; 6:9; 7:7,19,22; 8:6; 9:23; 10:34; 11:16,35,40; 12:24). Hebrews contains a series of contrasts between the good things of Judaism and the better things of Christ. More fully than any N.T. writing, Hebrews reveals the present high-priestly ministry of the Man in the glory, the Lord Jesus Christ.

(C.I. Scofield)