THE LETTER TO THE HEBREWS
The Letter to the Hebrews is preceded by the Letter of Paul to Philemon. Followed by the Universal Letters. The first being the Letter of James in the New Testament of the Bible.
It is one of the most important letters of the New Testament. It talks about the Priesthood of Jesus Christ, and his one Sacrifice which redeemed mankind and established God’s New Covenant. The Letter emphasizes the everlasting priesthood of Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (7:1-8:12). And that he sacrificed himself once for our sins (7:27, 9:26-27, 10:12-14).
Melchizedek, whose name is found only twice in Scripture, was the king of Salem. And a priest of God Most High. He who brought out bread and wine and blessed Abram (Genesis 14:18-19). In Psalm 110, David announced to his successor – “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4). God declared his son Jesus Christ high priest according to the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:10).
Passages that are often quoted from Hebrews include the three elements that were in the tabernable of the Ark of the Covenant. The gold jar with the manna, the staff of Aaron, and the tablets of the covenant (9:3-4). The definition of faith – faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen (11:1). An example of the spiritual sense allegory or typology. The blood of Abel which speaks to the “blood of Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant” (12:24). And the admonition: do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for some have entertained angels unawares (13:2).
Hebrews 10:1-3 refers to the Temple liturgy as a present reality, and as such would have had to occur before the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, which suggests an early writing.
Who wrote Hebrews?
From early times there has been a question as to who actually wrote Hebrews. The question had been raised, for it does not begin with the traditional opening phrase of the first thirteen letters, “Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus.” It has further been noted that the language and style appear different than the other letters.
Those who think the author was not Paul often point to Hebrews 2:3, “it was confirmed for us by those who heard him,” which suggests that it was someone that was not there (in the presence of Jesus) that wrote the Letter. As the Apostles were there in the presence of the living Jesus, this line suggests that it was someone other than an Apostle that wrote the Letter to the Hebrews. However, this does not necessarily exclude Paul, for Paul was not there! It was not until he was thrown from his horse on the road to Damascus that Saul met the risen Christ (Acts 9).
Consistent themes throughout the Pauline Corpus include, for example, Christocentric soteriology; Christ as a sacrifice (I Corinthians 5:7, Ephesians 5:2, Hebrews 9:26); the superiority of the New Covenant over the Mosaic law; communion with God through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1, Ephesians 2:18, Hebrews 4:16, 10:19-22); God’s promise to Abraham (Galatians 3:16-18, Hebrews 6:13-18); and Abraham’s response of faith (Romans 4:1-25, Hebrews 11:8-12). The intense use of the word promise throughout the Pauline corpus including Hebrews suggests unity of thought. The letter also includes the tendency of Paul to use the language of an athletic contest such as a race. In addition, the moral exhortation in Chapter 12 and the closing in Chapter 13 – with mention of Timothy – are typically Pauline in nature.
The early Church Fathers, such as Clement of Alexandria who lived in the second century AD, stated that Paul wrote Hebrews and it was translated by Luke. It was written to the Hebrews in the Hebrew language; but that Luke translated it carefully and published it for the Greeks. Hence the same style of expression is found in this epistle and in Acts. The words, ‘Paul the Apostle’, were probably not employed, because, in sending it to the Hebrews, who were prejudiced and suspicious of him, he wisely did not wish to repel them at the very beginning by giving his name.”
Origen of Alexandria commented the ideas were that of Paul, “but who wrote the epistle, in truth God knows.” Tertullian in the third century ascribed the writing to Barnabas, who introduced Paul after his conversion to the Jerusalem community in Acts 9:27 and subsequently traveled with him.
If it was not Paul who wrote the Letter to the Hebrews, it was likely someone in Paul’s circle. Hebrews exhibits Pauline authority and influence and is consistent with the Pauline Corpus