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Epistle to the Hebrews

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Genre  Religious text
Preceded by  Epistle to the Colossians
Epistle to the Hebrews wwwjesuswalkcomhebrewsimageshebrewsfrontcove

Followed by  Second Epistle to the Thessalonians
Similar  Religious Texts, Biblical books, New Testament books

The epistle to the hebrews a verse by verse king james bible study


The Epistle to the Hebrews, or Letter to the Hebrews, or in the Greek manuscripts, simply To the Hebrews ( Πρὸς Έβραίους) is one of the books of the New Testament.

Contents

The text is traditionally attributed to Paul the Apostle, but doubt on Pauline authorship is reported already by Eusebius, and modern biblical scholarship considers its authorship unknown, perhaps written in deliberate imitation of the style of Paul.

Scholars of Greek consider its writing to be more polished and eloquent than any other book of the New Testament. The book has earned the reputation of being a masterpiece. It has also been described as an intricate New Testament book. Scholars believe it was written for Jewish Christians who lived in Jerusalem. Its purpose was to exhort Christians to persevere in the face of persecution. The theme of the epistle is the doctrine of the person of Christ and his role as mediator between God and humanity.

The epistle opens with an exaltation of Jesus as "the radiance of God's glory, the express image of his being, and upholding all things by his powerful word". [1:1–3] The epistle presents Jesus with the titles "pioneer" or "forerunner", "Son" and "Son of God", "priest" and "high priest".

The epistle casts Jesus as both exalted Son and high priest, a unique dual Christology.

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Composition

Hebrews uses Old Testament quotations interpreted in light of first century rabbinical Judaism. New Testament and Second Temple Judaism scholar Eric Mason argues that the conceptual background of the priestly Christology of the Epistle to the Hebrews closely parallels presentations of the messianic priest and Melchizedek in the Qumran scrolls. In both Hebrews and Qumran a priestly figure is discussed in the context of a Davidic figure; in both cases a divine decree appoints the priests to their eschatological duty; both priestly figures offer an eschatological sacrifice of atonement. Although the author of Hebrews was not directly influenced by Qumran's "Messiah of Aaron", these and other conceptions did provide "a precedent... to conceive Jesus similarly as a priest making atonement and eternal intercession in the heavenly sanctuary".

Authorship

By the end of the first century there was not a consensus over the author’s identity. Clement of Rome, Barnabas, Paul the Apostle, and other names were proposed. Others later suggested Luke the Evangelist, Apollos and Priscilla as possible authors.

Though no author is named, the original King James Version of the Bible titled the work "The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews". However, the KJV's attribution to Paul was only a guess, and is currently disputed by recent research. Its vastly different style, different theological focus, different spiritual experience, different Greek vocabulary—all are believed to make Paul's authorship of Hebrews increasingly indefensible. At present, neither modern scholarship nor church teaching ascribes Hebrews to Paul.

Because of its anonymity, it had some trouble being accepted as part of the Christian canon, being classed with the Antilegomena. Eventually it was accepted as scripture because of its sound theology, eloquent presentation, and other intrinsic factors. In antiquity, certain circles began to ascribe it to Paul in an attempt to provide the anonymous work an explicit apostolic pedigree.

In the 4th century, Jerome and Augustine of Hippo supported Paul's authorship: the Church largely agreed to include Hebrews as the fourteenth letter of Paul, and affirmed this authorship until the Reformation. Scholars argued that in the 13th Chapter of Hebrews, Timothy is referred to as a companion. Timothy was Paul's missionary companion in the same way Jesus sent disciples out in pairs of two. Also, the writer states that he wrote the letter from "Italy", which also at the time fits Paul. The difference in style is explained as simply an adjustment to a distinct audience, to the Jewish Christians who were being persecuted and pressured to go back to traditional Judaism. Many scholars now believe that the author was one of Paul's pupils or associates, citing stylistic differences between Hebrews and the other Pauline epistles. Recent scholarship has favored the idea that the author was probably a leader of a predominantly Jewish congregation to whom he or she was writing.

Believing the author to have been Priscilla, Hoppin posits that the name was omitted either to suppress its female authorship, or to protect the letter itself from suppression.

Also convinced that Priscilla was the author of Hebrews, Gilbert Bilezikian, professor of biblical studies at Wheaton College, remarks on "the conspiracy of anonymity in the ancient church," and reasons: "The lack of any firm data concerning the identity of the author in the extant writings of the church suggests a deliberate blackout more than a case of collective loss of memory."

A.J. Gordon ascribes the authorship of Hebrews to Priscilla, writing that "It is evident that the Holy Spirit made this woman Priscilla a teacher of teachers". Originally proposed by Adolf von Harnack in 1900, Harnack’s reasoning won the support of prominent Bible scholars of the early twentieth century. Harnack believes the letter was written in Rome—not to the Church, but to the inner circle. In setting forth his evidence for Priscillan authorship, he finds it amazing that the name of the author was blotted out by the earliest tradition. Citing Chapter 13, he says it was written by a person of "high standing and apostolic teacher of equal rank with Timothy". If Luke, Clemens, Barnabas, or Apollos had written it, Harnack believes their names would not have been obliterated.

Donald Guthrie’s commentary The Letter to the Hebrews (1983) mentions Priscilla by name as a suggested author.

However, the author's use of the masculine gender participle when referring to himself in Hebrews 11:32 ("And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephtha; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets") makes it less likely it could be Priscilla or any other woman.

In the 3rd century, Origen wrote of the letter,

"In the epistle entitled To The Hebrews the diction does not exhibit the characteristic roughness of speech or phraseology admitted by the Apostle [Paul] himself, the construction of the sentences is closer to the Greek usage, as anyone capable of recognising differences of style would agree. On the other hand the matter of the epistle is wonderful, and quite equal to the Apostle's acknowledged writings: the truth of this would be admitted by anyone who has read the Apostle carefully...If I were asked my personal opinion, I would say that the matter is the Apostle's but the phraseology and construction are those of someone who remembered the Apostle's teaching and wrote his own interpretation of what his master had said. So if any church regards this epistle as Paul's, it should be commended for so doing, for the primitive Church had every justification for handing it down as his. Who wrote the epistle is known to God alone: the accounts that have reached us suggest that it was either Clement, who became Bishop of Rome, or Luke, who wrote the gospel and the Acts."

Further, "Men of old have handed it down as Paul's, but who wrote the Epistle God only knows".

Date

The use of tabernacle terminology in Hebrews has been used to date the epistle before the destruction of the temple, the idea being that knowing about the destruction of both Jerusalem and the temple would have influenced the development of the author's overall argument. Therefore, the most probable date for its composition is the second half of the year 63 or the beginning of 64, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Audience

Traditional scholars have argued the letter's audience was Jewish Christians, as early as the end of the 2nd century (hence its title, "The Epistle to the Hebrews"). Other scholars have suggested that Hebrews is part of an internal New Testament debate between the extreme Judaizers (who argued that non-Jews must convert to Judaism before they can receive the Holy Spirit of Jesus' new covenant) versus the extreme Antinomians (who argued that Jews must reject God's commandments and that Jewish law was no longer in effect). James and Paul represent the moderates of each faction, respectively, and Peter served as moderator. The Epistle emphasizes that non-Jewish followers of Jesus do not need to convert to Judaism to share in all of God's promises to Jews.

It sets before the Jew the claims of Christianity—to bring the Jew to the full realization of the relation of Judaism to Christianity, to make clear that Christ has fulfilled those temporary and provisional institutions, and has thus abolished them. This view is commonly referred to as Supersessionism.

Some had stopped assembling together, and this was possibly due to persecution. [10:25]

Purpose for writing

Those to whom Hebrews is written seem to have begun to doubt whether Jesus could really be the Messiah for whom they were waiting, because they believed the Messiah prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures was to come as a militant king and destroy the enemies of his people. Jesus, however, came as a mere man who was arrested by the Jewish leaders and who suffered and even died under Roman crucifixion. And although he was seen resurrected, he still left the earth and his people, who now face persecution rather than victory. The book of Hebrews solves this problem by arguing that the Hebrew Scriptures also foretold that the Messiah would be a priest (although of a different sort than the traditional Levitical priests) and Jesus came to fulfill this role, as a sacrificial offering to God, to atone for sins. His role of a king is yet to come, and so those who follow him should be patient and not be surprised that they suffer for now.[13:12–14]

Some scholars today believe the document was written to prevent apostasy. Some have interpreted apostasy to mean a number of different things, such as a group of Christians in one sect leaving for another more conservative sect, one of which the author disapproves. Some have seen apostasy as a move from the Christian assembly to pagan ritual. In light of a possibly Jewish-Christian audience, the apostasy in this sense may be in regard to Jewish-Christians leaving the Christian assembly to return to the Jewish synagogue. The author writes, "Let us hold fast to our confession".[4:14]

The book could be argued to affirm special creation. It affirms that God by His Son, Jesus Christ, made the worlds. "God...hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son...by whom also he made the worlds". [1:1–2] The epistle also states that the worlds themselves do not provide the evidence of how God formed them. "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear".[11:3]

...the Epistle opens with the solemn announcement of the superiority of the New Testament Revelation by the Son over Old Testament Revelation by the prophets. [1:1–4] It then proves and explains from the Scriptures the superiority of this New Covenant over the Old by the comparison of the Son with the angels as mediators of the Old Covenant, [1:5–2:18] with Moses and Joshua as the founders of the Old Covenant, [3:1–4:16] and finally, by opposing the high-priesthood of Christ after the order of Melchisedech to the Levitical priesthood after the order of Aaron. [5:1–10:18] (Leopold Fonck, The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910)

Style

Hebrews is a very consciously "literary" document. The purity of its Greek was noted by Clement of Alexandria, according to Eusebius (Historia Eccl. , VI, xiv), and Origen of Alexandria asserted that every competent judge must recognize a great difference between this epistle and those of Paul (Eusebius, VI, xxv).

This letter consists of two strands: an expositional or doctrinal strand, [1:1–14] [2:5–18] [5:1–14] [6:13–9:28] [13:18–25] and a hortatory or strongly urging strand which punctuates the exposition parenthetically at key points as warnings to the readers. [2:1–4] [3:1–4:16] [6:1–12] [10:1–13:17]

Hebrews does not fit the form of a traditional Hellenistic epistle, lacking a proper prescript. Modern scholars generally believe this book was originally a sermon or homily, although possibly modified after it was delivered to include the travel plans, greetings and closing. [13:20–25]

Hebrews contains many references to the Old Testament—specifically to its Septuagint text.

Christology

From The Interpreter's Bible 1955

“We may sum up our author’s Christology negatively by saying that he has nothing to do with the older Hebrew messianic hopes of a coming Son of David, who would be a divinely empowered human leader to bring in the kingdom of God on earth; and that while he still employs the figure of a militant, apocalyptic king ... who will come again..., this is not of the essence of his thought about Christ.

“Positively, our author presents Christ as divine in nature, and solves any possible objection to a divine being who participates in human experience, especially in the experience of death, by the priestly analogy. He seems quite unconscious of the logical difficulties of his position proceeding from the assumption that Christ is both divine and human, at least human in experience although hardly in nature. ” TIB XI p. 588

References

Epistle to the Hebrews Wikipedia