Pentecost A.D. 33 (Acts 2) the Holy Spirit descended in power on the
house where the apostles met, a sound heard attracted a crowd. The
crowd of men and women, from many nations, gathered in
for Pentecost. This crowd included Jews and converts to Judaism, from
Asia, Africa and Europe. The Holy Spirit enabled those in the room to
speak in the languages of all these nations. This typified God’s plan,
the Church was not to only include those in Israel, but believers
throughout the world. This event came the 50th day
following Passover, hence the name Pentecost.
here, Christianity grew throughout the world where by the 64 A.D, they
blamed Christians as the cause of Rome’s fire. The Romans felt the gods
were punishing them for those who abandoned them for Christianity.
Christianity had spread throughout the world. But Jews, who accepted
Jesus, as Messiah were struggling, emotionally, physically and
economically. They had become outcasts, lost property and suffered
persecution by those who rejected Jesus. Some, considering Jesus, were
having second thoughts after weighing the costs. Others attempted
compromise, to appease Jewish authorities, and still others did not
understand Jesus in contrast to Mosaic law. The purpose of the
Epistle to the Hebrews was to encourage these groups of Jewish
believers and seekers, to continue in their walk and to persevere in
Epistle of Hebrews answers questions the Jewish believers struggled
with in the first century. They needed to understand the relationship
between the Old and the New Covenants. Why Jesus was superior to Moses?,
Why Jesus’ death eliminated the need for the Levitical system. What
is the relationship between the Tabernacle and Jesus? Is there another
way to attain salvation? Can you loose your salvation?
issues this first century group of Jewish believers and seekers
struggled with are not much different from what many in the Church
struggle with today. For this reason, the Holy Spirit through the writer
of this book included it as part of the canon, to help the believer
understand the connection between the Old and New Covenants.
The author to this
book has been the subject of debate, there is no name within the text so
this has led much speculation. Paul, by many in the early church is
viewed as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. There arguments for
and against his authorship.
Arguments for Paul’s
1. The inscription “The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews”
is found on nearly all existing Greek manuscripts, including the
Peshito (Aramaic translation).
2. Church of Alexandria.
Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 180) says Paul wrote to the Hebrews and this
was the opinion of Pantaenus, who was the head of the celebrated school
Pantaenus lived near Palestine, and he would have been familiar with
Origen, (A.D. 185) also of
ascribed the epistle to Paul. Origen was one of the most learned of
early church fathers.
3. Authorship was ascribed to Paul in the Aramaic (Syriac) translation
dating to the early second century.
4. The Eastern Church received this as a production of Paul.
Justin Martyr who was born at
quotes it about A.D. 140.
Jacob, bishop of Nisibis, also (A.D. 325) quotes it as a production of
Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea in
Early Church historian (A.D. 325) ascribed authorship to Paul.
5. Western Churches
Well known church fathers such as Ambrose of Milan (A.D. 360). Jerome
translator of the Latin Vulgate (A.D.400) as well as Augustine argued
from Paul authorship.
Council of Hippo A.D. 393,
397, Carthage 419 declared Hebrews to be the Epistle of Paul.
6. Internal Evidence.
a. Timothy is mentioned 24 times in the scripture, 23
times in his relationship to Paul and the ministry.
Timothy was Paul representative to the Churches. He speaks about
returning to the “Hebrews” with Timothy.
b. The writer is writing from Italy and is/was a
prisioner who was maintained by the “Hebrews”. (Hebrews 11:24, 10:34).
Paul was a prisoner for 2 years and was helped by Church in
(Acts 24:27). The salutation “Those from
greet you” agrees with Paul situation of being in
as a prisoner.
Knowledge of the Old Covenant:
was a Pharasiee and would have been thoroughly familiar with the
Levitical system and laws.
1. Hebrews 2:3 writes, “was confirmed to us
by those who heard Him” would indicate the writer never heard the Lord
himself but had contact with those who did. Paul would have mentioned
his special revelation, where he personally heard from the Lord.
Tertullian (200 A.D.) quotes from Hebrews and calls it the “Epistle of
Barnabas”. Barnabas was a Levite (Acts
writer quotes from the Septugint (LXX) rather then the Hebrew in Old
writing style and vocabulary differ from that of Paul.
Time of Writing:
The time of the
writing of this book can be dated before 64 A.D., the beginning of
persecution of Christians in the
where Christians were killed for their faith.
Rome burned that
year and Nero blamed it the Christians, which began the persecution.
This letter was written before the persecution of 64 A.D. with
Christians dying for their faith, under Roman persecution.
4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.
This was also an
established group of believers, who should have grown more by the time
this epistle was written to them.
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to
teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have
come to need milk and not solid food. Hebrews 5:12.
Since the Temple was
destroyed in A.D. 70, and there is no mention of this the date is
probably close to A.D. 62-63 that Hebrews was written.
The audience is
manly a group of Jewish Believers, and Seekers who are located in
Palestine. Gentiles are not mentioned in the book, understand who is
being spoken to in the letter is key to understanding the book of
The audience can be
broken down into three groups.
Non-Christians who are intellectually convinced.
Non-Christians who are not convinced.
1. Hebrew Christians
This Jewish group
had accepted Christ as Messiah and Savior, they however had suffered
persecution because their faith.
32 But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you
endured a great struggle with sufferings:
33 partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and
tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were
This group is also
having trouble distinguishing the promises of the New Covenant from the
Old Covenant, the priesthood of Aaron and the Priesthood of Christ.
13 In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete.
Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Non-Christians who are intellectually convinced
This group of Jews
were intellectually convinced Jesus was the Messiah, but they were
unwilling to pay the cost of spiritual commitment. They understood the
Messianic prophesies and had seen their fulfillment; but stopped short
of committing to Christ. The Holy Spirit addresses this group several
times in Hebrews.
1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have
heard, lest we drift away.
2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every
transgression and disobedience received a just reward,
3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which
at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by
those who heard Him,
26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the
truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
Non-Christians who are not convinced
The third group
addressed is the Jewish seeker who is not convinced that Jesus is the
Messiah, and they refuse to accept him. The writer of Hebrews, explains
Jesus to this group as fulfillment of the New Covenant with the warning
of judgment for refusing Christ.
27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the
28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who
eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for
The believer has
already been judged with Christ on the Cross. Those who reject Christ
must bear their own judgment.