STUDY 19 - THE EPISTLE TO THE
For this study see: M.C.Tenney, pp.355-364; R.H.Gundry, pp.421-430.
Further reading: D.A.Carson, et al., An
Introduction to the New
1. AUTHORSHIP AND DESTINATION
"Who wrote the epistle God only knows certainly" (Origen,
The author of Hebrews does not give his name. The internal indications
are that he was an educated person of some literary ability, someone
well versed in the Greek version of the OT (LXX), which he quotes
extensively. He was not an immediate disciple of Christ
(Heb.2:3). He was a friend of Timothy (13:23). For many
years Paul was believed to be the author - but the epistle's style,
diction and content is said to argue against Pauline authorship. Other
suggestions include Barnabas, Apollos, Luke, Timothy, Aquila and
Priscilla. The author's acquaintance with Timothy and his use of
Hab.2:4 (10:38; cf., Rom.1:17; Gal.3:11)  may indicate someone in
the Pauline circle. It is now generally agreed that the author is
unknown, hence references are often made simply to the Auctor (Lat.,
It is difficult to decide for whom the epistle was written as it does
not open with any formal salutation. The old heading 'To the
Hebrews' and the nature of the content suggests that Jewish Christians
were in mind. Whoever they were they had been acquainted with the
gospel and had heard it preached by eyewitnesses of Jesus' life
(2:3-4). They had endured persecution to some degree
(10:32-34). Some of their leaders had died (13:7). In his
commentary on Hebrews, W.Manson suggests that the readers were a
community of Jewish Christians in Rome who, threatened with
persecutions, were shrinking back under cover of Judaism.  The
greetings give an Italian connection (13:24).
2. DATE OF WRITING
M.C.Tenney shares some good observations:
"The epistle was written during the lifetime of the second generation
of Christians (2:1-4) and at a considerable interval after the
conversion of the recipients (5:12). They had forgotten the 'former
days' (10:32) and their leaders had died (13:7). Timothy had been
imprisoned (13:23), but was still living and had been liberated.
The allusions to the priesthood imply that the temple was still
standing, but the removal of Jewish institutions was not too far
distant (12:27). Persecution was imminent (10:32-36; 12:4).
The epistle seems to fit best the situation of the late sixties, when
the church at Rome was fearing persecution and when the fall of the
Jewish commonwealth was imminent". 
Hebrews must be dated before the end of the first century as Clement of
Rome quotes from it in his epistle to the Corinthians (c.A.D.
95). Reference is made to the temple as if it was still standing
(8:4,13; 10:11; 13:10,11).
3. OUTLINE AND CONTENT
Hebrews compares the old and new covenants demonstrating the
superiority of the new.
An outline of the epistle M.C.Tenney incorporates the keyword 'better'
into his analysis and outline:
Hebrews falls into two main parts:
The main argument (1:1-10:18) and the closing exhortation
(10:19-13:25). Note: 'exhortation' (13:22).
Hebrews: The Epistle of
The better messenger: the Son (1:1-2:18)
The better apostle (3:1-4:13)
The better priest (4:14-7:28)
The better covenant (8:1-9:28)
The better sacrifice (10:1-31)
The better way: faith (10:32-12:29)
Conclusion: the practice of faith (13:1-25).
The readers were tempted to 'loose their mooring' and 'drift' to
Judaism (2:1). So the Auctor seeks to exhort them to 'hold fast'
(4:14). He demonstrates the superiority of God's revelation in
Christ to the revelation of God through the law, especially as
represented by the Levitical priesthood. Christianity is superior to
Judaism. As Tenney says, the new revelation in Christ has superseded
the old; the coming of the substance has made the shadow obsolete. To
go back to the old religion was backsliding and apostasy. The
author concentrates on the superiority of Christ, who is compared with
angels, Moses, Joshua, and the priestly order of Aaron. As a
priest he is seen as a superior high priest belonging to the order of
Melchizedek. Christ is depicted as both priest and sacrificial
offering - and a mediator on behalf of the people of God. He bases his
argument on the OT.
Hebrews contains strong warnings against apostasy (6:4-12; 10:26-31),
but the general feel of the work is one of exhortation (13:22).
From the Greek New Testament we note these exhortations:
Let us fear (4:1);
Let us therefore give diligence to enter (4:11);
Let us hold fast our confession (4:14);
Let us draw near to the throne (4:16);
Let us press on unto perfection (6:1);
Let us draw near to God (10:22);
Let us hold fast the confession of our faith (10:23);
Let us consider one another 10:24);
Let us lay aside every weight (12:1);
Let us run the race, looking unto Jesus (12:1);
Let us have grace (12:28);
Let us therefore go forth (13:13);
Let us offer up sacrifice of praise (13:15).
Although the author of Hebrews is unknown its inspiration is
obvious. It 'contains the holy of holies of Christian truth'.
Note the teaching:
"The greatest single value of the book of Hebrews is its teaching on
the present ministry and priesthood of Christ" (M.C.Tenney).  The
ministry of the Son as revealer and redeemer is told in majestic
language in chapter one (vv.1-4). The eternal nature of the Son's
priesthood is pictured in Melchizedek (6:20), and the Son's eternal
priesthood is seen as foretold in Psa.110 (7:17). The
intercessory ministry of the risen Lord is expounded (7:24; 8:1; cf.,
Rom.8:34). The eternal Sonship of Christ is seen in the words: "Jesus
Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever" (13:8).
Christ is both priest and sacrifice. His work is finished
(1:3). He offered one sacrifice, for all sins, for all
time. It was 'once for all' (7:27). The new covenant is
explained and seen as a fulfilment of Jer.31:31-34 (see 8:8-12).
The examples of faith
Chapter eleven illustrates the importance of faith and gives a list of
past men and women of faith. The example of these 'witnesses' is
used, together with the Lord's, to exhort the Christians to persevere
The nature of the church
The old priesthood is outmoded. All believers are viewed as
priests able to enter the heavenly temple with spiritual sacrifices
(13:15-16; cf., 1 Pet.2:9).
Use of the Old Testament (LXX)
According to M.C.Tenney, the epistle is "an exposition of one theme,
the new revelation of God, based on the passages in the OT that contain
the latent truth, and developed in orderly rhetorical fashion to a
climax. Its use of quotations gives a good idea of the passages
and the methods of interpretation that were used by the Christian
teachers of the first century". 
Hebrews teaches us that the OT points to Christ.
And Jesus Christ is the key to unlocking the Scriptures.
1. The exegesis of Hab.2:4 differs in Romans and Hebrews.
2. Consult the introduction in: W.Manson, The Epistle to the
Hebrews, London, Hodder, 1951.
3. M.C.Tenney, p.359.
4. M.C.Tenney, p.363.
5. M.C.Tenney, p.363.