Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hebrews - Introduction

The letter written to the Hebrews is often one of the most mysterious books in the bible to westerners. We Americans as a whole are rather biblically illiterate, rather ironic since we also have the most "bible onlyist" churches in the world. So let's take a look at Hebrews.

What better place to start than at the beginning? Well perhaps before the beginning? The author of this book is not explicitly or even implicitly known. Some in the past have suggested Pauline authorship however since this book does not follow the Pauline framework found in his other epistles this is most likely not the case. However whoever wrote this letter probably did have direct contact with Paul and was familiar with his teaching style. (A comparison of Hebrews and Romans shows us this much.) They also had an intimate knowledge of the Old Testament since it is quoted, alluded to, made reference to, and summarized far more extensively than most other biblical books. (Matthew references the Old Testament more but is also twice as long.) So we can say with some confidence that this letter was written by a learned in both the Old Testament and Pauline Theology and was perhaps written by Apollos. (Acts 18:24ff)

The book was likely written to Jewish believers, though it may have been to the Hellenic Jews. The concepts that this book speaks to would suggest this since the Greco-Judaic mind loved issues such as the veneration of Moses, Mediation of angles, the Old Covenant Law, and the role of Wisdom in creation. Further this book was addressing those who were seeking to return to the synagogue or temple system, which Gentile Christians wouldn't be returning to but coming to the first time. (See also Galatians) Furthermore this was letter was very likely addressed to the Jews of Rome, since in the farewell the author mentions greeting from those in Rome who are not of Rome.(13:24) Finally the concept of "leaders" (hegoumenoi) is mentioned a concept subsequent church leaders from Rome will pick up on and use. So to recap this letter was probably written to a community of Jewish Believers in Rome who were struggling with Christianity and remaining within Christianity.

The overarching goal of the book of Hebrews is to encourage the believers to endure in the faith. The author does this by moving back and forth from a theological concept to how we ought to live in light of such a concept, with the basic point as Jesus is the best(only) basis for relating to God and enduring in a relationship with Him. Those who reject Jesus are in trouble!!!

Finally this Book was probably written before the fall of the temple in Jerusalem but after Christianity had been well established in Rome. This is because there is no mention of the temple falling, which would have been another key that the writer assuredly would have picked up on. At the same time there had been Christians there for some time so (5:11-6:3) therefore we can safely assume that this letter was probably written sometime in the mid 60's.

Hopefully that helps. Next time we dive into Chapter 1.

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. - The Apostle Paul