The Epistle to the Hebrews
“This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.”- Hebrews 7:22
Thirteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament—roughly half the canon—come from the Apostle Paul, making him a towering figure in the composition of the Christian Scriptures. For many centuries, however, a fourteenth book of the New Testament was also attributed to Paul. We refer to the epistle to the Hebrews, which is the next book that we are studying this year.
Hebrews, as is well known, does not actually identify its author, but it is not without reason that many people have believed that Paul wrote it. Clearly, the author moved in some of the same circles that Paul did, for he knew Timothy, Paul’s child in the faith (Heb. 13:23; see 1 Tim. 1:2). Furthermore, the stress on the sufficiency of Christ in Hebrews certainly fits well with Paul’s teaching on the work of Christ as the sole righteousness by which we are saved (2 Cor. 5:21). However, a closer look at the epistle reveals either that Paul did not write the book of Hebrews or that he relied heavily on an amanuensis, or secretary, if he did so. The Greek style employed by the author of Hebrews is of the highest literary quality, reflecting the style of someone other than the Apostle Paul, who wrote more colloquially. Because of this, some have suggested that the well-educated Apollos or perhaps the beloved physician Luke wrote the epistle (Acts 18:24; Col. 4:14). Many figures have been suggested as the author of Hebrews, none of whom enjoys the support of a majority of scholars. We can do little more than agree with the statement of the early Christian thinker Origen: “Who wrote the epistle, in truth God knows.”
We cannot identify the human author of Hebrews with certainty, but we can be confident that the epistle is of Apostolic pedigree. The church has heard the voice of Christ in this epistle, which is actually a sermon. Hebrews lacks many of the defining features of an epistle and never calls itself an epistle. Clearly, the author and audience were well versed in the Old Testament, since direct quotes from and allusions to the old covenant Scriptures pervade the book. These elements of the Old Testament are used to stress the superiority of Christ to everything under the old covenant. Apparently the audience, which had a Jewish background, was suffering persecution and was tempted to go back to the old covenant system to escape the suffering they were enduring for following Jesus (Heb. 6:1–8; 10:32–39). Hebrews was written to convince this audience that to go back to the old ways would be utter folly.
Most of us are not from a Jewish background, but that does not mean we are not tempted to leave Christ and go back to where we were before we met Him. But the book of Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus is far superior to everything else. Let us take time today to pray that we would be reminded of this great truth as we study the book of Hebrews, and let us ask the Lord to make us confident that Jesus is the guarantor of a better covenant.
Passages for Further Study
2 Samuel 7:12–13