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INTRODUCTION TO HEBREWS

Dr. Grant. C. Richison

Importance for Christians today

Christians today need the assurance of the superiority and finality of Christ. In an age of pervasive doubt, Hebrews offers clarity, hope, and confidence in what is true. This book will show believers how to resist influence from their context.

Since Hebrews is difficult to understand, many contemporary readers neglect to study it—to their own loss. This book deals with many “things that accompany salvation” (He 6:9).

Purposes:

—To challenge Hebrew Christians not to give up their faith, an appeal to endure

—To present the pre-eminence of Christ as the final and complete revelation

—To encourage the superiority of Christ in the maturity process

—To set forth five warnings against reversionism

—To show free and unrestricted access to God

Themes:

—To present Christ as the Great High Priest

—To show the superiority of faith in Christ

Hebrews shows the failure of the Old Testament economy and the superiority of the New Testament economy.

—To prevent reversionism to Old Testament living

Author

Disputed:

Hebrews names no author; Hebrews is an anonymous document.

Early church affirmed Paul as the author of Hebrews; however, most scholars do not accept Pauline authorship of this book today.

Problems with Pauline Authorship:

—No name given for authorship

—Style different from Paul

—Classical Greek, not Koine Greek as Paul

—Other suggestions: Apollos, Barnabas, Philip

Location:

Writer wrote from Italy (13:24) and associated with Timothy (13:23).

Recipients or Destination:

The designation on some manuscripts was “to the Hebrews.”

Jewish Christians (He 13:7, 17-19, 22-24), maybe Palestinian

—Made profession of faith (He 3:1; 4:14; 10:23)

—Gave evidence of salvation (Jn 6:10; 10:32-34)

—Tendency to hark back to the old covenant (He 1:1; 3:5,6; 7:11; 8:7)

—Spiritually immature (He 3:12; 5:11-14; 12:25)

Readers knew the writer (He 5:11, 12; 6:9, 10; 10:32-34; 12:4).

Readers were familiar with the Old Testament and temple worship.

Readers were for the most part second generation Christians (He 13:7).

Recipients had been believers for some time (He 5:12; 10:32-34).

Canonicity

Although there have been many debates about authorship, there is no evidence that churches questioned its canonicity. Clement, Bishop of Rome, made mention of Hebrews in AD 96. Clement of Alexandria attributed Hebrews to Paul around AD 180. Hebrews was included in the Synod of Hippo (AD 393) and the Third (AD 397) and Sixth (AD 419) Synods of Carthage.

Date: AD 68-69

Temple worship was still in action (He 8:4; 9:6; 10:11; 13:10). The temple was destroyed in AD 70. There is no reference to this event in Hebrews.

Occasion

Many Jews were in danger of reverting back to living under the law and life under the nation Israel. They were about to abandon a “greater” way of life.

Argument

Jesus is “better than

Angels at Sinai, He 1:4; 2:1-4

Moses, He 3:1-6

Joshua, He 4:1-10

Aaron, He 4:14; 5:1ff

Law, He 10:1 (the priesthood, temple and offerings)

Key Word: Better” (13 times in Hebrews)

Other key words:

Maturity (11 times)

Eternal and forever (13 times)—emphasizes finality of Christ and temporary nature of the Old Testament

Heaven, heavens, heavenly (16 times)

Partakers (7 times)—fellowship and joint participation with Christ in living experience.

Faith (31 times)

Key Verses: He 4:14; 8:6; 11:40

Peculiarities:

Anonymous author

—No introductory greeting but concludes with personal greetings

—A treatise

—Shows Judaism as a “shadow” and Christianity as “substance;” Judaism as the type but Christ as the Antitype

—Form differs from all other epistles in the New Testament

—High literary order

—Much of the content of Hebrews is unique to the book itself

—The book is steeped in Old Testament quotations and allusions

—The congregation is mostly Jewish converts to Christianity who were in danger of returning to Judaism

Emphases unique in the canon of Scripture, such as the priesthood of Jesus, the Levitical priesthood, the figure Melchizedek, the present greatness of Christ

Short Outline:

Christ Superior to the Old Testament Economy, 1:1-10:18

Christ’s Superior Life for Believers, 10:19-13:25

Extended Outline:

Introduction, 1:1-3

The Superiority of the Person of Christ, 1:4-4:13

—Superiority to angels, 1:4-2:18

—Superiority to Moses, 3:1-4:13

The Superiority of the Priesthood of Christ, 4:14-10:18

—His provisions as Priest, 4:14-16

—His qualifications as Priest, 5:1-10

—His warning as Priest, 5:11-6:20

—His person as Priest, 7:1-28

—His work as Priest, 8:1-10:18

Superiority of Life in Christ, 10:19-13:25

—New life in Christ

Faith, 10:19-22

Hope, 10:23

Love, 10:24-25

—Warning against willful sin, 10:26-39

—Challenge to mature

—in faith, 11:1-40

—in confidence, 12:1-24

—in strength against negative volition, 12:25-29

—in love, 13:1-17

Conclusion, 13:18-25

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