As per the name, this book was written to Jewish Christians. In his commentary, Robert Milligan summarized the purpose of the book in this way:
The primary object of our author in writing this Epistle was manifestly to persuade his Hebrews brethren in Christ to persevere to the end in their begun Christian course, and not to fall back again to Judaism … and it was therefore also for our comfort, encouragement and consolation, as well as for the benefit of the persecuted and desponding Hebrew Christian (A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews)
The book identifies points of likeness between the Law and the gospel, between Israelites and Christians; but primarily focuses on the contrast between such, with the emphasis on the superiority of Christianity over Judaism. The key word throughout the book is “BETTER”:
- Jesus is “so much better than the angels:” (1:4)
- There is a “better hope” in Christ (7:19)
- The gospel is a “better covenant” (7:22; 8:6)
- Jesus is a “better sacrifices” (9:23)
- We look forward to a “better possession” (10:34)
- Which is a “better and heavenly country” (11:16)
- Those who serve God seek a “better resurrection” (11:35)
The writer of Hebrews identifies Jesus as our High Priest. He does so, not just once or twice, but a total of twelve times (2:17; 3:1; 4:14, 15; 5:5, 10; 6:20; 7:26; 8:1, 3; 9:11; 10:21). His priesthood is contrasted with the Levitical priesthood. More than once in the book Jesus is said to be a High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:11, 15, 17, 21; cf. Genesis 14:18; Psalm 110:4).
The author chose to remain anonymous. There are Internal evidences which may suggest the apostle Paul was the author, but it is certainly not conclusive. Several sources, both church fathers from the time of antiquity and more recently various commentators, have suggested other possible writers, including Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Barnabas, Apollos, Philip the Evangelist, Priscilla and Aquilla, and others. B.F. Westcott has said,
…plausible conjectures unsupported by evidence cannot remove our ignorance even if they satisfy our curiosity.
The bottom line is we do not know and cannot know for certain who wrote the book of Hebrews. And that’s okay. We need not know the authorship to accept the inspiration of the book.
Here is a chapter-by-chapter outline of the book of Hebrews:
Chapter 1—Jesus, the Son of God
Chapter 2—Jesus, Come as a Man
Chapter 3—Hear the Voice of the Lord
Chapter 4—Attainment of Rest
Chapter 5—Jesus, our High Priest
Chapter 6—Progressing in Faith
Chapter 7—The Need for a New Priesthood
Chapter 8—The New Priest and Covenant
Chapter 9—The New and Better Tabernacle
Chapter 10—Drawing Close to God
Chapter 11—A People of Faith
Chapter 12—Endure the Race
Chapter 13—Apply These Things.
Next time, we’ll look at James.