subject of the Epistle is that the Messiah of the Old Testament Scriptures
must suffer as man (i.e. as Incarnate [God in] Man), and the Jesus who is
called the Christ of God, is the Messiah.
This title, as
in other cases, was gradually enlarged. The
Syriac Version and the New College Manuscript of the Harclean give the
Epistle to the Hebrews. The Cambridge Manuscript of the Harclean Syriac
version gives it its title the
Epistle to the Hebrews of Paul the Apostle, but in the
subscription the Epistle is called simply the
Epistle to the Hebrews.
(an Early Church father) has preserved an interesting notice of another
name, which was given to the Epistle in North
Africa, and which apparently dates from a time earlier than the
formation of the collection of Apostolic Epistles. He quotes it definitely
a Barnaboe titulus ad Hebroeos (reference de Pudic. 20); and there can
be no reasonable doubt that the
Epistle of Barnabas which is included in the African (Latin)
Stichomnetry contained in the Codex larom. (referred to as D 2 ) refers to this book.
So we have two
possible authors of the book of Hebrews, Paul and Barnabas. We have many
examples of the work of the Apostle Paul but very few of the Apostle
Barnabas. So I draw your attention to the Epistle of Barnabas which is
found in The Apostolic Fathers American Edition Book I
There is much more but this is sufficient example of the work of Barnabas who also was a mighty man in the Scriptures as was the Apostle Paul. Now we will continue with the Introduction of Hebrews.
nature of the book is defined by early writers, it is called an ‘Epistle’. The description is substantially correct, though the
construction of the writing is irregular. It opens without any address
or salutation (compare I John 1:1), but it closes with salutations
(Hebrews 13:24). There are indeed references throughout, and in the course
of the book there is a gradual transition from the form of an ‘essay’
to that of a ‘letter’ see Heb. 2:1; 3:1,12; 4:1,14; 5:11; 6:9; 10:19;
It is of
interest to notice the delicate shades of feeling marked by the transition
from ‘we’ to ‘ye’ as the writer speaks of the hopes and trials and duties
of Christians, see Heb. 3:12,13,14; 10:22,25,36,39; 12:1,2,3, 8-12,25,28;
13:5,6,9,10,15,16. For the
most part he identifies with those to whom he writes, unless there is some
special point in the direct address; see Heb. 1:2; 2:1,3,8; 3:19;
4:1,11,13; 6:1,18; 7:26; 8:1; 9:24; 10:10; 11:3,40.
Vaticanus B there is important evidence that Hebrews occupied a
different position in an early collections of Pauline Epistles. In this
manuscript there is a marginal numeration which shows that the whole
collection of Pauline Epistles was divided, either in its archetype or in
some earlier copy, into a series of sections numbered consecutively. In
this collection the Epistle to the Hebrews came between the Epistles to
the Galatians and to the Ephesians.
In the Syriac
versions the Epistle comes after the Pastoral Epistles and Philemon; and
this order, which was followed in the mass of later Greek
Manuscripts (K2, L2
etc.), probably under Syrian influence, has passed into the ‘Received
The same order
is found in Latin Manuscripts. For in the West the Epistle did not
originally form part of the collection of the writings of Paul; and other
traces remain of the absence of the book from the Apostolic collection.
Thus in the Codex Clarom. D2
the Epistle, as has been seen, appears as an appendix to the Pauline
Epistles, being separated from the Epistle to Philemon by the Stichometry.
The archetype of this manuscript and the original text from which the
Gothic version was made, evidently contained only thirteen Epistles of
Conclusion: Thus at the
earliest date at which we find a collection of Paul’s Epistles in
circulation in the Church, the Epistle to the Hebrews was by some
definitely included in Paul’s writings, occupying a place either
among or at the close of the Epistles to the Churches; by others it was
treated as an appendix to them, being set after the private letters: and
others again found no place for Hebrews at all among the Apostolic
writings. Remember that the
Epistle of Barnabas as good as it is also found no place in what we call
the New Testament.
direct notice of the Epistle, quoted by Eusebius (reference H.E. vol. 6
page 14) from Clement of Alexandria, states that it ‘was
written (by Paul) to Hebrews in
the Hebrew language (i.e. the Aramaic dialect current in Palestine at
the time, Acts 22:2) and translated (into
Greek) by Luke.’ This
statement was repeated from Eusebius ( and Jerome who depended on him ),
as it appears, and not from Clement
himself, by a series of later writers both in the East and West ( such as
Theodoret, Euthalius, John of Damascus, Cecumenius, Theophylact,
Primasius, Rabanus Maurus, Thomas Aquinas: reference see Bleek, 8f.;
Credner, Einl. 533 ), this is taken from the notes by Westcott on his
study of Hebrews.
But there is not the least trace of any independent evidence in favor of the tradition, nor is it said that anyone had ever seen the original Hebrew document.
letter is described in all existing copies as addressed ‘to
Hebrews’; and Tertullian (early Church father), who assigned the
authorship to Barnabas, gave it the same destination (ref. De
Pudic. 20 Barnabae titulus ad
Hebraeos). There is, as has been already seen, no evidence that it ever
bore any other address. Though there is no reason to suppose that the
title is original, it expresses at least the belief of those by whom the
Epistle was placed among the apostolic Scriptures, and describes truly the
character of those for whom it was written, so far as their character can
be determined from its general scope, as men who by birth and life were
devoted to the institutions of Israel.
itself the title ‘Hebrew’
is not local but national. It describes a quality of race and not of
dwelling. We have to inquire therefore whether the Epistle enables us to
define this wide term more exactly. At
once we find that the book contains numerous indications of the
circumstances and character of those to whom it was written.
is no trace of any admixture of heathen converts among them; nor does the
letter touch any of the topics of heathen controversy. It is therefore
scarcely possible that it could have been written to a mixed Church
generally, or to the Jewish section of a mixed Church. In either case
allusions to the relations of Jew and Gentile could scarcely have been
widening breach between the Church and the Synagogue rendered it necessary
at last to make choice between them, and ‘the
Hebrews’ were in danger of apostasy: see Heb. 2:1,3; 3:6,12;
4:1,3,11; 6:6; 10:25,29,39. They had need therefore of effort and
patience: see Heb. 4:14; 6:11; 10:23,36; 12:1,3,12.
earlier days they had borne reproach and hardships: see Heb. 10:32; still
they ‘had not yet resisted unto
blood’: see Heb. 12:3; though some at least ‘in bonds’ claimed
their sympathy and help: see Heb. 12:3; and perhaps their former
‘leaders’ had suffered even to martyrdom: see Heb. 13:7.
these individual traits it is clear that the letter is addressed to a definite
Society and not to ‘Hebrew’
Christians generally. This is proved yet more directly by the fact that
the writer hoped to visit them (Heb. 13:23) as he had been with them
before (Heb. 13:19). At the
same time, though he spoke of them as ‘brethren’
(Heb. 3:1) and ‘beloved’
(Heb. 6:9), he does not speak of them as ‘children’.
phase of feeling traced in the Epistle has been spoken of as a necessary
one in the development of Christian life. It is not difficult to see how
this was so. Those who suffered in the trial were Jews;
and the narrative of the book of Acts shows plainly with what loyal
devotion the first believers from among the Jews observed the Law. (Acts
at a later date Paul before the Sanhedrin claimed to be a true Jew.
For a time this fellowship of the Church and the Synagogue was allowed on
both sides. Little by little the growth of the Gentile element in the
Church excited the active hostility of the Jews against the whole body of
Christians, as it troubled the Jewish converts themselves( see Acts 15).
the Jewish converts had had ample time for realizing the true relations of
Christianity and Judaism. Devotion to Levitical ritual was no longer
innocent, if it obscured the characteristic teaching of the Gospel.
position which rightly belonged to young and immature Christians was
unsuited to those who ought to have reached the fullness of truth (Heb.
5:11). Men who won praise for their faith and constancy at the beginning
of a generation which was emphatically a period of transition,
might well deserve blame and stand in peril of apostasy, if at the end of
it they simply remained where they had been at first.
as yet the national unbelief of the Jews was undeclared, it was not
possible to foresee that the coming of Christ would bring the overthrow of
the old order. The approaching catastrophe was not realized in the
earlier apostolic writings. In the Epistle to the Hebrews it is shown to
be imminent (this is speaking about the destruction of Jerusalem around 70
AD by Titus of Rome see Josephus account of this). In the Gospel and
Epistles of John it is, as it were, lost in the fullness of the life of the
date of the Epistle is fixed within narrow limits by its contents. A
generation of Christians had already passed away (Heb. 13:7; 2:3). There
had been space for great changes in religious feeling (Heb. 10:32), and
for religious growth (Heb. 5:11).
the other hand the Levitical service is spoken of as still continued (Heb.
8:4; 9:6,9; 10:1; 13:10 ); and, even if the references to its present
continuance could be explained away, it is inconceivable that such a
national calamity as the Jewish war with Rome should be unnoticed
(remember the prophecy of Jesus in Matthew 24:15-22; Luke 21:20-24 ) if it
had already broken out, and still more, if it had been decided. Indeed the
prospect of exclusion from the privileges of the old services is the very
essence of the trial of ‘the Hebrews; and the severity of the trial is in itself a decisive
proof of the influence which the Temple ritual exercised at the time.
letter to the Hebrews may then be placed in the critical interval between AD
64, the government of Gessius Florius, and AD
67, the commencement of the Jewish War, and most probably just before
the breaking of the storm in the latter year, as the writer speaks of the
visible sign of the approach of ‘the
day’ (Heb. 10:25; compare Heb. 8:13 near
disappearing KJV. To vanish away); and indicates the likelihood of
severer trials for the Church (Heb. 12:4 not
yet, also Heb. 13:13).
order to place the Epistle in its historical setting it may be added that
Nero was in Greece at the time, endeavoring to enter into the old spirit
of Greek art; Apollonius of Trana was teaching at Rome. The fire at Rome,
which first brought the Christians into popular notice, took place in AD 64.
the Apostle died under the persecutions of Nero in AD
65, who started the war with the Jews and Barnabas the Apostle died
about AD 73. So either of these
two soldiers of the Cross could have been the writer of Hebrews
The general conclusion can hardly be questioned if the significance of the Fall of Jerusalem is realized. That catastrophe was not relived, as the Babylonian overthrow had been, by any promise of restoration (from AD 70 to AD 1948 Jerusalem was trodden down of the gentiles). To the Christians it was the fulfillment of the Lord’s final judgment as recorded in the Gospels, and the sign of His coming. No event in such a connection could mark more distinctly the close of the old Dispensation; and no one who sympathized with the best hopes of Israel could have failed to leave some trace of the effect of the visitation in his argument, when the tragic event was not only fresh in his memory but also had a close connection with his theme.
Tradition is silent as to the place from which the Epistle was written. Nor again is there anything in the Epistle itself which leads to a definite conclusion. No argument can be drawn from the mention of the release of Timothy (Heb. 13:23), for nothing is known of the event to which reference is made. We may suppose that the writer is speaking of a small group of friends from Italy, who were with him at the time. So far the words seem to favor a place of writing in Asia, Syria, or Egypt. In any case, however, it is impossible to lay stress upon a clause which evidently had a particular and special sense for those to whom the message was sent.
The language of the Epistle is both in vocabulary and style purer and more vigorous than that of any other book of the New Testament
contrast of the Style of the Epistle to that of Paul may be noticed in the
passages which are quoted as echoes of Paul’s language:
and reasoning are Paul’s whatever the style and language may be. All his
other epistles were written to churches mainly composed of Gentiles. In
addressing such an epistle to Hebrews, he would naturally write as an
instructed scribe (see Gamaliel
above), one brought up “at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to
the perfect manner of the law of the fathers” (Acts 22:3).
therefore futile to argue that if Paul were really the author, the
language and style would have been in exact accord with those of the other
epistles that he wrote. Had this been so, it would be an argument against,
and not in favor of, Paul’s authorship.
The testimony of 2 Peter 3:15,16, strictly interpreted, proves that Paul wrote an epistle to the Hebrews, and if this is not the epistle, where is it? No trace or indication of any other has ever been found.
2 Peter 3:15-16
Paul was at Jerusalem for the Council meeting (AD 51 ) when the very subjects of Hebrews had evidently been bitterly discussed (Acts 15:5-7). Shortly thereafter he writes Thess. 1 and 2, both of which contain poignant references to ‘shameful treatment’ at the hands of his own people.
The Epistle to
the Hebrews is one of three Books in the New Testament specially address
to those who were Jews by descent,
the other two being the Gospel according to Matthew and the Epistle of
James (James 1:1 to the twelve
tribes). To these however I Peter, probably addressed to those who had
passed through Judaism to Christianity, may be added ( I Peter 1:1 to
[the] elect sojourners of [the]
dispersion of Pontus…..).
Each of these books is marked by a characteristic view of the Faith:
connection indicates the true position of the Epistle of Hebrews, which is
that of a final development of the teaching of ‘the
three,’ and not of a special application of the teaching of Paul. It
is, so to speak, most truly intelligible as the last voice of the
apostles of the circumcision and not as a peculiar utterance of the
apostle of the Gentiles (Gal. 2:9 “and
having known the grace which was given to me, James and Cephas (Peter) and
John, those reputed pillars to be, [the] right
hands they gave to me and Barnabas of
fellowship, that we [should go] to
the nations, and they to the circumcision (Jews):” Greek New
Testament by Berry.
The apostles of the circumcision regarded Judaism naturally with sympathy and even with affection, for it was that through which they had been led little by little to see the meaning of the Gospel. The Apostle of the Gentiles, with all his love for his countrymen and all his reverence for the work wrought through the old Covenant, no less naturally regarded Judaism, as it was, as a system which had made him a persecutor of the Faith.
Reminds me of another statement of a man of God.
For Paul the
Law is a code of moral ordinances: for the writer of the Epistle to the
Hebrews it is a scheme of typical provisions for atonement. For the one it
is a crushing burden: for the other it is a welcome if imperfect source of
consolation. And it is in virtue of this general interpretation of the
spirit of the Levitical system that the unknown apostle (Paul, Barnabas,
or someone else) to whom we owe the Epistle to the Hebrews was fitted to
fulfill for the Church the part which was providentially committed to him.
progress of thought in the Epistle is clear; but, at the same time, in a
writing so many-sided, where subjects are naturally foreshadowed and
recalled, difference of opinion must arise as to the exact divisions of
the argument. The following arrangement gives at least an intelligible
view of the main relations of the different parts of the Book.
THESE CHIEF DIVISIONS CAN BE FOLLOWED A LITTLE MORE IN DETAIL
The word Messiah, is an Anglicization of the Latin word Messias, which is borrowed from the Greek. An adaptation of the Aramaic word meshiha which is the translation of the Hebrew word (ha-melekh) he-mashi ah, which means 'the Anointed [King]'; a charismatically endowed descendant of David (king of Israel) who the Jews of the Roman period believed would be raised up by God to break the yoke of the heathen and to reign over a restored kingdom of Israel to which all the Jews of the Exile would return. This is a strictly post biblical concept. Even Haggai and Zechariah, expected the Davidic kingdom to be renewed with a specific individual.
Today the Orthodoxy Jews retain unimpaired traditional doctrines like:
Many Orthodox rabbis were at first opposed to Zionism in that it seemed to substitute a purely human redemption for the redeemer sent by God. But with the establishment of the State of Israel the widely held Orthodox view was to see the events in Israel as athalta de-geullo. "the beginning of the redemption," i.e. the foundations laid by humans, under God's guidance, ready to receive the building to be erected by God's direct act.
When I was in Israel in 1972, I asked when Israel was going to build their temple and they said that it was not the job of the nation of Israel but it was the task of Messiah. (Paul the Learner)
God's plan is complete and needs nothing else.
End of the Introduction to Hebrews