New Testament Survey: The Book Of Hebrews
The Book Of Hebrews
- The East (i.e. Alexandria) as a whole believed that Paul was the author, while the West (i.e. Rome) was much less willing to accept Pauline authorship.
- Those who have rejected Pauline authorship are divided as to who did write Hebrews. Arguments have been made in favor of: Barnabas, Luke, Silas, Apollos, Philip, Priscilla and Aquila, and even Clement of Rome.
- Until the 4th century, Hebrews was not accepted as canonical in the West until Jerome and Augustine argued in favor of it. From about that time until around 1600, it was known as “The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews.” The KJV Bible (1611) uses this as the title to Hebrews.
- There are a number of reasons to believe Paul authored this book:
- Pauline authorship is rejected simply because there is insufficient evidence for it, not because there is conclusive evidence he didn’t write it.
- In (2 Pet 3:15-16), an Epistle that Peter wrote to the Hebrews, it was declared that Paul had also written an Epistle to them: “As our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles…” There is no evidence that Paul wrote any other Epistle to the Hebrews.
- The salutation found in (Heb 13:25) “Grace be with you all. Amen.” is found in some form in all of Paul’s Epistles except Romans and 1st Corinthians.
- Paul likened our lives to a “race.” The word “race” is used only two times in the New Testament: in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 9:24,26) and (Heb 12:1).
** For other similarities compare:
Heb 12:14 with Rom 12:18
Heb 13:16 with Phil 4:18
Heb 8:1 with Eph 1:20
Heb 2:2 with Gal 3:19
Heb 2:10 with Rom 11:36
- It has been argued that Paul always put his name in the Epistles he wrote, and this Epistle is nameless. However, this could easily be explained by the fact that this Epistle was addressed to the Jews, and if they knew Paul had written it (especially since he was the Apostle to the Gentiles) they likely would have rejected it.
- The writer singles out Timothy in his salutation (Heb 13:23). Paul mentions Timothy 17 times in 10 of his 13 Epistles.
- The point of view and arguments used throughout are thoroughly Pauline.
- There are also several reasons to reject Pauline authorship:
- (Heb 2:3) seems to suggest that the author of Hebrews was not an eye-witness of Jesus Christ, but rather, had received information about Jesus from others who had heard the Lord. However, Paul explicitly maintained that he had received direct revelation from Jesus (Gal 1:12)(1 Cor 15:8-11).
- The style, vocabulary, and content differ greatly from any of Paul’s other Epistles. Hebrews is more polished and refined than Paul’s other Epistles.
- Paul used the terms “Christ Jesus” or “Our Lord Jesus Christ” over 600 times in his other writings, and these terms are absent in Hebrews.
- The writer of Hebrews used the LXX or Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) when quoting the Old Testament, which indicates a lack of understanding of the Hebrew language.
- The early church fathers were divided over the authorship of this book. Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Tertullian denied Pauline authorship. Tertullian wrote in his writing “De Pundicitia” that he believed Barnabas was the author. Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius believed Paul wrote it. (Calvin believed Luke wrote it, and Luther believed that Apollos wrote it.)
- Ultimately, most would have to agree with Origen who said, “who it was that really wrote the Epistle, God only knows.”
- Chapters: 13
- Verses: 303
- App. 62-64 A.D.
- Clement of Rome quoted Hebrews in his “Epistle to the Corinthians” in 95 A.D., so it had to be written before that date.
- It is stated in (Heb 12:4) that these Christians had “not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.” This appears to show that it was written before Nero’s slaughter of Christians which began in 64 A.D.
- The Temple clearly had not yet been destroyed because the Levites were still ministering, and the sacrificial system was still in effect (Heb 5:1-4)(Heb 7:21,23,27-28)(Heb 8:3-5,13) (Heb 9:6-9,13,25)(Heb 10:1,3-4,8,11)(Heb 13:10-11). Therefore, it must have been written before the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D.
- Unknown (Possibly Rome based on Heb 13:24. If by Paul, then possibly during his 1st Roman imprisonment in Rome which lasted for 2 years: Acts 28:30.)
(Some believe Palestine is also a possibility.)
- Hebrew Christians (Jewish converts to Christianity)
(Possibly those who lived in Rome: Heb 13:24)
- The recipients were Christians (Heb 3:1); not new ones, but they were immature (Heb 5:11-6:1) “by this time you ought to be teachers” (Heb 5:12).
- They had successfully endured persecution (Heb 10:32-39).
- Apparently, however, many of them were considering turning away from Christ and returning to Judaism to avoid further persecution. (Roman law permitted and tolerated Judiasm, but not Christianity.) Five warnings were given to those considering this: (Heb 2:1-4)(Heb 3:7-4:14) (Heb 5:11-6:20)(Heb 10:19-39)(Heb 12:12-29).
- The writer frequently quotes the Old Testament (29 times) as a Jew writing to Jews would. The difference between Jews and Christians is contrasted often.
(Heb 1:1-3,8,10)(Heb 2:18)(Heb 4:12-16)(Heb 6:4-6 – see addendum)(Heb 7:25)(Heb 9:12) (Heb 10:19-25)(Heb 11:1-2,6)(Heb 12:1-2)(Heb 13:5-6,8)
- To demonstrate the superiority of Christ, and show that He was the fulfillment of the types and shadows that pointed to the Messiah in the Old Testament (i.e. The High Priest, blood sacrifices, etc…).
- To exhort the Jewish Christians to mature and stay strong in their allegiance to Christ.
- To warn them of the danger of falling away from Christ and back into Judaism.
- To show that the New Covenant had replaced the Old Covenant.
- Throughout the book of Hebrews, the superiority of Christ is emphasized: (Heb 1:4)(Heb 6:9) (Heb 7:19,22)(Heb 8:6)(Heb 9:23)(Heb 10:34)(Heb 11:16,35,40)(Heb 12:24).
- At least 7 key words are found in Hebrews more than any other book in the New Testament:
Better: 13 times | Perfect: 9 times | Obtained: 8 times | Blood: 22 times | Strong: 5 times | Heavenly: 5 times | Consider: 4 times
- Hebrews is the only book in the New Testament where Melchizedek is mentioned: (9 times)
(See: “Excursus On Melchizedek” below)
- We learn several things about Angels in Hebrews:
- Christ is superior to the Angels: (Heb 1:4).
- They are innumerable in number and live in Heaven: (Heb 12:22).
- They are “spirit” by nature (Heb 1:14), but God sometimes allows them to take on human form (Heb 13:2).
Excursus On Melchizedek:
- Who was Melchizedek?
- Melchizedek was a person who is mentioned in four places in the Bible: (Gen 14:18-20) (Ps 110:4)(Heb 5:6-10)(Heb 6:20-7:28). There are many theories as to who he was such as: a theophany (or Old Testament appearance) of Jesus, a person named Shem, an angel, or he was simply a man who was an actual king/priest. Most scholars hold the latter position, so we will look at who Melchizedek was based on that point of view.
- Melchizedek was a picture or “type” of Christ. His title was the King of Salem (Gen 14:18), which is what Jerusalem was called prior to being called Jerusalem (Ps 76:2).
**Jerusalem was also called Jebus (Judg 19:10-11)(1 Chr 11:4).
- Apparently, Melchizedek worshipped the God of the Jewish people even though he was not a Jew himself. Whoever he was, Abraham saw fit to honor and respect Melchizedek by giving him a tenth of all he has gotten in battle (Gen 14:18-20). Giving a tenth was a forerunner to what was later made a requirement by God, tithing a tenth of income to the Lord’s work.
- The Melchizedek priesthood was set up by God for a very important reason. We know that the tribe of Levi (the Levites) was later designated by God to serve as priests. No person, including the High Priest, could serve as a priest unless they descended from the tribe of Levi. The High Priest was a picture of Jesus, who is now our High Priest forever (Heb 7:24-25). However, Jesus descended from the tribe of Judah, not the tribe of Levi. How then could He be a priest? He was a priest through the order of Melchizedek. This priesthood was created by God to endure forever (Ps 110:4), just as Jesus endures forever. The Levitical priesthood was imperfect, not meant to endure, and associated with the Old Covenant, which was later replaced by the New Covenant through the blood of Jesus.
- Let’s also look at what is likely meant when (Heb 7:3) says Melchizedek was “without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life.” Many people use this to say Melchizedek must have been Christ. However, this is likely referring to his priesthood, and not his lineage. As stated above, no person could serve as a priest unless they were descended from the tribe of Levi. Genealogy has always been important to the Jewish people, and this is why we see lineage listed so often in the Bible. The ancestral record gave the Jews a clear beginning. Why didn’t Melchizedek have a “beginning of days, nor end of life?” Because he didn’t become a priest by his lineage, but instead, he was appointed to be a priest specifically by God Himself. In addition, the Melchizedek priesthood has no “end of life” because Jesus is now our High Priest forever through the order of Melchizedek.
- Hebrews is in six divisions, but these include five parenthetic passages of exhortation.
1. The great salvation: 1:1-2:18 (2:1-4, parenthetic).
2. The rest of God, 3:1-4:16 (all parenthetic).
3. Our great High Priest, 5:1-8:6 (5:11-6:12, parenthetic).
4. The new covenant and the heavenly sanctuary, 8:7-10:30 (10:26-39, parenthetic).
5. The superiority of the faith way, 11:1-40.
6. The worship and walk of the believer-priest, 12:1-13:25 (12:3-17, parenthetic).
(Survey from Scofield Reference Notes [1917 ed.]: Public Domain)
This is my take on the verses (Heb 6:4-6) as taken from the Q & A section of my website (JesusAlive.cc).
Q: Does (Heb 6:4-6) mean you can lose your salvation?
A. I believe that if you look at (Heb 6:9), you will see that the author of Hebrews points out that his readers are believers (“better things of you and things that accompany salvation), and that he was speaking of unbelievers in verses 4-6.
In addition, if someone holds the position that “falling away” (verse 6) means that a believer can lose their salvation, then it must also be conceded that it is “impossible” to be “renewed again unto repentance” (or get salvation back again) because you can’t crucify Jesus “all over again.” However, few who believe salvation can be lost believe it is gone forever once lost. Instead, it is generally stated by those who believe salvation can be lost that you can get it back again when you repent of the sin or sins that caused you to lose it in the first place. Where does the Bible show people going in and out of salvation like this?
So, who is the “enlightened” sinner that has “tasted the heavenly gift and the word of God” and “been made a partaker of the Holy Spirit?”
First, I believe it is important to understand that the Bible tells us that God desires for all men to be saved (1 Tim 2:3-4)(2 Pet 3:9)(Ezek 18:23)(Mt 18:14), and that no man can be saved unless first drawn by the Father (Jn 6:44). The Father “draws” all men by the work of the Holy Spirit, who convicts the world of sin (Jn 16:8).
However, a person can be drawn by the Holy Spirit (“a partaker of the Holy Spirit”) and believe that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 16:8) through hearing the word (“tasting” the word of God) but not be saved. Some of these people may even have prayed to receive Christ, but it is a “said faith” or a temporary profession of faith, but not true saving faith.
Jesus gives us an example of this kind of “temporary faith” in the “Parable of the Sower” (Mt 13:3-8,18-23)(Lk 8:4-8,11-15). He says in (Mt 13:20-21)(NASB) “The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; (21) yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.”
We have a number of examples of this in the Bible:
Judas was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus. He walked with Jesus, heard His teachings, knew the truth, and even saw His miracles, yet he betrayed Jesus. He was never truly saved, but instead condemned (Jn 6:70) (Jn 17:12).
Simon heard the truth about Jesus and believed it. He was even baptized, but he was not saved (Acts 8:13,18-24).
Many disciples turned away from Jesus after He told them what was required to follow Him (Jn 6:66).
John describes these people by saying in (1 Jn 2:19) “They went out from us; but they were not of us; for if they had been of us; they no doubt would have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest (it might be known) that they were not all of us.”
Peter also speaks of them in (1 Pet 2:20-22) saying, “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. (21) For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. (22) But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again: and, The sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”
In fact, the Bible says this “falling away” will increase in the end times (1 Tim 4:1-2)(2 Tim 4:3-4).
Those who have this “temporary faith” are “enlightened sinners.” They have “tasted the heavenly gift and the word of God,” but they have not actually swallowed it. For example, when Jesus was on the cross, “they gave Him wine to drink mixed with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink” (Mt 27:34) (NASB). The same can occur with unbelievers. They can “taste” Jesus but not actually “eat His body or drink His blood” which all believers must do (Jn 6:53-58). This is exactly what is occurring in (Heb 6:4-6). These are unbelievers who have “tasted” salvation, but they never actually surrendered their lives to Jesus and become “sealed” with the Holy Spirit which is the guarantee of salvation (Eph 1:13-14)(Eph 4:30).
Finally, let me address those who are tormented because they believe they were saved and lost their salvation, and now cannot get it back again based on these verses. I believe when the author says in (Heb 6:6) that Christ cannot be “crucified afresh” (or nailed to the cross twice), he is not saying that a saved person can lose salvation and not get it back again. What he is saying is that the only way one who has “tasted” Jesus and then “fallen away” can be saved is to come back to the starting place (“renewed again”) of salvation and truly surrender to Christ.