The Book of Hebrews

I. Title

       The title is derived from the supposed addressee of the letter, though the letter itself does not indicate to whom it was written.

II. Author and Setting

A. Author

       The author of the book of Hebrews is unrecorded. This has not prevented a sizable amount of speculation on the part of commentators, however. Some of the suggestions include:

1. Barnabas. Terteullian in De Pudicitia 20
2. Paul. Origen reports that many ancients held it to be written by Paul; Clement of Alexandria concurred, arguing that it had originally been written in Aramaic and then translated into Greek by Luke. Alexandrians adhered strongly to Pauline authorship; the vehemence of his conviction consequently swayed both the Eastern and Western churches to accept the book of Hebrews as scripture.
3. Clement of Rome. Origen mentions that some ascribed it to Clement of Rome.
4. Luke. Origen says that some suggested Luke as the author.
       Pauline authorship of Hebrews was not seriously questioned again until the time of the Reformation, when Erasmus, Luther and Calvin all disputed it.
5. Apollos. Luther suggested Apollos as the author, an idea which has commended itself to many scholars, though none would regard it as any more than speculative.
6. Philip. Ramsay suggested that Philip wrote the letter from Caesarea after contact with Paul and sent it to the Jerusalem church.
7. Priscilla. Harnack made a case for Priscilla as the author, arguing that the lack of attribution could have been because she was a woman.

B. Date

       Since Clement of Rome cites the letter around AD 95, it must have been produced prior to that time. In all probability it was written before AD 70, since there is no mention in the book of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and such a destruction would have surely been useful to the argument in the book. A date between AD 66 and 70 seems probable.

III. An Outline of Hebrews

I. The superiority of Christ 1:1-10:18
II. Practical applications 10:19-13:25

IV. Comment on Hebrews 6:4-8

       Although this passage has been used by those who attempt to argue that salvation is conditional and dependent upon human will, it really is not useful for that purpose. Arguments against those who believe in a loss of salvation accept the reading that implies the "burning" in verse eight refers to hell. This is not likely, and once that is eliminated, the passage suddenly becomes clear. The implications of this section (and a similar section in Hebrews 10:26-31 and John 15:1-8) are made clear when comparison is made to 1 Corinthians 3:10-15:

       By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)

       The use of the images of fire and burning are not limited to Hell alone, but stand as an image of God's judgment. As Hebrews 12:29 points out: "for our 'God is a consuming fire.'"
       The judgment in view in Hebrews 6 (as well as Hebrews 10 and John 15) is physical death; the danger being warned of, is the "sin unto death" discussed in 1 John 5:16-17, which is given its illustration in the lives of Ananias and Sapphira. Those who believe salvation is conditional upon behavior have failed to understand the nature of unconditional love and grace, which are available in the finished work of Jesus.

V. Questions on Hebrews

1. Who are some of the proposed authors of the letter to the Hebrews