Survey of Hebrews

Book Type: Sometimes labeled as a General Epistle, alternatively treated as a separate letter; the nineteenth book of the New Testament; the fifty-eighth book of the Bible.

Author: The author of this book is unknown. Suggested authors have included Paul, Luke, Barnabas, Silas, Apollos, and others. The most common opinion is that the letter was written by Paul.

Audience: Much is unknown about the audience of Hebrews. Though it is addressed to both Jewish and Gentile Christians (since it mentions the Gentile Christian leader Timothy), much of the book emphasizes Christianity in relationship to Jewish teachings. The theme of persecution is strong, and the temple sacrificial system appears to still be in practice, indicating a time before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. A likely audience was Jewish converts to Christianity, in Rome, during Nero's persecution of Christians between AD 64 and 68. The most likely date is around AD 67 when some of the persecution had passed and Timothy had been released from prison.

Date: Likely between AD 64—68 during Nero's persecution of Christians in Rome, and during the lifetime of Timothy. Most likely around AD 67, after Timothy had been released from prison.

Overview: The thirteen chapters of Hebrews address five main themes. The first theme teaches the superiority of Jesus (Hebrews 1:1—4:13). Jesus is superior to the angels (Hebrews 1:1—2:18), is greater than Moses (Hebrews 3), and offers a better "rest" (Hebrews 4:1–13).

The second section addresses the priesthood of Jesus (Hebrews 4:13—7:28). Jesus Himself is a high priest (Hebrews 4:14—5:10). The author next addresses the need for full devotion to Jesus (Hebrews 5:11—6:20), ending the section with a discussion of the priesthood of Jesus in relationship to Melchizedek (Hebrews 7).

The third section focuses on the ministry of Jesus a priest (Hebrews 8:1—10:18). Jesus offers a better covenant than those who came before (Hebrews 8). He also is superior to the sanctuary (Hebrews 9:1–12) and offers a better sacrifice (Hebrews 9:13—10:18).

The fourth section discusses the many privileges believers have through Jesus (Hebrews 10:19—12:29). True and false forms of faith are first discussed (Hebrews 10:19–39), followed by a listing of the heroes of the faith in chapter 11. Chapter 12 addresses the need to persevere in faith, fixing our eyes on Jesus.

The fifth section (Hebrews 13) ends with a discussion of some of the behaviors important to living for Jesus. These include how believers treat others (Hebrews 13:1-9) as well as how they are to relate to the Lord (Hebrews 13:10–21).

Key Verses (ESV):

Hebrews 1:1–2: "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world."

Hebrews 2:3: "How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will."

Hebrews 4:12: "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

Hebrews 4:14–16: "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

Hebrews 11:1: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

Hebrews 12:1–2: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."