Discover More About the Letter to the Hebrews
Tucked back in our Bibles in front of the more popular book of James, is the so-called Letter to the Hebrews. It’s a pretty complex book—with some of the most sophisticated language and imagery in the New Testament. Also, the letter sustains a long, drawn-out argument through the whole text, and, unlike some other letters in the Bible, it’s not easy to isolate a small piece and preach on it. But Hebrews should not be forgotten because of it is rich in theology, a great resource for understanding a Christian outlook on the Old Testament, and it has a lot to say about maturing in faith.
The author of Hebrews is unknown, but most likely was a Jewish-Christian with a good understanding of the Hebrew Bible who had advanced training in a Greek school writing around AD 70. The book contains Greek argumentative style plus many elements of Greek philosophy while using symbols from the Old Testament. Though the book is traditionally called a letter, it offers no introduction or greeting and no mention of the sender or recipient (the title “To the Hebrews” was added later). The author himself claims to have previously written to the audience but describes his current work as a “word of exhortation” (13:22). Some scholars believe Hebrews to have originally been a sermon or speech due to the eloquent Greco-Roman rhetoric and the length argument that persists through the whole text. This sermon may later have been written down and then sent around the Christian community.
The main theme of the text is Jesus is greater than any previous religious authority, including the angels, Mosaic Law, priests, and Old Testament covenant. Hebrews says a lot about who Christ is; for instance, though he is the “radiance of the glory of God” (1:3) he also has been tempted like we have (4:15). However, spliced into the theological explanations are short passages that encourage good behavior and offer practical advice, often warning against falling away from the faith. Because Christ is greater, the audience is invited to produce better faith by being obedient to God, being bolder in their faith, and by encouraging each other within the Christian community.
Number of chapters: 13
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