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Letter to the HEBREWS - An Overview

Social context
AD 62 - Nero is Emperor; 

       Festus is procurator of Judea.

       Paul is in Rome, under house arrest, his epistles will be in circulation;  James (Jesus’ brother) stoned to death about this time.

AD 63 – fire destroys half of Rome, and Nero begins a major persecution of Christians.

      Paul is probably executed this year.

       Temple in Jerusalem is finally completed

 AD 65 - Gospel of Mark completed this year?

AD 67 - There is a Jewish revolt which is put down by Roman General Vespasian, but Jews treated with unusual mercy

 AD 68 to 70 - Nero commits suicide;

       The Zealots rise up again, they are crushed mercilessly – Jerusalem is sacked, the temple destroyed and the priesthood disbanded.


Why Hebrews?
}It’s all about Jesus!



}Author and location – unknown.


}Audience – knowledgeable Jews who had converted to faith in Jesus Christ. The entire scaffolding of the letter is Jewish history, theology and practice.  Where were they living? Rome?


}Date – AD 62–68


}Style – not a typical letter, although it finishes like one.


Getting our heads around the way the author writes

}Quotes from the Old Testament


}Use your Bible footnotes which give the reference for these quotes


}The writer is using the Septuagint  (LXX)


The 2 main arguments of the whole book


}Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah);


}Jesus the Messiah is more than a man, He is God.


Opening verses of Hebrews (1.1-3)

}Christ is...Superior to all and everything.


1.2b ... through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.


Angels     1.4 - 2.18

}Christ is...Superior to all angels


}Heb 1.4  So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.  5  For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father"? Or again, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son"?  6  And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him."


Moses     3.1 – 4.13 

}Christ is Superior to Moses

}Heb 3:3  Jesus has been found worthy of greater honour than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honour than the house itself.

}4  For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.  5  Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future.                                                                               6  But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.

}3.17  And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? 18  And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19  So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

}Heb 3:12  See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.


Priesthood    4.14 – 8.5

 Christ is...our priest, greater than all others

}5:1  Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.

}5:5  So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father."  6  And he says in another place, "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."


}Heb 6:9  Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation.  10  God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

}11  We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. 12  We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.


}Heb 5:11  We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12  In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!                                                13  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.


}7:1  This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, 2  and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything.

}First, his name means "king of righteousness"; then also, "king of Salem" means "king of peace."  3  Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever. 4  Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder!                          


Summary of Jesus the great high priest


}Heb 7:23  Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office;    24  but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25  Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.


A New Covenant   8.6 – 8.13

}The Old Covenant has been replaced by a new, and better one


}Heb 8:6  But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises. 7  For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.


Verses 8 to 12 quote Jeremiah 31:31-34

}Jer 31:31  "The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32  It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD.    33  "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34  No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."



A new sacrifice    9.1 – 10.18

}There has been one sacrifice for all, for all time - no more need for regular, yearly sacrifices

}Heb 9:7  But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. . ....9  This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper. 10  They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.



Exhortation    10.19-39

}Therefore... let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess..



By Faith      Chapter 11

We have good reason to have faith

}Heb 11:1  Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

}Heb 11:39  These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40  God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.


Persevere       Chapter 12

}Endure however hard it seems – God is in control!

}Heb 12:1  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.   2  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.


Concluding remarks   Chapter 13

}No big theme - an ending similar to other NT letters

}Heb 13:11  The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12  And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.     13  Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14  For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.                                                                             


Graham Wilkins, 17/06/2017