A. Introductory Questions Author The author of Hebrews is anonymous because proof for Barnabas, Apollos, Paul, or Priscilla who scholars want to attribute the book to is lacking (HCSB p2250, Powell p 447-448). Date From 60CE – 95CE “when 1 Clement was written from Rome quoting several portions of Hebrews.” (HCSB p2250, Powell 448) Also, most likely before 70 CE because there is no mention of the destruction of the Temple (Powell p448). Audience Is uncertain, but second-generation believers (2:3, HCSB p 2251, Powell p448). Possibly believers in Italy, given the remark in 13:24 (HCSB p2251). Genre Traditionally called a Letter (Powell p 445, HCSB p2250) it is referred to as a “word of exhortation” (13:22, Powell p445, HCSB p2250). Scholars think I tis a sermon possibly sent as a letter (Powell p 445-446).
B. Outline Diagram with Summaries
Son as Superior to Angels Which angel did God say was God’s son, or God is the father, and they are the son? (1:5) God tells the angels to worship the first born (1:6) and tells the Son his throne is forever and calls him God (1:8). God puts Jesus at God’s right hand and makes a footstool of his enemies (1:13). Promised Rest Those who wandered from Egypt got the promise but were not united with those who listened by faith and did not receive the rest (4:1-3). Disobedience kept those who heard but didn’t listen from entering God’s rest (4:6). Yet there is a day if believers hear and do not harden their hearts, they can enter God’s rest (4:7). When a believer enters God’s rest the cease from labor (4:10). All believers should make every effort to enter God’s rest to not be disobedient (4:11). Dangers of “Falling Away” Believers need to press on towards perfection leaving behind basics of faith (6:1). For when a believer who turns and falls away is impossible to restore to the place of heaven, for in doing so they would crucify Christ again (6:4-5). God gives rain to nourish and the crop that is produced shows the heart (6:7-8). God is not unjust and will see the works done, so be diligent and full of hope. (6:9-12). Priest Like Melchizedek Melchizedek was king of Salem and Abraham blessed him with a tithe (7:1), had no lineage, beginning or death recorded and so is priest forever (7:3). The Levitical priesthood were given tithes because of the law (7:5) but Melchizedek received not as a part of the law (7:6). Perfection didn’t come through Aaron and the Levites and the Law (7:11). So, a priest from the order of Melchizedek is needed (7:15) who was spoken of by God before (7:17). This priest holds the priesthood forever (7:24). The Son is a high priest forever and was made perfect forever (7:26-28) “Better” Covenant Jesus is at the right hand of God, ministers to the sanctuary and the true tent, setup by God (8:1-2). Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant, made possible by better promises (8:6). The first covenant was faulty (8:7). God makes a new covenant (8:8), putting God’s laws on their minds and writing them on their hearts (8:10). The new covenant makes the first obsolete (8:13). Definition of Faith Faith is trusting in the promises even when we can’t see it (11:1). Former believers were approved by trusting God (11:2) and we know everything in creation was made by God out of the invisible (11:3). Cloud of Witnesses Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain (11:4). Enoch’s faith allowed him to not experience death (11:5). Noah trusted God to build the ark (11:7). Abraham trusted God to go to a foreign land (11:8-10) and was given a son (11:11). All of these died without receiving the promise (11:13). Abraham offered his son as sacrifice, trusting God (11:17). Isaac through trust blessed Jacob and Esau (11:20), and Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph (11:21). Moses was hidden and lived by trusting God (11:23-28). The people trusted God and wonders happened (11:29-30). Rahab trusted God and received the spies in peace (11:31). All of these, though commended for their faith, were not recipients of the promise. (11:39) God wanted all of us perfected together (11:40). Final Exhortations Head my words of teaching (13:22). Timothy is free and is coming to you, he should be with you when I visit (13:23). Greet all the leaders, as those from Italy send their regards (13:24). Grace be with you (13:25).
C. Interpretive Issues Hebrews claims that Christianity is superior to Judaism (Powell p450). The author sets up that Jesus is superior to all figures from Israel’s history. This includes “Moses (3:1-6), Joshua (4:1-11), Aaron (4:14-5:10),” “Levi (7:1-22)”, “angels (1:4-11, 2:5-18)” and the “prophets (1:1-3)” (Powell p450). Jesus also fulfills or brings a better salvation than Israel received through the first covenant (8:1-13). The sacrifice Jesus offered was better than any offered before (10:1-18) and offers a complete salivation for all (Powell p450). All of this can hamper interfaith relations when Hebrews pushes that Christianity is superior to Judaism (Powell p458). This also leads to concerns that the old covenant is done away with (8:13, Powell p458) which contradicts God’s call and gift to the people of Israel and Paul’s explanation to the people of Rome (Romans 11:29, Powell p458). This mindset of Christianity being superior might have been needed in the days this exhortation was written but this is not helpful in a day we are striving for more inclusive interfaith understanding. We should work with the original context as much as possible to help this understanding in interfaith relationships.
D. Ministerial Application The second to last line of the welcome statement on the landing page of our website reads, “Wherever you are in your faith journey, know that you are welcome here.” In the conclusion of Powell’s section on Hebrews, he writes, “For many, it becomes a guidebook for a trek that leads them ‘outside the camp’ of social acceptance and respectability (13:13).” (Powell p459). In many ways Treehouse is an outpost for those rejected by the church who are still seeking to build a faith in Jesus. People who are shunned by family, friends, and many others in the community at A&M, find themselves at Treehouse, among angels (13:2, fellow outcasts (10:32-34). (Powell p459). They can express their struggles, joy, thanksgivings, and all parts of their life as we all seek to journey together with Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith (12:2).