Although some include the Book of Hebrews among the Apostle Paul's writings, the certain identity of the author remains an enigma. Missing is Paul's customary salutation so common to his other works and, too, the suggestion that the writer of this epistle relied upon knowledge and information provided by others who were actual eye-witnesses of Christ Jesus (2: 3) makes Pauline authorship doubtful. Some attribute Luke as its writer; others suggest Hebrews may have been written by Apollos, Barnabas, Silas, Philip, or Aquila and Priscilla. Regardless of the human hand that held the pen, the Holy Spirit of God is the divine author of all Scripture, therefore, Hebrews speaks with the same canonical authority as the other sixty-five books of the Bible.
Date of Writing: The early church father Clement quoted from the Book of Hebrews in 95 A.D., however, internal evidence such as the fact that Timothy was alive at the time to epistle was written and the absence of any evidence showing the end of the Old Testament sacrificial system that occurred with Jerusalem's destruction in 70 A.D. indicates the book was written around 65 A.D.
Purpose of Writing: The late Dr. Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute and writer of the best selling Kingdom of the Cults, quipped in his usual tongue-in-cheek manner that the Book of Hebrews was written by a Hebrew to other Hebrews telling the Hebrews to stop acting like Hebrews. In truth, many of the early Jewish believers were slipping back into the rites and rituals of Judaism in order to escape the mounting persecution. This letter, then, is an exhortation for these persecuted believers to continue in the grace of Jesus Christ.
Key Verses: "God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son…" (Hebrews 1:1-2).
"How shall we escape of we neglect so great a salvation…" (Hebrews 2:3).
"Seeing then that 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 cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:14-16).
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has set down at the right hand of God" (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Brief Summary: The writer of Hebrews continually makes mention of the superiority of Christ in both His personage and in His ministering work. In the writings of the Old Testament, we understand the rituals and ceremonies of Judaism symbolically pointed to the coming of Messiah--in other words, the rites of Judaism were but shadows of things to come. Hebrews tells us that Christ Jesus is better than anything mere religion has to offer. All the pomp and circumstance of religion pales in comparison to the person, work, and ministry of Christ Jesus. It is the superiority of our Lord Jesus, then, that remains the theme of this eloquently written letter.
Practical Application: Rich in foundational Christian doctrine, the Epistle to the Hebrews also gives us encouraging examples of God's "faith heroes" who persevered in spite of great difficulties and adverse circumstances (Hebrews 11). These members of God's Hall of Faith provide overwhelming evidence as to the unconditional surety and absolute reliability of God. Likewise, we can maintain perfect confidence in God's rich promises, regardless of our circumstances, by meditating upon the rock-solid faithfulness of God's workings in the lives of His Old Testament saints.
The writer of Hebrews gives ample encouragement to believers, but there are five solemn warnings we must heed: There is the danger of neglect (Hebrews 2:1-4), the danger of unbelief (Hebrews 3:7-4,13), the danger of spiritual immaturity (Hebrews 5:11-6,20), the danger of failing to endure (Hebrews 10:26-39), and the inherent danger of refusing God (Hebrews 12:25-29). And so we find in this crowning masterpiece a great wealth of doctrine, a refreshing spring of encouragement, and a source of sound, practical warnings against slothfulness in our Christian walk. But there is still more, for in Hebrews we find a magnificently rendered portrait of our Lord Jesus Christ--the Author and Finisher of our great salvation (Hebrews 12:2).