Okay, so we haven’t been keeping our website very current. Let’s try to change that. How’d you like to study Hebrews with me? For the next few days I’ll be making an attempt to see just how daily I can post a chapter by chapter blog as I go through the book of Hebrews. Today will be some introductory remarks; tomorrow we begin with chapter 1. Since Hebrews has 13 chapters, let’s see what comes of the next two weeks together.
I chose Hebrews because I want a stronger faith. I’ll be 54 in two months and have been a Christian for thirty years, yet faith seems to be more of a challenge in some ways these days than ever before. Thirty years, by the way, is an interesting number of years from a biblical perspective. The gospels span just a little more than thirty years and the book of Acts covers about thirty one years. In three decades a lot can be done; a Savior come, grow up, teach, die, and be resurrected. His church start, grow and fill the whole known world. In my three decades as a Christian the experiences I’ve had and been able to witness have been incredibly faith building events. Still, my heart and mind are in a constant search for that child like faith I learned to have sitting on my mother’s knee.
No one knows exactly when Hebrews was written, but most date it somewhere between 60 and 70 a.d. The reason for not dating it later is because the temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 and that probably would have been mentioned. If the book was written during this decade then that would mean that after about thirty years of Christianity a lot of people needed their faith bolstered, too. The church had gone from its’ dynamic infancy to a steadfast strength in the face of persecution, but many were growing weak in their commitment and falling away from the Lord.
Hebrews presents Jesus as the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). If we’re to have a strong faith then Jesus will have to write it on our hearts and perfect it in our lives. He’s got the right to do that since he’s the high priest of Christianity; superior to the priesthood set up under the old covenant through Aaron. But we have to co-operate; open our hearts to his words and daily try to follow in his steps.
In the earliest known copy of this book of Hebrews there is no title. No salutation, address or heading is written on it. The book simply begins with the affirmation that Jesus appeared, atoned for our sins and sat down right beside God almighty. No one knows who wrote this letter, but the traditional belief until the 1800s was that Paul wrote it. It closes with the words “Grace be with you all” which is the same closing found in each of Paul’s known letters. But all of the known letters of Paul begin with a salutation and affirmation of his authorship. Hebrews does not. Why was it anonymous? For years I thought maybe Priscilla wrote it. She would have been very familiar with Paul’s writing style and could have imitated it and left her name off to avoid any controversy. The author had to have been taught by an apostle (Hebrews 2:3) and familiar with Jewish history. Priscilla certainly was both; and note that Paul always made reference to having been taught directly by the Lord. Hebrews 2:3 would probably read differently if they were Paul’s words; unless, as some suggest, this was a sermon preached by Paul, transcribed by Luke or Timothy or some other accomplice and his words in can be taken generically as if he was waving his hand through the crowd getting them to acknowledge that though they may not have seen Jesus they knew he “…was confirmed by those who heard Him” and then let his waving hand rest on his own chest.
Who knows? Barnabas has been suggested since he was a Levite. Apollos was suggested by Martin Luther. Yet, Paul is still held to be the most likely candidate. Some believe that Hebrews is the letter Peter is referring to when in 2Peter 3:15 he says, “…just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him…” and in chapter 13 vers 23 Timothy is referred to; he’s coming out of jail. Priscilla or a good number of Paul’s associates could be expected to do that, but Paul is the only one to have mentioned Timothy anywhere else in the bible.
So let’s study this anonymously authored book together for a while. Imagine it being written by a disciple taught by an apostle, or the sermon notes of Luke or Timothy as Paul preaches passionately about hanging on to your faith. Imagine you’re in the sixth decade of the first century…hmmm…I remember the 60s. The Beatles, Viet Nam, Woodstock. A time of revolutionary thinking and change. Maybe it was like that in the “First 60s”. A time for revolutionary thinking. A time to return to faith.