The Letter to the Hebrews introduces us to the superiority of Jesus Christ and for that reason alone is worthy of an in-depth study by every Christian.

Let’s begin with an introduction to Hebrews.


The title of our new study, Hebrews: Christ Is Greater, states the primary theme of the letter. Jesus Christ is Greater than everyone and everything.

  • Greater than the angels ..
  • Greater than the prophets ..
  • Greater than Moses ..
  • Greater than the high priesthood of Aaron ..
  • Greater than Joshua ..
  • Christ’s New Covenant is greater than the old covenant ..
  • His Sacrifice is Greater than the daily sacrifices in the earthly temple in Jerusalem ..
  • Christ’s Blood is Greater than the blood of bulls and goats ..
  • Christ is the Greater Mediator with God ..
  • His Salvation is Greater ..

Jesus Christ is Greater in every way!

What should the response of God’s people be to this Salvation that is Greater?

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:23-25


One of the earliest references to the authenticity of Hebrews is found in the 1st century writings of Clement of Rome (possibly the same Clement mentioned in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians). Clement wrote about knowing the apostles personally. Here are some references you may want to look into for your study. You will find direct quotes as well as allusions to Hebrews in Clement’s letter to the Corinthians (known as 1 Clement).

  • Hebrews 1:3-4, 5, 7, 13 .. 1 Clement 36
  • Hebrews 6:18 .. 1 Clement 27
  • Hebrews 11:5 .. 1 Clement 9
  • Hebrews 11:17 .. 1 Clement 10
  • Hebrews 11:31 .. 1 Clement 12
  • Hebrews 11:37 .. 1 Clement 17
  • Hebrews 12:1 .. 1 Clement 19
  • Hebrews 13:17 .. 1 Clement 21

2nd century references to the authenticity of Hebrews come from Polycarp and Clement of Alexandria (according to Eusebius). Clement’s student Origen, writing in the early part of the 3rd century, quoted from Hebrews scores of times.

As for authorship, early Church Fathers believed the Apostle Paul or Barnabas wrote Hebrews. Some scholars believe that Apollos, Silas, Luke, Philip the deacon, Aquila, Priscilla, and even Clement of Rome are candidates for writing Hebrews. The writer did not mention his or her name in the letter, so we cannot know for sure. However, both internal and external evidences seem to point to the Apostle Paul as the best candidate for authorship.

The writer mentioned knowing that Timothy had been set free, ‘with whom I shall see you if he comes shortly.’ The writer also mentioned that ‘those from Italy greet you.’ Paul spent some of the last years of his life in and around Italy and Timothy was one of his primary traveling companions as they preached the Gospel (e.g. Acts 16, 17, 18, 19, 20; Romans 16; 1 Corinthians 4, 16; 2 Corinthians 1; Philippians 1, 2; Colossians 1; 1 Thessalonians 1, 3; 2 Thessalonians 1; 1 Timothy; 2 Timothy; Philemon).

The date for writing is most likely prior to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, which occurred in 70 AD. The author wrote that the priests of Israel continued to offer sacrifices ‘for the present time’ (Hebrews 9:9). You will find other references to the continual sacrifices of the priests and high priests in chapters 5, 7, 8 and 10. This means that the writing of Hebrews most likely pre-dates 70 AD. If Paul was the author, it may have been during a time when he was not in prison but Timothy was in prison. Paul did not mention in his letters a time when Timothy was imprisoned; neither did Luke in his writing of Acts. That may place the dating of the writing of Hebrews between 62 and 65 AD when Paul was most likely not in prison. We know from what Paul wrote Titus that he was traveling during those years.


The name of the letter became known as Hebrews in the early Church as we’ve seen in 2nd and 3rd century writings of the Fathers. The reason for that is the identity of the recipients of the letter. They were Jews.

The only geographical location mentioned in the letter is from chapter 13:24.

Those from Italy greet you.

The question is whether the writer was in Italy writing to recipients in another location or writing from another location to recipients in Italy. It may be that the author wrote from another country and some of the people traveling with him were from Italy. As we saw earlier, the first extra-biblical mention of Hebrews was in 1 Clement. Clement, who was a pastor in Rome, had 1st century access to Hebrews, which might point to Rome as the location of the recipients.

The author mentioned that the church had gone through a time of great struggle with sufferings (Hebrews 13:32-34), but had not yet “resisted to bloodshed” (Hebrews 12:4). That would fit historically with Emperor Claudius expelling Jews and Jewish Christians from Rome. Priscilla and Aquilla were caught up in that expulsion (Acts 18:2). Jews and Jewish Christians lost property during the years they were expelled. They were humiliated by the expulsion, but not killed. The Roman government allowed Jews and Jewish Christians to return to Rome about 53 or 54 AD. That might point to both Jews and Jewish Christians in Rome being primary recipients of Hebrews.

Another thing to consider is that Nero’s persecution of Christians began about ten years later, which might coincide with some of the issues addressed in Hebrews. The persecution began after the burning of Rome in the summer of 64 AD. Christians were blamed for starting the blaze that destroyed almost three quarters of the city. Some Jewish Christians reportedly returned to synagogue worship as a way to distance themselves from being identified as Christians because of persecution aimed at the Christian community. That may explain some of the issues the author addressed in Hebrews.

We say ‘Jewish Christians’ because Hebrews presents arguments that would be best understood by Jews. The author quoted many times from the Old Testament and described history and rituals that would be very familiar to Jewish people. The author wrote in a way that assumed the audience’s understanding, rather than an audience unfamiliar with Jewish history and rituals (e.g. Gentiles).


The purpose of Hebrews is to strongly encourage (exhort), educate and warn. Hebrews does not follow the normal pattern for letters written in the 1st century. It lacks the usual opening that includes the name of the author and a welcome to the recipients. Hebrews reads more like a sermon or homily until the end where it has a more customary personal close for a letter. The purpose may have been for church leaders to read the letter aloud to church members and Jews considering the truth claims of Christianity. The end of the letter would remind the listeners that the author loved them, which is important to do following exhortation and warning. That’s similar to how a parent or teacher might lecture their children/students strongly, then close with words of love and concern.

A primary warning in Hebrews concerns Jewish Christians leaving Christianity for any reason. You can imagine how these words might have have sounded if read aloud to a group of Jewish Christians. Imagine a leader in your church reading these words to your family and friends:

Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

Hebrews 3:12-13

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

Hebrews 6:4-6

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:23-25

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?  But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.

Hebrews 12:7-8

See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.

Hebrews 12:25-26

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.

Hebrews 12:28-29

Even the author’s closing remarks include an appeal to continual obedience:

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. And I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation, for I have written to you in few words. Hebrews 13:20-22

Further Reading About Hebrews

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers

Barnes’ Notes

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

Gill’s Exposition

Vincent’s Word Studies

Bengel’s Gnomon of the New Testament

Introduction to Hebrews: ESV

Intro to Hebrews

An Introduction To The Book Of Hebrews

Introduction to Hebrews: John McArthur

Next Time

We hope this brief introduction will prepare your heart and mind to think deeply about the message of Hebrews whether you are Jew or Gentile. We will look at the opening sentences of the Letter in the next part of our new series, Hebrews: Christ Is Greater.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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