Epistle to the Hebrews
The Epistle to the Hebrews, often named simply, Hebrews, is the nineteenth book of the New Testament. It is a letter written in ancient Greek around 80-90 CE. Church tradition says the letter was written to a Hebrew audience and ascribes the letter to Paul the Apostle, but historians doubt it. The letter is mostly a critique of the Tanakh.
Authorship and Dating
While many Christian churches believe the author is Paul the Apostle, most New Testament scholars disagree and consider the author unknown; their reasons are numerous:
- Of the letters believed to be the genuine work of Paul, in fact, even the fraudulent letters, Paul always identifies himself at the beginning of the letter. In this epistle, he does not.
- The grammar and word-usage is markedly different between this and the other supposed genuine letters of Paul.
- The topic of the letter is also especially different from all of Paul's other letters.
- Historians estimate the death of Paul the Apostle supposedly in the mid-60s CE, about 20 years before the letter is estimated to have been written.
- Even first century historians called the authorship of Hebrews into question, writing that they had no idea who wrote the letter.
The letter is estimated to have been written around 80–90 CE.
I own several English translations of this letter, and have read it the NIV translation.
- There's a useful definition of faith: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (11:1 KJV). Of course, this negates those apologists who use faith to mean a demonstrated belief.
- Church tradition says this letter was written for a Hebrew audience, but it reads more like a critique of the Torah. In the Torah, God demands animal sacrifice to annul your sins and loves the sweet smell of burning offal, in this letter God doesn't like the smell, doesn't want sacrifice, and it doesn't annul your sins anyway, only a human sacrifice can do that (chapter 9). The author says ceremonial foods have no value (13:9-10) even though God demands them all throughout the Torah. While I prefer these revisions, in order for them to be true, it means that the Hebrews have been completely wrong about the Torah for centuries.
- I found the letter to be pretty dull over all, especially the beginning which is just mindless praise.
- The author warns against people who are sexually immoral and godless and cites Esau as an example (12:16). However, Esau was neither of these things, he was just a starving man who was conned out of his magical inheritance by his brother Isaac (Genesis 25, 27).
- Much of the letter reads like a personal commentary on the Tanakh presented as fact. The author is basically saying, "these passages definitely mean what I know they mean," however, the author gives no demonstrable reason for how they know their interpretation is correct, and, in many cases, the author's interpretation is very different from a forthright interpretation.
- The letter ends with every dictator's dream passage, "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority!" (13:17)
- biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews+1-12&version=NIV - Bible Gateway.
- librivox.org/group/220 - LibriVox - American Standard Version.
- librivox.org/group/383 - LibriVox - World English Translation.
- librivox.org/group/364 - LibriVox - Weymouth New Testament.