Agonizomai: Hebrews - An Introduction

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hebrews - An Introduction

Hebrews - An Introduction

Who Wrote it?

This letter was written by an educated believer with an intimate knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures. It was written to Jews by a Jew. There are arguments for attributing this letter to Paul, Barnabas, Apollos and even Priscilla - but in the final analysis, the second century church was obliged to conclude that "God knows who wrote it" and to leave it at that.

This letter, acknowledged by Clement, as stated below, was eventually "lost" to the Roman church until about the third century, when the church admitted her mistake and received the text from the Eastern brothers, who had preserved it all along. (This was obviously before the doctrine of the infallibility of the church and the Pope took hold. Popes did not become infallible when speaking ex-cathedra until much later)

When Was It Written?

Since this epistle was referred to by Clement of Rome around the turn of the first century it can confidently be dated no later than about 90 AD. However, since it deals with matters near and dear to the heart of Judaism, and no mention is made of the destruction of the temple (which took place around 70 AD) many have made the case that it was probably written in the 60sAD at the latest.

Why Was it Written?

The occasion of its writing was probably due to a number of factors, including:

1) the first flush of conversion and the excitement of the radical spiritual experiences surrounding the initial coming of the gospel were waning.

2) the anticipated return of Jesus seemed to be delayed and some were disappointed by this.

3) though a sect of Judaism, and therefore accepted as a licit religion by the secular authority of Rome, Christianity was becoming more and more distinguished from Judaism and, as such, was in the cross hairs of persecutors who regarded it as different and illegitimate, due to its crossing of social barriers and outspoken rejection of all other gods, including the Emperor.

4) Christianity demonstrated itself to be so radical a departure from the Judaisitic form of observance that some Jewish converts were taken aback, and others were somewhat nostalgic for all the ritual observances that their unconverted friends and relatives still "enjoyed".

Stay tuned - the new study begins in earnest on Monday Oct 19th


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