Purpose: The letter to Hebrews presents the superiority of Jesus Christ. It was written to those who were in danger of drifting away from their original commitment to Christ to their old faith to escape persecution. So the author presents the superiority of the person of Christ and the new covenant he initiated in this letter. This epistle is full of warnings as well as promises. The writer encourages the readers to go on to perfection or spiritual maturity (6:1). The author warns the readers against drifting away from faith in Christ. It is possible that we can drift away from Christ if we ignore and resist the warnings of God. The salvation is a gift from God. But eternal rewards require commitment and perseverance. So the writer encourages the discouraged and weary Hebrew Christians to hold on to their faith in Christ and go on to maturity. They were challenged to see the superiority of Christ over Judaism (13:22). Jewish Christians were persecuted by Romans as well as by fellow Jews for their faith in Christ (10:32-34). So the author shows that Christ is superior in His person, purpose, priesthood, and principle. In this epistle many Old Testament references are quoted to ensure the Jewish Christians of their spiritual heritage and to show the superiority of Christ. Some call this epistle "The Old Testament book in the New Testament".The author exhorts the readers to draw strength and encouragement from Jesus Christ who is the author and finisher of their faith (12:2).
Authorship: No one knows who wrote the epistle of Hebrews and remains anonymous. Most scholars assume the authorship to Apostle Paul. It seems the author was a Jew and knew Jewish traditions and customs. The language and the personal reference to Timothy may attribute the authorship to Paul (13:23). Others consider that Barnabas or Apollos or Luke might have written this epistle. Regarding the authorship of Hebrews, Origen of Alexandria wrote, "Who the author of this epistle is, only God truly knows”. But scholars suggest that there is abundance of evidence from the early church history that Hebrews was a part of the biblical canon and quoted widely by the early church fathers. There has been little question throughout the centuries about the authenticity and validity of the epistle of Hebrews.
Date: The epistle of Hebrews was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Throughout the epistle it is evident that the Jewish sacrificial system was still going on (8:4; 10:8, 11). This epistle was written to second-generation Christians (2:3).They were severely persecuted under Nero for their faith (12:4). Temple was still standing when the epistle of Hebrews was written (10:11). There is a mention of Timothy's recent release in this letter (13:23). Many Bible Scholars think that this epistle was written in mid A.D. 60's.
Readership: The earliest manuscript shows that this epistle was written "To Hebrews". They were first century Jewish Christians who were in danger of returning to Judaism to escape persecution. Judaism was a legal religion and Christianity was not. These readers were second generation Christians who were confirmed in their faith in Christ by apostles (2:3). They were not poor (10:34). So it seems they were not located in Palestine. The author closes the epistle by stating that "Those from Italy greet you"(13:24). It implies that Italians outside of Italy were sending greetings back home. So we conclude that Rome was the destination of this epistle. Another possibility is that Hebrews was written from Rome to scattered Jewish believers in the Roman Empire.
Theme: The theme of Hebrews is the superiority Jesus Christ over Judaism. The word superior or better appears thirteen times in this letter. Jesus is superior in His person, priesthood and principles of faith. He is the qualified or perfect High Priest to represent us before God. He is greater than Aaron the high priest. He is the author of eternal salvation. He is our great high priest and eternal mediator. He is superior in His priestly ministry and in His power. His kingdom is unshakable. He is our great Shepherd. Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews shows the finality of God's revelation for our salvation and Christian living. Do you know this great Savior? As we continue this study, may the Holy Spirit strengthen us to run the race that is set before us (12:1).