The Letter to the Hebrews: a commentary & meditation
"In these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things" (Heb. 1:2)


The Letter to the Hebrews was written for a second generation of Christians sometime between the persecution of Nero in 64 AD and the persecution of Domitian about 85 AD.  It was likely written around 80 AD.  There is a reference to some of the community's leaders who were martyred in past times (Heb. 13:7).  The present community had not yet suffered persecution and martyrdom since the author states: "you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood" (Heb. 12:4).  The Letter points, however, to the risk of persecution about to come.

We do not know who the author is.  Origen, the first great biblical scholar, who lived between 185-254, remarked: "who wrote the Letter to the Hebrews only God knows for certain."

What Christian community does the Letter address?  We do not really know for sure.  We do know, however, that it was written to a well-established church (Heb. 5:12) which had suffered persecution some time in the past (Heb. 10:32-34).  It was written to a church not founded by the Apostles (Heb. 2:3).  It was possibly written to Hebrew Christians in Italy.  The most direct hint is from Heb. 13:24: "Those who come from Italy send you greetings."  Another translation says: "Greetings to you from our Italian friends" (REV).

The Letter was likely intended for a scholarly group of Christians who were well versed in the knowledge of the Old Testament.  It may have been directed to a group of Christians who were preparing to become teachers (Heb. 5:12).  The author of this letter writes as a teacher who has been separated from this group and is concerned about their drifting away from the faith.  The author calls his letter "a word of exhortation" (Heb. 13:22).

What can we learn from this Letter?  "We have confidence to draw near to the throne of God."  We, too, live in age of spiritual conflict and struggle, when many Christians drift from their faith. Our faith must be strengthened in the knowledge of what the Lord Jesus has accomplished for us. The Lord Jesus has removed the barriers and opened the door to the living presence of God.  We now have access to God. This is the idea that dominates the Letter to the Hebrews.  As you read this Letter and meditate on its truth, allow the Holy Spirit to give you understanding and insight into the great mystery of our faith.

From age to age, the prophets, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, spoke the word of God. Now God has spoken to us through his only begotten Son. Jesus Christ alone brings to us the full revelation of God and he alone enables us to enter into the very presence of God.

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(c) 1999, 2001 Don Schwager