By Dr. Lawrence Butler, The Bridge Church, Pembroke.
There are numbers of questions which surround this 19th book of the New Testament of the Bible. The first perhaps is that of who wrote this book? There is no clear answer to that, for if there were then no controversy would exist about authorship.
Some Bibles give the name of this book as The Epistle to the Hebrews, while other editions of the Bible list the name as The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews. Scholars have suggested various possibilities as author: men such as Paul, Barnabas, Apollos, Luke, Philip, Aquila, and Clement of Rome. It has been so difficult to actually prove authorship through style and literary characteristic that the controversy remains unsolved. However, despite not following traditional Pauline writings, many scholars still hold to the belief of Paul as the writer of this book. Most importantly, the Holy Spirit provided the inspiration for this epistle, just as He did in the days of old. “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:2).
Another important question which should be addressed is, “To whom is the epistle written?” Clearly it is being sent to Hebrew people, or was it? Is it simply an explanation of the Levitical priesthood and its comparison to the Priesthood of Christ being presented to Gentiles for their instruction? If one reads carefully it will become obvious that there is an absence of any mention of Gentiles in the writing. The emphasis on the Levitical priesthood, its rituals and sacrifices, seems to indicate that the subject matter would definitely be more meaningful to Hebrews than Gentiles. Possibly the recipients were Jews who were converts to Christ but may have been wavering in their commitment. There could be no turning back, no failure of entering into the blessing granted by God. “And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?”(Heb. 3:18).
The third question which arises concerns the timing of the writing. Why is it so critical at this point in time to compare the OT style of worship with that taught by Christ and the apostles? The people to whom the letter was addressed seemed to be very familiar with the OT temple style of priesthood and sacrifices. However, Jesus had prophesied that Jerusalem would be destroyed, and of course that included the temple (Matt. 24:1-2). The temple was about to be obliterated by the Romans (AD 70), and persecution of Christians had already begun as well. The Christians had to live by faith, not formal rituals (10:32-39, 12:4, 13:3).