By: Daniel Goepfrich

Author and Audience

Hebrews is the only letter in the New Testament with an unknown writer. However, this does not mean he was an “anonymous” writer because the readers knew exactly who he was (Hebrews 13:18-19, 22-24). Although Paul has been a perennial favorite, several factors seem to rule him out. First, the lack of a clear greeting was certainly not his style. Second, Hebrews 2:3-4 implies that the writer was a second-hand witness to Christ and did not do miracles, whereas Paul often insisted that his message came personally from Christ (Galatians 1:11-12, 15-17) and that he did miracles to authenticate his apostolic authority (2 Corinthians 12:12). Third, the language of the text itself does not match Paul’s normal style or vocabulary, yet there are enough similarities that a close associate of Paul’s is likely. Several men (and even a woman, Priscilla) have been suggested over the centuries, but they are all speculative, though some have more merit than others.

We also do not know the identity of the readers, although the heavy reliance on the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint, LXX) strongly implies Greek-speaking Jews. Additionally, in Hebrews 13:24, the writer sent his readers greetings from “those away from Italy”(the basic meaning of the preposition ἀπό, apo), implying that the readers were in Italy, possibly in Rome. The fact that Clement of Rome quoted from Hebrews in the A.D. 90s gives credibility to this consideration.

Jesus Above All

The main theme of Hebrews is that Jesus – including everything he is and everything he did, is doing, and will do – is better than anyone and anything that came before him. Because of this, the writer gave five warnings (the first four increasing in severity) about the great loss of inheritance that a Christian will suffer if he chooses to turn away from Jesus and follow anything or anyone else.

Although many scholars and teachers have attempted to interpret these warnings to mean that a Christian can lose his or her salvation, this interpretation is not valid. The key to the correct meaning is found in the warnings themselves and the use of the word “salvation” in its historical, Old Testament usage – the very context that the writer’s entire teaching is based on. This will become apparent in chapter two.


Each Thursday DPH runs a Chapter-by-Chapter blog by Daniel Goepfrich, progressing readers chapter-by-chapter through the New Testament. This series is taken from New Testament Chapter-by-Chapter, published by Trust House Publishers, a division of DPH. Daniel serves as Pastor of Oak Tree Community Church in South Bend, Indiana, and blogs at www.TheologyIsForEveryone.com

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