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History of the Church #36

The Epistles of Hebrews #2


BRIEF CHURCH HISTORY #36

30-100 AD


From "History of the Christian Church " by Philip Schaff
(1858)

THE EPISTLES OF PAUL
   

THE ESPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS #2

THE BOOK OF HEBREWS FROM ALBERT BARNES

INTRODUCTION

Preliminary Remarks

IT need not be said that this epistle has given rise to much
discussion among writers on the New Testament. Indeed there is
probably no part of the Bible in regard to which so many
conflicting views have been entertained. The name of the author;
the time and place where the epistle was written; the character
of the book; its canonical authority; the language in which it
was composed; and the persons to whom it was addressed, all have
given rise to great difference oF opinion.
Among the causes of this are the following:

The name of the author is not mentioned. The church to which
it was sent, if sent to any particular church, is not designated.
There are no certain marks of time in the epistle, as there often
are in the writings of Paul, by which we can determine the time
when it was written.

It is not the design of these Notes to go into an extended
examination of these questions. Those who are disposed to pursue
these inquiries, and to examine the questions which have been
started in regard to the epistle, can find ample means in the
larger works that have treated of it; and especially in Lardner;
in Michaelis' "Introduction;" in the Prolegomena of Kuinoel; in
Hug's "Introduction;" and PARTICULARLY in Professor Stuart's
invaluable Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. No other
work on this portion of the New Testament is so complete as his,
and in the Introduction he has left nothing to be desired in
regard to the literature of the Epistle.

Controversies early arose in the church in regard to a great
variety of questions pertaining to this epistle, which are not
yet fully settled. Most of those questions, however, pertain to
the literature of the epistle, and however they may be decided,
are not such as to affect the respect which a Christian ought to
have for it as a part of the word of God. They pertain to the
inquiries, to whom it was written; in what language, and at what
time it was composed; questions which in whatever way they may be
settled, do not affect its canonical authority, and should not
shake the confidence of Christians in it as a part of divine
revelation. The only inquiry on these points which it is proper
to institute in these Notes is, whether the claims of the epistle
to a place in the canon of Scripture are of such a kind as to
allow Christians to read it as a part of the oracles of God?     
May we sit down to it feeling that we are perusing that which has
been given by inspiration of the Holy Ghost as a part of revealed
truth? Other questions are interesting in their places, and the
solution of them is worth all which it has cost; but they need
not embarrass us here, nor claim our attention as preliminary to
the exposition of the epistle. All that will be attempted,
therefore, in this Introduction, will be such a condensation of
the evidence collected by others, as shall show that this epistle
has of right a place in the volume of revealed truth, and is of
authority to regulate the faith and practice of mankind.

TO WHOM was the Epistle written?

It purports to have been written to the "Hebrews." This is not
found, indeed, in the body of the epistle, though it occurs in
the subscription at the end. It differs from all the other
epistles of Paul in this respect, and from most of the others in
the New Testament. In all of the other epistles of Paul, the
church or person to whom the letter was sent is specified in the
commencement. This, however, commences in the form of an essay or
homily; nor is there anywhere in the epistle any direct
intimation to what church it was sent. The subscription at the
end is of no authority, as it cannot be supposed that the author
himself would affix it to the epistle, and as it is known that
many of those subscriptions are false.  See the remarks at the
close of the Notes on Romans, and 1. Corinthians. Several
questions present themselves here which we may briefly
investigate.

(1) What is the evidence that it was written to the Hebrews? In
reply to this we may observe (1.) That the inscription at the
commencement, "The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews,"
though not affixed by the author, may be allowed to express the
current sense of the church in ancient times in reference to a
question on which they had the best means of judging.  These
inscriptions at the commencement of the epistles have hitherto in
general escaped the suspicion of spuriousness, to which the
subscriptions at the close are justly exposed. They should not in
any case be called in question, unless there is good reason from
the epistle itself, or from some other source. This inscription
is found in all our present Greek manuscripts, and in nearly all
the ancient versions. It is found in the Peshito, the old Syriac
version, which was made in the first or in the early part of the
second century. It is the title given to the epistle by the
Fathers of the second century, and onward. Stuart. (2.) The
testimony of the Fathers.
Their testimony is unbroken and uniform. With one accord they
declare this, and this should be regarded as testimony of great
value. Unless there is some good reason to depart from such
evidence, it should be regarded as decisive. In this case there
is no good reason for tailing it in question, but every reason to
suppose it to be correct; nor so far as I have found is there
any  one who has doubted it.  (3.) The internal evidence is of
the highest character that it was written to Hebrew converts.    
It treats of Hebrew institutions. It explains their nature. It
makes no allusion to Gentile customs or laws. It all along
supposes that those to whom it was sent were familiar with the
Jewish history; with the nature of the temple service; with the
functions of the priestly office ; and with the whole structure
of their religion. No other person than those who had been Jews
are addressed throughout the epistle. There is no attempt to
explain the nature or design of any customs except those with
which they were familiar. At the same time it is equally clear
that they were Jewish converts - converts from Judaism
to Christianity--who are addressed. The writer addresses them as
Christians, not as those who were to be converted to
Christianity; he explains to them the Jewish customs as one would
do to those who had been converted from Judaism; he endeavours to
guard them from apostasy, as if there were danger that they would
relapse again into the system from which they were converted.    
These considerations seem to be decisive; and in the view of all
who have written on the epistle, as well as of the Christian
world at large, they settle the question. It has never been held
that the epistle was directed to Gentiles; and in all the
opinions and questions which have been started on the subject, it
has been admitted that, wherever they resided, the persons to
whom the epistle was addressed were originally Hebrews who had
never been converted to the Christian religion.

(2) To what particular church of the Hebrews was it written ?  

Very different opinions have been held on this question. The
celebrated Storr held that it was written to the Hebrew part of
the churches in Galatia ; and that the epistle to the Galatians
was addressed to the Gentile part of those churches. Semler and
Noessett maintained that it was written to the churches
in Macedonia, and particularly to the church of Thessalonica.    
Bolten maintains that it was addressed to the Jewish Christians
who fled from Palestine in a time of persecution, about the year
60, and who were scattered through Asia Minor. Michael Weber
supposed that it was addressed to the church at Corinth.    
Ludwig conjectured that it was addressed to a church in Spain.
Wetstein supposes that it was written to the church at Rome.     
Most of these opinions are mere conjectures, and all of them
depend on circumstances which furnish only slight evidence of
probability. Those who are disposed to examine these, and to see
them confuted, may consult Stuart's Commentary on the Hebrews,
Intro. 5-9. The common, and the almost universally received
opinion is that the epistle was addressed to the Hebrew
Christians in Palestine. The reasons for this opinion, briefly,
are the following:

(1) The testimony of the ancient church was uniform on this
point - that the epistle was not only written to the Hebrew
Christians, but to those who were in Palestine. Lardner affirms
this to be the testimony of Clement of Alexandria, Jerome,
Euthalius, Chrysostom, Theodoret, and Theophylact; and adds that
this was the general opinion of the ancients. "Works," vol. vi.
pp.80,81. ed. Lond. 1829.     

(2) The inscription at the commencement of the epistle
leads to this supposition. That inscription, though not appended
by the hand of the author, was early affixed to it.    It is
found not only in the Greek manuscripts, but in all the early
versions, as the Syriac and the Itala ; and was doubtless affixed
at a very early period, and by whomsoever affixed, expressed the
current sense at the time. It is hardly possible that a mistake
would be made on this point; and unless there is good evidence to
the contrary, this ought to be allowed to determine the
question. That inscription. is, "The Epistle of Paul the Apostle
to the Hebrews."    But who are the Hebrews - the (Greek)?
Professor Stuart has endeavoured to show that this was a term
that was employed exclusively to denote the Jews in Palestine, in
contradistinction from foreign Jews, who were called Hellenists.
Comp. my Notes on Acts vi.1. Bertholdt declares that there is not
a single example which can be found in early times of Jewish
Christians out of Palestine being called Hebrews. See a
Dissertation on the Greek Language in Palestine, and of the
meaning of the word Hellenists, by Hug, in the Bib. Repository,
vol. i. 547,548. Comp. also Robinson's Lex. on the word (Greek).
If this be so, and if the inscription be of any authority, then
it goes far to settle the question. The word Hebrews occurs but
three times in the New Testament, (Acts vi.1; 2 Cor. xi. 22;
Phil. iii. 5,) in the first of which it is certain that it is
used in this sense, and in both the others of which it is
probable. There can be no doubt, it seems to me, that an ancient
writer acquainted with the usual sense of the word Hebrew, would
understand an inscription of this kind- "written to the Hebrews"
- as designed for the inhabitants of Palestine, and not for the
Jews of other countries. 3.) There are some passages in the
epistle itself which Lardner supposes indicate that this epistle
was written to the Hebrews in Palestine, or to those there who
had been converted from Judaism to Christianity.  As those
passages are not conclusive, and as their force has been called
in question, and with much propriety, by Professor Stuart
(pp.32-34), I shall merely refer to them. They can be examined at
leisure by those wbo are disposed, and though they do not prove
that the epistle was addressed to the Hebrew Christians in
Palestine, yet they can be best interpreted on that supposition,
and a peculiar significancy would be attached to them on this
supposition. They are the following: ch. i. 2; iv.
2; ii. 1-4; v.12; iv. 4-6; x. 26-29,32-34; xiii. 13,14.     The
argument of Lardner is that these would be more applicable to
their condition than to others; a position which I think cannot
be doubted. Some of them are of so general character, indeed, as
to be applicable to Christians elsewhere; and in regard to some
of them it cannot be certainly demonstrated that the state of
things referred to existed in Judea, but taken together they
would be more applicable by far to them than to the circumstances
of any others of which we have knowledge; and this may be allowed
to have some weight at least in determining to whom the epistle
was sent. (4.) The internal evidence of the epistle corresponds
with the supposition that it was written to the Hebrew Christians
in Palestine. The passages referred to in the previous remarks
(3) might be adduced here as proof. But there is other proof.
It might have been otherwise. There might be such strong internal
proof that an epistle was not addressed to a supposed people, as
completely to neutralize all the evidence derived from an
inscription like that prefixed to this epistle, and all the
evidence derived from tradition. But it is not so here. All the
circumstances referred to in the epistle; the general strain of
remark; the argument; the allusions, are just such as would be
likely to be found in an epistle addressed to the Hebrew
Christians in Palestine, and such as would not be likely to occur
in an epistle addressed to any other place or people. They are
such as the following: (a) The familiar acquaintance with the
Jewish institutions supposed by the writer to exist among those
to whom it was sent - a familiarity hardly to be expected even of
Jews who lived in other countries. (b.) The danger so frequently
adverted to of their relapsing into their former state; of
apostatizing from Christianity, and of embracing again the Jewish
rites and ceremonies - a danger that would exist nowhere else in
so great a degree as in Judea. Comp. ch. ii. 1-3; iii. 7-11,15;
iv. 1; vi 1-8; x. 26-35. (c.) The nature of the discussion in the
epistle -not turning upon the obligation of circumcision, and the
distinction of meats and drinks, which occupied so much of the
attention of the apostles and early Christians in other places -
but a discussion relating to the whole structure of the Mosaic
economy, the pre-eminence of Moses or Christ, the meaning of the
rites of the temple, etc. These great questions would be more
likely to arise in Judea than elsewhere, and it was important to
discuss them fully, as it is done in this epistle. In other
places they would be of less interest, and would excite less
difficulty. (d.) The allusion to local places and events; to
facts in their history ; and to the circumstances of public
worship, which would be better understood there than elsewhere.  
There are no allusions - or if there are they are very brief and
infrequent - to heathen customs, games, races, and philosophical
opinions, as there are often in the other epistles of the New
Testament. Those to whom the epistle was sent, are presumed to
have an intimate and minute knowledge of the Hebrew history, and
such a knowledge as could be hardly supposed elsewhere. Comp. ch.
xi., particularly vs.32-39. Thus it is implied that they so well
understood the subjects referred to relating to the Jewish rites,
that it was not necessary that the writer should specify them
particularly. See ch. ix.5. Of what other persons could this
be so appropriately said as of the dwellers in Palestine? (e.)
The circumstances of trial and persecution so often referred to
in the epistle, agree well with the known condition of the church
in Palestine. That it was subjected to great trials we know; and
though this was extensively true of other churches, yet it is
probable that there were more vexatious and grievous exactions;
that there was more spite and malice; that there were more of the
trials arising from the separation of families and the losses of
property attending a profession of Christianity in Palestine than
elsewhere in the early Christian church. These considerations -
though not so conclusive as to furnish absolute demonstration -
go far to settle the question. They seem to me so strong as to
preclude any reasonable doubt, and are such as the mind can
repose on with a great degree of confidence in regard to the
original destination of the epistle.

(3)  Was it addressed to a particular church in Palestine, or to
the Rebrew Christians there in general?

Whether it was addressed to the churches in general in Palestine,
or to some particular church there, it is now impossible to
determine. Prof. Stuart inclines to the opinion that it was
addressed to the church in Cesarea. The ancients in general
supposed it was addressed to the church in Jerusalem. There are
some local references in the epistle which look as though it was
directed to some particular church. But the means of determining
this question are put beyond our reach, and it is of little
importance to settle the question. From the allusions to the
temple, the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the whole train of
peculiar institutions there, it would seem probable that it was
directed to the church in Jerusalem. As that was the capital of
the nation, and the centre of religious influence; and as there
was a large and flourishing church there, this opinion would seem
to have great probability; but it is impossible now to determine
it. If we suppose that the author sent the epistle, in the first
instance, to some local church, near the central seat of the
great influence which he intended to reach by it - addressing to
that church the particular communications in the last verses - we
shall make a supposition which, so far as can now be ascertained,
will accord with the truth in the ease.

The AUTHOR of the Epistle

To those who are familiar with the investigations which have
taken place in regard to this epistle, it need not be said that
the question of its authorship has given rise to much discussion.
The design of these Notes does not permit me to go at length into
this inquiry. Those who are disposed to see the investigation
pursued at length, and to see the objections to the Pauline
origin examined in a most satisfactory manner, can find it done
in the Introduction to the Epistle to the Hebrews, by Prof.
Stuart, pp.77-260.  All that my purpose requires is to state, in
a very brief manner, the evidence on which it is ascribed to the
apostle Paul. That evidence is, briefly, the following:

(1) That derived from the church at Alexandria.   Clement of
Alexandria says, that Paul wrote to the Hebrews, and that this
was the opinion of Pantaenus, who was at the head of the
celebrated Christian school at Alexandria, and who flourished
about A.D.180. Pantaenus lived near Palestine. He must have been
acquainted with the prevailing opinions on the subject, and his
testimony must be regarded as proof that the epistle was regarded
as Paul's by the churches in that region. Origen, also of
Alexandria, ascribes the epistle to Paul; though he says that the
sentiments are those of Paul, but that the words and phrases
belong to some one relating the apostle's sentiments, and as it
were commenting on the words of his master. The testimony of the
church at Alexandria was uniform after the time of Origen, that
it was the production of Paul. Indeed there seems never to have
been any doubt in regard to it there, and from the commencement
it was admitted as his production. The testimony of that church
and school is particularly valuable, because (a) it was near to
Palestine, where the epistle was probably sent; (b) Clement
particularly had travelled much, and would be likely to
understand the prevailing sentiments of the East; (c) Alexandria
was the seat of the most celebrated theological school of the
early Christian ages, and those who were at the head of this
school would be likely to have correct information on a point
like this; and (d) Origen is admitted to have been the most
learned of the Greek Fathers, and his testimony that the
"sentiments" were those of Paul may be regarded as of peculiar
value.

(It does not have to be just "sentiments" of Paul. Paul wrote
differently under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit
led him. Just as my theological studies have a different "feel to
them" depending on the subject and how the Spirit leads me to
write - Keith Hunt)

(2) It was inserted in the translation into the Syriac, made very
early in the second century, and in the old Italic version, and
was hence believed to be of apostolic origin, and is by the
inscription ascribed to Paul. This may be allowed to express the
general sense of the churches at that time, as this would not
have been done unless there had been a general impression that
the epistle was written by him. The fact that it was early
regarded as an inspired book is also conclusively shown by the
fact that the second epistle of Peter, and the second and third
epistles of John, are not found in that version. They came later
into circulation than the other epistles, and were not
possessed, or regarded as genuine, by the author of that version.
The epistle to the Hebrews is found in these versions, and was,
therefore, regarded as one of the inspired books. In those
versions it bears the inscription, "To the Hebrews."

(The Syriac is not the proof of anything per se. The apostles had
themselves determined the canon of the New Testament by the end
of the life of the apostle John near the end of the first century
A.D. See the study on this website "Canonization of the New
Testament" - Keith Hunt)

(3) This epistle was received as the production of Paul, by the
Eastern churches. Justin Martyr, who was born at Samaria, quotes
it, about the year 140. It was found, as has been already
remarked, in the Peshito - the old Syriac version, made in the
early part of the second century. Jacob, bishop of Nisibis, also
(about A.D. 320) repeatedly quotes it as the production of an
apostle. Ephrem Syrus, or the Syrian, abundantly ascribes this
epistle to Paul. He was the disciple of Jacob of Nisibis, and no
man was better qualified to inform himself on this point than
Ephrem. No man stands deservedly higher in the memory of the
Eastern churches. After him, all the Syrian churches acknowledged
the canonical authority of the epistle to the Hebrews. But the
most important testimony of the Eastern church is that of
Eusebius, bishop of Cesarea, in Palestine. He is the well-known
historian of the church, and he took pains from all quarters to
collect testimony in regard to the Books of Scripture. He says, 
"There are fourteen epistles of Paul, manifest and well known:
but yet there are some who reject that to the Hebrews, alleging
in behalf of their opinion, that it was not received by the
church of Rome as a writing of Paul." The testimony of Eusebius
is particularly important. He had heard of the objection to its
canonical authority. He had weighed that objection. Yet in view
of the testimony in the case, he regarded it as the undoubted
production of Paul. As such it was received in the churches in
the East; and the fact which he mentions, that its genuineness
had been disputed by the church of Rome, and that he specifies no
other church proves that it had not been called in question in
the East. This seems to me to be sufficient testimony to settle
this inquiry. The writers here referred to lived in the very
country to which the epistle was evidently written, and their
testimony is uniform. Justin Martyr was born in Samaria; Ephrem
passed his life in Syria; Eusebius lived in Cesarea, and Origen
passed the last twenty years of his life in Palestine. The
churches there were unanimous in the opinion that this epistle
was written by Paul, and their united testimony should settle the
question. Indeed when their testimony is considered, it seems
remarkable that the subject should have been regarded as doubtful
by critics, or that it should have given rise to so much
protracted investigation. I might add to the testimonies above
referred to, the fact that the epistle was declared to be Paul's
by the following persons: Archelaus, bishop of Mesopotamia, about
A.D.300; Adaniantius, about 330; Cyril, of Jerusalem, about 348;
the Council of Laodicea, about 363; Epiphanius, about 368; Basil,
368; Gregory Nazianzen, 370; Chrysostom, 398, etc. etc. Why
should not the testimony of such men and churches be admitted?   
What more clear or decided evidence could we wish in regard to
any fact of ancient history? Would not such testimony be ample in
regard to an anonymous oration of Cicero, or poem of Virgil or
Horace? Are we not constantly acting on far feebler evidence in
regard to the authorship of many productions of celebrated
English writers?

(Indeed with such evidence it is clear that Paul wrote 14 of the
inspired New Testament books; 14 is the number used by God for
SALVATION. In Paul's writing we have COMPLETE SALVATION expounded
- Keith Hunt)

(4) In regard to the Western churches, it is to be admitted that,
like the second epistle of Peter, and the second and third
epistles of John, the canonical authority was for some time
doubted, or was ever called in question. But this may be
accounted for. The epistle had not the name of the author.
All the other epistles of Paul had. As the epistle was addressed
to the Hebrews in Palestine, it may not have been soon known to
the Western churches. As there were spurious epistles and gospels
at an early age, much caution would be used in admitting any
anonymous production to a place in the sacred canon. Yet it was
not long before all these doubts were removed, and the epistle to
the Hebrews was allowed to take its place among the other
acknowledged writings of Paul. It was received as the epistle of
Paul by Hilary, bishop of Poictiers, about A.D. 354; by Lucifer,
bishop of Cagliari, 354; by Victorinus, 360; by Ambrose, bishop
of Milan, 360; by Rufinus, 397, etc.etc.  Jerome, the well-known
Latin Father, uses in regard to it the following language: "This
is to be maintained, that this epistle, which is inscribed to the
Hebrews, is not only received by the churches at the East as the
apostle Paul's, but has been in past times by all ecclesiastical
writers in the Greek language; although most [Latins] think that
Barnabas or Clement was the author." Still, it was not rejected
by all the Latins. Some received it in the time of Jerome as the
production of Paul. See Stuart, pp.114,115, for the full
testimony of Jerome. Augustine admitted that the epistle was
written by Paul. He mentions that Paul wrote fourteen epistles,
and specifies particularly the epistle to the Hebrews. He often
cites it as a part of Scripture, and quotes it as the production
of an apostle. Stuart, p.115. From the time of Augustine it was
undisputed. By the council of Hippo, A.D. 393, the third council
of Carthage, 397, and the fifth council of Carthage, 419, it was
declared to be the epistle of Paul, and was as such commended to
the churches.

(5) As another proof that it is the writing of Paul, we may
appeal to the internal evidence. (a) The author of the epistle
was the companion and friend of Timothy. "Know ye that our
brother Timothy is set at liberty" or is sent away-- (Greek)--"
with whom if he come speedily, I will make you a visit." 
ch. xiii.23.   Sent away, perhaps, on a journey, to visit some of
the churches, and expected soon to return. In Phil. ii.19, Paul
speaks of sending Timothy to them "so soon as he should see how
it would go with him," at the same time expressing a hope that he
should himself see them shortly. What is more natural than to
suppose that he had now sent "Timothy to Philippi;" that during
his absence he wrote this epistle; that he was waiting for his
return; and that he proposed, if Timothy should return soon, to
visit Palestine with him? And who would more naturally say this
than the apostle Paul - the companion and friend of Timothy; by
whom he had been accompanied in his travels; and by whom he was
regarded with special interest as a minister of the gospel? (b)
In ch. xiii.18,19, he asks their prayers that he might be
restored to them; and in ver.23, he expresses a confident
expectation of being able soon to come and see them. From this it
is evident that he was then imprisoned, but had hope of speedy
release - a state of things in exact accordance with what existed
at Rome.  Phil. ii.17-24. (c) He was in bonds when he wrote this
epistle. Heb. x.34, "Ye had compassion of me in my bonds;" an
expression that will exactly apply to the case of Paul. He was in
"bonds" in Palestine; he was two whole years in Cesarea a
prisoner (Acts xxiv.27); and what was more natural than that the
Christians in Palestine should have had compassion on him,
and ministered to his wants?  To what other person would these
circumstances so certainly be applicable? (d) The salutation (ch.
xiii.24,) "they of Italy salute you," agrees with the supposition
that it was written by Paul when a prisoner at Rome. Paul writing
from Rome, and acquainted with Christians from other parts of
Italy, would be likely to send such a salutation. In regard to
the objections which may be made to this use of the passage, the
reader may consult Stuart's Intro. to the Hebrews, p.127, seq.   
(e). The doctrines of the epistle are the same as those which are
taught by Paul in undisputcd writings. It is true that this
consideration is not conclusive, but the want of it would be
conclusive evidence against the position that Paul wrote it.     

(From what Barnes has given us it is indeed full proof this book
of Hebrews is a writing of Paul. It has all the theological depth
to it that Paul as a one time top Pharisee would have in the
knowledge of Hebrew theology - Keith Hunt) 

But the resemblance is not general. It is not such as any man
would exhibit who held to the same general system of truth. It
relates to peculiarities of doctrine, and is such as would be
manifested by a man who had been reared and trained as Paul had. 

(1) No one can doubt that the author was formerly a Jew--and a
Jew who had been familiar to an uncommon degree with the
institutions of the Jewish religion. Every rite and ceremony;
every form of opinion; every fact in their history, is perfectly
familiar to him. And though the other apostles were Jews, yet we
can hardly suppose that they had the familiarity with the minute
rites and ceremonies so accurately referred to in this epistle,
and so fully illustrated. With Paul all this was perfectly
natural. He had been brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, and had
spent the early part of his life at Jerusalem in the careful
study o f the Old Testament, in the examination of the prevalent
opinions, and in the attentive observance of the rites of
religion. The other apostles had been born and trained,
apparently, on the banks of Gennesareth, and certainly with few
of the opportunities which Paul had had for becoming acquainted
with the institutions of the temple service. This consideration
is fatal, in my view, to the claim which has been set up for
Clement as the author of the epistle. It is wholly incredible
that a foreigner should be so familiar with the Jewish opinions,
laws, institutions, and history, as the author of this epistle
manifestly was.

(2) There is the same preference for Christianity over Judaism in
this epistle which is shown by Paul in his other epistles, and
exhibited in the same form. Among these points are the following
The gospel imparts superior light. Comp. Gal. iv. 3,9; 1 Cor.
xiv. 20; Eph. iv. 11-13; 2 Cor. iii. 18; with Heb. i. 1,2; ii.
2-4; viii. 9-11; x. 1; xi. 39,40. The gospel holds out superior
motives and encouragements to piety. Comp. Gal. iii. 23; iv. 2,3;
Rom. viii. 15-17; Gal. iv. I; v. 13; 1 Cor. vii. 19; Gal. vi.    
15; with Heb. ix. 9,14; xii. 18-24,28; viii. 6-13. The gospel is
superior in promoting the real and permanent happiness of
mankind.  Comp. Gal. iii 13; 2 Cor. iii. 7,9; Rom. iii. 20; Rom.
iv. 24,25; Eph. i. 7; Rom. v. 1 2; Gal. ii, 16; and the same
views in  Heb. xii. 18-21; ix. 9; x. 4,11; vi. 18-20;  vii. 25;
ix. 24. The Jewish dispensation was a type and shadow of the
Christian. See Col. ii.  16,17; 1 Cor. x. 1-6; Rom. v. 14; 1
Cor. xv.  45-47; 2 Cor.  iii 13-18; Gal. iv. 22-31; iv. 1-5; and
for the same or similar views, see Hebrews ix. 9-14; x. l; viii.
1-9; ix. 22-24. The Christian religion was designed to be
perpetual, while the Jewish was intended to be abolished See 2
Cor. iii. 10,11,13,18; iv. 14-16; Rom. vii. 4-6; Gal. iii. 21-25;
iv. 1-7; v. 1; and for similar views compare Heb. viii. 6-8,13;  
vii. 17-19; x. 1-14. The person of the Mediator is presented in
the same light by the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews and by
Paul. See Phil. ii. 6-11; Col. i. 15-20; 2 Cor. viii. 9; Eph.
iii. 9; 1 Cor. viii. 6; xv. 25-27; and for the same and similar
views, see Heb. i. 2,3;  ii.  9,14; xii. 2; ii. 8; x. 13. The
death of Christ is the propitiatory sacrifice for sin. See 1 Tim.
i. 15; 1 Cor. xv. 3; Rom. viii. 32; iii. 24; Gal. i. 4; ii. 20; I
Cor. v. 7; Eph. i. 7; Col. i. 14; 1 Tim. ii. 6; 1 Cor. vi. 20;
vii. 23; Rom. v. 12-21; iii. 20,28; viii. 3; 1 Tim, ii. 5,6. For
similar views see Heb i. 3; ii. 9; v. 8,9; vii., viii., ix., x.
The general method and arrangement of this epistle and the
acknowledged epistles of Paul are the same. It resembles
particularly the epistles to the Romans and the Galatians, where
we have first a doctrinal and then a practical part. The same is
true also to some extent of the epistles to the Ephesians,
Colossians, and Philippians. The epistle to the Hebrews is on the
same plan. As far as ch. x.19. it is principally doctrinal; the
remainder is mainly practical. The manner of appealing to, and
applying the Jewish Scriptures, is the same in this epistle as in
those of Paul. The general structure of the epistle, and the
slightest comparison between them, will show this with sufficient
clearness.

(Indeed as you read Hebrews you feel Paul with his deep theology
coming through - Keith Hunt)


The general remark to be made in view of this comparison is, that
the epistle to the Hebrews is just such an one as Paul might be
expected to write; that it agrees with what we know to have been
his early training, his views, his manner of life, his opinions,
and his habit in writing; that it accords better with his views
than with those of any other known writer of antiquity; and that
it falls in with the circumstances in which he was known to be
placed, and the general object which he had in view. So
satisfactory are these views to my mind, that they seem to have
all the force of demonstration which can be had in regard to any
anonymous publication, and it is a matter of wonder that so much
doubt has been experienced in reference to the question who was
the author.

(And I fully agree with Barnes' last comment - Keith Hunt)

It is difficult to account for the fact that the name of the
author was omitted. It is found in every other epistle of Paul,
and in general it is appended to the epistles in the New
Testament. It is omitted, however, in the three epistles of John,
for reasons which are now unknown. And there may have been
similar reasons also unknown for omitting it in this case.  The
simple tact is, that it is anonymous; and whoever was the author,
the same difficulty will exist in accounting for it. If this fact
will prove that Paul was not the author, it would prove the same
thing in regard to any other person, and would thus be ultimately
conclusive evidence that it had no author. What were the reasons
for omitting the name can be only matter of conjecture. The most
probable opinion, as it seems to me, is this. The name of Paul
was odious to the Jews.  He was regarded by the nation as an
apostate from their religion, and everywhere they showed peculiar
malignity against him. See the Acts of the Apostles. The fact
that he was so regarded by them might indirectly influence even
those who had been converted from Judaism to Christianity. They
lived in Palestine. They were near the temple, and were engaged
in its ceremonies and sacrifices - for there is no evidence that
they broke off from those observances on their conversion to
Christianity. Paul was disliked. It might have been reported that
he was preaching against the temple and its sacrifices, and even
the Jewish Christians in Palestine might have supposed that be
was carrying matters too far. In these circumstances it might
have been imprudent for him to have announced his name at the
outset, for it might have aroused prejudices which a wise man
would wish to allay. But if lh could present an argument,
somewhat in the form of an essay, showing that he believed that
the Jewish institutions were appointed by God, and that he was
not an apostate and in infidel; if he could conduct a
demonstration that would accord in the main with the prevailing
views of the Christians in Palestine, and that was adapted to
strengthen them in the faith of the gospel, and explain to them
the true nature of the Jewish rites, then the object could be
gained without difficulty, and then they would be prepared to
learn that Paul was the author, without prejudice or alarm. 
Accordingly he thus conducts the argument; and at the close gives
them such intimations that they would understand who wrote it
without much difficulty. If this was the motive, it was an
instance of tact such as was certainly characteristic of Paul,
and such as was not unworthy any man.

I have no doubt that this was the true motive. It would be soon
known who wrote it; and accordingly we have seen it was never
disputed in the Eastern churches.

4. The TIME when written

In regard to the time when this epistle was written, and the
place where, critics have been better agreed than on most of the
questions which have been started in regard to it. Mill was of
opinion that it was written by Paul in the year 63, in some part
of Italy, soon after he had been released from imprisonment at
Rome, Westein was of the same opinion. Tillemont also places

this epistle in the year 63, and supposes that it was written
while Paul was at Rome, or at least in Italy, and soon after he
was released from imprisonment. Basnage supposes it was written
about the year 61, and during the imprisonment of the apostle.   
Lardner supposes also that it was written in the beginning of the
year 63, and soon after the apostle was released from his
confinement. This also is the opinion of Calmet. The
circumstances in the epistle which will enable us to form an
opinion on the question about the time and the place are the
following:

(1) It was written while the temple was still standing, and
before Jerusalem was destroyed. This is evident from the whole
structure of the epistle. There is no allusion to the destruction
of the temple or the city, which there certainly would have been
if they had been destroyed. Such an event would have contributed
much to the object in view, and would have furnished an
irrefragable argument that the institutions of the Jews were
intended to be superseded by another and a more perfect system.  
Moreover, there are allusions in the epistle which suppose that
the temple service was then performed. See Heb. ix. 9; viii. 4,
But the city and temple were destroyed in the year 70, and of
course the epistle was written before that year.

(2) It was evidently written before the civil wars and commotions
in Judea, which terminated in the destruction of the city and
nation. This is clear, because there are no allusions to any such
disorders or troubles in Palestine, and there is no intimation
that they were suffering the evils incident to a state of war.
Comp. ch. xii. 4. But those wars commenced A.D.66, and evidently
the epistle was written before that time.

(3) They were not suffering the evils of violent persecution.    
They had indeed formerly suffered (comp. ch. x. 32,34); James and
Stephen had been put to death (Acts vii., xii.); but there was no
violent and bloody persecution then raging in which they were
called to defend their religion at the expense of blood and life.
Ch. x. 32,33. But the persecution under Nero began in the year
64, and though it began at Rome, and was confined to a
considerable degree to Italy, yet it is not improbable that it
extended to other places, and it is to be presumed that if such a
persecution were raging at the time when the epistle was written
there would be some allusion to this fact. It may be set down,
therefore, that it was written before the year 64.

(4) It is equally true that the epistle was written during the
latter part of the apostolic age. The author speaks of the former
days in which after they were illuminated they had endured a
great fight of afflictions, and when they were made a
gazing-stock, and were plundered by their oppressors (ch. x.
32-34); and he speaks of them as having been so long converted
that they ought to have been qualified to teach others (ch. v.
12); and hence it is fairly to be inferred that they were not
recent converts, but that the church there had been established
for a considerable period. It may be added, that it was after the
writer had been imprisoned - as I suppose in Cesarea - when they
had ministered to him; ch. x. 34. But this was as late as the
year 60.

(5) At the time when Paul wrote the epistles to the Ephesians,
Philippians, and Colossians, he had hopes of deliverance. Timothy
was evidently with him. But now he was absent; ch. xiii. 23. In
the epistle to the Philippians (ch. ii. 19-23) he says, "But I
trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that
I may be also of good comfort, when I know your state." He
expected, therefore, that Timothy would come back to him at Rome.
It is probable that Timothy was sent soon after this. The apostle
had a fair prospect of being set at liberty, and sent him to
them. During his absence at this time, it would seem probable,
this epistle was written. Thus the writer says (ch. xiii. 23),
"Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty" - or rather,
SENT AWAY, or SENT ABROAD (see note in that place); "with whom if
be come shortly, I will see you." That is, if he returns soon, as
I expect him, I will pay you a visit. It is probable that the
epistle was written while Timothy was thus absent at Philippi,
and when he returned, Paul and he went to Palestine, and thence
to Ephesus. If so it was written somewhere about the year 63, as
this was the time when Paul was set at liberty.

(6) The epistle was written evidently in Italy. Thus in ch. xiii.
24, the writer says, "They of Italy salute you."  This would be
the natural form of salutation on the supposition that it was
written there. He mentions none by name, as he does in his other
epistles, for it is probable that none of those who were at Rome
would be known by name in Palestine. But there was a general
salutation, showing the interest which they bad in the Christians
in Judea, and expressive of regard for their welfare. This
expression is, to my mind, conclusive evidence that the epistle
was written in Italy; and in Italy there was no place where this
would be so likely to occur as at Rome.

5. The LANGUAGE in which it was written

This is a vexed and still unsettled question, and it does not
seem to be possible to determine it with any considerable degree
of certainty. Critics of the ablest name have been divided on it,
and what is remarkable, have appealed to the same arguments to
prove exactly opposite opinions - one class arguing that the
style of the epistle is such as to prove that it was written in
Hebrew, and the other appealing to the same proofs to demonstrate
that it was written in Greek. Among those who have supposed that
it was written in Hebrew are the following, viz. :- Some of the
Fathers - as Clement of Alexandria, Theodoret, John Damascenus,
Theophylact; and among the moderns, Michaelis has been the most
strenuous defender of this opinion. This opinion was also held by
the late Dr. James P. Wilson, who says, "It was probably written
in the vulgar language of the Jews;" that is, in that mixture of
Hebrew, Syriac, and Clialdee, which was usually spoken in the
time of the Saviour, and which was known as the Syro-Chaldaic.

On the other hand, the great body of critics have supposed it was
written in the Greek language. This was the opinion of Fabricius,
Lightfoot, Whitby, Beausobre, Capellus, Basnage, Mill, and
others, and is also the opinion of Lardner, Hug, Stuart, and
perhaps of most modern critics. These opinions may be seen
examined at length in Michaelis' "Introduction," Hug, Stuart, and
Lardner.

The arguments in support of the opinion that it was written in
Hebrew are, briefly, the following: (1.) The testimony of the
Fathers. Thus Clement of Alexandria says, "Paul wrote to the
Hebrews in the Hebrew language, and Luke carefully translated it
into Greek." Jerome says, "Paul as a Hebrew wrote to the Hebrews
in Hebrew-Scripserat ut Hebraeus He-braeis Hebraice;" and then he
adds, "this epistle was translated into Greek, so that the
colouring of the style was made diverse in this way from that of
Paul's." (2.) The fact that it was written for the use of the
Hebrews, who spoke the Hebrew, or the Talmudic language, is
alleged as a reason for supposing that it must have been written
in that language. (3.) It is alleged by Michaelis, that the style
of the Greek, as we now have it, is far more pure and classical
than Paul elsewhere employs, and that hence it is to be inferred
that it was translated by some one who was master of the Greek
language. On this, however, the most eminent critics disagree.
(4) It is alleged by Michaelis, that the quotations in the
epistle, as we have it, are made from the Septuagint, and that
they are foreign to the purpose which the writer had in view as
they are now quoted, whereas they are exactly in point as they
stand in the Hebrew. Hence he infers that the original Hebrew was
quoted by the author, and that the translator used the common
version at hand instead of making an exact translation for
himself. Of the fact alleged here, however, there may be good
ground to raise a question; and if it were so, it would not prove
that the writer might not have used the common and accredited
translation, though less to his purpose than the original. Of the
fact, moreover, to which Michaelis here refers, Prof. Stuart
says, "He has not adduced a single instance of what he calls a
wrong translation which wears the appearance of any considerable
probability."  The only instance urged by Michael is which seems
to me to be plausible is Heb. i. 7. 

These are the principal arguments which have been urged in favour
of the opinion that this epistle was written in the Hebrew
language, They are evidently not conclusive. The only argument of
any considerable weight is the testimony of some of the Fathers,
and it may be doubted whether they gave this as a matter of
historic fact or only as a matter of opinion. See Hug's
"Introduction," 144.

It is morally certain that in one respect their statement cannot
be true. They state that it was translated by Luke; but it is
capable of the clearest proof that it was not translated by Luke,
the author of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, since
there is the most remarkable dissimilarity in the style.
On the other hand there are alleged in favour of the opinion that
it was written in Greek the following considerations, viz.:-

(1) The fact that we have no Hebrew original. If it was written
in Hebrew, the original was early lost. None of the Fathers say
that they had seen it; none quote it. All the copies that we have
are in Greek. If it was written in Hebrew, and the original was
destroyed, it must have been at a very early period, and it is
remarkable that no one should have mentioned the fact or alluded
to it. Besides, it is scarcely conceivable that the original
should have so soon perished, and that the translation should
have altogether taken its place. If it was addressed to the
Hebrews in Palestine, the same reason which made it proper that
it should have been written in Hebrew would have led them to
retain it in that language, and we might have supposed that
Origen, or Eusebius, or Jerome, who lived there, or Ephrem the
Syrian, would have adverted to the fact that there was there a
Hebrew ori ginal. The Jews were remarkable for retaining their
sacred books in the language in which they were written, and if
this were written in Hebrew it is difficult to account for the
fact that it was so soon suffered to perish.

(2) The presumption - a presumption amounting to almost a moral
certainty - is, that an apostle writing to the Christians in
Palestine would write in Greek. This presumption is based on the
following circumstances: (a) The fact that all the other books of
the New Testament were written in Greek, unless the Gospel by
Matthew be an exception. (b) This occurred in cases where it
would seem to have been as improbable as it was that one writing
to the Hebrews should use that language. For instance, Paul wrote
to the church in Rome in the Greek language, though the Latin
language was that which was in universal use there. (c) The Greek
was a common language in the East. It seems to have been
familiarly spoken, and to have been commonly understood. (d) Like
the other books of the New Testament, this epistle does not
appear to have been intended to be confined to the Hebrews only. 
The writings of the apostles were regarded as the property of the
church at large. Those writings would be copied and spread
abroad. The Greek was a far better language for such a purpose
than the Hebrew. It was polished and elegant; was adapted to the
purpose of discoursing on moral subjects; was fitted to express
delicate shades of thought, and was the language which was best
understood by the world at large. (e) It was the language which
Paul would naturally use unless there was a strong reason for his
employing the Hebrew. Though he was able to speak in Hebrew (Acts
xxi. 40), yet he had spent his early days in Tarsus, where the
Greek was the vernacular tongue, and it was probably that which
he had first learned. Besides this, when this epistle was written
he had been absent from Palestine about twenty-five years, and in
all that time he had been there but a few days. He had been where
the Greek language was universally spoken. He had been among Jews
who spoke that language. It was the language used in their
synagogues, and Paul had addressed them in it. After thus
preaching, conversing, and writing in that language for
twenty-five years, is it any wonder that he should prefer writing
in it; that he should naturally do it; and is it not to be
presumed that he would do it in this case? 

These presumptions are so strong that they ought to be allowed to
settle a question of this kind unless there is positive proof to
the contrary.

(3) There is internal proof that it was written in the Greek
language. The evidence of this kind consists in the fact that the
writer bases an argument on the meaning and force of Greek words,
which could not have occurred had he written in Hebrew. Instances
of this kind are such as these. (a) In ch. ii. he applies a
passage from Ps. viii. to prove that the Son of God must have had
a human nature, which was to be exalted above the angels, and
placed at the head of the creation. The passage is, "Thou hast
made him a little while inferior to the angels."  Ch. ii. 7,
margin. In the Hebrew, in Ps. viii. 5, the word rendered angels,
is God; and the sense of angels attached to that word, though it
may sometimes occur, is so unusual, that an argument would not
have been built on the Hebrew. (b) In ch. vii. 1, the writer has
explained the name Melchizedek, and translated it king of Salem t
elling what it is in Greek - a thing which would not have been
done had he written in Hebrew, where the word was well
understood. It is possible, indeed, that a translator might have
done this, but the explanation seems to be interwoven with the
discourse itself, and to constitute a part of the argument. (c.)
In ch. ix 16,17, there is an argument on the meaning of the word
covenant -(Greek)-- which could not have occerred had the epistle
been in Hebrew. It is founded on the double meaning of that
word--denoting both a covenant and a testament, or will. The
Hebrew word-(Hebrew)--Berith--has no such double signification.
It means covenant only, and is never used in the sense of the
word will, or testament. The proper translation of that word
would be (Greek)--syntheke--but the translators of the Septuagint
uniformly used the former--(Greek)--diatheke--and on this word
the argument of the apostle is based. This could not have been
done by a translator; it must have been by the original author,
for it is incorporated into the argument. (d) In ch. x. 3-9, the
author shows that Christ came to make an atonement for sin, and
that in order to this it was necessary that he should have a
human body. This he shows was not only necessary, but was
predicted. In doing this, he appeals to Ps. xl. 6- "A body hast
thou prepared for me." But the Hebrew here is, "Mine cars hast
thou opened." This passage would have been much less pertinent
than the other form - "a body hast thou prepared me;" - and
indeed it is not easy to see how it would bear at all on the
object in view. See ver. 10. But in the Septuagint the phrase
stands as he quotes it--"a body past thou prepared for me;" a
fact which demonstrates, whatever difficulties there may be about
the principle on which he makes the quotation, that the epistle
was written in Greek. It may be added, that it has nothing of the
appearance of a translation. It is not stiff, forced, or
constrained in style, as translations usually are. It is
impassioned, free, flowing, full of animation, life, and
colouring, and has all the appearance of being an original
composition. So clear are these considerations, that the great
body of critics now concur in the opinion that the epistle was
originally written in Greek.

6. The DESIGN and general argument of the Epistle

The general purpose of this epistle is, to preserve those to whom
it was sent from the danger of apostasy. Their danger on this
subject did not arise so much from persecution, as from the
circumstances that were fitted to attract them again to the
Jewish religion. The temple, it is supposed, and indeed it
is evident, was still standing. The morning and evening sacrifice
was still offered. The splendid rites of that imposing religion
were still observed. The authority of the law was undisputed.
Moses was a lawgiver, sent from God, and no one doubted that the
Jewish form of religion had been instituted by their fathers in
conformity with the direction of God. Their religion had been
founded amidst remarkable manifestations of the Deity - in
flames, and smoke, and thunder; it had been communicated by the
ministration of angels; it had on its side and in its favour all
the venerableness and sanction of a remote antiquity; and it
commended itself by the pomp of its ritual, and by the splendour
of its ceremonies. On the other hand, the new form of religion
had little or nothing of this to commend it. It was of recent
origin. It was founded by the Man of Nazareth, who had been
trained up in their own land, and who had been a carpenter, and
who had had no extraordinary advantages of education.  Its rites
were few and simple. It had no splendid temple service; none of
the pomp and pageantry, the music and the magnificence of the
ancient religion. It had no splendid array of priests in
magnificent vestments, and it had not been imparted by the
ministry of angels. Fishermen were its ministers; and by the body
of the nation it was regarded as a schism, or heresy, that
enlisted in its favour only the most tumble and lowly of the
people.

In these circumstances, how natural was it for the enemies of the
gospel in Judea to contrast the two forms of religion, and how
keenly would Christians there feel it? All that was said of the
antiquity and the divine origin of the Jewish religion they knew
and admitted; all that was said of its splendour and magnificence
they saw; and all that was said of the humble origin of their own
religion they were constrained to admit also. Their danger was
not that arising from persecution. It was that of being affected
by considerations like these, and of relapsing again into the
religion of their fathers, and of apostatizing from the gospel;
and it was a danger which beset no other part of the Christian
world.

To meet and counteract this danger was the design of this
epistle.  Accordingly the writer contrasts the two religions in
all the great points on which the minds of Christians in Judea
would be likely to be affected, and shows the superiority of the
Christian religion over the Jewish in every respect, and
especially in the points that had so much attracted their atten-
tion, and affected their hearts. He begins by showing that the
Author of the Christian religion was superior in rank to any and
all who had ever delivered the word of God to man. He was
superior to the prophets, and even to the angels. He was over all
things, and all things were subject to him.  There was,
therefore, a special reason why they should listen to him, and
obey his commands; ch. i., ii. He was superior to Moses, the
great Jewish lawgiver, whom they venerated so much, and on whom
they so much prided themselves; ch. iii. Having shown that the
Great Founder of the Christian religion was superior to the
prophets, to Moses, and to the angels, the writer proceeds to
show that the Christian religion was characterized by having a
High Priest superior to that of the Jews, and of whom the Jewish
high priest was but a type and emblem.  He shows that all the
rites of the ancient religion, splendid as they were, were also
but types, and were to vanish away--for they had had their
fulfilment in the realities of the Christian faith. He shows that
the Christian's High Priest derived his origin and his rank from
a more venerable antiquity than the Jewish high priest did - for
he went back to Melchizedek, who lived long before Aaron, and
that he had far superior dignity from the fact that he had
entered into the Holy of Holies in heaven. The Jewish high priest
entered once a year into the most holy place in the temple; the
Great High Priest of the Christian faith had entered into the
Most Holy place - of which that was but the type and emblem--into
heaven.
     
In short, whatever there was of dignity and honour in the Jewish
faith had more than its counterpart in the Christian religion;
and while the Christian religion was permanent, that was fading. 
The rites of the Jewish system, magnificent as they were, were
designed to be temporary. They were mere types and shadows of
things to come. They had their fulfilment in Christianity that
had an Author more exalted in rank by far than the author of the
Jewish system; it had a High Priest more elevated and enduring;
it had rites which brought men nearer to God; it was the
substance of what in the temple service was type and shadow. By
considerations such as these the author of this epistle
endeavours to preserve them from apostasy. Why should they
go back? Why should they return to a less perfect system? Why go
back from the substance to the shadow?  Why turn away from the
true sacrifice to the type and emblem?  Why linger around the
earthly tabernacle, and contemplate the high priest there, while
they had a more perfect and glorious High Priest, who had entered
into the heavens? And why should they turn away from the only
perfect sacrifice - the great offering made for transgression -
and go I ack to the bloody rites which were to be renewed every
day? And why forsake the perfect system - the system that was to
endure for ever - for that which was soon to vanish away? The
author of this epistle very careful to assure them that if they
thus apostatized, there could be no hope for them. If they now
rejected the sacrifice of the Son of God, there was no other
sacrifice for sin. That was the last great sacrifice for the sins
of men. It, was designed to close all bloody offerings. It was
not to be repeated. If that was rejected, there was no other.    
The Jewish rites were soon to pass away; and even if they were
not, they could not cleanse the conscience from sin. Persecuted
then though they might be; reviled, ridiculed, opposed, yet they
should not abandon their Christian hope, for it was their all;
they should not neglect him who spake to them from heaven, for in
dignity, rank, and authority, he far surpamed all who in former
times had made known the will of God to men.

This epistle, therefore, occupies a most important place in the
book of revelation, and without it that book would be incomplete.
It is the most full explanation which we have of the meaning of
the Jewish institutions. In the epistle to the Romans we have a
system of religious doctrine, and particularly a defence of the
great doctrine of justification by faith. Important doctrines are
discussed in the other epistles; but there was something wanted
that would show the meaning of the Jewish rites and ceremonies,
and their connection with the Christian scheme; something which
would show us how the one was preparatory to the other; and I may
add, something that would restrain the imagination in
endeavouring to show how the one was designed to introduce the
other. The one was a system of types and shadows. But on nothing
is the human mind more prone to wander than on the subject of
emblems and analogies. This has been shown abundantly in the
experience of the Christian church, from the time of Origen to
the present. Systems of divinity, commentaries, and sermons, have
shown everywhere how prone men of ardent imaginations have been
to find types in everything pertaining to the ancient economy; to
discover hidden meanings in every ceremony; and to regard every
pin and hook and instrument of the tabernacle as designed to
inculcate some truth and to shadow forth some fact or doctrine of
the Christian revelation. It was desirable to have one book that
should tell how that is; to fetter down the imagination and bind
it by severe rules, and to restrain the vagaries of honest but
credulous devotion. Such a book we have in the epistle to the
Hebrews. The ancient system is there explained by one who had
been brought up in the midst of it, and who undertood, it
thoroughly; by one who bad a clear insight into the relation
which it bore to the Christian economy; by one who was under the
influence of divine inspiration, and who could not err. The Bible
would have been incomplete without this book and when I think of
the relation between the Jewish and the Christian systems; when I
look on the splendid rites of theancient economy, and ask their
meaning; when I wish a full guide to heaven, and ask for that
which gives completeness to the whole, I turn instinctively to
the Epistle to the Hebrews. When I wish also that which shall
give me the most elevated view of the Great Author of
Christianity and of his work, and the most clear conceptions of
the sacrifice which he made for sin: and when I look for
considerations that shall be most effectual in restraining the
soul from apostasy, and for considerations to enable it to bear
trials with patience and with hope, my mind recurs to this book,
and I feel that the book of revelation, and the hopes of man,
would be incomplete without it.
..........

Note:

I think Albert Barnes gives the truth of the matter on the
outline and authorship of the book of Hebrews.

Keith Hunt

To be continued
 

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