THE NEW TESTAMENT
Epistle to Hebrews - Introduction #3
The following is taken from Albert Barnes' "Notes On The New
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 bad been released from imprisonment at
Rome. Wetstein was of the came opinion, Tillemont also places
this epistle in the year 63, and supposed that it war 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.
Lardeer 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 to form
an opinion on the question about the time and the place, are the
(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intended to be superseded by another and a more perfect system.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 were then performed. See Heb.ix,9; viii.
4,5. But the city and temple were destroyed in the year 70, and
of course the epistle war 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 place, 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 Caesarea, (see
§3)- when they had ministered to him, ch.x.34. But this was as
late as the year 60.
(5) At the tine when Paul wrote the epistles to the Ephesians,
Philippines, 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 he 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
(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
epistle., 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 he had in the Christians
in Judea, and expressive of regard to 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.
THE LANGUAGE IN WHICH IT WAS WRITTEN
We shall continue with the comments of Albert Barnes in the
Introduction to Hebrews, number 4.