Saturday, August 24, 2013

Who Were the Recipients of the Book of Hebrews?

Just like the author of the book of Hebrews the exact recipients are not actually known; so all we can do is speculate and attempt to make intelligent guesses. Cockerill acknowledges that, “The members of the congregation to which Hebrews is addressed were obviously well versed in the OT and had been followers of Jesus for some time (2:1-4; 5:11-14).”[1] When paying close attention to the text we realize that the recipients of Hebrews were becoming very weary in their daily living due to the persecution that they were experiencing. Pretty much every commentator believes that this work is written not to a large church, but to a small home church possibly located in Rome[2]. There are some who feel that it may be written still to a home church but in Palestine, Ephesus or even Corinth.
            We have no clear way of knowing if those in the congregation were Jewish Christians or Gentile believers. Either way they were still facing some pretty harsh troubles. According to George Guthrie, “…Nero’s rising threat to the church accounts for the feat of death and the waning of commitment indicated in Hebrews.”[3] Not only were these believers facing all of these things from the Roman government they also had to deal with consistently public  harassment, imprisonment, and the confiscation of property, but not to the point of being martyred.[4] The letter exhorts them to trust in the great High Priest whom they have in heaven in the form of Jesus Christ. 
            The basic worldview of the letter to the Hebrews is one the is Christocentric, meaning that the way they see the world should ultimately be through Christ and what has been accomplished for us. Just as the recipients of Hebrews were becoming anxious and growing weary we have to remember that there is no trial we cannot face with Christ on our side. Cockerill adds, “This High Priest is also the “Pioneer” (12:2) through whom they can be certain of entering God’s future promised “rest,” the eternal “City” that has always been the destiny of the people of God (11:8-10, 13-16; 12:22-24).”[5] We can apply this to our lives by understanding that we have someone who stands before the Father to plead on our behalf; while knowing that Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice and by being such should be honored by us as his people living honorable and sacrificial lives.

[1] Gareth Lee  Cockerill,. The Epistle to the Hebrews. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Edermans Publishing Co., 2012)16.

[2] George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary-Hebrews. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998)21.
[3] Ibid., 22-23.
[4] Cockerill. Hebrews., 17.
[5] Ibid., 17.

Who Could Be the Author of Hebrews?

         The book of Hebrews has always been one that is fascinated me, and like many of you we were led to believe that the Apostle Paul was the author. However, with greater understanding and newer research we know that it is not him. This still leaves the question of who is the author of Hebrews. According to George H. Guthrie, “earlier suggestions include such noteworthy people as Paul, Luke, Clement of Rome, and Barnabas. More recent proposals set forth for Priscilla, Jude, Apollo’s, Philip, and capital Silvanus.”[1] We come to understand that Paul did not write this book on several different levels. According to Cockerill, “these many ways, therefore, in which Hebrews differs from the Pauline letters and style, vocabulary, in content all but rule out Pauline authorship.”[2] 
            There is a great deal that can be learned from the writing found in the book of Hebrews. Just like in our modern-day we can learn about the author of the letter or some other material by the level of the vernacular use in said material. As Guthrie has stated, “His use of the Greek language ranks at the top of the New Testament authors; his rich vocabulary reveals the background of one widely read… What is certain is that our writer brought numerous skills gained through advanced education to his task.”[3] On top of observing that the author is a highly educated person, and is one that is highly versed in the Old Testament and his interpretations while being an extremely dynamic preacher.[4] 
            It is important to discuss the possible author of the book because it gives us a greater insight into those he/she may have been writing to, and we could better understand the theological background of the person writing. There are many questions that could be answered if the human author of this work was known. Ultimately we all should be able to agree God is the author. If I personally were to make the pronouncement on who wrote the book I feel that it very easily could have been Apollos. We know from Scripture that he was well educated, and he was taught by others about the Gospel, unlike Paul who received it directly from the Lord himself. Cockerill supports this suggestion when pointing out, “The description of Apollos in Acts 18:24-19:1 is a descrition of the kind of person who wrote Hebrews.”[5]

[1] George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary-Hebrews. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998)23.
[2] Gareth Lee  Cockerill,. The Epistle to the Hebrews. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Edermans Publishing Co., 2012)7.
[3]Guthrie, NIV Application, 26.
[4] Ibid., 24.
[5] Cockerill., Hebrews., 9.