Epistle to the Hebrews

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The Epistle to the Hebrews is a letter written, not to an individual, but to a general Hebrew audience. The letter is estimated to have been written around 80–90 CE.

Author

While many Christian churches believe the author is Paul the Apostle, most New Testament scholars disagree and consider the author unknown; their reasons are numerous:

  • Of the letters believed to be the genuine work of Paul, and in fact even his non-genuine letters, Paul always identifies himself at the beginning of the letter. Here he does not.
  • The grammar and word-usage is markedly different between this and the other supposed genuine letters of Paul.
  • The topic of the letter is also especially different from all of Paul's other letters.
  • Even first century historians called the authorship of Hebrews into question, writing that they had no idea who wrote the letter.

Status

I own several English translations of this letter, and have read it.

Review

Good

  • There's a useful definition of faith: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (11:1 KJV). Of course, this negates those apologists who use faith to mean a demonstrated belief.
  • Scholars often say this letter was written for a Hebrew audience, but it reads more like a critique of the Torah. In the Torah, God demands animal sacrifice to annul your sins and loves the sweet smell of burning offal, in this letter God doesn't like the smell, doesn't want sacrifice, and it doesn't annul your sins anyway, only a human sacrifice can do that (chapter 9). The author says ceremonial foods have no value (13:9-10) even though God demands them all throughout the Torah. While I prefer these revisions, in order for them to be true, it means that the Hebrews have been completely wrong about the Torah for centuries.

Bad

  • I found the letter to be pretty dull over all, especially the beginning which is just mindless praise.
  • The author warns against people who are sexually immoral and godless and cites Esau as an example (12:16). However, Esau was neither of these things, he was just a starving man who was conned out of his magical inheritance by his own brother, Isaac (Genesis 25, 27).

Ugly

  • Much of the letter reads like a personal commentary on the Old Testament presented as fact. The author is basically saying, "these passages definitely mean what I know they mean," however, the author gives no demonstrable reason for how they know their interpretation is correct, and, in many cases, the author's interpretation is very different from a forthright interpretation.
  • The letter ends with every dictator's dream passage, "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority!" (13:17)

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